Merrill Lynch, Protection Rackets and the ‘P.R. Firm from Hell’

Last week Jim Rutenberg penned a column for the New York Times titled Facing Down the Network that Produced Harvey Weinstein. Rutenberg explored the reasons that Weinstein’s decades of sexually harassing women and charges of assaults had not made it to the front pages of newspapers sooner. Correctly calling it ‘something akin to a protection racket,’ Rutenberg defined it as a ‘network of aggressive public relations flacks and lawyers who guard the secrets of those who employ them and keep their misdeeds out of public view.’
That sentence brought to mind a 2009 Rachel Maddow program on MSNBC where she enumerated the ignominious historical milestones of the monster public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, capping the history by calling it the ‘p.r. firm from hell.’ Among her litany of its p.r. projects, Maddow cited: ‘…when Blackwater killed those 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, they called Burson-Marsteller. When there was a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, Bobcock & Wilcox, who built that plant, called Burson-Marsteller… The government of Nigeria, accused of genocide in Biafra, Burson- Marsteller. Philip Morris, Burson-Marsteller. Silicone breast implants, Burson-Marsteller. The government of Columbia trying to make all those dead union organizers not getting in the way of the new trade deal, they called Burson-Marsteller.’
One of Burson-Marsteller’s oldest clients is, of course, Merrill Lynch, a company that has been repeatedly charged with tolerating sexual harassment of women over the same four decades that Burson-Marsteller has been shining up its image as bullish on America and vested in the human spirit.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on October 20, 2017.

Can Trump and Rand Paul Save Healthcare?

Last week, Donald Trump signed a new executive order facilitating more flexibility for consumers of health insurance.
The order allows for more flexibility in purchasing insurance across state lines, and greater freedom both small businesses and groups of consumers in creating “association health plans” (AHPs). In theory, this will broaden access to the benefits currently enjoyed only by those with employment-based insurance, and other types of group insurance.
The order paves the way for healthcare reforms long favored by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who believes the reforms will help bring down healthcare costs.
In an op-ed for Breitbart, Paul writes:
Millions of Americans will be eligible to band together to demand less-expensive insurance. The 28 million individuals left behind by Obamacare will now be eligible for inexpensive insurance.
How will it work? Well, nationwide associations like the National Restaurant Association will be allowed to form groups across state lines and, with the leverage of size, demand Big Insurance bring down their outrageous premiums.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on October 20, 2017.

Senate Deal To Stabilize Obamacare “Dead On Arrival” In The House

Not even a full day after Senators reached a “bipartisan” deal to keep subsidies to health insurers for the next two years, this latest attempt to keep Obamacare alive appears to be dying, because moments after Fox News reported that the Alexander-Murray Bill “will be dead in the House” as many in the GOP “want full repeal and replace”, Bloomberg reported that the bipartisan deal has “stalled out” according to Senator Thune, while Senator Hatch said that he opposes the Alexander-Murray fix altogether.
ALEXANDER/MURRAY HEALTHCARE BILL WILL BE DEAD ON ARRIVAL IN THE HOUSE. HOUSE GOP INSISTS ON REPEAL/REPLACE – SOURCES: FOX NEWS ALEXANDER-MURRAY PLAN `HAS STALLED OUT,’ GOP SEN. THUNE SAYS SEN. ORRIN HATCH SAYS HE OPPOSES ALEXANDER-MURRAY OBAMACARE FIX

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 18, 2017.

Olympic Athletes Could Soon Face Being Microchipped ‘Like Dogs’ To Compete

While some say microchipping humans is the wave of the future, others think it could be the Biblical ‘mark of the beast.’ Regardless, the next group to face the potentiality of being microchipped like dogs are Olympic athletes.
According to WND, the head of an association of Olympic athletes wants to require anyone who participates in the Summer or Winter Games to be implanted with a tracking chip to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Mike Miller, the CEO of the World Olympians Association, remarked recently at an anti-doping forum in London that athletes should accept digital implants or be barred from Olympic-level competition, according to The Guardian.
Speaking to anti-doping leaders at a Westminster forum on integrity in sport, Miller said: ‘In order to stop doping we need to chip our athletes where the latest technology is there.’ He continued, saying: ‘Microchips get over the issue of whether the technology can be manipulated because they [athletes] have no control over the device. The problem with the current anti-doping system is that all it says is that at a precise moment in time there are no banned substances but we need a system which says you are illegal substance-free at all times and if there are changes in markers they will be detected.’
Consumer privacy expert Liz McIntyre, the co-author of ‘Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move,’ called Miller’s proposal ‘outrageous,’ insisting ‘no human being should ever be forced to accept a tracking implant to fully participate in society.’ Miller reiterates that it isn’t about ‘privacy,’ however, and Olympic athletes aren’t exactly regular members of society. ‘Some people say it’s an invasion of privacy,’ Miller said. ‘Well, sport is a club and people don’t have to join the club if they don’t want to, if they can’t follow the rules.’

This post was published at shtfplan on October 18th, 2017.

Doctors in Puerto Rico Practice Medicine In ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ Conditions

Nearly four weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, doctors are experiencing ‘post-apocalyptic’ conditions. The reality doctors in Puerto Rico are facing is similar to that from a dystopian novel.
Doctors are conducting surgical procedures in sweltering 95-degree heat, experience malfunctioning X-ray machines, and have seen medications literally melting. ‘We’re practicing disaster medicine in real life,’ said Dr. William Kotler, a senior resident in emergency medicine at Florida Hospital in Orlando, who spent two weeks volunteering on the island earlier this month. ‘We improvise if we have to, with very little resources.’
Arriving one week after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Dr. Kotler and four other emergency physicians from Florida Hospital in Orlando, finished up a volunteer mission on the devastated island. They were the first medical relief team the hospital sent to the island. ‘We went in blind,’ said Dr. Julian Trivino, who was among the first team of volunteers.

This post was published at shtfplan on October 18th, 2017.

Fraud, Exploitation and Collusion: America’s Pharmaceutical Industry

The rot within manifested by the pharmaceutical industry almost defies description.
The theme this week is The Rot Within. America’s Pharmaceutical industry takes pride of place in this week’s theme of The Rot Within, as the industry has raised fraud, exploitation and collusion to systemic perfection. What other industry can routinely kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and suffer no blowback? Only recently has the toll of needless deaths from the opioid pandemic finally roused a comatose corporate media and bought-and-paid-for, see-no-evil Congress to wonder if maybe there should be some limits placed on Big Pharma and its drug distributors. The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the DEA (WaPo) Explosive ’60 Minutes’ investigation finds Congress and drug companies worked to cripple DEA’s ability to fight opioid abuse What other industry can raise prices any time it wants because, well, it can?Longtime correspondent/physician J. F. recently submitted a chart of medication price increases (below)–nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual because we can price increases.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2017.

Madagascar Plague Outbreak Has Already Killed 57 And Infected Over 600

An outbreak of the plague in Madagascar is spreading at an unprecedented rate. With the ease of spreading the plague, the likelihood that this disease will move to other more densely populated regions of the planet has become a huge concern for many.
So far, the plague has claimed 57 lives and infected more than 680 others. These figures are from October 12, however, and the disease is spreading rapidly. An estimated 329 of these cases and 25 of the deaths were in the capital city of Antananarivo. Of the 684 cases reported as of October 12, 474 were the pneumonic plague, 156 bubonic and 1 septicemic plague. A further 54 were unspecified, according to the World Health Organization. Of Madagascar’s 114 districts, 35 have reported cases of plague, including at least 10 cities.
Plague is caused by infection with the bacterium Yersinia pestis and is typically spread through the bite of infected fleas, frequently carried by rats. The bacteria will eventually end up causing the often fatal plague. Symptoms can include painful, swollen lymph nodes, called buboes, as well as fever, chills, and coughing. Pneumonic plague is more virulent or damaging and is an advanced form of the disease characterized by a severe lung infection. The infection can be transmitted from person to person via airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing. The incubation period is extremely short too, and an infected person may die within 12 to 24 hours of contracting the bacteria making cures in underdeveloped regions of the globe difficult at best.

This post was published at shtfplan on October 17th, 2017.

Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal To Keep Obamacare Subsidies, Send Healthcare Stocks Soaring

It appears that President Trump’s action last week has scared lawmakers, as taking the subsidy ‘punchbowl’ away from healthcare providers has been suddenly met with a bipartisan deal that Republican Senator Alexander says would maintain Obamacare safeguards for two years. Healthcare stocks are soaring back from the recent weakness to new record highs…
As The Hill reports, Sens Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reached a bipartisan deal to stabilize ObamaCare.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 17, 2017.

A Call for ‘Do-Nothing’ Presidents Without Legacies

Some in the news media and editorial page pundits are aghast that many of President Donald Trump’s executive orders and legislative proposals sent off to the United States Congress represent an attempt to undue the presidential ‘legacy’ of Barack Obama. The question is, why should it be presumed that presidents need to have policy legacies to leave behind after their term in office has ended?
In this particular case, many of those on the political ‘left’ are focused on the proposals coming out of the Trump White House to repeal and replace ObamaCare – the (un)Affordable Care Act – as well as ‘climate change’ legislation and international agreements, land use and mining regulations, and the Iran nuclear armaments deal.
Not All Presidential Legacies are ‘Equal’ in the Eyes of the Pundits An interesting question is whether the news pundits would be in the same public policy uproar if an immediately preceding president had been a classical liberal or libertarian and had left a ‘legacy’ of having dismantled the interventionist-welfare state, which his successor started to intentionally reverse by once more introducing all the same regulatory and redistributive legislation that had been repealed and abolished.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on October 17, 2017.

SYRIA: The Long East Ghouta War – Tim Anderson in Damascus

Just south of the Jabhat al Nusra held town of Ayn Tarma a Syrian Army colonel tells our small group that he is keen to attack the terrorists in Jobar. However army orders for the green belt east of Damascus (the East Ghouta) are currently more in the nature of a ‘holding brief’. Strategic considerations control any offensive. In the meantime large earth, concrete and metal barriers quarantine the terrorist held parts of the East Ghouta, and provide some protection from snipers. Of course the Army responds quickly to attacks, which are frequent.
When we visited Abbassiyeen Square, on the western perimeter of the quarantined area, a shell had landed 5 minutes earlier. It was still on the footpath, where it had injured a young girl. Already planes were in the air and the army was moving on the ground, for a quick response.
Abbassiyeen Square is one of several areas close to Jobar, a salient of the Nusra held East Ghouta which pokes into the east side of Damascus like a dagger. From Jobar rockets and mortars are launched into the eastern part of the historic old city. The suburb itself has been a wasteland for many years now. Why has the army not taken over Jobar, many Syrians ask? This is one of the puzzles of the East Ghouta war.

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on OCTOBER 14, 2017.

Trump And Bannon Make Up: Breitbart Chief Slams Vanity Fair, Predicts Huge Victory For Trump In 2020

The original, populist, “grassroots” Trump, the one who won the elections before surrounding himself with various Goldman Sachs-derived advisors, made a solid comeback this past week: just consider the flurry of recent actions undertaken by the president.
When Trump ran for president last year, he frequently said that only he ‘alone’ could fix the nation’s problems. But once he took office, Trump attempted to follow the lead of Republicans on Capitol Hill, and he watched with dismay how little movement was made on priorities such as healthcare, immigration, and national security. And, after weeks of seeing his agenda imperiled by Republican divisions and infighting among his aides, Trump became a whirlwind of activity this week, reasserting his campaign priorities and trying to deliver wins for his fervent but frustrated base of supporters.
Indeed, Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall along the Mexican border. In doing so, Trump reverting back to conflicts and fights that defined the core of his campaign, and which drifted as Trump became increasingly more institutionalized by the Washington swamp. Meanwhile, on Twitter Trump increasingly relished his feuds with the news media, senior Republicans in Congress, and National Football League players who have protested during the national anthem.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 14, 2017.

“We Will Own This” – Retiring Republican Congressman Bashes Trump’s Obamacare Order

Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent is just one of a handful of Congressional Republicans who has stepped up his criticisms of the president after announcing – often with a purposeful air of liberation – that he would not seek another term in 2018. So perhaps with an eye toward landing a lucrative TV news analyst job in 15 months, Dent took to CNN to share his views about the president’s controversial decision to cancel federal cost-sharing subsidies to Obamacare insurers, a decision that Dent believes will ultimately hurt the Republicans by forcing them to take ownership of the ‘death spiral’ that now appears inevitable as insurers jack up premiums – or pull out of markets like UnitedHealth did – to compensate now that the lucrative government payoffs that made it possible (and profitable) for insurers to provide coverage for the riskiest patients (aka those with preexisting conditions) have ended.
Trump has been threatening to kill the subsidies for months – a fact that hasn’t been lost on insurers, who’ve jacked up premiums preemptively to account for the ‘uncertainty’ surrounding future federal health-care policy. But as Dent sensibly asserts, by killing the payments, Trump is creating an opening for Democrats to sell a narrative where the Republicans spitefully sabotaged Obamacare after failing to repeal it and replace it with ‘something way better,’ as president Trump had repeatedly promised.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 14, 2017.

Democrat AGs From 18 States Sue To Keep Obamacare Subsidies, But Who Really Benefits?

It did not take long for democrats to respond to Trump’s executive order halting key subsidies known as Cost-Sharing Reductions or CSRs to insurers.
On Friday, just hours after the executive order was signed, Democratic attorneys general from eighteen states as well as Washington D. C., sued President Trump’s administration to stop him from scrapping a critical component of Obamacare – insurer subsidies that allow millions of low-income people pay medical expenses, even as Trump invited Democratic leaders to negotiate a deal. The states include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state.
The suit follows the administration’s announced plans to end the payments next week; Trump said he would dismantle Obamacare ‘step by step.’ His latest action raised concerns about chaos in insurance markets. Frustrated by the failure of Republicans who control both houses of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump’s action took aim at a critical element of Obama’s signature 2010 law. ‘As far as the subsidies are concerned, I don’t want to make the insurance companies rich,’ Trump told reporters at the White House. ‘They’re making a fortune by getting that kind of money.’
On Saturday morning, Trump doubled down, tweeting that “Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall!”
Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2017

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 14, 2017.

Trump To Scrap Crucial Obamacare Insurer Subsidy

Update: Late Thursday, the administration said it would immediately stop paying what are known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies. The payments go to health insurers in the Affordable Care Act to help lower-income people with co-pays and other cost sharing. Without them, insurers have said they’ll dramatically raise premiums or pull out of the law’s state-based markets.
According to Bloomberg, the White House said the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services both concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare. ‘The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,’ the White House said in the statement.
The payments will stop immediately, with no transition period, Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. They next payments were due next week.
‘Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately,’ the department said.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.

“The Democrats ObamaCare Is Imploding” Trump Tweets Hours After Cutting Off “Broken Mess” Obamacare Subsidies

Update: President Trump has continued to hammer Obamacare…
ObamaCare is a broken mess. Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2017

As we detailed earlier, it was an early morning for a seemingly excited, insomniac Donald Trump, who shortly before 6am tweeted on the topic of the night, namely the late Thursday elimination of subsidies to health insurers, which took place just hours after the president signed an executive order to designed to draw people away from Obamacare coverage markets.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.