Saudi Arabia: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed at consulate in Turkey

Saudi Arabia: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed at consulate in Turkey --Eighteen Saudis have been arrested so far in connection with the journalist's death | 19 Oct 2018 | Saudi Arabia has confirmed Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul after a fight broke out. Mr Khashoggi, 59, went missing on 2 October during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers and pressure had been growing on Saudi Arabia to explain his disappearance. Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor was quoted on state television as saying that a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

Categories: News

Nellie Ohr invokes spousal privilege, avoiding questions on Steele dossier

Nellie Ohr invokes spousal privilege, avoiding questions on Steele dossier | 19 Oct 2018 | Nellie Ohr, the wife of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, claimed spousal privilege on Friday in order to avoid certain questions from House Republicans about the controversial anti-Trump dossier. While describing her as cooperative in the voluntary appearance, Republican and Democratic lawmakers told Fox News that Ohr took spousal privilege, which Republicans said did not allow them to get to core questions about the salacious dossier, and how it got into the hands of the FBI.
Nellie Ohr worked for Fusion GPS, the research group that commissioned the dossier.

Categories: News

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Sues Ecuador for 'Violating His Fundamental Rights'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 21:34

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Sues Ecuador for 'Violating His Fundamental Rights' | 19 Oct 2018 | WikiLeaks announced Friday that Julian Assange had taken legal action against the government of Ecuador for "violating his fundamental rights and freedoms." The whistleblowing website said its general counsel, Baltasar Garzon, arrived in Ecuador on Thursday to officially launch the case. In March, Ecuadorean officials cut off his internet connection and phone lines. WikiLeaks said Assange was not permitted access to journalists and human rights organizations...A statement said that Assange's legal representatives would challenge a "special protocol" put in place by Ecuador that required his lawyers to hand over personal details, including social media information and their devices' serial numbers, before they were granted access to see him.

Categories: News

Evidence suggests crown prince ordered Khashoggi killing, says ex-MI6 chief

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 21:15

Evidence suggests crown prince ordered Khashoggi killing, says ex-MI6 chief | 19 Oct 2018 | A former head of MI6 has said all the evidence suggests Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that the theory that rogue elements in the Saudi military were responsible was "blatant fiction". Sir John Sawers told the BBC his assessment was based on conversations with senior Whitehall sources and his knowledge of the Turkish intelligence services. Sawers, who was head of the British secret intelligence service until 2014, also claimed that the crown prince would only have acted if he believed he had licence from the White House to behave as he wished.

Categories: News

Paul Manafort to be sentenced Feb. 8 in federal court in Virginia

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 21:09

Paul Manafort to be sentenced Feb. 8 in federal court in Virginia --Manafort appeared in court in a wheelchair Friday | 19 Oct 2018 | Paul Manafort, President Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is set to be sentenced Feb. 8 in Alexandria federal court on eight bank and tax fraud crimes. Judge T.S. Ellis III set the sentencing date during a Friday afternoon hearing. The judge also dismissed 10 counts on which a jury deadlocked at Manafort's summertime trial. Legal experts said Manafort, 69, is likely to face about seven to 10 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. He also faces sentencing in a related case in the District, also brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Categories: News

CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta sends private message to former Melania Trump aide: 'F--- you'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 20:15

CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta sends private message to former Melania Trump aide: 'F--- you' | 19 Oct 2018 | CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta sent a direct message to a Twitter follower that read "F--- you" after being mocked on the social media platform on Thursday night. Direct messages can only be seen by the sender and receiver, but Justin Caporale, a former aide to first lady Melania Trump, made Acosta's message public by tweeting it to his own followers. The response came after Caporale jokingly responded to an Acosta tweet reporting on a rally in Montana featuring President Trump on Thursday...After reports began to surface of Acosta's message to Caporale, the reporter publicly apologized while stating he thought Caporale was "an old friend from the campaign days."

Categories: News

The Trump Administration’s 'Dishonest' Attack on Fuel-economy Standards

deSmog - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 20:04
Read time: 7 minsGas pump handle on the ground

By John R. Platt, The Revelator. Originally posted on The Revelator.

A former EPA engineer calls it “the most spectacular regulatory flip-flop in history.” Other experts say the resulting emissions increase would bode ill for the planet.

The Trump administration’s plan to freeze fuel-economy standards is “the most spectacular regulatory flip-flop in history,” says a retired EPA engineer who helped to develop the new standards under the Obama administration.

“These standards weren’t going to be the ultimate solution for solving the climate problem, but they were a very, very important first step,” says Jeff Alson, who retired this past April after a 40-year career at the EPA. “That’s why this delay is so risky to us.”

Tags: Trump Administrationauto alliancealliance of automobile manufacturersUS Environmental Protection Agencycafe standards
Categories: News

Breaking free from the Rat Race. How a Couple Found Happiness Living Full-time out on the Road

Off Grid Survival - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:55

John Hebard and his wife realized they were stuck in an endless rat race, working jobs that were really only doing one thing for them, helping them pay the rent. They realized this was no way to live, so they sold everything, bought a truck and a 41-foot fifth wheel trailer, and headed out for life on the road. [...]

The post Breaking free from the Rat Race. How a Couple Found Happiness Living Full-time out on the Road appeared first on Off Grid Survival - Wilderness & Urban Survival Skills.

Categories: News

Japan plans to dump 1.09 million tons of Fukushima's radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:55

Japan plans to dump 1.09 million tons of Fukushima's radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean | 16 Oct 2018 | Water that the Japanese government is planning to release into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant contains radioactive material well above legally permitted levels, according to the plant's operator and documents seen by The Telegraph...Its plan to release the approximately 1.09 million tons of water currently stored in 900 tanks into the Pacific has triggered a fierce backlash from local residents and environmental organisations, as well as groups in South Korea and Taiwan fearful that radioactivity from the second-worst nuclear disaster in history might wash up on their shores. Tokyo Electric Power Co., (Tepco) which runs the plant, has until recently claimed that the only significant contaminant in the water is safe levels [?] of tritium, which can be found in small amounts in drinking water, but is dangerous in large amounts...Documents provided to The Telegraph by a source in the Japanese government suggest, however, that the ALPS [Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) operated by the nuclear arm of Hitachi Ltd.] has consistently failed to eliminate a cocktail of other radioactive elements, including iodine, ruthenium, rhodium, antimony, tellurium, cobalt and strontium.

Categories: News

Four Japan firms used foreign trainees to clean up at Fukushima plant after nuclear meltdowns - final report

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:33

Four Japan firms used foreign trainees to clean up at Fukushima plant after nuclear meltdowns - final report | 19 Oct 2018 | The government concluded Friday that four companies had used foreign trainees to perform work cleaning radioactive contamination after the March 2011 tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The headline figure from the final report on a survey conducted by the Justice Ministry, the labor ministry and the Organization for Technical Intern Training was the same as that in the interim report, released in mid-July, which reflected results of surveying fewer than 200 companies with foreign trainee programs. Officials visited a total of 1,018 such companies with facilities in eight prefectures in eastern and northeastern Japan, interviewing technical interns there to confirm the situation, after the issue came to light in March.

Categories: News

Treasury employee charged with leaking financial info on Trump team was arrested with flash drive in hand, prosecutors say

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:28

Treasury employee charged with leaking financial info on Trump team was arrested with flash drive in hand, prosecutors say | 18 Oct 2018 | The top Treasury Department employee who was charged Wednesday with leaking confidential financial documents pertaining to former Trump officials was apprehended the previous evening with a flash drive containing the allegedly pilfered information in her hand, prosecutors said in court papers. The dramatic arrest late Tuesday came on the heels of other high-profile, leak-related prosecutions under the Trump administration, which has pledged to go on the offensive against leakers that the president has called "traitors and cowards." Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, a senior official at the department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), is accused of illegally giving a reporter bank reports documenting several suspicious financial transactions, known as Suspicious Activity Reports ("SARs"), from October 2017 to the present.

Categories: News

In Europe, food delivery coops are fighting back against the gig economy

Grassroots Economic Survival - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:34
Link: In Europe, food delivery coops are fighting back against the gig economy

On 25 and 26 October 2018, digital platform food delivery workers from all over Europe will come together for the first time in Brussels, Belgium. Unlike the usual luxury conferences held in the European capital, attendees will have to crowdfund their own tickets. But that won’t stop the 100 or so couriers from meeting up to share their “methods of struggle and define a common strategy for better working conditions” in a bid to combat the “unacceptable” labour practices of online food delivery platforms such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Foodora.

The deliberate misclassification of these platform workers as ‘self-employed’ denies them fundamental workers’ rights, particularly in relation to a minimum wage, working time regulations, collective bargaining rights, insurance and health and safety protections (the latter two points are particularly crucial to food delivery workers who spend most of their working day on motorcycles or bikes). As a result, there have recently been a wave of protests in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain condemning the exploitative nature of this work.

But as well as protesting, deliver workers have also been organising, with a number of bike courier cooperatives recently being established by couriers who once worked for these digital juggernauts. Ex-platform workers in Belgium, France and Spain are turning to democratic business models as a reaction to the precarity of the ‘gig economy’, and in a bid to shape decent work for themselves.

Read the rest at Equal Times


Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

How Equal Exchange Faced Down An Ethical Dilemma

Grassroots Economic Survival - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:33
Link: How A Fair-Trade Company Faced Down An Ethical Dilemma

[I]n 2000, the [Equal Exchange] founders faced a major dilemma when an outside investor offered to pump $250,000 into the company. In exchange the investor wanted a guaranteed seat on the board and the creation of a special class of stock specifically for the investor that would pay out a 10% guaranteed cumulative annual dividend...

The consensus among the board members and company leadership was that Equal Exchange would be giving up too much. The cumulative dividend, they worried, would have been a difficult promise to make for a business whose wares were largely agricultural commodities with fluctuating prices. Not to mention that creating a higher class of owner didn’t jibe with the organization’s ethos of equal ownership. “We did not want to do anything that would relinquish worker control,”

Read the rest at Forbes


Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Trump administration supports Mexico, UN plan to deal with caravan of migrants

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 18:27

Trump administration supports Mexico, UN plan to deal with caravan of migrants | 19 Oct 2018 | The Trump administration on Thursday night welcomed a Mexican government plan to work with the United Nations refugee agency to deal with a controversial caravan of mostly Honduran migrants -- fleeing poverty and violence -- before they can make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. The caravan of migrants, who number anywhere between 1,500 to 4,000 people, has angered President Donald Trump. This week, he threatened the governments in Central America and Mexico if they failed to deal with the situation.

Categories: News

The Environment Is on the November Ballot — Here’s What’s at Stake and Where

Truth Out - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 14:39

Environmental issues such as polluted drinking water in Michigan and harmful algal blooms in Florida could influence which candidates voters will support in this November’s midterm election, says Holly Burke, communications coordinator of the League of Conservation Voters.

“Water issues really resonate with voters in states where clean water has been a dramatic problem,” says Burke.

These issues may affect certain political candidates, but in some states ballot measures will be a more direct way for residents to weigh in on environmental issues. For those hoping that statewide initiatives will help to combat environmental rollbacks at the federal level by the Trump administration, this election will be a crucial test.

The statewide ballot initiative with the greatest environmental significance will be decided by voters in Washington state, which could signal a shift in climate change strategy.

Two other western states will take on clean energy standards, and water issues will appear on the ballots in three states, including a confusing measure in Florida that pairs offshore drilling with an unrelated measure on vaping.

“We’re seeing a lot of support for states to take the lead in the light of federal attacks on clean energy and climate,” says Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters.

A Fee on Polluters

The biggest test will be nearly 3,000 miles from Washington, DC, in Washington state. If voters approve Initiative 1631, Washington could significantly move the needle on climate action by being the first state to enact a fee on carbon emissions.

Carbon pricing bills have been proposed by a number of state legislatures, including Washington’s, but none have yet to pass in the United States. Now Washington voters will decide for themselves on the issue and if Initiative 1631 wins, it could trigger efforts in other states.

“We’re super excited and see it as a potential model nationwide,” says Holland.

The measure would put a fee of $15 per metric ton on carbon emissions, beginning in 2020. This fee would increase $2 every year until the state hits its 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goals and is on track to meet its 2050 goals.

There’s a lot at stake, not just for Washington, but the whole country.

“If it passes, Washington will take its place as a part of a growing West Coast climate vanguard, alongside California and Oregon, representing close to 20 percent of the US economy,” wrote David Roberts at Vox. “If it fails, it will not only be a crushing blow to an already battered state climate community, but it will cast doubt on the larger states-will-save-us narrative, which is just about the only narrative US climate hawks have left.”

Just two years ago Washington voters rejected a similar measure, Initiative 732, which would have created a carbon tax. The measures, however, aren’t identical. A carbon tax would have directed revenue generated by the program to the state’s general fund. This year’s Initiative 1631 instead uses a fee, which directs the money to specific purposes.

Money raised by Initiative 1631 would be divvied up, with 70 percent directed toward supporting clean air and clean energy investments; 25 percent invested in clean water and healthy forests; and the remaining 5 percent targeted for helping communities deal with the impacts of climate change.

The initiative was put on the ballot by a coalition of community, environment, labor and climate-justice groups.

The opposition, led by Western States Petroleum Association, has raised $21 million to defeat the measure, but Holland says he still likes the initiative’s chances of success. “Climate change is on the ballot and we think there is broad public support for holding polluters accountable,” he says.

Clean Water

Montana and Alaska voters will weigh in on water protections, but of two very different sorts.

In Montana Initiative 186 seeks to protect the state’s waters from pollution from new hardrock mines. It would give the state’s Department of Environment Quality the ability to deny permits for a new mine if the project’s plan doesn’t prove that it will prevent water pollution “without the need for perpetual treatment.”

The biggest financial supporter of the initiative is the fish-friendly nonprofit Trout Unlimited. Anglers have good reason for hoping to keep the state’s rivers clean and its fish populations healthy. The measure is opposed by mining interests led by the Montana Mining Association, which is concerned it would result in job losses and other economic damages.

The state is still dealing with the toxic legacy of earlier hardrock mines that have resulted in one of the country’s largest Superfund sites. And mining issues are still front and center. Montana’s Smith River was highlighted earlier in the year by the nonprofit American Rivers in its annual survey of the country’s “most endangered rivers” due to a proposed copper mine currently vying for permits.

Further north, Alaska’s Measure 1 would set up stricter permitting regulations and new requirements for projects that could impact aquatic habitat for salmon, steelhead and other anadromous fish, which migrate between rivers and the ocean.

“It enhances the public process and public participation in decisions around large-scale development that would impact salmon habitat, which is a core part of Alaska’s identity,” says Holland. The fish have not just environmental, but economic and cultural importance in the state.

Groups like the Alaska Center, Wild Salmon Center and Alaska Conservation Foundation are supporting the measure. It’s opposed by numerous oil drilling and mining companies, including BP Exploration Inc. Alaska, ConocoPhillips and Hecla Mining Company.

Drilling Off Florida

One of the most confounding ballot initiatives will appear before Florida voters.

When voters get to Amendment 9 on this year’s ballot, they will decide whether to ban offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. At the same time, they will vote on whether to allow vaping (the use of “vapor-generating electronic devices”) in indoor workplaces.

This odd confluence stems from the state’s strange initiative process. Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission only convenes every 20 years to decide which constitutional amendments to place on the ballot. In some cases they are grouped together.

The dual measure makes for odd bedfellows (and potentially voter confusion). A yes vote means a voter is in favor of banning both offshore drilling and indoor vaping. A no vote would be in support of drilling and vaping. If you’re in favor of one, but not the other, you’re out of luck.

Supporters of the measure are largely environmental groups opposed to drilling, while opponents are a mix of petroleum companies and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.

Vaping aside, offshore drilling is gearing up to be a key issue. The Trump administration has worked to reverse offshore drilling moratoriums and safety regulations issued by Obama administration, and has sought to open most of the country’s waters to drilling.

Clean Energy Standards

Washington won’t be the only state voting on issues related to energy and climate.

Nevada’s Question 6 and Arizona’s Proposition 127 are both measures that would increase the state’s renewable portfolio standards, which is the minimum amount of electric power that utilities need to get from renewable sources. Both would bump the standards to 50 percent by 2030.

Nevada’s current renewable portfolio standard is 25 percent by 2025, but the state is already almost there. In 2016 it had 21.6 percent of electricity generation coming from geothermal, solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric power sources. Of that mix of renewables, 44 percent came from geothermal. But solar could be huge for the state. The US Energy Information Administration said Nevada has the “nation’s best solar power potential.”

Question 6 could force Nevada to realize some of that potential. If it passes, the renewable portfolio standard would gradually step up each year to 50 percent by 2030.

Last year the Nevada legislature passed a bill (Assembly Bill 206) that would have upped the renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

In Arizona the current renewable portfolio standard is a more modest 15 percent by 2025. In 2016 renewables provided 12 percent of net generation in the state, about half of which came from hydroelectric power at Glen Canyon and Hoover dams on the Colorado River. Solar made up only 5 percent.

“Arizonans are going to actually vote on having the ability to tap a resource that they have an abundance of, which is the sun,” says Art Terrazas, who leads Vote Solar Action Fund’s efforts in Arizona.

The state is second only to Nevada in solar potential.

Both ballot initiatives are being bankrolled by billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action. The group has raised $2 million for the effort in Nevada, where opposition has been slim. However, in Arizona, NextGen has raised $8 million and its opposition, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, which owns the state’s largest utility, has raised $11 million.

“There has been a history of utilities in the state wanting to maintain the status quo,” says Terrazas.

Among other western states, California and Hawaii currently lead clean energy efforts. Both have committed to get 100 percent of electricity generation from renewables by 2045. Oregon’s standard is 50 percent by 2040 for larger utilities, and Washington’s is 15 percent by 2020. Neither Utah nor Idaho has renewable portfolio standards.

Solar energy is an issue that draws big public support and is beginning to bridge the divide between red and blue voters, says Holland.

“Voters over and over are seeing that clean energy is increasingly cheaper than sources of energy like coal and want to make sure that their states aren’t left behind,” he says.

The post The Environment Is on the November Ballot — Here’s What’s at Stake and Where appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Do You Live in a Chemical Disaster Danger Zone?

Truth Out - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 14:09

A new online map shows that 124 million Americans live, work, and play under constant threat from chemical facilities — which, at any time, could release toxic gas or explode. The map, released by the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, Coming Clean, and the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, found that nearly 40 percent of Americans live within just three miles of a facility that stores or manufactures large amounts of toxic gas or explosive materials — like large refineries, chemical manufacturing plants, and even water treatment facilities, which handle large volumes of chlorine gas. In the event of an accident, some of these facilities could harm people as far as 25 miles away.

The danger of these facilities is real. In 2013, in West, TX, for example, a small fire inside a fertilizer plant resulted in a catastrophic explosion — destroying over 150 buildings, killing 15 people and injuring another 160. The event changed the town forever — and it could have been much worse. West Middle School was one of the dozens of buildings leveled by the explosion. Fortunately, school was not in session at the time — but if students had been at their desks the result may have been unspeakable.

Today, there are more than 12,000 similarly dangerous facilities scattered across the nation. Roughly 45 percent of all schools in the US are located within three miles of these locations. That means 24 million children attend schools situated within a chemical disaster-danger zone. Some 11,000 hospitals and nursing homes are also within three miles of hazardous chemical facilities and, when disaster strikes, these facilities will be extremely difficult to evacuate.

Sadly, accidents at these facilities are fairly routine. The EPA reports that, over the last five years, these chemical plants have had over 1,200 accidents. Roughly 16,000 people were injured in these accidents, and 160,000 people were forced to evacuate.

The difference between a small-scale accident and a catastrophic disaster can be small, and chemical plants are constantly flirting with danger on a scale that’s difficult to imagine. In 2015, for example, a refinery in Torrance, just outside Los Angeles, CA, suffered a minor explosion that sent a piece of debris towards a massive container of volatile hydrofluoric acid. Had the container been struck, thousands of people in the surrounding neighborhoods may have been injured or killed.

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In addition to the vast scale of the risk posed by these facilities, a new report accompanying the map also provides insight into who lives within these three-mile ‘fenceline’ zones near dangerous chemical facilities. By looking at nine separate communities, researchers found a clear picture of environmental injustice. Communities near chemical facilities are disproportionately Black and Latinx. They suffer far greater poverty rates than the average neighborhood in the US. On top of the risk of chemical disaster, these communities also suffer higher-than-average rates of cancer and respiratory disease linked to air pollution.

Despite all this evidence of enormous risk for those living near chemical facilities — and the disproportionate way in which this risk is distributed — the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made several attempts to block or delay improved safety rules for these hazardous chemical facilities, improvements that were sought by the Obama Administration. Chemical facility safety rules are required by the Clean Air Act, and these updates are designed to strengthen disaster-prevention rules, improve emergency preparedness, and give communities the right to know about chemical plants that threaten their lives. They were scheduled to take effect in March, 2017 but, at the behest of industry, the EPA shelved them arbitrarily. In response, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance joined other plaintiffs — including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club, and Coming Clean, among others — and successfully sued to force these safety improvements into effect.

While these bolstered safety measures stand for the moment, Trump’s EPA, under Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, is now pursuing an effort to roll them back outright. It’s essential that the disaster-prevention measures remain intact to reduce risks in fenceline communities across the country.

Find out if you live in a ‘Fenceline’ zone around a chemical facility, read the full report, and learn more about the work of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, Coming Clean, and the Campaign for Healthier Solutions.

The post Do You Live in a Chemical Disaster Danger Zone? appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Critics Say Trump’s New Rule of Drug-Pricing Disclosure Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Truth Out - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:58

The Trump administration proposed Monday that drugmakers reveal the list prices of their medicines in television ads, effectively setting the stage for months or possibly years of battle with the powerful industry.

The proposal, released late in the day, would require pharmaceutical companies to include in its television advertising the price of any drug that cost more than $35 a month. The price should be listed at the end of the advertisement in “a legible manner,” the rule states. It goes on to explain that the price should be presented against a contrasting background in a way that is easy to read.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, nodding to an industry proposal announced earlier in the day, said voluntary moves are not enough.

“We will not wait for an industry with so many conflicting and perverse incentives to reform itself,” Azar told the audience gathered at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC.

If approved, the proposed rule has no government enforcement mechanism that would force the companies to comply. Rather, it depends on shaming, noting that federal regulators would post a list of companies violating the rule. It would depend on the private sector to police itself with litigation.

“It is noteworthy that the government is unwilling to take enforcement action,” said Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University at St. Louis and expert in drug-pricing regulation. The rule might never be finalized, she added.

“It will take many months if not years for this regulation to be implemented and free from the cloud of litigation that will follow it. And the administration knows that,” Sachs said.

Earlier Monday, the pharmaceutical industry trade group went on the offensive in anticipation of Azar’s speech by announcing its own plans.

“Putting list prices in isolation in the advertisements themselves would be misleading or confusing,” argued Stephen Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the major trade group for branded drugs.

Instead, Ubl, whose trade group represents the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers on the globe, promised that pharma companies would direct consumers to websites that include a drug’s list price and estimates of what people can expect to pay, which can vary widely depending on coverage.

Drug manufacturers would voluntarily opt in to this disclosure starting next spring, he said. Ubl remained strongly critical of the White House proposal.

The Trump administration’s proposal comes weeks before midterm elections in which health care is a top voter concern. Polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests most voters support forcing price transparency in drug advertisements. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

The White House’s plan, which was teased in President Donald Trump’s blueprint this summer, has won praise from insurance groups and the American Medical Association.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also proposed the plan in the Senate last month, but it failed to garner enough support.

Experts pointed out a host of complications, suggesting that neither PhRMA’s approach nor the White House’s would fully explain to consumers what they’ll actually pay for drugs.

On Monday, Grassley applauded Azar’s announcement, saying it was a “common-sense way to lower prices.”

But Dale Cooke, a consultant who works with drug companies trying to meet Food and Drug Administration requirements for advertising, warned there is no reason to believe posting prices would help drive down prices.

“No one has ever explained to me why this would work,” Cooke said. “What’s the mechanism by which this results in lower drug prices?”

Even more, it could be confusing for patients, Cooke said. The proposed rule seemed to acknowledge this danger, he said, noting, “On the other hand, consumers, intimidated and confused by high list prices, may be deterred from contacting their physicians about drugs or medical conditions.”

A drug’s list price — the metric HHS wants to emphasize — often bears little relationship to what a patient pays at the drugstore. Insurance plans and pharmacy benefit managers often negotiate cheaper prices than the list price. Some patients qualify for other discounts. And often patients pay only what their copay or deductible requires at any given time.

Other consumers could be stuck paying the full cost, depending on how their insurance plan is designed, or if they don’t have coverage.

“The system is very opaque, very complicated and, importantly, there isn’t a huge relationship between list prices for drugs and what patients will expect to pay out-of-pocket,” said Adrienne Faerber, a lecturer at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice who researches drug marketing.

But the industry’s strategy, she said, also appeared lacking.

Under PhRMA’s plan, drugmakers would not standardize how they display their information. Where consumers go could vary on Pfizer’s website versus Merck’s to learn about the list price and the range of out-of-pocket costs. That, Faerber argued, would make it difficult for people to unearth relevant information.

PhRMA also announced it is partnering with patient advocacy groups to create a “patient affordability platform,” which could help patients search for costs and insurance coverage options.

Ubl cast their proposal as a way to address more effectively the government and public concern about drug price transparency.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers rely heavily on national advertising and together represent the third-highest spender in national television advertising, according to Michael Leszega, a manager of market intelligence at consulting firm Magna.

At certain times of day, pharmaceutical ads make up more than 40 percent of TV advertisements. And those commercials stand out because they are generally longer, with a long list of side effects and warnings the pharmaceutical industry must tag on at the end.

Those disclaimers highlight another challenge for the administration: legal action.

The rule notes its legal justification was based on the responsibility of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to ensure the health coverage programs that it administers — Medicare and Medicaid — must be operated in a manner that “minimizes reasonable expenditures.”

Sachs noted that the argument may be weak because most drugs are marketed to a wider audience than Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

A body of Supreme Court decisions dictate how disclaimers and disclosures can be required, said constitutional law expert Robert Corn-Revere. He filed a “friend of the court” brief in a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court case related to commercial speech and the pharmaceutical industry.

Generally, the administration’s requirement must meet the standards of being purely factual, noncontroversial and not burdensome, Corn-Revere said.

On the question of whether requiring drug prices be listed in advertising violates the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee, Corn-Revere said it “all comes down to the specifics.”

Ubl, when asked earlier about legal action, didn’t rule out the possibility. “We believe there are substantial statutory and constitutional principles that arise” from requiring list-price disclosure, Ubl said, adding: “We do have concerns about that approach.”

KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The post Critics Say Trump’s New Rule of Drug-Pricing Disclosure Doesn’t Go Far Enough appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Trump’s Attack on Medicare for All Has Industry Fingerprints All Over It

Truth Out - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 13:52

Recently, the president decided to take a break from tweeting conspiracy theories to write an op-ed attacking supporters of Medicare for All. While engaging in what psychologists would probably call “projection,” he accused the Medicare for All movement of putting seniors at risk, rationing health care and trying to destroy the Medicare system.

I’m a former executive at two of the country’s largest insurance companies. I spent 20 years working in PR for Humana and then Cigna, rising to the level of vice president before I had a crisis of conscience. As a result, I know exactly how this op-ed came to be. The process doesn’t start at the White House. It didn’t include a careful review of policy, and it wasn’t an idea his staff came up with.

I can see the industry’s fingerprints on this op-ed from a mile away, because I was the ghost writer for many pieces just like it. During my two-decade tenure in the industry, every time an idea that would threaten shareholder profits started gaining momentum, my employer would decide we’d need to find a friendly and influential politician to carry water for the industry. I’d sit down with my communications team, create talking points, or even write a complete op-ed or speech, and then make sure our well-connected lobbyists got it to the right people.

And the industry won’t just go to Republicans. For instance, Ed Rendell, a Democrat who was formerly a governor of my home state of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, recently wrote an op-ed promoting several half-measures he claimed would be stronger reforms than single-payer health care, none of which posed a serious threat to private insurance. Currently, Rendell is affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center, which has regularly hosted organizations like America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Meanwhile, so-called think tanks like the Pacific Research Institute regularly write Medicare for All hit pieces for Forbes and other outlets.

The purpose of these op-eds was always to mislead and scare people, because when the facts aren’t on your side, you have to find a politician who’s willing to obfuscate, misdirect and outright lie. It’s no surprise that the industry went right to the White House.

Many people were quick to challenge the president’s claims. Medicare for All would actually expand coverage for seniors currently on Medicare by covering dental and vision care and lowering drug prices. And contrary to Trump’s claim about rationing, the truth is that real rationing occurs in the US when people don’t seek treatment due to cost. It happens every day because millions of Americans are either uninsured or have such high deductibles they can’t afford to actually get the care they need. Medicare for All would eliminate that barrier.

Others have pointed out the hypocrisy. Since taking control of Congress and the White House, President Trump and his party have been engaged in a non-stop assault on Medicare, threatened patients with pre-existing conditions and tried to force through a plan that would have kicked tens of millions of people off their insurance.

Here’s the thing: I’m fairly confident that the president and his staff don’t actually believe that Medicare for All would threaten seniors. I can tell because Trump doesn’t use the national platform as an opportunity to lay out a vision to expand coverage, or protect people with pre-existing conditions, or manage drug prices or lower health care costs.

What the president does know is that a Medicare for All system is the worst nightmare of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Right now, they have a virtually limitless ability to charge American patients, families, workers and businesses exorbitant prices, and they want to keep it that way. That’s why they have spent decades abusing our campaign finance system, pumping money into campaigns, hiring armies of lobbyists, and using a combination of political incentives and threats to push through legislation they like, making sure that any legislation that threatens to limit their profits never sees the light of day.

Now that the American people are starting to wake up to their scam, the entrenched special interests have decided to cash in their favors. And so, the president decided to parrot the talking points of his donors and their shareholders, no matter how much harm it will cause the American people.

The post Trump’s Attack on Medicare for All Has Industry Fingerprints All Over It appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Parents Lose One More Right in California as the State Limits Kid’s Menu Drinks to Water or Milk

The Organic Prepper - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 09:55
By Meadow Clark

Yes, the rumors are true. California lawmakers passed a state law that forces restaurants within the state to offer only select beverages on children’s menus. Governor Jerry … Read the rest

The post Parents Lose One More Right in California as the State Limits Kid’s Menu Drinks to Water or Milk appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Categories: News

Rep. Meadows Calls for Rosenstein to 'Resign Immediately,' Following James Baker Testimony He Plotted to Oust Trump From Office

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 07:47

Rep. Meadows Calls for Rosenstein to 'Resign Immediately,' Following James Baker Testimony He Plotted to Oust Trump From Office | 18 Oct 2018 | Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to step down Thursday following explosive testimony from Comey confidant James Baker. Former FBI lawyer James Baker appeared on Capitol Hill earlier Thursday for the second time to testify about Rosenstein's plan to wear a wire and and the use of FISA warrants to oust President Trump from office. Rep. Meadows emerged from the testimony Thursday calling for Rosenstein to "resign immediately."

Categories: News