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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,624

Journal Archives

The U.S. Pays a Lot More for Top Drugs Than Other Countries

(Bloomberg) Prices for brand-name drugs are typically higher in the U.S. than other developed countries. The drug industry has argued it's misleading to focus on U.S. list prices that exclude discounts struck behind closed doors with insurers.

A Bloomberg News analysis finds that even after these discounts, prices are higher in the U.S. than abroad. Seven of eight top-selling drugs examined still cost more in the U.S. than most other countries.

Bloomberg estimated the actual amounts that drug manufacturers are paid on a sample of top-selling drugs. SSR Health, an investment research firm, used prescription data and U.S. list prices to determine the drugs' sales in the country before discounts. To approximate the discounts, SSR Health subtracted the actual U.S. sales reported by the companies. Bloomberg compared the discounted monthly prices with list prices from 14 countries, using local data from IHS Inc., a data analysis and consulting firm, and other sources.

"We can no longer sustain a system where 300 million Americans subsidize drug development for the entire world," said Steve Miller, chief medical officer for Express Scripts Holding Co., the largest U.S. manager of prescription-drug benefits. ..........................(more)


For all my issues with the Obama administration.....

...... and I've got a looonnnggg list of them, I've got to say, this has been the most scandal-free presidential administration I've lived through (I was born in the 1970s). The only real "scandal" (Benghazi) was fabricated from whole cloth.
Just an idle thought while enjoying some Pad Thai on lunch break.

Senators Want Social Media Firms to Hunt for Terrorists

(The Intercept) An increasing number of the FBI’s terror investigations now start with a post or a tweet. But distinguishing between the huge number of people who talk about terror on social media and the very few actual potential terrorists is a huge challenge for law enforcement.

One thing that could make it even worse, however, would be deputizing social media firms to decide who might be a terrorist and ordering them to send names to the government.

The last thing the FBI needs, experts say, is a deluge of poorly vetted data. And the potential risk to free-speech rights is considerable. Unlike staffers at tech companies feeling pressured to report content about vague “terrorist activity,” FBI agents are trained to recognize the not-always-clear line between constitutionally protected speech and a legitimate threat.

Nevertheless, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Burr, R-N.C. — eager to do something about ISIS’ social media prowess, whether or not it actually makes sense — have reintroduced a previously rejected provision that would force technology companies to report to the government any instances of “terrorist activity” that they notice online. The measure was stripped out of the 2016 intelligence authorization bill in late September; now it’s being proposed as standalone legislation. ...............(more)


Bone-Chilling “Plateau” in Apartment Boom Resurfaces, Smartest Money Bails Out

Bone-Chilling “Plateau” in Apartment Boom Resurfaces, Smartest Money Bails Out
by Wolf Richter • December 17, 2015

[font color="blue"]Last time a “plateau” was declared, the market crashed.[/font]

Legendary real-estate bottom-and-top picker Sam Zell, chairman of apartment mega-landlord Equity Residential, got on Bloomberg TV and said, “There is a high probability that we are looking at a recession in the next 12 months.”

This is not even a remote possibility in the Fed’s miserably slow-growth forecasts it issued yesterday. But Zell was once again having a will of his own. He offered a laundry list of reasons: Multinationals are announcing mass-layoffs; global trade is deteriorating; China’s economy might be spiraling down; and “the strong dollar” is hitting US production.

But he said this only after he’d unloaded a ton of commercial real estate: in total 23,262 apartments in five states. The deal was announced at the end of October. Another 4,728 apartments are to be dumped next year.

As his firm pocketed the $5.4 billion it got from Starwood Capital Group for these units, Zell said: With “pricing currently available in the commercial real estate market, it is very hard not to be a seller.” ...............(more)


Private car ownership is on the road to becoming a rarity

(MarketWatch) Henry Ford was a smart guy, but he never did the math when he decided to put every American household on wheels.

A century after the Model T, the world has a problem with cars. The U.S. and China will consume about 40 million light vehicles in 2015, according to IHS. Globally, we’re on track to hit 100 million vehicles in 2020.

That’s not a lot of cars. That’s an ocean of cars, an inundation, wave after wave breaking on the shores of the industrialized world. And yet policy makers and common folk alike have been powerless against the siren song of the automobile. Even in the most car-blighted burg in the world, the toxic parking lot they call Beijing, the appetite for the automobile—as status item, as luxury, as totem of personal mastery in a fragile postcolonial mind-set—is driving millions more into its smoggy embrace, despite limits on ownership and the government’s rising alarm.

The absurdity of our century-old, ad hoc approach to mobility is captured in one statistic: The utilization rate of automobiles in the U.S. is about 5%. For the remaining 95% of the time (23 hours), our cars just sit there, a slow, awful cash burn, like condos at the beach. .................(more)


In Preparation to Join US Wars, Japan Dismantles Freedom of the Press

In Preparation to Join US Wars, Japan Dismantles Freedom of the Press

Thursday, 17 December 2015 00:00
By Jon Mitchell, Freedom of the Press Foundation | News Analysis

In 2010, Japan was ranked #11 in Reporters Without Borders' global Press Freedom Index. By February 2015, that number had plummeted to #61 - and next year it will likely fall further.

Since coming to power in 2012, PM Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party have embarked upon a war of attrition against press freedoms in Japan.

Assaults have included: embedding neo-nationalists in key positions at state broadcaster, NHK; issuing veiled threats to TV networks that coverage critical of the government might cost them their broadcast licenses; and accusing a German journalist - who'd written about PM Abe's historical revisionism - of accepting a bribe from China.

This week, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression, was scheduled to visit Tokyo - a trip which would have brought international attention to the Japanese government's suppression of the media. But at the last moment, officials canceled his trip claiming they were too busy to meet him.

The LDP is particularly keen to avoid scrutiny of the State Secrets Law which it rushed through parliament in late 2013. ....................(more)


Nuclear Power Is on the Wane, Despite Efforts of High-Profile Boosters

Nuclear Power Is on the Wane, Despite Efforts of High-Profile Boosters

Thursday, 17 December 2015 00:00
By Linda Pentz Gunter, Truthout | Op-Ed

Many climate activists have decried the COP21 climate agreement as woefully inadequate but there was nevertheless at least one victory at the climate conference: Nuclear energy did not win center stage in Paris, despite the efforts of its high-profile boosters.

The challenge at stake in Paris - the fate of the earth - meant that realism was the only option. As Greenpeace adviser Jan Haverkamp has pointed out, few delegations to the climate conference viewed nuclear energy as a long-term option for their countries. Market forces, it was generally agreed, would leave nuclear in the dust, swallowed up by the ballooning costs necessary for additional safety measures in an insecure world. Long construction times would only add to nuclear energy's growing status as a pariah in the financial world. Meanwhile, renewable energy just continues to get cheaper.

Consequently, the case for nuclear energy came across as, well, a bit iffy. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who tried to trumpet nuclear power in Paris, sounded more like he was paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling.

"If we have a viable pathway at building nuclear power in smaller bites, the whole financing structure can change and make it much more affordable," Moniz said. And, "If we can demonstrate, let's say, the first modular reactor in the early part of the next decade, then what we hope is, it's part of the planning process in the middle of the next decade for our utilities."

Moniz also said that in the United States, there are almost 50 companies with private-sector funding that are developing new nuclear fission and nuclear fusion technologies. "If a couple of those make it, it's a big deal," he said. ...............(more)


Minneapolis: Metro Transit Police More Likely to Ticket Minorities, Study Finds

Metro Transit police have stopped ticketing for first-time fare evasion in reaction to a study showing that whites were more likely than blacks and American Indians to get off with a warning when caught riding without paying.

Metro Transit conducted the study after the American Civil Liberties Union requested citation and arrest data from the agency. The study found that serious crimes are enforced consistently across racial groups, but enforcement of less-serious crimes, such as fare evasion, tends to hit black and American Indian riders disproportionately.

Transit officials announced the study results Thursday and promised to get to the bottom of the apparent racial bias.

"We're taking this very seriously," said Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington. "We took a look at the data early on and I didn't have any easy or facile responses to how this could happen."

The study analyzed two sets of data, according to Metro Transit. ......................(more)


Alone Among Prez Candidates, Bernie Blasts Fed Rate Hike, And Other Nuggets From New Hampshire

Alone Among Prez Candidates, Bernie Blasts Fed Rate Hike, And Other Nuggets From New Hampshire
2 days agoby Jonathan Tasini

Fuck those idiots at the Fed. Tools of Wall Street, the bond market and the rest of the pieces of crap that have savaged Americans. You hike interests rates for no economic reason other than some clamor from the very elites who just need to soak regular Americans even more.

Bernie (from his Senate website so this isn’t just campaign-blasted statement):

“When millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates is bad news for working families. At a time when real unemployment is nearly 10 percent and youth unemployment is off the charts, we need to do everything possible to create millions of good-paying jobs and raise the wages of the American people. The Fed should act with the same sense of urgency to rebuild the disappearing middle class as it did to bail out Wall Street banks seven years ago.”

More from Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) (emailed statement into my inbox):

“The Fed’s decision to raise interest rates today is an unfortunate move in the wrong direction. In setting interest rate policy the Fed must decide whether the economy is at risk of having too few or too many jobs, with the latter being determined by the extent to which its current rate of job creation may lead to inflation. It is difficult to see how the evidence would lead the Fed to conclude that the greater risk at the moment is too many jobs.

“While at 5.0 percent, the unemployment rate is not extraordinarily high, most other measures of the labor market are near recession levels. The percentage of the workforce that is involuntarily working part-time is near the highs reached following the 2001 recession. The average and median duration of unemployment spells are also near recession highs. And the percentage of workers who feel confident enough to quit their jobs without another job lined up remains near the low points reached in 2002.

“If we look at employment rates rather than unemployment, the percentage of prime-age workers (ages 25-54) with jobs is still down by almost three full percentage points from the pre-recession peak and by more than four full percentage points from the peak hit in 2000. This does not look like a strong labor market.

“On the other side, there is virtually no basis for concerns about the risk of inflation in the current data. The most recent data show that the core personal consumption expenditure deflator targeted by the Fed increased at just a 1.2 percent annual rate over the last three months, down slightly from the 1.3 percent rate over the last year. This means that the Fed should be concerned about being below its inflation target, not above it. “While wage growth has edged up somewhat in recent months by some measures, it is still well below a rate that is consistent with the Fed’s inflation target. Hourly wages have risen at a 2.7 percent rate over the last year. If there is just 1.5 percent productivity growth, this would be consistent with a rate of inflation of 1.2 percent.

“Furthermore, it is important to recognize that workers took a large hit to their wages in the downturn, with a shift of more than four percentage points of national income from wages to profits. In principle, workers can restore their share of national income (the equivalent of an 8 percent wage gain), but the Fed would have to be prepared to allow wage growth to substantially outpace prices for a period of time. If the Fed acts to prevent workers from getting this bargaining power, it will effectively lock in place this upward redistribution. Needless to say, workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution can expect to see the biggest hit in this scenario.

“One positive point in today’s action is the Fed’s commitment in its statement to allow future rate hikes to be guided by the data, rather than locking in a path towards “normalization” as was effectively done in 2004. If it is the case that the economy is not strong enough to justify rate hikes, then the hike today may be the last one for some period of time. It will be important for the Fed to carefully assess the data as it makes its decision on interest rates at future meetings.

“Recent economic data suggest that today’s move was a mistake. Hopefully the Fed will not compound this mistake with more unwarranted rate hikes in the future.”

You won’t hear this from the status quo candidate, awash in Wall Street cash, because, hey, those fuckers want interest rates to go up because they haven’t made enough money fleecing the American public. .....................(more)


Socialism Facilitates Human Liberation

Socialism Facilitates Human Liberation

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 00:00
By Danny Katch, Haymarket Books | Book Excerpt

The following is the introduction to Socialism ...Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation:

Socialism is a good idea, but
... it doesn't work in practice.
... human beings are too greedy for it to succeed.
... the rich and powerful will never allow it.

Most of us have heard one of these declarations in school, on television, around the dinner table. Whatever the specific reason, the lesson we are meant to take away is that socialism ain't gonna happen. Interestingly, the argument always begins with the reluctant concession that socialism is, in fact, a good idea. There's even a rightwing bumper sticker that goes a step further than good and reads: "Socialism ... A Great Idea until You Run Out of Other People's Money." I realize that the guy with this message on his vehicle alongside Confederate flags and various other "I'm an asshole" signifiers doesn't mean it as a compliment. But it says something that even the most hostile opponents of socialism often start out by admitting that it sure sounds nice.

Perhaps they do so because the inverse is so obviously true. Capitalism is a bad idea. Imagine if we start a society on an uninhabited tropical island, and I propose that the people who do all the work will be paid as little as possible while the people who don't do anything but own stocks will have more money than they could possibly spend in their lifetimes. You would all be looking at each other and shaking your heads. "Wait, wait, hear me out," I might say. "We'll also treat air, water, plants, minerals, and other animals as objects to be exploited even more ruthlessly than workers!" Now you'd slowly back away because there's obviously something not right with me, even as I continue on: "Wait, don't go! We can maintain peace by creating massively destructive weapons and violent prisons. Why is everybody leaving?"

In this most capitalist of countries, growing numbers are concluding that capitalism doesn't work. Some of them have read sharp critics of the system like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. Others have just lived in this world with open eyes and hearts. This is a positive step forward from the political climate in recent decades, in which critics of capitalism were too marginal to even be considered dangerous. But it's not enough to know what we're against. If we're not for something different, we're just daydreaming - or whining, if your personality is more like mine. Capitalism isn't going to collapse from criticism alone. People have cursed and denounced this thing for centuries and it's very good at deflecting opposition with a big "but" of its own:

Capitalism is a bad idea, but
... it's the only system that works.
... it fits with humanity's greedy nature.
... don't waste your life trying to change it.

One of the last major social systems to be permanently overturned was based on plantation slavery. A key turning point took place when the slaves of Saint-Domingue defeated armies from France and Spain to create the nation of Haiti in 1810. For hundreds of years before the Haitian Revolution, enslaved Africans had understood the injustice of this system and had fought rebellions to try to escape it. But after Haiti, these rebellions - from Brazil to Virginia - became revolutions attempting not to escape slavery but to end it. There is no socialist equivalent to the Haitian example to prove to the world that capitalism is no longer necessary, and books are no substitute for revolutions. My more modest aim is to introduce some of today's daydreamers and whiners to a concept that the world desperately needs. ....................(more)


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