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American Medical Association Wants Drugs Advertising on Television Stopped

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It’s no secret that the U.S. has the most expensive and least effective health care system in the industrialized world. The reason: health care in this country remains a for-profit commodity, subject to the whims and vagaries of the “free market.” As a result, the cost of life-saving medical devices and prescription drugs are skyrocketing to the point that some families must spend more on medicine than they do on food. It is a disgrace and an inexcusable state of affairs…and the American Medical Association wants reverse the trend. As a first step toward addressing the issue, the AMA recently voted in support of banning all direct-to-consumer advertising of health care products and services.

Advertising and marketing represents a huge expense for corporations involved in health care. These expenses are not only passed on to the consumers, they are also deducted from corporate tax returns as a cost of doing business. One of the biggest concerns in the medical community, however, is how the explosion of advertisements is literally creating artificial demand for expensive (and more profitable, though usually less effective) treatments, when less expensive (and often, more effective – if less profitable) treatments are available.

If you think that advertising has gone on steroids in recent years, with Corporate America assaulting us with commercial ads virtually everywhere we go, you’re not imagining it. Nowhere is this more true than in the for-profit health care industry. Since 2013, Big Pharma’s advertising and marketing budgets have gone up by nearly a third; currently, that figure is at $4.5 billion a year. Not only are these ads expensive and aggressive, they are often misleading in subtle ways. For example, Janssen’s advertising for the Type-2 diabetic drug Invokana indirectly implies that it is also suitable for weight loss and the treatment of high blood pressure (earlier this year, Public Citizen called upon the FDA to put a stop to this type of deceptive marketing).

Overall, the medical community is concerned about the overall effects of aggressive and often misleading direct-to-consumer marketing by the health care industry. Dr. Patrice Harris, newly-elected AMA chairperson, points out several problems that have come about as a result:

Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate…Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, but increases in drug prices can impact the ability of physicians to offer their patients the best drug treatments. Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patient’s health plan.

Dr. Harris adds, “In a worst-case scenario, patients forego necessary treatments when drugs are too expensive.”

The new policy is also calling for greater transparency in drug pricing in relation to costs. In most cases, a medication that costs only pennies to manufacture is sold at thousands of times that amount. Drug makers defend this practice by citing the cost of research and development. That excuse doesn’t really fly, however. Often, drug research is carried out at public universities and other taxpayer funded facilities.

Another factor in the rapidly-escalating cost of prescription medication is the lack of competition. As the law now stands, a pharmaceutical company has a lock on a drug patent for 20 years from the date it is first developed. However, that includes the time it takes to carry out clinical trials and seek market approval (because of this, the Hatch-Waxman Act grants an additional five years). Nonetheless, Big Pharma is not above engaging in legal maneuvering and abuse of these regulations in order to stifle competition from producers of generic versions. The AMA will be calling on lawmakers to enact patent reforms as well as keep a closer eye on industry mergers and acquisitions, which also affect drug costs and reduce competition.

The AMA is looking to create a system that balances “incentives” with what is best for consumers. However, when it comes to health care, profit is absolutely the worst incentive. It’s an incentive that has literally been injuring and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Unless the profit motive is removed from health care – as it has been in virtually every other industrialized nation on earth – very little will change. The AMA’s recent moves to ban direct-to-consumer advertising and create greater transparency and competition in the industry are a good start – but they don’t go nearly far enough.

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Sanders Vows to Do What Other Dems and Repugs Won’t Do: GO AFTER WALL STREET

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has raised eyebrows among conservatives by stating that he is an unapologetic Democratic Socialist. Sanders is also unapologetic in his contempt of Wall Street criminals who screw hard working Americans for a living. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sanders explained that he intends to take action against Wall Street the moment he become president.

Going after Wall Street criminals puts Sanders at odds with not just Republicans but other Democrats as well. To date, not a single Wall Street executive has faced criminal liability for the lawlessness that led to the global financial collapse in 2008.

In the interview with Rolling Stone, Sanders also explained how he feels President Obama dropped the ball regarding Wall Street:

About a half-dozen of us went to visit the president, I’m guessing six months into his [first] term. And we went into the White House, and Larry Summers was there and [Tim] Geithner was there. We had all their money people, all their financial people. That was the issue.

I like the president very much, and I have supported him. We’ve worked together. But these are some of the disagreements we have. The American people were crushed by the greed and illegal behavior on Wall Street, right? And the American people wanted justice.

And we said to the president – I wasn’t alone on this – we said, “Mr. President, you gotta do something. You gotta be tough on this issue.” The end result was seven years have come and gone and there are still no high-ranking CEOs who are in jail. There are kids who smoke marijuana who have criminal records, but not CEOs of large corporations. No matter what kind of crimes and illegal activity, these guys [Wall Street CEOs] are too big to jail?

That is one of the reasons why people became alienated from the political process. They just don’t see justice. From a public-policy point of view, in terms of holding people accountable for serious crimes, the Obama administration blew it. From a political point of view, in giving people confidence that we have a criminal-justice system that works for all, regardless of their wealth or power, it blew it.

For more on this, read the article from Salon titled: “Bernie Sanders puts Wall Street on notice: ‘On day one, I am appointing a special committee to investigate the crimes on Wall Street‘”

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List of Govs Who Will Ban Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Their State Grows

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After Alabama and Michigan governors threw their hat into the anti-refugee ring, several other governers have followed to declare that they would not be allowing Syrian refugees into their state.

Some politicians like Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush have suggested that we only allow Christian Syrians into the country, since everyone knows that Christians are always honest and never criminals. Of course, the Republicans have yet to propose a way in which one could truly surmise a Syrian’s Christian-ship. Maybe by turning water into wine?

The only real way that these states could rebel against a few Syrian refugees would be to somehow deny them any sort of state-funded aid. Obama has already shown that he is not at all tolerant of the xenophobia being displayed by many in America. It is time for America to do our part in aiding these refugees.

The list of states who have said they won’t accept Syrian refugees as of this morning:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin 

Read more about this story at Salon  “Cowardly governors give ISIS a propaganda victory: Refusing refugees is a moral outrage & a strategic blunder.”

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Anonymous Declares War On ISIS, Takes Down 5,500 Terror-Linked Accounts In Two Days

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For a despicable terrorist group hunted around the globe by a formidable coalition of some of the most powerful militaries in the world, staying hidden is the only way to survive. Members of the terror group ISIS, based primarily in Syria and Iraq, have taken to using social media accounts to coordinate, plan, and recruit. They’ve managed to stay one step ahead of U.S. and coalition intelligence services because of the difficulty in tracking the thousands of accounts ISIS members use. But after the brazen attacks in Paris, they’ve kicked the hornet’s nest. The loosely-connected “hacktivist” group known as Anonymous has formally declared war on ISIS – and they are already getting results.

In just under two days, Anonymous has managed to identify and take down over 5,500 pro-ISIS Twitter accounts. Coordinating under the hashtag #opIceISIS, hackers have collected all sorts of valuable data about suspected ISIS members and the people who aid them.

Perhaps sensitive to previous campaigns that led to the leaks of unvetted information, the members of #opIceISIS are being as transparent as they can be with the press. According to the UK’s The Guardian, their reporters have already been granted access to the massive data dumps Anonymous has been collected in the last 48 hours. The information appears extensive (albeit still not independently verified):

The activist collective is assembling lists of the Twitter accounts and websites of extremists, in an attempt to have them taken down. At least one post seen by The Independent contains details including the physical address of a person it claims is an Isis recruiter in Europe.

Activists claim to have successfully had accounts and sites taken down already. Accounts associated with the group claimed that it was responsible for the removal of more than 5,500 accounts.

The idea that hackers have gotten information on who is behind many of the accounts used to propagate the messages of ISIS is probably terrifying for those linked. After all, almost any slip up by a leader of ISIS means certain death. We saw a stark example of that truism just one day before the Paris attack when a U.S.-led airstrike in Syria killed “Jihadi John,” the man seen murdering several hostages in ISIS’s videos this summer.

While conservatives act tough by embarrassingly tweeting pictures of hand guns and empty posturing, what ISIS really fears are things like their names, their addresses, and their social media accounts being compromised. To that end, what Anonymous is doing is very likely to strike a chord of fear among their supporters.

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Archaic Texas Laws Have Led Up To 240,000 Women To Perform Their Own Abortions

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The Supreme Court is set to hear a case out of Texas in the next session concerning the omnibus abortion law HB2, which has effectively closed more than half of the state’s women’s health clinics where abortions were available and safe. The law placed unimaginably strict rules on clinics, demanding they be equal in functionality to a surgical center, with doctors on staff having available hospital residencies close by.

The law made running a clinic in a poverty-stricken or rural area nearly impossible, sending Texas back to the age before Roe v Wade. In a new study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, it was discovered that Texas has seen an increase of more than 300% in self-induced abortions.

In a study from 2008, about one percent of Texas women said they had attempted to end a pregnancy without medical assistance. The new study suggests that number was closer to seven percent in 2012 after Republicans imposed a series of laws inhibiting women’s access to safe health care.

The women affected almost all have the same demographic in common: Poverty. Latino women living near the border who no longer have access to a clinic anywhere near them, and women in poverty-stricken rural areas who don’t have the resources to travel hundreds of miles for treatment are finding themselves in the precarious position of getting one of the two recommended abortion drugs from over the border in Mexico, untested and unapproved by the FDA, both of which often lead to horrible side effects.

Women almost always cite economic reasons, with a very small percentage staying away from clinics because of the “stigma.” Being that we’re talking about Texas, “stigma” is probably code for lunatics standing outside ready to throw red paint at you while carrying signs that would make Carly Fiorina proud.

“This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, one of the study’s co-authors.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, an independent abortion provider in Texas and the lead plaintiff in the HB2 case currently before the Supreme Court, lamented the rise in self-induced abortion attempts and blamed the Texas laws explicitly. “Nobody should be denied safe and compassionate care based on her zip code,” said Hagstrom Miller. “But that’s exactly what’s been happening.”

Hopefully the horrifying results of the “pro-life” texas laws have some swaying power with the Supreme Court. Treating women as secondary to the fetuses they carry is really just getting old.

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No More Syrian Refugees Will Be Allowed Into Alabama and Michigan

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Michigan and Alabama are stopping efforts to relocate Syrian refugees into their respective states. The governors for each state announced on Sunday that the terrorist attacks in Paris last week have given them reason to refuse to accept the refugees.

“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R). “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

“After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bently (R). “As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

For more on this, read the article from Talking Points Memo titled: “GOP Govs In 2 States: No More Syrian Refugees After Paris Attacks!

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Poll: Sanders More Electable Than Trump, Bush

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In the most recent McClatchy-Marist poll, Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to hold his advantage over Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, and most other Republican candidates.

This poll is the first to report that Sanders holds an advantage over Jeb Bush, a sign that true Democratic values are gaining ground as Big Business politicians are on their way out. Previous polls have had Sanders and Bush neck and neck, with Bush sometimes polling slightly higher.

The only Republican that Sanders polled below was Dr. Ben Carson, which is troubling. Of course, when Carson inevitably drops from the race in order to promote his newest book or talk show that we all know is coming, Sanders will have nothing in his way.

While early polls are not always completely dependable, any positive signs for the Sanders campaign can have an incredible ripple effect as individuals who value what Sanders represents but who question his chances see strong public support.

Republicans have been focusing all of their energy on tearing down former Secretary Clinton, but they may discover that they are ignoring a strong underdog who is ready to bite.

View the McClatchy-Marist poll results in their entirety here.

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Ryan Gosling Breaks Twitter Silence To Ask Fans To Share Bernie Sanders Video

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For 100 days, Ryan Gosling’s Twitter account has gone untouched, until his 35th birthday on Thursday when he asked his fans to “do him a solid” and share a video of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The clip that the award-winning heart-throb, actor, film director, screenwriter, musician and businessman asked to be shared?

A heartfelt hug between Senator Bernie Sanders and a Muslim-American student at Virginia’s George Mason University.


The student had told Sanders that she is “looking to change the world,” and asked the candidate about his right-wing opponents who are constantly bashing Muslims like herself in the media.

Sanders then told the student, in a most genuine manner:

“I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in concentration camps. I will do everything I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism which has existed for far too many years.”

He went on to discuss racism, and how politicians use the hatred to pit people against each other and create division. Sanders, however, stated:

“Our job is to build a nation in which we all stand together as one people.”

In September, the Sanders campaign listed 128 celebrities who had endorsed the Vermont senator for the presidency, including other big name actors such as Will Ferrell, Danny DeVito, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, John C. Reilly, and Patton Oswalt.

“As artists and citizens we believe it is time for government to once again represent the people and not just big money,” Adam McKay, Ferrell’s writing partner for his most popular films, such as Anchorman, wrote in a statement about the endorsements.  

“Bernie Sanders is the only candidate speaking against the widespread legalized corruption that has handed our government to billionaires, large corporations and banks.”

However, hours later Gosling did tweet out that his request to share the video was not an endorsement.


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Superstar Fighter Ronda Rousey Endorses Bernie Sanders

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In a true knockout of the GOP candidates, UFC fighter and champion Ronda Rousey has officially endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for president.

The undefeated Mixed Martial Arts fighter has already turned down an endorsement of Trump and has declared that if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination she will be voting third party.

“I voted for Roseanne [in 2012]. Mostly I went in to vote for all the state and local things. I was so unimpressed with the whole presidential campaign that I picked whatever third party I saw, and I saw Roseanne and thought, ‘That’s awesome.’ But I’m really pulling for Sanders this time. I hope it works out.”

When asked why she supported Sanders after such a disinterest in previous candidates, Rousey said:

“I’m voting for Bernie Sanders because he doesn’t take any corporate money. I don’t think politicians should be allowed to take money for their campaigns from outside interests.”

While Rousey may play coy about her political affiliation, her rejection of Trump ,who also refuses PAC money, indicates that she is at least partially liberal-leaning. Her endorsement is another affirmation that the American public is tired of shady political practices dominating elections. it is also a reminder that if we do not nominate legitimate candidates like Senator Sanders -and quickly- the Democratic party risks losing more people to independent groups.

Read more about this story on USA Today “Ronda Rousey just endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.”

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