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Pharma Spends Twice as Much on Marketing as Research

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:54 PM EST

Pharma%20Industry%20Can%20Help%20States.jpg The US pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development—contrary to the industry's claim. Researchers from York University, collecting data directly from industry and from doctors, found that in 2004 pharma spent $235.4 billion: 24.4% on promotion; 13.4% for research and development. They also found the number of promotional meetings jumped dramatically from 120,000 in 1998 to 371,000 in 2004. Further evidence the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is increasingly market driven—not driven by life-saving research. The authors also note the money spent on marketing is likely an underestimate.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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In New Hampshire, Negative Signs for Romney

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:50 PM EST

romney-mccain-nh.jpg MANCHESTER, NH — If you were to guess the location of a Mitt Romney campaign event, what would it be?

A corporate office? A country club?

Try both. This morning in New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts Governor appeared at the Timberland world headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, and then moved to the Nashua Country Club in Nashua. His appearances in both locations, along with multiple events by Senator John McCain also held today, illustrate why Romney will likely get beaten by his main competitor in tomorrow's primary election.

Romney has held campaign events at corporate headquarters before; a campaign official today could identify at least three, including today's at Timberland. The crowds are always sizable, said the official, and the campaign doesn't need to work to turn out attendees since they are already at the site for their day jobs. But if Governor Romney is anticipating a conservative and business-friendly audience, he's mistaken.

For beginners, Timberland is a progressive company, committed to social responsibility. It uses soy-based inks and 100 percent recycled post-consumer waste fiber boxes. People attending today's event passed solar arrays out front and displays in the lobby that demonstrated how the company takes advantage of recycling opportunities (next to a giant pile of plastic bottles was a sign explaining that Timberland uses recycled plastic to make the lining of its boots). The company houses and sponsors the non-profit organization City Year.

So when I headed into the event's auditorium, I suspected Romney wasn't hitting his target audience. Before the event began, I surveyed people and found I was right. Of the 17 people I spoke with, two said they were committed to Romney, one said she was leaning toward him, and the other 14 said they were "learning more about him," which could mean they were considering him or just playing hooky from work.

Ten of the 17 called themselves independents, four said they were conservatives, and three said they were liberals. Not the right mix for someone who has tried to position himself to the right of his opponents on issues like national security, immigration, and gay marriage. After Romney finished speaking, he turned to the crowd for questions. People were slow to rise to their feet. Eventually, three people did ask questions, one of whom was distributing leaflets on Israel beforehand and used her question to promote her agenda. The same lack of excitement characterized Romney's crowds in Iowa a few days before he lost to Mike Huckabee in that state's caucuses.

Afterwards, I poked my head into the cafeteria and found five City Year employees, all young men and women. I asked if any of them were more likely to vote for Romney after the event. I got grimaces and awkward giggles. Most stared at the table. None responded.

How To Shrink a Fetus: Add Air Pollution

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 10:23 PM EST

fetus2.jpgAs if we need more compelling reasons to clean up the air… A new study finds that exposure to air pollution significantly reduces the size of human fetuses. Ten years of research by scientists from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia and the Environmental Protection Agency in the US compared 15,000 ultrasound scans, and correlated fetus size with air pollution levels. The study was conducted within a 9-mile radius of the Australian city of Brisbane and found that mothers with a higher exposure to air pollution had fetuses that were, on average, smaller in terms of abdominal circumference, head circumference and femur length. "Birth weight is a major predictor of later health," says Dr Adrian Barnett of QUT, "bigger babies have been shown to have higher IQs in childhood and lower risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood." Most of Brisbane's air pollution level comes from cars and trucks… As if we needed more reasons to rethink them.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

All Terror, All the Time Is Giving Americans Heart Failure

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 9:26 PM EST

A new UC Irvine study suggests that the Bush Administration's attempts to intensify fears of terrorism for political gain have significantly contributed to Americans' heart problems.

Researchers showed that stress responses to the 9/11 attacks—particularly those that persisted for years afterward—were linked to a 53 percent increase in cardiac ailments. The most common triggers of renewed stress were videos of the attacks in the media (thanks, Rudy!) and—you guessed it—the rise and fall of DHS' terror alert levels. All that politically opportunistic drum-beating has actually made us sick. Perhaps if Americans had universal health insurance, the government would think twice about such callous manipulation.

One of the Irvine study's findings seems to provide more general insight about violence. The study was able to document post-traumatic responses among Americans who merely saw the attacks on TV. If, as the finding suggests, seeing violence happen to others with whom we identify can spur emotional distress and ill-health, that says a lot about what it's like to be black, or a woman, or a soldier in Iraq, doesn't it?

In the Debates, Gaza Is Verboten

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 6:30 PM EST

This Fall, Human Rights Watch declared Israel's limitation of fuel supplies to Gaza collective punishment of a civilian population and thus a violation of international law. As the area's humanitarian crisis worsens, grim headlines about the misery of Gazans have become all too familiar. I was moved to search the transcripts of the past 11 presidential debates to see if our presidential hopefuls were addressing the situation in Gaza or the larger issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What I found is troubling, though not entirely surprising given the bipartisan consensus to support Israel, right or wrong.

In nine of the 11 debates, the terms Israel, Palestinians, and Gaza were either never uttered or were mentioned once or twice peripherally. For instance, Joe Biden said at the October 30 NBC debate that Pakistan has missiles that can reach Israel. The two exceptions were the November 15 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, where Bill Richardson, unprompted, briefly outlined his ideas for a two-state solution, and the December 4 Democratic radio debate on NPR, in which moderator Robert Siegel posed the single question about Israel of the past 11 debates. Unfortunately, the query was effectively avoided. Excerpt of Edwards and Obama dodging, after the jump.

Desperate in NH: Fibbing About Obama and Iraq?

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 6:11 PM EST

Campaigning in Dover, New Hampshire the day before the primary, Senator Hillary Clinton once again pounded Barack Obama for being big on talk and small on deeds. And before a crowd that could barely fill half of a modest-sized gymnasium, she continued to claim that Obama is a disingenuous politician, no noble and inspiring force of change. Using the thin opposition research her campaign operatives have managed to unearth on her rival, she recited what's becoming the campaign's regular litany of Obama's alleged hypocrisies. Saying you oppose the Patriot Act and then voting to extend it—"that's not change," she declared. Saying you're against special interest lobbying and then having a lobbyist co-chair your New Hampshire campaign—"that's not change," she thundered. Saying in a campaign speech that you will not vote to fund the Iraq war and then voting for $300 billion in war financing—"that's not change," she exclaimed. After the event, in an interview with Fox News, Clinton was even sharper. She referred to Obama's (and John Edwards') "hypocrisy," and said, "Senator Obama has changed many of his positions." Voters, she insisted, deserved to know this: "Talk is, as they say, cheap."

Her charges against Obama have generally been weak—standard truth-stretchers for standard political campaigns. But in casting Obama as a phony on the Iraq war, Clinton has veered close to outright lying.

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Michael Stipe Murmurs He's Charmed By Huckabee

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 4:39 PM EST

mojo-photo-remhuck.jpgYeah, I know, that was the best R.E.M. album-title pun I could come up with, it's Monday. Lead singer Michael Stipe, known lately for painting weird crap on his face as well as, uh, being gay "queer," has told a Sirius radio station that he finds rapidly fading presidential candidate Mike Huckabee "charming" and "funny":

"I can't think of probably a single issue in which I am even remotely in the same universe as that guy ... and yet, he was kind of charming and ... self-deprecating," Stipe told Jane Radio host Jane Pratt, a day after watching Huckabee's Thursday appearance on CBS' "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson." "He was actually kind of a good sport, and funny, and I don't know what that means. Maybe it's a good thing that's he's being lauded right now by the right. He's an evangelical. May God bless all living creatures but my god ... how weird."

Hey, don't forget that hi-LAR-ious bit he does about how homosexuality isn't as bad as necrophilia, it's just on a continuum with necrophilia. He's a riot. Anyway, Stipe may just be trying to get R.E.M.'s name back in the press (look, it worked!) since the band have a new album coming out April 1st called Accelerate, recorded last year with U2 producer Jacknife Lee.

Is Mitt Like Mike?

| Mon Jan. 7, 2008 11:46 AM EST

350px-SLC_Temple_east_side_night.jpgMitt Romney has gone to great lengths to convince the public that his Mormon church would not drive public policy if he should become president. Lots of people, however, have not been persuaded, and perhaps for good reason. The Salt Lake Tribune late last month ran a story that once again illustrates just how involved the church can be in politics. The story isn't about Romney but another Mormon in public life, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Before joining the Bush administration, Leavitt served three terms as governor of Utah. Recently, the state posted thousands of pages of documents from his tenure online. Buried in the archives were several hundred pages of transcripts of "Early Morning Seminary" meetings Leavitt held in 1996 at the Governor's Mansion with his top advisers, including the U.S. Attorney at the time, a high-ranking Mormon church official, and a former professor from Brigham Young University. Leavitt convened the meetings to study the Book of Mormon to figure out how to best incorporate "holy and just" principles of Mormonism into state policy. Leavitt singled out several themes from the religious studies, including a focus on marriage, which later translated into a campaign to ban unmarried couples from adopting children.

Like the good Mormon he is, Leavitt recorded all the meetings (Mormons seem to write everything down), and the transcripts ended up in state archives after he left office. After the Tribune started asking questions about the meetings, Leavitt asked the state to take the transcripts off-line, arguing that they were not official meetings and might even be "sacred." Naturally the state complied, so you can't read them in full, but the Tribune posted some with its story, and they provide an interesting insight in to how deeply involved the LDS church is in Utah politics. Of course, just because a cabinet secretary based his public policy on the Book of Mormon doesn't mean Romney would as president, but it's stories like these that leave people deeply suspicious that he could simply check his faith at the door if he were elected.

The Wrath of Hillary: Finally, She Really Fires Away at Obama

| Sun Jan. 6, 2008 11:31 PM EST

The morning after, it got nasty.

At Saturday night's Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton served notice she was looking to tear down Barack Obama with two charges: he's a flip-flopper and he's all talk and no action. And moments after the debate ended, her aides trotted out to the so-called spin room to hammer home these points.

Consequently, it was no surprise that on Sunday morning, she began a day of campaign events in which she declared that New Hampshire voters should elect "a doer, not a talker" and that it was time to distinguish "rhetoric from reality." Her campaign released a statement emphasizing this line of attack that was headlined, "Rhetoric vs. Results, Talk vs. Action." It was not subtle:

At the debate last night it was clear when opponents were asked what change they had made:
Instead of telling New Hamphsire voters what he had done for them, Barack Obama defended rhetoric and talk and cited legislation that bans sit-down meals with lobbyists but allows them to stand up and eat together.
Obama talked about government reform, but denied that the co-chair of his New Hampshire campaign is a lobbyist. He talked about energy reform but couldn't defend his vote in favor of Dick Cheney's energy plan that gave the big oil companies billions in tax breaks. He talked about his speech against the war, but didn't explain why he voted for $300 billion in funding for the war and why he said as late as 2004 that he didn't know how he would have voted on the war.

The Clinton campaign was doing its best to stretch the little oppo research it has been able to dig up on Obama. When Obama voted for the energy bill--which passed the Senate on an 85 to 12 vote--he said that the measure had fallen short of what was necessary to achieve U.S. energy independence. Environmentalists did not fancy the bill, but over half of the Democrats in the Senate supported the legislation. Most of them came from states that would benefit from the subsidies in the bill--as did Obama. This vote was not a shining moment for Obama, but it represented a conventional political decision (help your state), not hypocrisy. As for the Iraq war funding issue, Obama, like other Democratic senators opposing the war (including Clinton), has voted for bills financing the war. Regarding Obama's New Hampshire co-chair, Jim Demers, the Clinton gang did have a point. He is a lobbyist for drug interests and other groups--but in New Hampshire, not Washington, the Obama campaign say. Still, he is an influence-peddler of the sort Obama has decried.

All told, though, the Clinton campaign did not present a strong case. Then came the robo-call charge.

John Edwards' Stump Speech Comes to Life

| Sun Jan. 6, 2008 10:15 PM EST

edwards-new-hampshire.jpg MANCHESTER, NH — For weeks, John Edwards has been invoking the personal stories of three people. Nataline Sarkisyan was a 17-year-old girl whose family fought with their insurance company to get Nataline covered for a critically needed liver transplant, only to have it agree too late to save her life. James Lowe is a man who couldn't speak for the first 50 years of his life because he didn't have the health coverage he needed to fix his cleft palate. And Valerie Lakey is a young girl who was injured on a swimming pool drain that the manufacturer knew was dangerous. Edwards fought the company in court on behalf of the Lakey family, and won.

Today, the families involved in those stories campaigned with Edwards and his wife Elizabeth in New Hampshire. Though they undoubtedly appeared with the best of intentions, they became pawns in a political game of back-and-forth before the day was out.

The emotion in Manchester's Franco-American Centre in the early afternoon was tremendous. The Edwardses tried to describe the effort the Sarkisyans had gone through to save Nataline's life before ceding the microphone to, in order, her mother, her older brother, and her father. Nataline was diagnosed with cancer when she was 14 years old, said Nataline's mother Hilda. Insurance companies sent them to multiple hospitals and were hesitant to cooperate, but eventually her cancer went into remission. After a joyous sweet sixteen party, doctors told the family there was a complication: Nataline needed bone marrow. Her brother could donate, and did. A week after the operation, it looked like everything would be fine. Once again, a complication. Nataline had turned yellow; she had jaundice.

Nataline spent three weeks in ICU, but the insurance company, Cigna, twice declined to pay for a liver transplant. Multiple doctors told Cigna (motto: "A Business of Caring") she needed the operation. Her nurses helped picket Cigna's offices, along with members of the Sarkisyans' church and members of their Armenian community. Nataline's father said he spent Nataline's last day on earth in front of Cigna's offices, pleading.

"She loved Christmas," said Hilda. "I promised her she'd be home for Christmas." Nataline didn't make it. On December 20th of this past year, Cigna agreed to "make an exception" for Nataline, but she died later that day. Her voice breaking, standing next to her family and the Edwardses, Hilda told the crowd, "I feel empty inside. My heart is a hole."

She pointed out that Nataline shouldn't have been "an exception." "We fought them, but what about the other parents that cannot speak, they don't have the community, they don't have the churches to back them up?"