Drug Price Increases, Health Care Lobbyists' Influence, Swine Flu Skepticism
Revealing News Articles
November 23, 2009
Below are key excerpts of revealing news articles on major drug price increases imposed by pharmaceutical corporations before health care reforms take effect, the massive influence of health lobbyists on legislation, strong skepticism about the swine flu "pandemic" expressed in Europe, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. The most important sentences are highlighted. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
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Drug Makers Raise Prices in Face of Health Care Reform
November 16, 2009, New York Times
Even as drug makers promise to support Washington's health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation's drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years. In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation's drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992. The drug trend is distinctly at odds with the direction of the Consumer Price Index, which has fallen by 1.3 percent in the last year. Critics say the industry is trying to establish a higher price base before Congress passes legislation that tries to curb drug spending in coming years. "When we have major legislation anticipated, we see a run-up in price increases," says Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, a professor of pharmaceutical economics at the University of Minnesota. A Harvard health economist, Joseph P. Newhouse, said he found a similar pattern of unusual price increases after Congress added drug benefits to Medicare a few years ago, giving tens of millions of older Americans federally subsidized drug insurance. Just as the program was taking effect in 2006, the drug industry raised prices by the widest margin in a half-dozen years. "They try to maximize their profits," Mr. Newhouse said.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on corporate corruption, click here.
In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists'
November 15, 2009, New York Times
In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world's largest biotechnology companies. E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans. The lobbyists ... were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress. Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points – 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists. In an interview, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, said: "I regret that the language was the same. I did not know it was." He said he got his statement from his staff and "did not know where they got the information from." In recent years, Genentech's political action committee and lobbyists for Roche and Genentech have made campaign contributions to many House members. And company employees have been among the hosts at fund-raisers for some of those lawmakers.
Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on government corruption, click here.
Swine flu skepticism demands deft response
November 12, 2009, Reuters News
European scientists and health authorities are facing angry questions about why H1N1 flu has not caused death and destruction on the scale first feared, and they need to respond deftly to ensure public support. Accusations are flying in British and French media that the pandemic has been "hyped" by medical researchers to further their own cause, boost research grants and line the pockets of drug companies. Britain's Independent newspaper this week asked "Pandemic? What Pandemic?." France's Le Parisien newspaper ran the headline: "Swine flu: why the French distrust the vaccine" and noted a gap between the predicted impact of H1N1 and the less dramatic reality. "Dangerous liaisons between certain experts, the labs and the government, the obscurity of the contracts between the state and the pharma firms have added to the doubt." In Britain, health authorities' original worst-case scenario -- which said as many as 65,000 could die from H1N1 -- has twice been revised down and the prediction is now for around 1,000 deaths, way below the average annual toll of 4,000 to 8,000 deaths from seasonal winter flu.
Note: It's quite interesting and telling that a thorough Internet seach showed that no major media picked up this article from Reuters News Agency
Signs That Swine Flu Has Peaked
November 20, 2009, New York Times
Although federal health officials decline to use the word "peaked," the current wave of swine flu appears to have done so in the United States. Flu activity is coming down in all regions of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday, though it is still rising in Hawaii, Maine and some isolated areas. The World Health Organization said Friday that there were "early signs of a peak" in much of the United States. On Wednesday, the American College Health Association, which surveys over 250 colleges with more than three million students, said new cases of flu had dropped in the week ending Nov. 13. It was the first drop since school resumed in the fall, and it was significant – new cases were down 27 percent from the week before. And on Friday, Quest Diagnostics, the country's largest laboratory, said its tests of 142,000 suspected flu specimens since May showed that the flu peaked in late October. Nonetheless, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of immunization and respiratory diseases at the C.D.C., chose her words carefully, saying: "I wish I knew if we had hit the peak. Even if a peak has occurred, half the people who are going to get sick haven't gotten sick yet." The drop was clearly not caused by the swine flu vaccine drive, which has not gone as fast as the authorities had hoped.
Note: Just like the avian flu scare a few years ago, the swine flu hype has turned out to be largely a whimper, yet the pharmaceutical companies are happy, as again they have made billions of dollars from the massive amonts of vaccines and drugs purchased by the government with your tax dollars. For more, click here and here.
Skull and Bones members include some of America's most powerful
November 12, 2009, CNN
What really happens behind the padlocked doors of this windowless building, [the home] of Skull and Bones, Yale's oldest secret society? Its members include some of America's most powerful and privileged elite all sworn to secrecy. [CAMPBELL] BROWN: Alexandra Robbins broke through the wall of silence to write Secrets of the Tomb based on clandestine interviews with dozens of bonesmen. Only 15 [Yale students] get picked each year. The society includes at least three U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, and too many senators and CEOs to name. In 2004, Bush versus Kerry was the first all-bonesmen presidential election. ALEXANDRA ROBBINS: Skull and Bones' only purpose is to get its members into positions of prominence around the world so that they can elevate other members to similar positions. One of the first activities they participate in is called connubial bliss, where ... each member must spend an evening standing in front of the other 14 bonesmen and recount his or her entire sexual and romantic history. BROWN: According to one ... story, Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, was part of a group that broke into the Oklahoma burial place of the Apache chief Geronimo and made off with his skull. Geronimo's grave was disturbed back in 1918, there are photos of skulls inside the "Skull and Bones" tomb. They have their own private retreat. Deer Island off the coast of New York. And a world of ready investors and political contacts in the highest echelons of American society. What has kept the secret society alive for all these years? Good old fashioned networking for the super elite.
Note: To watch the CNN video clip on this Yale secret society, click here. For lots more powerful information on Skull and Bones and other secret societies reported in major media articles, click here.
Stop Annual Mammograms, Govt. Panel Tells Women Under 50
November 16, 2009, ABC News
For the first time in 20 years, a government panel is telling women in their [forties] to stop getting routine mammograms and recommending that a host of other breast cancer screenings slow down. The United States Preventive Service Task Force announced ... that it recommends against annual mammograms for women age 40 to 49 because, they say, the benefits of testing do not outweigh the "harms" and risks. USPSTF still recommends doctors start screening all women over age 50, but with a mammogram once every two years instead of annually. The task force also ... said evidence was insufficient to recommend mammograms for women older than 74. The recommendations announced today, which contradict the American Cancer Society, have already pitted doctors, women, insurers and radiology groups in a fierce debate about who should get a mammogram and when. Many patient advocates wonder if money fueled the decision. However, Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chair of USPSTF, said the task force never looked at costs in their research or their recommendations. Instead, the task force reviewed a number of studies to compile the benefits of mammograms, such as how many cancers were detected and how many lives were saved, and the harms of mammograms, such as how many false positives popped up, how many unnecessary tests were done and how much extra radiation women were exposed to during the false positive testing.
Note: For a powerful article compiling important information and key quotes of doctors and researchers revealing the dangers of mammograms, click here.
Plastic chemicals 'feminise boys'
November 16, 2009, BBC News
Chemicals in plastics alter the brains of baby boys, making them "more feminine", say US researchers. Males exposed to high doses in the womb went on to be less likely to play with boys' toys like cars or to join in rough and tumble games, they found. The University of Rochester team's latest work adds to concerns about the safety of phthalates, found in vinyl flooring and PVC shower curtains. The findings are reported in the International Journal of Andrology. Phthalates have the ability to disrupt hormones, and have been banned in toys in the EU for some years. There are many different types and some mimic the female hormone oestrogen. The same researchers have already shown that this can mean boys are born with genital abnormalities. Now they say certain phthalates also impact on the developing brain, by knocking out the action of the male hormone testosterone. Dr Shanna Swan and her team ... found that two phthalates DEHP and DBP can affect play behaviour. Boys exposed to high levels of these in the womb were less likely than other boys to play with cars, trains and guns or engage in "rougher" games like playfighting. Elizabeth Salter-Green, director of the chemicals campaign group CHEM Trust, said the results were worrying. "We now know that phthalates, to which we are all constantly exposed, are extremely worrying from a health perspective, leading to disruption of male reproduction health and, it appears, male behaviour too."
Note: For further reports from reliable sources on important health issues, click here.
Biotech crops cause big jump in pesticide use: report
November 17, 2009, Reuters News
The rapid adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton has promoted increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and more chemical residues in foods, according to a report ... by health and environmental protection groups. The groups said research showed that herbicide use grew by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. The report was released by nonprofits The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The groups said that [there is] a net overall increase on U.S. farm fields of 318 million pounds of pesticides, which includes insecticides and herbicides, over the first 13 years of commercial use. The rise in herbicide use comes as U.S. farmers increasingly adopt corn, soy and cotton that have been engineered with traits that allow them to tolerate dousings of weed killer. The report by the environmental groups states that a key problem resulting from the increase in herbicide use is the emergence of "super weeds," which are difficult to kill because they have become resistant to the herbicides. "This report confirms what we've been saying for years," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. "The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it's bad news for farmers, human health and the environment."
Note: Why did the major media fail to report this Reuters' article? To read the full report, "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years", and to view additional information, click here. And for a powerful online lesson on health which has already transformed lives, click here.
Questions for a Trade Official
November 4, 2009, New York Times
When Islam Siddiqui appears for his Senate confirmation, possibly as early as next week, it will be time for some tough questions. The White House has nominated Mr. Siddiqui for the position of chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States trade representative. He is presently a vice president at CropLife America, a coalition of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont. That job doesn't seem to square with the Obama administration's professed interest in more sustainable, less chemically dependent approaches to agriculture. Nor does much of the rest of Mr. Siddiqui's résumé. The White House has touted his role in the first phase of developing national organic standards. But those standards, as they first emerged in draft form in the Clinton years, were notoriously loose about allowing genetically engineered crops and the use of sewage-sludge fertilizers to be labeled as "organic." But the business of [Siddiqui's] CropLife – an arm of which openly scoffed at Michelle Obama's plans for an organic garden – is to increase exports of agricultural chemicals.
Note: For a powerful overview of the risks of genetically modified food, click here.
State to 'spy' on every phone call, email and web search
November 10, 2009, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Every phone call, text message, email and website visit made by private citizens is to be stored for a year and will be available for monitoring by government bodies. All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited. Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority. The Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately held "Big Brother" databases that opposition leaders said amounted to "state-spying" and a form of "covert surveillance" on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing that it has little public support. The new rules ... will not only force communications companies to keep their records for longer, but to expand the type of data they keep to include details of every website their customers visit.
Note: For many more reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance and loss of privacy, click here.
'Liberation was just a big lie'
November 19, 2009, Toronto Star
She sleeps in safe houses, with a rotating squad of bodyguards securing the doors. She goes out only in a billowing burqa. Even her wedding was held in secret. Elected the youngest member of the Afghan parliament – and suspended for her outspoken criticism of the country's top officials – Malalai Joya has been labelled the bravest woman in Afghanistan. Small, soft-spoken and now 31, she has survived at least four assassination attempts. "Canada should pull its troops out now," she said in Toronto, where she was promoting her book A Woman Among Warlords, co-written with Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe. And, she says, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is considering a surge in troop levels to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban, should think again. "The United States should go, too. As long as foreign troops are in the country we will be fighting two enemies instead of one." Yes, she says, there is a risk of civil war ... but it would still be better than "night raids, torture and aerial bombardment" that killed hundreds of Afghan civilians while the Taliban made steady gains. "Liberation was just a big lie." Joya believes Afghans are now better prepared to battle the Taliban alone. "resistance has increased, and people are becoming more aware of democracy and human rights. They need humanitarian and educational support." But not, she adds, at the point of a gun. "It will be a long struggle," she wrote. "A river is made drop by drop ... you can kill me, but you can never kill my spirit."
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on the realities of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, click here.
Labor Fight Ends in Win for Students
November 18, 2009, New York Times
The anti-sweatshop movement at dozens of American universities, from Georgetown to U.C.L.A., has had plenty of idealism and energy, but not many victories. Until now. Its pressure tactics persuaded one of the nation's leading sportswear companies, Russell Athletic, to agree to rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when Russell closed their factory soon after the workers had unionized. From the time Russell shut the factory last January, the anti-sweatshop coalition orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company. Most important, the coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, persuaded the administrations of Boston College, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina and 89 other colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell. Student activists picketed the N.B.A. finals in Orlando and Los Angeles this year to protest the league's licensing agreement with Russell. In its agreement, not only did Russell agree to reinstate the dismissed workers and open a new plant in Honduras as a unionized factory, it also pledged not to fight unionization at its seven existing factories there. "For us, it was very important to receive the support of the universities," Moises Alvarado, president of the union at the closed plant in Choloma, said. "We are impressed by the social conscience of the students in the United States."
New nonprofit uses Web to pressure Chevron
November 16, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Retired retail executive Richard Goldman was astonished when he heard about the $27 billion pollution lawsuit against Chevron Corp. in Ecuador. Astonished at the soil and water contamination surrounding Ecuador's oil fields. And astonished that he'd never heard of it before. So Goldman, one of the founders of the Men's Wearhouse clothing chain, has created a nonprofit group that will use social-networking tools to spread word of the case and put pressure on Chevron. The group, Ethos Alliance, will ask visitors to its Web site to tell others about the issue, hoping that viral communication via the Internet will reach people that news stories about the suit haven't. The site will raise money for humanitarian relief projects in Ecuador's oil patch, encouraging visitors to donate $5 apiece to build a water treatment plant and buy medicine for a health clinic. The Web site, www.ethosalliance.org, goes online today. Ethos also will urge Chevron to settle the long-running lawsuit, something the San Ramon company has vowed not to do. Ethos plans to tackle other issues of corporate responsibility in the future, uniting the alliance's online members with businesses willing to join the cause. Ethos is the latest example of social or political causes using social networking to increase their reach. Earlier this year, a one-day fundraising effort organized via Twitter collected $250,000 for drinking water projects in the developing world.
Could This Lump Power the Planet?
November 14, 2009, NewsWeek magazine
When I meet [Edward] Moses [at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory], the 60-year-old scientist ... shows me a tiny pellet ... and swears it will provide an endless supply of safe, clean energy. The pellet Moses holds is a model, but the real version will contain a few milligrams of deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from water. If you blast the pellet with a powerful laser, you can create a reaction like the one that takes place at the center of the sun. Harness that reaction, and you've created a star on earth, and with the heat from that star you can generate electricity without creating any pollution. Forget about nuke plants, coal, oil, or wind and solar. "This is the real solar power," says Moses. What Moses is talking about is controlled nuclear fusion. Instead of splitting the nucleus of an atom, you're trying to force a deuterium nucleus to merge, or fuse, with a tritium nucleus. When that happens, you produce helium and throw off energy. Scientists have been trying to produce energy with fusion for decades. So far, they keep failing. The joke is that fusion energy is only 40 years away, and will always be only 40 years away. Moses believes, however, that his lab, which is called the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, has cracked the problem. The big challenge fusion has faced is lack of power. NIF's laser ... can produce 60 times more energy than any other laser ever built. Right now it's still being tested. But next year Moses and his scientists will fire it up with a full load of deuterium-tritium fuel, and Moses feels confident it will achieve "ignition," meaning a controlled burn in which you get out more energy than you put in.
Triumph of a Dreamer
November 15, 2009, New York Times
Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you're discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent. Of all the people earning university degrees this year, perhaps the most remarkable story belongs to Tererai, a middle-aged woman. When you hear that foreign-aid groups just squander money or build dependency, remember [her story]. Tererai was born in a village in rural Zimbabwe, probably sometime in 1965, and attended elementary school for less than one year. Her father married her off when she was about 11 to a man who beat her regularly. A dozen years passed. Jo Luck, the head of an aid group called Heifer International, passed through the village and told the women there that they should stand up, nurture dreams, change their lives. Inspired, Tererai ... wrote that she wanted to study abroad, and to earn a B.A., a master's and a doctorate. In 1998 she was accepted to Oklahoma State University. Heifer helped with the plane tickets, Tererai's mother sold a cow, and neighbors sold goats to help raise money. With $4,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking and tied around her waist, Tererai set off for Oklahoma. At one point the university tried to expel Tererai for falling behind on tuition payments. A university official, Ron Beer, intervened on her behalf and rallied the faculty and community behind her with donations and support. "I saw that she had enormous talent," Dr. Beer said. Tererai excelled at school, pursuing a Ph.D at Western Michigan University and writing a dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa even as she began working for Heifer as a program evaluator.
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