Originally Published: 8/5/2017
Drug Expiration Dates: Marshall Allen, writing at ProPublica, did some amazing reporting on the fallacy of prescription drug expiration dates. The term “expiration date” is a misnomer. “The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at 2 or 3 years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they ‘expire’ - just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.”
The Evidence: Roy Gerona, a UC San Francisco researcher who specializes in analyzing chemicals, ran tests on “decades-old drugs.” Overall the bottles contained 14 different compounds. He found that 12 of the 14 compounds were “still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100% of their labeled concentrations.” Allen’s piece goes on to talk about the federal government’s stockpiling of “massive stashes of medication, antidotes, and vaccines in secure locations throughout the country.” This is mostly done by the military, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The drugs are worth “tens of billions of dollars and would provide a first line of defense in case of a large-scale emergency.” [Emphasis added.] But these drugs are rarely used so they often reach their expiration dates. “Though the government requires pharmacies to throw away expired drugs, it doesn’t always follow these instructions itself. Instead, for more than 30 years, it has pulled some medicines and tested their quality.” In 1986 the Air Force created the Shelf Life Extension Program. “Each year drugs from the stockpiles are selected based on their value and pending expiration and analyzed in batches to determine whether their end dates could be safely extended. For several decades, the program has found that the actual shelf life of many drugs is well beyond the original expiration dates.” Allen’s evidence goes on.
The Cost: Allen pointed out that we take for granted that the system is looking out for our health. But it appears incontrovertible that the expiration dates are just a way to force the destruction of good drugs so that new ones must be purchased - padding BigPharma’s pockets. “One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston says the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit, but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. . . A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term care pharmacies, retail pharmacies, and in consumer medicine cabinets.” [Emphasis added.] What makes it worse is that, as noted above, the federal government has long known “the shelf life of some drugs can be extended, sometimes by years.” It’s clear. The expiration dates are indefinite at best and the federal government knows it. Still, it requires the destruction of perfectly good drugs - all to the benefit of the pharmaceutical companies.
Legal Jeopardy: After the story about Trump’s son meeting with a Russian lawyer (TWW, Russian Connection, 7/15/17), his advisers agreed that he should “release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.” However, Trump “personally dictated” his son’s statement saying that the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” According to the Washington Post: “The claims were later shown to be misleading. . . The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.” Trump finally admitted that he gave his son “fatherly advice.” (Roll Call)
Bill Browder: While everyone was busy responding to Trump’s tweet that transgender people would no longer be allowed in the military, we missed an important story. Deliberate distraction? Bill Browder, the guy behind the Magnitsky Act (TWW, Magnitsky Act, 7/15/17), was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and he released his pre-testimony remarks. (The Atlantic) He said: “I hope that my story will help you understand the methods of Russian operatives in Washington and how they use U.S. enablers to achieve major foreign policy goals without disclosing those interests.” Michael Smerconish interviewed Browder. You can listen to it at Sound Cloud. Among other things he points out how many people other than Magnitsky have been killed. His testimony was then put off to the next day but then our attention was turned to “The Mooch.” The timing was uncanny. So, little attention was paid to Browder’s testimony although it was unbelievably revealing. He described a Russian system of government “that operates ruthlessly in the shadows - as Browder described it for lawmakers: a ‘kleptocracy’ sustained by corruption, blackmail, torture, and murder with Putin at its center.” He said: “Effectively the moment that you enter their world you become theirs.” He explained why Putin is so fixated on eliminating the Magnitsky Act. “Browder believes Putin is the richest man in the world, with an assortment of assets worth what Browder estimates to be $200 billion at his disposal, but those assets are ‘held all over the world’ including in America. When the accounts of Putin’s intermediaries are frozen because of the law, that is in effect, freezing some of Putin’s cash flow as well.” Indeed, if you listed to Smerconish’s interview, part of that $230 million (TWW, Magnitsky Act, 7/15/17) went to Putin. Secondly, “The banking sanctions imposed by the law devalue Putin’s promises, and so decrease his power.” (NPR) This certainly sheds light on the reasons Trump and his henchmen have been so involved in doing away with the sanctions. To paraphrase Browder’s words, “Trump is theirs.”
Michael Flynn: He has filed an amended financial disclosure report “providing new details about his contracts with the Trump presidential transition, a company connected to an Iranian American businessman, and the parent company of a data science firm that worked for the Trump campaign.” Flynn agreed to work with the SCL Group, at the time the British parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a data science company hired by Trump’s campaign. “One of Cambridge’s main financiers is hedge fund magnate Robert L. Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah is an influential conservative donor.” (Washington Post)
Kelly and Scaramucci: Former Director of Homeland Security John Kelly was sworn in as the new Chief of Staff. (TWW, Reince Priebus, 7/29/17) He immediately fired Anthony Scaramucci (TWW, Anthony Scaramucci, 7/29/17). (NY Times)
Christopher Wray: He was confirmed as the new FBI director. (Washington Post)
Mark Inch: He is yet another Army general to be added to the Trump administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has appointed him to head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (The Hill)
Russia: Putin cut the American diplomatic staff by 755 employees in response to the new sanctions. Putin stated: “Over 1,000 employees - diplomats and technical workers - worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this activity.” (NY Times) Trump signed the bill increasing sanctions on Russia, but called it “seriously flawed.” (Washington Post) He issued a signing statement (MarketWatch) saying the bill included “clearly unconstitutional provisions” and leaving open the possibility that he might not enforce all of its measures.
Uganda: Trump’s “looming crackdown on international family planning” will leave hundreds of thousands of women in Uganda without vital reproductive health care and advice. “The services of Uganda’s largest providers of family planning, cancer screening, and antenatal care are under threat” after Trump reintroduced the “global gag rule,” which cuts funding to overseas organizations that perform work in any way linked to abortion. (Guardian)
Venezuela: Trump has issued sanctions against the new president, Nicolas Maduro, “freezing his U.S. assets and prohibiting Americans from dealing with him.” This is because he held a controversial vote - which the U.S. and others warned him not to do - that would replace the current legislature with a new body. (Washington Post) The country’s new 545-member constituent assembly will rewrite the Constitution and govern with virtually unlimited authority. Their goal? To “stifle the opposition.” (NY Times)
Arizona: Former Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, “whose extreme stance on illegal immigration made him a household name,” (TWW, Arizona, 10/29/16) was convicted by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton of criminal contempt of court “for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.” Bolton said Arpaio had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the court’s order. He faces up to 6 months in prison. (Washington Post)
Arkansas: The U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled against Arkansas’ 4 new abortion restrictions, “overturning a lower court’s decision in 2015 that blocked the law a day before it was to go into effect.” The court ordered the case back to the U.S. District Court, telling it “to estimate approximately how many women would likely be harmed by the law.” (Reuters) U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker immediately ordered a preliminary injunction on the law. (AP)
Florida: Due to public outcry, state lawmakers dropped their bill to open the Everglades to fracking. (Guardian)
Missouri: The NAACP has issued a travel advisory for Missouri because the state passed a law that the NAACP says “allows for legal discrimination.” The new law “makes it more difficult for employees to prove their protected class, like race or gender.” The NAACP warns that the new law “could include unnecessary search and seizures and potential arrest.” (CNN)
New York: City officials are accusing federal immigration authorities of interfering with the criminal justice system. The city prohibits immigration officers from making arrests inside the courtroom. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have been lurking around courthouses, seeking to detain people in the hallway or outside the building. City and state officials claim ICE is eroding trust in the justice system. (NY Times)
Debt Ceiling: It’s that time again. The U.S. runs out of money on September 29th if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. The latest meeting between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) ended with no progress. Mnuchin has been urging Congress for months to raise the limit, “but the White House has lacked a unified message and run into resistance on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans are at odds on key tax and spending issues.” (Washington Post)
Google Blocking: Data compiled by the World Socialist Web Site, “with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology,” found that there is “a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war, and progressive web sites over the past 3 months” and that it has been caused “by a cumulative 45% decrease in traffic from Google searches.” They also found that the drop “followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols.” Skip Google. Try DuckDuckGo. It doesn’t track you.
Recess Appointments: The Senate will be doing to Trump what they did to Obama, running pro-forma sessions so that the Senate never goes into recess. This blocks any recess appointments. Apparently they were concerned the Trump would use a recess appointment to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with whomever he wanted. (The Hill)
Iraqi Murders: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the first-degree murder conviction of Nicholas Slatten, a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard sentenced to life in prison for the killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007. (TWW, Blackwater, 11/17/07; 11/3/07) The court also ordered the re-sentencing of 3 others convicted in the case. The court ruled that the trial court “abused its discretion” in not allowing Slatten to be tried separately from the other 3 “even though he alone faced a murder charge for firing what prosecutors said were the first shots in the civilian massacre.” (Washington Post)
Affirmative Action: Attorney General Jeff Session has directed the civil rights division to redirect its resources to investigating and suing universities over discrimination against white applicants. An internal announcement “suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.” (NY Times)
Immigration: Trump is supporting new legislation aimed at curbing immigration. Senators Tom Cotton (R, AR) and David Perdue (R, GA) are working with the White House “to revise and expand a bill released earlier this year that would halve the number of people who receive legal, permanent residence over the next decade.” (The Hill) The bill would award points based on “education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement, and entrepreneurial initiative.” Spouses and minor children would still be given preference, but siblings and adult children would not. (NY Times) That Libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, doesn’t like the legislation, saying it won’t help low-skilled American workers and would result in a reduction of wages of all workers across the board.
Voting Machines: The were many reports this week about the DEF CON cybersecurity conference held in Las Vegas. This year the conference hosted a “Voting Machine Village,” where attendees could try to hack a number of electronic voting machines. (The Hill) “Every voting machine . . . got totally pwned.” According to Gizmodo, “American voting systems are largely cobbled together with antiquated technology.” AlterNet has a great list of the various types of machines that were hacked and the problems with them.
Charter Schools: The Boston Globe reviewed the payroll data of public and charter schools in Boston. It found that the median pay package for the top leaders of the 16 charter schools was $170,000 last year, making most of them among the highest-paid public school officials in Boston.” One charter school worker who “oversaw a school of just 400 students,” earned $275,000 in salary “and an additional $23,000 for unused personal time off.”
Trademarks: Remember the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that disparaging words can be trademarked? (TWW, Trademarks, 6/24/17) Now a couple enterprising men are filing to trademark the n-word “to keep it out of the hands of racists.” (Washington Post)
Border Agents: Trump’s plan to add 15,000 Border Patrol and immigration personnel “to help keep out undocumented immigrants” is being called “unrealistic” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. In a report he concluded that to find 15,000 people, “based on its rigorous screening requirement for law enforcement jobs and the relatively high rate of attrition,” they would have to vet 750,000 applicants to find 5,000 qualified personnel. (Washington Post)
ACA: Trump threatened to end payments to insurance companies and payments to Congress and staffers for insurance if a repeal and replace bill is not passed. (The Hill) Listen to what Keith Olbermann has to say about Trump’s threats. This is Good! Senator Lamar Alexander (R, TN), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, responded by announcing that his committee would begin work in September to “stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market” for 2018. “He publicly urged Mr. Trump to continue making payments to health insurance companies.” When congress critters think they’ll lose their subsidies the issue becomes important. (NY Times)
Maternal Deaths: Guess which developed country has the highest rate of maternal mortality. Come on. You can do this. Yup. The U.S. (NPR)
Nuclear Energy: 2 utilities in South Carolina are abandoning their unfinished nuclear reactors, “putting an end to a project that was once expected to showcase advanced nuclear technology but has since been plagued by delays and cost overruns.” There are only 2 new nuclear reactors still being built in Georgia, but all over the country “more than a dozen older nuclear plants are being retired.” (NY Times)
Border Wall: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would use its authority “to exempt the agency from having to comply with environmental and other laws in its efforts to build border walls and access roads in the San Diego area.” (NY Times)
Meat Industry: It is being blamed for the “largest ever dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. “Toxins from manure and fertilizer pouring into waterways are exacerbating huge, harmful algal blooms that create oxygen-deprived stretches of the gulf, the Great Lakes, and Chesapeake Bay.” (Guardian)
Fukushima: A recently released peer-reviewed study found that radioactive particles of uranium, thorium, radium, cesium, strontium, polonium, tellurium, and americium are still floating in the air in Japan 6 years after the crash of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. (Buzz Flash)
Unemployment: The U.S. added 209,000 jobs in July - more than expected. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.3% from last month’s 4.4%. (Reuters)
Minimum Wage Increase: It’s been 8 years since the minimum wage has been raised. In 2009 it was raised from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour. “Since then, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fallen by 12.5% as inflation has slowly eroded its value.” However, this is only half of the overall decline in the minimum wage’s value since the late 1960s. “At its high point in 1968, the federal minimum wage was equal to $9.90 in today’s dollars. That means that workers at the minimum wage today are paid roughly 27% less than their counterparts almost 50 years ago.” However, if, as used to be the case, we saw wages rise along with productivity, the minimum wage today would be $19.33 an hour. Check out the chart from Economic Policy Institute and see how workers are getting screwed.
Dodd-Frank: Banks are constantly complaining that the capital requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act “are too constricting and force them to pull back on loans.” But, according to Thomas Hoenig, the FDIC vice chair, “they choose to distribute all of their earnings to investors instead of lending them.” (Reuters)
Wells Fargo: According to an internal report, more than 800,000 people who took out car loans from Wells Fargo “were charged for auto insurance they did not need, and some of them are still paying for it.” The unneeded expense forced about 274,000 customers into delinquency “and resulted in almost 25,000 wrongful vehicle repossessions.” (NY Times) Remember the scandal where Wells Fargo created millions of credit card and bank accounts that customers never requested? (TWW, Wells Fargo, 9/17/16)