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kristopher

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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

Journal Archives

Prescription (Valeant Pharmaceuticals) skin drug costs skyrocket

Prescription skin drug costs skyrocket
Thursday - Nov. 26, 2015
By The Associated Press


WASHINGTON — The cost of prescription skin treatments has skyrocketed since 2009 as the burden of escalating drug prices weighs more on family budgets.

Retail prices have surged 401 percent since 2009 for brand-name drugs for skin conditions, according to research published in JAMA Dermatology, a medical journal. That compares to an overall inflation rate of just 11 percent during the same period.

Of the 19 brand-name drugs analyzed in the study published this week, price hikes have been most extreme for two drugs made by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for documents tied to its pricing and practices. It is under investigation by several members of Congress. The Canada-based company has acquired smaller drug developers and then raised prices of their medicines.

Costs for Valeant's Targretin gel skin cancer treatment have shot up 18-fold during the past six years to $30,320 per 60-gram tube. Prices for a separate Valeant skin cancer cream, Carac cream, also surged 18 times to $2,865 for a 30-gram tube.

But the study found that...
http://triblive.com/usworld/nation/9519969-74/prices-skin-drugs

U.S. working to keep up with surging weapons demand: Pentagon

U.S. working to keep up with surging weapons demand: Pentagon
By Reuters Media on Nov 25, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government is working hard to ensure quicker processing of U.S. foreign arms sales, which surged 36 percent to $46.6 billion in fiscal 2015 and look set to remain strong in coming years, a top Pentagon official said.

"Projections are still strong," Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, who heads the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.

He said the agency was trying to sort out the impact of a much stronger-than-expected fourth quarter as it finalized its forecast for arms sales in fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.

The fight against Islamic State militants and other armed conflicts around the globe were fueling demand for U.S. missile defense equipment, helicopters and munitions, Rixey said, a shift from 10 years ago when the focus was on fighter jets.

"It's worldwide. The demand signal is coming in Europe, in the Pacific and in Centcom," he said, referring to the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East and Afghanistan.

U.S. companies ...
http://www.jamestownsun.com/news/nation-and-world/3890604-us-working-keep-surging-weapons-demand-pentagon

This is what the move away from carbon looks like...

Leapfrogging to Solar: Emerging Markets Outspend Rich Countries for the First Time
By Tom Randall, Bloomberg

We all know the story of how mobile phones took off in emerging markets. Suddenly small cocoa farmers in Africa who never had a landline or a computer were checking commodity prices on their smartphones.
Today something similarly profound is starting to happen with renewable energy.

For the first time, more than half of the world's annual investment in clean energy is coming from emerging markets instead of wealthier nations, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The handoff occurred last year, and it's just the beginning.

The chart below shows quarterly clean-energy investment in OECD countries versus non-OECD countries. The trajectory is clear: If you’re a power plant salesperson, you’re probably going to be working with renewables in poor countries from now until the foreseeable future.



The world recently passed a turning point and is adding more capacity for clean energy each year than for coal, natural gas, and oil combined. For that trend to continue, rapidly developing economies are critical.

Last year, emerging markets invested a record $126 billion in clean energy, up 39 percent from the prior year, according to BNEF's new report, called Climatescope. China dominated, adding 35 GW of clean energy, or more than the U.S., U.K., and France combined. India may soon be a contender, with a plan announced this year to add 175 GW by 2022.

The report...


http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2015/11/leapfrogging-to-solar-emerging-markets-outspend-rich-countries-for-the-first-time.html?cmpid=renewablesolar11242015&eid=291112127&bid=1241690

Republicans’ Flip-Flop on Wind Energy Could Hurt Them in 2016

Republicans’ Flip-Flop on Wind Energy Could Hurt Them in 2016
BY REBECCA LEBER
July 20, 2015

Which way is the wind blowing on alternative energy? Look no further than Iowa, where turbines have shot up across the flat, open landscape in recent years. Nationally, wind energy is still a nascent industry, accounting for just 4.4 percent of overall electricity production last year. But Iowa made an early bet on wind, and it's proving that alternate forms of energy can take on coal—if the conditions are right. And this has put the Republican candidates for president in an awkward position as they campaign in the swing state.

Iowa has come a long way since 2007, when the region received less than six percent of its electricity from wind and 75 percent from coal. By 2013, however, wind accounted for 28 percent of its electrical grid, with coal dropping to 59 percent. And coal’s dominance will continue to diminish. Last week, the public utility Iowa Interstate Power and Light said it would shut down or stop burning coal at five of its power plants in the next few years.

All this is music to the ears of liberal environmentalists, of course, who have long championed alternate sources of energy. It's hardly surprising that, in the 2014 election cycle, Democratic candidates reaped 70 percent of federal contributions from the American Wind Energy Association.

But Republicans were actually among wind energy's early proponents. In the early 1990s, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was the lawmaker who authored the original legislation creating the wind production tax credit, the federal policy that’s been key to making wind competitive. President George H.W. Bush signed the tax credit into law in 1992, and George W. Bush renewed it. “I’m glad to defend the wind production tax credit and wind energy,” Grassley said in May. Among wind energy’s advantages, Grassley noted that it displaces “more expensive and more polluting sources of energy, lowering electricity prices for consumers.” Critics, he said, “disregard the many incentives and subsidies that exist for other sources of energy, and are permanent law.”

Today, though, GOP support for wind investment is scarce. ...
https://newrepublic.com/article/122331/republicans-flip-flop-wind-energy-could-hurt-them-2016

Republican legislators' hatred for renewable energy is increasing in direct proportion to the threat posed to their precious coal and nuclear plants.

In response to Consumer Defection, Utilities Abandoning Attack on Solar

The future of rate design: Why the utility industry may shift away from fixed charges
The animosity over fixed charges is giving way to a debate over comprehensive rate reform

By Gavin Bade | November 19, 2015

Less than three years after the utility industry first introduced fixed charges into its playbook, state regulators and utilities across the country appear to be looking for a new approach to growing concerns over load defection.

In January 2013, the Edison Electric Institute, the national trade group for investor-owned utilities, released its landmark “Disruptive Challenges” report. The report's most notable recommendation was to advise utilities to increase fixed charges to make up for stagnant load growth and customers installing their own distributed generation.

Utilities across the nation took to the recommendation. Last November, Utility Dive reported that there were at least 23 separate fixed charge proposals being considered by state regulators across the country, and the trend has continued through 2015. A recent report from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center found that there were 26 open dockets in 18 states relating to fixed charge increases in the third quarter of this year.

But as quickly as fixed charges came into vogue, they now appear to be on the way out...
http://www.utilitydive.com/news/the-future-of-rate-design-why-the-utility-industry-may-shift-away-from-fix/409504/

Senators taking on EPA got big cash from coal

Senators taking on EPA got big cash from coal
Jacob Pramuk
Thursday, 19 Nov 2015 | 12:51 PM ET
CNBC.com

Many senators who voted this week to block Obama administration coal regulations received healthy campaign donations from coal industry interest groups in recent years.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed two resolutions to stop Environmental Protection Agency rules by a 52-46 vote. One EPA regulation — the Clean Power Plan — would seek to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, while the other would aim to reduce pollution from new plants.

Senators who voted to scrap the EPA rules received 17 times more campaign funding, on average, from coal interest groups since April 2009 than those who supported them, according to an analysis by money in politics researcher MapLight. The 52 lawmakers took in an average of $75,802 in that period from mining, energy and manufacturing groups, among others.

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The White House on Tuesday said blocking the rules "threatens the health and economic welfare of future generations," adding that President Barack Obama would veto the resolutions. The largely symbolic Senate disapproval comes just days before Obama heads to Paris for international climate policy talks...
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/19/senators-taking-on-epa-got-big-cash-from-coal.html

The top 10 list is included and headed, unfortunately, by a Dem.

China's Tongwei Group Plans World's Biggest Solar-Cell Factory (5GW of panels per year)

China's Tongwei Group Plans World's Biggest Solar-Cell Plant
Bloomberg News
November 18, 2015 — 3:37 AM EST
Tongwei Group Co. is planning to build the world’s biggest plant to make solar cells in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan at a possible cost of about $1 billion.

The facility is expected to have capacity of 5 gigawatts of high-efficiency solar cells annually, according to an e-mailed statement. The company held a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the beginning of construction.

The plant in Shuangliu county will triple Tongwei’s total solar-cell capacity, which is estimated to reach 2.4 gigawatts by the end of this year. The plan underscores Chengdu-based Tongwei’s efforts to expand capacity after agreeing to buy a 10 percent stake in Taiwanese solar-cell producer Gintech Energy Corp. in July.

The factory, which could cost about 20 cents a watt, could be part of a medium-term plan, said Wang Xiaoting, a Hong Kong-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance....
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-18/china-s-tongwei-group-plans-world-s-biggest-solar-cell-plant

China's Tongwei Group Plans World's Biggest Solar-Cell Plant (5GW/yr)

China's Tongwei Group Plans World's Biggest Solar-Cell Plant
Bloomberg News
November 18, 2015 — 3:37 AM EST
Tongwei Group Co. is planning to build the world’s biggest plant to make solar cells in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan at a possible cost of about $1 billion.

The facility is expected to have capacity of 5 gigawatts of high-efficiency solar cells annually, according to an e-mailed statement. The company held a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the beginning of construction.

The plant in Shuangliu county will triple Tongwei’s total solar-cell capacity, which is estimated to reach 2.4 gigawatts by the end of this year. The plan underscores Chengdu-based Tongwei’s efforts to expand capacity after agreeing to buy a 10 percent stake in Taiwanese solar-cell producer Gintech Energy Corp. in July.

The factory, which could cost about 20 cents a watt, could be part of a medium-term plan, said Wang Xiaoting, a Hong Kong-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance....
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-18/china-s-tongwei-group-plans-world-s-biggest-solar-cell-plant

Hillary Clinton Pitched Iraq As 'A Business Opportunity' For US Corporations

Campaign 2016: Hillary Clinton Pitched Iraq As 'A Business Opportunity' For US Corporations
By David Sirota, Andrew Perez

When then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the war against Iraq in 2002, she justified her support of the invasion as a way to protect America’s national security. But less than a decade later, as secretary of state, Clinton promoted the war-torn country as a place where American corporations could make big money.

“It's time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity," she said in a 2011 speech.

The quote was included in an email released by the State Department on Wednesday that specifically mentioned JPMorgan and Exxon Mobil. JPMorgan was selected by the U.S. government to run a key import-export bank in Iraq and in 2013 announced plans to expand its operations in the country. Exxon Mobil signed a deal to redevelop Iraqi oil fields. JPMorgan has collectively paid the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation at least $450,000 for speeches, and Exxon Mobil has donated over $1 million to the family’s foundation....

<snip>

In the aftermath of the Iraq War, the Bush administration pushed to privatize wide swaths of the Iraqi economy. Many prominent political voices charged that the conflict was not about national security or a humanitarian mission against a dictator but was instead an attempt to use military force to open up Iraq’s closed economy to foreign corporations -- including oil giants like Exxon Mobil.

In 2007, for example, then-Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said: “People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs.” That same year, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." Former General General John Abizaid said of the war: ‘‘Of course it’s about oil, it’s very much about oil -- and we can’t really deny that.”

In the email that referred to Clinton’s portrayal of Iraq as a business opportunity...
http://www.ibtimes.com/campaign-2016-hillary-clinton-pitched-iraq-business-opportunity-us-corporations-2121999

I was moved to post this more by Sec. Clinton's vote to go to war than by her actions as SoS. While the duty to represent corporations was part of her portfolio, the vote to go to war was completely and totally an expression of her personal values. The information in this article gives reason to think there was a very cynical and opportunistic element to her decision.

Diabetes Diets Work Differently in People with Different Gut Bacteria

Diabetes Diets Work Differently in People with Different Gut Bacteria
Written by Cameron Scott | Published on November 19, 2015
The glycemic index is used to help diabetics and dieters make healthier choices. But how well it works may have to do with what lives in your digestive system.

Scientists increasingly think that what we eat influences which bacteria thrive in our digestive tracks, and the bacteria in our bellies, in turn, influence our health. A new study indicates this is no less true in people with diabetes.

Scientists say the difference in people’s gut bugs may explain why the customary diet used to control or prevent diabetes — more complex carbohydrates, fewer simple carbohydrates — works so much better in some people than in others.

Out with the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is one commonly used way to categorize foods as safe or unsafe for people with diabetics or prediabetes. Many would-be weight losers also use the rating system to differentiate “good” complex carbs from “bad” simple carbs. The system rates foods based on the average amount of glucose they cause the body to produce.

But, the study published today in the journal Cell argues, those averages are almost meaningless. Foods that rate as low-glycemic, such as lentils, may cause spikes in blood sugar in some people while foods we would expect to be sugar bombs, such as ice cream, can fit well into some people’s diets.

In other words, for some, bread may be a “good” carb, while for others it is a “bad” carb....

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/diabetes-diets-work-differently-in-people-with-different-gut-bacteria-111915

"Huge" differences even though people ate the same foods
By MARY BROPHY MARCUS CBS NEWS November 19, 2015, 2:44 PM

Do we all respond to a tomato in the same way? Or any food for that matter?

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, suspected that we don't, so they set out to explore the issue.

They decided to look at blood sugar levels after people ate, called postprandial blood glucose levels, to see if they varied from one individual to another after eating the same meals. Elevated blood glucose levels are a major risk factor for diabetes and obesity, which are epidemic.

They found a wide variance in how the same foods affected different people.

"The huge differences that we found in the rise of blood sugar levels among different people who consumed identical meals highlights why personalized eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy than universal dietary advice," co-author Eran Segal, with the department of Computer Science and Applied Math at Weizmann, said during a press conference.

The authors, who published their findings Thursday in the journal Cell, collected data on 800 study participant...
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/huge-differences-even-when-people-ate-the-same-foods/


Study abstract:
Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses
Zeevi et al

Highlights
•High interpersonal variability in post-meal glucose observed in an 800-person cohort
•Using personal and microbiome features enables accurate glucose response prediction
•Prediction is accurate and superior to common practice in an independent cohort
•Short-term personalized dietary interventions successfully lower post-meal glucose
Summary
Elevated postprandial blood glucose levels constitute a global epidemic and a major risk factor for prediabetes and type II diabetes, but existing dietary methods for controlling them have limited efficacy. Here, we continuously monitored week-long glucose levels in an 800-person cohort, measured responses to 46,898 meals, and found high variability in the response to identical meals, suggesting that universal dietary recommendations may have limited utility. We devised a machine-learning algorithm that integrates blood parameters, dietary habits, anthropometrics, physical activity, and gut microbiota measured in this cohort and showed that it accurately predicts personalized postprandial glycemic response to real-life meals. We validated these predictions in an independent 100-person cohort. Finally, a blinded randomized controlled dietary intervention based on this algorithm resulted in significantly lower postprandial responses and consistent alterations to gut microbiota configuration. Together, our results suggest that personalized diets may successfully modify elevated postprandial blood glucose and its metabolic consequences.
http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(15)01481-6
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