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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Today’s Flickr Photo

On Fort Lauderdale beach in Florida. Flickr photo by ticktockdoc.

If you read one thing today . . .

Politico’s David Rogers sat down with outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and talked about the highlights of her term — passing health care legislation and financial reform.

“We came here to do a job, and we did the job. … Those two issues, Wall Street reform and health care, were two that changed the leverage for the American people. Whether you were a consumer or a patient, the leverage is now with you. And that, for me, is why I am a Democrat: to have the leverage to be with the average person.”

There’s some denial to be sure. In the course of an interview, Pelosi repeatedly spoke of her ranking Democrats as committee “chairmen” when they won’t be in the new Congress. Four years of restrictive rules on House debate seem a lost memory: “I’m thoroughly agnostic. If Republicans have a good idea, let’s go with it.”

And by her reckoning, little or nothing about November’s losses can be attributed to the enactment of health care reform.

“If we had never passed the bill, we would still have had these losses. We were told a year ago: ‘If you’re anywhere near 10 percent unemployment, there’s no chance you can hold the majority.’”

“Nothing compares — in anything I have ever done — with passing the health care bill.”

Overheard:

Someone should really do something about those damn environmentalists and their need to protect us from companies that want to pollute our air and water.  Have no fear, Rep.-elect Bill Flores (R-Texas) is here and he’s ready to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. Think Progress has a snippet from his appearance on something called the Tea Party Internet Radio:

I can tell you the House as a whole, the Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work — particularly the way it’s abusing Texas. And I think that Texas can count on getting some relief from the EPA within the first few months of this Congress because they really have gone overboard.

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Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, joined Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez this morning to talk about our new report that shows the pharmaceutical industry has overtaken the defense industry in the amount of fines paid for violating the Fair Claims Act.

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Defense contractors,who may never live down their reputation of overcharging the government (remember the $640 toilet seats?), can now offer up that there is a worse industry when it comes to cheating the government. A Public Citizen report released today found that the pharmaceutical industry has now become the biggest defrauder of the federal government.

The study found that pharmaceutical cases accounted for at least 25 percent of all federal Federal Claims Act violation payouts over the past decade, compared with 11 percent by the defense industry.

The fraud results were a key finding from a Public Citizen analysis of all major pharmaceutical company civil and criminal settlements on the state and federal levels since 1991 and found that the frequency with which the pharmaceutical industry has allegedly violated federal and state laws has increased at an alarming rate. Of the 165 pharmaceutical industry settlements comprising $19.8 billion in penalties during the past 20 years, 73 percent of the settlements (121) and 75 percent of the dollar amount ($14.8 billion) have occurred during the past five years.

Many of the infractions, and the single largest category of financial penalties, stemmed from the practice of off-label promotion of pharmaceuticals – the illegal promotion of a drug for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Off-label promotion can be prosecuted as a criminal offense because of the potential for serious adverse health consequences to patients from such promotional activities. Another major category of federal financial penalties was purposely overcharging for drugs under various federal programs, which constitutes a violation of the FCA.

Here’s the report: (more…)

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The Department of Justice’s filing of a civil lawsuit today against BP for the deaths of 11 workers and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history is a needed step in holding the corporation accountable.

However, Public Citizen remains concerned that the escrow fund is inadequate to cover BP’s obligations – a concern that has been confirmed over the past few months. It’s clear that the $20 billion set aside won’t begin to cover the cost of damage. More money must be found for the victims of the disaster.

In addition, the civil litigation stemming from the disaster remains focused on BP Exploration and Production, a remote subsidiary of the parent company, thereby enabling BP to avoid responsibility.

And Congress has yet to pass the comprehensive reforms needed to help ensure this kind of disaster can’t happen again. It is astounding that after all that happened – 11 deaths, 4.9 milllion gallons of oil spilled, beaches in five states sullied and closed, fishing in large swaths of the Gulf of Mexico closed, countless livelihoods ruined – Congress couldn’t get its act together and ensure that future oil drilling is safer for workers and the environment.

Tyson Slocum is the director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

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If you read one thing today

A Virginia judge’s ruling against the Obama health care plan shows that the constitutional challenges to the law “can no longer be dismissed as frivolous,” writes the NYT’s Kevin Sack. Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond came down strongly against the health care reform, just as two other judges in other states had upheld it.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to resolve the conflict, and many court watchers already expect a characteristically close decision. But what is now clear is that the challenges from dozens of states to the law’s constitutionality can no longer be dismissed as frivolous, as they were earlier this year by some scholars and Democratic partisans.

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

Overheard

And this from Politico on how President Obama feels he’s perceived by the American public:

“I don’t think there’s a sense that I’ve been successful,” Obama told Colorado’s 9NEWS. “I think people still feel that over all, Washington is about a lot of politics and special interests and big money, but that ordinary people’s voices too often aren’t represented, and so my hope is that we’re going to continue rebuilding a trust in government.”

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A meager $293? That’s the average weekly unemployment check collected by the 15 million Americans looking for work right now. Or $293 million? That’s what outside groups funded primarily by corporations and the very wealthy spent on the 2010 elections.

$75 billion? That’s the windfall coming to people who are already rich if the Bush tax cuts are extended. $145 billion? That’s the record amount Wall Street is paying in bonuses this year.

Trillions? In the wake of the financial crisis, that’s what We, the People provided in bailouts, loans and other supports to save Big Business from its own greed and irresponsibility.

At Public Citizen, our mission is to counteract the policies that cause numbers like these. We can defeat corporate power. But we need your help.

Please contribute $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can today.

Contribute $100 or more and get a free DVD from a selection of popular progressive films!

Corporations just elected their dream Congress. It’s going to take all of us doing everything we can, together, to prevent Congress from rolling back our health and safety protections and showering gifts on their corporate patrons—and to win new public interest initiatives.

Public Citizen will be leading the fight against corporate power in the new Congress, a Congress that will be less critical of corporate America’s agenda than any we’ve ever seen.

The critical first step is making sure we can hit the ground running when Congress returns to Washington in January. That’s why I’m writing now to ask for your help to raise $150,000 by the end of 2010.

Your contribution of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can afford will be put to work immediately building on our important achievements in 2010 and growing our movement against runaway corporate power.

For four decades, Public Citizen members have stood together to face down corporate power.

I need you to stand with me today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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Today’s Flickr photo

Elizabeth Edwards. Flickr photo by Tony the Misfit.

If you read one thing today . . .

A lot of well-deserved tributes today to Elizabeth Edwards, who passed away Tuesday after a six-year battle with cancer. The WaPo’s Patricia Sullivan writes:

Describing herself as the “anti-Barbie” for her real-woman figure and her serious intellect, Ms. Edwards’s public stature was greatly defined by how she coped with cancer. She talked about it, wrote about it and managed the conversation in much the same way she managed her husband’s political career.

She first learned that she had breast cancer just after Election Day 2004, when her husband’s running mate, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), lost the presidential race to incumbent George W. Bush.

“The same day our campaign ended at Faneuil Hall, we saw Elizabeth head off to Mass General to confront this terrible disease,” Kerry said Tuesday. “America came to know her in a different and even more personal way, as she fought back with enormous grace and dignity. She became an inspiration to so many.”

Overheard:

President Obama praised Edwards’ tenacity as an advocate for improving health care and fighting poverty. From  her hometown Raleigh News and Observer:

“In her life,” Obama said, “Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain. Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will remain a source of inspiration.”

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