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Author: Consumer Choice Center

Leading the world in vaccination

UAE tops the global ranking in fighting Covid-19

In early December when South African doctors first reported a new strain of coronavirus spreading very quickly there, researchers and governments the world over feared that Omicron might overwhelm medical services already strained by almost two years of fighting the virus.

Acting swiftly and based on painful experiences from other waves of the virus during this pandemic, restrictive measures were imposed to try and prevent Omicron from doing its worst.

Now, two months one, reality is that the new variant does not seem as severe as initially thought, and while it is far more contagious that other previous variants of Covid-19, those without vaccination are most at risk from its worst effects.

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UAE tops COVID resilience rankings

The UAE is ranked first globally for its COVID-19 response and resilience.

That’s according to the Pandemic Resilience Index 2022, compiled by the US-based Consumer Choice Centre.

Vaccination, booster rollouts and mass testing were some of the key factors considered.

Cyprus, Bahrain, Israel and Luxembourg round out the top-five spots on the list of 40 nations.

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Résilience face au COVID-19 : Les Emirats arrivent en tête du classement

Selon l’indice de résilience pandémique 2022, compilé par le Consumer Choice Center (un groupe de défense basé aux États-Unis) les Emirats se placent en 1ère position du classement, suivis par Chypre, Bahreïn et Israël.

Ce sont les tests de masse, les campagnes de vaccination ainsi que la politique d’inoculation de doses de rappel qui ont contribué à ce que le pays performe en matière de résilience face à la pandémie de COVID-19.

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How will Kansas build and repair its roads without a gas tax as more electric vehicles emerge?

Getting charged up about buying a new electric vehicle? More and more Kansans are — and it presents a conundrum for the state.

Officials are expecting to see more EVs on the road in the years to come, as well as hybrid cars and those using alternative fuels. That might mean cost savings for drivers — but money not spent at the gas pump also has an impact on how the state builds and repairs its roads.

Driving an electric vehicle has the same impact on roads in terms of wear and tear — but users are not paying gas taxes, one of the core mechanisms the state uses to fund infrastructure.

At the moment, the concern is less acute. A little over 6,000 hybrid and electric vehicles are registered in Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation, accounting for .3% of all vehicles registered in the state.

The state ranks toward the bottom nationally in the number of electric vehicles on the road and on the charging infrastructure needed to support them. For instance, Kansas sits at the bottom of the U.S. Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index, a report published by the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center.

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The Doings of Intergovernmental Organisations Rate Healthy Scepticism

China’s contested placement from 85th to 78th in the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business ranking gained a lot of attention throughout the fall months of 2021 as news outlets highlighted how networks and net worth can be leveraged to have the odds fall in one’s favor.

Speculations mounted as to who was involved and Kristalina Georgieva, the chief of the IMF, came under pressure for the suspicious data points. While some were quick to speak on Georgieva’s behalf (such as the former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz), and her name was eventually cleared, the Doing Business reports have lost their credibility and publication has been suspended.

Situations such as this call into question reporting mechanisms for intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), along with the purpose and purse strings of those involved.

Over the past two decades IGOs have grown in size and influence as the financial resources from private actors have proliferated. The financing of IGOs bulged in the 1990s when the attainment of earmarked contributions (featuring conditional lending terms) became an encouraged practice for the UN, IMF, and World Bank. 

Accordingly, the operational activities, under the UN system, saw an increase in donors with special interests from 1994 to 2009 by a rate of over 200 percent. And yet the involvement of multinational corporations and politically inclined ‘philanthropists’ has received little attention.

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Олександр Квіташвілі став радником з питань охорони здоров’я Consumer Choice Center

Міжнародна організація з захисту права споживачів на вибір оголосила про призначення Олександра Квіташвілі радником з питань охорони здоров’я. Про це повідомила прес-служба Consumer Choice Center.

Коментуючи своє призначення, Олександр Квіташвілі зазначив:«Я надзвичайно радий приєднатися до CCC як радник з питань охорони здоров’я. Я слідкую за роботою CCC з моменту їх створення, і я вражений їхніми досягненнями. Дискурс у сфері громадського здоров’я часто переповнений догмами та односторонніми поглядами, а тому CCC є справді єдиною у своєму роді організацією. У ССС блискучий досвід, глобальна перспектива та відданість захисту права споживачів на вибір. Я з нетерпінням чекаю активної співпраці з CCC у сфері охорони здоров’я».

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The CCC welcomes Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili as Advisers

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the global consumer advocacy group, has announced the appointment of the Right Honourable Lord Wharton of Yarm as Strategic Adviser and of Alexander Kvitashvili as Public Health Adviser.

Lord Wharton took his seat in the House of Lords in September 2020. In 2021, he was appointed the chair of the Office of Students (OfS). Prior to that, Lord Wharton served as Boris Johnson’s Campaign Manager in a Conservative leadership race in 2019 and as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development from July 2015 to June 2017. He was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for Stockton South in 2010 and served two terms.

Commenting on his appointment, Lord Wharton said:

“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Consumer Choice Center as Strategic Adviser. The CCC’s work in free trade, lifestyle, innovation, and agriculture is outstanding and timely. Evidence-based policies of which the CCC is a passionate advocate have helped improve consumers’ lives in the UK and globally. I look forward to working with the CCC on raising the voice of consumers in the policy process.”

Alexander Kvitashvili is an independent consultant at the World Health Organisation (WHO). He served as the 19th Minister of Healthcare of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. Kvitashvili also served as Minister of Health of Georgia from 2008 to 2010. Kvitashvili was also the rector of Tbilisi State University (TSU) from 2010 to 2013.

Commenting on his appointment, Alexander Kvitashvili said:

“I am extremely delighted to be joining the CCC’s as a Public Health Adviser. I have been following the work of the CCC since their start, and I am astounded by its achievements. The public health discourse is often riddled with dogma and one-sided views, and the CCC is truly a one-of-its-kind group. The CCC brings brilliant expertise, global perspective, and dedication to preserving consumer choice. I look forward to advising the CCC on public health matters.”

Commenting on the appointments, Fred Roeder, the Managing Director of the CCC said:

“I’m thrilled to welcome Lord Wharton as our new Strategic Adviser and Alexander Kvitashvili as our Public Health Adviser. As the CCC continues to expand, Lord Wharton’s exceptional knowledge of the UK’s domestic scene will be instrumental in helping us elevate the voice of consumers. Alexander’s valuable public health insights will be critical in taking our work to the next level. I am confident that with Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili onboard, the CCC’s impact will blossom.”

Too many government mandates hurt Pennsylvania businesses

Pennsylvania has garnered a great deal of media attention over the last two years concerning restaurant revoltselusive event gatherings, and parental protests. And with Pennsylvania ranking in as the 5th most populous state, distinct perspectives and positions are par for the course.

Indeed, PA business owners have not shied away from making their preferences and opinions known – and this is a good thing. Individuals and their interests are what have historically powered America’s economic advancements through decentralized decision-making, grassroots initiatives, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

In Warren Buffet’s 2021 annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, he made it clear that he banks on American ingenuity:

“Success stories abound throughout America. Since our country’s birth, individuals with an idea, ambition and often just a pittance of capital have succeeded beyond their dreams by creating something new or by improving the customer’s experience with something old.”

Buffet’s statement highlights two key factors for a successful marketplace – individual choice and an improved customer experience. And it is precisely these two aspects that put business owners on high alert when any new policy may impede either.

Yet, as the new year approaches, new policies are coming into play for some parts of PA.

Philadelphia will be rolling out a vaccine mandate on January 3 for indoor dining experiences. The mandate applies to places like bars, sport venues, and eateries but it doesn’t impact other places where eating may take place such as childcare settings, soup kitchens, and congregated care facilities. The mandate also applies to anyone over the age of 5, and this may prove problematic for those who booked a Philly getaway and are coming from a country where the vaccine has not yet been approved for children (the standard in Europe is for those over the age of 12).

Unlike Philly, Pittsburgh is leaving the vaccination verification up to business owners regarding whether they wish for customers to provide proof or not. For some restaurants, the requisite of requiring patrons to be vaccinated hasn’t hampered business – actually, in some instances, it has helped.

Essentially, Pittsburg is playing a waiting game to see how Philly fares and even what restaurants will require on their own accord. Pitt’s approach allows consumers to choose which retailers and restaurants they wish to frequent, while business owners can choose what policies they wish to enact. It is up to the customer and company to determine how much risk they are comfortable with, and really that is what it all comes down to – determining the hazard present and considering the tradeoffs involved.

When too much emphasis is placed on the hazard aspect, though, blanket bans are often applied from on high, which can sometimes have regrettable results.

David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager for the global think tank Consumer Choice Center, has identified several existing policies, as well as policies being proposed, where the trade-offs simply are not worth the application of risk-based regulations.

An easy analogy Clement uses to illustrate the matter is sun exposure. Although too much can be harmful to one’s health, it would be ill-advised to avoid sunlight altogether since there are beneficial elements derived from the sun’s rays.

With this in mind, one of the cases Clement notes within a policy report is the use glyphosates. Glyphosates are currently under scrutiny in Pennsylvania, but a blanket ban seems counterintuitive given the benefits derived from its use – such as ensuring farmers can have a successful harvest and keeping invasive species at bay. High yield crop productions allow for a greater supply to be brought to market, which then means consumers (and restaurateurs) have more healthy options at a lower cost.

Although traces of glyphosates are found in certain foods and beverages, it is important to keep in mind that traces won’t result in tragedies, and ample evidence attests to this fact.

Clement notes how the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment determined that “in order for glyphosate residues in beer to constitute a health risk, a consumer would need to drink 1,000 liters in one day.” One thousand liters equals 264.172 gallons, and despite Pennsylvania being a bulging hub for craft breweries, consumption to such a degree would be toxic regardless of the presence of glyphosates.

Just like with sunlight, it is the amount that matters – and it is also the individuals involved and the situation at hand. Indeed, some people can down a few more beers than others or partake in a full day of sunbathing without worry, and this is why mitigation efforts mustn’t be made by a centralized power player that is to a large extent separated from the day-to-day aspects of events or actions.

In the New Year, public officials would do well to remember dollar bills from consumers are more powerful in the mind of businesses than House bills from bureaucrats; and as in the words of Elon Musk, it may be best for government to simply “get out of the way” to allow for a 2022 business rebound in PA.

Originally published here

Delaying the proposed law on content quotas

In February 2021, the Mexican senate proposed a new law (Ley Federal de Cinematographia y de Audiovisual) that would require a national audiovisual content quota of 15%. If the law passed, streaming services and digital platforms would have to reduce their content offer to meet a 15% national quota. To meet the quota, Prime Video, for example, would have to delete two-thirds of its library. 

CCC hosted a successful webinar to discuss the negative effects this policy would have on consumers, while not even achieving its purpose of increasing production and consumption of national content. Webinar created quite a buzz and was featured in more than 50 Mexican news outlets! CCC also interacted with members of the Mexican senate and other stakeholders to stop the law.

Fortunately, our efforts didn’t go unnoticed, the law has been delayed and will have to go under a full review and be debated in parliament according to Mexico’s legislation. We hope the Mexican parliament will leave it up to Mexican consumers to decide what movies and series they prefer to watch. 

Paid plasma collection coming to Alberta

Blood plasma is a valuable resource used to create medicines that treat burns, help those with immune deficiencies, coagulation disorders and respiratory diseases. 

The Voluntary Blood Donations Act in Alberta banned paid plasma donation in 2017. However, the voluntary system only provides 20% of supply needed, making the Province of Alberta, and the country, reliant on foreign sources.

To meet the domestic need for plasma therapies, Canada has imported more than 80 percent of these therapies from the United States, where plasma donors are compensated for their donations.

We have long advocated in support of paid plasma donations around the country and we are happy to see the Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act being passed. This allows private companies to pay donors for their plasma and plasma collection is expected to increase in Alberta, as it has in other jurisdictions. The CCC’s North American Affairs Manager David Clement has advocated for the allowance of paid plasma in The Western Standard, and the Toronto Star.

This is the news worth celebrating and here’s to hoping other provinces follow Alberta’s lead.

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