Thursday, July 28, 2011

Expiring patents mean wave of generics will hit market

The cost of prescription medicines used by millions of people every day is about to plummet.

The next 14 months will bring generic versions of seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs, including the top two: Cholesterol fighter Lipitor and blood thinner Plavix.
The magnitude of this wave of expiring drugs patents is unprecedented. Between now and 2016, blockbusters with about $255 billion in global annual sales are set to go off patent, notes EvaluatePharma Ltd., a London research firm. Generic competition will decimate sales of the brand-name drugs and slash the cost to patients and companies that provide health benefits.
Top drugs getting generic competition by September 2012 are taken by millions every day: Lipitor alone is taken by about 4.3 million Americans and Plavix by 1.4 million. Generic versions of big-selling drugs for blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, depression, high triglycerides, HIV and bipolar disorder also are coming by then.
The flood of generics will continue for the next decade or so, as about 120 brand-name prescription drugs lose market exclusivity, according to prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc.
"My estimation is at least 15 percent of the population is currently using one of the drugs whose patents will expire in 2011 or 2012," says Joel Owerbach, chief pharmacy officer for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, which serves most of upstate New York. 
read more

CO - County evicts squatter family

A nearly four-year legal tangle that enabled a woman and her daughter to live mortgage-free in a home on a quiet, middle-class neighborhood off Maizeland Road has ended.
El Paso County took possession of the property last week and will try to recoup the $165,000 it has lost in the snafu, according to county spokesman Dave Rose.
“It’s certainly a unique set of circumstances that occurred, and we’d hope it would never happen again,” Rose said Monday.
The saga began on Nov. 19, 2007, when Jeanette Dobbs and her daughter, Jessie, went to the county public trustee’s office to find out how much they would need to regain possession of their house, which was sold to an investor at a foreclosure auction.
The next day, former Public Trustee Patricia Thompson violated several state laws by accepting a personal check for the full amount owed from Jessie Dobbs and instructing employees to backdate a receipt and certificate of redemption so that it would fall within the 75-day period in which an owner can redeem a foreclosed property.
By the time Jessie Dobbs’ check bounced and was returned for insufficient funds, the county treasurer’s office had issued a check to the mortgage holder, which cleared the mortgage and returned the title of the property at 2924 Drakestone Drive to Dobbs.
read more

Read more:

Rand Paul "There's No Excuse For Scaring Seniors As The President's Been Doing"

Team Boehner's Hypocrisy

The Speaker’s response epitomized a disease floating mostly around GOP circles as the U.S. careens toward default. John Avlon on the double-standards holding the country hostage. 

This is starting to give Kabuki theater a bad name. The competing congressional debt ceiling plans presented at grimly choreographed press conferences.  Bipartisan language used to fig leaf nakedly partisan bills. Last night’s dueling primetime speeches by Obama and Boehner, offered as the clock ticks closer to default with no constructive compromise in sight.
The markets still seem to be in denial about the growing prospect that America might fail to raise the debt ceiling for the first time in our history.  They are assuming rationality from an ideology-first crowd in congress.  But make no mistake: we are heading into unprecedented territory.  
This is a political crisis manifesting itself as a fiscal crisis.  Deficit reduction is no longer the real goal.  Principled differences have been abandoned.  Instead, there is just the struggle to survive politically without taking the nation off a cliff. It is a failure of divided government, and that’s why the two prime time speeches last night offered a preview of campaign 2012.
Standing at the bully pulpit of the East Room, President Obama strained to recapture the centrist credibility he had in campaign ’08, citing ex-presidents from Jefferson to Reagan, casting the debt ceiling debate as between a bipartisan deficit reduction plan and anti-tax absolutists in the House GOP.  It was a speech infused with independent voter-pleasing lines like “We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.”  The President’s ability to win over converts at this stage of the game is in question.
But just as the weakness of the Republican field makes Obama’s chances for re-election look surprisingly good right now, the president’s speech benefitted by comparison to Speaker Boehner. 
Debt Showdown
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Afforded the unusual luxury of equal time, the best that can be said about Boehner’s speech is that it was brief.  It did not aim for great themes or grand eloquence.  It was composed of talking points stitched together.  The danger with poll-tested oration is lines that work in focus groups often fall flat when confronted with facts. 
For example, “the president wants a blank check today” dutifully echoed Karl Rove’s ‘American Crossroads’ ad, but it lacks credibility when the core of the current debate is whether we should cut $1 or $2 trillion in spending in exchange for not defaulting.   
When Boehner stated “the president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes in our entitlement programs” it also flew in the face of what we know about negotiations to date—namely that Obama took an enormous political risk by backing entitlement reform as part of a grand bargain, offering to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and other cost saving adjustments.  This is of a Nixon-in-China level of significance, but it was dismissed and/or denied with one line. 
“The President would not take yes for an answer” was another awkward act of attempted political jujitzu. With a spending cut to revenue raise ratio of roughly 3-to-1 being negotiated, the liberal criticism of President Obama was that he was giving away the store in an attempt to get a historic deficit reduction deal.  The Republicans were the ones who kept walking out of negotiations, from Jon Kyl and Eric Cantor in Biden’s talks to Speaker Boehner this past Friday.
You can’t convince creditors that refusing to pay your bills is a brave stand for fiscal responsibility.
And then there is decrying “the crisis atmosphere that he has created.”  Faced with the very real possibility of default less than seven days away, the current favorite GOP talking point presents President Obama as a politically calculating fear-monger, trying to scare old people and markets with tales of what will happen if we don’t raise the debt ceiling.  The markets are less sentimental. Math doesn’t have a partisan spin and you can’t convince creditors that refusing to pay your bills is a brave stand for fiscal responsibility.  
Pivot forward and you can see the hypocrisies that will be dragged out in the coming days.  For example, the key ground to be fought over is whether there will be one deal to raise the debt ceiling through 2012, or whether we will be revisiting this fight in an election year.
"I don't see how multiple votes on a debt ceiling increase can help get us to where we want to go, we want big reforms,” said Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor back on June 21.  “I am not so sure that if we can't make the tough decisions now, why we would be making those tough decisions later."
But that was then and this is now. Cantor & Co. find themselves arguing that only a short-term deficit ceiling deal is possible.  This means that we could be enjoying the same sort of brinksmanship at the height of a presidential campaign.  What could possibly go wrong?
The biggest hypocrisy is also the biggest lost opportunity—the failure to follow through on deficit reduction.  Because the partisan plans now being put forward would side-step the “tough decisions” and “big reforms” that are necessary to really rein in the deficit and the debt.  
Harry Reid’s $2.7 trillion proposed plan would include no entitlement reforms or revenue increases.  John Boehner’s proposal would cut $1.6 trillion initially and kick serious deficit reduction to yet another commission for recommendations. 
We’ve had plenty of commissions in recent months—The Bowles-Simpson Commission and the Gang of Six report.  Both put forward ambitious and balanced plans comprised of tax reform, spending cuts and entitlement reform.  And both were rejected. There will come a time very soon when fiscal conservatives lament the doomed proposals put on the table by the Gang of 6, just as some now do with the lost opportunity of the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission.
The irony is that Tea Partiers who sincerely campaigned on reducing the deficit and the debt have succeeded in largely preserving the status quo because they refused to any revenue increases attained through closing the loopholes that function as earmarks in the tax code.  This misplaced sense of priorities at a pivotal negotiation period will cost the nation in the future.  All-or-nothing usually leads to nothing.  
As you watch this drama play out over the next seven days, don’t forget that this is an entirely forced fire-drill.  The debt ceiling has been raised more or less automatically in the past—77 times since JFK, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan and 7 times under George W. Bush.  Republicans were not rushing to the ramparts then -- consistent with their heightened concern over deficits that comes only when Democrats are in the White House.
Not that there hasn’t been plenty of partisan hypocrisy to go around. Then-Senator Obama famously voted against raising the debt ceiling when President Bush was in office—a vote he later described as ‘a new senator making a political vote as opposed to doing what is right by the country.”  
Nonetheless, this is the first time in American history that the debt ceiling vote has been held hostage by hyper-partisan politics.  It won’t be the last.  It will be difficult, if not impossible, to put this genie back in the bottle.  Whether we default or just end up downgraded because of our inability to govern ourselves effectively, this kabuki theater has real costs—both now and in the future.

Chinese Fighter Jets ‘Repel’ US Spy Aircraft

Two Chinese fighter jets crossed an unofficial dividing line in the Taiwan Strait late last month in pursuit of a U.S. spy aircraft, according to defense sources in Taipei and Beijing.

The incident marked the first time in more than a decade that Chinese military aircraft have entered Taiwan’s side of the 180km-wide strait. According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, two Chinese Su-27 fighter jets briefly crossed the so-called “middle line” on June 29.

Confirmation of the close encounter comes as the U.S. and China are trying to cool tensions in the South China Sea and safeguard a recent improvement in bilateral military relations.

Taipei, whose relations with Beijing have also been on the mend, moved to downplay the incident. “This was not between Taiwan and China, but between China and the U.S.,” said a senior Taiwanese defense official. “The Chinese crossed the line to repel a perceived intrusion by a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft.”

Full article here

Global fears grow as US deadlock deepens

Congress remains deeply divided as politicians grapple for a debt deal amid warnings of dangers to the world at large.

IMF head Christine Lagarde urged the US to show the same "political courage" that Europe showed last week [AFP]
The political and financial crisis gripping the US appeared to have deepened after President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner accused one another of failing to negotiate in good faith to avert an unprecedented default early next week.
The impact of a failure to raise the US borrowing limit could extend beyond its borders and damage the global economy, the chief of the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.
In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Christine Lagarde urged US political leaders to show the same "political courage" that European leaders demonstrated last week, when they agreed on several new measures to address that continent's debt crisis.
But in the US on Tuesday, positions seemed only to harden after Obama and Boehner engaged in an extraordinary joust over fiscal issues that have consumed Washington since a large block of first-term members of the US House of Representatives, elected last year under the mantle of the small-government, low-tax Tea Party, returned the lower chamber to Republican control.
'Problems with this plan'
With stalemate in the air, Boehner pushed ahead with his two-step plan, a short-term bill to cut spending about $1.2bn and extend the debt ceiling for about six months that could come to a vote on Wednesday.
House Republican leaders scheduled a second vote on Thursday on a balanced-budget constitutional amendment long favored by rank-and-file conservatives.
Amid uncertainty in the House about the spending bill's prospects, Boehner told reporters, "This was negotiated in a bipartisan manner between both Houses of the Congress. I do think that we are going to have some work to do to get it passed but I think we can do it.''
Conservative Republicans in the House cast doubt about whether there is sufficient backing for the speaker's plan.
"We think there are real problems with this plan," said Representative Jim Jordan, who heads the Republican Study Group. He argued that the spending cuts are insufficient and expressed opposition to likely tax increases.
Pointing fingers
In his Monday night speech, Obama said the long and caustic fight was a "partisan three-ring circus". Boehner, borrowing the president's very words, said Obama "would not take yes for an answer".
Their words swept through the national television audience just hours after Boehner offered competing legislation to break the deadlock over raising the Treasury's ability to continue borrowing money to pay its bills after the current $14.3tn limit expires next Tuesday.
Obama warned of a "reckless and irresponsible'' outcome without a compromise by August 2. He urged Americans to make their voices heard and let their representatives know they support "a balanced approach to reducing the deficit".
Boehner responded that Obama wanted "a blank cheque today'' and declared "this is just not going to happen".'

Obama and the Democrats see it differently, accusing tea party Republicans of putting ideological purity ahead of reality and what's best for the country.
Threat of downgrade
Also on Tuesday, credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's and Moody's warned that they will downgrade the United States' top credit rating if an agreement isn't reached.
Standard & Poor's has also said it may reduce the nation's credit rating if there aren't steep cuts to the US budget deficit.
Lagarde said a default or downgrade of US. debt "would be a very, very, very serious event not just for the United States but for the global economy at large".
US Treasury bonds play a "central role'' in world financial markets, the IMF said in a staff report on Monday. According to The Associated Press, US Treasury securities have traditionally been seen as the safest investment in the world.
More than $4tn of Treasurys are held by governments in China, Japan and other countries, as well as by private investors. That means higher interest rates on Treasurys could have a massive global impact.

Beware US real estate scammers

Check every angle, and take advice, no matter how polished and plausible the other side seems.

25 July 11 15:30, Nathan Wirtschafter
Many Israelis are now buying and selling American real estate, trying to take advantage of a strong shekel and a weak United States real estate market. However, real estate scams are probably as old as real estate itself, and savvy investors can make mistakes, especially if they are deceived by their attorneys and real estate advisors.
With investors pooling their money into real estate trust funds, there are multiple opportunities for con artists to conceal theft from the trust fund. As the trust fund managers collect monies from an ever-increasing circle of clients, they pay out “dividends” based not on returns, but on new investments.
In one real estate ponzi scheme, investors purchased deeds (interests in land) that were marketed as being secured by California real estate. In fact, the deeds were either unsecured or far more risky than promised. Many of the “investment counselors” were not licensed as required, and the appraisals were inflated. The ponzi scheme promised rates of return of 18% to 22%, with loans not exceeding 80% of the value of the property. It was all a multi-million dollar fraud.
In another case, a Harvard Law graduate, who was a former US Attorney, teamed up with a tax shelter specialist to defraud property owners. The owners provided a limited power of attorney over two residential properties to a relative of the tax shelter specialist. The attorney promised that the relative with the power of attorney was as honest “as the day is long.” A short time later, while the owners were in Israel, the “honest” relative and various acquaintances obtained outside loans on the properties and moved another relative into one of the homes. When the property owners demanded to be made whole, the scam artists threatened to “grind the owner into the ground.” And, when the owners took legal action, the attorney had another tenant manufacture a claim of sexual harassment against the owners.
Sometimes, an enterprising buyer will pay a small deposit to tie up a property in escrow, perhaps for ninety days, while looking for another purchaser. When the transaction closes, the original seller is paid by the ultimate purchaser through the escrow. This kind of transaction is sometimes referred to as a “double escrow,” and often the original seller has no idea about the additional premium collected by the middleman.
This arrangement can become fraudulent where the attorney represents multiple parties in the transaction and conceals the facts from the seller. Generally speaking, attorneys only represent one side in a transaction, especially in a real estate transaction, to avoid conflicts of interest. The attorney should disclose all the facts about the transaction and obtain written consent.
A real estate scam artist often has a certain flair. The scammer gains the confidence of the victim with brash self-assurance and by displaying badges of success: money, cars, and an impressive home. Then, the scammer confuses the investor with a get-rich-quick scheme that is incomprehensible, yet delivered with such bravado that otherwise prudent, successful people write enormous checks to buy something they do not understand.
As a young attorney, I remember sitting in a meeting with a brilliant transactional and tax lawyer who was being sued for fraud in Los Angeles. He was dazzling. He had the entire defense team in the palm of his hand. We thought he was a genius, we admired his character, and we could not believe that he had done anything wrong. As the case proceeded closer to trial and after the defense team considered the evidence, it became clear that, like the investors, we had also been fooled.
Some simple rules apply: Understand how the transaction works: what is being bought, what is being sold and how the investment makes money. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful about trusting strangers. A power of attorney is a potentially dangerous instrument. Finally, always have qualified third parties, who are not interested in the transaction, review the deal.
Nathan D. Wirtschafter, Esq. is a California attorney.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on July 25, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

Erin Burnett Calls The Federal Reserve A Ponzi Scheme

CNBC Video:  Erin Burnett - Aired January 8, 2010
Start watching at the 1:40 mark:
  • "We had to issue one-and-a-half trillion dollars of new debt last year, in 2009, in this country, just to finance the deficit.  Eighty percent of that debt was bought by the U.S. Federal Reserve which means ... I guess you could use the term Ponzi Scheme.  How long can we continue doing that?"
The banking apologista earns back some credibility as she quotes Bill Gross' January letter which points out (but you know this already) that the Federal Reserve purchased 80% of all US Treasury securities issued in 2009.
That is some extremely serious quantitative easing.  When we all wondered back in January of 2009 exactly who would be buying the mountain of debt on its way, no one I read anticipated the Fed stepping in and buying (monetizing) $1.2 trillion of the $1.5 trillion eventually sold.
It proves the point that the world has little appetite for our debt, and that interest rates will rise when the Fed stops buying.  Assuming of course that they actually have any plans to cease their inflationary charade.

Can Obama Raise the Debt Ceiling Alone By The Constitution?