World's Most Expensive Drug, War on Drugs: 'A Trillion-Dollar Failure,' Dutch City's Universal Income Experiment
July 6, 2015
Below are key excerpts of revealing news articles on how greedy pricing practices led to the world's most expensive drug, a new book laying bare the trillion-dollar failure of the war on drugs, an incisive exploration into the Greek financial crisis, and more.
Read also wonderfully inspiring articles on a Dutch City's fascinating experiment with providing a universal income to its residents, Lego's committing $150 million for its products to go green, research showing the benefits of nature walks, and more. You can also skip to this section now.
Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, see this page. The most important sentences are highlighted. And don't miss the "What you can do" section below the summaries. By educating ourselves and spreading the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
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How pharmaceutical company Alexion set the price of the world's most expensive drug
June 25, 2015, CBC (Canada's PBS)
What if your life depended on a drug that cost half a million dollars a year, every year, for the foreseeable future? That's the price of Soliris, one of the world's most expensive drugs. It is the only medicine available for people suffering from two ultra-rare diseases. And for both diseases, Soliris is not a cure, but ... patients can go back to living normal lives. But only if they can get the drug, and many can't, because it is priced beyond the reach of almost everyone. So how can one drug cost more than the annual income of all but a tiny percentage of households? The reason is ... orphan drug pricing, where actual research and development costs are carefully guarded secrets known only to drug company executives. "Orphan" in this context refers to rare diseases [for which] the patient population was too small to attract the interest of drug companies. But now medications to treat these ultra-rare diseases are becoming more profitable than traditional drugs, because of ... a business model based on extreme pricing. The extreme prices of these new orphan drugs are largely arbitrary, and have very little to do with the development and manufacturing costs. Most drugs are based on scientific discoveries made in publicly funded research labs, by academic scientists. In case of Soliris, most of the research and development was done by university researchers working in academic laboratories supported by public funds. Soliris is Alexion's only drug, but it's a blockbuster, earning revenues of more than $6 billion in just eight years, and making Alexion one of the fastest growing companies in the world.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on pharmaceutical corruption from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Health Information Center.
The War on Drugs: 'A Trillion-Dollar Failure'
June 25, 2015, Rolling Stone
Don Winslow['s book] The Cartel, a sequel to 2005's The Power of the Dog [is] a sort of Game of Thrones of the Mexican drug wars, a multipart, intricately plotted, blood-soaked epic that tells the story of how America's unquenchable appetite for illegal drugs has brought chaos to our southern neighbors and darkened our own political and criminal culture. Dog ... traces the rise of the narcotraficantes who split Mexico into territories and smuggled cocaine across the U.S. border by the ton. The violence ... spills out into Mexican society, turning cities like Juarez into Fallujah-like battle zones. But the most shocking thing about these books is that almost all the horror stories Winslow tells ... are largely true – from the narcotrafficker who threw children off a bridge to ... countless murders, kidnappings and tortures. The War on Drugs is a trillion-dollar failure. We spend billions of dollars pursuing drugs and billions imprisoning people that probably shouldn't be in prison. This war has killed a hundred thousand people in Mexico. These ISIS beheadings that we're seeing [are] a direct copy of what the cartels were doing in 2007 and 2008. The Zetas had imported Special Forces veterans from the Guatemalan army – and one of their things was to cut off heads. [There's] a direct line between events in Ferguson and Baltimore and Cleveland to the War on Drugs. The fruits that we're reaping now are seeds that were planted back in 1971, when Nixon declared war on drugs. The War on Drugs is more of a problem to the United States than drugs are.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on drugs from reliable major media sources on little-known facts about mind-altering drugs. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our War Information Center.
Joseph Stiglitz: how I would vote in the Greek referendum
June 29, 2015, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics. Of course, the economics behind the programme that the "troika" (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country's GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is ... the troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018. Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece's debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika's target. Almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries' banking systems.
Note: Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is a professor at Columbia University. Note that as a result of the troika's austerity measures instituted five years ago, Greece’s rate of youth unemployment now exceeds 60%. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Calls to release 28 classified pages about Sept. 11 attacks
June 29, 2015, WABC (New York's ABC affiliate)
A 9/11 Congressional Committee investigated whether there were terror links to Saudi Arabia, but that portion of the report is classified by the government; fearing release could hurt U.S. relationships with a key Middle East ally. Now there are growing calls for the secret report to be made public. 28 pages classified as top secret by President Bush ... look at what if any relationship existed between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi Government. These pages are the only part of the report kept hidden from the public. Just a few weeks ago, Republican Presidential Candidate Rand Paul introduced a measure in the Senate calling for public disclosure; both Senators Gillibrand and Schumer support it. The Former head of the 9-11 Inquiry who has read the "secret" pages says "Collectively they tell us that the hijackers did not operate alone. That there was a support network which facilitated their ability to carry out such a complicated and heinous assault as 9/11. And, they tell us that Saudi Arabia was the premier part of that support network," said Bob Graham, a former senator. Former Senator Graham believes the pages have remained classified to keep Americans from knowing the depth of Saudi involvement in 9/11. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any connection.
Note: If the former head of the 9/11 Commission says these pages should be declassified, will people listen. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing 9/11 news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our 9/11 Information Center.
Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research
June 22, 2015, The Intercept
[One spy unit is] responsible for some of the United Kingdom's most controversial tactics of surveillance, online propaganda and deceit. Documents ... demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers "extremist". Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile [after] Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in "dirty tricks" like deploying sexual "honey traps" designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down Internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks and generally warping discourse online. Particularly revealing is a fascinating 42-page document from 2011 detailing JTRIG's activities. The document lays out the tactics the agency uses to manipulate public opinion, its scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced. Many GCHQ documents describing the "missions" of the "customers" for which it works make clear that the agency has a wide mandate far beyond national security, including providing help on intelligence to the Bank of England, ... to various departments on agriculture and whaling activities, to government financial divisions to enable good investment decisions. Beyond JTRIG's targeting of Anonymous, other parts of GCHQ targeted political activists deemed to be "radical," even monitoring the visits of people to the WikiLeaks website. [The document] includes detailed discussions of how to foster "obedience" and "conformity".
Note: Read amazing excerpts of this report at the link above showing how JTRIG plays an active role on the Internet in directly manipulating many political discussions and websites. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in intelligence agencies from reliable major media sources.
Inside the Shadowy Business of Prison Phone Calls
July 2, 2015, International Business Times
The prison phone business is a wildly complex, fiercely secretive and enormously lucrative industry. Over the last decade, [this] business has become a scandalous industry, characterized by lawsuits, exorbitant fees, high phone rates and monopolistic relationships between public jails and private companies that openly offer kickbacks to local sheriffs. "This is about shifting the cost of the police state onto the backs of the poor people being policed," says Paul Wright, executive director of Human Rights Defense Center. [There are] an estimated 2.2 million inmates currently behind bars in America. If you've ever tried to call an inmate, there's a good chance you've heard of Securus, or its main competitor, Global Tel*Link (GTL). The two companies reportedly make up about 80 percent of the prison phone business, which drives about $1.2 billion per year in revenues. In the last few years, Securus, especially, has emerged into one of the largest, if not most secretive, prison technology companies in the business. The company employs 1,000 associates in 46 states, contracts with 2,600 jails and prisons across North America, and provides service to more than 1 million inmates and their families. Securus earned $114.6 million in profits 2014, on revenues of about $404 million. When companies like Securus send proposals to jails and prisons around the country, they offer a percentage of the call rate back to the sheriff's office. It's typical for commissions to range anywhere from 40 percent and 80 percent.
Are We on the Verge of a Nuclear Breakdown?
June 18, 2015, Rolling Stone
Roughly 600 officers, known as missileers ... are responsible for launching America's 450 nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. [They] have agreed to render whole cities [into] "smokin' holes." [In their training] the first requirement is signing a document committing to end the world if so ordered by the president. After a few months of key launch exercises ... "you become utterly desensitized to tending nuclear weapons," one former missileer says. Three years of sleepless nights following checklists out on the American tundra feels like a prison term. That might explain why a disproportionate number of nuclear commanders and missileers have recently been charged with criminal acts. ICBM bases [have] unusually high rates of criminality, domestic violence and security lapses. Court-martial rates ... are more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. In October 2013, Michael Carey, a two-star general overseeing the entire nuclear command, was ousted for "misconduct" on an official trip to Moscow. A few months later [two officers] were caught sending phone messages to 11 other officers about "specific, illegal drug use that included synthetic drugs, Ecstasy, and amphetamines." Over the years, safeguards have failed so spectacularly that even an atheist might suspect divine intervention. A hydrogen bomb fell out of a plane in 1958 and leveled a South Carolina home without detonating. Another bomb accidentally parachuted towards Goldsboro, North Carolina in 1961, but failed to activate.
Note: Read about a wild incident where a UFO shut down many ICBMs seemingly as a message to humanity not to play with these toys. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on military corruption from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our War Information Center.
How the NSA Started Investigating the New York Times' Warrantless Wiretapping Story
June 27, 2015, The Intercept
Three days after the New York Times revealed that the U.S. government was secretly monitoring the calls and emails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants, the National Security Agency issued a top-secret assessment of the damage done to intelligence efforts by the story. The conclusion: the information could lead terrorists to try to evade detection. Yet the agency gave no specific examples of investigations that had been jeopardized. The December 2005 bombshell story, by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, set off a debate about the George W. Bush administration's expansion of spying powers after the 9/11 attacks, and also about the Times editors' decision to delay its publication for a year. White House officials had warned the Times that revealing the program would have grave consequences for national security. "To this day we've never seen any evidence – despite all the claims they made to keep us from publishing – that it did any tangible damage to national security, " Lichtblau told The Intercept. "The reality was that the story ... didn't tell terrorists anything that they didn't know," he said. The NSA's damage assessment on the article ... is among the files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The memo recounts meetings in 2004 and 2005 in which administration officials disclosed "certain details of the special program to select individuals from the New York Times to dissuade them from publishing a story on the program at that time."
Note: You can read the revealing memo mentioned at the link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Media Information Center.
America's drone policy is all exceptions and no rules
June 20, 2015, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The Obama administration is again allowing the CIA to use drone strikes to secretly kill people that the spy agency does not know the identities of in multiple countries - despite repeated statements to the contrary. Apparently the drone operators didn't even know at the time who they were aiming at - only that they thought the target was possibly a terrorist hideout. It's what's known as a "signature" strike. Signature strikes has led to scores of civilians being killed over the past decade, including two completely innocent hostages ... one of whom was a US citizen ... less than two months ago. It's a way of killing that's been roundly condemned by human rights organizations and that some members of Congress have tried to outlaw. Here's how the New York Times described it: "The joke was that when the CIA sees "three guys doing jumping jacks," the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers – but they might also be farmers." It has become increasingly clear that the "rules" are virtually meaningless. As is typical with the US government's extrajudicial killing policy, there was no public debate about any of the changes to the supposed rules, or even announcement that they ever changed - only an unofficial leak to a journalist after the latest killing. Beyond the enormous human rights consequences related to such a dangerous policy, these types of strikes backfire on the United States, sowing hatred in the populations of bombed countries and breeding sympathy for al-Qaida where there was none before.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on terrorism from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our War Information Center.
France Bans Sales of Monsanto's Roundup in Garden Centers, 3 Months After U.N. Calls It 'Probable Carcinogen'
June 15, 2015, Newsweek
After an arm of the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) identified the main ingredient in Monsanto's popular weed killer Roundup as "probably carcinogenic to humans," France has taken a step to limit sales of the herbicide. On Sunday, French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal announced that the government would ban the sale of Roundup at garden centers in the country. Roundup and generic versions of glyphosate are still the most widely used herbicides in the world, among farmers and municipalities alike. As of 2012, it was the top choice of New York City for killing weeds in its parks. Farmers like Roundup because "Roundup Ready" versions of crops like corn and soybeans have been modified to specifically tolerate the herbicide, allowing growers to spray Roundup widely across their fields without damaging their crops. Shortly after the WHO announcement, Patrick Moore, who has an ecology Ph.D. and is a controversial defender of genetically modified crops, offered to drink Roundup on French television to prove its safety. But when a TV host offered him a glass of the stuff, Moore refused, and the video of the exchange quickly went viral online.
Note: The Netherlands, Bermuda, and Sri Lanka preceded France in banning over the counter sales of Roundup. Watch a revealing documentary showing how Monsanto ruthlessly pursued farmers to stop them from planting their own seeds and corrupted judges to illegally support their efforts. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Health Information Center.
Key Articles From Years Past
Snowden Docs Show British Spies Used Sex and 'Dirty Tricks'
February 7, 2014, NBC News
British spies have developed "dirty tricks" ... that include releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into "honey traps." Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden ... describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG). According to the documents ... the agency's goal was to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt" enemies by "discrediting" them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications. The propaganda campaigns use deception, mass messaging and "pushing stories" via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. JTRIG also uses "false flag" operations, in which British agents carry out online actions that are designed to look like they were performed by one of Britain's adversaries. Other documents ... show that JTRIG ... used a DDOS attack to shut down Internet chat rooms used by members of the hacktivist group known as Anonymous. A computer virus called Ambassadors Reception was "used in a variety of different areas" and was "very effective." When sent to adversaries ... the virus will "encrypt itself, delete all emails ... and block the computer user from logging on. Spies have long used sexual "honey traps" to snare, blackmail and influence targets. Most often, a male target is led to believe he has an opportunity for a romantic relationship or a sexual liaison with a woman, only to find that the woman is actually an intelligence operative.
Note: You can read the documents released by Snowden at this link and this one. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
Why Sky-High CEO Pay Is Bad Business
June 17, 2009, Harvard Business Review
If companies don't ... focus on "internal equity" – how the highest paid executive's pay compares with that of everyone else in the organization – they risk losing their own staff's dedication and focus. Indeed, a bias to focus only on the external market in recent years has helped push executive compensation way out of whack. Because of the yawning gap between the leaders and the led, employee morale is suffering, talented performers' loyalty is evaporating, and strategy and execution is suffering at American companies. A smaller gap makes for greater solidarity, and as a result better performance, throughout the workplace. At Whole Foods, we've made adjustments to keep the external and internal equity perspectives in balance. We have a salary cap – the maximum allowable ratio of the highest cash compensation to average employee cash compensation. Today it's 19 to 1. The maximum cash compensation anyone can make at Whole Foods at about $650,000. Whole Foods has never lost to a competitor a top executive that we wanted to keep since the company began more than 30 years ago. The truth is that maximizing personal compensation is not the only motivation that people have in their work. We discover that once our basic material needs are satisfied, money becomes less important to us. In my experience, deeper purpose, personal growth, self-actualization, and caring relationships provide very powerful motivations and are more important than financial compensation for creating both loyalty and a high performing organization.
Note: This article was written by the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Dutch city of Utrecht to experiment with a universal, unconditional 'basic income'
June 26, 2015, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The Dutch city of Utrecht ... has paired up with the local university to establish whether the concept of 'basic income' can work in real life, and plans to begin the experiment at the end of the summer holidays. Basic income is a universal, unconditional form of payment to individuals, which covers their living costs. The concept is to allow people to choose to work more flexible hours in a less regimented society, allowing more time for care, volunteering and study. University College Utrecht has paired with the city to place people on welfare on a living income, to see if a system of welfare without requirements will be successful. The Netherlands as a country is no stranger to less traditional work environments - it has the highest proportion of part time workers in the EU, 46.1 per cent. However, Utrecht's experiment with welfare is expected to be the first of its kind in the country. Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt: "One group ... will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules. Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare. What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?"
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
No More Plastic: Lego Pledges $150 Million to Go Green
June 25, 2015, Yahoo! News
Lego just announced a bold 10-year plan to makes its goods more environmentally friendly. This comes after a 2013 partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to develop a plan in reducing its overall carbon emissions, as well as those of its supply chain. Lego pledged to invest $150 million to find a replacement for the plastic used in its blocks as well as to reduce the size of its packaging. A commitment for this kind of strategy includes using recycled or renewed materials and improving the recyclability of its products. Hasbro and Mattel, producers of such iconic toys as Play-Doh and Hot Wheels, respectively, have also vowed to invest in this global issue. By 2020, Hasbro plans to reduce its waste, water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions. It is also overhauling the packaging for most of its brands. These strides have led to Hasbro being named a winner of the EPA's 2014 Climate Leadership Award. After caving to mounting pressure from Greenpeace, Mattel committed to source new materials for its packaging, setting a goal of 85 percent recycled materials by the end of 2015. "The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit," said Lego Group owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. Words we should all try to live by.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
New research suggests nature walks are good for your brain
June 29, 2015, Washington Post
In the past several months, a bevy of studies have added to a growing literature on the mental and physical benefits of spending time outdoors. That includes recent research showing that short micro-breaks spent looking at a nature scene have a rejuvenating effect on the brain – boosting levels of attention – and also that kids who attend schools featuring more greenery fare better on cognitive tests. And Monday, yet another addition. It's a cognitive neuroscience study, meaning not only that benefits from a nature experience were captured in an experiment, but also that their apparent neural signature was observed through brain scans. 38 individuals who lived in urban areas, and who had "no history of mental disorder," were divided into two groups – and asked to take a walk. Half walked for 90 minutes through a natural area. The other half walked along a very busy road. Before and also after the walk, the participants answered a questionnaire designed to measure their tendency toward "rumination," a pattern of often negative, inward-directed thinking and questioning that has been tied to an increased risk of depression. Finally, both before and after the walk, the participants had their brains scanned. The result was that individuals who took the 90-minute nature walk showed a decrease in rumination. And their brain activity also showed a change consistent with this result. Spending time outdoors, in nature, is good for you.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
A Pasadena family finds change can start in your own backyard
April 24, 2008, Pasadena Weekly
The Dervaes family [are] the founders of a home-based sustainable living resource center in Pasadena. [They own] one-fifth of an acre on an unassuming city block just north of the ... freeway. Yet on this relatively tiny patch of earth in the middle of the vast urban sprawl, the Dervaeses are quietly staging an ecological revolution. The Dervaeses grow their own food and preserve their own jam. They've got 12 solar panels on the roof, a biodiesel filling station in the garage and a solar oven in the backyard. Their kitchen is filled with hand-cranked appliances, but their computer room, where they operate a Web site ... that gets five million hits per month from 125 countries, is as high-tech as they come. The Dervaeses are self-declared "eco-pioneers" of the urban world. Jules Dervaes and his three adult children ... live a life that epitomizes "think globally, act locally." By turning their average city lot into a self-sustained homestead, they've ensured that their eco-footprint rarely extends beyond the bounds of their property. At the same time, they've gone global with their message, blogging ... and teaching others how to live sustainably since 2001. In a front and backyard that amount to one-tenth of an acre ... the Dervaes family now grows an average of 6,000 pounds of produce each year – nearly 400 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. They sell the majority to local caterers and restaurants. The remaining part sustains the family's vegetarian diet. The family doesn't expect everyone in a city environment to live the way they do; their hope is to inspire people to make incremental changes.
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