Sunday, June 10, 2007

Clearing Off My Desk--Again

My periodic effort to keep my head above water. It’s been two and a half months and time now to clear off my desk again with brief acknowledgments and commentary on the stuff that was important to me and got run down by more immediate headlines.

My periodic effort to keep my head above water. It’s been two and a half months and time now to clear off my desk again with brief acknowledgments and commentary on the stuff that was important to me and got run down by more immediate headlines.
The Clinic is Open;
Companies are proving that when it comes to health care, you can re-teach old dogs an old trick. On-site health clinics in the workplace, which had been disappearing since their peak in the 1970s, are staging a comeback. Corporations are waking up to the fact that healthy employees are more productive, while sick workers are a drag on the bottom line. And they're trying to do something about it. (NYTimes
The further federal government falls behind in providing health care, the more likely we will find creative small fixes among employers. I love it. This isn’t going to insure the 45 million uninsured in America, but it may produce a few usable templates to micro-manage what the feds have failed to macro-manage.
Return of the Drug Company Payoffs;
Two excessively lenient court decisions have allowed the manufacturers of brand-name drugs to resume the underhanded practice of paying generic competitors to keep their drugs off the market. It is a costly legal loophole that needs to be plugged by Congressional legislation.

The problem arises when a generic manufacturer tries to take its drug to market before the patent on a brand-name drug has expired by arguing that its product does not infringe upon the patent or that the patent is invalid. Huge sums of money are at stake, especially with blockbuster drugs whose annual sales can exceed a billion dollars.
Rather than risk it all, a brand-name manufacturer may choose to pay its generic competitor substantial compensation to drop its challenge and delay marketing its drug. Both companies make out handsomely. The big losers are consumers and the public and private insurers that must continue to pay monopoly prices for the brand-name drugs. (NYTimes)
Not to put too harsh a spotlight on it, but we really don’t need a War on Drugs that supports both drug lords and disintegrating nations on the marijuana highway . . . we need to battle the pharmaceutical companies down to their knees. Big Pharma, the quiet rapists of health care.
Putin’s Moment to Seize;
MOSCOW -- Vladimir Putin made headlines last weekend when he blasted the Bush administration for its "almost uncontained hyper-use of force" that has created a world where "no one feels safe." If he had been a Democratic presidential candidate, it would have been a standard stump speech. But coming from a Russian president, his remarks had pundits ruminating about a new Cold War.

I was in the audience in Munich when Putin made his speech, and the tone seemed to me more one of resentment than belligerence. He was proud, prickly, defiant -- a leader with all the Russian chips on his shoulder. You could hear his inner voice: We let you dismantle the Berlin Wall. We folded the Warsaw Pact. We dissolved the Soviet Union -- all on your promises that you wouldn't take advantage of our weakness. And what did we get? Nothing! You surrounded us with NATO weapons. (David Ignatius column)
The sidebar to this is that, after Clinton left office the new administration abandoned diplomacy for a Bush Doctrine that was built on abrogating treaties and exercising preemptive war. Six years later, the jury has come back with every single initiative made by his administration a failure. Not small failure, huge failure, debilitating failure based on the secrecy and mind-boggling incompetence of a paranoid administration. A world where no one feels safe. Some legacy.
Voice Of America Says Goodbye to Uzbek, Other Tongues;
Back home on a farm in Uzbekistan, Navbahor Imamova's mother and siblings crowd around their cranky, Soviet-made radio and tune in daily to Voice of America broadcasts in Uzbek. Though frequently scrambled by Chinese martial music, the VOA journalist said, the broadcast is her family's chief source of credible, uncensored foreign news in the authoritarian Central Asian country.

But that source is due to be silenced. For the second year running, the board overseeing the government-funded VOA has plans to wipe out news in several languages, including its flagship English-language "News Now" programming.

"This is big," said Imamova, one of seven people who put together the Uzbek service from Washington. "It's not a secret that Uzbekistan is one of the most politically oppressed countries. There's not a single outlet that can call itself independent there."

The Broadcast Board of Governors, which oversees VOA and six other government-funded international broadcasters, said this month that the cutbacks are being made in an effort to shift resources to new technology and "critical audiences" in the Middle East, North Korea, Somalia and Cuba.

"The current budget climate requires that we utilize our funds to effectively adapt to changing viewing habits and new technology, and respond to the nation's most immediate and vital national security challenges," the board said in a statement. (Washington Post)
VOA and Radio Free Europe have consistently degraded their outreach to the countriesthat remain in their ever-smaller portfolio, substituting American rock and rap music for news. It’s cheaper, and who the hell even knows where Uzbekistan is?
The Governors are no doubt twenty-something Bush appointees who have never been abroad. This deplorable decision from a worldwide radio network that broadcast the American credo in those days when we actually had a credo. Total funds they abuse in the performance of their mandate--$668 million—equal to about 4 days in the Iraq  war.
And we wonder why we’re losing the hearts and minds of the world.
Early Primary Rush Upends ’08 Campaign Plans;
WASHINGTON, March 9 — The trickle of states moving their 2008 presidential primaries to Feb. 5 has turned into an avalanche, forcing all the presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating strategy — where to compete, how to spend money, when to start television advertising — as they gird for the prospect of a 20-state national primary day. (Adam Nagourney)
Every two weeks we’re treated to yet another Republican or Democratic ‘debate,’ with a dozen serious and absurd candidates vying to answer loaded questions for no other purpose than to tease a television audience. Tim Russert actually takes this stuff seriously and thinks we will as well.
Like Paris Hilton’s jail term, there is no there there—metaphoric helicopters circling a non-event. Like watching the Indianapolis 500, this election cycle has become a marathon and the most boring race in the world. Those who watch, watch only to see a wreck. 513 days to the elections—five hundred thirteen days that those candidates who are in the Congress will not be in the Congress.
Hoping to be elected to a job by not showing up for the job they were elected to do—only in America.
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