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Archive for December 2012

Blair learned his lessons well from Bush, didn’t he? $16 billion in U.K. tax fraud from lack of oversight

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martin20schranks20blair20bush20cartoon

The head of Britain’s Work and Pensions department charges that fraud in the country’s tax-credit system has cost taxpayers more than $16.2 billion.

Ian Duncan Smith said a system of tax credits targeting lower-paid Britons is open to abuse because of the inadequate number of checks on those who receive the assistance, The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

In an article published in the newspaper, Smith wrote that Britain’s welfare bill rose 60 percent between 2003 and 2010, with nearly $278 billion disbursed during that period…

The tax credits are based on a person’s estimate of salary for the coming year. At the end of that year, tax collectors are supposed to compare the person’s actual earnings against the estimate and reclaim any overpayments.

Smith said the revenue department conducted only about 34,000 checks a year on individuals who received what were considered “high risk awards.”

Even those found to have been overpaid often have not repaid the money, he said.

Blair followed Bush’s best practices all the way from war to poverty. No oversight. No responsibility. Nothing achieved beyond death, destruction and deficit.

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 31, 2012 at 8:00 pm

The best NASA images from 2012

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2012 saw a number of significant milestones in star gazing and space exploration. NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity touched down on the Red Planet in spectacular fashion, super-Earth’s were discovered, the Moon pounded and Voyager 1 edged ever closer towards interstellar space and we saw more of the universe around us than ever before.

As the calendar rolls over, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has put together an album of its top images for 2012. We’ve also picked our NASA favorites, highlighting some of the fascinating discoveries and incredible imagery captured in the skies above during the last twelve months.

Head to our gallery to see the full selection.

Lovely views, wonderful collection of humans exploring and learning.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Cartoon of the Day

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Thanks, The Big Picture

Written by Ed Campbell

December 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Pharma patent troll finds new profits for drug – at $28,000 a Vial

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The doctor was dumbfounded: a drug that used to cost $50 was now selling for $28,000 for a 5-milliliter vial.

The physician, Dr. Ladislas Lazaro IV, remembered occasionally prescribing this anti-inflammatory, named H.P. Acthar Gel, for gout back in the early 1990s. Then the drug seemed to fade from view. Dr. Lazaro had all but forgotten about it, until a sales representative from a company called Questcor Pharmaceuticals appeared at his office and suggested that he try it for various rheumatologic conditions.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Dr. Lazaro, a rheumatologist in Lafayette, La., says of the price increase.

How the price of this drug rose so far, so fast is a story for these troubled times in American health care — a tale of aggressive marketing, questionable medicine and, not least, out-of-control costs. At the center of it is Questcor, which turned the once-obscure Acthar into a hugely profitable wonder drug and itself into one of Wall Street’s highest fliers.

That Acthar is even a potential blockbuster is a remarkable turn of events, considering that the drug was developed in the 1950s by a division of Armour & Company, the meatpacking company that once ruled the Union Stock Yards of Chicago. As in the 1950s, Acthar is still extracted from the pituitary glands of slaughtered pigs — essentially a byproduct of the meatpacking industry.

The most important use of Acthar has been to treat infantile spasms, also known as West syndrome, a rare, sometimes fatal epileptic disorder that generally strikes before the age of 1.

For several years, Questcor, which is based in Anaheim, lost money on Acthar because the drug’s market was so small. In 2007, it raised the price overnight, to more than $23,000 a vial, from $1,650, bringing the cost of a typical course of treatment for infantile spasms to above $100,000. It said it needed the high price to keep the drug on the market…

But Questcor did almost no research or development to bring Acthar to market, merely buying the rights to the drug from its previous owner for $100,000 in 2001. And while the manufacturing of Acthar is complex, it accounts for only about 1 cent of every dollar that Questcor charges for the drug.

…Before long, Questcor began marketing the drug for multiple sclerosis, nephrotic syndrome and rheumatologic conditions, even though there is little evidence that Acthar is more effective for those other conditions than alternatives that are far cheaper. And the company did so without being required to prove that the drug actually works. That is because Acthar was approved for use in 1952, before the Food and Drug Administration required clinical trials to show a drug is effective for a particular disease. Acthar is essentially grandfathered in.

It never ends does it? RTFA for the rest of this delightful twisted tale. Shareholders and profits take a higher priority than medical usefulness. The FDA does nothing because of old precedents – and Congress does nothing to change those rules.

Beancounters complain about the cost of healthcare without considering those who profit the most from absurd pricing, their greed, their responsibility.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 31, 2012 at 8:00 am

More Afghan police are dying from “green on green” killings than “green on blue”

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Talk about being nervous at graduation time…

A wave of betrayal has left at least 17 Afghan policemen dead in the past 10 days — all killed in their sleep, at the hands of those close to them.

Early Thursday morning, an Afghan policeman unlocked the door of the check post where he was stationed in Oruzgan Province and let in his friends from the Taliban, who helped him attack his sleeping colleagues with knives and guns, eventually killing four and wounding eight.

Last Sunday, a local police commander in a remote northern province, Jawzjan, shot to death, in their beds, five men under his command and fled to join the Taliban.

And on Dec. 18, a teenager, apparently being kept for sexual purposes by an Afghan border police commander in southern Kandahar Province, drugged the commander and the other 10 policemen at the post to put them to sleep, and then shot them all; eight died…

In the crisis that has risen in the past year over insider killings, in which Afghan security forces turn on their allies, the toll has been even heavier for the Afghans themselves — at least 86 in a count by The New York Times this year, and the full toll is likely to be higher — than it has been for American and other NATO forces, which have lost at least 62 so far, the latest in Kabul on Monday.

Unlike most insider attacks against foreign forces, known as “green on blue” killings, most of the attacks between Afghans, “green on green,” have been clear cases of either infiltration by Taliban insurgents or turncoat attacks. As with the three recent attacks, they have fallen most heavily on police units, and they have followed a familiar pattern: the Taliban either infiltrate someone into a unit, or win over someone already in a unit, who then kills his comrades in their sleep. Frequently, the victims are first poisoned or drugged at dinner.

Yes, some of this is non-political. RTFA for the portion of these murders that can be put to retaliation against the corruption that is frequent in Afghan culture.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 31, 2012 at 2:00 am

New York City’s latest subway murder is a hate crime!

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A 31-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday and charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in connection with the death of a man who was pushed onto the tracks of an elevated subway station in Queens and crushed by an oncoming train.

The woman, Erika Menendez, selected her victim because she believed him to be a Muslim or a Hindu, Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said…

In a statement, Mr. Brown quoted Ms. Menendez, “in sum and substance,” as having told the police: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” Ms. Menendez conflated the Muslim and Hindu faiths in her comments to the police and in her target for attack, officials said.

The victim, Sunando Sen, was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

Mr. Sen “was allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself,” Mr. Brown said. “Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant’s actions should never be tolerated by a civilized society.”

No one ever accused Tea Party bigots of being part of a civilized society. They’re still welcomed into the Republican Party with open arms.

Four years back we all witnessed John McCain rejecting this kind of stupidity. But, don’t worry, it won’t happen, again.

Ms. Menendez is expected to be arraigned by Sunday morning. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. By charging her with murder as a hate crime, the possible minimum sentence she faced would be extended to 20 years from 15 years, according to prosecutors…

The attack occurred around 8 p.m. on Thursday at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside.

Mr. Sen, 46, was looking out over the tracks when a woman approached him from behind and shoved him onto the tracks, according to the police. Mr. Sen never saw her, the police said.

Mr. Sen, after years of saving money, had opened a small copying business on the Upper West Side this year.

Ar Suman, a Muslim, and one of three roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Mr. Sen in Elmhurst, said he and Mr. Sen often discussed religion.

Though they were of different faiths, Mr. Suman said, he admired the respect that Mr. Sen showed for those who saw the world differently than he did. Mr. Suman said he once asked Mr. Sen why he was not more active in his faith and it resulted in a long philosophical discussion.

“He was so gentle,” Mr. Suman said. “He said in this world a lot of people are dying, killing over religious things.”

Written by Ed Campbell

December 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Strangest Creatures on the Planet

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Nature can produce some incredibly complex creatures. These creatures can defy the human imagination and are often unique to the species of animals that we know of today. While not all of these may be big and scary, we are going to talk about the top 10 fantastically strange animals in the world.

Most of us have heard of the octopus, but how many of us have heard of the “Blanket Octopus”? This sea-based creature is awkward to say the least and contains three hearts, a parrot-like beak, and venomous saliva. It also has the ability to change color on a whim so that it can adapt to its surroundings. A lot of people refer to their tentacles as “intelligent arms” as they don’t necessarily need the brain to perform specific actions like catching prey. All in all, this is a very strange animal that is rarely seen and resides in the depths of the ocean.

The blanket octopus is #9 on this list – and a personal favorite. Click the link above and wander through one editor’s choices.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm

For anonymous

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Reblogged from nilanjana roy

That girl, the one without the name. The one just like us. The one whose battered body stood for all the anonymous women in this country whose rapes and deaths are a footnote in the left-hand column of the newspaper.

Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case.

Read more… 982 more words

Thanks to Om Malik for the link to this thoughtful post

Written by Ed Campbell

December 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

Rape victim dies – Justice waits for present and future generations

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LUCKNOW: The death of the 23-old Delhi gang-rape victim Nirbhaya in Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital triggered a series of protests in Lucknow on Saturday. Thousands of students from various schools and colleges and activists especially women demanded implementation of strict laws related to crimes against women and speedy trial of the rape cases. Most of the protestors demanded death penalty for the accused in the rape cases.

Holding banners and placards, which read ‘Ladki ki nahi, insaniyat ki maut hai’; ‘Delhi ho ya Aashiana, nahi chalega koi bahana’; ‘Kapde nahi, soch badlo’, ‘Prime minister awas ki suraksha kyu badha di gayi- Kyu?? Kya desh ki agli abla Manmohan Singh hai?’, the protestors demanded strict law against rape, as people from different walks of life continued to gather at the Gandhi Memorial till late in the evening to raise their voice against women safety. Candle marches were also carried out in support of rape victims…

…Tahira Hasan, national vice-president of All India Progressive Women Association said that we want to build pressure on the government to call an emergency session of Parliament to form strict law for the crimes against women. She added, “Many politicians from various parties are passing sexually offensive comments. The women member of such parties should condemn their colleagues for passing such comments.”

Young men and boys also gathered at Gandhi memorial to pay condolence to the girl and support the cause. Sudhanshu Bajpai, convenor, All India Student Association said, “Our politician have Z-plus security, while common man is unsafe. We want safety for our citizens.”

India is not alone, of course, in electing politicians to lead who rely only on the past to get re-elected. Working hard, fighting for standards which illuminate the future is beyond the ken of many if not most of the self-centered breed who take up politics as a career.

They ensure the best of everything for themselves while looking down in the idea of law and order, healthcare, safety and justice for ordinary folk. They personify the hypocrisy of the narrow class of nterests they truly represent.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 30, 2012 at 8:18 am

Oops! Problem with my old pickup, today…

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Ruff Boy is 18 years old and just may need some transmission work, today. I will not be available to post anything until I get him sorted out.

Cripes! Doesn’t look minimal – and no news till it’s checked out, Monday.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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