Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Trump Outdoes Himself in Picking a Conflicted Regulator

leave a comment »

The Editorial Board of the NY Times writes:

President Trump has made a habit of filling important jobs with people dedicated to undermining the laws they’re supposed to administer while pampering the industries they’re supposed to regulate. His nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency’s top clean air post, William Wehrum, is a retread from the George W. Bush administration with a deep doctrinal dislike of clean air regulations. His choice to runthe White House Council on Environmental Quality is borderline comical: Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas official who believes that the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is harmless. Yet no nomination has been as brazen, as dangerous to public health and as deserving of Senate rejection as that of Michael Dourson to run the E.P.A. office in charge of reviewing chemicals used in agriculture, industry and household products.

Mr. Dourson is a scientist for hire. A toxicologist and a professor at the University of Cincinnati, he has a long history of consulting for chemical companies and conducting studies paid for with industry money. He frequently decided that the compounds he was evaluating were safe at exposure levels that are far more dangerous to public health than levels recommended by the E.P.A., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies. His nomination is enthusiastically endorsed by the chemical industry. It horrifies environmental groups, public health advocates, firefighters and scientists and has inspired many letters in opposition to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which may vote as early as Wednesday.

Among the chemicals that received a favorable nod from Mr. Dourson is 1,4-dioxane, which is used by paint and coating manufacturers and is also found in shampoos and other personal care products. His analysis recommended a safe level that was 1,000 times higher than the E.P.A.’s recommended level; the agency considers the chemical “a likely carcinogen.”

Another is PFOA, a chemical used by DuPont to make nonstick surfaces. The compound has been linked to cancers, thyroid diseases and other health problems. Working for West Virginia on the recommendation of DuPont, Mr. Dourson in 2002 helped establish a safety threshold of 150 parts per billion for PFOA in drinking water. That is substantially higher than the standard of 1 part per billion that DuPont’s own scientists had recommended more than a decade earlier, and higher still than the health advisory level of 0.07 parts per billion set by the E.P.A. last year.

More broadly troubling is that Mr. Dourson, if approved, will set back an arduous, yearslong effort to improve the regulation of chemicals. Last year, after many false starts, Congress passed a bipartisan bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 1976 law that had made it very hard for regulators to ban or regulate chemicals by requiring the E.P.A. to meet a very high burden of proof before taking action. The law also made it easy for companies to keep data about their products hidden from the public by claiming the information was a “trade secret.” The new law simplified the task by streamlining it, directing the E.P.A. to review at least 20 substances at a time, giving priority to the riskiest chemicals. The money to do this work will come from up to $25 million in annual fees paid by chemical manufacturers and processors.

Experts fear that if confirmed Mr. Dourson will put a much greater emphasis on pleasing the chemical industry than on protecting public health. He could, for instance, order his staff to cherry-pick studies and data that in turn would lead to lax standards or even allow the continued use of chemicals that ought to be banned outright. In March, the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, rejected a staff recommendation to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which scientists believe has harmed farm workers and children. Any decisions Mr. Dourson would make would most likely remain in place for years or even decades. E.P.A. reviews take several years to complete, and the agency has a long list of chemicals it needs to study. . .

Continue reading.

In addition, note this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists: “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Accelerates Politicization of Agency’s Science Advisory Board.” It begins:

Earlier today, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt strongly suggested that the agency will not consider any candidate for EPA’s science advisory committees who has received a grant from the agency. Such a gobsmackingly boneheaded move would further hamstring the ability of the EPA to accomplish its public health mission. The administrator is directly challenging the intent of Congress, which established the Science Advisory Board to provide independent scientific advice so that EPA can effectively protect our health and environment.

So why now? Administrator Pruitt’s schedule offers some clues. House Science Committee Chairman and serial scientist harasser Lamar Smith is a champion of the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, flawed legislation that would increase industry control over the Science Advisory Board and, yes, prevent EPA grant recipients from serving. UCS’s Yogin Kothari summed up the legislation for the New Republic:

“They’re basically saying that people who are experts in environmental science, who have spent their careers working on this and may have received EPA grants to do their work, are inherently conflicted, whereas people who are working in the industry, who would be impacted by the board’s advice, are not conflicted,” Kothari said. “I mean, that’s bananas, right?”

Congress has for years failed to pass this legislation, which was vehemently and repeatedly opposed by UCS and many other mainstream science organizations. So in April 2017, a presumably frustrated Chairman Smith got together with Administrator Pruitt to talk about the bill. Pretty persuasion from the congressman seems to have worked.

Now keep in mind, Administrator Pruitt already has a parade of lobbyists and advisors providing him with the perspectives from oil, gas, and chemical companies. He already thinks he has all the right friends, but would be best served to hear from independent experts, too.

The Science Advisory Board, for now, can be a check on political influence and can help the agency determine whether the special interests are telling it straight. I can see why a man of his outlook would want to neutralize it.

There are plenty of extremely well-qualified, universally respected candidates who can provide scientific advice to an administrator who really needs it. Getting science advice from the EPA Science Advisory Board is like getting basketball tips from 40 Steph Currys. It’s the best in the business, volunteering their time in service of the public good. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 October 2017 at 8:47 am

Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility, and spousal abuse—and also demonic possession, I presume

leave a comment »

Damian Paletta reports in the Washington Post:

White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter said.

The fact-sheets, which were obtained by The Washington Post, were prepared and distributed by Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. They were presented without any data or information to back up the assertions, and reveal some of the materials the Trump administration reviewed as it was crafting its trade policy.

Two administration officials confirmed the authenticity of the documents. The fact-sheets have emerged as the Trump administration has threatened to withdraw from a free trade agreement with South Korea and is taking a hard-line stance against Canada and Mexico in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The fourth round of talks wrapped up on Tuesday amid pointed remarks and with few signs of progress. Negotiators said the talks would have to be extended beyond the original deadline into 2018.

The administration has repeatedly linked the decline in U.S. manufacturing to NAFTA and other trade agreements, claiming the deals were bad for U.S. workers.

Navarro has urged Trump to favor bilateral trade agreements over regional ones such as NAFTA, and he supported the president’s decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership. His documents alarmed other White House officials, who worried that such unverified information could end up steering White House policy, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal documents, which were not released publicly.

The documents Navarro circulated list what he alleges are the problems that have resulted from a “weakened manufacturing base.” Some of the consequences are economic, including “lost jobs,” “depressed wages,” and “closed factories.”

But a separate sheet claims “Socioeconomic Costs” of the decline of the country’s manufacturing industry, such as “Higher Divorce Rate,” “Increased Drug/Opioid Use,” “Rising Mortality Rate,” “Higher Abortion Rate,” among many others. [Possibly including “Demonic Possession.” – LG]

“We don’t comment on purported internal documents,” said a White House official. “The President is working hard on behalf of the American people to make sure our trade agreements are free and fair and benefit the American worker.”

Navarro, an economist, is part of a wing of small but influential White House advisers that believe decades of free trade policies have decimated the U.S. manufacturing base and allowed other countries, such as China, Mexico, and Canada to take advantage of the U.S. They blame U.S. reliance on exports for hurting U.S. manufacturing, something Trump has promised to reverse.

Two administration officials gave differing accounts of Navarro’s memo, which was prepared and shared last month. One described the  . . .

Continue reading.

One of the comments at the Washington Post:

rickinfinity
Socioeconomic Costs of A Weakened Manufacturing Base:
– Devil worship
– Black Lives Matter
– Anti-Christian discrimination
– Gays all over the place
– Women declining to date me
– This flu I’ve got

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2017 at 5:42 pm

Tech’s Troubling New Trend: Diversity Is in Your Head

leave a comment »

Bärí Williams writes in the NY Times Magazine:

Discussing her work at Apple at an event last week about fighting racial injustice, Denise Young Smith, the company’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, said, “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse, too, because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

That’s right: a dozen white men, so long as they were not raised in the same household and don’t think identical thoughts, could be considered diverse. After a furor erupted, Ms. Smith clarified her comments in an email to her team that was obtained and published by TechCrunch. It reads in part, “Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone,” and “I regret the choice of words I used to make this point.”

But Ms. Smith wasn’t the first to endorse the view in her initial statement. Those of us in the tech industry know that the idea of “cognitive diversity” is gaining traction among leaders in our field. In too many cases, this means that, in the minds of those with influence over hiring, the concept of diversity is watered down and reinterpreted to encompass what Silicon Valley has never had a shortage of — individual white men, each with their unique thoughts and ideas. This shift creates a distraction from efforts to increase the race and gender diversity the tech industry is sorely lacking.

This overlaps with the sentiments expressed in a screed by a Google software engineer that critiqued the company’s race and gender diversity efforts and ascribed the unequal representation of women in tech to “biological causes.” It included the line, “Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity.”

To be sure, cognitive diversity and viewpoint diversity are important. But working to increase them alone won’t do anything to address the well-documented shortcomings that plague tech companies. Whether companies do it intentionally or not, I worry that they will adjust the definition of diversity so that, conveniently, it’s already achieved.

If our focus shifts to cognitive diversity, it could provide an easy way around doing the hard work of increasing the embarrassingly low numbers of blacks and Latinos in the ranks of employees, in leadership roles, as suppliers and vendors, and on boards. The leadership of Apple, where Ms. Smith works, was only 3 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic in 2016. A recent report by Recode found that women made up at most 30 percent of leadership roles and no more than 27 percent of technical roles at major tech companies. The percentages of black and Latino employees in leadership was even more dismal, ranging from 4 percent to 10 percent.

The shift toward focusing on viewpoint or cognitive diversity may trace its roots back to the 1978 Supreme Court decision Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, which set the stage for schools to consider race in admissions because of the educational benefits of diversity, rather than to redress prior discrimination. It is understandable that because the public discourse around affirmative action shifted along these lines, some came to believe that any kind of diversity — including cognitive diversity — must be equally valuable. But that means that the most meaningful ways through which this is formed (cultural, religious, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, ability and especially gender and racial differences) may be forgotten.

If this happens, we could lose an important check on the tendency of people who work at tech companies to hire more people like themselves. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, employee referrals accounted for over 30 percent of all hires in 2016. Employees typically recommend people similar to them in racial identity and gender, so it requires dedicated effort to recruit and hire people who don’t already have identities that match up with those of current employees. Counting up variations of “viewpoints” — however one might do so — won’t achieve that. And, to potential applicants from underrepresented groups, statements about “cognitive diversity” will send an unwelcoming message about a company’s real priorities for inclusion. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2017 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Being there with Harvey Weinstein

leave a comment »

From News and Guts on Facebook:

Scott Rosenberg is a Hollywood screenwriter who has a few things to say about Harvey Weinstein. This comes from Rosenberg’s Facebook page. It is a sad yet brilliantly written piece about being in the center of Harvey Weinstein’s world. It is also a must read.

” “So, uh, yeah.
We need to talk about Harvey.
I was there, for a big part of it.
From, what, 1994 to the early 2000s?
Something like that.
Certainly The Golden Age.
The “PULP FICTION”, “SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE”, “CLERKS”, “SWINGERS”, “SCREAM”, “GOOD WILL HUNTING”, “ENGLISH PATIENT”, “LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL” years…
Harvey and Bob made my first two movies.
Then they signed me to an overall deal.
Then they bought that horror script of mine about the Ten Plagues.
For a lot of money.
Also bought that werewolf-biker script.
That no one else liked but was my personal favorite.
They were going to publish my novel.
They anointed me.
Made it so other studios thought I was the real deal.
They gave me my career.
I was barely 30.
I was sure I had struck gold.
They loved me, these two brothers, who had reinvented cinema.
And who were fun and tough and didn’t give an East Coast fuck about all the slick pricks out in L.A.
And those glory days in Tribeca?
The old cramped offices?
That wonderful gang of executives and assistants?
All the filmmakers who were doing repeat business?
The brothers wanted to create a “family of film”.
And they did just that…
We looked forward to having meetings there.
Meetings that would turn into plans that would turn into raucous nights out on the town.
Simply put: OG Miramax was a blast.
So, yeah, I was there.
And let me tell you one thing.
Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing:
Everybody-fucking-knew.
Not that he was raping.
No, that we never heard.
But we were aware of a certain pattern of overly-aggressive behavior that was rather dreadful.
We knew about the man’s hunger; his fervor; his appetite.
There was nothing secret about this voracious rapacity; like a gluttonous ogre out of the Brothers Grimm.
All couched in vague promises of potential movie roles.
(and, it should be noted: there were many who actually succumbed to his bulky charms. Willingly. Which surely must have only impelled him to cast his fetid net even wider).
But like I said: everybody-fucking-knew.
And to me, if Harvey’s behavior is the most reprehensible thing one can imagine, a not-so-distant second is the current flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation that now crashes upon these shores of rectitude in gloppy tides of bullshit righteousness.
Because everybody-fucking-knew.
And do you know how I am sure this is true?
Because I was there.
And I saw you.
And I talked about it with you.
You, the big producers; you, the big directors; you, the big agents; you, the big financiers.
And you, the big rival studio chiefs; you, the big actors; you, the big actresses; you, the big models.
You, the big journalists; you, the big screenwriters; you, the big rock stars; you, the big restaurateurs; you, the big politicians.
I saw you.
All of you.
God help me, I was there with you.
Again, maybe we didn’t know the degree.
The magnitude of the awfulness.
Not the rapes.
Not the shoving against the wall.
Not the potted-plant fucking.
But we knew something.
We knew something was bubbling under.
Something odious.
Something rotten.
But…
And this is as pathetic as it is true:
What would you have had us do?
Who were we to tell?
The authorities?
What authorities?
The press?
Harvey owned the press.
The Internet?
There was no Internet or reasonable facsimile thereof.
Should we have called the police?
And said what?
Should we have reached out to some fantasy Attorney General Of Movieland?
That didn’t exist.
Not to mention, most of the victims chose not to speak out.
Aside from sharing the grimy details with a close girlfriend or confidante.
And if they discussed it with their representatives?
Agents and managers, who themselves feared The Wrath Of The Big Man?
The agents and managers would tell them to keep it to themselves.
Because who knew the repercussions?
That old saw “You’ll Never Work In This Town Again” came crawling back to putrid life like a re-animated cadaver in a late-night zombie flick.
But, yes, everyone knew someone who had been on the receiving end of lewd advances by him.
Or knew someone who knew someone.
A few actress friends of mine told me stories: of a ghastly hotel meeting; of a repugnant bathrobe-shucking; of a loathsome massage request.
And although they were rattled, they sort of laughed at his arrogance; how he had the temerity to think that simply the sight of his naked, doughy, carbuncled flesh was going to get them in the mood.
So I just believed it to be a grotesque display of power; a dude misreading the room and making a lame-if-vile pass.
It was much easier to believe that.
It was much easier for ALL of us to believe that.
Because…
And here’s where the slither meets the slime:
Harvey was showing us the best of times.
He was making our movies.
Throwing the biggest parties.
Taking us to The Golden Globes!
Introducing us to the most amazing people (Meetings with Vice President Gore! Clubbing with Quentin and Uma! Drinks with Salman Rushdie and Ralph Fiennes! Dinners with Mick Jagger and Warren-freaking-Beatty!).
The most epic Oscar weekends.
That seemed to last for weeks!
Sundance! Cannes! Toronto!
Telluride! Berlin! Venice!
Private jets! Stretch limousines! Springsteen shows!
Hell, Harvey once took me to St. Barth’s for Christmas.
For 12 days!
I was a broke-ass kid from Boston who had never even HEARD of St. Barth’s before he booked my travel.
He once got me tickets to the seven hottest Broadway shows in one week. So I could take a new girlfriend on a dazzling tour of theater.
He got me seats on the 40-yard-line to the Super Bowl, when the Patriots were playing the Packers in New Orleans.
Even got me a hotel room, which was impossible to get that weekend.
He gave and gave and gave and gave.
He had a monarch’s volcanic generosity when it came to those within his circle.
And a Mafia don’s fervent need for abject loyalty from his capos and soldiers.
But never mind us!
What about what he was doing for the culture?
Making stunningly splendid films at a time when everyone else was cranking-out simpering “INDEPENDENCE DAY” rip-offs.
It was glorious.
All of it.
So what if he was coming on a little strong to some young models who had moved mountains to get into one of his parties?
So what if he was exposing himself, in five-star hotel rooms, like a cartoon flasher out of “MAD MAGAZINE” (just swap robe for raincoat!)
Who were we to call foul?
Golden Geese don’t come along too often in one’s life.
Which goes back to my original point:
Everybody-fucking-knew.
But everybody was just having too good a time.
And doing remarkable work; making remarkable movies.
As the old joke goes:
We needed the eggs.
Okay, maybe we didn’t NEED them.
But we really, really, really, really LIKED them eggs.
So we were willing to overlook what the Golden Goose was up to, in the murky shadows behind the barn…
And for that, I am eternally sorry.
To all of the women that had to suffer this…
I am eternally sorry.
I’ve worked with Mira and Rosanna and Lysette.
I’ve known Rose and Ashley and Claire for years…
Their courage only hangs a lantern on my shame.
And I am eternally sorry to all those who suffered in silence all this time.
And have chosen to remain silent today.
I mostly lost touch with the brothers by the early 2000s.
For no specific reason.
Just that there were other jobs, other studios.
But a few months ago, Harvey called me, out of the blue.
To talk about the bygone days.
To talk about how great it would be to get some of the gang back together.
Make a movie.
He must have known then the noose was tightening.
There was a wistfulness to him that I had never heard before.
A melancholy.
It most assuredly had a walking-to-the-gallows feel.
When we hung up I wondered: “what was that all about?”
In a few short weeks I would know.
It was the condemned man simply wanting to comb some of the ruins of his old stomping grounds.
One last time.
So, yeah, I am sorry.
Sorry and ashamed.
Because, in the end, I was complicit.
I didn’t say shit.
I didn’t do shit.
Harvey was nothing but wonderful to me.
So I reaped the rewards and I kept my mouth shut.
And for that, once again, I am sorry.
But you should be sorry, too.
With all these victims speaking up…
To tell their tales.
Shouldn’t those who witnessed it from the sidelines do the same?
Instead of retreating to the cowardly, canopied confines of faux-outrage?
Doesn’t being a bystander bring with it the responsibility of telling the truth, however personally disgraceful it may be?
You know who are.
You know that you knew.
And do you know how I know that you knew?
Because I was there with you.
And because everybody-fucking-knew.”

Tell us about it, Scott. Describe what the high times with Harvey were like. Tell us how flattered you were to be in the Big Splash. Tell us there was nothing you could have done. Nothing anybody could have done. Sounds like a story we’ve heard before. Sounds like, The King Had No Clothes. Literally. But Harvey was such a big shot it didn’t matter–right? The party went on and on. Never mind the consequences. Never mind all those ambitious kids who paid a terrible price for admission to the party. Your beloved Harvey was a big spender. He spent it all over anyone dumb enough to open their mouths like you and swallow his largesse. It’s too late to be ashamed, Scott. Way too late for contrition from Everybody-who-Fucking-Knew, don’t you think? You don’t know what to feel, do you, Scott?”

The comments are worth browsing.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2017 at 10:01 am

$21 Billion Worth of F-35 Concurrency Orphans?

leave a comment »

Military spending seems to lack control and reasonable criteria. Dan Grazier reports for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO):

The new F-35 Program Executive Officer, Vice Admiral Mat Winter, said his office is exploring the option of leaving 108 aircraft in their current state because the funds to upgrade them to the fully combat-capable configuration would threaten the Air Force’s plans to ramp up production in the coming years. These are most likely the same 108 aircraft the Air Force reportedly needed to upgrade earlier in 2017. Without being retrofitted, these aircraft would become “Concurrency Orphans,” airplanes left behind in the acquisition cycle after the services purchased them in haste before finishing the development process.

Left unsaid so far is what will become of the 81 F-35s purchased by the Marine Corps and Navy during that same period. If they are left in their current state, nearly 200 F-35s might permanently remain unready for combat because the Pentagon would rather buy new aircraft than upgrade the ones the American people have already paid for. What makes this particularly galling is the aircraft that would be left behind by such a scheme were the most expensive F-35s purchased so far. When the tab for all the aircraft purchased in an immature state is added up, the total comes to nearly $40 billion. That is a lot of money to spend on training jets and aircraft that will simply be stripped for spare parts.

The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have been assuring the American people for years that the price tag for the F-35 is on its way down. Much of that effort was part of the campaign to convince Congress to approve the Economic Order Quantity, or multiple-year block buy of F-35 components. They claimed that would lead to even more cost savings. But it is difficult to be enthusiastic about the prospect of saving $2 billion when the program could potentially have wasted up to ten or perhaps twenty times that amount.

Upgrades are unusually complex for the F-35 because of the design process being used for the program. The program is developing the F-35 in several phases, called blocks. Each block has more capabilities than the earlier version. According to the Lockheed Martin website, Block 1A/1B combined basic training capabilities with some security enhancements. Block 2A remained a training version, with the ability to share data between aircraft. Blocks 2B and 3I are the first versions with any combat capabilities. The only significant difference between 2B and 3I is the aircraft’s computer processor. The first version expected to have full combat capabilities is Block 3F. This version has yet to be completed and is only expected to begin realistic combat testing next year. . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. This is our tax money that is being wasted spent.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2017 at 9:25 am

Manchin calls on Trump to withdraw Marino’s nomination as drug czar in wake of Post/‘60 Minutes’ probe

leave a comment »

This is why good investigative journalism is important, and those exposed as dishonest and corrupt will always cry “fake news” because they do not want their misdeeds exposed. Ed O’Keefe, Scott Higham, and Lenny Bernstein report in the Washington Post:

Congressional Democrats on Monday reacted sharply to reports that President Trump’s nominee to serve as the nation’s drug czar helped steer legislation that made it harder for the federal government to take some enforcement actions against giant drug companies.

One Democratic senator called on Trump to withdraw the nomination of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position requiring Senate confirmation. Another quickly unveiled legislation to undo the law that Marino championed and that passed Congress with little opposition.

In a statement, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) said he was “horrified” to read details of an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” that detailed how a targeted lobbying effort helped weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise. He called on Trump to withdraw Marino’s nomination.

“During the biggest public health crisis since HIV/AIDS, we need someone leading the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy who believes we must protect our people, not the pharmaceutical industry,” Manchin said in a statement.

In a separate letter to Trump, Manchin said that more than 700 West Virginians died of opioid overdoses last year. “No state in the nation has been harder hit than mine,” he wrote.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also said Monday that she would be introducing legislation to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016. The law, she said, “has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities.” . . .

Continue reading.

The concluding paragraph shows how the US government fights transparency and disclosure:

. . . The DEA and Justice Department have denied or delayed more than a dozen requests filed by The Post and “60 Minutes” under the Freedom of Information Act for public records that might shed additional light on the matter. Some of those requests have been pending for nearly 18 months. The Post is now suing the Justice Department in federal court for some of those records.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 October 2017 at 9:25 am

The drug industry’s control of Congress led to the opioid epidemic

leave a comment »

Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein report in the Washington Post:

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino,a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.

The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies, according to internal agency and Justice Department documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge in a soon-to-be-published law review article. That powerful tool had allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.

Political action committees representing the industry contributed at least $1.5 million to the 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored four versions of the bill, including nearly $100,000 to Marino and $177,000 to Hatch. Overall, the drug industry spent $106 million lobbying Congress on the bill and other legislation between 2014 and 2016, according to lobbying reports.

“The drug industry, the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores, have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before,” said Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the DEA’s division responsible for regulating the drug industry and led a decade-long campaign of aggressive enforcement until he was forced out of the agency in 2015. “I mean, to get Congress to pass a bill to protect their interests in the height of an opioid epidemic just shows me how much influence they have.”

Besides the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill, few lawmakers knew the true impact the law would have. It sailed through Congress and was passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure reserved for bills considered to be noncontroversial. The White House was equally unaware of the bill’s import when President Barack Obama signed it into law, according to interviews with former senior administration officials.

Top officials at the White House and the Justice Department have declined to discuss how the bill came to pass.

Michael Botticelli, who led the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy at the time, said neither Justice nor the DEA objected to the bill, removing a major obstacle to the president’s approval.

“We deferred to DEA, as is common practice,” he said.

The bill also was reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“Neither the DEA nor the Justice Department informed OMB about the policy change in the bill,” a former senior OMB official with knowledge of the issue said recently. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of internal White House deliberations.

The DEA’s top official at the time, acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg,declined repeated requests for interviews. A senior DEA official said the agency fought the bill for years in the face of growing pressure from key members of Congress and industry lobbyists. But the DEA lost the battle and eventually was forced to accept a deal it did not want.

“They would have passed this with us or without us,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Our point was that this law was completely unnecessary.”

Loretta E. Lynch, who was attorney general at the time, declined a recent interview request.

Obama also declined to discuss the law. His spokeswoman, Katie Hill, referred reporters to Botticelli’s statement.

The DEA and Justice Department have denied or delayed more than a dozen requests filed by The Post and “60 Minutes” under the Freedom of Information Act for public records that might shed additional light on the matter. Some of those requests have been pending for nearly 18 months. The Post is now suing the Justice Department in federal court for some of those records.

Hatch’s spokesman, Matt Whitlock, said the DEA, which had undergone a leadership change, did not oppose the bill in the end.

“We worked collaboratively with DEA and DOJ . . . and they contributed significantly to the language of the bill,” Whitlock wrote in an email. “DEA had plenty of opportunities to stop the bill and they did not do so.”

Marino declined repeated requests for comment. Marino’s staff called the U.S. Capitol Police when The Post and “60 Minutes” tried to interview the congressman at his office on Sept. 12. In the past, the congressman has said the DEA was too aggressive and needed to work more collaboratively with drug companies. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more. Read the whole thing. The Federal government is failing the American public.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 October 2017 at 8:03 am

%d bloggers like this: