It’s Saturday, and the flurry of anti-women legislation has temporarily let up. Before Congress comes back next week to vote against immigrants and other people, here’s a catch-up on some recent news, both bad (the first part) and good.
The Supreme Court has again ruled for corporations, this time pharmaceutical companies. In a decision (as usual, 5-4) announced on June 24, SCOTUS ruled that people cannot sue manufacturers of generic drugs for faulty products. The case involved a New Hampshire woman who had horrible skin burns over most of her body and was almost blinded after taking sulindac to relieve shoulder pain.
Pharmacies usually substitute generic drugs for name-brand ones because they are so much cheaper, even if there is a difference between the two types. There are 437 generic drugs that have no brand-name equivalent. The makers of brand-name drugs, constituting about 20 percent of prescriptions in the U.S., can be sued for damages. Two years ago, a SCOTUS decision shielded generic manufactures from lawsuits for improper labeling. The FDA is considering a change in its policy allowing generic drug manufactures to make changes, possibly making them liable for these situations.
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), designed to keep medical records private, requires shared patient information to be stripped of key identifying information, but there are loopholes that allow your health information to be more public than you want. State public health agencies are exempt from the stripping requirement when they sell private medical records as part of a health database. Cross-referencing this information with other public material such as news reports can reveal your identity.
At least 25 states leave information available so that anyone’s personal medical record can be pinpointed and then made public. The drug industry loves having this information and has become a major buyer of these medical records to design ads to doctors and target potential patients. Other buyers are IMS Health, a provider of prescription date; OptumInsight, a division of the biggest health insurer UnitedHealth Group; and WebMD.
As people become aware of this lack of privacy, they become more reluctant to get health care. For example, a new form of gonorrhea resistant to cephalosporin and other antibiotics is a serious public health concern requiring careful treatment. Young people, who are at the highest risk of gonorrhea, are also most likely to avoid health care if private information is exposed.
You can ask Congress to amend HIPAA to allow patients to opt out—to keep their medical information from being sold or shared with any entity that is not currently giving the patient medical treatment.
The man who killed hundreds of thousands of people by starting two wars in the Middle East, failed to pay attention to intelligence before the disaster of 9/11, and supported torture is receiving a humanitarian award at the University of Denver for “improving the human condition.” A petition protesting this award for George W. Bush and signed by over 1,100 students and alumni within ten days, states:
“Former President George W. Bush left behind a legacy of human rights abuses, including the torture of detainees in extraterritorial jails, preemptive war, domestic surveillance programs and other egregious actions that deleteriously impact the human condition.”
The university has decided to still give Bush the award on September 9 but change its name, hoping to raise money for the school. Bush’s work to prevent AIDS and malaria in Africa did have an impact on the continent. But he led the country down the hole of a recession in addition to volumes of other disasters for the people of the United States.
The school has not announced the new name, but you can still protest.
Income taxes were due almost three months ago, but you might want to figure out your effective tax rate to compare it to what others pay. It’s simple: divide your total tax by your adjusted gross income. In 2009 Americans with incomes in the top 25 percent of taxpayers paid an average effective federal income tax rate of 14.68 percent. Mitt Romney said he paid 14 percent.
In 2010, U.S. corporations paid an average tax rate of 12.6 percent, far below the 35 percent that they claim they are forced to pay and lower than the 13.1 percent rate that they reported in financial statements. Taxes aren’t hurting corporations: both their before-tax and after-tax profits as a percentage of national income (13.6 percent and 11.4 percent respectively) are at post-World War II highs. There is also no indication that high corporate tax rates have a negative affect on economic growth.
Remember these figures the next time that conservatives want to lower corporate taxes into oblivion. They’re already half of what they were in the 1950s.
The third consecutive test of a U.S. defense managed by Boeing against long-range ballistic missiles failed yesterday. Of the 16 tests for the so-called ground-based midcourse defense system, only eight times have been successful, the last one in December 2008. The Pentagon said that the country will still bolster the U.S. missile defense system with 14 new anti-missile interceptors costing almost $1 billion. The nation currently has 30 of these interceptors. This might be one place where Defense can cut its budget.
Heather Woodside has started a petition to remove the bust of Rush Limbaugh from the Missouri state capitol. She said, “Since Sandra Fluke, Rush has still been demeaning women, people of color, immigrants, the working class and the LGBT community.” As Stephen Foster, Jr. wrote, “A racist sexist drug addict who pushes hatred and fear has no right to be honored by government or anyone else for that matter.”
Amidst much criticism of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for what some people think is invading their privacy, the TSA is now posting photographs of confiscated items. Once you get there, just sit and watch the changing images. The next time people complain about the TSA, point them in this direction.
The police department in Aurora (CO) destroyed DNA evidence in 48 sexual assault cases, requiring them to drop charges in 30 active cases.
When Rupert Murdoch’s employees at the Sun were discovered bribing public officials, he claimed that he had no idea that they were doing it until after an internal investigation. A tape now shows that he not only knew about it but also told the employees that he would support them no matter what problems would arise. Murdoch is also on tape, trashing Scotland Yard and ridiculing the significance of the crimes. Also after Robert Emmel cost News America over $650 million in settlements by exposing the crimes, News Corp. bankrupted him with lawsuits. It also made Paul Carlucci, News America CEO, publisher of the New York Post.
During the Occupy Movement almost two years ago, peaceful protesters at Oakland (CA) suffered great police brutality. One video showed police shooting flash grenades at them when they tried to help Scott Olsen, a two-time Iraq war veteran who had a fractured skull and brain swelling after he was hit by a police projectile. This last week, the U.S. district court in San Francisco awarded 12 protesters $1 million, the dollar amounts varying per person from $20,000 to $500,000. Last year the University of California Davis offered each of the students who were pepper-sprayed at close range by campus police an award of $30,000.
And my favorite story:
While workers in the United States struggle with employers who won’t give them full wages or who deprive them of other benefits, some workers in China have another solution—holding employers hostage. After Chip Starnes, a co-owner of Florida-based Speciality Medical Supplies, allegedly failed to pay past wages when he planned to move the factory, employees locked arms in a circle. Starnes was forced to give his media reviews through the security bars in his window. He described his treatment during the week as “inhumane.”
Foreign plant owners in China skip out on workers’ pay so many times that Chinese authorities don’t interfere with the hostage game. The U.S. calls this felony kidnapping; the Chinese call it dispute resolution. When Shanghai Shinmei Electric limited all bathroom breaks to two minutes, about 1,000 workers locked up 18 bosses.
Starnes is back in the U.S., and his factory is headed for Mumbai, India.