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HKS in the News August 1, 2012

1. Insurance Rebates Seen as Selling Point for Health Law (Blendon) New York Times

2. Not fired with logic (Hanna) Hindustan Times (India)

3. Iran's new quest for nuclear submarines: dangerous and needless (Heinonen) Christian Science Monitor

Insurance Rebates Seen as Selling Point for Health Law

New York Times

July 30

Quoted: Robert Blendon, Shorenstein Center

Topic: Rebates required by the new federal health care law

Lucia Harkenreader’s check landed in her mailbox last week: a rebate of $456.15 from her health insurance company, with a letter dryly explaining that the money came courtesy of the federal health care law....

The law requires insurers to give out annual rebates by Aug. 1, starting this year, if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent....

Robert Blendon , a health policy professor at Harvard, said that while the rebates might win over some opponents of the law, they were too limited to have much impact. Polls have found that most people believe the law will drive premiums up.

“My view is the number is too small,” Professor Blendon said. “Most people have already come to some judgment about the law and they are moving on to other things.”

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Not fired with logic

Hindustan Times (India)

August 1

Cited: Research by Rema Hanna, Center for International Development

Topic: Cooking stoves

The world’s poorest people use the cheapest available fuels — dung and twigs and even leaves. This might sound like protecting the environment — after all we are not burning something that needs to be pulled out of the earth. But it is not. These are among the dirtiest fuels available, in terms of the amount of particulate matter and carbon dioxide released into the air; coal is clean by comparison. And when a woman bends over the stove to cook, a lot of those newly liberated particles travel more or less directly into her lungs. A lot of the rest swirls around the house, ending up in the respiratory system of those who spend a lot of time at home, like young children and the elderly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 2 million people die from this kind of indoor air pollution every year, which is about as many deaths as malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Improved cookstoves seemed to be a simple but brilliant solution to the problem. Why not enclose the fire so that neither the heat nor the smoke can escape from the stove and channel the smoke out of the house through a simple chimney? Enclosing the heat saves energy and lowers emissions; and sending smoke out is obviously better.

This is what the new generation of stoves were designed to do and when tried out under controlled conditions they seemed to work: this was why there was so much excitement about them. Yet, a recent study by some of my colleagues from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that followed several thousand households with and without improved stoves in Odisha over four years reluctantly concluded that having a stove at home made absolutely no difference.

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Iran's new quest for nuclear submarines: dangerous and needless

Christian Science Monitor

July 31

Commentary by: Olli Heinonen, Belfer Center

Topic: Iran's nuclear plans

After a recent announcement by the deputy chief of the Iranian navy that it is considering nuclear propulsion for its submarines, actions have proceeded swiftly. A bill an Iranian Parliament (Majlis) committee was approved, and debate has followed, parallel to the latest round of P5+1 talks with Iran in Istanbul, which concluded last week.

The Majlis debate brought to the arena additional aspects of the Iranian plans: the use of nuclear propulsion for oil tankers and possible use of uranium with higher enrichment. There is speculation that nuclear propulsion will be used as a bargaining chip to trade away in international talks or as (eventual) justification for continuing uranium enrichment and get to higher enrichment. Some have raised questions about Iran’s proclamations and its actual capacity to develop nuclear submarines.

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Broadcast Notes

Nicholas Burns, Future of Diplomacy Project

NPR's "All Things Considered," 7/31

Topic: U.S.-Iran policy

This selection of media appearances is compiled by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

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Associate Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs

Harvard Kennedy School

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