Month: December 2023

UK railway station drops out of Europe-wide index but German hubs are worse

One of Britain’s busiest railway stations has dropped off an index of Europe’s top 50 rail hubs with CovidEurostar and border issues to blame.

St Pancras International in central London saw passenger numbers fall from 36 million, as listed in 2022’s European Railway Station Index, to just over 18 million in the latest ranking. Dr Emil Panzaru, who co-authored the index, told Express.co.uk St Pancras fell out of the top 50 due to the drop.

He said: “We could not add it to the list this year due to the decline in passenger volume… This was a major drop with the Covid pandemic, Eurostar woes and problems with entry and exit systems contributing.”

The latest index uses figures published by the Government’s Office of Road and Rail and covers the period April 2021 to March 2022. It is backed by US based advocacy group, Consumer Choice Center.

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Disney latest blue-stater to flee to North Carolina; not all feel the ‘magic’

The Walt Disney Company pitches its sprawling Storyliving community as a boon for tiny Pittsboro, N.C., but it’s got some locals saying, “There goes the neighborhood.”

“The world is tough, it’s getting tougher, and therefore we need a sanctuary, a place where it doesn’t feel like you’re just getting by or surviving life, but really living.” So went Waystar RoyCo scion Kendall Roy’s pitch for luxe assisted living community Living+.

Like many of the vaguely dystopian ventures dreamed up by the “Succession” writing staff, Living+ took inspiration from reality: plans by the Walt Disney Company to expand its parks and resort experience to residential and retirement communities under the brand Storyliving. Imagine the best of Disney World mixed with the pleasing aesthetics and predictability of Seahaven Island in Jim Carrey’s “The Truman Show.” Doesn’t that sound magical?

It depends whom you ask. Disney chose the California desert for its first Storyliving community. Named Cotino, the project is currently in presales. The company will be heading east for the sequel, which it calls Asteria. When Disney announced its plan to break ground in Pittsboro, a quaint town in North Carolina’s Chatham County, local developers reacted with enthusiasm. Chatham County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Dasher’s statement is exemplary:

We are excited to learn that Storyliving by Disney selected Pittsboro, North Carolina, for its second residential community in the United States. Chatham County looks forward to working with the Town of Pittsboro, Disney, Chatham Park, and DMB Development as the Asteria community comes to life in the coming years,” Dasher continued, “This announcement is the latest major economic development project to choose Chatham County. We are thrilled about the innovative and unique lifestyle that this community will offer our residents as well as a variety of great jobs for our local and regional workforce.

Another win for the region

Dasher’s optimism makes sense. North Carolina has been notching a lot of wins lately in the nationwide race for jobs, economic development, and new residents (primarily disenchanted blue-state refugees seeking the southeast’s lower taxes and cost of living). The Raleigh-Durham area alone (Pittsboro is about 30 miles from Raleigh-Durham Airport) has attracted investment from Wolfspeed (semiconductors), VinFast (EV cars), Boom Supersonic (aviation), Toyota, and Apple. With Disney’s addition to the list, the future seems bright indeed.

Moreover, the pitch for Storyliving makes it sound like just the kind of development an up-and-coming area like Chatham county should encourage. Disney promises a blend of metropolitan amenities with a small-town atmosphere, complemented by ample parks and extensive trails for walking and biking. The development will feature over 4,000 units for single-family and multi-family homes, with designated neighborhoods for residents ages 55 and up. Sales for homes within this Disney utopia are expected to commence by 2027 and cover 1,500 acres in Pittsboro, Chatham County, forming part of the larger Chatham Park community.

Magic or tragic?

For the people who will actually live with Asteria, the story is more complicated. I grew up in Chatham County. Pittsboro, the county seat, has a population of just 4,537. This is an area where the town’s police department is supported by fewer than a dozen patrolmen and officers. Not much is going on there, and people there like it that way.

Take my high school friend Eileen, who lives in Pittsboro and is far more pessimistic about the Mouse House coming to town. “We [already] have a huge issue with water pollution, mostly from Greensboro, N.C. There are also several upscale housing developments here that are unpopulated – with a great need for affordable housing.”

Asteria is unlikely to fill that need. While residents of Pittsboro can expect ample opportunity to work within the community, owning a piece of it will be out of reach for most. The county’s median annual income sits around $50,000-$75,000; a house in a Asteria should go for 20 times that figure, if the $1-2 million price tags for Cotina living are anything to go by.

Nosy neighbor

Disney may also bring with it the same baggage it brought to Florida: contentious politics. The state’s solidly Republican legislature will have a skeptical eye on this utopian community so near the state’s capital, and government watchdogs should be tracking any efforts by the state to subsidize Disney’s new colony. North Carolina participated in the rat race for Amazon HQ2 by offering up $2.2 billion in subsidies for the corporation, but in the end, it did not outbid NYC and Northern Virginia.

These days, of course, Disney’s controversies extend well beyond matters of municipal tax policy. Will the same obsession with DEI and “woke” that tarnished Disney+ and Disney parks come to Asteria? Recent SEC filings show that the company knows all too well that it has been alienating its fan base: “Consumers’ perceptions of our position on matters of public interest, including our efforts to achieve certain of our environmental and social goals, often differ widely and present risks to our reputation and brands.”

But that doesn’t necessarily sound like the company has plans to change course. And including “fostering a culture of lifelong learning” in its goals for Asteria does sound an ominous note, given what passes for “learning” in 2023. At the very least, locals might want prepare themselves for some truly epic HOA-type battles.

Originally published here

Vilnius iškovojo pirmąją vietą ir tapo draugiškiausiu miestu pasaulyje

Šiandien „Consumer Choice Center” paskelbtame jau ketvirtąjame „Dalijimosi ekonomikos indekse” buvo įvertinti šešiasdešimt pasaulio miestų, kuriuose žmonėms patogiausia naudotis pavežėjimo, dalijimosi automobiliais, tarpusavio skolinimo, paspirtukų nuomos ir kitomis platformomis. Šiais metais pirmą vietą indekse užima Vilnius, už jo rikiuojasi Buenos Airės (Argentina), Madridas (Ispanija), Belgradas (Serbija) ir Londonas (Jungtinė Karalystė).

Įvertinus miestų suteikiamas galimybes naudotis dalijimosi ekonomikos platformomis (tiek teisine, tiek prieinamumo prasme), Vilnius surinko daugiausiai balų – 155 iš 160, teigiama spaudos pranešime. Maksimalaus balų skaičiaus Vilnius nesurinko tik dėl vieno – specialaus mokesčio dalijimosi būstais platformoms. 

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Europe’s best station with so many shops and restaurants you won’t want to a catch train

Switzerland’s largest and busiest railway station has been voted Europe’s best in the 2023 European Railway Index.

Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof received 102 points on the index.

The rankings considered factors such as platform congestion, overall cleanliness, wheelchair accessibility, the number of domestic and international destinations available, and the availability of shopping and dining establishments.

The Swiss station excelled in the rankings due to the numerous amenities available to passengers passing through.

The Hauptbahnhof boasts a shopping mall with 202 stores, as well as a diverse selection of restaurants and coffee shops, including the famous Sprüngli chocolate maker.

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Rand Paul’s AM radio amendment gets consumer choice right

Is it the job of the federal government to ensure that AM radio lives to see another century? According to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who introduced the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act back in May, the government must ensure auto manufacturers keep AM radio technology built into next-generation vehicles. 

Like the consumers who drive them, cars change with time. They change to keep up with the expectations and demonstrated preferences of consumers. That’s why Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has offered an amendmentto the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act that would remove the AM radio mandate and nix the electric vehicle tax credit within it that subsidizes EV purchases. He is right to do so.

You might recall, as I do, when every decent station wagon in America had a cigarette lighter, ashtray, and cassette player. My 1992 Ford Taurus station wagon certainly did. Of course, by this time in my life, CDs were the standard for listening to music in the car. Gas stations in the early 2000s sold portable CD players to tape cassette adapters that allowed drivers of older cars like me to plug their Discman into the car’s stereo system.

It leads me to wonder if the cassette tape industry had lobbyists fighting for their survival in Washington, D.C., like the radio broadcasters do with the National Association of Broadcasters backing Markey’s bill.

The AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act has amassed 43 co-sponsors, including Democrats such as Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bob Casey (D-PA), as well as Republicans such as Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Democrats tend to support this measure in the name of public safety, citing AM radio’s importance for emergency notifications such as the kind that could have saved lives during the recentHawaii wildfires. 

Automakers say the AM frequencies create buzzing noises and faded signals within their newer EVs. The technologies aren’t mixing well.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sought unanimous consent for the legislation, which would have the Department of Transportation mandate AM radio access in all new motor vehicles manufactured and sold in the U.S. Paul’s objection and amendment throws the bill back into standard Senate procedure, which allows for amendments and a final vote.

The subject is divisive for libertarian Republicans such as Paul and his more conservative colleagues such as Cruz who view preserving AM radio as a free speech cause. “I believe these automakers stood up to remove AM radio as part of a broader pattern we see of censoring views that are disfavored by Big Business,” Cruz remarked. “I think this is consistent with what Big Tech has done, silencing views they disagree with. And so this bill is all about preserving consumer choice — letting consumers decide.”

This makes little sense. Consumer choice is not about putting anything and everything in a car that consumers could want. Mandating the inclusion of a Red Bull cooler beneath the glove compartment isn’t suddenly a matter of consumer choice because the driver can choose whether or not they want a Red Bull to drink. Auto manufacturers are keenly aware of what drivers of new cars value, and it is not AM radio.

Cruz’s desire to make automobile design standards a part of the culture war is disingenuous and a betrayal of limited government principles.

Consumers can hear Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Buck Sexton anytime they want on smartphones using iHeartRadio apps, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and a long list of other options. The idea that a consumer buying a 2024 Tesla or Toyota won’t also have a smartphone armed with these capabilities is laughable.

For drivers who place traditional radio atop their list of concerns, there are used car lots for a reason.

However, Republican politicians understand that there are progressive forces in Washington that seek to limit access to older model gas vehicles and gradually regulate them out of the market. In such an event, regulators would force all consumers into new EV cars in the name of environmental metrics, while simultaneously quieting the noise of their likely critics on talk radio.

That’s why the Consumer Choice Center exists, and we’re in the fight for choice to ensure that kind of outcome isn’t possible. But Cruz is not helping by muddying the meaning of consumer choice with efforts to protect legacy industries such as AM radio on behalf of the broadcasters.

Originally published here

Intellectual Property and Global Health: A Crossroads for Innovation

In the ever-evolving landscape of global health, the importance of intellectual property (IP) in biotech and pharmaceutical innovation cannot be overstated. As society faces unprecedented challenges, from the rise of non-communicable diseases to the effects of pandemics, innovation is paramount. However, recent trends in emerging markets, coupled with regulatory challenges, pose a threat to the very foundation of innovation—intellectual property.The innovative potential of both Europe and the global economy is currently standing at a crucial juncture. Populist movements in liberal democracies and emerging markets are advocating for short-term gains, pressing for a continued erosion of intellectual property rights. While medical breakthroughs over the past decades have steered society in a positive direction, enabling the cure or treatment of numerous once-lethal diseases, it is crucial to acknowledge that science has yet to advance to the point of addressing all of the over 10,000 known diseases in the world.

Only through ongoing innovations can humanity hope to surmount these challenges without compromising the average standard of living. Therefore, establishing an innovation policy framework that actively fosters creativity becomes paramount.

Emerging markets, often burdened by higher taxes, duties, and government fees on drugs, face significant challenges in ensuring affordable access to essential medicines. In countries like Brazil or Kenya, VAT rates of up to 25% and additional markups can lead to a total drug price increase of 200-300%. Furthermore, some governments disrupt global supply chains by exclusively procuring drugs manufactured domestically.

Additionally, delays in drug approvals, ranging from 5 to 8 years longer compared to developed countries, hinder patients in emerging markets from timely access to life-saving medications. Bureaucracy, lack of medical infrastructure, and the absence of regulatory harmonization contribute to these challenges. To enhance patient access, developing countries could benefit from recognizing drug approval decisions made by established regulators like the FDA or EMA, as exemplified by the Republic of Georgia.

Within the European Union, challenges also emerge as governments aim to reduce procurement costs for innovative drugs. Merging drug purchasing and price negotiation efforts may lead to lower public expenditures but risks rationing innovative medicines, limiting patient choice and access. Regulatory harmonization discussions between the FDA and EMA, previously addressed in the failed TTIP talks, need reevaluation to mutually recognize market approvals and ensure a level playing field for patients on both sides of the Atlantic.

The world’s innovative potential is at a crossroads, with populist movements advocating for the erosion of intellectual property rights. While medical breakthroughs have paved the way for treating once-lethal diseases, challenges remain in addressing over 10,000 known diseases, feeding a growing global population, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Innovation, fueled by intellectual property, is the linchpin to overcoming these challenges without compromising the average standard of living.

Intellectual property is fundamental to a society’s ability to innovate continually. Attacks on intellectual property rights equate to attacks on innovation and, consequently, on patients with incurable diseases. European patients deserve the benefits of future medical breakthroughs, necessitating policymakers to endorse innovation policies rather than advocating against them.

In the context of global trade, the European Union’s trade policy must extend beyond favoring innovative products from specific regions and instead prioritize intellectual property protection globally. Strong IP rights are indispensable for fostering innovation in Europe and catalyzing scientific breakthroughs to cure diseases that continue to challenge us. Any attempts to undermine intellectual property within the European Union weaken the global case for patents and hinder the development of new medicines.

If the EU neglects to champion innovative technologies, not only will businesses suffer, but consumers will also be deprived of the opportunity to access the latest drugs. Europe needs to lead the scientific forefront by supporting policies that foster innovation. New technologies, such as advanced data analysis and biochemical simulations, can accelerate research in the biotech sector, demanding a commitment to innovation from policymakers.

In conclusion, the importance of intellectual property in biotech and pharmaceutical innovation extends beyond national borders. From emerging markets facing pricing challenges to EU member states navigating procurement dilemmas, intellectual property remains the bedrock of innovation. Policymakers must recognize that safeguarding intellectual property rights is not just about protecting businesses but ensuring a future where patients benefit from groundbreaking medical discoveries. As the global community grapples with pressing challenges, fostering an innovation policy framework that upholds intellectual property rights becomes a shared responsibility to secure a brighter, healthier future for all. With the potential consequences of undermining innovation becoming increasingly apparent, it is imperative that policymakers act decisively to protect intellectual property and ensure that the fruits of medical breakthroughs are accessible to all corners of the globe.

Originally published here

La gare de Zurich est élue «la plus agréable» d’Europe

Un classement international place Zurich et Berne dans le top 5 des gares les plus fonctionnelles et engageantes pour les voyageurs.

La gare de Zurich semble mettre tout le monde d’accord à l’étranger. Figurant déjà au premier rang d’une évaluation américaine en 2022, la «Hauptbahhof» a confirmé récemment sa première place dans l’European Railway Station Index 2023. Ce classement distingue les gares les plus agréables et fonctionnelles pour les voyageurs en Europe. Vienne arrive deuxième, devant Berlin. Berne atterrit au pied du podium alors qu’aucune ville romande n’a été évaluée.

Autant la ponctualité, les accès pour les personnes à mobilité réduite, l’offre de magasins, les restaurants ou les accès à internet sont notés. Les infrastructures allemandes, hormis la gare centrale de la capitale, obtiennent des notes particulièrement mauvaises. L’action du gouvernement de proposer des abonnements dès 9 euros pourrait avoir joué un rôle en provoquant une saturation du trafic et une baisse de la qualité des services.

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Die letzten sechs Plätze gehen alle an deutsche Bahnhöfe

Berlin ist gar nicht so schlecht wie sein Ruf – jedenfalls wenn es um den Hauptbahnhof geht. Doch in München und Bremen geht im internationalen Vergleich gar nichts. Das zeigt eine neue Rangliste zu Europas passagierfreundlichsten Bahnhöfen. Für Deutschland ist das Ranking bitter.

eit Jahren leidet die Deutsche Bahn unter ihrem Image als Spitzenreiter der Verspätung – während Bahnkunden ihrerseits unter den Verspätungen leiden. Auch wenn die Bahn zwar das Land verbindet, bleiben noch ihre Bahnhöfe und die Möglichkeit für einen Kaffee oder den Besuch der Bahnhofsbuchhandlung. Doch wie passagierfreundlich sind sie und wie schneiden sie im europäischen Vergleich ab?

Das ermittelte der neue „European Railway Station Index 2023“ des US-amerikanischen Consumer Choice Centers. Für ihre Analyse benutzten sie Autoren unter anderem Behördenberichte, Auskünfte der Bahnhöfe und Onlinestatistiken. Sie wählten die 50 größten Stationen Europas anhand der jährlichen Passagierzahlen aus und bewerteten sie nach verschiedenen Kriterien. Darunter: Wie einfach können sich Menschen im Rollstuhl im Bahnhof bewegen, gibt es barrierefreie Toiletten, wie hoch ist die Anzahl und Auswahl an Einkaufsmöglichkeiten, gibt es kostenloses Wi-Fi, wie gut ist das Ticketangebot und wie viele Verspätungen von Reisenden gibt es?

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Kommt mit nachhaltigen Flugkraftstoffen das nächste Energiedebakel?

Von Fred Roeder, Geschäftsführer des Consumer Choice Center

Auf der Suche nach grüneren Himmeln stehen Regulierungsbehörden weltweit vor der Herausforderung, Flugkraftstoffe nachhaltiger zu gestalten. Die Europäische Union (EU) hat mit ihrer ReFuelEU-Gesetzgebung eine Vorreiterrolle übernommen, die eine schrittweise Erhöhung des Einsatzes von nachhaltigen Flugkraftstoffen (SAFs) vorschreibt. Der Weg zur nachhaltigen Luftfahrt ist jedoch nicht ohne Hürden, da SAFs derzeit drei bis viermal teurer sind als konventionelles Kerosin. Darüber hinaus fügt die potenzielle Erhöhung der Verbraucherpreise eine weitere Ebene der Komplexität zu der bereits komplizierten Debatte hinzu. Wenn jetzt nich aufgepasst wird, kann es nach Energiepreisschocks durch Russlands Krieg in der Ukraine und dem hausgemachten Atomausstieg noch zu einem Flugpreishammer kommen.

Im November 2023 hat der EU-Rat die Initiative ‘ReFuelEU Aviation’ verabschiedet, einen wichtigen Bestandteil des ‘Fit for 55’-Pakets, das darauf abzielt, den CO2-Fußabdruck des Luftverkehrssektors zu reduzieren. Die Gesetzgebung schreibt vor, dass Lieferanten von Flugkraftstoffen einen Mindestanteil nachhaltiger Flugkraftstoffe (SAFs) in ihren Produkten einschließen müssen, beginnend mit 2% im Jahr 2025 und bis 2050 auf 70% ansteigend. Auch synthetische Kraftstoffe sind erforderlich, mit einem zunehmenden Anteil. Das Gesetz zielt darauf ab, den Luftverkehr an die Klimaziele der EU anzupassen und Probleme wie geringe Verfügbarkeit und hohe Preise bei der Entwicklung von SAFs anzugehen. Die Verordnung soll am 1. Januar 2024 in Kraft treten, wobei bestimmte Bestimmungen ab 2025 gelten.

Eine zentrale Sorge in diesem Diskurs ist die Notwendigkeit eines globalen Ansatzes, anstatt protektionistischen Maßnahmen nachzugeben. Der Einsatz von SAFs sollte über Grenzen hinweggehen und Zusammenarbeit zwischen Nationen, Regulierungsbehörden und anderen Interessengruppen fördern. Während die EU auf strenge Standards drängt, muss sie auch historische Vorbehalte überwinden und Technologieneutralität akzeptieren.

Ein bemerkenswerter Aspekt dieser Herausforderung ist die Rolle von aus Palmöl gewonnenen SAFs, insbesondere in Südostasien. Die protektionistische Haltung der EU gegenüber Biotreibstoffen aus dieser Region bedarf einer Überprüfung. Palmöl-Derivate stellen eine geeignete und günstigere Rohstoffquelle für SAFs dar. Exporteure aus Südostasien und Westafrika haben das Potenzial, durch die Bereitstellung eines kontinuierlichen Angebots dieser Abfallprodukte die Emissionen der Luftfahrt zu reduzieren.

Die gleichen Stimmen, die sich für den Ausstieg aus fossilen Brennstoffen aussprechen, sind baer historisch gegen die Verwendung von Palmöl. Die Herangehensweise der EU an Palmöl als Rohstoff für SAFs scheint widersprüchlich zu sein und unterstreicht die Notwendigkeit einer nuancierteren und kohärenteren Strategie. Wenn SAFs Erfolg haben sollen, müssen politische Entscheidungsträger Umweltziele mit dem Potenzial innovativer Rohstoffe in Einklang bringen.

Ein Vergleich mit der Energiepolitik Deutschlands, die in ihrem Eifer, zu dekarbonisieren und auf Kernenergie zu verzichten, zu unbeabsichtigten Konsequenzen wie vermehrtem Kohlegebrauch und höheren Strompreisen führte, sollte die EU zur Vorsicht mahnen. Das richtige Gleichgewichts ist entscheidend, um sicherzustellen, dass Nachhaltigkeitsziele nicht unbeabsichtigt zu nachteiligen wirtschaftlichen und Umwelt-auswirkungen führen.

Zusammenfassend erfordert der Weg zu bezahlbaren und nachhaltigen Flugkraftstoffen eine kollaborative und globale Anstrengung. Die EU muss jede protektionistische Sichtweise auf aus Palmöl gewonnene SAFs aufgeben und einen ausgewogeneren Ansatz verfolgen. Während die Luftfahrtindustrie Schritte in Richtung einer grüneren Zukunft unternimmt, müssen politische Entscheidungsträger, Regulierungsbehörden und Aktivisten alte Mantras ablegen und pragmatische Lösungen über ideologische Debatten stellen. Wenn nachhaltige Flugkraftstoffe jemals eine wirtschaftlich tragfähige Massenmarktalternative werden sollen, sind kluge und pragmatische Ansätze erforderlich.

Deutschland belegt (mal wieder) den ersten Platz: Das sind die schlechtesten Bahnhöfe Europas

Bahnfahren ist in Deutschland nicht selten mit Einschränkungen verbunden. Die Probleme betreffen allerdings nicht nur die Züge der Deutschen Bahn, sondern auch die Bahnhöfe im Land, wie ein aktuelles Ranking zeigt.

Die Deutsche Bahn ist nicht unbedingt für ihre Pünktlichkeit bekannt, erst im November hat sie ihren eigenen Unpünktlichkeitsrekord gebrochen: Jeder zweite Zug war verspätet. Damit erreicht das Unternehmen den schlechtesten Wert in Sachen Zuverlässigkeit seit acht Jahren. Leider wirkt sich das nicht nur auf den Konzern und auf die Reise von etlichen Pendlern aus, sondern auch auf das Image deutscher Bahnhöfe, wie der aktuelle “European Railway Station Index 2023” zeigt. Demnach belegen deutsche Bahnhöfe im europäischen Vergleich die letzten Plätze, wenn es um die Passagierzufriedenheit geht.

Für die Analyse, die bereits zum vierten Mal stattgefunden hat, wurden die nach Passagieraufkommen größten 50 Bahnhöfe in Europa nach bestimmten Kriterien genauer untersucht. Dazu zählen unter anderem die Öffnungszeiten der Ticketschalter, die Versorgungsmöglichkeiten vor Ort, der Zustand der Sanitäranlagen – und die Wartezeiten am Gleis. Vor allem im letzten Punkt schnitten deutsche Bahnhöfe deutlich schlechter ab, als ihre Konkurrenz in anderen Ländern. Obwohl insgesamt 21 der analysierten Bahnhöfe in Deutschland liegen, stellt Deutschland trotzdem das Schlusslicht des Rankings dar.

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