Hightower – How Big Pharma is trying to improve its image

Big news, people! Especially for those of you upset by the skyrocketing prices of the essential prescription medicines you take — including thousands of patients who were hit last year with a 5,000 percent price increase for one lifesaving drug!

Determined to do something about those despised price hikes, drugmakers themselves have reached into their corporate toolbox for the two most effective means they have to fix their price problem. Of course, putting more corporate cash into research to produce new medicines would be one of those tools, and a renewed commitment to honest competition would be the other, right?

Right! But Big Pharma gave up years ago on doing right, turning to two other corporate tools that have reliably generated a gusher of profits for them: advertising and lobbying. So here they come, wielding bigger-than-ever ad-and-lobbying budgets to deal with that pesky matter of public anger at price gouging.

If you wonder why Congress keeps ignoring what the people want it to do — while doing things that people don't want it doing — take a peek at the unique PR campaign now being run by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA is America's largest pharmaceutical lobbying group and represents Eli Lilly, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co and about three dozen other drug manufactures.

The intent of PhRMA's multimillion-dollar PR blitz and intensified offensive in Congress is not to restrain the gouging but to improve the industry's image in hopes of restraining lawmakers from taking steps to rein in prescription costs. Of course, the ads dishonestly fail to mention the selfish intent of being allowed to keep ripping off patients, instead pitching drugmakers as selfless saviors of humanity. They feature soft scenes of drug researchers in white lab coats urgently trying to find new cures, scripted testimonials from patients and of course scenes of drugmakers altruistically aiding poor people.
The American public is dismayed and disgusted by the flagrant greed of drugmakers that are shamefully zooming the prices of medicines into the stratosphere, turning necessities into unaffordable luxuries. As a result, there is a growing demand for Congress to take action to stop the industry's out-of-control gouging.

Hoping to counter this demand for action, drug companies have launched their massive advertising campaign, not only running radio and print ads but also placing ads on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites. Yet it's not likely that you've seen or heard any of them. That's because drug chieftains don't care what you and I think. Moreover, they know they couldn't possibly persuade us to let them keep jacking up our prices. So, their "public" relations effort has made the odd and seemingly counterproductive move of sidestepping the actual public, instead narrowly targeting a very tiny audience.

As one CEO arrogantly put it: "We've identified 7,000 Americans who matter," thus dismissing the other 330 million of us as nobodies. "We're focusing on those in policy positions ... to fight structural issues," he sniffed. By "structural issues," he means convincing Congress to take no action to reform the present pricing structure of monopolistic drugmakers, whose guiding corporate ethic is: "Bleed 'em for all they've got."

So this is a surreptitious PR campaign meant to reach only the eyes and ears of policy elites. The goal is to have Congress — once again — ignore what the people want it to do, thus allowing the corporate few "who matter" to keep fleecing the many. The word for this is "plutocracy." The industry is spending millions on this corporate medicine show not to protect its notorious profiteering but to protect you from public officials who might try to stop them from overcharging you. It's enough to make you sick.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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Roy Sanborn - Patriots Day

Patriots Day


There were just 61 residential home sales in January 2016 in the 12 communities covered by this Lakes Region Real Estate Market Report. That's kind of a slow start for the New Year, but it is still a lot better than the 50 posted last January. The average sales price came in at $338,936 and the median price point was $231,500.

Monday was Presidents Day. If I was in the car business, I would write about the successful blow-out holiday sales that we just had. But, since I am in the real estate business, and we don't have Presidents Day house sales, I guess I can write about a president's house instead. There aren't any for sale that I know of right now although the White House is currently underwater by a mere $19 trillion so it could be coming up as a foreclosure sale shortly.

Which president's home would you buy if you could? Obviously, the one that might cause the most hype would be old George's house. No, not George H. Bush's house in Kennebunkport. I mean the home of our first president and original New England Patriots coach, General George Washington. Although, now that I think of it, Kennebunkport would be a pretty nice place to hang out.

Mount Vernon is located on the banks of the Potomac in Fairfax County, Virginia, and is a pretty classy place. It would bring a pretty fair price if it were ever put on the market although I am not sure about the bathroom situation from what I can find on the Internet – none were mentioned. But, it has got great curb appeal, sits on the river on a 500-acre lot, and is in a prime location. But in order to market it, the agent would have to learn a lot of new terms with regard to the architecture of the home in order to properly describe it. Right off the bat, this is not a New Englander or split level. It is a Palladian-style home which was constructed in stages starting in 1758 continuing through 1778. A Palladian-style home is based on the formal temple style architecture of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Things were really different back in the waterfront market in those days. This was obviously built before Adirondack-style waterfront homes became so popular.

The main part of the home is called the "corps de logis." I have never once used that term in my MLS descriptions. On the first level, this section houses the main living areas; the central passage, a couple of parlors, a small dining room, a study, a small bedchamber, a butler's pantry and the all important and grandest room; the New Room. This was the forerunners of today's great room. This room is two stories tall, has a grand fireplace, lavish ornamental woodwork, and decorated in bright bold colors and wallpaper. This room served many purposes from receiving and impressing guests to large formal dinner parties. In another era, George would have watched the New England Patriots in the comfort of this room, rather than out in the cold at Valley Forge.

The central passage was the main entry to the home and extended from the front to the back of the home. This is a grand room and was also used to entertain guests. This space provides the proverbial money shot with views of the Potomac and Maryland shoreline on the back side and pastoral fields out the front. The back door leads out to a two story "piazza," which is a fancy word for covered porch, which is the main distinctive feature of the home. Can you just imagine George and Lafayette posturing on the piazza, pondering the Potomac, while eating pizza and pontificating about the Patriots?

On the second level, you'll find all the bedchambers. No en suites here, unfortunately. On the third level, there are additional bedchambers, a china closet, a cupola and the "lumber rooms." Lumber rooms were not there to store lumber but were rooms for excess furniture that was not used all the time and had to be tucked away out of sight. I am sure the servants got sick of lugging that Birdseye maple table up and down all those flights of stairs.

On either side of the main house are "colonnades," or covered walkways (forerunners of breezeways), that lead out to single-story buildings used as servants' quarters and a kitchen. This layout formed the "cour d'honneur" which is another really fancy word for a three-sided courtyard. I have to work that term in to my next listing somehow. I Googled "red neck cour d'honneur "and nothing came up so it may be a bit of a stretch around here.

So here's a test for those that actually remember some of the history you learned in school. Match the follow presidents with the names of their residences. I threw in a couple easy ones for you. No answers. You can Google them, too!

Thomas Jefferson                   Rancho del Cielo
George H Bush                       Springwood
Calvin Coolidge                      Monticello
Andrew Jackson                     Andrew Johnson Home
Teddy Roosevelt                     Rancho Mirage
Ronald Reagan                       The Hermitage
Richard Nixon                         The Beeches
Franklin Delano Roosevelt        La Casa Pacifica
Gerald Ford                            Sagamore Hill
Andrew Johnson                     Walkers Point

Mount Vernon, George Washington's home on the Potomac River in Virginia, offers features not found in today's real estate listings. (Courtesy www.mountvernon.org)

Mount Vernon, George Washington's home on the Potomac River in Virginia, offers features not found in today's real estate listings. (Courtesy www.mountvernon.org)

Pl​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 2/16/16. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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Malkin — Border Surge Solution: Send 'Em to Camp David!

Colorado dodged a bullet. After a stinging backlash from local leaders and Rocky Mountain politicians in both parties, the Obama White House retreated this weekend from plans to dump in our state 1,000 minors who immigrated here illegally.

Good riddance to the feckless feds, and don't come back, y'all.

Now, let this be a lesson for other communities facing the D.C.-engineered human flood. You can and should say no — and force Washington to put first things first.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had unveiled a hastily drawn scheme just two months ago to convert a Denver Federal Center warehouse in preparation for another springtime surge of Central American migrants coming through Mexico. Look past the sob stories. The recent surges were cunningly engineered by drug cartels and human traffickers.

As Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council testified on Capitol Hill recently: "The cartels understood that the unaccompanied minors would force the Border Patrol to deploy agents to these crossing areas in order to take the minors into custody. I want to stress this point because it has been completely overlooked by the press," he told the House Judiciary Committee. The unaccompanied minors could have walked right up to the port of entry and requested asylum if they were truly escaping political persecution or violence. "Why did the cartels drive them to the middle of the desert and then have them cross over the Rio Grande only to surrender to the first Border Patrol Agent they came across?" Judd challenged.

"The reason is that it completely tied up our manpower and allowed the cartels to smuggle whatever they wanted across our border."

This is just another maddening example of Obama's warped priorities at work. Instead of building effective walls and enforcing our borders to prevent the coming illegal immigration waves manufactured by criminal racketeers, this administration rushes to build welcome center magnets that shelter the next generation of Democrat voters.

With an estimated 125,000 Central American unaccompanied minors apprehended by the besieged Border Patrol at the southern border since 2012, HHS now oversees more than 100 child migrant centers in a dozen states.

But not in Colorado — for now.

Obama's fantastical construction proposal in the Denver suburb of Lakewood came on the heels of the feds' black-hole fiasco at the nearby Aurora Veteran Administration hospital.

That project broke ground in 2010, is $1 billion over budget and over five times its original estimate, is at least two years behind schedule, and has been riddled with contract corruption and fraud.
Pressed for details by wary Coloradans in the wake of that scandal, HHS bureaucrats admitted the planned migrant center renovations would cost up to $40 million and take at least a year to complete. At least.

Now what?

The White House is preparing to ship border surgers to temporary facilities in Texas, Florida and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Mum's the word on other potential illegal immigrant extended stay suites. But every community with a military base should be on high alert.

In 2014, San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base, Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, California, and Lawton, Oklahoma's Fort Sill Army post were all used as border surge dumping grounds. As I reported after a whistleblower alerted me that spring, the Obama administration also surreptitiously sent two plane loads of nearly 200 border-crossers to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts and Boston's Logan Airport. DHS crapweasels initially denied my reports, but admitted the secret redistribution program a month later.

The issue isn't whether local American communities have "compassion" for border trespassers. The issue is whether the federal government is doing its fundamental job "providing for the common defense" and promoting the "general welfare" of "ourselves and our posterity."

Try this, Washington: Build the long-delayed facilities our veterans need. Root out all the deadly corruption in the VA system. Restore the cuts in border surveillance. Stop undermining Border Patrol and tying the hands of interior enforcement agents. Cease and desist executive amnesty orders. Finish constructing the long-sabotaged electronic entry-exit system. Now. Period.

Until then, if President Obama insists on allowing thousands of exploited Central American minors to enter the country illegally, I propose they be housed at the presidential retreat of Camp David — and that amnesty advocate Mark Zuckerberg and all the Gang of Eight lobbyists and corporate sponsors on the left and right foot the bill. The commander in chief's vacation spot in the Catoctin Mountain Park is secure. It contains 200 acres of land on which to build temporary Obamaville shelters for all the surgers. And any overflow should be handled by pitching tents on the White House lawn.

The most powerful way to make D.C. listen is to make D.C. suffer the consequences of its own detrimental actions. Not in our backyards, Mr. President, until you use yours first.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

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DuBois — Katahdin, 'The Greatest Mountain'

By Gordon DuBois


In September, 1846, Henry David Thoreau climbed to the summit of Mount Katahdin. When he reached the summit, now known as Baxter Peak, it was enshrouded with clouds and he had limited views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. He referred to the mountain as a "cloud factory", and later wrote in The Maine Woods, "The tops of mountains are among the unfinished parts of the globe, whither it is a slight insult to the gods to climb and pry into their secrets, and try their effect on our humanity. Only daring and insolent men, perchance, go there. Their tops are sacred and mysterious tracts never visited by them. Pamola is always angry with those who climb to the summit of Ktaadn [this was Thoreau's spelling of the mountain]." Pamola is a legendary bird spirit of Abenaki mythology. Pamola is said to be the God of Thunder and protector of the mountain. Native people describe him as having the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle. Pamola was both feared and respected by the native people and to climb Katahdin was considered taboo. Katahdin is derived from the Penobscot word which means, "The Greatest Mountain."

On Sunday, Feb. 21, I'll be hiking into Baxter State Park, attempting to climb Baxter Peak on Mt. Katahdin, the very same peak that Thoreau summited in 1846, and the same peak where Pamola resides. This will be my fourth attempt in winter to summit the highest peak in Maine, which stands at 5,270 feet. Several years ago, on my first attempt, a few days before I was to leave for Maine, I became terribly sick and had to cancel my plans. Two years ago, with three friends, I hiked into the Abol Campsite planning to climb the Abol Slide, the shortest route to the summit. The climb was aborted when a quick moving storm moved in. We found ourselves in thick clouds, wind gusts and snow and we returned to our campsite. With the predicted storm moving in quickly, we made the decision to return to Abol Bridge, where our cars were parked and we headed for home. Last year, at the end of January, I once again headed into Baxter for my third attempt at a winter climb of Katahdin. This time, with six other well experienced climbers. We did summit Hamlin Peak, a sub peak of Katahdin, but failed yet again to summit Baxter Peak. We were turned back by fierce winds, blowing snow and clouds that prevented us from seeing beyond a few feet. Pamola made his presence felt and perhaps the Penobscots were right, this is a forbidden mountain not to be climbed.

However, I have climbed Katahdin four times during the fall months. When my daughter Meghan was a student at University of Maine, we would make an annual pilgrimage to Baxter. It was always an unforgettable experience filled with wonderful adventures. I also climbed Katahdin in September, 2007 on the final day of my north bound journey on the Appalachian Trail. As I summited, cheers rang out from my trail pals, as this was the culmination of our journey on the AT. As I stood at the summit I made up my mind to climb Katahdin during winter and experience this mountain during the harshest time of the year. So, my quest began on the mountain that has turned me back three different times.

Katahdin is a massive, a geological term meaning a large mountain mass, with several dominant peaks that form an independent range. It lies totally in Baxter State Park and is the crown jewel of Maine. The first recorded climb to the summit was by Massachusetts surveyors Zackery Audley and Charles Turner Jr. in August, 1804. In the 1930s, Gov. Percival Baxter began to acquire land and before his death deeded more than 200,000 acres to the State of Maine for a park. Gov. Baxter's expressed desires were that this park "shall forever be retained and used for state forest, public park and public recreational purposes ... shall forever be kept and remain in the natural wild state ... shall forever be kept and remain as a sanctuary for beasts and birds." This has been the mission of the Baxter Park Authority since its inception.

Next week I will once again be heading into Baxter with seven other experienced winter hikers. We'll begin our journey by driving to Millinocket, Maine, staying overnight in the "Magic City" once home to two large paper mills. The next day we'll head into the park, carrying our clothing, gear, food and other sundries on sleds for the four day stay at the Chimney Pond Cabin, 19 miles from the start of our hike at Abol Bridge, which is just east of the park on the Golden Road. Once at the Cabin we'll lay out plans for the tramp to the summit. The cabin lies at the base of a cirque on a pristine pond which will serve as our water source, given we can punch through the ice with an ice ax. The view from the pond is spectacular as you look up toward the mountain summit. I have a feeling that Pamola will be looking down at us and I wonder, will the legendary bird spirit of the mountain will allow us to reach Baxter Peak? My next installment in two weeks will provide the answer.

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Harrop — Democrats, don't blow it

The death of Antonin Scalia has set off yet another epic partisan struggle as Senate Republicans seek to deny President Obama his constitutional right to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. They want to wait out Obama's last year in office, hoping his successor will be one of their own.

If the Democrats choose Bernie Sanders as their presidential candidate, Republicans will almost certainly get their wish. Furthermore, the Republican president would probably have a Republican-majority Senate happy to approve his selection.

The makeup of senatorial races this November gives Democrats a decent chance of capturing a majority. Having the radical Sanders on the ballot would hurt them in swing states.

Some Sanders devotees will argue with conviction that these purplish Democrats are not real progressives anyway, not like our Bernie. Herein lies the Democrats' problem.

No sophisticated pollster puts stock in current numbers showing Sanders doing well against possible Republican foes. The right has not subjected Sanders to the brutality it routinely rains on Hillary Clinton — precisely because he is the candidate they want to run a Republican against. Should Sanders become the nominee, the skies will open.

One may applaud Sanders' denunciation of big money in politics, but a moderate Democrat in the White House could do something about it. A democratic socialist not in the White House cannot. Campaign finance reform would be a hard slog under any circumstances, but a seasoned politician who plays well with others could bring a reluctant few to her side.

Some younger liberals may not know the history of the disastrous 2000 election, where Republicans played the left for fools. Polls were showing Al Gore and George W. Bush neck-and-neck, particularly in the pivotal state of Florida.

Despite the stakes, prominent left-wing voices continued to back the third-party candidacy of Ralph Nader. You had Michael Moore bouncing on stages where he urged cheering liberals to vote for the radical Nader because there was no difference between Gore and Bush. Republicans, meanwhile, were running ads for Nader. That was no secret. It was in the papers.

When the Florida tally came in, Bush held a mere 537-vote edge. The close results prompted Florida to start a recount of the votes. Then, in a purely partisan play, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court stopped the recount, handing the election to Bush.

The bigger point is that Gore would have been the undisputed winner in 2000 had Nader not vacuumed up almost 100,000 Florida votes, most of which would have surely gone to him.

Same deal in New Hampshire, where Nader siphoned off more than 22,000 votes. Bush won there by only 7,211 ballots.

Now, Sanders is an honorable man running a straightforward campaign for the Democratic nomination. One can't imagine his playing the third-party spoiler.

But what makes today similar to 2000 is how many on the left are so demanding of ideological purity that they'd blow the opportunity to keep the White House in Democratic hands. Of course, they don't see it that way. This may reflect their closed circle of like-minded friends — or an illusion that others need only see the light, and their hero will sweep into the Oval Office.

The other similarity to 2000 is the scorn the believers heap on the experienced liberal alternative. They can't accept the compromises, contradictions and occasional bad calls that attach to any politician who's fought in the trenches.

The next president will almost certainly be either Clinton or a Republican. Democrats must ask themselves: Whom would you prefer to name future Supreme Court judges?

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