Bacon busted for fighting over the last sausage

A New Jersey man with the surname Bacon found himself under arrest following a breakfast dispute over the last piece of sausage.

Madison police said Officer Lisa Esposito responded to a home about 3:30 a.m. May 12 on a report of a dispute and arrived to find Thomas Bacon, 19, had allegedly assaulted another person in the home for eating the last piece of sausage.

I wonder if folks who believe in things like karma feel it can be affected by pork products.

Population benefits of sexual selection confirm that males are useful

content.php

Biologists have long puzzled about how evolutionary selection, known for its ruthless requirement for efficiency, allows the existence of males — when in so many species their only contribution to reproduction are spermatozoa.

But research published…in Nature shows that sexual selection — when males compete and females choose over reproduction — improves population health and protects against extinction, even in the face of genetic stress from high levels of inbreeding.

The findings help explain why sex persists as a dominant mechanism for reproducing offspring.

Lead researcher Prof Matt Gage, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Sexual selection was Darwin’s second great idea, explaining the evolution of a fascinating array of sights, sounds and smells that help in the struggle to reproduce — sometimes at the expense of survival.

“Sexual selection operates when males compete for reproduction and females choose, and the existence of two different sexes encourages these processes. It ultimately dictates who gets to reproduce their genes into the next generation — so it’s a widespread and very powerful evolutionary force.

“Almost all multicellular species on earth reproduce using sex, but its existence isn’t easy to explain because sex carries big burdens, the most obvious of which is that only half of your offspring — daughters — will actually produce offspring. Why should any species waste all that effort on sons?

“We wanted to understand how Darwinian selection can allow this widespread and seemingly wasteful reproductive system to persist, when a system where all individuals produce offspring without sex — as in all-female asexual populations — would be a far more effective route to reproduce greater numbers of offspring.

“Our research shows that competition among males for reproduction provides a really important benefit, because it improves the genetic health of populations. Sexual selection achieves this by acting as a filter to remove harmful genetic mutations, helping populations to flourish and avoid extinction in the long-term.”

Phew! Had me worried for a while. :)

RTFA for details of the analysis.

Coal-fired electricity being killed in the US — the war on coal is being won


This photo is from Sweden – from a worldwide series on coal

The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the US electric grid and the global climate debate.

The industry and its supporters use “war on coal” as shorthand for a ferocious assault by a hostile White House, but the real war on coal is not primarily an Obama war, or even a Washington war. It’s a guerrilla war. The front lines are not at the Environmental Protection Agency or the Supreme Court. If you want to see how the fossil fuel that once powered most of the country is being battered by enemy forces, you have to watch state and local hearings where utility commissions and other obscure governing bodies debate individual coal plants. You probably won’t find much drama. You’ll definitely find lawyers from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, the boots on the ground in the war on coal.

Beyond Coal is the most extensive, expensive and effective campaign in the Club’s 123-year history, and maybe the history of the environmental movement. It’s gone largely unnoticed amid the furor over the Keystone pipeline and President Barack Obama’s efforts to regulate carbon, but it’s helped retire more than one third of America’s coal plants since its launch in 2010, one dull hearing at a time. With a vast war chest donated by Michael Bloomberg, unlikely allies from the business world, and a strategy that relies more on economics than ecology, its team of nearly 200 litigators and organizers has won battles in the Midwestern and Appalachian coal belts, in the reddest of red states, in almost every state that burns coal…

Coal still helps keep our lights on, generating nearly 40 percent of US power. But it generated more than 50 percent just over a decade ago, and the big question now is how rapidly its decline will continue. Almost every watt of new generating capacity is coming from natural gas, wind or solar; the coal industry now employs fewer workers than the solar industry, which barely existed in 2010. Utilities no longer even bother to propose new coal plants to replace the old ones they retire. Coal industry stocks are tanking, and analysts are predicting a new wave of coal bankruptcies…

This is a big deal, because coal is America’s top source of greenhouse gases, and coal retirements are the main reason US carbon emissions have declined 10 percent in a decade. Coal is also America’s top source of mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxic air pollutants, so fewer coal plants also means less asthma and lung disease — not to mention fewer coal-ash spills and coal-mining disasters. The shift toward cleaner-burning gas and zero-emissions renewables is the most important change in our electricity mix in decades, and while Obama has been an ally in the war on coal — not always as aggressive an ally as the industry claims — the Sierra Club is in the trenches. The US had 523 coal-fired power plants when Beyond Coal began targeting them; just last week, it celebrated the 190th retirement of its campaign in Asheville, N.C., culminating a three-year fight that had been featured in the climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.”

RTFA. Long, detailed, about as close to neutral as Politico ever gets. You won’t find any greedy, corporate Republicans; but, they shy away from defining the Sierra Club as the radical organization the Koch Bros think it is.

Recognition of success [and continuing] you’ll rarely see inside the Beltway.

Attention Grayheads — Congressional Voting Records


Workingclass men and women built this land. We deserve the fruits of our labor.

This week, the Alliance for Retired Americans released its annual report detailing the voting record of every U.S. Representative and Senator on issues important to current and future retirees. The voting record looks at ten key votes in both the Senate and the House and assigns a “Pro-Retiree” score for each member of Congress. Scores reflect a member’s level of support for retirees and older Americans.

This year, votes examined include whether to:

Privatize Medicare and create a voucher-like system in its place;

Turn Medicaid into a block grant system, which would undercut its ability to provide care for millions of older Americans;

Raise the minimum wage; and

Increase the debt ceiling and keep the government open…

In total, 49 members of the Senate and 135 members of the House received perfect scores of 100 percent. 34 Senators and 122 House members received zeros. Of those members of the Senate who have declared their candidacy for President, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) scored zero while Bernie Sanders (I-VT) scored 100%.

I hope my peers break the mold of American ignorance and vote in their own general interest instead of believing what politicians say – versus what they actually do.

There’s an interactive map at the ARA site so you can check up on your own state.

Accidental anthrax shipments no danger — treating 26 people just to be sure, eh?


Click to enlargeJim Urquhart/AP
Where the anthrax was shipped from – just in case folks in Utah didn’t notice.

At least 26 people are being treated for potential exposure to deadly anthrax after an Army bio-defense facility in Utah mistakenly sent live samples to private and military laboratories in as many as nine states, including California, and South Korea…

No confirmed infections were reported, and Pentagon officials insisted the accidental shipments of live Bacillus anthracis spores around the country and halfway around the world posed no risk to the general public.

The Pentagon said the 26 affected, including at least four civilians at U.S. commercial laboratories, are being given antibiotics and in some cases, vaccinations, as a safeguard.

The 22 others being treated are at a U.S. military laboratory at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where emergency response teams destroyed the anthrax sample. A joint U.S.-Korean program at Osan aims to boost bio-surveillance capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.

Sounds like the joint US-Korean program should be under surveillance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working with state and federal agencies to investigate how the anthrax samples were sent from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, a vast facility in southwest Utah where researchers try to build and test defenses against chemical and biological agents, including viruses and bacteria.

The CDC said it had launched its inquiry last weekend after it was contacted by a private commercial lab in Maryland that had received live spores. Normally, the anthrax is exposed to gamma radiation to render it inert.

The CDC said it had sent investigators to all the labs and was trying to determine if they all had received live samples. Officials said the facilities are in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. They did not identify the specific labs.

Always heartwarming to know our government is doing all it can to keep us safe. After the fact.

Arrest warrant out for nuclear powerplant developer


“Don, honey, we can put the executive swimming pool over there”

Don Gillispie — who pitched a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Southwest Idaho until federal investigators accused his company of fraudulent activity — didn’t show up for two arraignment hearings this week in an ongoing criminal case.

The first time, on Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Larry M. Boyle rescheduled the arraignment for Thursday, court documents state. When Gillispie also missed that hearing, prosecutors asked the judge to issue a warrant for Gillispie’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Gillispie is accused of duping investors to buy stock in Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) at an artificially inflated price and then funnelling the money to himself and his company’s former vice president, Jennifer Ransom. Prosecutors could now charge him with failure to appear in the case. For one count, wire fraud, that could mean up to 10 additional years in prison if he is convicted…

Also, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge reissued a judgment against Gillispie and AEHI in a several-year-old civil case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission…

From the $14.6 million in investor money received, Gillispie and Ransom “received significant salaries and other compensation that they did not report as income to the Internal Revenue Service,” according to court files.

Do your due diligence, folks, before you invest a penny of your hard-earned income. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably ain’t.

Republican former Speaker of the House indicted by federal grand jury

J. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker in the U.S. House, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he violated banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of “past misconduct” against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago.

Hastert, 73, who has been a high-paid lobbyist in Washington since his 2007 retirement, schemed to mask more than $950,000 in withdrawals from various accounts that violated federal banking laws that require disclosure of large cash transactions, according to a seven-page indictment delivered by a grand jury in Chicago.

The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the “prior misconduct” by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. The unnamed individual has known Hastert for most of that person’s life, the indictment states…

Oops! Sounds like Republican family values strikes again.

The indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, also alleges that Hastert lied to FBI agents last December when asked about the withdrawals.

Prosecutors said that in 2010, when the unnamed individual confronted Hastert about the allegations of misconduct, the former speaker agreed to pay out $3.5 million “to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” this person.

Over the next five years Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million in cash from his various bank accounts, at one point last year delivering $100,000 at a time to the person, the indictment alleges.

Beginning in 2013, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service began investigating “possible structuring of currency transactions to avoid the reporting requirements.” Hastert had made more than a dozen withdrawals of $50,000 in cash, which was provided to the unnamed individual every six weeks, the indictment said.

After bank representatives questioned him about the withdrawals, he began taking out less than $10,000 at a time, providing it to the unnamed person at set locations and times, prosecutors say. When Hastert was asked about the withdrawals, the indictment states that he told agents: “I kept the cash.”

However, the indictment states that this is a lie, and Hastert was trying to keep his agreement to pay the unnamed person “secret so as to cover up his past misconduct.”

I’ll never excuse Democrats or Independents for committing the same crimes a number of Republicans have been found guilty of. The crusher is that Republicans present themselves, time after time, as the holy standard for honesty and upright behavior. And that’s just pure hypocrite hogwash.

One again, part of the holier-than-thou crowd, one of the whiners who is paid to campaign against change and progress, gets caught breaking the law.

Shadow pricing, highway robbery, and the price of medication

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the moment a revolution starts, but when it comes to the issue of drug pricing, it’s quite possible that we’ll look back at Dec. 6, 2013, as the day that everything changed.

That was the day that Gilead’s Sovaldi was approved for sale by the FDA. Sovaldi’s launch — and its $84,000 price tag — set off a tsunami of media attention on the issue of medication costs. Never mind that Sovaldi has an incredible cure rate, all of the attention fell squarely on its $84,000 price tag.

Since then pharmaceutical drug pricing has been a regular media hot topic. There was coverage of a recent study that found older drugs were being priced higher in an apparent attempt to keep their prices in parity with newer alternative treatments. That was followed by a report in the Wall Street Journal about how pharmaceutical companies buy the rights to drugs from other manufacturers and then dramatically increase prices:

“On Feb. 10, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. bought the rights to a pair of life-saving heart drugs. The same day, their list prices rose by 525% and 212%.

Neither of the drugs, Nitropress or Isuprel, was improved as a result of costly investment in lab work and human testing, Valeant said. Nor was manufacture of the medicines shifted to an expensive new plant. The big change: the drugs’ ownership…”

Many years ago, back before I got into the healthcare analytics space, I was an investment banker and subject to the rules and regulations laid down by the SEC and FINRA. In that business, we had to be aware of potential client red flags like market manipulation and insider trading. Maybe it’s the training that’s kicking in here, but when I see stories like those strung together above I can’t help but feel like someone’s getting one over on someone else. And while I’m a tried and true capitalist who believes in letting market demand dictate pricing, it’s evident that this pharma pricing strategy may have pushed too far…

What many healthcare professionals have come to realize is that these high prices actually have little to no bearing on the safety, efficacy, or comparative effectiveness of the drug…Talking as a whole, the media coverage on drug pricing is revealing how the system is starting to push back. Companies like Express Scripts are putting their foot down on basic drug pricing and are demanding more information and data regarding the overall cost and safety of drugs.

We also see an emerging trend among payer and provider clients that are now realizing the huge impact that the shadow costs from drug side effects have on their bottom line and patient outcomes, and they too are demanding more transparency in financial and safety drug data in order to make more effective and accurate drug purchasing decisions.

We expect the national debate around drug pricing to intensify and morph to include evaluating drug pricing based on their “fully loaded” costs. After all, it’s we as taxpayers who foot the bill for the bulk of these expenses through the Medicare and Medicaid systems. And we as patients who suffer because we simply can’t afford needed medications anymore.

Brian Overstreet is co-founder and president of AdverseEvents, a California-based healthcare informatics company that improves patient safety and reduces systemic healthcare costs through the comprehensive analysis of postmarketing drug side effect data. This post originally appeared on the company’s RxView blog.

The medical-industrial complex now owns more Congress-creeps than the military-industrial complex. To the same result. American taxpayers pay more and get less for their money than any other citizens in the industrialized West. Money for nothing or less. Subsidizing phony research – or no research – under the blanket description of advancing healthcare.