Tuesday the 13th

US crazy spending on health care driven by drug prices, salaries
The Guardian
— The United States spends twice as much on healthcare as 10 other high-income nations, driven by the high price of everything from prescription drugs to doctors’ salaries, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds.
— Recent attempts to reform American healthcare have assigned blame for the high cost of care to nearly every sector – from drug companies to hospitals to health insurers.
— However, a co-author of the new study said those arguments ignore the “800-pound gorilla”: sky-high prices everywhere.
— “Most countries get to lower prices one of two ways: they either have a very strong price setter, usually a government agency, or more efficient markets,” said Dr Ashish Jha, co-author of the study by researchers at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health. “The US has figured out how to do the worst of both.”

Russian nerve agent scientist:
Hundreds in UK could be at risk for years
The Independent
— One of the Russian chemical weapons scientists who developed the Novichok nerve agent has warned that hundreds of people could be at risk for years following the attack in Salisbury.
— Vil Mirzayanov, who fled to the US two decades ago, claimed Sergei Skripal and his daughter would not recover from the poisoning.
__ “There is no cure,” he told Sky News from his home in New Jersey. “There are antidotes but…they will be invalid for whole life.”
__ Dr Mirzayanov said Novichok was so powerful that extremely small doses could remain a danger to public health for years, listing possible symptoms including headaches and loss of coordination.
__ “It’s very bad because even the very small doses, very small, still they are very effective and then there will be consequences for years probably,” he added.

Gina Haspel, Trump’s choice for CIA, ran a torture site.
The Intercept
haspelShe was “directly involved in its controversial interrogation program” and had an “extensive role” in torturing detainees. Even more troubling, she “had run a secret prison in Thailand” — part of the CIA’s network of “black sites” — “where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques.” The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture also detailed the central role she played in the particularly gruesome torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah.
— Beyond all that, she played a vital role in the destruction of interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees both at the black site she ran and other secret agency locations. The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as “obstruction” by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane. A special prosecutor and grand jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute.

“I think Rex will be much happier now.”
— Trump, as quoted by CNN
rex.jpg

How does it feel to be fired by a moron? Rex Tillerson now knows.

And just yesterday, Rex was saying…
— Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a bold stance at odds with the White House Monday, specifically pointing a finger at Russia for the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the UK last week.
— “This is a really egregious act. It appears that it clearly came from Russia,” Tillerson said in a statement. “Whether it came from Russia with the Russian government’s knowledge is not known to me at this point.”
Axios

Trump blocks Singapore chip-makers’ bid to buy US rival Qualcomm
The Guardian

Trump’s go-fer booted from White House
Raw Story
— John McEntee wasn’t well known in public but was constantly beside Trump for the last three years. His responsibilities consisted of having markers for Trump to sign autographs, delivering messages to the residence … No reason given but he indicated to his colleagues it may have been about his background check.

Immigration agency spokesman resigns:
“I didn’t feel like fabricating the truth” 

San Francisco Chronicle
— Wouldn’t side with feds in blaming Oakland mayor for failed immigration sweep.
Attention: Sarah Huckabee Sander. Integrity is possible in government service…

House ends Russia probe: Nothing to see here
Politico
Let’s all roll over and go back to sleep.

Microplastic pollution of ocean far worse than feared
The Guardian
— The number of tiny plastic pieces polluting the world’s oceans is vastly greater than thought, new research indicates.
— The work reveals the highest microplastic pollution yet discovered anywhere in the world in a river near Manchester in the UK. It also shows that the major floods in the area in 2015-16 flushed more than 40bn pieces of microplastic into the sea.
— The surge of such a vast amount of microplastic from one small river catchment in a single event led the scientists to conclude that the current estimate for the number of particles in the ocean – five trillion – is a major underestimate.
— Microplastics include broken-down plastic waste, synthetic fibres and beads found in personal hygiene products. They are known to harm marine life, which mistake them for food, and can be consumed by humans too via seafood, tap water or other food. The risk to people is still not known, but there are concerns that microplastics can accumulate toxic chemicals and that the tiniest could enter the bloodstream.

Moscow to deploy 17,000 cops to “protect” so-called elections
Moscow Times

Sheriff made $250,000 a year underfeeding prisoners
AL.com
He’s got an awful lot of real estate for a humble sheriff
— Many Alabama sheriffs contend that the practice of keeping “excess” inmate-feeding funds for themselves is legal under a state law passed before World War II. Yet in a number of counties including Jefferson and Montgomery, any money allocated to sheriffs for feeding inmates that is not used for that purpose is instead turned over to the county government.
— Sheriff Todd Entrekin reported on forms he filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission that he made “more than $250,000” each of the past three years via the inmate-feeding funds.

Senate banking bill rewards Equifax, despite breaches
Politico
Newly released provisions would allow the company and its industry peers to enter the mortgage market while shielding them from consumer lawsuits.

$100 billion — YES BILLION — to replace 12 US submarines
Newsweek
The Columbia-class nuclear submarine fleet, which is currently under development, is set to enter service in 2031 and serve until 2085. The 12 submarines, carrying 16 Trident nuclear missiles each, will replace the Navy’s 14 ageing Ohio-class vessels. The Ohio fleet will be decommissioned at a rate of one vessel per year from 2027.

Maybe all that “buy local” stuff is a bit of a scam
USA Today
— Some food researchers say the lack of uniform regulations and the number of food-branding programs not only undermine consumer confidence, they devalue the meaning of “local” food.
— “The word local is chic; it sells things,” said Cindy Fake, horticulture and small-farms adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension. “So it’s used by everybody and anybody.”
— Fake said the world “local” has no clear definition and consumers are easily misled.

Researchers: Brain damage has role in religious fundamentalism
Raw Story
A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

You can now 3-D print a house in just a few hours
Quartz
3dhouse
… fully up to code and permitted for people to inhabit.
… plan to take this proof-of-concept and start producing small houses for families in countries like Haiti and El Salvador.
… The 800-sq-ft house cost around $10,000 to build, but the company plans to eventually bring that price down to around $4,000.
… Theoretically, it could soon print one of the houses in about six hours.

Simple health scam netted father/son $16 million, and long prison time
NPR
A father-son duo from Dallas have been convicted of running a multimillion-dollar scam to convince American Airlines employees they suffered from hearing loss — and to profit off the health care claims they filed for their false diagnoses. The verdict handed down by a jury last Thursday could mean more than 90 years in federal prison each for Terry Lynn Anderson, 67, and his 37-year-old son Rocky Freeland Anderson.
While speaking on March 2nd at a press conference on opioids at an inpatient facility that treats newborns suffering from prenatal drug exposure, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar proclaimed that “there really is no such thing as medical marijuana” in response to a question regarding what he sees as the role of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain management. Azar went on to say, “There is no FDA approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that.”

 

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