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Big Pharma—Crony Capitalism Out of Control

By Ralph Nader | November 21, 2014

Two recent news items about the voracious drug industry should call for a supine Congress to arouse itself and initiate investigations about the pay-or-die drug prices that are far too common.

The first item—a page one story in the New York Times—was about the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation, which fifteen years ago invested $150 million in the biotechnology company Vertex Pharmaceuticals to develop a drug for this serious lung disease.

On November 19, the Foundation reported a return of $3.3 billion from that investment. Kalydeco, the drug developed with that investment, is taken daily by CF patients (who can afford it) and is priced at $300,000 a year per patient. Who can pay that price?

The second news release came from the drug industry funded Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. The Center’s Joseph DiMasi asserts that the cost of developing a new prescription medicine is about $2.558 billion, significantly higher than the previous estimate of $802 million that the Center claimed in 2003.

The drug industry promoters use this ludicrous figure to justify sky-high drug prices for consumers. Unfortunately, the criticism of this inflated number does not receive adequate media attention.

Half of the DiMasi assertion is opportunity costs foregone if the drug company invested its money elsewhere. That cuts his estimate by almost half to $1.395 billion. This maneuver gives “inflation” a new meaning. According to economist James P. Love, founder of Knowledge Ecology International, DiMasi also conveniently ignores government subsidies such as so-called orphan drug tax credits, research grants from the National Institutes of Health and government support of the cost of clinical trials that qualify (see keionline.org).

Mr. Love adds that the drug companies spend “much more on marketing than they do on research and development.”

Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy and Analysis of Doctors Without Borders (which received the Nobel Prize in 1999), says that if you believe Tufts’ figures, whose alleged data analysis is largely secret, “you probably also believe the Earth is flat.”

Mr. Malpani cites GlaxoSmithKline’s CEO Andrew Witty himself who says that the figure of a billion dollars to develop a drug is a myth.

Malpani adds that “we know from past studies and the experience of non-profit drug developers that a new drug can be developed for just a fraction of the cost the Tufts report suggests. The cost of developing products is variable, but experience shows that new drugs can be developed for as little as $50 million, or up to $186 million if you take failure into account… not only do taxpayers pay for a very large percentage of industry R&D, but are in fact paying twice because they then get hit with high prices for the drugs themselves.”

Mr. Malpani was referring primarily to the U.S., where the drug companies show no gratitude for generous tax credits and taxpayer funded R&D (that they get mostly free.) Add the absence of price controls and you the consumer/patient pay the highest drug prices in the world.

Another largely ignored aspect of the industry’s R&D is how much of it is directed to products that match, rather than improve, health outcomes—so-called “me too” drugs that are profitable, but don’t benefit patients’ health.

Also, the consistently profitable drug industry has been continually unable to restrain its deceptive promotion of drugs and inadequate disclosure of side-effects. About 100,000 Americans die every year from adverse effects of pharmaceuticals. Tens of billions of consumer dollars are wasted on drugs that have side effects instead of drugs for the same ailments with lesser side-effects (see citizen.org/hrg).

During a visit in 2000 with military physicians and scientists at the Walter Reed Army Hospital, I asked how much they spent on R&D to develop their antimalarial drugs and other medicine. The answer: five to ten million dollars per drug, which included clinical testing plus the salaries of the researchers.

This “drug development entity” inside the Department of Defense arose because drug companies refused to invest in vaccine or therapeutic drugs for malaria—then the second leading cause for hospitalizing U.S. soldiers in Vietnam (the first being battlefield injuries). So the military brass decided to fill this void in-house, and with considerable success.

The problem with the stinginess of the coddled private pharmaceutical industry regarding vaccine development continues.Drug resistant tuberculosis and other infectious diseases rampant in developing countries continue to take millions of lives each year. The Ebola epidemic is a current lethal illustration of such neglect.

The survival of many millions of people is too important to be left to the drug companies. For a fraction of what the federal government is wasting on spreading and failing lawless wars abroad, it can expand from the Walter Reed Army Hospital example to become a humanitarian superpower that produces life-saving vaccines and medicines as if the plight of sick people mattered more than windfall profits for Big Pharma.

Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Sophisticated ‘state-sponsored’ spying tool targeted govts, infrastructure for years

RT | November 24, 2014

A sophisticated malware dubbed Regin has been used to spy on governments, infrastructure operators and other high-profile targets, security company Symantec has revealed. It also targeted private individuals and businesses, particularly in Russia.

A back door-type Trojan displays a “degree of technical competence rarely seen,” Symantec said in a press release. The complexity of the virus enabled the intruder to create a framework for mass surveillance. Targets include private companies, government entities and research think tanks. Attacks on telecoms companies were allegedly carried out to gain access to calls being routed through their infrastructure.

Confirmed Regin infections by sector (image from symantec.com)

Confirmed Regin infections by sector (image from symantec.com)

The company believes that the Trojan was likely developed by a nation state as it took months, if not years to develop such a piece of software and cover up its tracks. Analyzing its further capabilities the company has drawn a conclusion that Regin could be one of the main cyber espionage tools used by the implicated nation state.

Almost a third of the confirmed infections were discovered in Russia with a further 24 percent in Saudi Arabia. Mexico, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Belgium, Austria and Pakistan are also on the list.

“Regin is a highly complex threat which has been used in systematic data collection or intelligence gathering campaigns. The development and operation of this malware would have required a significant investment of time and resources,” Symantec said.

Symantec found that the virus has been used between 2008 and 2011, before being suddenly withdrawn until a new version of the malware resurfaced from 2013 onwards.

Confirmed Regin infections by country (image from symantec.com)

Confirmed Regin infections by country (image from symantec.com)

Regin uses a modular approach allowing it to load features that exactly fit the target, enabling a customized spying.“Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long-term surveillance operations against targets,” the security company says.

And it’s five-stage loading architecture with special and hidden encryption at each stage makes it similar to Duqu/Stuxnet threats, Symantec said. “Executing the first stage starts a domino chain of decryption and loading of each subsequent stage for a total of five stages. Each individual stage provides little information on the complete package. Only by acquiring all five stages is it possible to analyze and understand the threat,” the press release reads. Furthermore Regin is equipped with a number of stealth features so that even after Trojan’s presence is detected, it is “very difficult to ascertain what it is doing.”

Researchers say many components of the virus remain undiscovered while the threat of additional functionality and versions may still exist.

Image from symantec.com

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

In the past five years, more Utahans have been killed by cops than by gang violence, drug dealers, or from child abuse

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By Matt Agorist | Free Thought Project | November 23, 2014

Data from a five-year period is painting a disturbing picture of a deadly trend among Utah police officers.

Up until this year, killings by police officers ranked second only to homicide of intimate partners. However, this year, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan, deadly force by police surpassed even violence between spouses and dating partners.

As police killings rise, more people are becoming aware and police watchdog groups are saying that it’s time we start treating deadly force by police as a potentially serious public safety problem. The Free Thought Project agrees.

“The numbers reflect that there could be an issue, and it’s going to take a deeper understanding of these shootings,” said Chris Gebhardt to the Salt Lake Tribune, a former police lieutenant and sergeant who served in Washington, D.C., and in Utah, including six years on SWAT teams and several training duties. “It definitely can’t be written off as citizen groups being upset with law enforcement.”

Only one single case of police deadly force in Utah has ever been deemed “unjustified” by prosecutors which was the 2012 shooting of Danielle Willard by West Valley City police.

The Tribune also spoke to Ian Adams, a West Jordan police officer and spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police who says, “Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond.”

“The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public. … Why do some in society continue to insist the problem lies with police officers?”

Apparently Adams is unaware of police tendencies to escalate an otherwise peaceful situation into violent one, at the drop of a hat.

As recent FBI data has shown, violence among citizens is at an all time low, while violence by police is at an all time high. To imply that police are justified in 100% of these killings is not only irresponsible but incredibly dangerous.

The death of another human being should be avoided at all costs and when it happens, regardless of whether or not the person wears a badge, there should be a full investigation; by a third party.

“Sometimes the line between is it legal and is it necessary becomes difficult to distinguish,” criminal justice professor at Weber State University, Robert Wadman said. “In the judgment of the officer, ‘Is my life in jeopardy? Yes.’ At that point in time, they’re legally grounded in using deadly force. But the question is, is it necessary? That’s something that needs to be firmly addressed, for example, in training.”

Gang violence in America was once a national conversation and rightfully so. However, with the legalization of marijuana in several states, these cartels are diminishing and their once violent hold is slipping away. They no longer pose such a large threat.

Americans are less violent now than ever before, so why are we seeing an increase in police violence? If the recent events in Ferguson, MO and the heavy militarization among police forces nationwide, have taught this country anything, it’s that we are long overdue for a serious conversation about police reform.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

Egyptian president says his regime is ready to protect Israel

MEMO | November 24, 2014

Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi told an Italian newspaper that his country is ready to send troops to Palestine in order to guarantee Israel’s security and work jointly against terrorism.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Al-Sisi said: “We are prepared to send military forces inside a Palestinian state. They would help the local police and reassure Israelis in their role as guarantors.”

The former military general stressed that any such troop deployment would only be for the time needed to restore trust between the two sides.

According to Reuters, Al-Sisi added that he has spoken about this idea ‘at length’ with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“I told [Netanyahu] a courageous step was needed otherwise nothing would be resolved,” he said.

Al-Sisi led the July 2013 military coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi. Since then, the Egyptian government has criminalised the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, which Morsi was a member of, and deepened the Israeli siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by closing the Rafah Border crossing in order to raise pressure against the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, which is an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Pro-Israel activists ask MPs to halt non-violent BDS protests

MEMO | November 24, 2014

Australian BDS-protest-out-side-court-aZionist activists have urged British MPs to implement new legislation that police could use to stop non-violent, pro-BDS protests.

Manchester-based group North-West Friends of Israel have urged politicians to give police more power to stop boycotts of businesses by pro-Palestine solidarity activists.

As cited in a report by The Jewish Chronicle, the group’s co-chair Anthony Dennison wants the Public Order Act amended “to allow police to halt non-violent protests, if they disrupted ‘the lawful right of customers and shops to trade’.”

Dennison commented: “Peaceful protest can be intimidating, if demonstrators are stood outside a shop, holding placards with horrible images, are customers really going into that shop?”

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

UK approved $11mn Israeli arms sales before Gaza war: Report

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Press TV – November 24, 2014

A new report has revealed Britain’s approval of arms sales to Israel worth nearly USD 11 million (£7 million) in the six months before the regime’s latest aggression against the Gaza Strip.

The Sunday report by The Independent newspaper raised fresh concerns about the use of British-made weapons and equipment by the Israeli army during the 50-day war on Gaza that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and wounded 10,000 others in July-August.

Citing government figures, it added that the sales included components for drones, combat aircraft and helicopters along with spare parts for sniper rifles.

The figures also show that the British government has issued 68 export licenses for exports of military-use items to Israel between January and June.

“The Independent can reveal that ministers in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) have also ordered a fresh review of military export licenses to Israel granted prior to the outbreak of the conflict after officials found 12 instances where arms containing British components may have been used in Gaza” by the Israeli army, it added.

“The refusal of the government to suspend these licenses caused a split in the coalition and led to the resignation of Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi, who described Britain’s stance during the Israeli land and air assault as ‘morally indefensible’,” the British daily said.

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) confirmed to the newspaper that “right up until the eve of the bombing, the UK was supporting licenses for the same kinds of weapons that (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) Vince Cable’s own review found are likely to have been used against the people of Gaza.”

“Unfortunately it would not have been the first time UK weapons were used by Israel. The public was rightly shocked by this summer’s bombardment. That is why the UK must announce an embargo on all arms sales to Israel and an end to military collaboration.”

Katy Clark, a Labour party lawmaker, also said, “It is now abundantly clear that not only did the UK refuse to condemn Israeli military action,” but also it actively allowed UK companies to arm the Israeli military throughout the latest war on the beleaguered enclave.

Last month, the British government ordered the new review of licenses after campaigners began proceedings in the High Court to challenge its decision not to suspend the 12 licenses after Downing Street insisted Israel had a “legitimate right to self-defense.”

In August, The Independent revealed that arms export licenses worth $70 million had been granted to 130 British defense manufacturers since 2010 to sell military equipment to the Tel Aviv regime.

These range from bulletproof garments to naval gun parts and armored vehicles.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | War Crimes, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia loses $140bn with sanctions and falling oil prices – Finance Minister

RT | November 24, 2014

Russia is losing around $40 billion a year due to Western sanctions, but they are not as critical to the economy as lower oil prices, which add $90-100 billion in losses, says Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

“We lose about $40 billion a year because of the political sanctions and around $90-100 billion a year due to the 30 percent reduction in oil prices,” RIA quotes Siluanov speaking Monday at the International Financial and Economic Forum.

Lower investment and foreign loans along with capital outflow, estimated at $130 billion this year, are the key components of the loss, Siluanov explained.

Siluanov believes the decline in oil prices has a more significant impact on the Russian economy than the international sanctions.

“If we talk about the consequences of geopolitics, of course, they are important for us,” he said. However, he added that “it is not as critical for the course, and even for the budget, as the prices of goods exported by us.”

Talking about the ruble’s depreciation, Siluanov said that fluctuating oil prices should serve as a principal indicator of the ruble’s exchange rate amid a period of high volatility.

“The price of oil has fallen by 30 percent since the beginning of the year. Incidentally, the ruble has weakened by the same 30 percent. When people ask me – listen, you’re the Minister of Finance, what’s the ruble rate going to be? It is impossible to answer because there are a lot of factors. I say, look at oil prices. The behavior of the ruble will depend on them,” said Siluanov.

The price of Brent crude, which is used to calculate the price for Russian Urals blend, has fallen by 30 percent to about $80 a barrel since the end of June; its lowest price for four years.

According to the International Energy Agency, the total supply of oil on the world market in October increased by 35 thousand barrels to 94.2 million (2.7 million barrels more than in October 2013). In the same period, the average daily volume of oil supplies by OPEC countries in the world market amounted to 30.6 million barrels.

OPEC countries are also adding to the oversupply as they’ve been exceeding their quota of 30 million barrels per day for the last six months.

According to IEA experts, the decline in oil demand from China, world’s second largest oil consumer, and rising oil production in the US will lead to a sharper decline in prices in early 2015.

On November 27, OPEC leaders will meet in Vienna to decide whether to shore up oil prices by cutting output.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

There to stay: US troops keep Poland, Baltic deployment for 2015

RT | November 24, 2014

A ‘temporary’ deployment of US troops in Poland and the Baltic states has been extended through 2015, a US commander in Europe said. NATO sells its presence as a deterrent to an ‘aggressive Russia’, with Moscow countering that it only escalates tension.

The alliance deployed several hundred US troops in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia earlier this year. The move was explained by a desire to give confidence to these NATO members after the political crisis in Ukraine and the secession of its region of Crimea to rejoin Russia. The alliance called it an annexation and said countries in the region feared that Moscow would militarily attack them.

Originally the troops were supposed to stay until the end of the year, but now NATO wants to keep them for at least 12 months more, said Lieutenant-General Frederick Ben Hodges, Commanding General of US Army Europe.

“We have planned rotations out through next year. Units are designated that will continue to do this,” Hodges told journalist in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

“There are going to be US Army forces here in Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia and Poland, for as long as is required to deter Russian aggression and to assure our allies,” he said as cited by Reuters.

A 1997 Russia-NATO agreement forbids the alliance from having troops permanently stationed in the Baltic States, so the deployment remains a temporary mission. However, it’s not immediately clear when, if ever, NATO would consider the perceived threat of a Russian aggression no longer valid and withdraw the troops.

Washington’s assurances to its eastern NATO partners were also delivered last week through diplomatic channels.

“When NATO and the US as part of NATO took new members into the alliance, this means that we are ready to participate in the defense of the security of these countries, and this means that we are ready to give our lives for the security of these countries,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland during a visit to Latvia.

Amid the Ukrainian crisis, Poland and the Baltic states have been among the most vocal critics of Russia. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite went as far as branding Russia ‘a terrorist state’ last week, prompting some Russian MPs to call for the severing of diplomatic ties with Vilnius.

Russia considers the build-up of NATO troops close to its borders provocative and dangerous. Moscow’s envoy to the alliance Aleksandr Grushko said NATO “is turning the Baltic region, which used to be militarily calm, into an area of military confrontation with Russia.”

The Russian military said it would respond to the emerging NATO threat from the Baltic with appropriate counter-moves.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment