Buying aloe vera at Wal-Mart? Feel good? Look up “placebo effect”!

❝ The aloe vera gel many Americans buy to soothe damaged skin contains no evidence of aloe vera at all.

Samples of store-brand aloe gel purchased at national retailers Wal-Mart, Target and CVS showed no indication of the plant in various lab tests. The products all listed aloe barbadensis leaf juice — another name for aloe vera — as either the No. 1 ingredient or No. 2 after water.

❝ There’s no watchdog assuring that aloe products are what they say they are. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve cosmetics before they’re sold and has never levied a fine for selling fake aloe. That means suppliers are on an honor system, even as the total U.S. market for aloe products, including drinks and vitamins, has grown 11 percent in the past year to $146 million…

❝ Aloe’s three chemical markers — acemannan, malic acid and glucose — were absent in the tests for Wal-Mart, Target and CVS products conducted by a lab hired by Bloomberg News. The three samples contained a cheaper element called maltodextrin, a sugar sometimes used to imitate aloe. The gel that’s sold at another retailer, Walgreens, contained one marker, malic acid, but not the other two. That means the presence of aloe can’t be confirmed or ruled out…

❝ Fruit of the Earth, a Fort Worth, Texas-based aloe brand founded in 1980, said it made the gels for Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens. Fruit of the Earth said its aloe supplier was Ormond Beach, Florida-based Concentrated Aloe Corp., which said it uses fair trade, organic aloe that’s farmed and processed in Guatemala.

Both companies disputed Bloomberg’s findings…

The International Aloe Science Council has been around over 30 years. They certify products as legitimate or not. I suggest that if you are a fan of aloe vera and its rustic healing properties you check in with the council or check the product you’re interested in to see if it is certified.

Trump’s infrastructure program sounds like a con, smells even worse!

❝ Trumpists are touting the idea of a big infrastructure build, and some Democrats are making conciliatory noises about working with the new regime on that front. But remember who you’re dealing with: if you invest anything with this guy, be it money or reputation, you are at great risk of being scammed. So, what do we know about the Trump infrastructure plan, such as it is?

❝ Crucially, it’s not a plan to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on much-needed projects — which would be the straightforward, obvious thing to do. It is, instead, supposed to involve having private investors do the work both of raising money and building the projects — with the aid of a huge tax credit that gives them back 82 percent of the equity they put in. To compensate for the small sliver of additional equity and the interest on their borrowing, the private investors then have to somehow make profits on the assets they end up owning.

You should immediately ask three questions about all of this.

❝ First, why involve private investors at all? It’s not as if the federal government is having any trouble raising money…

❝ Second, how is this kind of scheme supposed to finance investment that doesn’t produce a revenue stream?…

❝ Third, how much of the investment thus financed would actually be investment that wouldn’t have taken place anyway? That is, how much “additionality” is there?…

❝ …All of these questions could be avoided by doing things the straightforward way: if you think we should build more infrastructure, then build more infrastructure, and never mind the complicated private equity/tax credits stuff. You could try to come up with some justification for the complexity of the scheme, but one simple answer would be that it’s not about investment, it’s about ripping off taxpayers. Is that implausible, given who we’re talking about?

Paul Krugman has it wired. Trump chumps thought they were one up on the system voting in someone they knew was a crook and a liar. They were silly enough to believe he was “their” crook and liar. They missed the lecture on Capitalism 101 which states the greedy bastards in charge aren’t interested in sharing the wealth – except with co-conspirators.

That doesn’t include you.

Billion$ + 10 years = No air traffic control modernization, No final price tag, No end date

The Federal Aviation Administration has little to show for a decade of work on modernizing air traffic control, and faces barriers and billions more in spending to realize its full benefits, says a report released last Tuesday by a government watchdog.

The FAA estimates it will spend a total $5.7 billion to finish its current work on six “transformational” technology programs at the heart of its NextGen modernization effort, said the report by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general. But the agency’s current efforts don’t fully implement the programs, and there are no timetables or cost estimates for completion…

Moreover, there has been “significant ambiguity both within FAA and the aviation community about expectations for NextGen,” including the ability of core programs to deliver important new capabilities, the report said.

Most of the airline industry has made privatizing air traffic control their top legislative goal — with Congressman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., as their champion. They have the support of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents controllers. Paul Rinaldi, the union’s president, said controllers have lost faith in FAA’s modernization effort and want the new air traffic tools they see in use in other countries like Canada, which has privatized air traffic operations.

Most Democrats, other FAA unions and segments of the aviation industry, like business aircraft operators, are opposed to privatization.

“The inspector general’s report at most faults the FAA for describing NextGen programs as ‘transformational’ when they really just improve how the FAA manages air traffic,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the transportation committee.

It is far from clear that privatizing the air traffic control system would expedite NextGen and address the issues raised in the inspector general’s report, he said…

Air traffic control never recovered from the Reagan lockout in 1981. The United States muddled through with crap performance made acceptable by the Reagan White House and obedient flunkies in Congress. Trouble is that style of work remained in place over the decades since. Little attention paid to how computer systems have been modernized in both installation and use, common software and updates – and a helluva lot more traffic.

And then there are the lobbyists fiddling how anything is sold to the federal government and where that has gotten to following Reagan models – and Clinton copies of Reagan models.