Friday, September 12, 2014

Sweeping sanctions on Russia's banks, oil cos; Student loans burden not just the youth; The deadly issue of suicides worldwide

1 Sweeping sanctions on Russia’s banks, oil companies (Dan Roberts in The Guardian) Russia’s largest banks, oil producers and defence companies will be cut off from international finance and technology under sweeping new economic sanctions announced by the US and Europe that substantially escalate western political pressure over Ukraine.
In coordinated moves that may unnerve already jittery financial markets, the US Treasury and European Union announced that Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, would be barred from accessing their capital markets for any long-term funding, including all borrowing over 30 days.
Even more draconian measures were imposed on the Russian energy industry, where the US and Europe are attempting to shut down important new exploration projects in Siberia and the Arctic by barring foreign oil companies from providing any equipment, technology or assistance to deepwater, offshore, or shale projects.
The bans will prevent previously active companies such as Exxon and Shell from dealing with five of the largest Russian oil producers and pipeline operators: Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, LukOil, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft. One senior administration official in Washington claimed the measures were in response to recent incursions by Russian troops and were “about restoring respect for international law and state sovereignty”.
The moves brought a dismissive response from Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who has already retaliated to earlier sanctions by banning food imports from Europe and the US. “The less time officials and business leaders spend overseas and the more time they spend dealing with current issues the better,” said Putin.
2 Student loans burden not just the youth (Elizabeth Olson in The New York Times) An estimated two million Americans aged 60 and older are in debt from unpaid student loans, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Its August “Household Debt and Credit Report” said the number of aging Americans with outstanding student loans had almost tripled from about 700,000 in 2005, whether from long-ago loans for their own educations or more recent borrowing to pay for college degrees for family members.
The debt among older people is up substantially, to $43 billion from $8 billion in 2005, according to the report. While older debtors account for a small fraction of student loan borrowers, who have accumulated nearly $1 trillion in such debt, the effect of owing a constantly ballooning amount of debt but having a fixed income can be onerous, said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
 “Those in default on their loans can see their Social Security checks garnished, leaving them with retirement income that leaves them well below the poverty line,” he said at a committee hearing this week to examine the issue. “Some may think of student loan debt as a young person’s problem,” he said, “but, as it turns out, that is increasingly not the case.”

3 The deadly issue of suicides worldwide (Khaleej Times) The World Health Organisation’s first global report on suicide prevention notes that more than 800,000 people die by suicide every year — around one person every 40 second. About three-quarters of the suicides occur in low-and middle-income countries, destroying families and communities. Sadly, just 28 countries are known to have national suicide prevention strategies in place that would deter a person from taking her/his life.

Suicide rates vary enormously between regions and countries and even within age groups. Globally, suicide rates are highest in people above 70, but it is the second leading cause of death among youth between 15 and 29, the WHO study notes. The most suicide-prone nations include Guyana (44.2 deaths per 100,000 people), North Korea (38.5) and South Korea (28.9). The global average is 11. India, one of the few countries where suicide is still illegal (and those attempting it are punished), also has a high rate of 21.1. In 2012, nearly 260,000 Indians resorted to the drastic step, taking their own lives.

The report was released just a week before World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed on September 10 every year. The global health body notes that reducing access to means of suicide is one way to reduce deaths, but other effective measures include responsible reporting of suicide in the media (by avoiding language that sensationalises suicides and avoiding explicit description of methods used), and early identification and management of mental and substance use disorders.

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