October 20, 2009
Last week, after the industry association America’s Health Insurance Plans released a study showing that premiums would rise 18 percent under the Senate Finance Committee’s reform proposal, top Democrats took to the airwaves to condemn the industry and threatened to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which exempts insurers from most federal regulation, including antitrust laws. not clear that they really do intend to repeal McCarran-Ferguson, or if they're just sending a signal to health insurers and other dissenters that this is how we deal with people who stand in our way. As my wife said yesterday, they're playing Chicago hard ball now. They’ll do whatever it takes to win.
October 19, 2009
On Friday, Bill Gates announced at the World Food Summit in Des Moines that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would be redoubling its efforts to improve agricultural productivity among poor farmers in less developed countries. He said that "The fight to end hunger is being hurt by environmentalists who insist that genetically modified crops cannot be used in Africa."
October 14, 2009
The physicist turned science journalist Simon Singh has been sued in a UK court and, this past summer, found liable for libel for an April 2008 commentary piece in the Guardian in which he explained that there is no evidence that chiropractic spinal manipulation can safely and effectively treat back pains. In a world of global print and Internet publishing, the UK has become a venue for so-called libel tourism, in which slighted plaintiffs from all over the world bring suit in British courts against defendants located outside the UK merely because their comments have been published or re-posted in magazines, books, or websites that happen to appear in Britain. There is no doubt that British libel law exerts a chilling effect on free speech generally, and on criticism of quack science and bad governance more specifically.
October 13, 2009
Earlier today, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) announced that she would vote in favor of the health care reform bill authored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). And, just about 30 minutes ago, the Finance Committee reported the bill out to the full Senate by a 14 to 9 vote, with all the Democrats and Snowe voting in favor.
September 29, 2009
Liberal Democrats are fuming. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) and House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) remain committed to a "public option". President Obama signalled his enduring support for it in his September 9 address to Congress.
September 25, 2009
The National Journal had an interesting article this week describing the difficulty Democrats have been having getting young adults interested in the health care debate. But, if they knew more about the health care proposals being debated on Capitol Hill, one might imagine that young adults would be pretty upset to learn that the Democrats want to force everyone in America to purchase an expensive health insurance policy that covers not just the benefits they most want, but the benefits a bunch of Washington bureaucrats decide they should have. And, if they or their employers don't buy such a health insurance policy, they'll get hit with monetary penalties as high as $950 from the Senate Finance Committee plan or 2.5 percent of their income from the House proposal.
September 17, 2009
"If liberal health-care reform is going to make people better off, why does it require "a very harsh, stiff penalty" to make everyone buy it? That's what Senator Obama called it in his Presidential campaign when he opposed the individual mandate supported by Hillary Clinton. He correctly argued then that many people were uninsured not because they didn't want coverage but because it was too expensive. The nearby mailer to Ohio primary voters gives the flavor of Mr. Obama's attacks."
September 16, 2009
New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris has a front page article in today's paper on the head of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Oncology Drug Products, Richard Pazdur. Pazdur has implemented reforms that permit the FDA to occasionally consider New Drug Applications for cancer drugs that are supported by fewer clinical trials, with fewer patients in those trials, and that measure progress toward a "surrogate end-point" such as tumor suppression instead of increased length of patient survival. But, in each of these cases, Pazdur's contribution was not to come up with these great ideas, but merely to implement them at the request of Congress and President Clinton.
September 13, 2009
Norman Borlaug was an American agricultural scientist and plant breeder whose work sparked what is now known as the Green Revolution. He was recognized with countless scientific and humanitarian awards, including, in 1970, the Nobel Peace Price. Quite tragically, he died of cancer yesterday, at the age of 95.
September 9, 2009
Congratulations to Pamela Ronald, a UC Davis plant pathology professor, on winning one of this year's Science in Society Journalism Awards, sponsored by the National Association of Science Writers. The award is for a column Ronald wrote for the Boston Globe last year, and which was based in part on her wonderful book, Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetic and the Future of Food.