"Boston drug price watchdog criticized for ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach" by Jonathan Saltzman Globe Staff, June 24, 2019
A Boston-based watchdog group uses a “one-size-fits-all” approach to determine fair prices for prescription drugs, a mind-set ill-suited for a growing wave of expensive medicines that treat rare diseases, according to a new report by a libertarian-leaning think tank.
The Pioneer Institute report challenged how the nonprofit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER, gauges what drugs should cost. The influential watchdog’s real agenda, the Pioneer Institute said, is to build pressure on drug firms to cut prices.
“ICER’s continuing negative reviews of rare disease drugs seem to indicate that their goal is not to accommodate the unique contextual challenges of rare disease therapies but simply to push their prices down,” said the study written by William Smith, a visiting fellow in the life science at Pioneer, which is also located in Boston.
Smith is a former longtime vice president at Pfizer, the New York-based drug giant, which has more than 2,100 employees in Massachusetts. He also worked for prominent Republican politicians, including governors William F. Weld and Paul Cellucci and President George H. W. Bush.
A spokesman for ICER said the report was full of misinformation, including its contention that ICER criticized last month’s decision by Swiss drug giant Novartis to price a revolutionary gene therapy for a rare genetic disease at $2.1 million.
In fact, although Zolgensma bears the highest price tag of any medicine ever, ICER said the drug appeared to be worth it. Zolgensma is a one-time, life-saving treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, the leading genetic killer of infants, and the Food and Drug Administration approved an expanded label to include babies who tested positive in genetic screening but don’t yet show symptoms.
“We are ecstatic that such a treatment exists,” David Whitrap, an ICER spokesman and former employee of Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals, said after reading the Pioneer report. “This is precisely the kind of treatment that our health system should be rewarding handsomely.”
The Pioneer report focuses on treatments for rare diseases, which drug makers have in recent years sometimes priced at jaw-dropping, six-figure sums. The federal government gives drug makers generous financial incentives for developing medicines for so-called orphan diseases.
Vertex, for example, has introduced three drugs since 2012 to treat cystic fibrosis, a rare genetic illness that attacks the lungs and other organs. The list prices of those drugs — Kalydeco, Orkambi, and Symdeko — range from $273,000 to $312,000 annually. ICER said last year that Vertex would have to lower its prices by 71 to 77 percent to align their costs with the benefits, but the Pioneer report said medicines for rare diseases need to be judged differently from most drugs.
The Pioneer report also takes aim at how ICER measures the value of a medical treatment over time.....
"Trump order aims to disclose ‘real’ costs for health care" by Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz New York Times, June 24, 2019
The White House released an executive order Monday afternoon intended to require insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals to give patients more information about precisely what their care will cost before they get it.
Consumers typically know the price of something before they make a purchase, but health care prices have historically been shrouded in secrecy. Insurers and medical providers negotiate discounted prices in private, and neither party wants competitors to know the details of the deals they have struck. The result is a market that can be opaque and surprising to consumers.
White House officials say that eliminating that secrecy could be a truly disruptive change that could lower health care prices and reorder the health care system by wresting power away from industry and into the hands of patients. This emphasis on transparency, some advisers say, could allow the president, who is seeking reelection, to point to strong action on health care despite falling short in his effort to repeal the health care law.
Exactly what information hospitals and insurers will have to disclose is not specified in the executive order, which has no force of law on its own. White House officials said the details would be worked out during the rule-making process. Hospitals and insurance companies are likely to lobby to make any disclosures as general as possible.
The health care industry has reacted to the president’s plan with alarm. Both hospital groups and insurance companies have written letters expressing their displeasure with an earlier request for comments about requiring broader price transparency. Their reaction to Monday’s executive order was equally negative.
Hospitals and insurers have both argued that forcing them to disclose negotiated prices could have the paradoxical effect of increasing costs, not lowering them. Many economists have similar concerns.
“We would be very much opposed to disclosure of privately negotiated rates,” Tom Nickels, an executive vice president at the American Hospital Association, said in an interview before the executive order was issued.
Forcing the hospitals and insurers to disclose their agreements “has a chilling effect on negotiation — it could create a race to the top,” he said.
The executive order will follow earlier administration actions to improve the transparency of health pricing data.....
He sure is making a lot of enemies, and I $u$pect this will reach the Supreme Court:
"Supreme Court strikes down law barring vulgar trademarks" by Adam Liptak New York Times, June 24, 2019
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law barring the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks, saying it ran afoul of the First Amendment.
The court also made it harder for news organizations and the public to obtain commercial information under the Freedom of Information Act.
The trademark case concerned a line of clothing sold under the brand name FUCT. When the case was argued in April, a government lawyer told the justices that the term was “the equivalent of the past participle form of the paradigmatic profane word in our culture.”
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a six-justice majority, did not dispute that, but she said the law was unconstitutional because it “disfavors certain ideas.”
She gave examples. Government officials have granted trademark protection to antidrug messages but not to “Marijuana Cola,” to proreligion messages but not to “Madonna” wine, and to antiterrorism messages but not to “Baby Al Qaeda.”
The decisions were understandable, Kagan wrote. “The rejected marks express opinions that are, at the least, offensive to many Americans,” she wrote, but a bedrock principle of First Amendment law, she wrote, is that the government may not draw distinctions based on speakers’ viewpoints.
Tell it to Facebook and the rest.
In 2017, addressing a companion provision in the trademark law, a unanimous eight-justice court struck down a restriction on trademarks that disparage people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”
The decision, Matal v. Tam, concerned an Asian-American dance-rock band called the Slants. The court split 4-4 in much of its reasoning, but all of the justices agreed that the provision at issue in that case violated the Constitution because it took sides based on speakers’ viewpoints. (The decision also effectively allowed the Washington Redskins football team to register its trademarks.)
On Monday, Kagan wrote that the same analysis applied to the provision barring immoral or scandalous trademarks. She rejected arguments from the government and dissenting justices asking the court to read the statute narrowly to deny registration only to trademarks that use particularly offensive language, whatever their viewpoint, but she suggested that such a statute might survive constitutional scrutiny.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, and Brett M. Kavanaugh joined Kagan’s majority opinion.
In a concurring opinion, Alito underscored the majority’s central point and connected it to broader contemporary controversies.
“Viewpoint discrimination is poison to a free society,” he wrote. “But in many countries with constitutions or legal traditions that claim to protect freedom of speech, serious viewpoint discrimination is now tolerated, and such discrimination has become increasingly prevalent in this country.”
Three justices filed partial dissents. All agreed that the ban on immoral trademarks must fall but said that the prohibition of scandalous ones could survive if narrowly interpreted.
“The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote. “It does not require the government to give aid and comfort to those using obscene, vulgar and profane modes of expression.”
In his own partial dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited social science research showing that swear words have special force, and he worried that the decision could encourage wider use of racial slurs. “Just think,” he wrote, “about how you might react if you saw someone wearing a T-shirt or using a product emblazoned with an odious racial epithet.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor also filed a partial dissent in the case, Iancu v. Brunetti, No. 18-302, saying she would have interpreted the prohibition on scandalous trademarks to cover only “obscenity, vulgarity and profanity.”
In a second decision Monday, the court made it easier for the government to withhold commercial information sought under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
The case arose from an investigation by The Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper, into fraud in the food stamp program.
I don't hear the ma$$ media or the pre$$ complaining!
The government refused to provide data about grocery stores’ participation in the program, citing a part of FOIA that protects confidential commercial information. A federal appeals court ruled for the paper, saying that the stores had failed to show they would suffer “substantial competitive harm” were the information disclosed.
Gorsuch, writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 decision in the case, Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481, said the appeals court’s standard was too demanding.
That was when my printed paper got full up.
All the stores had to show, he wrote, is that they kept the information confidential and had been promised that the government would do the same.
In a partial dissent, Breyer agreed that the appeals court had used too tough a standard, but he said parties resisting disclosure should be required to show at least some competitive harm.
“The whole point of FOIA,” he wrote, “is to give the public access to information it cannot otherwise obtain.”
Ginsburg and Sotomayor joined Breyer’s dissent.
“For the majority,” Breyer wrote, “a business holding information as private and submitting it under an assurance of privacy is enough to deprive the public of access, but a tool used to probe the relationship between government and business should not be unavailable whenever government and business wish it so.”
They are more concerned with Kavanaugh:
"Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House, to challenge Susan Collins" by James Pindell Globe Staff, June 24, 2019
Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon announced Monday morning that she will challenge US Senator Susan Collins, potentially setting up one of the most closely watched contests in the country on the 2020 ballot.
Democrats, locally and nationally, have indicated they plan to target Collins, the sole Republican in Congress from New England and long-considered a political moderate, since her high-profile decision to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. After publicly playing coy for months about her decision, Collins was one of two senators whose votes put Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of teenage sexual misconduct, on the court.
“At one point, maybe Senator Collins was different, but she doesn’t seem that way anymore: taking over a million dollars from drug companies and the insurance industry and voting to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court,” said Gideon in a video announcing her campaign from her kitchen.
Gideon was recruited by national Democrats to get into the race, and she’s one of several candidates on whom the party has laid their hopes of winning the Senate. Democrats must pick up a net of four seats in 2020 to get the majority — three if Trump loses the White House — and several of those Senate contests involve defeating incumbents.
Knocking off Collins, 66, won’t be an easy feat. She has been in the Senate for 22 years and, until recently, polls showed her to be one of the most popular senators in the country. Indeed, in a statement from her staff, Collins signaled she will make her length of service in Washington part of her case if she runs again.
“One of the reasons why Senator Collins has been so effective is that she has more seniority than any U.S. Senator from Maine over the past 70 years,” said Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley.
A Rhode Island native, Gideon, 47, served on the Freeport town council before being elected state representative. She became speaker in 2016, and during much of her tenure, served as the de facto head of the Democratic Party in Augusta.
While in the capital, Gideon often waged policy fights against a Republican governor, Paul LePage, and a Republican-led state Senate during Maine’s government shutdown and legislative battles over whether to implement the Affordable Care Act in the state. She led a successful effort to override LePage’s veto on drug treatment programs.
In an interview with the Globe, Gideon said that experience would translate well to the political environment in Washington.
“Governor LePage was focused on not making government work, and yet despite that I was able to bring Republicans and Democrats together to get something done,” said Gideon. “We have a LePage-like chief executive in Washington and stalemate, and I think I can use my experience to get things done for Mainers.”
If she wins the nomination, Gideon may also have the bonus of a cash infusion.
In the aftermath of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, liberal activists began crowdfunding an effort to hold money in escrow for the eventual Democratic nominee to challenge Collins. So far, $4 million has been raised in the effort, according to the group’s website.
Collins hasn’t officially announced whether she will seek a fifth term, but she has amassed $3.8 million in her campaign account.
Gideon told the Globe she had not made a decision on whether to accept the money should she become the nominee. At the time, Collins described the effort as a form of bribery to get her to change her mind.
Gideon will run in the Democratic primary against Betsy Sweet, a longtime progressive activist who lost a primary bid for governor last year. In an interview, Sweet welcomed Gideon into the contest and called her “a friend” and “well-qualified,” but she also described her challenger’s campaign as not the best approach.
“The old playbook that got us into this mess is not going to be the playbook that gets us out,” said Sweet. “Getting big donors and having flashy television ads isn’t going to work. This is going to be won kitchen table by kitchen table.”
Former UN ambassador Susan Rice, who has family roots and a house in Maine, briefly discussed taking on Collins, but in April, the Democrat told a women’s conference in Manhattan, where she lives, she wouldn’t run after all.....
That's because Rice was intimately involved in the unmasking of Flynn and other transition team officials, one of the loudest voices for regime change in Libya, and seen as a carpetbagger by most Mainers.
The issue on which they will fight:
"Today, Shannon O’Brien is not so sure what she’d say about abortion under 18 without parental consent" by Joan Vennochi Globe Columnist, June 24, 2019
Why should a 16-year-old girl be able to get an abortion but not a tattoo without parental consent?
When the late Tim Russert famously posed that question to Democrat Shannon O’Brien during a 2002 gubernatorial debate, her quip — “Would you like to see my tattoo?” — was not well received. Beyond abortion rights activists, neither was her support for lowering the age a young woman could get an abortion without parental consent, from 18 to 16. In contrast, Republican Mitt Romney promised to “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose,” by keeping state laws as they were. With that assurance, Romney was able to close the gender gap and go on to defeat O’Brien — and then, as a presidential candidate, go on to embrace the antiabortion cause.
Under President Trump and the broad-based Republican assault on abortion rights, the politics of this issue are even more intense, but eliminating age restrictions on abortion, as Massachusetts lawmakers are currently considering, is still controversial. Even O’Brien — now the principal of the O’Brien Advisory Group and the mother of a 19-year-old daughter — told me: “I’m not sure how I would answer it today.” She said, “I believe in parental consent. . . . [But] when you have this judicial intervention, it can delay the timing of an abortion. Do I want to wait longer? No, I don’t.”
It's all about feeding the children.
In other words, progressive feminists are not immune from ambivalence and soul-searching when it comes to what O’Brien calls the “sub-issues” of abortion access, yet while polling identifies a middle ground on abortion, activists on either side prefer to ignore it. That’s especially dangerous for Democrats, said O’Brien. “As a political issue, I think it’s a mistake for the champions of a woman’s health care right to take such a hard line that they don’t make room for people who will defend Roe v. Wade,” she said. “Those of us in that broad tent need to be focused on the bigger picture. If we fight over the more controversial details we could end up losing Roe v. Wade. That scares me.”
When O’Brien first ran for the Legislature in 1986, she opposed abortion. She changed her position to support expanded abortion rights in 1990, and further evolved to what she said during that debate: “I passionately support a woman’s right to choose.” What she’s saying now is that you can support abortion rights and still disagree over the details of what that means.
Concerning age restrictions, she said that after the 2002 debate, “Some of the people most annoyed with me were liberal pro-choice women who believe they have such a close relationship with their child, they would absolutely be part of the discussion.” When my daughter was 16, I would have put myself in that category. Now that she’s almost 26, I know my smugness over our perceived relationship was misplaced. There were many things going on in her life that I knew nothing about. While I like the idea of parental consent, as a practical matter, I now understand there are many young women who don’t have a support system or wouldn’t tap into it, even if they did.
On the larger point, however, I agree with O’Brien. It’s unrealistic and politically unwise to expect abortion rights supporters to all be at the point of agreement on the access spectrum.
As O’Brien found out, they weren’t all in the same place in 2002, and they aren’t there today, either.....
I suppose the smart thing to do is leave it to the courts and not the church:
"Catholic school fires gay teacher so it can stay in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis" by Katie Mettler Washington Post, June 24, 2019
A Catholic high school in Indiana has announced it will ‘‘separate’’ with a teacher who is gay, in what administrators called an ‘‘agonizing decision.’’
The move came after 22 months of ‘‘earnest and extensive dialogue’’ between Cathedral High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which has threatened to strip away Catholic identity — and funding — from several schools in the area that employ people who are not heterosexual.
Last week, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School was cut off by the archdiocese after refusing to fire a teacher who is married to someone of the same sex.
Administrators at Cathedral High School were unwilling to take that risk.....
"A Florida woman’s effort to protect herself from domestic violence has become a flashpoint in the debate over gun rights and victims’ safety. Courtney Irby gave her estranged husband’s guns to police after he was charged with domestic violence-aggravated battery, only to find herself arrested for theft. Now a Florida lawmaker and gun safety advocates are championing her cause, asking a state attorney on Monday drop the charges, while gun rights advocates want her prosecuted. Courtney Irby spent six days in jail on charges of armed burglary and grand theft after she retrieved the assault rifle and handgun from her husband’s apartment and gave them to the Lakeland police. Joseph Irby was spending one day in jail at the time, accused of ramming into her car after a June 14 divorce hearing. After her husband’s arrest, Courtney Irby petitioned for a temporary injunction for protection, which was granted. Federal law prohibits people under a domestic violence restraining order from possessing guns, but it’s up to local law enforcement to enforce it, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Courtney Irby told police that she believed he wouldn’t turn in his guns himself, so she took action. According to her arrest report, she said she entered her husband’s apartment through a locked door without his permission and took the guns to a police station."
That is breaking and entering.
‘‘So you’re telling me you committed an armed burglary?’’ the officer asked her. ‘‘Yes, I am but he wasn’t going to turn them in so I am doing it,’’ the officer said she responded. Democratic state Representative Anna Eskamani of Orlando tweeted that it’s ‘‘ridiculous’’ to arrest a woman in this kind of situation. She sent a letter Monday to State Attorney Brian Haas asking that Irby not be prosecuted. She cited research showing the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely a woman will be murdered. ‘‘Ms. Irby was seeking help from the Lakeland Police Department and taking action to protect herself and her children,’’ Eskamani wrote.
That reminds me of the bogus study that said domestic violence incidents rise during the Super Bowl.
‘‘Prosecuting Ms. Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it.’’ While federal law prohibits people under domestic violence restraining orders and convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns, local law enforcement and prosecutors don’t have the tools they need to enforce those restrictions, Eskamani said in her letter to the state attorney. ‘‘These loopholes are major contributors to the deadly relationship between domestic violence and firearms,’’ Eskamani said. Joseph Irby’s charges involve an altercation that began with a shouting match after the divorce hearing. According to his arrest report, they both got into their cars and then he used his vehicle to strike her back bumper several times, running her off the road. Courtney Irby told a responding officer that ‘‘she feared for her life,’’ his arrest report said. As Joseph Irby was being placed into a patrol car, he called her ‘‘a man hater,’’ the arrest report said. In requesting that she be released on bond, Courtney Irby’s attorney argued that she didn’t commit theft since she didn’t take the guns for her personal use and didn’t benefit by taking them. Spokesmen for the Lakeland Police Department and the state attorney’s office didn’t immediately return requests for comment on Monday. Gun rights advocates have been tweeting in favor of prosecution and trolling Eskamani’s Twitter account, while Courtney Irby’s supporters launched a fund-raising campaign for her legal fees. She’s also getting support from Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Guttenberg tweeted that Irby was ‘‘an abused woman trying to protect herself from an abusive husband.’’
So if you steal something but it is not for your own personal use or benefit, it's not a crime!
That's good to know going forward!
"An 81-year-old man who has spent decades behind bars for stealing from banks is mentally fit to stand trial in a credit union robbery in Arizona, despite his claim that he has had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a judge ruled. The decision against Robert Krebs came after a psychologist determined Krebs didn’t have a mental illness or cognitive impairment and was instead malingering to avoid prosecution for the robbery last year in Tucson. US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Rateau said in the June 19 ruling that Krebs understands the nature of the case against him and was able to meticulously tell FBI agents how he planned and carried out the robbery. ‘‘He explained that he was struggling to adjust to the life outside prison and claimed that he did not wear a disguise or mask during the robbery because he wanted to get caught,’’ Rateau wrote. Krebs told authorities that he committed the robbery because his monthly $800 Social Security payment wasn’t enough to live on. The months before the robbery were the worst in his life as he tried to adjust to life on the outside after his release from prison, according to the ruling. Krebs served more than 30 years in prison for a 1981 bank robbery in Florida and was sentenced to three years in prison after a 1966 conviction in Chicago for embezzling $72,000 from a bank where he worked as a teller. He also served another 17 years in Arizona for theft and armed robbery convictions from Arizona dating back to 1980. He was released from prison in the summer of 2017, about six months before the robbery at Pyramid Federal Credit Union branch in a Tucson strip mall."
Notice how banks and bankers never have to do time for robbing us?
"Krebs walked into the bank, put a handgun that turned out to be a BB gun on the counter, and demanded cash, authorities say. Krebs walked away from the bank with nearly $8,400 and later told FBI agents he almost got struck by a vehicle while crossing a roadway, prosecutors said. He was arrested at a hotel. Krebs has pleaded not guilty to a bank robbery charge. Authorities say it’s unusual for older people to hold up lending institutions. Typically, bank robbers are in their 20s. J.L. Hunter ‘‘Red’’ Rountree, who has been dubbed America’s oldest bank robber, was convicted of committing two robberies in his mid-80s and was 91 at the time of his last heist in the early 2000s. He robbed banks in Mississippi, Florida, and Texas. Rountree died in prison at age 92."
Looks like that is where Krebs will also be dying.
"The House Judiciary Committee reached a deal with a key source of information for Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation that will allow her to delay public testimony that had been scheduled for Monday but require her to answer written questions as the committee waits. Democrats who control the committee said they were willing to take those steps because the witness, Annie Donaldson, is in her third trimester of pregnancy and lives in Alabama. They said she would still be required to testify in person in the coming months before the committee, which is investigating whether President Trump obstructed justice when he tried to thwart the special counsel’s examination of his campaign’s ties to Russia. The White House is expected to intervene to try to block Donaldson, a former White House lawyer, from answering any questions about her government service. The White House will most likely cite a Justice Department opinion that close aides to the president have “absolute immunity” from congressional subpoenas. The House, in turn, is preparing to file a lawsuit as early as next week to try to get the federal courts to strike down the administration’s immunity theory, which has been advanced by presidents of both parties but has never been fully tested in court. Even though the suit will probably take aim at Donaldson’s former boss, onetime White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, a ruling in the Democrats’ favor could effectively force Donaldson and other witnesses who have defied the Judiciary Committee to take the witness stand. Donaldson, as chief of staff to McGahn, witnessed or was privy to some of the most explosive moments detailed by Mueller’s investigators, including the firing of James Comey as FBI director and attempts by Trump to gain control of the investigation. Donaldson kept detailed notes of those episodes and others, which are referenced frequently in Mueller’s 448-page report. A lawyer for Donaldson, Sandra Moser, said she was pleased with the accommodation (New York Times)."
There will be no abortion.
At least the invasion on Iran has been put on ice:
"Trump imposes new economic sanctions on Iran, adding to tensions" by Edward Wong New York Times, June 24, 2019
WASHINGTON — The new sanctions are aimed at preventing some top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up by European nations or other countries, but the Iranian officials most likely do not keep substantial assets in international banks, if any at all, or use those institutions for transactions, and any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal.
It's Trump trying to $ave face.
The largely symbolic nature of this round of sanctions indicates that the Trump administration is running low on arrows in its economic quiver. It now finds itself in a waiting game, as it watches for whether the latest clampdown on oil exports, which was announced in late April, will force the Iranian leaders to surrender to US demands in exchange for economic relief.
I can wait forever if needed.
President Trump acted at a time of rising concerns over Iran. Those have been prompted in part by declarations from Tehran that it is amassing more nuclear fuel, the latest evidence that Trump’s withdrawal last year from a nuclear containment deal is pushing Iranian leaders to violate terms they had been abiding by until now.
While he warned on Monday that his restraint has limits, Trump has signaled that he prefers tightening sanctions to launching an immediate military strike to try to alter Iran’s behavior and force political change in Tehran, but critics said the new sanctions would have little substantive effect and could further inflame tensions.
Using force to bring about political change is the very definition of terrorism.
“Symbolic politics at its worst,” said Robert Malley, president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group and a former senior Obama administration official on the Middle East. “At every level it is illogical, counterproductive, or useless.”
The inflation rate in Iran has risen to about 50 percent and many Iranians are dissatisfied with the economy, but authoritarian leaders have historically shown they can withstand stress from sanctions for many years. Some Iranian citizens also blame the US government for the devastation of their economy, and they point to the shortage of critical medicine, even though Trump administration officials say they do not intend to limit humanitarian aid.
"Many blame President Donald Trump and his maximalist policy on Iran, but many Iranians blame their own government, which has careened from one economic disaster to another since its Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. Iran is home to the world’s fourth-largest proven reserve of crude oil and holds the world’s second-largest proven reserve of natural gas, after Russia, but under Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign, the US has cut off Iran’s ability to sell crude on the global market, and threatened to sanction any nation that purchases it. Oil covers a third of the $80 billion a year the government spends in Iran, meaning that a fall in oil revenues cuts into its social welfare programs, as well as its military expenditures....."
The ‘‘economic war is a reality and you can already hear the sound of bones breaking.’’
Iranian officials could choose to carry out nonfatal attacks on US or international interests, as they did with the downing of the drone, to try to get the Trump administration to ease sanctions. Iran’s naval commander, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said Monday that the military was capable of shooting down other drones that violate Iranian airspace.
Trump said Monday that he was willing to negotiate with Iran, but insisted Iranian leaders would have to end their pursuit of nuclear weapons, as well as halt uranium enrichment, “fueling of foreign conflicts,” and “belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.”
They aren't pushing nuclear weapons, they have the right to enrich uranium as a signatory to the NPT, and the hypocrisy of the last two items will go by with comment.
Trump always emphasizes the need to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, while his hawkish top foreign policy aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, say Iran must also make wholesale changes to its policies in the Middle East.
That's where my pre$$ put the story on ice.
International nuclear specialists say Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program and has been adhering to the terms of a landmark nuclear agreement that it reached in 2015 with world powers.
Still not good enough.
Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. Iran said last week it would soon breach some limits on low-grade uranium in the deal, a type of fissile material used in civilian reactors. Iran would still be far from being able to make a nuclear weapon; its announcement appeared intended to pressure European nations to find ways to resume trade with Iran in order to alleviate the impact of US sanctions.
Trump’s rollout of sanctions and the effort to end all oil exports, along with an insistence by Pompeo that Tehran meet 12 expansive demands mostly unrelated to the nuclear program, “set a spark to the escalatory cycle we’re seeing today,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a Middle East specialist at Rand Corp., a research group in California.
“The administration argued maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table, but instead it brought provocative Iranian actions that are not likely to end without Iran getting something concrete on sanctions relief,” she said. “Talk about wanting to talk is not likely to be enough.”
Then there is the co$t:
"War with Iran will cost more than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars" by Linda J. Bilmes, Rosella Cappella Zielinski and Neta C. Crawford, June 24, 2019
Seventeen years ago, a group of neoconservatives surrounding President George W. Bush persuaded him to mount a quick invasion of Iraq in order to prevent it from acquiring “weapons of mass destruction.” That decision, based on dubious intelligence and taken against the advice of many of America’s closest allies, triggered a refugee crisis, destabilized the entire Middle East, and left the United States with a bill of nearly $6 trillion. Nearly 7,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more than 600,000 US troops injured and due to receive lifetime disability compensation.
Yeah, we know jwho the troublemakers are, but the intelligence was anything but dubious.
We were outright lied to!
Despite the staggering costs, many of which continue to accumulate, some hawks are again urging the United States to enter into a preemptive conflict — this time with Iran. Once again, the advocates of war are promising it will be effective, efficient, and short. Make no mistake: A war with Iran to promote regime change or anything else would be long, costly, and catastrophic for the United States and the global economy.
I'm only for it because it will hasten the end of the EUSraeli Empire; other than that, I am absolutely opposed to more mass murder being waged by the coterie of war criminals -- and so is Trump.
If Iraq and Afghanistan taught us anything, it is that war alone cannot bring regime change. Attempting it in Iran would require hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground, far more than in Afghanistan and Iraq — with a huge human toll in military lives and more injured and disabled veterans. Any attack will also harm Iranian civilians and start yet another massive flow of refugees. US action would strengthen the most virulently anti-American elements of Iranian society and suppress those who favor détente.
War with Iran would entail vast economic, budgetary, and environmental costs. The impact on the price of oil would be staggering. The invasion of Iraq contributed to the rise in oil prices from $23 per barrel in 2003 to $140 per barrel in the summer of 2008. Going to war with Iran would almost certainly disrupt transit of crude oil shipments and could push oil prices to spike as high as $250 per barrel, according to industry experts.
That's odd because prices at the pump continue to drop.
The American public has not yet felt the impact of the staggering costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In sharp contrast to previous conflicts, the federal government did not raise taxes to help cover the costs but instead borrowed all the money on the national “credit card.” The absence of war taxes made the wars appear free, effectively killing public debate over whether we should continue to fight. Consequently, our national debt is at its highest level since World War II, and we have bequeathed trillions of dollars in debt to the millennial generation. The burden of paying off the debt will fall especially hard on low- and middle-income households, who pay the largest share of their income in taxes, furthering exacerbating income inequality.
So the rich and the bankers won again, huh?
Congressional checks on the cost of war has largely been nonexistent for the past 17 years. Nearly all the money to pay for the wars has been allocated using gimmicks that circumvent the regular congressional budget process and are exempt from pay-as-you-go rules. Congress has held far fewer hearings on war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan than during Vietnam and Korea.
Even if we could borrow all the money for a war in Iran — which might be difficult in the face of rising government debt and unstable international capital markets — this time around the US economy is already at full employment. In this economy, a radical increase in military spending is likely to produce inflation, making it even more difficult to rebuild our crumbling domestic infrastructure.
Yet another cost of a war with Iran is the acceleration of climate change. The US military is already the world’s single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses, releasing 77-80 percent of all US government greenhouse gas emissions since 2001. Military fuel consumption will surge in any mobilization and war with Iran. Damage to the Iranian oil infrastructure could put millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, as was the case in the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the most recent war against ISIS.
Kind of puts the $hame to the endle$$ agenda-pu$hing in my war-promoting pre$$ regarding climate change and the need for a carbon tax, huh?
You want to lower emissions?
SHUT DOWN the WAR MACHINE!
Congress endorsed a rush to war against Iraq and Afghanistan based on rosy assumptions, false promises and, in the case of Iraq, faulty intelligence. Seventeen years of congressional silence on the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan has emboldened the hawks in the Trump administration. They now overlook the potential costs and argue that they do not need congressional authorization for military action against Iran.
Rosy assumptions, false promises, and faulty intelligence are simply polite words for LIES!
We must not repeat the last mistake. Congress needs to take back control. It must deliberate and decide if a nuclear agreement with Iran is worth salvaging and if war is really the most effective tool for achieving our political goals. One thing should be clear to all Americans: Any war will be expensive, and the economic risks are extremely high.....
Worth it to prevent a new power from rising.
"Editorial: Punishing Jamal Khashoggi’s real killers
Agnes Callamard, a special rapporteur for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will present her findings to the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, but the question remains what it was eight months ago when the Washington Post columnist and US resident disappeared after entering the consulate. Will the Trump administration do anything meaningful in response?
Will this administration continue to do business with and defend a regime even after a report that concludes, “Mr. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”
Will it still be business as usual?
Shockingly, it appears so. In an interview with “Meet the Press” on Sunday, President Trump signaled that the financial interests of the United States in Saudi Arabia take precedence over the assassination, but as Callamard points out, Khashoggi lived and worked in the United States at the time of his murder, so it would certainly be appropriate for the FBI and for Congress to launch their own investigations.
Congress, which found its voice in March, with a resolution to end US military assistance to Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen, only to be stymied by a presidential veto, did so again Thursday. In the wake of the report, the Senate voted 53-45 to halt arms sales to the Saudis, but once again not by enough votes to override a presidential veto.
Looks like a dictatorship to me.
Of course, the human rights abuses of the Saudi regime are not limited to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. His Turkish fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting for him outside the consulate on the day he was killed, wrote a heart-rending op-ed in The New York Times in which she pleaded for the lives of three imprisoned Saudi scholars she feared were slated for execution.
“Jamal will never come back but something could be done to save these people for whom he fought,” she wrote. “President Trump has tried to look the other way. But he has the power to save the lives of three men.”
That, however, would take an act of political courage — and an acknowledgment that this nation at its core stands for human rights even when that’s not particularly expedient. The former is sorely missing in the Trump White House these days and the latter virtually nonexistent.....
He is Public Enemy #1, and the self-righteous talk of human rights would be laughable were it not so fatal to so many.
The Globe is living in the past, and they care more about one of their own than they do all of Yemen, and while on the topic of human rights:
"US will present Palestinian economic plan amid global criticism" by Matthew Lee Associated Press, June 24, 2019
MANAMA, Bahrain — Despite withering criticism, charges of hypocrisy, and outright rejection from the intended beneficiaries, the Trump administration is plowing ahead with a $50 billion economic proposal to aid the Palestinians and in the hopes that it will drive a much-anticipated but unseen Mideast peace plan.
The United States has attracted only lukewarm support from its traditional partners in Middle East peacemaking and is convening the ‘‘Peace to Prosperity’’ workshop this week in the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain under the shadow of rising tensions with Iran that could ignite regional conflict. The two-day conference that begins Tuesday in Manama has drawn governmental and private-sector participants from dozens of countries, but lacks official Israeli or Palestinian delegations.
The event includes presentations from President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, but the seven-page program for the workshop contains no discussion of how to resolve the political disputes at the core of the conflict.
The administration acknowledges that its ambitious economic proposals are contingent on acceptance of a political plan, which will not come out until the fall.
It's on ice until then.
The program does not mention Israel or Palestine and refers to Palestinians by name only four times. One of those references is in the description of the sole Palestinian participant with a speaking role at the meeting, a West Bank businessman who works with Israeli settlers and is viewed with suspicion by his many fellow Palestinians.
They used to call them collaborators.
The administration has refused to endorse a ‘‘two-state solution,’’ a goal long viewed by many as the only viable way to secure lasting peace, and the 40-page proposal and its longer annex do not use the phrase. Nor do the documents offer any hint as to who will pay for the programs, which include health, education and public works projects in the West Bank, Gaza, and for Palestinian communities in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
You flip through it and you find it is nothing more than an Israeli blueprint.
Lebanon is boycotting the conference. Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab nations with peace treaties with Israel, are sending only midlevel officials. Their acceptances of invitations to Bahrain, similar to those of other Arab states, include the caveat that they will not support a peace deal that the Palestinians won’t accept.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said Monday that his country is participating to listen to the proposal. ‘‘We have the right to evaluate and review it,’’ he said in an interview with Russia Today, but, he added, ‘‘the final decision is for the Palestinian Authority.’’
I didn't see that.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is having none of it. ‘‘The workshop was meant to address the economic problems, but the real problem is the political one,’’ he said Sunday. ‘‘The Palestinians are seeking an entity, statehood, and after that we look at the economy.’’
Hundreds of Palestinians on Monday protested against the conference, pouring into the streets of West Bank cities, from Hebron to Nablus; many burned effigies of Trump and Bahrain’s king. Protesters in Ramallah carried a giant coffin labeled ‘‘Bahrain workshop’’ and signs that said ‘‘The Deal of the Century is doomed.’’
(Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)
He is Public Enemy #1.
I decided to throw some shade at the conveniently-timed self-inflicted false flag, sorry.
Also on ice:
"‘We’re getting close,’ lawmakers vow on education funding revamp, without specifics on a deadline" by Victoria McGrane Globe Staff, June 24, 2019
For months Beacon Hill leaders have been saying overhauling the state’s troubled education funding formula is one of the most urgent tasks before them, but as the height of summer approaches, the Legislature has produced little outward evidence of progress.
Policy makers say movement is happening behind the scenes, but time is running short to produce a consensus bill by the end of June — and the longer it takes for them to complete their work, the less likely the state House and Senate will be able to act before lawmakers scatter for late summer vacations.
Outside advocates, some lawmakers, and Governor Charlie Baker, too, had started the year with hopes that Beacon Hill could complete work on a funding overhaul bill during the current calendar year, perhaps even before the start of the new school year, but Representative Alice Peisch of Wellesley and Senator Jason Lewis of Winchester made no promises on the timeline Monday night during a discussion on the issue hosted by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.....
They need to do more homework even as the schools stagnate.
"4 arrested at casino in first 24 hours of operation" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff, June 24, 2019
EVERETT — Four people were arrested in three incidents at Encore Boston Harbor during the casino’s first 24 hours, which the city’s police chief described as a success.
“Very limited problems,” said Police Chief Steven A. Mazzie. “Overall, we feel good.”
He said the number of arrests was low, given the many thousands of people who visited the $2.6 billion resort casino, which opened Sunday morning at 10. Traffic problems were minimal, he said, and emergency medical personnel were quick to help people who struggled with the heat as they waited to get inside.
One person was charged with trespassing after they were asked to leave and then came back, another was arrested for disorderly conduct at about 2:30 a.m. Monday, and two men from New York were arrested after allegedly cheating at roulette, according to police.
Jankelli S. Volquez, 27, and Hector Hernandez, 56, were charged with cheating and conspiracy after being observed cheating at a roulette table, State Police spokesman David Procopio said.
They were released on personal recognizance and ordered to stay away from the casino, said a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey.
They were left on an island to boot.
State and local police respond to incidents at the casino. All four people arrested were booked at the Everett Police Department, Procopio said.
Another casino patron was issued a summons for possession of heroin, he said.
In addition to those criminal matters, Procopio said state troopers helped Wynn Resorts security with minor incidents, such as underage people on the gaming floor — many of whom were passing through with adults — arguments, medical aid, and crowd control.
Were they getting overtime for that?
A new test of the resort casino will come this weekend — its first Friday and Saturday nights — when the crowds could well be larger and the traffic more of a challenge.....
"Boston police shot and killed a 19-year-old man in Dorchester on Monday after he fired at two officers who had ordered him to drop his gun, police said. The shooting happened on Penhallow Street shortly before 5:30 p.m. after a chase. The 19-year-old, who police did not identify, was pronounced dead at the scene. The officers were not injured but were taken to a hospital for evaluation. They were placed on leave while police and the Suffolk District Attorney’s office investigate the circumstances of the shooting. Police Commissioner William Gross provided details of the shooting at a news conference at department headquarters late Monday evening. On Monday, Asraf Ali, 48, was outside working on his car when he saw a man with a gun running up Silloway Street, with two police officers chasing him on foot. They were yelling “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” Ali said. Alarmed, Ali quickly helped his grandfather into their house. A few minutes later, he heard police again shout at the man to drop his gun before three shots rang out, he said. “You don’t see this kind of thing around here, it’s crazy,” said Ali, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 30 years....."
Wasn't the only shooting in Bo$ton yesterday, either.
"Hemp farmers looking for answers after Mass. says they can’t sell CBD products" by Felicia Gans Globe Staff, June 24, 2019
Unlike marijuana stores, retailers selling hemp-derived CBD have been operating in a legal gray area, not regulated by the state but largely ignored by most local law enforcement agencies or health boards. After state regulators declared hemp-derived CBD products more-or-less illegal this month, Massachusetts’ hemp farmers are looking for some clarity.
“It feels like they’re trying to stop an industry that was literally just about to take off the ground,” said Laura Beohner, cofounder of The Healing Rose, a CBD company based in Newburyport. “To hurt hemp farmers like this, it’s so upsetting.”
Beohner was one of nearly three dozen people who spoke outside the State House Monday at a rally organized by a new coalition of hemp farmers, manufacturers, and advocates called the MASS Hemp Coalition.
The rally was sparked by the new state policy prohibiting the sale of hemp-derived CBD in foods and hemp-derived CBD products that make “therapeutic/medicinal claims.”
The majority of CBD products on the market, even in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, are derived from hemp, a plant similar to marijuana but grown with only minimal levels of THC, the mind-altering compound found in cannabis. Hemp was legalized federally last year and is widely sold, although the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve food or dietary uses for CBD.
CBD products that are derived from marijuana, some of which also include a higher level of THC than is allowed in hemp, are overseen by the state Cannabis Control Commission.
Allowing for marijuana-derived CBD while banning hemp-derived CBD is poor public policy, said Jim Borghesani, a former spokesman for the 2016 campaign for legalization.
“You can’t have this absurd dichotomy in the state where you can have marijuana or cannabis consumables, but you can’t have hemp consumables,” he said.
For Massachusetts farmers who already have state licenses to grow hemp, the ban on CBD products is affecting their livelihood.....
Open Pot Shop
Maybe the fire can melt some of the ice, 'eh?