Europe Reacts To Obama-rouhani Phone Call With Optimism

Scientists urge Europe to shift focus to bowel cancer screening

“The tone we have heard from President Rouhani is new an alternative to that which has been seen in previous years,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “Because of this, there is a reason for cautious optimism: Iran could be serious about a new, constructive attitude. But of course, great caution is still needed because it is crucial that through talks substantial new offers be made.” In the first top-level U.S.-Iranian contact in more than three decades, President Obama held a 15-minute call with Rouhani in which they discussed Iran’s nuclear program and a possible agreement over Iran halting its ability to develop nuclear weapons. The United States and its allies have imposed sanctions in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program a program they fear will allow the country to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is intended only for energy. The call followed a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday at the United Nations. On Monday, President Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is deeply concerned over the call and questions Iran’s motives. “The smile offensive conducted by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. has not been greeted with smiles in Israel,” said Michael Herzog, a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces in an opinion piece in the British newspaper, The Guardian. “Iran’s history of deceit on this issue calls for rephrasing President Reagan’s famous reference to the Soviet Union: ‘Do not trust, but verify.’ Give Rouhani a chance, but test him by his deeds.

Europe’s plan to address weak banks risks unraveling

If you find a gap, you need to be confident you can fix it,” said Ronny Rehn, analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW) in London. “If you don’t have this, then we might have to lie to ourselves again and say there is no problem because we couldn’t afford to fund the problem.” CONFIDENCE OR COMPROMISE The ECB wants to check the health of big banks, under a so-called Asset Quality Review (AQR), before taking over their supervision. This will also help shape wider testing of banks outside the euro zone, overseen by the European Banking Authority (EBA). In Frankfurt, home of the ECB, there is growing resignation that a pan-euro-zone backstop is unlikely and that countries may be left to prop up their banks alone, as they were when the financial crisis struck. “We’ll have to have national backstops in place,” ECB President Mario Draghi told the European Parliament earlier this week. “If it (single resolution scheme) is not there in place, it will be up to the national authorities … which is suboptimal, of course.” Such a compromise exasperates bankers, who want confidence restored to the sector so their cost of funding drops. “The ECB, EBA and EU are all saying that the AQR and stress tests will be stringent,” said a credit banker at a large London-based investment bank. “It’s easy for those to say that; they don’t have to come up with the money. “It’s the government I want to hear it from. I want to hear from the government what happens if banks fail.” With confidence in European banks still low, the sector is valued at a significant discount to U.S. peers, trading at around par with the book value of its tangible assets compared with around 1.7 times for the United States, according to an analysis by KBW. Europe’s top 42 banks are already about 70 billion euros short of meeting new international capital norms, even before taking into account that they have often set aside too little to cover unpaid loans or an economic slump. “We see a problem primarily in Spain and Italy, because that’s where you have a housing market that’s still in freefall,” said Jon Peace, an analyst with Nomura. “The small banks have bigger problems than the large ones.” OUT ON A LIMB Germany, the euro zone’s strongest economy, which has shouldered much of the burden for country bailouts, does not want a scheme that leaves it on the hook.

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In bowel cancer screening, however, the risk of over-diagnosis is very low, while gains in terms of reducing deaths are large – making routine testing cost-effective, Philippe Autier, a professor at France’s International Prevention Research Institute (IPPR), told the conference. “There is now an irrefutable case for devoting some of the resources from breast and prostate cancer screening to the early detection of colorectal (bowel) cancer,” he said. A large European study published last year found that breast screening programs over-diagnose about four cases for every 1,000 women aged between 50 and 69 who are screened. The IPPR’s research director Mathieu Boniol, who studied the impact of prostate screening, said his results showed routine use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests creates more harm in terms of incontinence, impotence and other side-effects from prostate cancer treatments than benefit in terms of detecting life-threatening cancers. “PSA testing should be reduced and more attention should be given to the harmful effects of screening,” he told delegates. Meanwhile, results of a study conducted by Autier using data from 11 European countries between 1989 and 2010 showed that the greater the proportions of men and women routinely screened for bowel cancer, the greater the reductions in death rates. Colorectal cancer kills more than 600,000 people a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In Europe some 400,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. In Austria, for example, where 61 percent of those studied reported having had colorectal screening tests, deaths from this form of cancer dropped by 39 percent for men and 47 percent for women over the decade. Meanwhile in Greece, where only 8 percent of males had had bowel cancer screening, death rates rose by 30 percent for men. In the light of the results, Cornelis van de Velde, an oncologist at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and president of the European Cancer Organisation, said it was “very disappointing” there are such wide differences in European governments’ approaches to colorectal screening. “People over 50 should be informed of the availability of the test, and pressure should be put on national health services to put more effort into organizing screening programs,” he told the conference.