Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Trump administration announces plan to allow imports of prescription drugs

The Trump administration announced plans to allow the importation of drugs from other countries, a major part of President Trump's agenda for lowering the cost of prescriptions.

The proposal, the Safe Importation Action Plan, calls for a rulemaking to authorize state, wholesaler, or pharmacy plans to try to set up drug importation programs that abide by FDA safety standards.

The FDA would also work with manufacturers to assure that the drugs sold to foreign countries abide by FDA regulations to be sold in the U.S. "We are open, there is a pathway," Azar said.

"We will lay out the criteria for states, wholesale retailers, and pharmacies to see that they have a workable plan to lower costs and protect American consumers. But they must work with us and convince us that you have a plan that works."

Azar said he has spoken with Canada's health minister, as Canada has been the country most frequently referenced for drug importation, about how the plan will be carried out.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced a plan to begin drug importation in February, and said he has the president's full support.

The Canadian government has also been reluctant to sign on to importation proposals, saying importation would deplete the country's own supply of prescription drugs.

It’s Time To Pressure Corrupt Central American Elites To End The Border Crisis

  1. Corruption affects almost every area of society in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and helps fuel the violence and poverty that migrants say is driving them to seek protection in the United States.
  2. The fact is, the border crisis is being fueled above all by poverty and corruption in Central America, and as long as those things persist, Central American families will have a powerful incentive to head north and seek a better life in the United States—by any means necessary.
  3. A 2016 purge—prompted by pressure from the United States—resulted in the firing of more than a third of the nation’s 13,500 police officers, including all 40 of the highest-ranking officers, “dismissed because they were suspected of being criminals, didn’t pass a polygraph or were incapable of doing the job.” Gangs like MS-13 and 18th Street Gang are sending some of their members to school to become doctors and lawyers, others to the police academy to become officers.
  4. The pact, for what it’s worth, stipulates that Hondurans and Salvadorans, as well as migrants from other countries, have to apply for asylum in Guatemala, and be denied, before being eligible to apply for asylum in the United States.
  5. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales initially didn’t want to sign the pact, which will force migrants passing through Guatemala en route to the United States to seek asylum first in Guatemala.
  6. But if we’re serious about solving the border crisis, safe third country pacts aren’t nearly as important as forcing Central American elites to tackle corruption, organized crime, and drug cartels.
  7. But it shows that the Trump administration has real leverage over Central American elites who run what are essentially failed states, and that putting pressure on them can get them to do things they don’t want to do.

Senate's Lower Health Care Cost Act Repeats Worst Features of Obamacare

Dubbed the "Lower Health Care Cost Act," the bill claims to protect recipients of unexpected medical bills that their healthcare plans will not cover.

In reality, it imposes price controls on insurers similar to Obamacare.

No one wants a repeat of that, but that is what the Lower Health Care Cost Act will give us.

The LHCC uses price controls to force health insurers to cover out-of-network emergency service.

In general, patients prefer a provider they know when it comes to dealing with sensitive health care issues.

The LHCC gives the U.S. Department Health and Human Services the authority to set up a dispute resolution process when insurers and providers disagree over whether a service should be covered.

Expect Health and Human Services to generate labyrinthian regulations governing the dispute resolution process, regulations that will be very easy for insurers and their attorneys to exploit.

Baltimore Culture Wars: A History

Some cultural background could help rebuff intimidation during the current battle of Battle of Baltimore.

Songwriter Randy Newman dealt with Baltimore as urban hellhole back in 1977 on his Little Criminals album.

He'd seen the marble stairs and the urban blight, just like the politicians and journalists who ride the Acela train past Baltimore on their way to D.C. but continue to ignore it.

In her sullen, woeful, jazzy tone, she emphasized the refrain "Baltimore / Man, it's hard to live." Have we forgotten what Simone verified as the unchanging hardship of Baltimore lives with nothing left to lose?

A young black filmmaker and Prince fan told me, "Before the controversy, black folks in Baltimore didn't a damn about Freddie Gray." Prince exploited the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray by first referencing Ice Cube's great colloquial "It Was a Good Day," then going all Black Lives Matter-commercial.

Filmmaker Barry Levinson became known as "The bard of Baltimore" when his autobiographical movie Diner appeared in 1982, sentimentalizing the arrested-development experiences of the city's young white males - working-class guys aspiring to what politicians fetishize as "The middle class." Fellow Baltimore native John Waters had worn worn the "Bard" moniker previously, for his outré satires - Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, Female Trouble - in which he dared to tout Baltimore denizens, such as the drag star Divine, who aspired to validate their outsider, underground status.

The Battle of Baltimore isn't exactly a battle of words, between President Trump's tweet about conditions in Baltimore and Representative Elijah Cummings's race-card-by-tweet defense, but a cultural contretemps suggestive of something more insidious: This sinister propaganda game is really a new culture war in which negative inference is used to distract from the civic issue.

The Smearing of Al Franken

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer kicked up quite a dust storm last week with her piece detailing the sound and fury surrounding Minnesota Senator Al Franken's 2017 resignation.

Mayer said after her piece ran that Franken was "Railroaded," and tweeted, "Almost NOTHING His Main accuser Said checks out."

Amanda Marcotte, writing in Salon, called Mayer's piece "a truly baffling move" and "a frankly hackish piece defending Franken and giving ammunition to a year and a half of bad-faith arguments coming from his defenders who really ought to know better." Christina Cauterucci, in Slate, writes, "Nothing that Mayer debunks gets to the heart of why Franken resigned, or even really speaks to detractors' interpretation of his behavior."

In modern times, as Mayer points out, only three senators had been forced to resign their seats before Franken.

A bizarre aspect of the story concerns the skit itself, which sought to generate laughs from overseas military troops by showing in jest essentially what Tweeden accused Franken of doing.

It's at least intriguing that Tweeden would employ the precise words of the skit in lodging her complaint against Franken.

What do we make of the woman who stood with Franken at a photo shoot, put her arms around his shoulder, then posted the image on the web with the words, "Totally stoked. So suck it"-and then accused Franken of inappropriately holding his hand on her waist during the picture taking? "It wasn't violent rape," she said, apparently trying to make a fine distinction.

Hong Kong: There Will be Blood

On Sunday, July 21, protesters even vandalized Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong.

While they did so, screams rang out: "Free Hong Kong!" "Save Hong Kong!" "Freedom for Hong Kong!" Beijing responded with threats to bring in the People's Liberation Army.

Hired thugs in white have begun to violently attack the unarmed pro-democracy protesters in black, while the Hong Kong police have refused to respond.

If you live in Hong Kong long enough, you come to understand that the police is one of the most corrupt institutions in the city.

Beijing wants the world to stay out of its business and allow it to control Hong Kong as it sees fit, regardless of any past agreements.

The Hong Kong agreement, in China's view, is not actually about maintaining a pact with Great Britain.

What the world is witnessing now in Hong Kong is a city-state, much like Monaco, desperately seeking to escape from the clutches of communist control, a fight that has grown and evolved into calls for absolute freedom, the freedom to choose.

Cummings Skips Tour Of HUD Facility In Baltimore

  1. The Daily Caller reported exclusively on Tuesday that Carson would visit Baltimore in the wake of President Donald Trump tweets calling the city a rodent infested mess in which no human being would want to live.
  2. Elijah Cummings declined an offer to tour a Baltimore Housing and Urban Development (HUD) facility with HUD secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday.
  3. When asked about Cummings absence at a press conference, Carson said that he did not know why Cummings did attend the tour but guessed there may have been a scheduling issue.
  4. HUD invited Cummings to tour the facility with Carson on Tuesday, however Cummings rejected the invitation, the Daily Caller has learned.

Democrats Forget the Flint Water Crisis Was Caused by a Bold New Infrastructure Plan

During the CNN presidential debate in Detroit on Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked about her plan to address infrastructure, "Including the water issues so that another Flint issues does not happen again." The question referred to the 2014-2017 crisis in Flint, Michigan-a city 70 miles north of Detroit where contaminated water was linked to deaths of a dozen people from Legionnaire's disease.

The irony, of course, is that the Flint water crisis was a direct result of precisely the kind of job-creation-focused infrastructure plan that so many of the Democratic presidential candidates feel is absolutely necessary to create economic prosperity.

As my colleague Shikha Dalmia wrote in 2016, the decision to cancel Flint's 30-year-old contract with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department and switch to the Karegnondi Water Authority was made in part because the new plan required the construction of an expensive pipeline.

"Genesee County and Flint authorities saw the new water treatment as a public infrastructure project to create jobs in an area that has never recovered after Michigan's auto industry fled to sunnier business climes elsewhere," wrote Dalmia.

The truth is exactly the opposite: Keeping DWSD as Flint's water provider was a cheaper option, but one that would have created zero new infrastructure jobs.

As I wrote when the Flint water crisis story broke, "As recently as 2011, it would have cost every person in Flint $10,000 each to cover the unfunded legacy costs of the city's public employees."

Marianne Williamson also addressed the Flint water crisis, noting that she used to live in the wealthy Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, and "What happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe." To the extent that's true, it's because no government bureaucrats have felt the need to promise massive job-creating infrastructure plans to the people of Grosse Pointe.

FBI Director Goes To Court To Protect Document Which Was Previously Released In Redacted Form; Hmmm

She met with dossier author Christopher Steele in October of 2016, ten days before the FBI submitted their first application to the FISA Court for a warrant to spy on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

The group has filed a new FOIA request to obtain the documents in unredacted form and the FBI has gone to court to prevent that from happening.

Why is the FBI fighting so hard to prevent the release of these documents? The FBI maintains, as they always do, they are concerned that sources and methods will be revealed.

In court, this official argued that "The FBI can't afford to jeopardize the fragile relationships that exist between the United States and certain foreign governments." He also claimed that "FBI special agents have privacy interests from unnecessary, unofficial questioning as to the conduct of investigations and other FBI business."

FBI Director Christopher Wray has gone to great lengths to guard documents pertaining to their counter-intelligence investigation.

Eight days after Kavalec sent Laycock her annotated version of Steele's Alfa Bank research, the FBI submitted to the FISC an application that won the agency permission to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The FBI has actually gone to court to fight this particular one.

The Not So Golden Epoch of Communism

Ceausescu's Golden epoch of failed socialist rule by the Communist Party was nothing but a tarnished and empty goblet of promises and lies.

Western visitors commented on how beautiful Romanian women were, thin as twigs but foreign guests did not understand the real reason for this forced thinness-the lack of food, the rationing of food via stamped cards, the endless daily lines, and the Communist Party prescribed caloric rations.

The "Recommended" food intake was even lower for the rural population and their rationing cards entitled them to less food.

Workers involved in harder labor were entitled to extra 300 g of basic foods listed every month.

Their families had to stand in line for the extra food, if available, and present extra rationing coupons issued to them by the state.

Depending on the year and the type of shortages, usually caused by irrational exportation of food to foreign countries in exchange for hard currency and bad centralized planning by communist ideologues who had no idea how to run any economy, rationing cards were issued for shoes, clothing, food like flour, beans, cooking oil, sugar, rice, and other necessities.

Ceausescu's Golden epoch of failed socialist rule by the Communist Party was nothing but a tarnished and empty goblet of promises and lies for the hapless proletariat who barely survived on an equal pay sustenance level that would have shocked even other Stalinist satellite countries.

Baltimore's Biggest Democrat Rats

When President Trump referred to Baltimore as a "Disgusting rat and rodent infested mess", he could have just as easily been talking about its two-legged Democrat rats as its four-legged Norwegian rats.

Are the Republicans who call Baltimore a disgusting mess to blame, or are the giant Democrat rats roaming the city and feeding on its black population?

After Oaks went down, his campaign began writing big checks to Baltimore Democrats, some who spoke in his defense, and others who represent part of the political establishment in Charm City.

Before reporting to prison, Oaks had a farewell party in the banquet hall of a Baltimore steakhouse.

Residency issues involving Baltimore politicians, who may or may not live in the districts they represent, are commonplace because Baltimore is an extremely vibrant city.

In 2015, while Rep. Cummings was in a House Committee hearing, a West Baltimore rental rowhouse owned by him caught on fire.

The rats of Baltimore have been the first to flee the sinking ship of Charm City.

Bailouts, Capital, or CoCos: Can Contingent Convertible Bonds Help Banks Cope with Financial Stress?

The twofold attraction of CoCos is that they could help financial firms meet regulatory capital requirements and automatically absorb losses in times of financial distress-independent of government intervention.

In short, effective CoCos should help provide financial institutions with a sufficient cushion following a conversion, thereby assuring both market participants and regulators of those institutions' ability to continue in business even after experiencing a significant loss of capital.

Although regulators in many nations allow CoCos to satisfy some part of banks' regulatory capital requirements, the $521 billion of CoCos employed for this purpose thus far remains quite small compared to the approximately $5.3 trillion of bank equity capital worldwide.

In Europe, Basel III capital standards explicitly provide for CoCos to count toward Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital, but only in limited amounts and only when those CoCos possess certain characteristics.

The current regulatory approach to incorporating CoCos into capital requirements, which predated much of the recent work on how CoCos should be structured, does not meet the standards of optimal design that would enable them to function effectively.

For a comprehensive discussion of the case for CoCos and the key criteria they must satisfy, see George M. von Furstenberg, "Contingent Capital to Strengthen the Private Safety Net for Financial Institutions: Cocos to the Rescue?" Bundesbank Series 2 Discussion Paper no.

In Contingent Convertibles, von Furstenberg argues that for CoCos to be attractive capital market investments, they must be able to help meet regulatory capital requirements, be rated investment grade, and have tax-deductible interest payments.