June 15, 2010
By Brian Skoloff and Matthew Daly
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (AP) – President Barack Obama promised that life would return to normal for people living on the stricken Gulf Coast, and BP said by the end of the month it would contain more than three times as much oil spewing from a ruptured undersea well.
The pledges didn’t placate some residents.
“I think that as long as BP is still in control, there’s not a lot he can do other than show support for the residents of these Gulf states,” Jennifer Jenkins, 34, of Long Beach, said of Obama.
The president visited Mississippi and Alabama Monday as part of a two-day stop. He sought to assure residents – and the country – that the government will “leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.” He visits Florida on Tuesday ahead of a national address on the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, which has become a stern test of his presidency.
His trip coincided with BP announcing that it could trap a maximum of roughly 2.2 million gallons of oil daily by the end of June as it deploys additional containment efforts, including a system that could start burning off vast quantities as early as Tuesday.
It also came as documents revealed that BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts and blunders that dramatically increased the danger of a destructive spill from a well that an engineer ominously described as a “nightmare” just six days before the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day, and responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling mud efforts and the installation of key safety devices.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released dozens of internal documents that outline several problems on the deep-sea rig in the days and weeks before the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and set in motion the catastrophe. The committee has been investigating.
March 24, 2010
By David Gutierrez
The U.S. Justice Department has announced that it is investigating pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for paying kickbacks to pharmacy benefits manager Omnicare.
Pharmacy benefits managers are supposed to negotiate on behalf of health plans and their customers to secure lower prices from drug companies and pharmacies. Yet according to the Justice Department, Omnicare took millions of dollars in payments from companies such as giant Johnson & Johnson in exchange for promoting their drugs.
“Patients have a right to depend on the integrity of the medical advice they’re getting,” said assistant attorney general Tony West. “When kickbacks are involved, the medical judgment of the provider is corrupted.”
Omnicare recently agreed to a $98 million settlement in the Justice Department lawsuit against it, while IVAX pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $14 million. According to prosecutors, IVAX paid Omnicare $8 million to recommend its generic drugs to nursing homes and their patients.
The government alleges that Johnson & Johnson also paid such kickbacks, in order to get Omnicare to promote its antipsychotic drug Risperdal and discourage doctors from prescribing alternative drugs.
Observers and insiders say that the practice of paying kickbacks is widespread in the drug business.
“Almost invariably if we see one practice in one company, it’s happening at other companies,” U.S. Attorney Mike Loucks said.
According to Brian Smith, president of pharmacy benefits manager Veritas, the practice was open and accepted within the business when he entered it in 2002.
“I thought it was just the industry standard,” he said.
Patrick Burns of Taxpayers Against Fraud says that kickbacks are one of the main ways that pharmacies get an edge on competitors who are selling fundamentally similar products.
“In the pharmaceutical industry, the business isn’t selling the best drug, it’s the best scheme of kickbacks to the prescriber,” Burns said. “Omnicare is just one of their sales points.”
January 26, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
by Michael R. Crittenden and John D. McKinnon
A U.S. government investigator is opening a probe into disclosures made as part of the government’s rescue of American International Group Inc. when the company’s trading partners were paid billions in November 2008.
Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, plans to tell a U.S. House panel Wednesday that he is investigating whether there was any “misconduct relating to the disclosure or lack thereof” surrounding the deals, in which banks who had traded with the giant insurer got paid in full on $62 billion in bets on soured mortgage securities.
By Mark Hughes and Jason Walsh
When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers’s travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends. “Robin Hood airport is closed,” he wrote. “You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
Unfortunately for Mr Chambers, the police didn’t see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who interpreted his post as a security threat. After he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and has, he says, been banned from the Doncaster airport for life. “I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post,” said Mr Chambers, 26. “I’m the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine.”
While it has happened in the United States, Mr Chambers is thought to be the first person in the United Kingdom to be arrested for comments posted on Twitter. His ordeal began on 6 January when, after hearing that extreme weather had forced the closure of Robin Hood airport
, he posted the ill-advised message – frustrated because he was to fly to Ireland from that airport on Friday 15 January.
November 25, 2009
By Michael Winter
Canadian health officials are investigating what caused six severe allergic reactions to the H1N1 vaccine earlier this month, which the World Health Organization calls “an unusual number.”
The report comes amid signs that the worst of the pandemic might be over in Canada.
The vaccine triggered anaphylaxis, which causes breathing problems, low blood pressure and swelling of the throat, tongue, lips and eyes. It can be fatal.
The inoculations came from a batch of 172,000 doses of the Arepanrix vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, that was distributed across Canada. The unused batch was recalled and all six Canadians recovered.
Normally, one adverse reaction per 100,000 doses is expected. In several lots of vaccines, no adverse reactions have been reported.
“An unusual number of severe allergies to the vaccine have been detected in Canada,” World Health Organization spokesman Thomas Abraham told AFP. “The Canadian authorities are conducting the appropriate investigations on the vaccines. … We need to understand what happened.”