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Norway unseats Denmark as world’s happiest country: report

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

 

A girl stands on her hands near Vang, Norway. Svein Nordrum/NTB Scanpix/via REUTERS

Norway displaced Denmark as the world’s happiest country in a new report released on Monday that called on nations to build social trust and equality to improve the well-being of their citizens.

The Nordic nations are the most content, according to the World Happiness Report 2017 produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, along with Syria and Yemen, are the least happy of the 155 countries ranked in the fifth annual report released at the United Nations.

“Happy countries are the ones that have a healthy balance of prosperity, as conventionally measured, and social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in government,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the SDSN and a special advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, said in an interview.

The aim of the report, he added, is to provide another tool for governments, business and civil society to help their countries find a better way to wellbeing.

Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden rounded out the top ten countries.

South Sudan, Liberia, Guinea, Togo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Central African Republic were at the bottom.

Germany was ranked 16, followed by the United Kingdom (19) and France (31). The United States dropped one spot to 14.

Sachs said the United States is falling in the ranking due to inequality, distrust and corruption. Economic measures that the administration of President Donald Trump is trying to pursue, he added, will make things worse.

“They are all aimed at increasing inequality – tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the healthcare rolls, cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending. I think everything that has been proposed goes in the wrong direction,” he explained.

The rankings are based on six factors — per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and absence of corruption in government or business.

“The lowest countries are typically marked by low values in all six variables,” said the report, produced with the support of the Ernesto Illy Foundation.

Sachs would like nations to follow United Arab Emirates and other countries that have appointed Ministers of Happiness.

“I want governments to measure this, discuss it, analyze it and understand when they have been off on the wrong direction,” he said. —  By Patricia Reaney | NEW YORK

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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Norway assures support to the GPH and CPP-NPA-NDF peace negotiation

by UNTV   |   Posted on Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Pres. Duterte and Norwegian Special Envoy to the Peace Process Idun Tvedt met on Thursday in a courtesy call.

 

MANILA, Philippines — The Norwegian Special Envoy to the Peace Process Idun Tvedt assured President Rodrigo Duterte of the Norwegian government’s continued support to the Philippine government’s peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The Norwegian official expressed this during a courtesy call with President Duterte, Thursday.

For his part, the president is pleased with such commitment of Norway and emphasized the Philippines’ determination to achieve lasting peace in the country. — UNTV News & Rescue

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Norway powers ahead (electrically): over half new car sales now electric or hybrid

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, January 8th, 2018

FILE PHOTO – An electric car is charged at a parking lot in Oslo, Norway, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

OSLO (Reuters) – Sales of electric and hybrid cars rose above half of new registrations in Norway in 2017, a record aided by generous subsidies that extended the country’s lead in shifting from fossil-fuel engines, data showed on Wednesday.

Pure electric cars and hybrids, which have both battery power and a diesel or petrol motor, accounted for 52 percent of all new car sales last year in Norway against 40 percent in 2016, the independent Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) said.

“No one else is close” in terms of a national share of electric cars, OFV chief Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen said. “For the first time we have a fossil-fuel market share below 50 percent.”

Norway exempts new electric cars from almost all taxes and grants perks that can be worth thousands of dollars a year in terms of free or subsidized parking, re-charging and use of toll roads, ferries and tunnels.

It also generates almost all its electricity from hydropower, so the shift helps to reduce air pollution and climate change.

Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Norway was far ahead of other nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, China, France and Britain in electric car sales.

By the IEA yardstick, which excludes hybrid cars with only a small electric motor that cannot be plugged in, electric car sales in Norway rose to 39 percent in 2017 from 29 in 2016, when the Netherlands was in second on 6.4 percent.

Norwegian car sales in 2017 were topped by the Volkswagen Golf (VOWG_p.DE), BMWi3 (BMWG.DE), Toyota Rav4 (7203.T) and Tesla Model X (TSLA.O). The Tesla is pure electric and others have electric or hybrid versions.

In many countries, high prices of battery-driven cars, limited ranges between recharging and long charging times discourage buyers. Car makers say the disadvantages are dwindling over time with new models.

“We view Norway as a role model for how electric mobility can be promoted through smart incentives,” a spokesman at BMW’s Munich HQ said. “The situation would probably be different if these incentives were dropped.”

Other “good examples” of policies to spur electric-car demand include Britain, California and the Netherlands, he said.

ZERO GOAL
Last year, Norway’s parliament set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars sold should be zero emissions. Among other nations, France and Britain plan to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Christina Bu, head of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association which represents owners, said the 2025 goal meant that Norway should stick with its incentives for electric cars.

“It’s an ambitious goal only seven years away,” she told Reuters. Overall, sales of zero emissions cars in Norway rose in 2017 to 21 percent from 16 in 2016.

Electric cars have widespread support among Norway’s 5.3 million people. A plan last year by the right-wing government to trim electric car incentives, dubbed a “Tesla Tax”, was dropped in negotiations on the 2018 budget.

Sales of diesel cars fell most in 2017, to 23 percent from 31 in 2016. Some regions in Norway have started to charge higher road tolls for diesel cars than for petrol-driven vehicles.

Norway’s electric car policies are hard to imitate. Norway can be generous because high revenues from oil and gas production have helped it amass the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, worth $1 trillion.

Illustrating the supportive benefits, a Volkswagen e-Golf electric car sells for 262,000 crowns ($32,300) in Norway, just fractionally above the import price of 260,000, according to the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association.

But a comparable gasoline-powered Golf, which costs just 180,000 crowns to import, ends up selling for 298,000 crowns after charges including value added tax, carbon tax, and another tax based on the weight of the vehicle.

Even in Norway, the benefits strain finances. Norway’s 1.3 trillion Norwegian crown budget projects a loss of tax revenues of 3 billion crowns a year because of electric cars.

($1 = 8.1026 Norwegian crowns)

Reporting By Alister Doyle and Camilla Knudsen in Oslo, Andreas Cremer in Berlin, Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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Study confirms higher breast cancer risk with hormone-based contraception

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2017

FILE PHOTO: A woman undergoes a mammograms, a special type of X-ray of the breasts, which is used to detect tumors as part of a regular cancer prevention medical check-up at a clinic in Nice. REUTERS

(Reuters Health) – Women who currently use or recently used hormone-based contraception face a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer, although the overall risk for most women is relatively low, a new study of 1.8 million women in Denmark has concluded.

Older contraceptives were known to carry a higher risk of breast cancer, but doctors had hoped that the newer lower-estrogen formulations might pose a lower risk.

The new findings, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, show that they do not, and the longer the products were used, the greater the danger.

The researchers calculated that hormone contraception produced one extra case of breast cancer for every 7,690 women each year. That’s a lot of cancers, given that 140 million use hormonal contraception worldwide – or about 13 percent of women ages 15 to 49.

Breast cancer strikes about 255,000 U.S. women each year and kills about 41,000, according to the American Cancer Society.

The study shows that “the search for an oral contraceptive that does not elevate the risk of breast cancer needs to continue,” said Dr. David Hunter of the University of Oxford in a Journal editorial.

Beyond the fact that they provide an effective means of contraception and may benefit women with menstrual cramping or abnormal menstrual bleeding, “the use of oral contraceptives is associated with substantial reductions in the risks of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers later in life. Indeed, some calculations have suggested that the net effect of the use of oral contraceptives for 5 years or longer is a slight reduction in the total risk of cancer,” Hunter said.

But as women get into their 40s, non-hormonal alternatives such as IUDs might be better, he said. Most cases of breast cancer were seen in women using oral contraceptives in their 40s.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to say stop taking oral contraceptives. That’s not necessary and not supported by the data,” said Dr. Roshni Rao, chief of breast surgery at New York – Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, who was not involved with the study. “But it does show an increased risk, so for people who don’t have a great reason for taking oral contraceptives, or are amenable to alternatives, perhaps they should think about it.”

Such alternatives include a copper IUD, condoms or, if women are done having children, tubal ligation.

The new study looked at all women in Denmark ages 15 to 49 who had not had cancer, clots in their veins, or treatment for infertility. The women were followed for nearly 11 years.

The 20 percent increase in breast cancer risk varied by age and how long the women used hormone-based contraceptives, including pills, contraceptive patches, vaginal rings, progestin-only implants, and injections.

The risk was 9 percent higher with less than one year of use and 38 percent higher with more than 10 years of use.

“Another thing that has not been clear before is that after discontinuation, if you have used this product for more than 5 years, the risk seems to be increased, even after 5 years of discontinuation of the drugs,” chief author Dr. Lina Morch, a senior researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital told Reuters Health by phone.

On the other hand, among women who used hormonal contraceptives for short periods, the excess risk of breast cancer disappeared rapidly after use was stopped, the researchers said.

IUDs infused with hormones also appear to pose a risk, Morch said, so “so there’s a lot of things to take into account when deciding what type of contraception to use. Contraception itself is a benefit, of course, but this study indicates it might be worth considering an alternative to hormone contraception, like the copper intrauterine device or barrier methods like condoms.”

“If you compare this to other risks, such as obesity and being overweight, there’s more of a risk with obesity than if you take a few years of oral contraceptives,” Rao told Reuters Health by phone.

“There’s no need to panic based on these results,” said Morch, “We don’t want women dropping their contraception without having something different to go to. And there are alternatives.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2jUGTHR The New England Journal of Medicine, online December 6, 2017.

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