Archive

October 30th, 2015

Is Valeant Pharmaceuticals the Next Enron?

    Valeant Pharmaceuticals is a sleazy company.

    Although it existed before 2010, it did a deal that year that put it on the map. The deal was with Biovail, one of Canada’s largest drugmakers — and a company that had run afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    In 2008, the SEC sued Biovail for “repeatedly” overstating earnings and “actively” misleading investors. Biovail settled the case for $10 million.

    As it happens, 2008 was the same year that a management consultant named J. Michael Pearson became Valeant’s chief executive. Pearson had an unusual idea about how to grow a modern pharmaceutical company. The pharma business model has long called for a hefty percentage of revenue to be spent on company scientists who try to develop new drugs. The failure rate is high — but a successful new drug can generate over $1 billion in annual revenue, which makes up for a lot of failures.

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October 28th

Is Valeant Pharmaceuticals the Next Enron?

    Valeant Pharmaceuticals is a sleazy company.

    Although it existed before 2010, it did a deal that year that put it on the map. The deal was with Biovail, one of Canada’s largest drugmakers — and a company that had run afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    In 2008, the SEC sued Biovail for “repeatedly” overstating earnings and “actively” misleading investors. Biovail settled the case for $10 million.

    As it happens, 2008 was the same year that a management consultant named J. Michael Pearson became Valeant’s chief executive. Pearson had an unusual idea about how to grow a modern pharmaceutical company. The pharma business model has long called for a hefty percentage of revenue to be spent on company scientists who try to develop new drugs. The failure rate is high — but a successful new drug can generate over $1 billion in annual revenue, which makes up for a lot of failures.

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Benghazi hearing was a self-defeating

    Hillary Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. She sat in the witness chair with the patience of Job, hour after endless hour, while the House Select Committee on Benghazi did all it could to make her our next president.

    How much of a self-defeating travesty was last week's hearing for the Republican Party? The answer is obvious from how quickly the GOP has sought to turn the page.

    Had a glove been laid on the presumptive Democratic nominee, the Sunday talk shows would have been a jamboree of Clinton-bashing. As it was, chief inquisitor Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., could only grumble on "Meet the Press" that Clinton's testimony lacked "wholeness and completeness," by which he seemed to mean she failed to make a case against herself. Gowdy also said he regretted that the hearing was held publicly rather than behind closed doors.

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Conservatives Taking Hunters for Granted

    The Durfee Hills contain some of the finest elk hunting grounds in Montana. Some 2,700 acres of this majestic country is open to sportsmen, courtesy of the land's owner, the United States government.

    But "no trespassing" signs could sprout if two rich Texans succeed in persuading the federal government to give them the hills in return for another chunk of land on their 360,000-acre spread -- a parcel providing the only road access to 50,000 public acres along the Upper Missouri River. Both federal properties are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

    If they prevailed, the Wilks brothers would create a world-class private hunting preserve the size of a small European country. This is not an isolated case. A lot of open space is closing around Montana, Wyoming and throughout rural parts of the West as billionaires and developers vie to shut out the public.

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Quantifying the risk that bacon will kill you

    You have of course heard the sad news about bacon. As the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer put it Monday in a news release:

    "The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent."

    How much is 50 grams of processed meat? In bacon terms it's about two slices. Just to be clear, it isn't that eating two pieces of bacon will increase your colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent. It's that eating two pieces of bacon every day for the rest of your life will.

    But here's the important question that isn't directly addressed in the pages and pages of information released Monday by the IARC or in any of the subsequent news coverage that I read: What's the risk of colorectal cancer to begin with?

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Telling Mideast Negotiators, ‘Have a Nice Life’

    In the New York Times review of the American Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross’ important new history of Israeli-U.S. relations, “Doomed to Succeed,” a telling moment on the eve of the 1991 Madrid peace conference caught my attention. The Palestinian delegation had raised some last-minute reservations with the secretary of state, James A. Baker III. Baker was livid and told the Palestinians before walking out on them: “With you people, the souk never closes, but it is closed with me. Have a nice life.”

    I was struck because that kind of straight talk has been all too absent from U.S. Middle East diplomacy lately. Israelis and Palestinians — way too long at war — are trapped in political hothouses of their own making, incapable of surprising each other with anything positive, and desperately in need of a friendly third-party dose of common sense.

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Are police turning camera shy?

    Some police say the stress of always being seen in a negative light in the post-Ferguson era is taking its toll. I am tempted as the father of a young African-American male to say, join the club.

    Since I have great respect for police and for my son, my advice to both is basically the same: Try to be less suspicious.

    Speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Chicago, FBI Director James Comey doubled down Monday on his controversial remarks last week about a "Ferguson effect" or a "YouTube effect."

    Those labels describe the possibility that a rise in violent crime in some cities over the past year may be the result of less aggressive policing in the wake of high-profile and sometimes video-recorded killings of black men by police.

    "Ferguson effect" refers to the national eruption of controversy that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., followed by the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others at the hands of officers.

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Dr. Carson, please read Holocaust history

    It would be a good idea for Ben Carson to spend some time in this city.

    Some recommendations for the Carson tour:

    -- The 1936 Olympic stadium, where Adolf Hitler presided over games in which the Aryanized German team won 33 gold medals, as exuberant German crowds thrust arms upward in the Nazi salute.

    -- Track 17, where, starting on Oct. 18, 1941, thousands of Jews were deported from the Grunewald train station to ghettos and concentration camps, and 186 steel plaques line the platform edge, documenting the Nazis' relentless efficiency: "6.7.1942/100 Juden/Berlin-Theresienstadt." "12.10.1944/31 Juden/Berlin-Auschwitz."

    -- Wannsee House, the lakeside villa where, on Jan. 20, 1942, Hitler's lieutenants diligently planned the implementation of the final solution, poring over Adolf Eichmann's meticulous typewritten list of Jews to be exterminated -- 160,800 from the Netherlands, 742,800 from Hungary, and so on.

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Iraq war remains politically fateful, 12 years on

    A dozen years after the invasion of Iraq, it continues to cast a shadow over the 2016 presidential campaigns in both major parties. Republican and Democratic candidates alike who took opposing positions on it in 2003 can anticipate partisan demands that they hash over again the controversial adventure whose ramifications remain at the core of American foreign policy.

    In the GOP, establishment candidate Jeb Bush, whose brother as president launched the war based on the mistaken contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, has a quandary. Is it wise to use his family members and name to rescue a campaign stalled in the polls?

    Earlier this week, amid announced staff cutbacks, his campaign recruited the two former President Bushes for a two-day strategy and fund-raising meeting in Houston to assess how to snap out of the doldrums. The hope is that George W. Bush's war of choice in Iraq will somehow recede in memory.

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October 27th

Why Trudeau matters more than Gowdy

    Which major event last week should have an important impact on the 2016 presidential election?

    No, it's not Hillary Clinton's 11 hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She walked away with a smile, and for good reason.

    Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., succeeded brilliantly in confirming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's burst of honesty: that the whole exercise always had bringing down Clinton's poll numbers as one of its central purposes. Only right-wingers already convinced of her perfidy thought otherwise. She emerged stronger than she started by staying calm, cool and confident in the face of repeated provocations.

    The consequential event occurred three days earlier. The Liberal Party landslide and the triumph of Justin Trudeau in Canada's election last Monday was a tonic for progressive economics and a cautionary tale for parties on the center-left lacking the courage of their convictions. Trudeau proved that voters understand the difference between profligacy and necessary public investment.

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