2017 is a year Americans are unlikely to forget very easily and it’s all thanks to one man: Donald J. Trump. They welcomed the year 2017 amid deep controversy following the election of Mr. Trump as the 45th President of the USA. Since then, Mr. Trump has managed to maintain a spot in the headlines every now and then with a number of his decisions sparking several debates. Now, with the New Year looming large, Americans find their government alienated at the forefront of another controversy; the one that has followed the immensely criticized decision by the Trump government to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On December 6, Mr. Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, also signalling the move of the United States Embassy to the hugely controversial city from Tel Aviv. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital”, he said of the decision. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.” One of the promises made by Trump as part of his campaign was to successfully broker a deal in the Middle East and bring an end to decades of conflict between Israel and Palestine. With the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he seems to be doing anything but fulfilling that promise.
Why is the issue of Jerusalem so contentious?
You may as well ask why the move is being given the attention that it has been receiving and what it means. To put it quite simply, the status of Jerusalem has remained unresolved in the context of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Till the Six-Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was controlled partly by Israel in the west and by Jordan in the east. During the war Israel occupied East Jerusalem, thereby obtaining complete control of the entire city. The Palestinians and the Arab world, along with many others in the international community recognized the move as an illegal occupation of East Jerusalem. Palestine also views East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Moreover, Old City in Jerusalem is an important religious site for Jews, Muslims as well as for Christians. Therefore, Jerusalem’s status has been a contentious issue both historically and religiously.
So where does the rest of the world stand?
What has followed since the decision of the United States is a demonstration by the rest of the world on how far they are willing to go against the US or anyone for that matter to condemn what they believe does not contribute to peace in the world. On December 18, 14 out of 15 members of the United Nations Security Council gave a green signal to a measure “expressing deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” Quite obviously, the US was the only country to veto the measure following which Turkey and Yemen took it upon themselves to call for an emergency session of the 193 members strong United Nations General Assembly.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US would be closely watching and “taking names” of those who voted against them. She went so far as to write to more than 180 countries that any vote in favour of the resolution would be taken personally by the President. Mr. Trump himself suggested withdrawal of billions of dollars of aid to countries who would vote against the US. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot,” he said. “We don’t care.” Even right before the voting took place, Haley threatened that the US would cut funding to the UN over the vote. The talk may have swayed some countries to its side which barely amounted to anything. 128 member countries voted in favour of the resolution and only 9 voted against it. Any consolation that the US received from the vote was 35 abstentions from some of its allies. By not voting at all, they neither criticized the move by the US, nor did they voice their support for the US on the issue, if any.
What the measure explicitly says is that any changes to Jerusalem’s status “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.” In addition, it “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem”, clearly targeting the US decision to move its embassy to the city.
How have the different parties involved reacted?
Ambassador Haley had the following to say of the result that saw the United States pretty much isolated on yet another international issue: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out in this assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.” She added, “We will remember it when, once again, we are called up to make the world’s largest contribution to the UN, and we will remember it when many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.” Regardless of the vote, Haley said the US Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority called Trump’s announcement a “crime” and expressed that he no longer desires the US to broker peace between them ad Israel. In addition, more than 50 countries with a majority of Muslim population signed a statement which declares that the United States has lost its role as a “sponsor of peace” in the Middle East region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, thanked Mr. Trump for his stance on the issue as well as the other countries that voted against the resolution. Also rejecting the measure, Mr. Netanyahu released a statement saying that “Israel rejects the UN resolution and at the same time expresses satisfaction with the high number of countries that did not vote for the resolution.”
The issue remains one which needs to be closely watched to ascertain what the repercussions will be once the decisions and actions of the US, the countries in the Middle East, and Israel play out in their entirety. The United States has already made a move to reduce the contribution of the country to the UN budget. “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked, said Nikki Haley of the step, adding that they would look at ways to increase the governing body’s efficiency while protecting their own interests at the same time. At the same time, Guatemala has followed in the United States’ steps by deciding to move their embassy to Jerusalem as well. As 2018 approaches, will this prove to be the new year resolution that remains in focus for more than just the first few weeks of the year? At least the Palestinians will hope so.
ETIAS, the new permit you will need to travel to Europe from the US starting 2021
Last April the European Parliament and the European Council confirmed at the final agreement for the creation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), a registration system for all visitors from third countries that are now exempt from visa. In order to strengthen border security, the European Commission proposed the creation of this system which will enter into full operation in 2021.
The ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Once operational, it will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area. When arriving at the EU borders, travellers from the United States of America will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation.
What countries will require it?
The ETIAS will facilitate access to countries within the Schengen Area to travelers from third countries that do not currently require a visa in order to improve security and to prevent irregular immigration. Therefore, to know if you need to use ETIAS or not, you will first have to find out if the country you want to visit falls within the Schengen Area, and you will also need to know if your country was visa-exempt until now.
Schengen Area Countries
It is important to remember that not all 28 countries of the European Union (EU) are part of the Schengen Area and that not all Schengen countries are part of the European Union. Great Britain and Ireland, for example, are part of the EU (Great Britain is scheduled to leave after Brexit), but not the Schengen Area; while Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen Area, but not members of the EU.
Therefore, an ETIAS waiver will be required to visit the following countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland.
Countries’ citizens who will need to apply for ETIAS.
As stated above, ETIAS will be required to travelers from countries that do not require a visa. Currently, individuals from the following 57 countries do not require Schengen visas to visit countries in the European Union. However, with the arrival of ETIAS expected in 2021, passport holders of these countries will require an ETIAS waiver to travel to Europe for the purposes of tourism, business or transit for a short 90 days stay in any 180-day period.
How is it going to work?
Prior to traveling, those interested in acquiring an ETIAS waiver must fill out an online application providing with basic information (name, age, occupation, passport number, country of entry in Europe). In addition, they must answer a few questions on safety and health issues, among others. Approval often takes minutes once your ETIAS application is complete, and the maximum amount of time for approval is only four days.
What do I need to apply?
All you need to apply is a valid Passport, a credit or debit card to pay the fee and a completed ETIAS application. Since it’s a visa waiver, you won’t need any further paperwork. And, unlike visa applications, ETIAS doesn’t require an interview at any embassy or consulate.
How do I apply?
The ETIAS application form is already available online, although its use won’t enter into force until 2021. You can apply for your ETIAS until 5 days before your trip, but the sooner you start the process, the better. Once in the application form, you’ll be prompted to provide your passport details and asked to answer a list of security questions. It’s vital that your application be error-free and that the information is an exact match to your passport. Any discrepancies between your ETIAS application and your passport could cause a delay in processing and/or approval You’ll also need a credit or debit card to complete the process.
Once you’re finished, the form is submitted immediately and you will receive an email with the information of you of approval status. You should receive the email within minutes, although sometimes issues on approval status could take up to four days to be sorted out.
How much is it going to cost?
Each applicant over 18 years old will have to pay a 5€ travel authorization fee. The payment must be done online during the application process.
How long can I use it for and when does it expire?
The ETIAS can be used for stays up to 90 days in a period of 180 days. The travel purposes covered by ETIAS are tourism, short-term business such or conference and qualifying medical procedures. Your approved ETIAS will last for three years, but it might expire sooner if your passport does. You will have to re-apply for ETIAS when you get a new passport.
Is the US Housing Market Slowing Down?
There are signs that the US housing market, buoyant for several years with prices soaring, is slowing down as even properties in popular ‘hot spots’ such as Seattle, parts of Texas and Silicon Valley are taking longer to sell and sometimes not making their asking prices.
Economists predict the overall gain for property prices across the US will only be five percent for 2018 and will be down to three percent in 2019. The rise of home improvements – well over $300 billion is being spent on various house remodeling projects per year – show Americans are staying put and improving their present home rather than moving.
Versatile, top quality home improvements and ‘add-ons’ such as attic and garage conversions, and easy-to-install storage such as weatherproof prefabricated sheds that can add more space in a matter of hours, are giving people the chance to increase space in and around their properties for a fraction of the costs of moving home.
Pricing and interest rate rises
What has slowed the market?
Accelerating house prices – they’ve finally outstripped house buyers’ ability to afford them; rises have mostly been fueled by hitherto low housing stock in hot markets such as California and the Miami area.
Interest rate rises – recent interest rate rises make it not only more difficult for buyers to afford the repayments on what is likely to be a high mortgage, but have caused confidence to dip as people wonder if more are on the way.
Not a full blown slump
Many analysts, including Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller – who predicted the ‘dot com bubble’ bursting back at the turn of the millennium – don’t predict a big downturn like that experienced during the financial crisis of 2008.
They’re saying it’s more a sign of demand naturally tailing off for a while as the market corrects itself and housing stock increases. It certainly has done in property hot spots such as Seattle where supply rose by well over 20% compared to late 2017.
Confidence has waned somewhat in the property market; even though the US economy is doing well only some 65% of Americans consider it a good time to buy – the lowest percentage since the world wide slump of 2008 when the property market was severely affected.
Certain areas such as Alabama are actually seeing property sales rise as these are areas that are still relatively affordable compared to the likes of California, where prices still make it hard for people to buy.
House builder stocks falling
An indication that all is not well in the housing market is the significant fall in homebuilding company stock values: overall stocks are down 21% this year, so very much in 2008 recession territory and worthy of caution.
Good for investors but less good for buyers
The lowering of prices and the rise of housing stock makes it good news for investors as properties offering decent yields may become reality again.
Ironically, a strong economy allied to low unemployment – the lowest since the late 1960s – increases the risk of interest rates continuing to rise as the Federal Reserve tries to keep inflation under control. That has the consequence that confidence is lower for potential house buyers, as is their ability to buy.
America’s Aging Workforce: A Call For Change
You don’t need us to tell you that people are living longer. What’s more, advances in medical treatments keep us fighting fit into our later lives. With medicine as it stands, even illnesses such as cancer aren’t enough to knock us down. Instead, we bounce back, often fitter than we were before. Such is the miracle of modern medicine.
No one can deny that this is a positive change and something we should all be thankful for. But, it’s also impossible to ignore that these improvements are at the root of some issues. America’s aging population is nothing new. For years now, we’ve seen baby boomers, born between 1946-1964, forming the largest generation in America. As it stands, 75 million American citizens fall into this category.
As a result, strains have been placed on Medicare, social security, and even our workforces. Early retirement packages start as young as 62, but many are now able to work later. What’s more, inadequate pensions leave many with no other choice.
And, there are obvious issues with an aging workplace. While there are benefits to elderly workers, there are also negatives. Of course, the majority of the issues come about from workplaces targeted towards the young. So, what needs to change to help our aging workers? Let’s take a look.
New health and safety regulations
As it stands, health and safety regulations aren’t serving the aging workforce. In the past, workplace fatalities have concerned younger workers or an even mixture across the ages. But, statistics from Minnesota fatalities suggest that things are changing, with more elderly workers at risk of fatal or long-term injuries. In fact, at least half of workplace deaths involved those who were 55 and over. And, these numbers look set to skyrocket in the coming decade. In some ways, you could argue that these statistics are inevitable. After all, workers in these age ranges now far outweigh those in any other. But, the figures are still worrying. What’s more, those over the age of 65 are thought to take longer to recover. Statistics show that older workers took an average 14 days to recover, while younger workers took 4-9. This is terrible news for everyone, as it means lost workload and lost earnings. The injured individual would be within their rights to contact lawyers such as Strickland, Agner & Associates to cover the financial burden of their time off. But, this would again leave employers out of pocket, which ultimately doesn’t help anyone involved.
Instead, it might be time for workplaces to reconsider their health and safety measures. With elderly workers in mind, issues such as visibility and hearing should be a priority. Bear in mind, too, that a small trip could do real damage for an older worker. As such, it’s more important than ever to keep walkways clear and safe at all times. These changes won’t be difficult to implement. So, there’s no excuse for workforces not to get behind this.
A focus on employee wellness
Employee wellness should always be a priority. Any employer knows that allowances must be in place for workers with disabilities. The law states that they provide wheelchair friendly desks, easy access to all areas, and even parking spaces close to the building. And, all these allowances could help to make life easier for an aging workforce. Admittedly, going too far here could cause insult. But, it’s hard to ignore that a 65-year-old worker will struggle to make their way up three flights of stairs to reach the office. As such, you should provide options like elevators and parking spaces nearby. Keep this understated, and let workers make their own choices about whether to use such benefits. But, you can be sure that having the option will go a long way towards reducing any discomfort.
Acknowledge the limitations of age
This is a tricky matter to traverse. On the one hand, discrimination should be avoided at all costs. And, that includes age discrimination. At the same time, it’s impossible to ignore that older workers won’t be as able to complete incredibly strenuous jobs. What’s more, they could cause themselves injuries while attempting it. As such, it’s difficult to know how employers could best approach this issue.
It may be that jobs should be at a worker’s discretion. Nobody knows our limits as well as we do. As such, it should be made clear that elderly workers can approach managers if they aren’t up to certain tasks. They shouldn’t be reproached or made to feel uncomfortable. Instead, bosses should be accommodating here. After this has happened once, they’ll know not to give the individual in question that job again. Rather than being a matter of discrimination, communications like these are a sign of a healthy and fair workplace, which accommodates for age without making assumptions.
Acknowledge the benefits of age
On the other end of the scale, it’s also crucial for workplaces to acknowledge the benefits with come from an aging team. Workers who have been in the field for their whole lives can bring a load of experience to a role. While not all 65+ employees will be as physically able as young candidates, you can be sure they’ll know a lot more. Why not make the most of these benefits by entrusting our older workers to train our young ones? This would save managers both time and money, and ensure workers learn from someone who’s done the job for years. What’s more, those older workers are sure to appreciate the chance to pass on their knowledge. It’s the best of both worlds and is a setup which is sure to suit everyone.
Accommodating an aging workforce isn’t difficult. It doesn’t cost employers, or create unnecessary work. In fact, small shifts in thinking and operations are all it takes to get this right. And, given that this is an issue which will only become more prevalent, it makes sense that all workplaces get on top of this sooner rather than later.
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