Sunday Roast: February 17, 2013 – Bits and Pieces

Good Morning to the Sunday Roast. Let us see what Europe has to tell you this morning. You will see why bees are playing a role here, below:

The Economist:

AT A perilous moment of transition for America’s armed services, involving departure from Afghanistan, looming budget cuts and significant worldwide tension, the Pentagon is set to receive a civilian leader weakened by partisan attacks and doubts about his willingness to see military power used. As The Economist went to press, Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, seemed likely, though not certain, to earn the Senate’s grudging endorsement. (read more)

If I may add, the accusations of being anti-Israel, even anti-semitic are nothing but window dressing. Billions are at stake for war (or defense) profiteers. Numerous jobs in military funded industries, quite often to be found in red states, as well. I tend to follow the money and prefer to think it is Hagel’s reluctance to fight against massive cuts in the defense budget that earns him his difficulties. More on that may come later.

The Guardian has a Comeback Kid for you:

It could have been a career-ending moment. Given the task of delivering the official Republican response to Barack Obama’s state of the union speech last week, rising star Senator Marco Rubio made a catastrophic gaffe. (read more)

The Independent reports a “Me Too” moment:

Hours after a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,000 people and an asteroid passed relatively close to Earth, people in California reported seeing an unusual flash of light over the San Francisco Bay area that left many startled and thrilled.(read more)

Der Spiegel, as well, has a “Me Too” story, why on earth the Germans would want to start fracking beats me:

Germans are wary of fracking, but that hasn’t stopped Berlin from moving ahead to create legal guidelines for the controversial natural gas extraction method. The opposition is up in arms and the issue could dog Chancellor Merkel as she campaigns for re-election. (read more)

Finally, a little Swiss navel-gazing, which is nevertheless really important, see TheLocal.ch for more:

Basel-based agrichemical giant Syngenta on Friday urged Brussels to withdraw plans to slap a two-year ban on so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, saying blaming them for bee deaths was wrongheaded. (read more)

Grab a coffee, maybe some bread butter and honey, too, and enjoy reading. This is our Open Thread, so don’t hold back!

The Watering Hole: Tuesday June 12, 2012 – Duck and Pray or Go Vote! Your decision.

Bank Run

The perfect economic storm may be rocking the boat big time, come three weeks. That’s how long IMF boss Christine Lagarde reckons Europe has left to solve their problems. I wish everybody the best of luck with Angela Merkel being the key person in the situation. That’s one obstinate woman if there ever was one.

Well, then there are younger economic powerhouses than Europe, which could pick up the slack. India? Errr no. Brazil? So sorry, no help. China? Hmmmm.

Don’t expect the economy to be any help in November when it comes to President Obama running for a second term. Mitt Romney’s position gets stronger by default. Bringing out the Democratic vote, even if you are understandably less than enthusiastic must be top priority this year. If Mitt Romney is elected, the last remnants of what’s left of the middle class will go down in flames. Their already dismal funds will be transferred to the top 1%.

The 1% will then learn a little later, that their money is just printed on paper after all and there is no one left they can milk for more. Then the top 0.1% will go after the others, but that won’t be of any help to any of you.

Is it that bad? Yes it is.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 15th – Europe

A Storm is brewing over Europe in more than one sense…

There is the unsolved, so called debt crisis, which entangles Spain and Italy now and has, by all accounts all but devoured Greece already. 

The second one is a political storm. In France it has swept Sarkozy out of office, in the UK the Tories got to feel quite a blustery breeze. In Germany last weekend and the one before voters were giving Merkel’s austerity politics quite strong headwinds. Again, Greece is at the center of the disturbance. The last election brought a stiff breeze from the left, but some serious gusts from the right as well. The Captains of the coffin ship contemplate to test the waters again and that should bring a solid gale from the left and swipe them off board.

Then there’s the weather. It’s really gusty and nasty outside, so much for spring. Ugh.

No matter how it eventually ends, there is some turbulence ahead for sure.

This is our Open Thread. Talk about the Weather?

UPDATE JUST IN: GREECE TALKS BROKE UP – NEW ELECTIONS DUE.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 8th – Men in Kilts

On the last Sunday in April I was in Säckingen with the boys. They have this Festival, which translates into Medieval Phantastic Spectacle, or some such. Loads of men were wearing kilts there, but I whipped my head around when a saw a guy wearing nice nature colored tartans. Little did I know I’d see the bloke on stage shortly after and, boy, this was fun to watch and listen to. The video above is from the same festival a year ago.

Other than making music, they have a charity going on. See more here and here. As the boys and me are planning for a Scotland visit this summer, we know where to go.

I could have written about the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote tonight, but it depresses me. I could have written about Greece’s troubles, but the fact that they are considering yet another vote rather than listen what the People says, depresses me. I could have written about Chancellor Merkel’s arrogance in the face of European voters’ will, but that depresses me as well. So I decided on music and men in kilts.

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy and weigh in.

Across the Pond – Europe’s News

What’s in the news? Egypt again, of course. The situation has not dramatically changed. Mubarak still tries to smother the unrest the only way he knows, by banning the TV and the internet.

Mr. Mubarak, I have news for you: Your people is out in the streets protesting you and not sitting in front of the TV set or computer. There is no way back. There is a plane waiting for you somewhere. Your cronies have already seen the light, many rich families have fled the country and are sipping their tea in Dubai now.

What violence occurs now, is mostly looting and criminally motivated. Prison breaks are rampant and add to the confusion.

Here’s what we find on the news sites  in Europe:

The Independent:

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman’s appointment, they burst into laughter. (read more)

The Guardian:

And Arabs from the Mashreq to the Maghreb are watching, egging on those protesters to topple Hosni Mubarak who has ruled Egypt for 30 years, because they know if he goes, all the other old men will follow, those who have smothered their countries with one hand and robbed them blind with the other. Mubarak is the Berlin Wall. “Down, down with Hosni Mubarak,” resonates through the whole region. (read more)

Der Tagesanzeiger

Die Aufstände in Tunesien und Ägypten beseelen den Westen mit neuer Hoffnung auf eine demokratischere Welt. Doch das Beispiel der ehemaligen Sowjetunion zeigt deutlich: Demokratie ist nicht ansteckend. Und selbst wenn es zum Aufstand kommt: Dass dabei ein demokratischer Staat entsteht, ist die Ausnahme und keinesfalls die Regel.

The uprising in Tunisia and Egypt instill new hopes in the west for a more democratic world order. But the developments in the former Soviet Union show clearly: Democracy is not contagious. And even if there is a general uprising: The creation of a democratic state is the exception not the rule.  (full story)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

Würde Ägypten in einem revolutionären Strudel versinken, fiele ein wesentlicher Akteur des nahöstlichen Friedensprozesses für geraume Zeit aus. Überdies gibt es in Ägypten im Unterschied zu Tunesien eine starke islamistische Bewegung, die von Mubaraks Regime unterdrückten Muslimbrüder.

If Egypt went down in revolutionary turmoil, an important actor in the Middle East peace process would drop out for a considerable time. Moreover, there is a strong islamist movement in Egypt, the oppressed Muslim Brotherhood. (full story)

Der Spiegel:

In the wake of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the Egyptians are now revolting against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The country feels as if it were waking up from a bad dream, but the West stands to lose a reliable partner — and Israel one of its few Arab friends. (read all)

The Jerusalem Post:

The fear and trembling is that what happened in France in 1789, in Russia in 1917 and in Iran in 1979 will repeat itself in Egypt and the Arab world in 2011. After the old was thumped out by the new in those countries, there was a brief moment when democratic forces arose – be it the National Constituent Assembly and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France, Alexander Kerensky in Russia, or Shapour Bakhtiar in Iran – only to be swept away by the radicals: Robespierre in Paris, the Bolsheviks in Moscow, Ayatollah Khomeini in Teheran.

In Egypt, too, democratic forces are on the march, but the radical extremists are lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. (read more)

Enjoy your reading. The situation will further unfold today and, if necessary I’ll update this post accordingly.

The Watering Hole: May 4, PIIGS turn PIIS

P -ortugal

I -reland

I -taly

G -reece

S -pain

Now that Greece has fallen, the next countries are in the sights of the financial industry. Old acquaintances as the ones above, but the upcoming UK elections are made out for profiteers as well. A hung parliament would be the ideal background for short selling UK bonds and getting the £ into the same mess as the € currently is in.

This is our open thread. You’re welcome to open up.

Big Pharma Wins – You lose I&II

There have been two stories in the Swiss newspaper “Tagesanzeiger” lately, which get my goat. I do not deny the benefits of modern pharmaceuticals. Compared to my childhood days, modern medicines are way more efficient and ailments, that constituted a death sentence then, can now be cured or at least made more bearable. But I refuse to think of the pharma industry as a big benefactor of humankind. Here’s why.

Big Pharma wins, you lose I

Medicines are there to cure you.

Wrong. Medicines are there to treat your chronic condition for as long as possible for a prize as high as possible. Thousands suffer from neurodermatitis here in Switzerland and millions more, of course, elsewhere. The affliction goes from mild to almost unbearable. From small ulcers if you eat the wrong stuff to inflamed excema that cover most of a patient’s body. I have a very mild form, which can easily be controlled by good skin treatment products and avoiding food such as shellfish or nuts. I’ve seen other cases much worse.

There is a cure. Two students Karsten Klingelhöller and Thomas Hein have developed a skin cream made from Avocado oil and vitamin B12. A pink coloured ointment, which has no side effects and was successfully tested in clinical tests. The product has been patented and even given a brand name “Regividerm” the patent’s worth is estimated at 936 Mio US Dollars.

Those two have made it! Helped the suffering!

Not.

Not a single parmaceutical company contacted was interested in taking the cream into their product portfolio. The thing is: You don’t earn money by healing the chronically ill at a low price.

Big Pharma wins, you lose II

If you want to put health reform under the microscope, why not use Europe. We all have a public health care scheme, but to different degrees. And the differences show. Take today’s headline on one of Switzerlands most popular newspapers the “Tagesanzeiger”: “The Swiss pay thirty times the price for generic medicine as the people in the Netherlands do.”

So why would that be?

Switzerland’s public health system mandates insurance for everybody, but is run through private insurance companies. There is no public option, however and the control of drug prices is not in the hands of the insurers.

The Netherlands’ system is not so very different today, but they have reformed it only three years ago from a public option system.

What is the difference now?

Switzerland is the home of pharmaceutical industry giants Novartis and Roche. The fact that Switzerland is a small country makes two giants like that huge contributors to the GDP.

The Health Ministry is in charge of drug prices and asks for prices of generic medicines to be 40% – 50% lower than the listed prices of the originals. But: The listed prices are a phantom. No insurance company in the Netherlands, nor in Germany or in Denmark, nor France or England accepts those prices, they have long since negotiated much lower ones with the drug industry. They either get a rebate on the originals or mandate the use of generics, unless the doctor prescribes the original. They got there (The Netherlands, too in the recent past) by using the power of a public option. Which affects, of course the price of healthcare.

The Swiss authorities refuse to change their method of determining  prices and we are paying the higher insurance premiums.

The thing is: No public option, you pay the price!

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