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02.16 Toxic black snow covers Siberian coalmining region [0:49 video; If its killing us, stop doing it]
02.16 Renewable energy will be world's main power source by 2040, says BP [But in America's capitalistic bubble, bribed-to-be-biased media and government defy reality]
02.16 What the pesticides in our urine tell us about organic food [What does inaction tell us about capitalism and our government?]
02.14 Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence [If its killing us, make it illegal]
02.14 To avoid environmental catastrophe, everything must change [Consider why this headline is laughable or confusing to many, if not most, Americans...]02.13 Study Shows Toxic Pesticide Levels in Families Dropped by 60% After One-Week Organic Diet [2:10 video; Produce and canned vegetables laced with toxic chemicals—from fertilizers and herbicides, too—must be quickly phased out to use safe organic alternatives]
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US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
02.20 ‘Sustained and ongoing’ disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates [If you can sense them, block them!]
02.20 Despite the slaughter in Yemen, Britain is still chasing arms sales [and the Great-Again-America is too...Capitalism without morality is horrible]
Economics & Corrupting-Capitalism
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02.21 John Oliver Compares Brexit ‘Disaster’ to Will Smith’s Genie in Live-Action ‘Aladdin’ (Video) [21:26 video; we’re approaching an Idiocracy-type of society, where stupidity is “normal”]
02.20 House report lays bare White House feud over Saudi nuclear push [Its hard to keep up with all the criminal crap going on...]
02.18 Hate-Fest in Warsaw
Let Them Eat Zoloft
US citizens could save $3000 every year if they could outsource to get healthcare from another country.
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 17 November 2009
As the Senate takes up health care reform, we’re sure to be treated to yet more scenes of our elected officials bending over backwards to kiss the gold-plated butts of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. So far, just about every new turn in the health care battle is confirming what many have known for some time: The U.S. health care system is run largely for the benefit of these corporate giants, rather than of the American people, and no piece of legislation is likely to change that fact.
But to fully appreciate the license these industries have been given to run roughshod over the public interest, you have to take a trip to Connecticut. The state is a longtime home base for the insurance industry, with 72 companies and the nation’s highest concentrion of insurance jobs. It also has more than its share of drug and biotech companies. (What luck then, for these industries, that the man who appears to hold a swing vote on health care reform is their own Senator Joe Lieberman, who has enjoyed enormous financial support from the insurance companies and a pretty penny from Big Pharma, as well.)
While Connecticut may be loyal to its health care companies, the opposite is certainly not true. This week the giant drugmaker Pfizer sent shock waves across the state when it announced its decision to shut down its huge research facility in New London. While some workers will be transferred to a facility in a nearby town, the closure represents a devastating loss of industry and tax base for this working-class coastal city. It also marks the disintegration of an elaborate publically financed urban development scheme that began a decade ago.
After the closure of a naval installation in the mid-1990s left New London in desperate straits, Pfizer swept in with promises to revitalize the city with a state-of-the-art R & D headquarters. To serve the company’s interests, the state government decided to use eminent domain to seize private property, uproot residents, and destroy a neighborhood in order to revamp the surrounding area. The state’s won the right to do so in a landmark Supreme Court case. But it built nothing on the vacated land. And now Pfizer, as the Wall Street Journal put it, has decided to “bug out.” One local resident told the New York Times, “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”
According to the Times, Pfizer said it was pulling out of New London and consolidating its operations as a “cost-cutting measure.” As the AP reported last month, Pfizer has managed to boost its profits this year despite the recession by ”slashing costs on everything from manufacturing and marketing to research and development” and cutting 6,500 jobs. In the immediate future, AP notes:
Let’s put all this “cost cutting” in further context. Pfizer’s profits in 2008 were $8.1 billion. The drugmaker ranked 11th on the Fortune 500’s list of most profitable companies, and also made Fortune’s list of “biggest winners,” described as “20 firms [that] managed to make money...even as the economy crumbled.” Wyeth’s 2008 profits were over $4 billion, so the acquisition is guaranteed to keep Pfizer in gravy, despite the $2.3 billion in criminal penalties it recently agreed to pay for illegally promiting off-label use of its drugs, in the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the U.S. Justice Department. Residents of New London and other locales abandoned by the company may also be interested to know that Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler’s 2008 compensation came to a cool $14.8 million–up 17 percent from the year before.
In other words, Pfizer’s determination to slash costs and eliminate thousands of jobs in the midst of a recession is motivated by nothing but sheer greed. This is business as usual for the pharmaceutical companies, which exist to serve the interests of their executives and shareholders, not the public–and will be just as ruthless as we allow them to be.
Yet this lesson seems to have bypassed many of our elected officials, who persist in pretending that the drug companies can be their ”partners” in health care reform, rather than their adversaries. In the rest of the industrialized world, they seem to have grasped the notion that it’s the government’s job to make sure the private health care industry doesn’t gouge the public. These governments do their job by imposing stiff regulation on these companies, far beyond anything that we will see in the current health reform.
Here, the drug companies are so used to getting their way that they are indignant when anyone in government finds the gumption to stand up to them at all. This morning, the LA Times reports that Big Pharma is protesting parts of the House reform bill, which it sees as violating the secret deal it made last summer with the White House. The paper reports that “senior administration officials, including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are warning members of Congress not to antagonize the deep-pocketed industry at a time when a major victory appears to be within reach, according to Democratic aides.”
Although they will probably get their way in the end, the drug companies are pissed off at the Democrats because they think they’ve been double-crossed. It’s a feeling that that’s no doubt well known to the residents of New London, Connecticut.
Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.
Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.
Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.
This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on November 17, 2009.