How America loses a job every 43 seconds; US sees Russia as regional power; Is the world more depressed?; Air pollution linked to seven million deaths

1 How America loses a job every 43 seconds (Matthew J Slaughter in The Wall Street Journal) April 1 is when the US Citizenship and Immigration Services begins accepting new H-1B visa petitions for 2015. An H-1B visa allows a company to create a new job for a highly-educated foreigner in the US for at least three years. The H-1B program, which accounts for nearly all of America’s skilled immigration, imposes an annual cap of 85,000 new visas: 65,000 with at least a bachelor’s degree and 20,000 with at least a master’s degree. In many recent years, demand for H-1B visas has far exceeded supply.

The US’s skilled immigration policy hurts American workers, companies and the economy. Immigrants have long been a key part of America’s talent pool, helping drive the innovation that creates jobs and higher standards of living. Their most significant contributions have been in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Foreign-born individuals make up about 20% of today’s US STEM workers with bachelor’s degrees and 40% of those with advanced degrees.

There is a real, tangible cost to the US economy of allocating far fewer skilled-immigrant visas than companies need. Most immediately, the cost is forgone jobs created in the companies and beyond. More broadly, the cost is forgone ideas, innovation and connections to the world. Restrictive skilled-immigration policy costs US jobs every single day. How many? Start with an estimated 100,000 jobs lost directly this year from H-1B visa applications that were either not filed or not approved beyond the current cap of 85,000. Then add 400,000, a ballpark estimate from research of additional jobs not created at immigrant-hiring companies and at these companies’ suppliers.

That’s 500,000 jobs lost thanks to too-restrictive US immigration policy. Spread across 50 five-day workweeks, this translates into 2,000 US jobs not created a day. That is a new job lost about every 43 seconds, around the clock, every single day that America is open for business. In 2013, the US economy created 2.37 million new payroll jobs. This tally could have been more than 21% higher had US immigration restrictions not existed. Wise reform could bring a welcome end to the damage restrictive immigration policy inflicts on the country’s own economic vitality.

2 US sees Russia as regional power (Julian Borger in The Guardian) President Barack Obama has described Russia as no more than a “regional power” whose actions in Ukraine are an expression of weakness rather than strength, as he restated the threat from the G7 western allies and Japan that they would inflict much broader sanctions if Vladimir Putin went beyond annexation of Crimea and moved troops into eastern Ukraine.

Obama rejected the suggestion made by Mitt Romney – his Republican challenger in the last president election – that Russia was the US’ principal geopolitical foe. The president said he was considerably more concerned about the threat of a terrorist nuclear bomb attack on New York. He said that the US was committed to the defence of its Nato allies but that for non-member states along Russia’s borders, Washington and the rest of the international community would use non-military pressure to counter Russian encroachment.

“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours, not out of strength but out of weakness,” the president said. The US also has influence over its neighbours, he added, but: “We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. “The fact that Russia felt it had to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more,” Obama said.

3 Is the world more depressed? (TM Luhrmann in The New York Times) Is there more suicide and depression these days across the globe? Possibly. The World Health Organization reports that suicide rates have increased 60 percent over the past 50 years, most strikingly in the developing world, and that by 2020 depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world.

The Global Burden of Disease 2010, an extensive study published last December in the British medical journal The Lancet, set out to quantify time lost to healthy years of life through disability (a complex calculation) and found a 36.7 percent increase in the “burden” of mental illness and substance abuse disorders across the globe compared with 1990, although researchers concluded that this was a result of population increase and aging. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of antidepressant use in the US rose by 400 percent between 1988 and 2008.

The number of diagnoses of depression in Japan more than doubled between 1999 and 2008. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates, at 21 people per 100,000, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; the US’ rate is 12 per 100,000. Last year, the rate in Tamil Nadu, India was 25 per 100,000.

There is reason to believe that mental illness is indeed increasing around the world, if only because urbanization is increasing. By 2010, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population lived in cities. Cities are places of possibility. But cities also break traditions and fracture families, and they breed psychiatric illness. In a city you are more likely to be depressed, to fall ill with schizophrenia, and to use alcohol and drugs. Poverty and rapid urbanization sharpen these effects.

We know that social position affects both when you die and how sick you get: The higher your social position, the healthier you are. It turns out that your sense of relative social rank predicts many health outcomes, including depression, sometimes even more powerfully than your objective socioeconomic status. What has exploded in India over the past few decades, but also everywhere else in the world, is information about other people. As we watch television, surf the Internet and follow events around the world, we become intimately aware of other ways of living and of others who are richer and more powerful. We place ourselves in a vast social order in which most of us are ants. It may truly be a depressing reflection.

4 Air pollution linked to seven million deaths (Helen Briggs on BBC) Seven million people died as a result of air pollution in 2012, the World Health Organization estimates. Its findings suggest a link between air pollution and heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. One in eight global deaths were linked with air pollution, making it “the world’s largest single environmental health risk”, the WHO said.

Nearly six million of the deaths had been in South East Asia and the WHO’s Western Pacific region, it found. The WHO said about 3.3 million people had died as a result of indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths were related to outdoor air pollution, mainly in low- and middle-income countries in those regions. The WHO assessment found the majority of air pollution deaths were linked with cardiovascular diseases.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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