Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The Mexican and Columbian Cartels are small time drug dealers compared to Big Pharma which is where the big bucks are made.

Large pharmaceutical firms are some of the most profitable companies in the world, so what do they spend all their money on, besides advertising and hefty salaries forrich kid CEOs? Sure, some profits are reinvested to fund research and clinical trials, but hundreds of millions of dollars are also spent on political operations every year, and federal law requires that drug companies disclose this political spending to the public.

The government has long singled out the pharmaceutical industry for premium patent protections while leaving drug pricing up to the whims of the market, and consumers in the United States now pay some of the highest prices in the world for many life-saving drugs. Recent reports show that critical cancer medicines, for example, cost as much as 600 times more in the United States than other countries. The industry has a clear interest in maintaining the political status quo.

Big Pharma Spends Millions on Political Contributions

Pharmaceutical and health product companies injected $51 million into the 2012 federal elections and nearly $32 million into the 2014 elections, according to theCenter for Responsive Politics (CRP). The industry has already spent nearly $10 million on the 2016 elections and is expected to spend more, especially now that Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have made drug prices a campaign issue with separate proposals to rein them in with new regulations.

Big Pharma tends to spend more on Republicans than Democrats, and the GOP benefited from 58 percent of the industry's federal contributions in 2012 and 2014 while Democrats received 42 percent, according to the CRP.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a group of 18 House Democrats, not Republicans, who are demanding that the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Michael Pearson, join Shkreli in front of the House Oversight Committee during the first week of October to answer questions about recent price hikes on two drugs produced by his company.

For every $1 the industry spent on contributions during the last election cycle, $7 were spent on lobbying in 2014.

By the time this article was published, the committee's chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), had not responded to a letter from the Democrats requesting that Valeant be subpoenaed to provide Congress with documents related to the drastic price hikes. The pharmaceutical industry has contributed $198,000 to Chaffetz's campaign war chest during the course of his career, more than any other special interest group, although none of the contributions came directly from Valeant, which has focused its political resources on lobbying instead of direct contributions.

Industry giant Pfizer was the top spender among drug companies during the 2014 elections with $1.5 million in federal campaign contributions, followed closely by Amgen with $1.3 million and McKesson Corp with $1.1 million. All three companies spent more on Republicans than Democrats that year.

One million dollars plus is a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to the annual salaries of the CEOs at some of these companies. Pfizer CEO Ian Read, for example, raked in more than $23 million in 2014, and Amgen CEO Robert Bradway made a cool $14 million, according to the industry publication FiercePharma.

It turns out that the pharmaceutical industry did not become one for the most powerful interests on Capitol Hill with campaign contributions alone. For every $1 the industry spent on contributions during the last election cycle, $7 were spent on lobbying in 2014.

The pharmaceutical industry's lobbying expenditures steadily increased from 1998 to 2009, when spending hit a $273 million peak as Congress debated the Affordable Care Act, according to CRP. In 2014, drug companies and their lobbying groups spent $229 million influencing lawmakers, legislation and politicians.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry's lead lobbying group, has spent nearly $150 million on lobbying since 2008, and ranks sixth among the nation's top lobbying spenders, outspending powerful interests like defense contractors and the oil and gas industry, according to records retrieved from the MapLight lobbying database. The group has spent more than $10 million on lobbying so far this year. In contrast, PhRMA made $491,000 in political contributions during the 2014 election cycle.

Pfizer ranks among the top 25 lobbying spenders in the nation, with $94 million spent since 2008 and $8.5 million spent in 2014 alone.

Political contributions, which are typically made by individuals and political action committees within a corporation, can curry favors from candidates in the future, but lobbying allows Big Pharma to take advantage of Washington's revolving door and directly influence legislation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The world's collective wealth is around  $241 Trillion and, if evenly distributed, everyone on the planet would hold around $51,600 (in gold it would be about the size of a golf ball).

But wealth isn’t evenly distributed. Let’s look at what the world’s wealthiest 1% of people have versus the other 99% of people?

1 percent guy has 46% of wealth
How about the top 10%?

10 percent of people have 86 percent of wealth
To further demonstrate just how uneven wealth distribution actually
is, let’s bring out some of the world’s richest billionaires.3

billionaires come out
World's richest people

Another year, another set of records broken by the planet’s wealthiest. Despite some global economic turmoil — plummeting oil prices, weakened Euros, ruinous rubles — it was still a pretty good year for billionaires overall.

Exactly how much are the world’s billionaires worth? $7.05 trillion, according to FORBES’ latest ranking — besting last year’s record-breaking $6.4 trillion sum by a hefty $650 billion. The jump is driven in part by 290 newcomers, our biggest freshman class, which helps push the total number of billionaires in the world to 1,826, the highest number we’ve ever recorded.

While anyone with enough loot to make our count is well within the top 1% worldwide, income inequality is present even among this group: the richest 500 individuals collectively hold $4.7 trillion of that $7.05 trillion total. That translates to just over a quarter of billionaires accounting for two thirds of the wealth on our list.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Let's see David try it with a live pig. 

A soon-to-be-published biography claims British Prime Minister David Cameron placed a “private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig as part of an initiation ritual when he was a student at Oxford.

The sordid allegation was made in the unauthorized biography “Call Me Dave,” co-written by Parliament member Michael Ashcroft and journalist Isabel Oakeshott, excerpted by London’s Daily Mail.

The book claims the pig’s head was resting in the lap of a Piers Gaveston society member when Cameron placed his own member into its maw during a party.

Cameron got blazed at recurring pot parties and entertained a slew of beautiful women in his dorm room, the book claims.

While no precise information is available as to the origin of the pig’s head, the book mentions that a contemporary of Cameron’s often threw dinner parties featuring pig heads.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Boehner obviously saw the light that Pope Francis was shining on the power hungry, money worshipers and, to his credit, is speaking out against them.

Outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner on Sunday didn’t deny that he was referring to Senator Ted Cruz when he warned of false prophets “out there spreading noise about how much [the government] can get done,” even pointing to comments he made at a fundraiser where he called the Senator a “jackass.”

When questioned if Ted Cruz was a false prophet in an interview Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Boehner didn’t deny the suggestion, citing past comments he made at a fundraiser in August. (RELATED: John Boehner Calls Ted Cruz A ‘Jackass’ At Fundraiser)

“Are they unrealistic about what can be done in government?” CBS News host John Dickerson asked Boehner.

“Absolutely they’re unrealistic!” Boehner bellowed in response. “But, you know, the Bible says beware of false prophets. There are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done.

Read more:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


And, in this case "CAPS" on  profits for medications (rx) so that predators can't take undue advantage of the sick and most vulnerable who are desperately trying to prolong their lives. If profits are capped then the gouging will either stop or the excess can be taxed 100% and go back into the healthcare system. 

Martin Shkreli, the controversial pharmaceutical CEO and former hedge fund manager, announced that he would reduce the price of the drug Daraprim to “a point that is more affordable.” Shkreli has been the subject of unrelenting criticism since he implemented a 5000% increase in the price of the drug — from $13.50 per pill to $750 — which is used to treat severe infections in AIDS patients and infants.

Shkreli, who talked to ABC News, declined to name the new price for the medicine, which has been on the market for 60 years. ABC described Shkreli as “the most hated man in America.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Those that advocate that "big government" is bad need to look at what happens when government is weak and regulations flimsy. 

Volkswagen is being engulfed by a growing crisis over its attempt to make millions of diesel cars appear cleaner than they are.

The scandal broke Friday, when U.S. regulators said the German company had programmed some 500,000 vehicles to emit lower levels of harmful emissions in official tests than on the roads.

Volkswagen stunned investors Tuesday by admitting that the problem was much bigger than that: internal investigations had found significant discrepancies in 11 million vehicles worldwide.

"Millions of people all over the world trust our brands, our cars and our technology. I am deeply sorry we have broken this trust," said CEO Martin Winterkorn. "I would like to make a formal apology to our customers, to the authorities, and to the general public for this misconduct."

The company set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to cover the cost of recalls and other efforts to limit the damage, trashing its profit forecast for the year in the process.

Shares in Volkswagen (VLKAY) plunged 17% Tuesday, after suffering a similar crash Monday. About a third of the value of the group has been wiped out in two days, causing big losses for major shareholders such as Qatar.

A global problem

"Now it looks like it's becoming a very global issue. It really will be bad for the reputation of the company for a couple of years, it will take time to rebuild the trust of the customers," said Klaus Breitenbach, automotive analyst at Baader Bank. "It's really worrying for the company and also for the whole industry."

It's hard to overstate the significance of the crisis in Germany, where making quality cars is central to the country's reputation as a manufacturing and export powerhouse. The auto industry accounts for about 20% of exports, and employs 775,000 people directly.

Volkswagen, which also owns the Audi and Porsche brands, overtook Toyota (TM) earlier this year to become the world's biggest automaker by vehicle sales.

Friday, September 18, 2015


A total of 87 out of 91 former NFL players have tested positive for
the brain disease at the center of the debate over concussions in
football, according to new figures from the nation’s largest brain bank
focused on the study of traumatic head injury.

Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in
96 percent of NFL players that they’ve examined and in 79 percent of
all football players. The disease is widely believed to stem from
repetitive trauma to the head, and can lead to conditions such as memory
loss, depression and dementia.

In total, the lab has found CTE in the brain tissue in 131 out of 165
individuals who, before their deaths, played football either
professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school.

Forty percent of those who tested positive were the offensive and
defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play
of a game, according to numbers shared by the brain bank with FRONTLINE.
That finding supports past research suggesting that it’s the repeat,
more minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football that may pose
the greatest risk to players, as opposed to just the sometimes violent
collisions that cause concussions.

But the figures come with several important caveats, as testing for
the disease can be an imperfect process. Brain scans have been used to
identify signs of CTE in living players,
but the disease can only be definitively identified posthumously. As
such, many of the players who have donated their brains for testing
suspected that they had the disease while still alive, leaving
researchers with a skewed population to work with.

Even with those caveats, the latest numbers are “remarkably consistent” with past research from the center suggesting a link between football and long-term brain disease, said Dr. Ann McKee, the facility’s director and chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is
a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” said McKee,
who runs the lab as part of a collaboration between the VA and BU. “My
response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had
no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the NFL said, “We are dedicated to
making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players,
including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded
medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in
independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the
[National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the
science and understanding of these issues.”

The latest update from the brain bank, which in 2010 received a $1
million research grant from the NFL, comes at a time when the league is
able to boast measurable progress in reducing head injuries. In its 2015 Health & Safety Report,
the NFL said that concussions in regular season games fell 35 percent
over the past two seasons, from 173 in 2012 to 112 last season. A separate analysis by FRONTLINE that factors in concussions reported by teams during the preseason and the playoffs shows a smaller decrease of 28 percent.

Off the field, the league has revised safety rules to minimize
head-to-head hits, and invested millions into research. In April, it
also won final approval for a potential $1 billion settlement with roughly 5,000 former players who have sued it over past head injuries.

Still, at the start of a new season of play, the NFL once again finds
itself grappling to turn the page on the central argument in the
class-action lawsuit: that for years it sought to conceal a link between
football and long-term brain disease.

The latest challenge to that effort came two weeks ago with the trailer
for a forthcoming Hollywood film about the neuropathologist who first
discovered CTE. When the trailer was released, it quickly went viral, leaving the NFL bracing for a new round of scrutiny over past efforts to deny any such connection.

The film, Concussion, starring Will Smith, traces the story of Bennet Omalu, who in 2005 shocked the football establishment with an article in the journal Neurosurgery detailing his discovery of CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. At the VA lab and elsewhere, CTE has since been found in players such as Hall of Famer Junior Seau, former NFL Man of the Year Dave Duerson, and Indianapolis Colts tight end John Mackey, a past head of the player’s union.

While the story is not a new one, for the NFL, it represents a
high-profile and potentially embarrassing cinematic interpretation of a
period in which the league sought to refute research suggesting football
may contribute to brain disease.

From 2003 to 2009, for example, the NFL’s now disbanded Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee concluded in a series of scientific papers
that “no NFL player” had experienced chronic brain damage from repeat
concussions, and that “Professional football players do not sustain
frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis.”

In the case of Omalu, league doctors publicly assailed his research,
and in a rare move, demanded a retraction of his study. When Omalu spoke
to FRONTLINE about the incident for the 2013 documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, he said, “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you.”

In a conversation with FRONTLINE, McKee said that her biggest
challenge remains “convincing people this is an actual disease.”
Whatever pockets of resistance still exist, she said, have primarily
come from those with a “vested interest” in football.