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20 Oct
2020

GOP tax plan all about wishful thinking

first_imgTo secure these small economic gains and that tiny revenue bump, Republicans would cut taxes by well over a trillion dollars, leaving a massive hole in the budget. Over time, the negative consequences of higher federal borrowing would be a serious drag on the economy. The bill Republicans present this week will look somewhat different than the older framework the Tax Policy Center’s experts assessed.But the warning should still shake Republicans who claimed to be deficit hawks when Barack Obama was president. Tax reform could be worthwhile, but only if it is paid for.Republicans such as Portman used to understand as much.The country faces a huge funding squeeze as the Baby Boomers retire, raising pension and health-care costs.The Treasury will need ample revenue merely to maintain investments in everything else – roads, college aid, national parks, scientific research.A tax plan based on hopes, prayers and fiction puts all of that at risk.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen? In a sentence, Portman erased much of the credibility he developed while decrying deficits during the Obama years or running the White House Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush presidency.Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the few moderate Republicans left in Congress, was hardly more responsible.“If we have just four-tenths of 1 percent increase in our [gross domestic product], which is entirely realistic, it will cover the cost of the tax reform package,” she claimed.In fact, those growth numbers cannot be assumed, and betting the federal budget on hopes of loads of new revenue is highly risky.Just a couple days earlier, an independent report on the Republicans’ most recent tax-reform framework found that the plan would wallop the federal budget, even when effects on economic growth are considered. The Tax Policy Center concluded that cutting the corporate tax rate, encouraging business investment and enhancing incentives to work would each encourage economic expansion – modestly.The extra growth would result in maybe $50 billion in new federal revenue over 10 years. Categories: Editorial, OpinionThe following editorial appeared in The Washington Post:Republicans aim to unveil Wednesday a long-awaited tax plan, premised on the fanciful idea that slashing taxes by $1.5 trillion over 10 years will somehow leave the federal budget better off.And it is not just the GOP’s most blinkered ideologues who have bought into this wishful thinking. “I think at the end of the day this will actually be reducing the deficit because it’s going to finally get this economy moving,”Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”last_img read more

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20 Oct
2020

Letters to the Editor for Saturday, Jan. 12

first_imgCervical cancer screening is covered for women with health insurance, including Medicaid and plans available through the New York State of Health. If you have insurance, talk to your doctor about cervical cancer screening. If you’re uninsured, call the Cancer Services Program today at 1-866-442-CANCER (2262) to find out if you qualify for free cancer screenings. In Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady counties, you can call (518) 841-3726 for more information.Suzanne HagadornAmsterdamThe writer is the Program Coordinator, CSP of Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady Counties. Include population in climate change fightIt appears that climate change is finally accepted by the majority of Americans, except for Republicans who persist in being climate deniers. However, the GOP and its party’s supporters are not the only people who resist taking decisive action on climate change. The recent reports generated by both the Fourth National Climate Assessment, compiled by 13 U.S. government agencies, as well as the publication from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, failed to mention overpopulation as a major contributor to climate change.Despite the growing momentum supporting remedial action regarding climate change, overpopulation remains the unaddressed 800-pound gorilla in the room.  To further enhance confidence in our elections, voting rights need to be restored.  New national automatic voter registration and early voting are a must. As well, restoring the Voting Rights Act and ensuring election security will go a long way in building faith in our election systems.HR-1, Rep. Stefanik, will help curtail the criminal acts of corruption in our elections. Why won’t you vote for it?Larry FineGreenfield Cuomo belongs in jail, not governor’s officeI have listened a lot to what is basically the governor of New York City pontificating on many things. No doubt in my mind that Andy does not give a tinker’s damn about the rest of the state except to tax it to death to pay for a lot of his progressive nonsense. He most certainly has a way of maneuvering tax money around to satisfy his whims. The reasons why New York state is declining are many, and he has the audacity to say it’s our weather. Well, yes, the weather does contribute somewhat to the exodus, but there are many other factors in play. We get severely worked over and subject to the whims and laws of what are the problems and lifestyle of New York City. It’s a shame that a few square miles at the mouth of the Hudson River rules (aka ruins) this whole large state. Sell hiking passes for Adirondack peaksThe Adirondacks High Peaks are justifiably popular. Overuse has caused trail erosion and parking problems. Rescues are increasing. There aren’t enough rangers. A paid trail-pass system can help.Last fall, my wife and I visited the Gaspe region of Quebec and hiked in Gaspesie National Park. The park, like the Adirondacks, is a vast and beautiful mountainous area popular with hikers. Two visitor’s centers sell park passes and sell and rent hiking supplies. Staff assist visitors with trail- and weather information. The park charges $8.60 Canadian (about $6.60 U.S.) for an adult day pass. Seasonal passes are available. It’s an honor system, but a ranger may ask to see your receipt. Being caught without a trail pass could result in a fine. Expand technology for border securityAs of late there has been considerable debate between the Democratic leadership in Congress and President Trump about the use of a “wall” vs. the use of technical measures to provide border security. For once, I tend to agree with the Democrats. For centuries, castle walls and walled cities were used with great success to protect insiders against invaders. With the advent of gunpowder and cannons, however, the effectiveness of walls was significantly reduced.And over time, the effectiveness of technical measures has greatly increased. Over a century ago, during World War I, it was proven beyond a doubt that well-placed barbed wire, backed up by well-placed machine guns, could be extremely effective in repelling even the most massive of attacks of unarmored infantry. Let doctors help terminally ill to dieWhile you focused on key issues in Jan. 9’s Daily Gazette editorial, there’s another issue that deserves attention in the state Legislature at this time. That is the right to determine the terms of one’s own death.Confronting mortality is uncomfortable, but it’s inevitable. At this time, seven states and the District of Columbia have laws which permit PAD (Physician Aid in Dying) under certain conditions. People facing terminal illness and pain/suffering find comfort in knowing they can control their final days. As a volunteer for Final Exit Network, I have heard horror stories of prolonged and needless suffering.A bill to bring PAD to the citizens of New York has been in committee for several years. It’s time for that bill to come out of committee and before the Assembly and Senate. It has many protections, including requiring a diagnosis by two physicians of  someone having less than six months life expectancy. For those who support this final right, contact your state Assembly person and state senator in support of Medical Aid in Dying — Right to Die Bills. The right to control your own body at the end of life is the last civil right.Eleanor AronsteinSchenectady The silence of climate experts and most environmental groups about overpopulation is baffling, given their apparent commitment to preventing the destruction of our planet, including the demise of humans along with other species. Fear of offending others appears to be the most likely reason to avoid discussions about procreation. This avoidance will only hamstring efforts to address our climate crisis.Every individual should assess the “need” to reproduce and choose to remain child-free or to adopt children. For the sake of our children and the dwindling number of species which share our planet, we should place population stabilization as a primary means to mitigate climate change, along with other synergistic efforts to reduce carbon emissions. We all need to have the courage to begin discussions about this issue or ignore it at our own peril.Doreen HarrisScotia No reason not to test for cervical cancerYou may have heard that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. You may have also heard the news that cervical cancer screening guidelines have changed. And while this is true, the underlying message remains the same: Women ages 21 to 65 should get screened to prevent cervical cancer or catch it in the early stages when treatment is most effective.Women without health insurance are much less likely to be screened (71 percent) when compared to women with health insurance (88 percent). The Cancer Services Program (CSP) of Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady Counties can help. The CSP offers free cervical cancer screening to eligible, uninsured women, ages 40 and older. The program also provides free breast cancer screening to women 40 and older and colon cancer screening to uninsured men and women age 50 and older.  No need for a border wall; impeach TrumpI’ve been quiet for some time now in regard to the border wall. I had depended on it being built and have invested heavily in two companies, namely the Gill Co. and the Robbins Co.Gill is the maker of pole vault poles and the Robbins Co. handles tunnel-boring equipment. It just seems unfair that because of many sane people, they have put the kibosh on erecting the wall. It’s also so disturbing that four of our past presidents all told Mr. Trump it was a good idea. How do I know this? Because Pinocchio Trump said so. Is there no hope? Oh yes, impeachment.Please let me wake up from this two-year nightmare!Richard Moran Sr.Scotia Clinton Foundation is owed its due respectBill Denison’s Dec. 31 letter took Gazette editors to task for reporting that the Trump Foundation was a sham. Mr. Denison stated that they should also declare the Clinton Foundation a sham. Like so many Clinton deriders, a little unbiased research might separate facts from innuendo.  The state should establish a visitor’s center in Keene Valley to supplement the Adirondack Mountain Club visitor center at Adirondack Loj. Both places can provide trail information, offer maps, sell clothing and equipment, provide weather information and sell passes. Like a fishing or hunting license, being caught without a pass would result in a fine.In addition, trail heads should have informative signs that explain how long it takes an average hiker to reach various destinations and provide warnings about appropriate equipment and hazardous weather.Such a system could reduce rescues by dissuading unprepared or inexperienced hikers from going beyond their ability, equipment or supplies. The fees could raise funds for trail maintenance and more rangers. It would improve the Adirondack High Peaks visitor experience.William NechamenSchenectady But then the invaders at our southern border don’t seem to have access to cannons, at least not yet. And machine guns can be somewhat indiscriminate about whom they repel. So maybe a wall would be best after all.Jim MoorheadScotia Although the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has been extensively investigated for claims of improprieties during Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state and run for president, no major fault could be found.In 2015, CharityNavigator suspended rating the BHCCF for a 10-month investigation due to reported concerns, but followed up with a 4-star, (highest) rating with a “low concern” declaration. Other prominent websites have given the BHCCF excellent ratings, e.g. CharityWatch: A, (A+ highest), GuideStar: “platinum.”You can search the BHCCF in websites such as Wikipedia, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org to learn more. Unlike Trump’s now-legally defunct foundation, the Clintons have raised billions of dollars over the past 20 years that have been used for humanitarian projects throughout the world, too many to list here. Recent news has exposed the questionable, at best, accomplishments of Trump’s “charity.” Fact-finders have found no indications that, as Mr. Denison claims, the Clintons have enriched themselves financially from donations. It’s about time the Clinton Foundation is recognized for what it accomplishes to enrich humankind.Wayne VirklerRexford I know for a fact the SAFE Act he pushed through in the middle of the night has contributed to a lot of people leaving. Another is having to put up with his arrogance and extreme narcissism. The taxes imposed, and in my humble opinion wasted, on a lot of things is another biggie. Seeing so many of his friends and associates brought up on charges also tells a tale. Seeing him in cuffs, doing a perp walk into a courtroom, will bring a big smile to me and many other upstate subjects. They caught Rod Blagojevic of Illinois and there are still some open prison cells.David DeMarcoHadley Legalizing pot will have consequencesI’m writing to you with grave concerns about the legalization of recreational use of marijuana.As a healthcare professional I feel that it’s my obligation to share the knowledge in professional, scientific literature about the use and abuse of marijuana. In my opinion, marijuana isn’t only a frequent gateway drug, but a dangerous and harmful substance to the human brain.Recent research indicates that marijuana has major deleterious effects on neurophysiology (brain functioning). Neuroimaging studies show abnormally low blood flow in multiple brain regions in marijuana users. Reduced global cerebral blood flow was observed in the brains of 982 marijuana users, while cerebral blood flow was normal in healthy controls. This reduced blood flow was noticed particularly in the hippocampus, a brain area vital for memory and learning.Other studies have had similar observations suggesting that the hippocampus actually shrinks with marijuana use. Bill will curb abuse of money in electionsMoney talks. We want to hear what it says before we vote. Disclosing their tax returns will tell us volumes about a candidate.Stopping corruption and other criminal acts in government is my objective. This is a crime bill that Congresswoman Elise Stefanik should support.HR-1, a bill now before Congress, will create elections that are more fair and honest. Those who have nothing to hide will not worry about hiding. They will relish and allow the light of this bill to shine on the campaign finance, ethics and voting rights. Money talks, so knowing the source of it for political organizations (the Disclosure Act) and political ads (the Honest Ads Act) is important to voters.Our electoral system is disregarded by a majority of our populous and disrespected by many more because of the private money involved. HR-1 will help even the money playing fields by allowing for modified publicly financed elections. Categories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionFix rough crossing on Putnam RoadThe Putnam Road railroad tracks have been terrible going over. Your car rocks back and forth. They fixed it two years ago, shutting down the road for a week. It was just as bad when it was done. I broke car springs on it at a cost of $450. Now it’s worse. I wrote about it to two of our local politicians, but apparently it wasn’t something they were interested in. The only reply I got was mail to vote for them. Why can’t they make it like the tracks on Burdeck Street? What about emergency vehicles going over it on a call? If it’s an ambulance, the patient will probably get whiplash. How about fixing this right for a change?Dayton SkellySchenectady The day-to-day, practical meaning of these results is that marijuana users, regardless of age, are more likely to have difficulty with memory and learning, which would also result in poor judgment and decision-making and lack of motivation. Not to be minimized are the effects of coordination, reaction time and a host of other motor-coordination functions. Marijuana use over time may actually be a significant harbinger of brain damage.The last thing we need in New York, or America as a whole, is a majority of the population being continuously high and persistently inert and unmotivated to do anything but continue to get high.Dr. Frank W. Isele, Ph.D.Saratoga SpringsThe writer is a licensed clinical psychologist. Climate change bigger threat than refugeesPresident Trump would have us believe that migrant families seeking refuge from violence in Central America constitutes a crisis that threatens the existence of our country, warranting emergency funding of billions of dollars to build a wall along our southern border. If only he and other elected officials would recognize that climate change is a much bigger threat to the future of our country and spend as much time and money to end the burning of fossil fuels in America.The impacts of climate change on our infrastructure, economy and public health warrant immediate action by elected officials and all of us. Bipartisan legislation to place a fee on production of fossil fuels and distribute the money collected as a “dividend” to the American people (“Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act”, H.R. 7173) is a good start. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Trump administration to address climate change (even though that might reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere). Instead, individuals can take action now by voluntarily reducing their own consumption of oil and gas through energy conservation, carpooling, choosing renewable energy sources, driving high-MPG vehicles and divesting personal investments from fossil-fuel companies. All of these actions will help stimulate innovation, efficiency and create jobs in the renewable energy industry.Bryan SwiftAltamontMore from The Daily Gazette:Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference for Sunday, Oct. 18Cuomo calls for clarity on administering vaccineEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationlast_img read more

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20 Oct
2020

Letters to the Editor for Sunday, August 4

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionBDS ban violates right to free speechWhile everyone was talking non-stop about the Muller testimony, free speech came under attack in America, not from Moscow but from Washington D.C., when HR246 passed in the House of Representatives.The bill opposes the BDS movement and similar efforts supporters  believe seek to delegitimize Israel, even though that isn’t what BDS does at all.All BDS seeks to do is boycott economic ties with Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and recognize the human rights of Palestinian citizens.Despite what many will tell you, nothing in BDS’s mission aims to delegitimize Israel or target the Jewish faith. But even if you genuinely disagree with BDS, it is a non-violent boycott movement practicing the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.Don’t just take it from me. Take it from at least three federal courts, which as of May 2019 have dismissed anti-BDS laws as unconstitutional. And take it from the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly ruled boycotting as a constitutional right. This bill sets a terrifying precedent for Congress’s ability to interfere in our freedom of speech. The fact that it passed with such an overwhelming majority and had several Congress people that I genuinely respect vote for it shakes me to my core. Kudos to the 17 who voted against it and shame on the 398 (including Congressman Paul Tonko) who voted in favor of it. I feel certain history will not look kindly upon this resolution. Matt OillSchenectadyWhy are fewer going to Saratoga track?Something is keeping the attendance down at the Saratoga Racetrack.Could it be the early opening of the track, or maybe too many major events going on in our area? Could it be everyone wants to live the American dream of a good life, nice homes, new cars, and family activities. There’s nothing wrong with this, except many people today live from paycheck to paycheck and they make good money.There’s an old saying, “It’s not how much that’s coming in that keeps you going, it’s what you don’t spend” and it’s true.Also, many folks don’t like what happens in the horse-racing world, as some of the horses have to be put down when they break a leg. Horses are taken care of very well in horse racing, but they do get hurt just like football players and in other sports. That’s the way it is.The racetrack people are trying to make racing safer for the jockeys and horses. There are risks in all sports and always have been. Let’s hope improvements can be made. The price of admission to the track increased a few years ago. Maybe they should lower the price to draw more people in.If it doesn’t cost much to get in, maybe more people will say, “Let’s go to the track.”Remember, you can now bet on the races at lots of places other than at the track.Sid GordonSaratoga SpringsEric Garner’s killing violated basic rightsRegarding the recent op-ed on the killing of Eric Garner, it’s curious that Attorney General William Barr treated the case as an ordinary murder.On the contrary, Garner was the victim of an extra-judicial summary execution, caught on video from beginning to end, carried out by an agent of the state who has a license to kill.To treat it as an ordinary murder case is absurd and an insult. Surely other standards must apply when an agent of the state takes the life of a citizen.This country was founded on the principle that we citizens have inalienable rights, the most important of which is the right to life.Our cops ignore this, as do their overseers.Our lawmakers, who are supposed to act in our interests, have done a poor job of protecting us from our own law enforcement personnel. This must change. With nearly a dozen civil rights acts already in place, we don’t need another one to force our police and military to respect citizens’ right to life.U.S. attorneys must be directed, with a legislative act or executive order, to prosecute every incident of police killing, based on violation of the citizen’s right to life. Demand that they also use appropriate sections of the RICO act, so that associates of the killer can be prosecuted as well.Barr should revisit the Garner case and treat it as a civil rights violation.Otherwise, he should be fired or impeached. Justice must prevail.Edgar T. LynkNiskayunaMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationGov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference for Sunday, Oct. 18Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homeslast_img read more

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20 Oct
2020

London’s prime residential values slide

first_imgWould you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletters To access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week.last_img

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20 Oct
2020

Offices fragile …

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

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20 Oct
2020

Abbey gets new real estate habit

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

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19 Oct
2020

Government to complete hospital holding company establishment by December

first_imgUpon the completion, Erick said the ministry would be open to taking Pertamedika public so that the company could find strategic partners to help expand the holding company’s business.“The partnership must also create an added value for state-owned companies,” he said, expressing hope that the holding company could provide adequate health security for all Indonesians in the future.“Right now, about 58 percent of our population is at their productive age but 20 to 30 years from now they will grow old, so we need to prepare to provide appropriate health security from now,” he said. “After the establishment, total revenue could increase to Rp 8 trillion,” Erick told the press in Jakarta, adding that the holding company would control 25 percent of the hospital market share in the country.Other than creating growth in the hospital business, the hospital holding company will allow state-owned firms to focus on their core business, he said.Currently, several state-run firms such as energy holding firm Pertamina, ship operator PT Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia (Pelni) and steelmaker PT Krakatau Steel have their own hospital subsidiaries.The first phase of the holding company’s establishment, which will merge Pertamedika with Pelni’s hospital subsidiaries, is expected to be completed in June. The action will continue with other state-owned firms’ hospitals afterward. Topics :center_img The State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Ministry is set to complete the establishment of a hospital holding company by December.Minister Erick Thohir said on Monday that the holding company would be led by Pertamina’s subsidiary, PT Pertamina Bina Medika (Pertamedika IHC), and would gather 63 state-owned hospital companies.He said the holding company would eventually have 6,500 beds with an estimated revenue of Rp 5.6 trillion (US$407.6 million) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of Rp 510 billion.last_img read more

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19 Oct
2020

Nuclear agency collects more samples in probe into irradiated area in Banten housing complex

first_imgTopics : The Center for Science and Technology Research (Puspitek)  building, which is located about 5 kilometers away from the Batan Indah complex, houses several small reactors used for experimental purposes. Abdul went on to say that a police investigation was under way to determine the party that had dumped radioactive waste in the area.“We’re still awaiting the investigation. Police have started an investigation, while Bapeten has begun collecting information on known users of Caesium-137 across Indonesia,” he said. He said the agency would continue to measure radiation levels and collect soil samples on Thursday. Meanwhile, the decontamination efforts would be postponed until the agency had received the results of the sample examination from PLTR-BATAN, he said.It was previously reported that Bapeten first detected the radiation during a routine check in the residential area to ensure that the agency’s mobile radiation detection unit was working properly.All of the areas showed normal radiation levels, except for a vacant lot next to the volleyball court at Block J of the Batan Indah complex.The agency revealed on Sunday that it had found highly radioactive Caesium-137 materials as the source of radiation in the area. The cause of the incident remains unclear, however, authorities have said that the Caesium-137 did not come from a nuclear reactor leak but rather industrial sources.center_img The Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (Bapeten) has continued efforts to decontaminate an area exposed to high levels of radiation from radioactive Caesium-137 waste in the Batan Indah housing complex in South Tangerang, Banten.Agency spokesperson Abdul Qohhar Teguh said authorities had collected more samples of soil and vegetation from the exposed area and sent them to the National Nuclear Agency’s Center for Radioactive Waste Technology (PLTR-BATAN) for further examination.“We’ve collected 223 drums of soil and vegetation [during] the decontamination efforts as of [Wednesday] afternoon — all of which have been sent to PLTR-BATAN,” Abdul said on Wednesday evening. last_img read more

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19 Oct
2020

Reagents shortage yet another test of accuracy for Indonesia’s COVID-19 data

first_imgRead also: COVID-19: Indonesia on hunt for PCR testing kitsDisease control and prevention director general Achmad Yurianto of the Health Ministry acknowledged that the shortage of regents had forced a number of laboratories to halt testing, leaving only 37 out of 78 labs able to submit test results on Tuesday. However, he assured that a new supply of reagents enough to support up to 15,000 tests was en route to the archipelago.”The stock was sent from South Korea this morning,” Yurianto told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.Indonesia has been scrambling to obtain the chemical reagents necessary for the COVID-19 PCR tests amid the global shortage, with the government seeking to procure them from countries that have a surplus of testing kits.President Joko Widodo has called for health authorities to expand PCR testing to at least 10,000 tests per day – or 300,000 tests per month – amid criticisms that the country has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.According to government data, Indonesia has tested 59,936 samples for the COVID-19 virus by Thursday, with 7,775 samples testing positive for the coronavirus. Of these confirmed cases, 635 patients have died.The government has estimated that Indonesia would need to conduct 1.2 million tests by May.However, many observers – including state officials – have cast doubt on the government’s COVID-19 figures, saying that minimal test coverage, multiple case categories and “nontransparent” data pointed to a high likelihood that the real number of cases in the country could be higher than official reports.Despite the shortage of reagents and the country’s dependence on imports to overcome this, Yurianto did not believe it would be efficient to produce the chemicals locally.“We are running against time and producing the reagents ourselves would take time and [a long] process,” he said.The director of the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, Amin Soebandrio, explained that the reagents required a specific level of refinement and needed to be validated for use in the COVID-19 PCR tests.Nonetheless, he said that the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) were currently attempting to produce the PCR test reagents.“Hopefully, within 2 to 3 weeks, locally made reagents will be able to contribute [to nationwide PCR tests] a little, even though they may not be able to supply nationwide laboratories,” he told the Post.However, Eijkman’s deputy for fundamental research, Herawati Sudoyo, warned that developing the reagents for the COVID-19 tests had to be done carefully to meet high quality assurance standards.Read also: COVID-19: More than 380 foreigners among infected in IndonesiaWhen asked about the possibility of alternative tests to detect the coronavirus, Herawati maintained that the PCR testing method was currently the “gold standard” for COVID-19 detection.“The reagents shortage is not happening just in Indonesia. It’s happening around the world because no one was prepared for the pandemic. But PCR [testing] remains the best option,” she said.In the meantime, Eijkman has secured a sufficient stock of reagents for the next two to three weeks, and its lab was still testing more than 300 samples per day.In Surabaya, East Java, the University of Airlangga Institute of Tropical Disease (ITD Unair) initially reported on Monday that it had run out of reagents and that the supply it had ordered on March 24 had yet to arrive.On Thursday, ITD Unair head Maria Lucia Inge Lusida told the Post that the center had resumed testing received enough reagents from the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister to test 1,400 samples.In the nation’s capital, Jakarta Health Laboratory head Endra Muryanto said that the regional lab, which had already tested 10,160 samples so far, had secured enough reagents to continue testing for the next few days.While the West Java Health Laboratory said it had also secured a new supply of reagents, it expressed concern over the general availability of reagents.“Extraction reagents are hard to obtain, and we are worried that we might have to stop testing because of a delay in the arrival of the [imported] reagents,” said laboratory head Ema Rahmawati.Topics : A shortage of reagents is interfering with the government’s efforts to ramp up much-needed mass testing for the coronavirus, posing another challenge for Indonesia regarding the true scale of its outbreak.Over the past two days, a number of the country’s laboratories have temporarily stopped running polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests because the supply of reagents – the substance essential to testing swab samples – had yet to arrive from abroad.In South Sumatra, for instance, the Palembang Health Laboratory (BBLK) had to stop testing samples due to the lack of reagents. The halt on testing caused the province to record zero new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday, kompas.com reported.The reagents are necessary to isolate the indicators for the coronavirus RNA from human DNA in swab samples to determine whether the test subject had the virus or not.last_img read more

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19 Oct
2020

Experts, activists call for heightened public scrutiny of COVID-19 policies, funding

first_imgExperts are encouraging increased public scrutiny of the government’s COVID-19 mitigation policies, as the House of Representatives and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) were less critical in their stances. Didin S. Damanhuri, founder of the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), said that large-scale embezzlement could occur if COVID-19 response and spending were not monitored closely.“The public has to keep watch so that there is no the BLBI scandal volume 2,” Didin said on Tuesday during a public discussion held by the KPK.He was referring to the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) that the central bank provided to help failing banks during the 1998 monetary crisis. The recipient banks largely misused the funds, with the KPK estimating in 2019 that Rp 4.58 trillion (US$309.87 million) in state losses remained unrecovered.Didin stressed that public scrutiny was needed, as the House had passed the regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) on COVID-19 mitigation with little resistance, forfeiting their chance to challenge the regulation.In addition to the implementing regulations the government has issued under the 2018 Health Quarantine Law, the controversial Perppu gives the government expanded authority to raise the deficit cap and reallocate funds from the state budget. The Perppu has drawn criticism for a clause that protects officials from legal liabilities, as long as they act “in good faith and in accordance with the law” in the implementation of related fiscal and monetary policies. Experts and activists have raised concerns that the regulation essentially gives carte blanche for officials to commit graft and embezzlement.Following the Perppu, the government announced it would roll out an economic recovery stimulus package worth Rp 641.17 trillion to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and state-owned enterprises (SOEs).Read also: Court summonses Jokowi, House to next hearing in COVID-19 response judicial reviewBivitri Susanti, a constitutional law expert at the Jentera School of Law in Jakarta, said during Tuesday’s discussion that she deplored the House for focusing on issues other than COVID-19 mitigation, including deliberating the revised 2009 Mining Law revision and insisting on passing contentious omnibus bill on job creation.“It’s like the House and the government are wearing blinders, while the people they represent are thinking about whether they will be able to eat tomorrow,” she said.Bivitri also urged the public to report any signs of embezzlement in COVID-19 mitigation to the relevant authorities, including the Indonesia Ombudsman and the KPK. She also called on the KPK to be more transparent in releasing public reports.Meanwhile, Indonesian Corruption Watch activist Kurnia Ramadhana suggested that the KPK might no longer be depended on to eradicate corruption. The revised KPK Law that came into effect in October 2019 has established a new hierarchical level above the KPK to install a supervisory council armed with veto powers, essentially stripping the commission its independence and its antigraft tools.Kurnia also noted that KPK chair Comr. Gen. Firli Bahuri, a police general whose appointment late last year prompted public debate, had recorded more controversies than achievements. He added that Firli had made fewer graft arrests while making more frequent visits to government agencies and the House compared to previous KPK leaders, who generally avoided meeting government officials.Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said that the public should communicate any dissatisfaction with the COVID-19 regulations and policies through legal channels, such as by filing a judicial review with the Constitutional Court or filing a class-action lawsuit.Usman also said that the public should find new ways to exert political pressure on the government amid the current social restrictions. For example, he said, a car caravan protest was held in the United States so protesters could maintain physical distance while making their voices heard.Topics :last_img read more

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