West Virginia Attorney General accuses Epi-Pen’s owner of Medicaid fraud

The state of West Virginia is investigating Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, a life-saving autoinjector used to treat severe allergic reactions, for possible anti-trust violations, including skyrocketing price increases.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the fraud investigation Tuesday against the company that was founded in his state. Mylan’s chief executive, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

The state filed documents in Kanawha Circuit Court to force Mylan to provide documents related to its EpiPen. Morrisey issued Mylan a subpoena on Aug. 26. The company initially agreed to cooperate, but has since failed to respond to the majority of the subpoena…

The drug maker, which has a manufacturing plant near Morgantown, W.Va., acquired the rights to the drug in 2007, when it cost about $57 and it has since that time raised the price to $500 for a two-pack.

The court filing documents the price increases as well as “failed attempts to introduce an EpiPen competitor, litigation over intellectual property and dominance Mylan has over the epinephrine auto injector market,” according to the release.

The subpoena also asks about rebates Mylan paid to participate in the state’s Medicaid program…The petition suggests such conduct, if proven, could subject Mylan to a potential Medicaid fraud action under state law…

Hope the greedy creeps at the top of Mylan get what they deserve.

Trump settled legal claims against his businesses by using $258,000 from his charity — you’re not voting for crooks and liars, right?

❝ Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses…

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

❝ If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the office of the New York attorney general, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

❝ “I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

❝ The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases, but received no response.

No doubt there will be a new lie to answer to the newest charges,

Plenty of folks say they’re voting for Trump as a protest against the crooks and liars in Washington, DC. What’s the difference between a government crook and a business crook?

Bigotry is expensive

❝ It seems like every day there’s a new battle being fought over discrimination in the U.S. There was the Ellen Pao trial and its claims of sexual bias at Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, the continuing revelations of endemic racial discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, and the so-called religious freedom law in Indiana that many believe is a thinly veiled cover for anti-gay discrimination.

If racial and gender discrimination were purely matters of fairness, ending them would still be a worthy cause. But there is another reason to combat discrimination — it boosts the economy.

❝ The basic reason is misallocation of resources. In an economy functioning at tip-top efficiency, people do the job that they’re most efficient at doing, relative to other jobs they could be doing, and relative to other people in the economy. That’s called the principle of comparative advantage, and it dates back at least to the famous 19th century economist David Ricardo. Notice that nowhere does the principle of comparative advantage leave room for race or gender. These things, in and of themselves, are simply not important for economic efficiency — the only thing that matters is how well people can perform their jobs.

❝ So if a society bases its decisions of who gets which job on race and gender, it’s going to be sacrificing efficiency. If women aren’t allowed to be doctors, the talent pool for doctors will be diluted, and wages will be pushed up too high, choking off output. This would be true even in a bizarro world where every man was a better doctor than every woman! Of course that’s not even remotely true, but the point is, the theory of comparative advantage doesn’t care about average differences in absolute ability. If you’re making rules about which type of people are allowed to do which type of job, you’re hurting the economy.

❝ Just how big of a difference does this make? A team of top economists has recently studied the question, and their results are pretty startling. In “The Allocation of Talent and Economic Growth,” economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago Booth Business School and Charles Jones and Peter Klenow of Stanford estimate that one fifth of total growth in U.S. output per worker between 1960 and 2008 was due to a decline in discrimination…

The authors’ approach is clever. They treat discrimination as a tax. If you think about it, this makes sense — just as taxes discourage business activity, discrimination in employment or education discourages its victims from taking certain jobs or getting training for certain skills. The authors explicitly allow for the possibility that different groups might have different average ability levels with respect to different occupations. They also count home production — child care and housework — as a real contribution to gross domestic product. They put these assumptions into a Roy model, which is a very flexible general equilibrium model that economists typically use when evaluating people’s occupational choices…

❝ Simply reducing individual prejudice would be a wonderful way of attacking discrimination at the source. That’s why the continuing social movements for greater racial and gender equality are valuable — not just for reasons of fairness but for our economic future.

RTFA for more about the study’s methodology. Should be required reading for all the politicians who waste thousands of hours, million of dollar$, defending the indefensible bigotry they install to please their favorite idjit voters.

The sugar industry paid for distorted health science for more than 50 years

❝ The sugar industry has a long history of shaping nutrition policy in the United States, working to mask the potential risks of consuming too much of the sweet stuff.

It wasn’t until this year, for instance, that the US Dietary Guidelines finally recommended people keep their consumption of added sugars below 10 percent of their total calorie intake — decades after health advocates began pressing for the measure. The sugar lobby had fended off this recommendation all the while.

❝ New research, published…in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that Big Sugar may have done more than just advocate for favorable policies. Going back more than 50 years, the industry has been distorting scientific research by dictating what questions get asked about sugar, particularly questions around sugar’s role in promoting heart disease.

❝ The paper focuses on a debate that first popped up in the 1950s, when the rate of heart disease started to shoot up in the United States. Scientists began searching for answers, and zeroed in on dietary saturated fat as the leading contributor. The energy we get from food comes in three kinds of nutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and protein…

Today, scientific consensus related to the role specific macronutrients play in the diet has shifted. Researchers have come around to the view that a person’s overall eating habits probably matter more for health than the particular percentages of carbs, fats, and proteins taken in. But they also generally agree that some kinds of fats are less damaging to health than others. (In particular, unsaturated fats appear to be better for one’s cardiovascular disease risk than saturated and trans fats.) And that too much sugar can be just as bad as too much fat for the heart.

❝ The new JAMA paper reveals why the public may know less about the sugar-heart link than it ought to…

Beginning in the 1950s, notes the JAMA paper, led by Cristin Kearns of UC San Francisco, a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation was concerned about evidence showing that a low-fat diet high in sugar might raise cholesterol levels in the blood.

If sugar turned out to be a major driver of heart issues, the group surmised, that could be devastating for sugar producers…So the Sugar Research Foundation aligned itself with leading Harvard nutrition professors, and paid them the equivalent of $48,900 (in 2016 dollars) for a two-part research review, later published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that would discredit the link between sugar and heart disease.

It ain’t just ancient history. A couple generations of nutritionist were taught to believe the skewed analysis was holy writ, a premise so well established it must serve as the starting point for all following work.

RTFA for details. Yes, there’s nothing new about money buying results. Sometimes in science, though more rarely, say, than in American politics.

Sinkhole sucks millions of gallons of fertilizer wastewater into Florida drinking water


Click to enlargeJim Damaske/AP

The hole in the middle of that now-empty pond is 45 feet in diameter

❝ More than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from a fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state’s main underground sources of drinking water after a huge sinkhole opened up beneath a storage pond…

Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, said the hole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”. The 215 million gallon storage pond sat atop the waste mineral pile…

“Groundwater moves very slowly,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects. “There’s absolutely nobody at risk.”…

Does that mean he’s drinking water from a local source — every day?

❝ The sinkhole, discovered by a worker on 27 August, is believed to reach down to the Floridan aquifer, the company said in a news release…

The Floridan aquifer is a major source of drinking water in the state. One of the highest-producing aquifers in the world, it underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

According to the University of Florida, it’s the principal source of groundwater for much of the state, and the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg all rely on it. The aquifer also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells throughout the state…

❝ The incident comes less than a year after Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer makers, settled a vast federal environmental lawsuit with the US Environmental Protection Agency in which the company agreed to nearly $2 billion in fixes, improvements and cleanups at its plants…

The usual lies will continue from free market politicians and libertarians who hold that voluntary policing, self-regulation is all that corporate exploiters ever need. That lawsuit after lawsuit is required on an annual basis to acquire any level of environmental safety and sanity doesn’t seem to dent the myths that insulate conservative brains from reality.

Tesla building massive electricity storage unit for Los Angeles substation


Click to enlarge

❝ Tesla has been chosen by the Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California to build an 80MWh battery plant that will be able to provide power to 2,500 homes for a full day. California Governor Jerry Brown indirectly initiated the action by mandating the California Public Utilities Commission to stabilize grid power following the gas leak at Aliso Canyon last October, when 100,000 tons of methane leaked into the atmosphere.

❝ Power storage is a fast-growing business, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. He says this market has a “super-exponential growth rate” that is “several times that of what the car business is per year.” Tesla did not reveal pricing and other details, but did say that the power storage facility would be ready by the end of the year.

The plan for storing power in batteries for peak time usage is actually years old, but has been accelerated since the Aliso Canyon incident, which forced more than 4,500 households to move into temporary quarters…

❝ Tesla and several of its competitors in the power storage industry will come together to create a system that will essentially “time shift” grid power from off-peak hours to peak hours, theoretically eliminating the need for conventional power stations to come online during high load times.

The base plan for the CPUC is to have 1,325 megawatts of power storage facilities by the year 2020. This will ideally be sufficient to power more than 41,000 homes for a day.

This is an example of how and why we’re changing the goal for solar electricity at our compound here in La Cieneguilla, New Mexico. Our confidence is way up about getting entirely off the grid. Not only are large economy-size grid backups like this becoming possible [and cheaper], firms like Tesla and their domestic and global competitors are doing the same for home-size solar panel systems.

The God business is worth more than Apple, Amazon and Google combined


Did they count the gold?

❝ Religion in the United States is worth $1.2 trillion a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world…

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University…

❝ The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Co-author Brian Grim said it was a conservative estimate. More than 344,000 congregations across the US collectively employ hundreds of thousands of staff and buy billions of dollars worth of goods and services.
More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organisations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years, to $9bn.

❝ The analysis did not take account of the value of financial or physical assets held by religious groups. Neither did it account for “the negative impacts that occur in some religious communities, including … such things as the abuse of children by some clergy, cases of fraud, and the possibility of being recruitment sites for violent extremism”.

Didn’t notice any mention [in the article] of the dollar value of tax avoidance of religion in America. A nice addition to any profitable business.