Clearing Off My Desk–Again

My periodic effort to keep my head above water. It’s been two and a
half months and time now to clear off my desk again with brief
acknowledgments and commentary on the stuff that was important to me
and got run down by more immediate headlines.

My periodic effort to keep my head above water. It’s been two and a
half months and time now to clear off my desk again with brief
acknowledgments and commentary on the stuff that was important to me
and got run down by more immediate headlines.
The Clinic is Open;

Companies are
proving that when it comes to health care, you can re-teach old dogs an
old trick. On-site health clinics in the workplace, which had been
disappearing since their peak in the 1970s, are staging a comeback.
Corporations are waking up to the fact that healthy employees are more
productive, while sick workers are a drag on the bottom line. And
they’re trying to do something about it. (NYTimes

The
further federal government falls behind in providing health care, the
more likely we will find creative small fixes among employers. I love
it. This isn’t going to insure the 45 million uninsured in America, but
it may produce a few usable templates to micro-manage what the feds
have failed to macro-manage.
Return of the Drug Company Payoffs;

Two
excessively lenient court decisions have allowed the manufacturers of
brand-name drugs to resume the underhanded practice of paying generic
competitors to keep their drugs off the market. It is a costly legal
loophole that needs to be plugged by Congressional legislation.

The
problem arises when a generic manufacturer tries to take its drug to
market before the patent on a brand-name drug has expired by arguing
that its product does not infringe upon the patent or that the patent
is invalid. Huge sums of money are at stake, especially with
blockbuster drugs whose annual sales can exceed a billion dollars.

Rather than risk it all, a brand-name manufacturer may choose to
pay its generic competitor substantial compensation to drop its
challenge and delay marketing its drug. Both companies make out
handsomely. The big losers are consumers and the public and private
insurers that must continue to pay monopoly prices for the brand-name
drugs. (NYTimes)

Not to put too harsh a spotlight on it, but we really don’t
need a War on Drugs that supports both drug lords and disintegrating
nations on the marijuana highway . . . we need to battle the
pharmaceutical companies down to their knees. Big Pharma, the quiet
rapists of health care.
Putin’s Moment to Seize;

MOSCOW —
Vladimir Putin made headlines last weekend when he blasted the Bush
administration for its “almost uncontained hyper-use of force” that has
created a world where “no one feels safe.” If he had been a Democratic
presidential candidate, it would have been a standard stump speech. But
coming from a Russian president, his remarks had pundits ruminating
about a new Cold War.

I was in the audience in Munich when Putin
made his speech, and the tone seemed to me more one of resentment than
belligerence. He was proud, prickly, defiant — a leader with all the
Russian chips on his shoulder. You could hear his inner voice: We let
you dismantle the Berlin Wall. We folded the Warsaw Pact. We dissolved
the Soviet Union — all on your promises that you wouldn’t take
advantage of our weakness. And what did we get? Nothing! You surrounded
us with NATO weapons. (David Ignatius column)

The
sidebar to this is that, after Clinton left office the new
administration abandoned diplomacy for a Bush Doctrine that was built
on abrogating treaties and exercising preemptive war. Six years later,
the jury has come back with every single initiative made by his administration a failure.
Not small failure, huge failure, debilitating failure based on the
secrecy and mind-boggling incompetence of a paranoid administration. A world where no one feels safe. Some legacy.
Voice Of America Says Goodbye to Uzbek, Other Tongues;

Back
home on a farm in Uzbekistan, Navbahor Imamova’s mother and siblings
crowd around their cranky, Soviet-made radio and tune in daily to Voice
of America broadcasts in Uzbek. Though frequently scrambled by Chinese
martial music, the VOA journalist said, the broadcast is her family’s
chief source of credible, uncensored foreign news in the authoritarian
Central Asian country.

But that source is due to be silenced.
For the second year running, the board overseeing the government-funded
VOA has plans to wipe out news in several languages, including its
flagship English-language “News Now” programming.

“This is big,”
said Imamova, one of seven people who put together the Uzbek service
from Washington. “It’s not a secret that Uzbekistan is one of the most
politically oppressed countries. There’s not a single outlet that can
call itself independent there.”

The Broadcast Board of
Governors, which oversees VOA and six other government-funded
international broadcasters, said this month that the cutbacks are being
made in an effort to shift resources to new technology and “critical
audiences” in the Middle East, North Korea, Somalia and Cuba.

“The
current budget climate requires that we utilize our funds to
effectively adapt to changing viewing habits and new technology, and
respond to the nation’s most immediate and vital national security
challenges,” the board said in a statement. (Washington Post)

VOA
and Radio Free Europe have consistently degraded their outreach to the
countriesthat remain in their ever-smaller portfolio, substituting
American rock and rap music for news. It’s cheaper, and who the hell
even knows where Uzbekistan is?
The Governors are no doubt twenty-something Bush appointees who have
never been abroad. This deplorable decision from a worldwide radio
network that broadcast the American credo in those days when we
actually had a credo. Total funds they abuse in the performance of their mandate–$668 million—equal to about 4 days in the Iraq  war.
And we wonder why we’re losing the hearts and minds of the world.
Early Primary Rush Upends ’08 Campaign Plans;

WASHINGTON,
March 9 — The trickle of states moving their 2008 presidential
primaries to Feb. 5 has turned into an avalanche, forcing all the
presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating
strategy — where to compete, how to spend money, when to start
television advertising — as they gird for the prospect of a 20-state
national primary day. (Adam Nagourney)

Every two
weeks we’re treated to yet another Republican or Democratic ‘debate,’
with a dozen serious and absurd candidates vying to answer loaded
questions for no other purpose than to tease a television audience. Tim
Russert actually takes this stuff seriously and thinks we will as well.

Like Paris Hilton’s jail term, there is no there there—metaphoric helicopters circling a non-event. Like watching the Indianapolis 500,
this election cycle has become a marathon and the most boring race in
the world. Those who watch, watch only to see a wreck. 513 days to the
elections—five hundred thirteen days that those candidates who are in the Congress will not be in the Congress.
Hoping to be elected to a job by not showing up for the job they were elected to do—only in America.
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