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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 72,736

Journal Archives

Wall Street Suddenly Scrambles to Buy Doctors, “Leverage” Their Patients

by Wolf Richter • July 20, 2015

For PE firms, the fracking boom was nirvana. An eternal-growth industry. A big part of the money they poured into the scrappy oil & gas companies is now going up in smoke. Other industries are mired in a no-growth or shrinking environment. Chaos keeps breaking out in the international markets, most recently over Greece and China.

So, healthcare, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of US GDP, “is really the growth opportunity,” Tom Banning, CEO of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, told The Texas Tribune:

“The forces are aligned to force consolidation, and frankly, how those independent doctors are able to compete against well-heeled, deep-pocketed systems or networks is going to be a problem,” Banning said. “To me the question becomes, if a for-profit, publicly traded or privately held venture-capital fund owns these doctors, what’s their fiduciary duty to the patients?”

Think of the possibilities! The Texas Tribune: “Sensing a new vein of potential profits to be mined in the multibillion-dollar health care industry, a small but growing number of private equity firms is seeking to buy into primary care practices, interviews with doctors and financial analysts suggest.”

Mergers and acquisitions are at an all-time record in the US. In the second quarter alone, US targeted deals reached $635 billion, the highest quarterly total ever. These deals are driven by corporate buyers. Armed with cheap debt and their overpriced shares, they’re out-bidding PE firms and pushing them aside

Consolidation in the healthcare sector is running rampant, from the M&A activity among the largest health insurers, such as Aetna’s acquisition of Humana, to hospital systems buying physician practices. ...............(more)


Americans’ Economic Confidence Gets Whacked

Americans’ Economic Confidence Gets Whacked
by Wolf Richter • July 21, 2015

At first, we thought it might have been a blip, a short-term thing, something to do with the winter weather which was gorgeous in California, though some folks in the East were getting lots of exercise shoveling what seemed like endlessly renewable snow. And we might have blamed it on the margin of sampling error.

In early January, the economic confidence of Americans had reached the highest level since before the Financial Crisis, according to Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index. But then it began to drop. At the time, the weather was blamed for everything. But spring should have turned it around. Only it didn’t.

Economic confidence continued to zigzag lower in an orderly fashion, interrupted only by a sudden plunge and some upticks too. And today’s weekly index hit the worst level since October last year, with the three-day rolling average dropping to the worst level since September.

The index is a composite that tracks how Americans perceive current economic conditions and future economic conditions. It ranges from a maximum of +100 (everyone says the economy is “excellent” or “good” currently and is “getting better” in the future) to a minimum of -100 (everyone says the economy sucks and is going to suck even worse).


These people are focused on the reality on the ground, and what that reality might look like for them in the future. They’re figuring out that, despite all the hype and proclamations and the record stock markets and booming housing market, reality for them personally simply doesn’t look all that enticing. ...................(more)


Your Kids Are Making You Fat

(MarketWatch) Mom and dad, your beloved little angels are making you fat, and the reasons behind this may surprise you. The good news: You can nip that extra poundage in the butt (or arms, or abs) with some easy lifestyle changes.

Several studies show that becoming a parent may be a straight shot to a less-than-svelte waistline. A study of more than 10,000 men over a 20-year period published this month in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that the typical six-foot tall man who lives with his kids gains an average of 4.4 pounds after having his first kid; that’s compared to just 3.3 pounds for a dad not living with his kids. Men without kids actually dropped some pounds over the course of the study.

Furthermore, a study published in 2013 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that parents — particularly women — tend to gain more weight than their non-parent counterparts (you can see their increased body mass indexes here), and a 2011 study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that by age 55, parents reach an average BMI in the obese zone (over 30), while the average BMI for those without children merely reaches the overweight zone (25 to 29) by that age.

“Parenthood contributes to a long-term, cumulative process of weight gain for American women and men,” the authors of the latter study write. .................(more)


Capitalism, Green or Otherwise, Is ''Ecological Suicide''

Capitalism, Green or Otherwise, Is ''Ecological Suicide''

Tuesday, 21 July 2015 00:00
By David Klein, Truthout | Book Review

Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, by Richard Smith,

World Economics Association eBooks, April 30, 2015

The climate crisis is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. At the current rate of global greenhouse gas emissions, warming of the planet will shoot past two degrees Celsius by mid-century and reach 4°C to 6°C beyond pre-industrial averages by 2100. The magnitude of the impending catastrophe was eloquently described by Hans Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, when he said, "the difference between two and four degrees is human civilization …" Adding to that, the biosphere faces massive pollution, resource depletion, species extinctions, ocean acidification, among other looming dangers.

But can we save ourselves? In his new book, Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, Richard Smith argues compellingly that "sustainable production is certainly possible but not under capitalism" and even more forcefully, "capitalism and saving the planet are fundamentally and irreconcilably at odds." To this central question, Smith brings an impressive command of economics and an engaging conversational style of writing. He explains and illustrates with devastating clarity the key mechanisms of capitalism that force it to grow unendingly, and these explanations are supported with a broad array of examples of corporate and national economic practices from around the world.

Green Capitalism: The God that Failed is a compilation of previously published complementary essays. The first of the five chapters reviews the writings of Adam Smith and the historical transition to capitalism in Europe. Chapter 1 explains how, right from the start, market competition led to rapid innovation, which in turn led to expansion of the market, a cycle that has continued ever since. Capitalist economics, therefore, had ecological implications from its inception, distinct from all earlier periods.

Ecological implications, however, are ignored by mainstream economists. In this respect, Smith reports that, "introductory macroeconomic textbooks used by most US economics departments is revealing of the profession's lack of contact with reality." Mainstream economists, from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, recognize the necessity of unending economic expansion with rising consumerism. Without that, capitalism would collapse. According to Krugman, "...while it will be a shame if Americans continue to compete over who can own the most toys, the worst thing of all would be if the competition comes to a sudden halt." ....................(more)


India: The Pharmacy of the World Where Fixed Dose Combination Drugs Go Unregulated

India: The Pharmacy of the World Where Fixed Dose Combination Drugs Go Unregulated

Tuesday, 21 July 2015 00:00
By Patricia McGettigan, The Conversation | News Analysis

India has been called the pharmacy of the world. Many generic drugs are made there and much of its drug production is exported internationally. Thousands of fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs – where two or more drugs are combined in a set ratio in a single dose form, usually a tablet or capsule – are formulated, made and sold within India.

Many FDCs are safe and effective. They are used in situations where both the drug combination and the doses needed are standardised and stable, for example, in the treatment of HIV, for Parkinson's disease and in contraceptive pills.

However, in a study investigating these drugs in India, we found thousands of FDCs on the market made up of formulations never approved for marketing by the national regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, and that were likely to be more harmful than beneficial to patients.

As two pharmacologists in India, writing in response to our study put it:

One can find any crazy drug combination which could give nightmares to any doctor who has some understanding of the concept of the rational use of medicine. It is simply beyond comprehension of any rationalist. Even antimicrobials are being combined weirdly, which is a grave challenge for crusaders against antimicrobial resistance.

FDCs in India

Considered an innovation of India's national pharmaceutical industry, FDCs are promoted extensively and used in huge numbers within the country. These drugs are mostly available through wholesalers, pharmacies (not necessarily with a prescription), dispensing doctors, but some are used in hospitals too. .................(more)


It's Hard Out Here for a Polar Bear

LONDON—Global warming is likely to leave the polar bear high and dry and very hungry as increasing loss of sea ice reduces the hunting grounds of the Arctic’s top predator.

Researchers have established that while Ursus maritimus can survive for months without eating during winter hibernation, in the summertime it is not much better at going without food than any other mammal.

The polar bear is capable of shutting its own metabolism down to astonishingly low levels during hibernation and, until now, zoologists have surmised that the bear could minimise energy losses by entering a hibernation-like state when deprived of food.

But John Whiteman, a doctoral student in ecology, zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming, and colleagues report in Science journal that that theory is wrong. Once they are up and hunting, bears need food.


The evidence, however, suggested that “walking hibernation” didn’t actually exist. The researchers conclude that the bears “are unlikely to avoid deleterious loss in body condition, and ultimately survival, that are expected with continuous ice loss and lengthening of the ice-melt period”. .................(more)


Big, dumb, violent and racist is no way to go through life

A South Carolina man was arrested over the weekend after a waitress at a Myrtle Beach restaurant said that he slapped her in the face because she asked him to leave for harassing a black family with racial slurs.

According to arrest documents obtained by The Smoking Gun, waitress Megan Churchill told police that 23-year-old Dustin Lowery was “causing a disturbance and using racial slurs towards another family” at Shuckers restaurant on Saturday night.

After the family decided to leave the restaurant, Churchill said that restaurant staff decided to also ask Lowery to leave.

“The victim stated that the offender became irate and slapped her in the face,” the police report noted. “There was apparent redness to the victim’s face, and signs that the victim had been crying.” .....................(more)


The rift between France and Germany can’t be papered over any longer

(MarketWatch) A “temporary” Greek exit from economic and monetary union, proposed by Germany, supported by many German-leaning euro members, yet hotly opposed by France and Italy, was narrowly averted in the marathon negotiations that ended on July 13. But the suggestion may still eventually decide Greece’s fate in the euro.

The divergence between the two countries traditionally seen as the motor of the European Union demonstrates new fragility in Franco-German relations that looks likely to cast a shadow over European cooperation for some time to come.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, whose hard line on Greece ended up determining Chancellor Angela Merkel’s negotiating stance, has made clear in the week since the ill-tempered European summit on Greece that he still favors a Greek exit from the euro

Once it would have feared European isolation, but Germany now puts forward views opposed by France with demonstrative self-confidence. This reflects not only manifest German economic strength but also EMU membership by several smaller nations from central and eastern Europe that take an even more robust attitude than Germany on the Greek economy.


In the years since unification, even as the basic ties of post-war reconciliation begun to fade, the French and Germans have been bound together by a curious symbiosis. France needed an outwardly robust Germany to camouflage the extent to which the French had fallen from grace in the economic and political stakes since the 1980s.

And for Germany, the appendage of an apparently confident (but in reality seriously weakened) France has been a profoundly useful device to conceal from the rest of the world an inconvenient rise in German power. ...............(more)


The Case for a “Jazz Revolution” Against Corporate Capitalism

from YES! Magazine:

The Case for a “Jazz Revolution” Against Corporate Capitalism
Bottom up? Top down? Improvisation is the key to a middle way.

Keith Harrington posted Jul 16, 2015

“Where are the leaders and what are their demands?”

If you switched on your TV during the Occupy protests in 2011, it wouldn’t take long to find some corporate news pundit scratching his or her head over these questions. Accustomed to a world of professional politicians and party platforms, the punditocracy found it inconceivable that such an ambitious movement could survive without spokespeople or a clear vision.

What the talking heads didn’t know was that they’d stumbled onto a theoretical debate that not only led to major tensions within Occupy itself, but has divided revolutionaries for more than a century. In fact, it is perhaps the big theoretical debate that today’s checkerboard revolutionaries—the creators of local economic institutions like worker-owned co-ops and land trusts who are the subjects of this series—must take seriously if their local solutions are to achieve global change.

A few anecdotes from Occupy illustrate the problem. Writing about his experience with Occupy Philadelphia, writer and n + 1 editor Nikil Saval recalled a debate in the general assembly—the encampment’s governing body—wherein a contingent of activists killed a proposal to send a rotating group of delegates to negotiate with city officials. “A sizeable portion of the GA,” he wrote, “sniffs vanguardism and proposes instead that the city come down to GA—an amendment so insane that I begin to doubt the capacity of my fellow assemblymen and women to govern themselves.”

Similar disputes played out at other encampments. Accounts from New York describe the demise of the Demands Working Group—a body formed specifically to answer questions about the movement’s goals—as the result of a sectarian split between the Occupiers who ran it and those who effectively ran the local general assembly. A denunciation of the “so-called Demands Working Group”still affixed to the Occupy website is a reminder of the rancor involved: “This group only represents themselves. While we encourage the participation of autonomous working groups, no single person or group has the authority to make demands on behalf of general assemblies around the world.” .................(more)


Less than Zero: Despite decades of accepted science, CA and AZ are still miscounting water supplies

(ProPublica) DEEP BENEATH the bleached-out, dusty surface of the drought-stricken West is a stash of water sequestered between layers of rock and sometimes built up over centuries.

Officials in the Colorado River basin states have long treated this liquid treasure as a type of environmental retirement account — an additional supply of water they can raid to get through the driest years and make up for the chronic overuse of the rivers themselves.

In recent years, the withdrawals have taken on even more importance: At least 60 percent of California’s water now comes from underground, some researchers say. Arizona, staring down imminent rationing of Colorado River water, pumps nearly half its supply from aquifers.

But in allowing their residents to tap underground resources this way, regulators and legislators in Southwestern states have ignored an inconvenient truth about how much water is actually available for people to use: In many places, groundwater and surface water are not independent supplies at all. Rather, they are interconnected parts of the same system.

The science has been clear for the better part of a century. Drawing groundwater from near a stream can suck that stream dry. In turn, using all the water in streams and rivers lessens their ability to replenish the aquifers beneath them. Farmers who drill new wells to supplement their supplies with groundwater are often stealing water from their neighbors who hold rights to the rivers above them. This understanding has been the foundation of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s water accounting for decades, and was used by the U.S. Supreme Court to decide one of the most significant water contests in history. ................(more)


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