Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 12th, 2020

Shortsighted decisions by the US government: Supply chains

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

In 2018, the Health Industry Distributor’s Association’s Linda Rouse O’Neill complained about Trump tariffs on China at a hearing held by the government office that handles trade. She was there to oppose proposed tariffs on things hospitals needed, like gloves, needles, surgical kits, anesthesia products, sutures, wound care, vaccines, diagnostic kits, etc. Her rationale was very familiar to anyone who studies antitrust or trade policy: efficiency.

“We have become very highly efficient and lean and mean when it comes to supply chain and that is because we have also gone global,” she said. “Some of our successes include actually reducing the costs of some of these products from what they were sold a couple of decades ago. And we’ve only been able to do that because of the efficiency and the ability to source products from China.”

Trump’s policy goal with his tariffs was to move supply chains, but the reality, O’Neill said, is that dependence on China is good. She even warned what would happen if we tried to stop our reliance on Chinese products. “There is going to be a spike in demand and there is not enough product to fill that gap,” said said. “So the price is only going to go up and we are going to have product shortages.”

Indeed, we have shortages, and they are getting worse. (If you hear of any, let me know or leave a comment.) But they are not happening because we reduced our dependency on China, but because we did not.

Even as Trump was putting up tariffs, his administration wasn’t focused on changing the other drivers of policy leading to offshoring. For instance, in 2017, a Chinese company called Humanwell located in Wuhan bought Ritedose, one of the two large respiratory companies that does contract manufacturing for inhalation and ophthalmic products. Humanwell had previously bought PuraCap Pharma in 2008 and Epic Pharma in 2016, which are oral solid dose generic companies in the US, and it aims for monopoly power. The corporation bragged in an investor presentation on investment bank Jeffries website about how it is a sole source producer of drugs. (I did the highlighting on the slide.)

None of these mergers were blocked by anti-merger laws or by the anti-merger national security law run by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to keep an eye on foreign acquisitions of critical facilities.

But it wasn’t just a failure to enforce merger law that led to our dependency. Some of these corporations Humanwell bought have historically filled our defense and veterans national stockpile for antibiotics like doxycycline, and there’s a provision called “Made in America” that used to prevent offshoring of such production to China. But that changed, because of a recent court case called Acetris Health, LLC v. United States that allowed pharmaceutical manufacturers to get their ‘active pharmaceutical ingredients’ from China and still sell it to the U.S. government.

Prior to this ruling, U.S. customs decided that if the chemicals in a pill were from, say, India, the pill was made in India even if sticking the chemicals into the pill took place in the U.S. The Court of Federal Claims changed this decision, ruling the product was a U.S. product, even if the underlying Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) came from elsewhere. As a contact in the industry told me, “Before that case there was a lot more scrutiny on the transformation requirement, but now as long as it’s made in USA it doesn’t seem to matter.”

In that case, operating efficiency defeated safety and security. For the last forty years, since Milton Friedman and Robert Bork emphasized operating efficiency above all other values, we’ve organized our political economy choices around efficiency as the paramount goal. One consequence of this thinking is the growth of monopolies. Having multiple rivals in the market means you have redundancies, and that’s waste, whereas having very few or just one producer – aka a monopoly – limits excess.

Operating efficiency is of course important. But Bork’s attitude has led to the consolidation of our supply chains, and then the offshoring of those supply chains to China, whose government subsidized the acquisition of our medical supply chain industry. Fortunately, policymakers are coming to reject this thinking. Today, Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin came at the problem from different directions at a hearing on small business. Rubio attacked  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2020 at 7:43 pm

COVID-19 testing per capita by country

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Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2020 at 5:30 pm

Fruit fly study suggests neither nature nor nurture is responsible for individuality

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Some aspects of personality certainly seem to be inherited (cf. studies of identical twins raised separately) and some are certainly cultural (i.e., learned — cf. cultures of rugged individualism (e..g, the culture portrayed in most Western movies) and cultures of cooperative community). But there’s much individual variation, and this study reported by Bob Yitka in Phys.org suggests a source for that:

A team of researchers from France, Germany and Belgium has found evidence that neither nature nor nurture leads to personality differences—it is the result of nonheritable noise during brain development. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of behavior in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) and what they learned.

For many years, there has been a debate in the  about the underlying factors that lead to major  differences in people—why are some people shy while others are outgoing? Or why do some follow the straight and narrow while others wind up in prison? Some argue that it is basic genetics—people inherit their personalities from our parents. Others insist that personalities develop as people grow from infancy, influenced by —people who grow up in a violent home are more likely to become violent people as adults, by this reckoning. In this new effort, the researchers have thrown a wrench into the debate by adding a third possible factor: nonheritable noise.

Prior research has shown that as humans and other animals develop, random noise can lead to noninheritable differences in brain structure. This factor leads to differences in brain structure between clones, for example. Intrigued by the idea that such noise might be the real reason for personality differences, the researchers used fruit flies as a test subject.

The work involved giving multiple fruit flies an incentive to walk on a surface toward an object. Prior research had shown that some walk right to it consistently, while others take a meandering path, also consistently—indicative of a personality difference. The flies were then divided into two groups, straight walkers and meanderers. They were then dissected with a focus on dorsal cluster neurons in the brain. Prior research has found these clusters to be involved in personality in fruit flies.

The researchers found a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2020 at 9:58 am

Posted in Science

The scales have fallen from the eyes of the Washington Examiner

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The Washington Examiner is a staunchly conservative publication and (until now) stronglypro-Trump. But based on this opinion column by one of their regulars, the tide in favor of Trump has turned and ebbing is underway:

President Trump’s speech on the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst Oval Office addresses, terrible on both style and specifics. He is completely out of his element in trying to lead during a crisis.

Trump has failed to understand what we face with this coronavirus pandemic, much less communicate it accurately. Just two weeks ago, he was saying that the number of cases in the United States “within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero.” As of this evening, there are more than 1,200 cases in the U.S. and 37 deaths.

Now, Trump is saying the situation is so bad that he is banning all travel from Europe (except the United Kingdom) to the U.S. for at least 30 days. The president even said trade would be suspended, but, within an hour after the speech, the White House, cleaning up the mess, clarified that some trade would be allowed.

Trump did very little to explain the situation further. He did very little to provide context. He did next to nothing to reassure us the federal government has a real plan to see this crisis through to the end. Other than testing without co-pays, Trump did not say anything new about stratagems to handle the crisis better domestically except for things he is doing, or wants done, on the economic front.

What will happen to Americans already in Europe who can’t make it back before the ban goes into effect on Friday? (Even if they are allowed to come back, but quarantined, how will they actually get back if flights are suspended?) Will supply trains for crucial goods be affected even if trade is allowed? He gave no nuance, no reassurance that his administration has thought through the consequences of its actions.

In two weeks, this president went from one extreme to another. On Feb. 26, he was too calm and had no handle on the gravity of the situation. Now, he’s engaged in the very panic he warned against.

Meanwhile, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2020 at 9:42 am

A Big Breakfast Revs the Metabolism

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I front-load my meals: breakfast is biggest, then a moderate lunch and dinner. And it turns out that’s a good idea. Here’s yet another study supporting the practice, this one reported by Zeena Nackerdien PhD, CME Writer, at MedPage Today:

Study Authors: Juliane Richter, Nina Herzog, et al.

Target Audience and Goal Statement: Endocrinologists, weight loss specialists, primary care physicians

The goals of this study were to determine whether diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) varies depending on time of day and if this physiological regulation was preserved after low-calorie intake compared with high-calorie intake.

Question Addressed:

  • Should people opt for large breakfasts to reduce the risk of metabolic diseases?

Study Synopsis and Perspective:

Healthy eating and physical activity are central to maintaining a healthy weight. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, community-wide, lifelong healthy eating patterns should focus on variety, nutrient density, limiting calories from added sugars/saturated fats, reducing sodium intake, a shift to healthier food and beverage choices, and amount of calories consumed.

Action Points

  • Diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) — energy expenditure and metabolic responses to meals — was 2.5 times higher in the morning after breakfast than in the evening after dinner, regardless of meal size, in a study of 16 young healthy men.
  • This suggests that when you eat has to be factored into achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, in addition to the type of diet, exercise level, and emotional factors.

Although the real world may differ from this ideal scenario, an important question being addressed in the literature is whether it matters when a person eats his or her “most important” meal: breakfast or dinner?

According to Juliane Richter, PhD, of the University of Lübeck in Germany, and colleagues, the answer is breakfast. Their results were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Energy expenditure from processing food after a meal for absorption, digestion, and transport and storage of nutrients is known as DIT. This measure of how well the metabolism is working may differ depending on mealtime.

“Our results show that a meal eaten for breakfast, regardless of the amount of calories it contains, creates twice as high diet-induced thermogenesis as the same meal consumed for dinner,” said Richter in a press release. “This finding is significant for all people as it underlines the value of eating enough at breakfast,” she added.

Richter and team assessed whether consuming a high- or low-calorie breakfast resulted in higher DIT versus a high- or low-calorie dinner. In addition, they evaluated the sleep architecture of eligible participants with standard electroencephalography to exclude any bias of disturbed sleep on the study outcome. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2020 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

OneBlade Day Three, with Wholly Kaw King of Bourbon

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The Wet Shaving Products Baroness has not so dense a knot as others in the line-up, and this morning I didn’t quite load it fully enough with soap. Still, the lather I got was quite good — just by the third pass I was running a little light.

Wholly Kaw’s premium soap, with the ingredients shown on the label (and he makes a vegan version as well), is quite nice. He recently moved to a new website, and that of course inevitably requires a fair amount of fixing and adjusting, but it is now shipshape, as you can see from the page for this soap. The ingredients in full:

Tallow-based: Potassium Stearate, Sodium Stearate, Aqua, Donkey Milk, Water Buffalo Milk, Glycerin, Potassium Tallowate, Sodium Tallowate, Potassium Ricinoleate, Sodium Ricinoleate, Potassium Shea Butterate, Sodium Shea Butterate, Garcinia Indica (Kokum) Butter, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter, Water Buffalo Whey, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Lanolin, Fragrance, Citronellol, Linalool, Coumarin, Benzyl Benzoate

Vegan: Potassium Stearate, Sodium Stearate, Aqua, Glycerin, Potassium Ricinoleate, Sodium Ricinoleate, Potassium Shea Butterate, Sodium Shea Butterate, Garcinia Indica (Kokum) Butter, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polyquaternium-10, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Soybean Glycerides, Shea Butter Unsaponifiables, Fragrance, Citronellol, Linalool, Coumarin, Benzyl Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

He describes the fragrance as:

Well blended notes of Tobacco, Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar, Ginger, Vetiver, Cypriol, Ylang-ylang and Cassia absolute.

Gingery vanilla gives off boozy notes without being too sweet on the drydown. Tobacco comes into play in the middle notes. Woody and earthy notes from Cypriol and Vetiver tone down the sweetness.

I note that this soap is $27, and Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 formula is $25.

The OneBlade still managed a good job, but I can tell the edge is struggling a bit. From the first pass, the cutting was not nearly so easy as with a new blade. Certainly manageable, but I could feel the cutting distinctly — not quite tugging, but moving in that direction. Nevertheless, I did get a good smooth result, and if money were no object (i.e., a new blade every day didn’t bother me), I can see that this razor (in the steel version) would be quite a pleasure. Some might give up the latte in favor of this and pocket the money saved.

A good splash of Barrister & Mann’s Reserve Cool aftershave, and the week’s moving right along.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2020 at 8:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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