Realtor Pays Million$ to get Trump’s Name off Toronto Hotel


George Pimentel/WireImage

❝ JCF Capital ULC, the closely held U.S. firm that now owns the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto’s downtown business district, reached a buyout deal to exit the contracts with the Trump Organization’s hotel unit…While no breakup fee was disclosed, the amount was at least $6 million…Signage may be removed from the 65-story tower as soon as Aug. 1…

❝ The agreement to remove the the U.S. president’s brand marks the first step toward revamping the property, which has faced a history of construction delays and lawsuits. Most recently, it’s been a site for protests against the Trump’s comments disparaging women, Mexicans and Muslims, even though his company has no ownership stake in the property.

❝ JCF Capital acquired the tower with the Trump brand and agreements in place last year from former owner Talon International, the developer run by Russian-Canadian billionaire Alex Shnaider. Since then, JCF has been in talks with hotel chains and the Trump Organization to complete an operating plan.

The tower was a tough sell under its Trump name: Talon struggled to sell the building after defaulting on its 2007 loan, and when JCF Capital acquired the loan on the property from lender Raiffeisen Bank International AG and launched a sale process for the building, it garnered no bids aside from its own.

Trump’s name is worth about as much to real estate as his so-called presidency will be to the history of the United States. Nada, zilch, nuttin-honey!

The Big Lie That Republicans Call Healthcare Reform

❝ The Senate health-care bill is a blatantly cynical and political plan to reward the rich, squeeze the poor and give Republicans the chance to claim they protected the middle class — or at least those in the middle class who aren’t too sick.

❝ The Republican campaign to repeal Obamacare was always based on a false promise (okay, a lie): that it was possible for all Americans to have better, cheaper medical care without raising taxes or reducing the incomes of doctors and the profits of hospitals and drug companies.

The reality, as the Senate’s Republican caucus came to understand, is something quite different: You can’t lower health-care costs or extend coverage for some people without raising the taxes or premiums of everyone else. It’s a zero-sum game.

❝ Actually, that statement is not exactly true. In a country that spends roughly twice as much as other advanced countries for mediocre results, it would be possible to restructure the system to give most people more for less. But, alas, the Senate bill does almost nothing to restructure the way medical care is delivered, how much is consumed and how it is priced, because to do so would have meant taking on the business interests that the Republicans are counting on to finance their reelection.

Instead, what we get is a financial shell game.

RTFA. Lots of detail about the finances and financial requirements of managing a reasonable healthcare system for all. Even a suggestion on how Democrats might fight for this as a right – not a privilege as Republicans would have it.

Yes, there are beaucoup Dems who remember where they came from. They’re just not in charge. I have as little confidence in the Democrat Establishment nationally as I have contempt for the Republicans. I think they’ve been dining on the same gravy train for too many years.

Nope. It’s up the Progressive grassroots types who supported Bernie to figure out how to join with honest Liberals still stuck into the Democratic Party – to register voters, register the disaffected who’ve given up after decades of being ignored – and fightback against the Republican Party, the greediest bastards in our narrow political system and the fools who support them.

Making America scared and stupid won’t make us safer


Sally YatesJim Watson/AFP

❝ In today’s polarized world, there aren’t many issues on which Democrats and Republicans agree. So when they do, we should seize the rare opportunity to move our country forward. One such issue is criminal-justice reform, and specifically the need for sentencing reform for drug offenses.

All across the political spectrum, in red states and blue states, from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and the Koch brothers to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the American Civil Liberties Union, there is broad consensus that the “lock them all up and throw away the key” approach embodied in mandatory minimum drug sentences is counterproductive, negatively affecting our ability to assure the safety of our communities.

❝ But last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the clock to the 1980s, reinstating the harsh, indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum drug sentences imposed at the height of the crack epidemic. Sessions attempted to justify his directive in a Post op-ed last weekend, stoking fear by claiming that as a result of then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Smart on Crime policy, the United States is gripped by a rising epidemic of violent crime that can only be cured by putting more drug offenders in jail for more time.

❝ That argument just isn’t supported by the facts. Not only are violent crime rates still at historic lows — nearly half of what they were when I became a federal prosecutor in 1989 — but there is also no evidence that the increase in violent crime some cities have experienced is the result of drug offenders not serving enough time in prison. In fact, a recent study by the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission found that drug defendants with shorter sentences were actually slightly less likely to commit crimes when released than those sentenced under older, more severe penalties.

Contrary to Sessions’s assertions, Smart on Crime focused our limited federal resources on cases that had the greatest impact on our communities — the most dangerous defendants and most complex cases. As a result, prosecutors charged more defendants with murder, assault, gun crimes and robbery than ever before. And a greater percentage of drug prosecutions targeted kingpins and drug dealers with guns.

Not that the Confederacy, today’s Republican Party and power pimps like Trump care a whole boatload about evidence-based reason and decision-making.

RTFA for clarity, historic sense and analysis. You ain’t finding it in the White House.

The World’s Largest Coal Company Is Shutting Down 37 Mines


Channi Anand

❝ Coal India — a government-backed coal company – is reportedly closing 37 of its “unviable” mines in the next year to cut back on losses.

India is primed for an energy revolution. The country’s ongoing economic growth has been powered by fossil fuels in the past, making it one of the top five largest energy consumers in the world. But it has also invested heavily in renewables, and the cost of solar power is now cheaper than ever. In some instances, villages in India have avoided coal-powered electricity altogether, and “leapfrogged” straight to solar power…

❝ India’s energy situation is changing so fast that even expert predictions about its switch to renewables are wildly off: A study from last year claimed India would be building more than 300 coal plants in the next 10 years, but experts said the data was already outdated by the time the report was published, and that India would be moving toward renewables instead.

The decline of Coal India, which produces 80 percent of the country’s domestic coal output, is more evidence that we are collectively moving away from fossil fuels as cleaner, renewable technologies become more widely available. This reality is important to grasp in every country where coal used to be king. Even as Donald Trump promises coal jobs, let’s remember that those jobs aren’t likely to come back.

❝ And for countries like India, where companies like Coal India employ more than 300,000 people, training people to work in more viable energy markets will be increasingly important to provide sustainable livelihoods. Luckily, it looks like the solar industry will have some job openings.

The same is true in the United States on a smaller scale. US mines are highly automated compared to India. Still, the possibilities for new jobs are at least as strong – if we only had state and federal governments in place that cared more about retraining workers for new jobs than guaranteeing profits for out-of-date lobbyists and corporate CEOs.

Two Common Medications = One $455 Million Specialty Pill

❝ Everything happened so fast as I walked out of the doctor’s exam room. I was tucking in my shirt and wondering if I’d asked all my questions about my injured shoulder when one of the doctor’s assistants handed me two small boxes of pills.

“These will hold you over until your prescription arrives in the mail,” she said, pointing to the drug samples…

“Don’t worry,” she said. “It won’t cost you any more than $10.”

❝ …As an investigative reporter who has covered health care for more than a decade, the interaction was just the sort of thing to pique my interest. One thing I’ve learned is that almost nothing in medicine — especially brand-name drugs — is ever really a deal. When I got home, I looked up the drug: Vimovo.

❝ The drug has been controversial, to say the least. Vimovo was created using two readily and cheaply available generic, or over-the-counter, medicines: naproxen, also known by the brand Aleve, and esomeprazole magnesium, also known as Nexium. The Aleve handles your pain and the Nexium helps with the upset stomach that’s sometimes caused by the pain reliever. The key selling point of this new “convenience drug”? It’s easier to take one pill than two.

❝ Of course I also did the math. You can walk into your local drugstore and buy a month’s supply of Aleve and Nexium for about $40. For Vimovo, the pharmacy billed my insurance company $3,252. This doesn’t mean the drug company ultimately gets paid that much. The pharmaceutical world is rife with rebates and side deals — all designed to elbow ahead of the competition. But apparently the price of convenience comes at a steep mark-up…

❝ So if Vimovo is the Goober of drugs, then why have Americans been spending so much on it? My insurance company, smartly, rejected the pharmacy’s claim. But I knew Vimovo’s makers weren’t wooing doctors like mine for nothing. So I looked up the annual reports for the Ireland-based company, Horizon Pharma, which makes Vimovo. Since 2014, Vimovo’s net sales have been more than $455 million. That means a lot of insurers are paying way more than they should for their Goober.

And Vimovo wasn’t Horizon’s only such drug. It has brought in an additional $465 million in net sales from Duexis, a similar convenience drug that combines ibuprofen and famotidine, AKA Advil and Pepcid…

❝ “It’s a scam,” said Devon Herrick, a health care economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis. “It is just a way to gouge insurance companies or employer health care plans.”

RTFA for the marketing games Big Pharma plays with doctors and patients, insurance companies and health care plans. Capitalism is filled with creepy companies; but, I have to say – few are greedier than Pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Thanks, Helen

Earthquake trends in Oklahoma related to wastewater injection


Click to enlarge

❝ According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the number of earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains has increased dramatically since 2009. More earthquakes in these areas have coincided with the increase in oil and natural gas production from shale formations. Seismic events caused by human activity — also known as induced seismicity — are most often caused by the underground injection of wastewater produced during the oil and natural gas extraction process…

Before 2009, Oklahoma might have experienced one to two low-magnitude earthquakes per year. Since 2014, Oklahoma has experienced one to two low-magnitude earthquakes per day, with a few instances of higher magnitude (between magnitude 5 and 6) earthquakes that caused some damage.

In addition to the increased use of wastewater injection related to oil and natural gas production in the region, the geologic conditions in central Oklahoma are conducive to triggering seismic activity. The rock underlying the formations where disposal water is being injected in the region has existing faults that are susceptible to the changing stresses caused by fluid injection. Without these geologic conditions, induced seismicity would be much less common. For example, induced seismicity in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana is relatively rare.

❝ The USGS in 2017 issued an updated seismic hazard forecast for the central and eastern United States. This forecast attempts to estimate the chance of damage caused by earthquakes in the region of interest. The 2017 forecasted seismic rates are still significantly elevated compared with pre-2009 levels but lower than their peak in 2015.

The USGS report indicates that the recent decline may be related to decreased wastewater injection, because production in the region has decreased since the 2014 drop in oil prices. Actions by authorities in various states to regulate wastewater injection practices and restrict injection into the most sensitive areas may also be helping to reduce both the number and intensity of small earthquakes.

Give ’em a chance, folks. My experience with fossil fuel producers in Gulf States and the Permian Basin tell me nothing trumps profits. Not damage to the environment. Not light-to-medium damage to homes and businesses. It will take heavy-duty death and destruction to press these greedy bastards to find healthier ways to fill their pockets.