Who Should Choose? Patients and Doctors or the FDA? by Doug Bandow

Good ideas in Congress rarely have a chance. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is sponsoring legislation to speed drug approvals, but his initial plan was largely gutted before he introduced it last month.

Congress created the Food and Drug Administration in 1906, long before prescription drugs became such an important medical treatment. The agency became an omnibus regulatory agency, controlling everything from food to cosmetics to vitamins to pharmaceuticals. Birth defects caused by the drug Thalidomide led to the 1962 Kefauver-Harris Amendments which vastly expanded the FDA’s powers. The new controls did little to improve patient safety but dramatically slowed pharmaceutical approvals.

Those who benefit the most from drugs often complain about the cost since pills aren’t expensive to make. However, drug discovery is an uncertain process. Companies consider between 5,000 and 10,000 substances for every one that ends up in the pharmacy. Of those only one-fifth actually makes money—and must pay for the entire development, testing, and marketing processes.

As a result, the average per drug cost exceeds $1 billion, most often thought to be between $1.2 and $1.5 billion. Some estimates run more.

Naturally, the FDA insists that its expensive regulations are worth it. While the agency undoubtedly prevents some bad pharmaceuticals from getting to market, it delays or blocks far more good products.

Unfortunately, the political process encourages the agency to kill with kindness. Let a drug through which causes the slightest problem, and you can expect television special reports, awful newspaper headlines, and congressional hearings. Stop a good drug and virtually no one notices.

It took the onset of AIDS, then a death sentence, to force the FDA to speed up its glacial approval process. No one has generated equivalent pressure since. Admitted Richard Merrill, the agency’s former chief counsel:  “No FDA official has ever been publicly criticized for refusing to allow the marketing of a drug.”

By 1967 the average delay in winning approval of a new drug had risen from seven to 30 months after the passage of Kefauver-Harris. Approval time now is estimated to run as much as 20 years.

While economist Sam Peltzman figured that the number of new drugs approved dropped in half after Kefauver-Harris, there was no equivalent fall in the introduction of ineffective or unsafe pharmaceuticals. All the Congress managed to do was strain out potentially life-saving products.

After all, a company won’t make money selling a medicine that doesn’t work. And putting out something dangerous is a fiscal disaster. Observed Peltzman:  the “penalties imposed by the marketplace on sellers of ineffective drugs prior to 1962 seem to have been enough of a deterrent to have left little room for improvement by a regulatory agency.”

Alas, the FDA increases the cost of all medicines, delays the introduction of most pharmaceuticals, and prevents some from reaching the market. That means patients suffer and even die needlessly.

The bureaucracy’s unduly restrictive approach plays out in other bizarre ways. Once a drug is approved doctors may prescribe it for any purpose, but companies often refuse to go through the entire process again to win official okay for another use. Thus, it is common for AIDS, cancer, and pediatric patients to receive off-label prescriptions. However, companies cannot advertise these safe, effective, beneficial uses.

Congress has applied a few bandages over the years. One was to create a process of user fees through the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Four economists, Tomas Philipson, Ernst Berndt, Adrian Gottschalk, and Matthew Strobeck, figured that drugmakers gained between $11 billion and $13 billion and consumers between $5 billion and $19 billion. Total life years saved ranged between 180,000 and 310,000. But lives continue to be lost because the approval process has not been accelerated further.

Criticism and pressure did lead to creation of a special FDA procedure for “Accelerated Approval” of drugs aimed at life-threatening conditions. This change, too, remains inadequate. Nature Biotechnology noted that few medicines qualified and “in recent years, FDA has been ratcheting up the requirements.”

The gravely ill seek “compassionate access” to experimental drugs. Some patients head overseas unapproved treatments are available. The Wall Street Journal reported on those suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease who, “frustrated by the slow pace of clinical drug trials or unable to qualify, are trying to brew their own version of an experimental compound at home and testing it on themselves.”

Overall, far more people die from no drugs than from bad drugs. Most pharmaceutical problems involve doctors misprescribing or patients misusing medicines. The deadliest pre-1962 episode involved Elixir Sulfanilamide and killed 107 people. (Thalidomide caused some 10,000 birth defects, but no deaths.) Around 3500 users died from Isoproterenol, an asthmatic inhaler. Vioxx was blamed for a similar number of deaths, though the claim was disputed. Most of the more recent incidents would not have been prevented from a stricter approval process.

The death toll from agency delays is much greater. Drug analyst Dale Gieringer explained:  “The benefits of FDA regulation relative to that in foreign countries could reasonably be put at some 5,000 casualties per decade or 10,000 per decade for worst-case scenarios.  In comparison … the cost of FDA delay can be estimated at anywhere from 21,000 to 120,000 lives per decade.”

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, among the important medicines delayed were ancrod, beta-blockers, citicoline, ethyol, femara, glucophage, interleukin-2, navelbine, lamictal, omnicath, panorex, photofrin, prostar, rilutek, taxotere, transform, and vasoseal.

Fundamental reform is necessary. The FDA should be limited to assessing safety, with the judgment as to efficacy left to the marketplace. Moreover, the agency should be stripped of its approval monopoly. As a start drugs approved by other industrialized states should be available in America.

The FDA’s opinion also should be made advisory. Patients and their health care providers could look to private certification organizations, which today are involved in everything from building codes to electrical products to kosher food. Medical organizations already maintain pharmaceutical databases and set standards for treatments with drugs. They could move into drug testing and assessment.

No doubt, some people would make mistakes. But they do so today. With more options more people’s needs would be better met. Often there is no single correct treatment decision. Ultimately the patient’s preference should control.

Congress is arguing over regulatory minutiae when it should be debating the much more basic question: Who should decide who gets treated how? Today the answer is Uncle Sam. Tomorrow the answer should be all of us.

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

Health Insurance Is Illegal by Warren C. Gibson

Health insurance is a crime. No, I’m not using a metaphor. I’m not saying it’s a mess, though it certainly is that. I’m saying it’s illegal to offer real health insurance in America. To see why, we need to understand what real insurance is and differentiate that from what we currently have.

Real insurance

Life is risky. When we pool our risks with others through insurance policies, we reduce the financial impact of unforeseen accidents or illness or premature death in return for a premium we willingly pay. I don’t regret the money I’ve spent on auto insurance during my first 55 years of driving, even though I’ve yet to file a claim.

Insurance originated among affinity groups such as churches or labor unions, but now most insurance is provided by large firms with economies of scale, some organized for profit and some not. Through trial and error, these companies have learned to reduce the problems of adverse selection and moral hazard to manageable levels.

A key word above is unforeseen.

If some circumstance is known, it’s not a risk and therefore cannot be the subject of genuine risk-pooling insurance. That’s why, prior to Obamacare, some insurance companies insisted that applicants share information about their physical condition. Those with preexisting conditions were turned down, invited to high-risk pools, or offered policies with higher premiums and higher deductibles.

Insurers are now forbidden to reject applicants due to preexisting conditions or to charge them higher rates.

They are also forbidden from charging different rates due to different health conditions — and from offering plans that exclude certain coverage items, many of which are not “unforeseen.”

In other words, it’s illegal to offer real health insurance.

Word games

Is all this just semantics? Not at all. What currently passes for health insurance in America is really just prepaid health care — on a kind of all-you-can-consume buffet card. The system is a series of cost-shifting schemes stitched together by various special interests. There is no price transparency. The resulting overconsumption makes premiums skyrocket, and health resources get misallocated relative to genuine wants and needs.

Lessons

Some lessons here are that genuine health insurance would offer enormous cost savings to ordinary people — and genuine benefits to policyholders. These plans would encourage thrift and consumer wisdom in health care planning,  while discouraging the overconsumption that makes prepaid health care unaffordable.

At this point, critics will object that private health insurance is a market failure because the refusal of unregulated private companies to insure preexisting conditions is a serious problem that can only be remedied by government coercion. The trouble with such claims is that no one knows what a real health insurance market would generate, particularly as the pre-Obamacare regime wasn’t anything close to being free.

What might a real, free-market health plan look like?

  • People would be able to buy less expensive plans from anywhere, particularly across state lines.
  • People would be able to buy catastrophic plans (real insurance) and set aside much more in tax-deferred medical savings accounts to use on out-of-pocket care.
  • People would very likely be able to buy noncancelable, portable policies to cover all unforeseen illnesses over the policyholder’s lifetime.
  • People would be able to leave costly coverage items off their policies — such as chiropractic or mental health — so that they could enjoy more affordable premiums.
  • People would not be encouraged by the tax code to get insurance through their employer.

What about babies born with serious conditions? Parents could buy policies to cover such problems prior to conception. What about parents whose genes predispose them to produce disabled offspring? They might have to pay more.

Of course, there will always be those who cannot or do not, for one reason or another, take such precautions. There is still a huge reservoir of charitable impulses and institutions in this country that could offer assistance. And these civil society organizations would be far more robust in a freer health care market.

The enemy of the good

Are these perfect solutions? By no means. Perfection is not possible, but market solutions compare very favorably to government solutions, especially over longer periods. Obamacare will continue to bring us unaccountable bureaucracies, shortages, rationing, discouraged doctors, and more.

Some imagine that prior to Obamacare, we had a free-market health insurance system, but the system was already severely hobbled by restrictions.

To name a few:

  • It was illegal to offer policies across state lines, which suppressed choices and increased prices, essentially cartelizing health insurance by state.
  • Employers were (and still are) given a tax break for providing health insurance (but not auto insurance) to their employees, reducing the incentive for covered employees to economize on health care while driving up prices for individual buyers. People stayed locked in jobs out of fear of losing health policies.
  • State regulators forbade policies that excluded certain coverage items, even if policyholders were amenable to such plans.
  • Many states made it illegal to price discriminate based on health status.
  • The law forbade associated health plans, which would allow organizations like churches or civic groups to pool risk and offer alternatives.
  • Medicaid and Medicare made up half of the health care system.

Of course, Obamacare fixed none of these problems.

Many voices are calling for the repeal of Obamacare, but few of those voices are offering the only solution that will work in the long term: complete separation of state and health care. That means no insurance regulation, no medical licensing, and ultimately, the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid, which threaten to wash future federal budgets in a sea of red ink.

Meanwhile, anything resembling real health insurance is illegal. And if you tried to offer it, they might throw you in jail.

Warren C. Gibson

Warren Gibson teaches engineering at Santa Clara University and economics at San Jose State University.

FDA-generated Stevia Myth

One recent “viral” email making the rounds claims that the natives of Paraguay have used the intense sweetener stevia as a contraceptive and that it can cause infertility. This raises suspicions because primitive societies are known for performing fertility rites so that women will reproduce. Primitive societies generally would never do just the opposite and seek a contraceptive method.

The FDA works hand in glove with the sweetener manufacturers, also warns that a supposed infertility effect is ascribed to stevia (with no data to back this claim), and has so far refused to assign it the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) designation.

I have been translating patents relating to sweeteners for about 35 years and it would be hard to maintain that I am not a specialist on this subject. Interestingly, while patents relating to aspartame and sucralose (artificial sweeteners sold, for ex, as NutraSweet or Equal and as Splenda) often mention the known untoward effects of these substances, none of the patents (Japanese, German, Chinese, French, etc.) that I have translated mention any health drawbacks of stevia. If you try to tell a Japanese, for example, that you think stevia is unsafe, they will think you are insane. Their medical profession does its homework and would never fail to report any untoward side effects of stevia if there were any.

Stevia is a natural sweetener whose sweet principles (stevioside and rebaudioside) are the only intense sweeteners in nature without an off-taste. (Licorice, for ex, is also a natural sweetener but its sweet principle glycyrrhizin has a peculiar off taste. Non-intense sweeteners, or bulk sweeteners, are generally sugar alcohols such as xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, etc., and we aren’t discussing them here).

Stevia is a plant that grows to about a foot or more and its leaves are sweet. I have grown it myself to sweeten my coffee.

It is indigenous to Paraguay and the natives have been using it as a sweetener for years.

It is grown in various parts of South America, Asia and elsewhere, and is marketed in various countries. I believe it is available in the U.S. but the FDA refuses to classify it as GRAS. This is highly unusual because almost all natural substances that have been used for centuries in any country are automatically classified as GRAS by the FDA unless the native people who have used it have reported side effects. No Guarani Indians have issued such reports and they have used it for centuries. Further, according to the EUFIC, stevia sweeteners are approved for use in many countries including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Malaysia.

So why might the FDA be out of step with the world?

Well, both Splenda and Nutrasweet / Equal are sold by American companies (JW Childs, Boston, and Merisant). In the case of Splenda, there is a British component in a joint venture, namely, Tate and Lyle, but Johnson & Johnson also sells it.

On the other hand, aspartame, which is known to be harmful to phenylketonurics and actually carries an FDA warning to that effect, is listed as GRAS by the FDA.

This is very suspicious to me.

Here is what Wikipedia says, raising more suspicion.

In 1991, after receiving an anonymous industry complaint, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeled stevia as an “unsafe food additive” and restricted its import [THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS. AN ‘ANONYMOUS’ COMPLAINT DOES NOT MERIT SUCH A RESPONSE! — DON],.[40][59][60] The FDA’s stated reason was “toxicological information on stevia is inadequate to demonstrate its safety.”[61]

Since the import ban in 1991, marketers and consumers of stevia have shared a belief that the FDA acted in response to industry pressure.[40] Arizona congressman Jon Kyl, for example, called the FDA action against stevia “a restraint of trade to benefit the artificial sweetener industry”.[62] To protect the complainant, the FDA deleted names in the original complaint in its responses to requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act.[40]

Stevia remained banned until after the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 forced the FDA in 1995 to revise its stance to permit stevia to be used as a dietary supplement, although not as a food additive – a position that stevia proponents regarded as contradictory because it simultaneously labeled stevia as safe and unsafe, depending on how it was sold.[7]

Early studies prompted the European Commission in 1999 to ban stevia’s use in food in the European Union pending further research.[63] In 2006, research data compiled in the safety evaluation released by the World Health Organization found no adverse effects.[33] Since 2008, the Russian Federation has allowed stevioside as a food additive “in the minimal dosage required”.[51]

In December 2008, the FDA gave a “no objection” approval for GRAS status to Truvia (developed by Cargill and The Coca-Cola Company) and PureVia (developed by PepsiCo and the Whole Earth Sweetener Company, a subsidiary of Merisant), both of which use rebaudioside A derived from the Stevia plant.[64] However, FDA said that these products are not Stevia, but a highly purified product [THAT IS NONSENSE. STEVIA IS NEVER SOLD IN UNPURIFIED FORM. IT TASTES TOO BITTER FOR THAT. IN FACT, IN THE BUSINESS, STEVIA SWEET PRINCIPLES ARE SIMPLY CALLED STEVIA. THIS IS JUST AN EXCUSE FOR THE FDA TO WRIGGLE OUT OF ITS ORIGINAL BAN ON THE PRODUCT!–DON].[65] In 2012, FDA posted a note on its website regarding crude Stevia plant: “FDA has not permitted the use of whole-leaf Stevia or crude Stevia extracts because these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive. FDA does not consider their use in food to be GRAS in light of reports in the literature that raise concerns about the use of these substances. Among these concerns [NOTE: BASED ON AN ANONYMOUS REPORT, AS STATED ABOVE BY FDA. THAT IS OUTRAGEOUS BEYOND BELIEF–DON] are control of blood sugar and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”[66]

So how has this stevia scare affected me personally? Right now, I am now sipping ice tea sweetened with stevia.

A Thousand Ways to Die

Does a day go by when we are not warned about something that might do us harm or kill us?

I recently received an email from the Surgeon General of the United States in which he said, “Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with President Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and health care professionals to discuss climate change. We talked about the impact of climate change on public health and the importance of prevention.”

The prevention of what? Climate change?

In the five thousand years of human civilization, there has never been, nor will ever be, a way to “prevent” climate change. This is not to say that earlier cultures didn’t try to solve drought or other weather-related problems by sacrificing the occasional virgin. We look back at that and regard it as primitive in the same way we find the notion of American Indians doing “rain dances” to induce a downpour to help the crops to grow a thing of the past.

The politicization of “climate change”, a planetary phenomenon that goes back about a billion or so years ago when the Earth took on its present atmosphere and weather patterns tells you everything you need to know about the White House and those who think they can tell outrageous lies to Americans, knowing at least half of them will believe those lives.

You’re not going to die from the “climate”, but what kills Americans is well known.

The good news is that we’re living longer lives than the generations that preceded us.

We can determine what we eat and how much. Some of us thrive on exercise and others do well by ensuring they get a good night’s sleep. There are behaviors we should avoid, but their harm can be traced from a lack of moderation. People who opt for genuinely bad behavior such as drug addictions or alcoholism are simply ruining their own lives and those who care about them.

The obstacles to a long, healthy life often involve factors over which we have no control. These include family histories of illness, genetically passed on from generation to generation.

There are some fifteen most common causes of death in America and they range from diseases of the heart (28.5%) down to homicide (0.7%). That’s right. Even though our media is filled with news of homicides and popular culture features murder, the likelihood of suffering death that way is very small.

Disease of the heart (28.5%) and malignant tumors (22.8%) are responsible for more than 50% of the annual death toll. Other leading causes drop off dramatically by comparison. They include cerebrovascular diseases (6.7%), chronic lower respiratory disease (5.1%), and accidents (4.4%).

On my Facebook page I asked my friends to list some of the things they have been warned about over the years. The list included salt, bacon, processed meats, eggs, soft drinks, saccharin, sugar substitutes, margarine, and chocolate. I have no doubt you can think of other things you’ve been told to avoid. Now, not including things like gluten or peanuts that activate allergic reactions in some people, these and comparable things are not likely to kill you. My rule of thumb has always been to eat the real, the natural food product like butter and avoid the substitutes.

I have no doubt that people have died from smoking. Cigarettes have long been called “coffin nails” in acknowledgment of the way too much smoking can affect one’s lungs. That said, I have smoked for some fifty years and a good cigar is daily pleasure. My Father smoked a pipe for just as long and lived into his 90s. My Mother who taught the art of gourmet cooking, complete with every delicious sauce and method of preparation you can imagine, lived until age 98. An international authority on wine, she would remind her students that you can find it mentioned frequently in the Bible. It is a healthy addition to your diet.

While we are constantly being warned against everything as a potential cause of death, you might find it of interest to learn that the American Medical Association conducted several research studies in the last decade, concluding that approximately 225,000 Americans died from their medical treatments!

Unnecessary surgeries caused 12,000 deaths and hospital medication errors killed 7,000. The odds of dying from an infection you pick up in the hospital is impressive; some 80,000 deaths were attributed to that, but the largest number of deaths, 106,000, were attributed to “negative effects of drugs.” To put it another way, “doctor-induced deaths are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer.”

While we live daily with warnings about everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink (both quite clean), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data on mortality, including suicide. In 2013, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in America. Someone committed suicide every 12.8 minutes. From 1986 to 2000, suicide rates had dropped from 12.5 to 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people. It is back up to 12.6, mostly involving people 45 to 64 years old, as well as those over 85 and older. The rate among men is four times higher than women and whites killed themselves (14.2) far more often than blacks (5.4) and Hispanics (5.7).

While the White House is adding to our stressful lives with utter nonsense about “climate change”, claiming it is affecting our health, there’s another group, those in charge of the United nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCC), whose greatest concern is the fact that there are some seven billion of us on planet Earth whom they blame for eating too much and using too much of its energy resources.

“Obviously less people would exert less pressure on the natural resources,” said Christiana Fiqueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCC. You can translate to mean that there are those at the United Nations who wouldn’t mind if a new plague came along to kill off thousands or if famine did the same thing.

You will live a lot longer if you figure out how to reduce the levels of stress in your life; if you eat well, but moderately; and if you avoid overdoing anything you know can harm you.

Don’t listen to the fear-mongers. In the words of Mr. Spock, live long and prosper.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Hawaii’s $205 Million Obamacare Exchange Implodes

by Alexander Hendrie, Americans for Tax Reform.

Despite over $205 million in federal taxpayer funding, Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange website will soon shut down.  Since its implementation, the exchange has somehow failed to become financially viable because of lower than expected Obamacare enrollment figures. With the state legislature rejecting a $28 million bailout, the website will now be unable to operate past this year.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser the Hawaii Health Connector will stop taking new enrollees on Friday and plans to begin migrating to the federally run Healthcare.gov. Outreach services will end by May 31, all technology will be transferred to the state by September 30, and its workforce will be eliminated by February 28.

While the exchange has struggled since its creation, it is not for lack of funding. Since 2011 Hawaii has received a total of $205,342,270 in federal grant money from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In total, HHS provided nearly $4.5 billion to Hawaii and other state exchanges, with little federal oversight and virtually no strings attached.

Despite this generous funding, the exchange has under performed from day one. In its first year, Hawaii enrolled only 8,592 individuals – meaning it spent almost $23,899 on its website for each individual enrolled. Currently over 37,000 individuals are enrolled in Hawaii’s exchange – well below the estimated 70,000 enrollees that is required to make the website financially viable. Unfortunately, taxpayers will have to hand out an additional $30 million so that Hawaii can migrate to the federal system.

This is not the first time that a state exchange has failed, and taken millions of dollars in federal funds down with it. Earlier this year, Oregon’s state exchange was officially abolished at an estimated cost of $41 million. Cover Oregon, as it used to be known received $305 million in funds from HHS but failed to produce a workable website months after the 2013 November deadline. The debacle has promoted numerous federal agencies and organizations to investigate allegations of inappropriate political interference from then Governor Kitzhaber’s 2014 reelection campaign.

Hawaii now joins Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico, and Nevada as cautionary tales in government central planning. With so many failed state exchanges, questions need to be asked about the haphazard allocation of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds and the complete lack of oversight.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Shutterstock.

Marijuana-induced psychotic episodes triple in Germany since 2000

The number of patients admitted to hospitals with psychotic episodes after consuming marijuana in Germany has tripled since 2000, from 3,392 then to 11,708 in 2013. More than half were younger than age 25.

Andreas Bechdolf, chief of medicine for psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Berlin Urban Hospital, heads the Center for Early Intervention and Therapy, which focuses on adolescents. “The truly awful thing is that it often takes years before young adults with psychoses receive treatment, and many feel stigmatized,” he says. “It often takes another year from the point they start hearing voices before they finally take the step to open up to a doctor.”

His center works with several hundred patients ages 18 to 25 and the vast majority—from 80% to 90%—smoked marijuana regularly before their treatment began. Most were addicted.

Adolescents who smoke marijuana on a regular basis before age 15 are six time more likely to suffer from psychosis in later years. At first, they are unable to concentrate or put thoughts together. The meaning of once-familiar words is obscured. “Perceptions begin to change. Colors become more intense. A car that is 10 meters away might seem to be right in front of you.”

These early symptoms develop over three or four years, Bechdolf says. Then “acoustic hallucinations” appear, voices that unveil secrets or continuously comment on a person’s shortcomings. They feel they are being followed or spied on.

“Those who stop smoking pot have a very good chance of being healed,” Bechdolf says. But continued therapy on an outpatient basis after release from the hospital is key, he points out.

Read the full article here.

Texas and Kansas File Amicus Briefs Supporting Florida’s Lawsuit Against Expansion Of Obamacare

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today filed an amicus brief in support of Governor Rick Scott and the State of Florida’s lawsuit against the Obama administration’s unlawful attempt to coerce the State of Florida into a massive expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Abbott released the following statement:

“The federal government has overstepped its constitutional authority and ignored the Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, where the Court held that Congress could not coerce States into accepting a massive expansion of an already broken and bloated Medicaid program. The State of Texas will exercise its constitutional right to refuse Medicaid expansion, and we support the State of Florida’s effort to do the same.”

“[The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)] has threatened to withhold from Florida billions of dollars in Medicaid payments, and it has issued similar threats to Texas, Kansas, and others,” wrote Governor Abbott in the amicus brief. “These threats are surely just the beginning of a nationwide campaign to hold hostage federal waiver dollars in those States who are standing firm on their constitutional right to refuse the new Medicaid.

“No litigant should be put to the choice of surrendering its day in court against an agency that is violating the constitution, or facing unjustifiable retaliation by the same agency in the future. HHS’s public reasons for harassing Florida do not withstand scrutiny. The agency picked this fight with Florida in an unlawful attempt to isolate, intimidate, and coerce, [and] the court should grant Florida’s request for declaratory and injunctive relief.”

To view the amicus brief in its entirety, click here.

Dr. Ben Carson Answers the Clamoring of Millions of Americans to Run for President

MERRIFIELD, Va./PRNewswire/ — Citing the critical need to heal a nation more bitterly divided politically than it has been at any time in the past 150 years, Dr. Ben Carson on May 4th in Detroit announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

“As a world-renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Carson knows a thing or two about healing,” said John Philip Sousa IV, co-founder and chairman of The 2016 Committee, the political action committee originally formed to draft Carson into the presidential race. “I know I speak for millions of Americans in thanking Dr. Carson for entering this race and pledging to support his candidacy.”

“Dr. Carson’s candidacy represents the best and really the only opportunity we have to heal America and to bring Americans back together again under the banner of our Constitution,” Sousa added.

The Committee has been at the forefront of the movement urging Dr. Carson to run for president. Starting in August of 2013, it conducted  a petition campaign that ultimately collected more than 500,000 signatures from Americans urging Dr. Carson to enter the race. The Committee operates full time offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, and chairmen are in place in nearly every state coordinating more than 30,000 volunteers nationwide. The Committee has raised more than $16 million from more than 150,000 individual donors since 2013.

“For two years, Dr. Carson has said that if people clamored for him to run for president, he would have to answer their call,” said Vernon Robinson, The 2016 Committee’s campaign director. “Well, they indeed clamored, and he has answered them. But our work is far from over.  We will continue growing the massive grassroots network in pace to support Dr. Carson’s candidacy, and look ahead toward key Republican presidential straw polls and the September debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.”

“Dr. Carson’s candidacy will build on the massive grass-roots network that sprang up to encourage him to get into the race in the first place,” Robinson said. “He’s in it to win it, and we’re with him all the way.”

Dr. Carson is consistently among likely Republican voters’ top picks for the nomination. In one recent CNN survey, Dr. Carson placed second behind Mitt Romney but ahead of other likely contenders including formerFlorida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Dr. Carson finished an impressive second place in the 2014 Bloomberg/Des Moines Register presidential poll of likely caucus-goers, and scored an overwhelming victory in the Polk County Republican Dinner in Des Moines in August. He also won the Linn County, Iowa, midterm caucus straw poll in January 2014.

The now-retired Dr. Carson chose Detroit for his announcement because that’s where he grew up and because he wanted to use the bankrupt city as a metaphor for President Obama’s failed economic policies. He says his campaign will speak out against Mr. Obama’s radical left-wing agenda, because he loves his country and wants to save it.

About The 2016 Committee

The 2016 Committee, formed expressly to draft Dr. Carson into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, was founded in August 2013. Going forward, it will work to raise awareness of Dr. Carson’s qualifications, and will engage grass-roots conservative activists on behalf of his candidacy to provide the margin of victory for Ben Carson. For more information, visit www.2016committee.org or connect on Twitter@DraftRunBenRun or Facebook.com/RunBenRun.org.

Women Making Waves Encouraging and Mentoring Young Girls

Women Making Waves CEO and Founder Ashley Le Grange makes her first appearance on The Show. This extraordinary young woman created an organization that encourages and mentors young girls on how to stay on the right path and avoid the all too common perils prevalent in the current societal environment.

Please assist Women Making Waves with a generous financial contribution BETWEEN 5:00 pm Tuesday May 5 and 5:00 pm Wednesday May 6, 2015.

Your contribution will be matched by 25% during this 24 hour period!

Could You Spot a Potential School Shooter?

In April 1999, we were all stunned by the news that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had attacked and killed students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and, more recently, in December 2012, that Adam Lanza, after killing his mother at home, then massacred twenty-six staff and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. These events evoke dread of potential events, a quest to understand why they occurred, and ways to avoid further comparable killings.

Cover - School ShootersPeter Langman has authored “School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators.” It offers very little comfort, but only because this psychologist, widely recognized for his expertise, is refreshingly honest.

“Many people seek to reduce school shootings to a bite-sized explanatory chunk, but the phenomenon defies easy analysis,” says Langman. “There is no one cause of school shootings, there is no one intervention that will prevent school shootings, and there is no one profile of a school shooter.”

He offers a wealth of information about forty-eight shooters He divides them into “Psychopathic shooters” whom he describes as “profoundly narcissistic, arrogant, and entitled; they lacked empathy, and met their needs at other’s expense” and ”psychotic shooters” who “suffered from schizophrenia or a related disorder. They were out of touch with reality to varying degrees, experiencing hallucinations or delusions.”

“Unlike the psychopathic and psychotic shooters, who generally came from well-functioning, intact families, traumatized shooters endured chronic abuse as children. They grew up in violent, severely dysfunctional homes.” Most fell into the first two categories.

I would like to offer the reader some comfort that school shooters can be “spotted” in advance, but in most the cases that Langman cites, they looked like everyone else in any school. Only if one of them was to confide his plan was there any opportunity to intervene and then only if he was reported.

Among the psychopathic category “at least 75 percent (nine out of twelve) had body issues. Many of these physical characteristics had a direct bearing on perceived manliness, including short stature, thin build, chest deformity, and fear of sterility” leading Langham to suggest a link between feeling weak or damaged and extreme narcissism. It is widely believed that bullying is linked to these events, but Langham notes that while about forty percent were harassed only one targeted a bully. While there is concern these days about bullying in schools, it is mostly due to a heightened awareness, not because there is more or less of it than has ever existed.

One thing does stand out, however, “nearly all shooters had bad educational experiences, including academic difficulties (failing classes, repeated grades, not graduating) or disciplinary problems…at least 92 percent had negative academic or disciplinary experiences.” And then there’s this: “At least 38 percent of shooters had relatives who worked or volunteered in schools.”

Another common factor was that “at least half of the perpetrators engaged in substance abuse (illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol.) In addition, “at least 42 percent of the shooters had a history of legal troubles, including arrests, contempt of court, and loss of a driver’s license.”

“Many shooters had trouble getting or holding jobs.” This was particularly true of the older shooters. Charles Whitman, an American engineering student at the University of Texas, gained infamy when in August 1966 he killed his wife and mother in their homes and later that day went to the Austin campus where he killed sixteen people and wounded 32 others over the course of ninety minutes, firing from the observation deck of the main building before being killed by an Austin police officer.

To academic and employment problems, add romantic failures. “Most shooters either failed to establish any romantic or sexual relationships or else suffered breakups or rejections that contributed to their anguish and anger.”

It should surprise no one that a number of the shooters “had specific role models for violence, including serial killers, mass murders, and other school shooters.” Most of them were psychotic, whereas the psychopaths “felt no need to attach themselves to a source of power; they were the source of power.”

Out of this densely documented book Langham concludes “There is no one way to prevent school shootings.” What also emerges is the fact that “Most school shooters leave a trail of warning signs that are either not noticed or not responded to.”

What the shootings are not about is gun ownership. Many of the shooters came from families that owned guns and used them for hunting or sport shooting. They had little reason to regard them as instruments with which to kill people other than their own twisted psychological interpretation.

What I came away with was the conclusion that the shooters are people we would all easily identify as “losers.” Beyond that, there is no specific way of identifying them, only suspicions of their capability to do the unthinkable.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Veteran Administration Systematicly Disarming Veterans Brings Further Shame to Troubled Agency

Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) brought renewed attention to the plight of a growing number of veterans who have been unjustly stripped of their Second Amendment rights. In an April 14 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Grassley takes the Department of Veterans Affairs to task for overreaching policies that have resulted in the names of well over 100,000 veterans and dependents being placed in the FBI’s National Instance Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as prohibited from possessing firearms.

Federal agencies are required to forward information to the FBI about individuals who have been disqualified by agency action from legally possessing firearms. This includes information about disqualifying mental health “adjudications” and “commitments.” The VA’s interpretation of what constitutes a disqualifying mental health “adjudication,” however, has resulted in widespread, unjustified deprivation of Second Amendment rights and Fifth Amendment due process rights.

As Grassley’s letter points out, federal regulation allows the VA to determine whether its beneficiaries need a “fiduciary” to manage their benefits. Veterans who the agency determines need help administering their VA compensation are then labeled “mental defectives” and reported to NICS to be barred from firearm acquisition and possession, alongside the likes of felons, fugitives, and the dishonorably discharged. The process of assigning a fiduciary, however, does not require the VA to consider whether the veteran actually poses a danger to himself or others or is seriously functionally impaired in any other respect. Indeed, the VA’s own website states, “The determination that you are unable to manage your VA benefits does not affect your non-VA finances, or your right to vote or contract.”

Needless to say, it’s completely untenable that America’s military men and women must choose between what’s best for their medical care and financial management and the fundamental civil liberties their own service protects. The fact that a veteran’s spouse or other loved one is more financially astute or is simply more accustomed to maintaining the household finances is completely irrelevant to the veteran’s ability safely and responsibly to handle firearms. That the VA claims otherwise reveals nothing so much as its own systemic, institutional anti-gun bias and its distrust of the very people the agency serves.

For veterans who choose to contest the appointment of a fiduciary, VA procedure offers scant protection. Typically, deprivation of a fundamental constitutional right requires significant due process, as required by the Fifth Amendment (for example, a criminal trial). As Grassley’s letter makes clear, the procedure VA employs falls well below acceptable due process standards and places the burden of proof upon the veteran to seek redress after the fact.

In an April 21st, 2015 article for the Daily Caller, entitled, “VA Sends Veterans’ Medical Info To FBI To Get Their Guns Taken Away,” journalist Patrick Howley puts a human face on this tragedy. In one instance, disabled veteran Henry Wrobel was categorized as unable to handle his own finances, triggering the firearm prohibition. The VA’s actions followed Wrobel’s conversation with a VA counselor during which he mentioned having recently opted to receive his benefits by direct deposit in an attempt to simplify his life. In another case, a Vietnam War widow receiving VA benefits was deprived of her right to bear arms after making a request to the VA for assistance in obtaining someone to help with her household chores after she suffered a mild stroke.

Beyond this matter’s constitutional concerns is that the VA’s “mental defective” determination process and forwarding of records to NICS have contributed to a deep distrust of the agency among those it serves. Rumors abound regarding VA measures to strip gun rights from veterans, and current VA practices regarding fiduciary appointments, along with  highly suspect efforts, substantiate these concerns. Undoubtedly, some veterans have chosen to forego vital benefits and medical treatment, or have been less than candid with VA personnel, due to a fear of losing their Second Amendment rights.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Congressmen with America’s Most Popular Rifle: A Cause for Panic in D.C.

Gun Grabbers High on Hillary, Look to Her to Enact Controls Where Obama Failed

D.C. Shifts from Defending Total Ban on Carrying Firearms, to Defense of Near-Total Ban

The White House is Lying About Climate Change and Health

Let us begin with the understanding that there is no connection between the climate and health. The climate is something measured in decades and centuries, so what happened in the last century has nothing to do with whether you are sneezing today.

The weather surely can help generate health problems. For example in the northeastern states, the Lyme disease season is beginning. Between 1992 and 2010 reported cases of Lyme disease doubled to nearly 23,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but CDC officials believe the actual number of those infected may have been three times that number.

Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks and since these tiny insects will hitch a ride on birds, squirrels, mice and small animals as well, even if you live in an area without deer, the possibility of being bitten by a deer tick is just as likely. This increases for people who love gardening or outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and camping. Children, too, are particularly susceptible.

The fact that Lyme disease shows up in the Spring simply tells you that the warm weather facilitates the tick population. The weather has always been tied the mating habits and activities of various species, but that does not mean that is constitutes a massive threat to everyone’s health.

That’s not the way the White House sees it. On April 7 the administration made it official. It announced that it is “committed to combating the health impacts of climate change and protecting the health of future generations.”

Since the climate changes over extended periods of time, not just month to month, one has to wonder what “health impacts” the White House has in mind. The last Little Ice Age lasted from around 1300 to 1850. It was cold all over Europe and North America. Does the White House propose that it can “protect” us from a new one? If so, that’s absurd.

Let us understand, too, that there has always been what the White House announcement calls “extreme weather events.” Notice the change from “climate” to “weather”? Among the events identified are “severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves…” Has there been a time when such weather-related events have not occurred? In fact, there are times when they don’t. For example, there hasn’t been a single Category 3-5 hurricane hit the U.S. mainland since 2005!

The White House has launched a massive brainwashing effort using many elements of the federal government to frighten Americans using the “climate” and the “weather.” How deceptive is it?

One example is sufficient. The President has claimed that climate change was the cause of one of his daughter’s asthma. In its announcement, it claimed that “In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital.”

Here’s what the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has to say about the various causes of asthma:

“Since asthma has a genetic origin and is a disease you are born with, passed down from generation to generation, the question isn’t really ‘what causes asthma’, but rather ‘what causes asthma symptoms to appear?’ People with asthma have inflamed airways which are super-sensitive to thinks which do not bother other people.”

What the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is telling us is that there is no direct connection between either the climate or the weather and the illness called asthma.

Those who suffer this disease however can be affected by a range of triggers such as irritants in the air, pollens, molds, and even cockroach droppings. Infections such as colds, flu, and sore throats are among the leading triggers for asthma attacks in children.

The facts, the truth, were no deterrent to the April 7th White House twelve-page announcement of all the things it intends to do to brainwash Americans into believing that there is a connection between the “climate” and health.

Here’s just a few of the dozens of events and programs it will initiate so that the media will report on them and thus convey the message that climate change is the greatest threat to Americans today:

“The Administration is expanding its Climate Data Initiative to include more than 150 health-relevant datasets…this is intended to help communities and businesses reduce the health impacts of climate change.” Only there are no such impacts.

The Administration is announcing a coalition of Deans from 30 medical, public health, and nursing schools around the country, who are committing to ensure that the next generation of health professionals is trained to address the health impacts of climate change.” Only there are no such impacts.

“Announcing the White House Climate Change and Health Summit.” It will feature the Surgeon General who will lead discussions to “the public health impacts of climate change and identify opportunities to minimize these impacts.” Only there are no impacts and nothing that could be done if there were.

From the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, many elements of the federal government will be integrated into this massive brainwashing effort.

What can be done to ignore a government determined to lie to everyone about a “threat” that does not exist? Not much.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

RELATED ARTICLE: Earth Day: 22 Ways to Think about the Climate-Change Debate

Guardianship: ‘A Crime Against Humanity’

I have written about the Florida guardianship process and the danger it poses to the individual, and their family and the corruption in the system. I used two (Al Katz and Marie Winkelman) of the thousands of cases probated in Florida’s courts to show just how the system easily takes the person, their freedom and their property and leaves them, and their estate, empty.

The probate court system creates its own term of art “incapacitation”. Probate courts use the magic phrase “incapacitation” to cash in on Guardianships by illegally imprisoning tens of thousands of American citizens each year. This video explains why the term is the password to these criminally imposed “guardianships”:

Mary G. Sykes in an email writes, “I argue that it is [a crime against humanity].  Seniors railroaded into guardianships and forcibly evicted by the police from their homes (RLVN, Gore, Wyman, et alia), or by a relative (Sykes), homes sold, personal property plundered without accounting (Wyman, Sykes, RLVN, Reichert, et alia), seniors isolated from former family and friends and ‘caretakers’ that are really bodyguards or lootguards put in place (Stone, Reichert, et alia) and they they are forcibly drugged with dangerous psychotropic drugs so that if they did not have dementia before, they will get it in a few short months (Frake, Stone, Col. Smith, et alia).”

Kenneth Ditkowsky notes, “The guardianship for profit industry coupled with their elder cleansing operation is a major revenue source for the most corrupt of our political people.  The Gulag is America’s dirty secret!”

What is sad is Florida is supposed to be a great retirement magnet for the elderly – the sunshine state. The truth, in some elderly cases, is that it is anything but that. Florida can be a very dark place for our elderly.

Worst in Nation Hawaii Health Connector Looking for Another $28M by Andrew Walden

Good money after bad?

Ranked last year as “worst in the nation,” with sign-up costs estimated at $56,819 per enrollee, the Hawaii Health Connector is begging Legislators for another $28 million.  The sales pitch?  A financial plan which openly states the Connector will lose money for another eight years.

The Connector is set up as a State-mandated non-profit organization with insurance company representatives on the Board of Directors.  The unique setup allows the Connector to evade Hawaii’s public records laws, but Hawaii’s lone Republican Senator Sam Slom argues the “$28 million in ‘debentures’ … are in reality General Obligation bonds.  Their issue by a private non-profit is unconstitutional….” On March 25 the House Consumer Protection and Health Committees agreed, yanking the funding mechanism from the bill and leaving the details for the House Finance Committee to work out in a hearing now set for Wednesday April 8 at 2pm in room 308. UPDATE: FIN passed SB1028 un-amended–it is headed for a referral to Conference Committee.

At the February 15 deadline, the Health Connector touted 13,356 sign-ups in the three-month enrollment period–but as many as 7,700 are Micronesian immigrants forced off Medicaid and into plans provided by the Health Exchange.  Estimated to save the State $20 million per year, the move alarms Dr. David Derauf of the Kokua Kalihi Valley clinic.  In a February 26 column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Derauf points out:

“As a result of these changes, many will suffer serious consequences to their health. Some will die.

“For this particular group of lawfully present immigrants, the state under Medicaid currently pays 100 percent of the costs of the program, which ensures that low-income people have access to medically necessary care at no cost.

“By transferring them to a Connector plan, much of the state’s cost will shift to the federal government, which provides significant insurance subsidies for people near the poverty line.

“However, even with those subsidies, an individual will still have to pay up to $2,250 in copays and co-insurance in a single year — an impossible amount for someone working 40 hours a week at minimum wage and earning only $1,343 a month. At these income levels, seemingly insignificant copays can prevent people from getting the medications and treatment they need.”

Kelii Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute explains: “Before the Affordable Care Act, Hawaii had a workable public-private partnership that ensured 93% healthcare coverage for the population.  It was a model that other states were studying and planning to implement in some form without a federal mandate.  Now consumers as well as the state government are facing skyrocketing costs.”

Other populations are being suggested as forcible Obamacare converts.  A bill offering benefits to “innocent” ex-convicts includes lifetime health care “…provided that the claimant enrolls in the Hawaii health insurance exchange….”  With labor negotiations ongoing,Governor David Ige is suggesting putting the State’s 40,000 employees into the Connector.

While reaping the benefits of Micronesian misfortune, Connector officials talk up the State’s60,000 new Medicaid enrollees–signed up not by the Connector but by the State Department of Human Services.  While the Connector managed to waste $205 million on its failed enrollment software, the State DHS blew another $144 million on balky Medicaid signup systems leading to the February ouster of the State’s Medicaid Director.  Both efforts ended up relying on human enrollment workers to complete applications.

Says Slom: “I serve on the Connector Oversight Committee. When I seek fiscal answers I get double talk. The enrollment figures are bogus. The business plan is flawed. The Connector depends on endless subsidies and has lost millions of taxpayer dollars in questionable contracts. The Connector must be dis-connected now.”

What Will Legal Marijuana Cost Employers?

What effect will legalized marijuana have on employers?  National Families in Action, a drug policy and education organization, is releasing a White Paper that examines problems employers are facing in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or retail use. 

The paper addresses how marijuana laws are changing, how these laws will affect employers’ ability to conduct business, and what employers can do to protect that ability. It was written by Sue Rusche, president and CEO of National Families in Action and Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., president and co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Guided by an advisory group of experts representing diverse fields, from employment law to occupational nursing to company executives to drug policy, the White Paper asks tough questions informed by events transpiring in legal marijuana states.

The paper addresses issues such as:

    •    Will employers be able to maintain a drug-free workplace?
    •    How will employers accommodate employees who use medical marijuana?
    •    How can employers with employees in multiple states comply with drug laws that differ from state to state?  
    •    Will employers be able to shift employees who use marijuana to other jobs?
    •    Will employers have an adequate supply of qualified workers?

Lawsuits have already begun in states with legalized marijuana as employees try to establish various rights that clash with employers’ commitments to maintain drug-free workplaces mandated by federal funding and federal contracts, to conduct business with conflicting laws from state to state, and to protect employees and the public from the consequences of increased marijuana use and related problems.

The White Paper examines some of these lawsuits and provides a scientific evaluation of the consequences of marijuana use to alert employers about what lies ahead if marijuana is fully legalized. It also suggests steps employers can take to protect safety, productivity, and the bottom line. 

What Will Legal Marijuana Cost Employers can be found on National Families in Action’s website here.