Follow the Soapbox
 
Is the White House going to bat for Big Pharma worldwide?

By Michael Grunwald
Source: politico.com

A recent draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal would give U.S. pharmaceutical firms unprecedented protections against competition from cheaper generic drugs, possibly transcending the patent protections in U.S. law.

POLITICO has obtained a draft copy of TPP’s intellectual property chapter as it stood on May 11, at the start of the latest negotiating round in Guam. While U.S. trade officials would not confirm the authenticity of the document, they downplayed its importance, emphasizing that the terms of the deal are likely to change significantly as the talks enter their final stages. Those terms are still secret, but the public will get to see them once the twelve TPP nations reach a final agreement and President Obama seeks congressional approval.

Still, the draft chapter will provide ammunition for critics who have warned that TPP’s protections for pharmaceutical companies could dump trillions of dollars of additional health care costs on patients, businesses and governments around the Pacific Rim. The highly technical 90-page document, cluttered with objections from other TPP nations, shows that U.S. negotiators have fought aggressively and, at least until Guam, successfully on behalf of Big Pharma.

The draft text includes provisions that could make it extremely tough for generics to challenge brand-name pharmaceuticals abroad. Those provisions could also help block copycats from selling cheaper versions of the expensive cutting-edge drugs known as “biologics” inside the U.S., restricting treatment for American patients while jacking up Medicare and Medicaid costs for American taxpayers.
“There’s very little distance between what Pharma wants and what the U.S. is demanding,” said Rohat Malpini, director of policy for Doctors Without Borders.

Throughout the TPP talks, the Obama administration has pledged to balance the goals of fostering innovation in the drug industry, which means allowing higher profits, and promoting wider access to valuable medicines, which means keeping prices down. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has pointed out that pharmaceutical companies often have to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to get a new drug to market, which they would have little incentive to do without strong protections for the patented product. But Froman has also recognized the value of allowing much cheaper generic drugs to enter the market after those brand-name patents expire. In the U.S., generics now comprise more than five-sixths of all prescription drugs, but only about one-quarter of drug costs.

Advocates for the global poor, senior citizens, labor unions and consumers as well as the generics industry have accused the administration of abandoning that balance, pushing a pharmaceutical-company agenda at the expense of patients and taxpayers. One critic, hoping to illustrate the point and rally opposition to TPP in Congress, gave POLITICO the draft chapter, which was labeled “This Document Contains TPP CONFIDENTIAL Information” on every page.

U.S. officials said the key point to remember about trade deals is that no provision is ever final until the entire deal is final—and that major compromises tend to happen at the very end of the negotiations. They expect the real horse-trading to begin now that Obama has signed “fast-track” legislation requiring Congress to pass or reject TPP without amendments.

“The negotiations on intellectual property are complex and continually evolving,” said Trevor Kincaid, a spokesman for Froman. “On pharmaceutical products, we are working closely with stakeholders, Congress, and partner countries to develop an approach that aims to make affordable life-saving medicine more widely available while creating incentives for the development of new treatments and cures. Striking this important balance is at the heart of our work.”

The draft chapter covers software, music and other intellectual property issues as well, but its most controversial language involves the rights of drug companies. The text reveals disputes between the U.S. (often with support from Japan) and its TPP partners over a variety of issues—what patents can cover, when and how long they can be extended, how long pharmaceutical companies can keep their clinical data private, and much more. On every issue, the U.S. sided with drug companies in favor of stricter intellectual property protections.

Some of the most contentious provisions involve “patent linkage,” which would prevent regulators in TPP nations from approving generic drugs whenever there are any unresolved patent issues. The TPP draft would make this linkage mandatory, which could help drug companies fend off generics just by claiming an infringement. The Obama administration often describes TPP as the most progressive free-trade deal in history, citing its compliance with the tough labor and environment protections enshrined in the so-called “May 10 Agreement” of 2007, which set a framework for several trade deals at the time. But mandatory linkage seems to be a departure from the May 10 pharmaceutical provisions.

In an April 15 letter to Froman, Heather Bresch, the CEO of the generic drug company Mylan, warned that mandatory patent linkage would be “a recipe for indefinite evergreening of pharmaceutical monopolies,” leading to the automatic rejection of generic applications. The U.S. already has mandatory linkage, but most other TPP countries do not, and Bresch argued that U.S. law includes a number of safeguards and incentives for generic companies that have not made it into TPP.

“With all due respect, the USTR has…cherry-picked the single provision designed to block generic entry to the market,” Bresch wrote.

Generics are thriving in the U.S. despite linkage, saving Americans an estimated $239 billion on drugs in 2013. But the U.S. is the world’s largest market, and advocates fear that generic manufacturers may not take on the risk and expense of litigation in smaller markets if TPP tilts the playing field against them. One generics manufacturer, Hospira, reportedly testified at a TPP forum in Melbourne, Australia, that it would not launch generics outside the U.S. in markets with linkage.

The opponents are also worried about the treaty’s effect on the U.S. market, because its draft language would extend mandatory patent linkage to biologics, the next big thing in the pharmaceutical world. Biologics can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for patients with illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and cancer, and the first knockoffs have not yet reached pharmacies. The critics say that extending linkage to biologics—which can have hundreds of patents—would help insulate them from competition forever.

“It would be a dramatic departure from U.S. law, and it would put a real crimp in the ability of less expensive drugs to get to market,” said K.J. Hertz, a lobbyist for AARP. “People are going to look at this very closely in Congress.”

Drug companies are already pushing for TPP to guarantee them 12 years of exclusivity for their data regarding biologics, although the draft text suggests the other TPP nations have not agreed. Jay Taylor, vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said it’s crucial for TPP to protect the intellectual property that emerges from years of expensive research, so that drug companies can continue to develop new medicines for patients around the world.

“These innovations could be severely hindered if IP protections are scaled back,” Taylor said. “This is especially important in the area of biologic medicines, which could hold the key to unlocking treatments for diseases that have thwarted researchers for years.”

U.S. officials would not discuss the status of the TPP talks. But they suggested the May 10 Agreement did include a milder form of linkage, although it didn’t prevent regulators from approving generics mired in patent disputes.  They also believe a 2009 U.S. law included a form of linkage for biologics, although again, that law's dispute resolution process for patent issues was not as prescriptive as the TPP draft. And they cautioned that any pre-Guam draft would not reflect recent negotiations over “transition periods” that would delay the stricter patent standards in developing countries like Vietnam.

In any case, Kincaid said U.S. negotiators are determined to strike a balance between innovation and access in the final product.

“While this is our touchstone, the negotiations are still very much in process, and the details of a final outcome cannot yet be forecasted,” he said.

But Malpani of Doctors Without Borders said U.S. negotiators have basically functioned as drug lobbyists. The TPP countries have 40 percent of global economic output, and the deal is widely seen as establishing new benchmarks for some of the most complex areas of global business. Malpani fears it could set a precedent that crushes the generic drug industry under a mountain of regulation and litigation.

“We consider this the worst-ever agreement in terms of access to medicine,” he said. “It would create higher drug prices around the world—and in the U.S., too.
 
 
Picture
Yournewswire.com
02/26/2015

CERN is due to re-open the large hadron collider in March of 2015 in order to recreate the big bang, despite warnings from top scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Neil de Grasse Tyson.

Allnewspipeline.com reports:

Dr. Stephen Hawking recently warned that the reactivation in March of CERN’s large hadron collider could pose grave dangers to our planet…the ultimate reality check we are warned. Hawking has come straight out and said the ‘God particle’ found by CERN “could destroy the universe” leaving time and space collapsed as shared in the 2nd video. Is CERN the most dangerous thing in the cosmos that could lead to the ultimate destruction of the Earth and the entire universe? Recent developments prove to us the scientific community is no longer able to explain ‘reality’ without looking at the ‘supernatural’. Will we soon learn CERN is really the ‘ultimate stargate’ and one of the gate-keepers most closely guarded secrets? Will this be the way man attempts to break the ultimate ‘God barrier’, an attempt to encounter demi-God’s in an all-out rush towards the destruction of all creation? We understand they won’t be releasing the secrets until they’re prepared to release them.

Does CERN headquarter’s symbol of Shiva, dancing the cosmic dance of death and destruction, signal the TRUE purpose of CERN’s existence? A look at the ‘Shiva’ (the Hindu God of Destruction) symbology surrounding CERN’s headquarters gives us the beginning of what we need to know. “The men who would play God, in searching for the God particle, are truly going to find more than they bargained for as they open the gates of hell” we are warned by Stephen Quayle, “they will find inter-dimensional beings who have a taste for human flesh and humanities destruction. Most scientists, in lacking an understanding of the ‘supernatural entities’ that are going to confront them, are way beyond their ability to comprehend, let alone control, the forces of Pandora’s box that will be released.”

Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson has also sounded the alarm in a hypothetical manner by telling anyone who might want to ‘blow up a planet’ how to do so…is this CERN’s attempt to do so by attempting to ‘recreate’ the big bang within a man made structure that has frightened Stephen Hawking so much? Do they know that they know that they know what they’re doing?

“Ask yourself: how much energy is keeping it together?” Neil deGrasse Tyson told co-host Eugene Mirman on his Star Talk radio show. “Then you put more than that amount of energy into the object. It will explode.”

“In the movie Star Wars, we see the Death Star blow up the planet Alderaan,” Mirman said, reading the question. “Setting aside the question of how [such] a thing would be possible, what would happen to our solar system if the Empire blew up, say, Mars?”

First, deGrasse Tyson said, any Imperial sympathizer looking to make that happen would have to calculate the planet’s binding energy, in order to determine how much energy it would take to overcome the gravitational forces binding the planet together.

“Now you have a device that can pump that energy into your planet and have that planet absorb the energy, rather than have the energy come out the other side, it will completely destroy the planet to smithereens, entirely,” he explained. “So, that’s how one would go about it.”

The 3rd video below is an excellent compilation called “CERN: Supercolliders, Subliminals, & Stargates: Illuminati’s Plan for Satan’s Arrival” while the 4th video is a NOVA documentary on CERN and the final video is from FreedomFighter2127 in which the videographer offers his own evidence and opinions on CERN and its’ tie in to “2015: The International Year of Light”.

 
 
Picture
Europe makes space history as Philae probe lands on comet By Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan

BERLIN/FRANKFURT Wed Nov 12, 2014 12:34pm EST
(Reuters) - The European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe on a comet on Wednesday, a first in space exploration and the climax of a decade-long mission to get samples from what are the remnants of the birth of Earth's solar system.

The box-shaped 100-kg (220-pound) lander, named Philae, touched down on schedule at about 1600 GMT after a seven-hour descent from spacecraft Rosetta around half a billion kilometers (300 million miles) from Earth.

Scientists hope that samples from the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will help show how planets and life are created as the rock and ice that make up the comet preserve organic molecules like a time-capsule.

Comets come from the formation of Earth's 4.6-billion-year-old solar system. Scientists believe they may have brought much of the water in Earth's oceans.

"We are ready to make science fiction a science fact," ESA director of human spaceflight and operations, Thomas Reiter, said at the European Space Operations Center in Germany before the landing.

Rosetta reached the comet, a roughly 3-by-5 km rock discovered in 1969, in August after a journey of 6.4 billion km that took 10 years, five months and four days - a mission that cost close to 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion).

Rosetta is the first spacecraft to orbit a comet rather than just flying past to take pictures.

Wednesday's launch went ahead despite a problem with the thruster that meant the probe had to rely mainly on its harpoons to stop it bouncing back from the comet's surface.

The three-legged lander had to be released at exactly the right time and speed because it cannot be controlled on its descent. On its way down, Philae gathered data and images, which were relayed back to Earth.

Engineers designed the lander not knowing what type of terrain they would find on the comet's surface. Rosetta has been taking pictures of the comet and collecting samples from its atmosphere as it approaches the sun, showing it is not as smooth as initially hoped, making landing more tricky.

The surface is also more dusty than expected, limiting light needed to charge its solar panels and power its instruments once its batteries run out after two and a half days.

(Additional reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Fla; Editing by Louise Ireland)


 
 
Picture
Reuters / Michael Caronna
July 27, 2014

Japanese scientists have managed to achieve an electrical current of 100,000 amperes – by far the highest to be generated in the world – with cutting edge technology of stacking special tapes.

The National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS), of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS), in Japan created an avant-garde conductor containing yttrium-based high-temperature superconducting tapes. Designed in collaboration with Tohoku University, the low-resistance joint technology involved in the conductor joints development only added to its mechanical strength.

The results obtained are overwhelming: the electrical current exceeds 100,000 amperes at the absolute temperature of minus 253 degrees Celsius (487 degrees Fahrenheit). Just to compare, the electric current intensity of a domestic power receptacle reaches only up to 25 amperes.

“The overall current density exceeds 40 A/mm2 including the jackets, and this value is of practical use for manufacturing large-scale fusion reactor magnets. This result is of global importance,” the researchers said.

What makes superconductors so special is that they conduct electricity with no resistance. Unlike more usual and cheaper copper/silver, near absolute zero superconductors don't lose any energy and the current they carry starts generating a magnetic field. This feature, called the Meissner effect, gives magnets placed above them a startling capacity to levitate.


 
 
Picture
Exteme Tech
By Sebastian Anthony
July 16, 2014

Some intrepid biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered bacteria that survives on nothing but electricity — rather than food, they eat and excrete pure electrons. These bacteria yet again prove the almost miraculous tenacity of life — but, from a technology standpoint, they might also prove to be useful in enabling the creation of self-powered nanoscale devices that clean up pollution. Some of these bacteria also have the curious ability to form into ‘biocables,’ microbial nanowires that are centimeters long and conduct electricity as well as copper wires — a capability that might one day be tapped to build long, self-assembling subsurface networks for human use.

As you may recall from high school biology, almost every living organism consumes sugar to survive. When it gets right down to it, everything you eat is ultimately converted or digested into single molecules of glucose. Without going into the complexities of respiration and metabolism (ATP!), these sugars have excess electrons — and the oxygen you breathe in really wants those electrons. By ferrying electrons from sugar to oxygen, a flow of electrons — i.e. energy — is created, which is then used to carry out various vital tasks around your body (triggering electrons, beating your heart, etc.)


These special bacteria, however, don’t need no poxy sugars — instead, they cut out the middleman and feed directly on electrons. To discover these bacteria, and to cultivate them in the lab, the USC biologists quite simply scooped up some sediment from the ocean, took it back to the lab, stuck some electrodes into it, and then turned on the power. When higher voltages are pumped into the water, the bacteria “eats” electrons from the electrode; when a lower voltage is present, the bacteria “exhales” electrons onto the electrode, creating an electrical current (which could be used to power a device, if you were so inclined). The USC study very carefully controlled for other sources of nutrition — these bacteria were definitely eating electrons directly.
PictureGeobacter metallireducens bacterium, taken by Derek Lovley
All told, various researchers around the world have now discovered upwards of 10 different kinds of bacteria that feed on electricity — and, interestingly, they’re all pretty different (they’re not from the same family), and none of them are like Shewanella or Geobacter, two well-known bacteria that have interesting electrical properties. Kenneth Nealson of USC, speaking to New Scientist about his team’s discovery, said: “This is huge. What it means is that there’s a whole part of the microbial world that we don’t know about.”

[Read our featured story: We are slaves of electricity.]

As for the repercussions of finding bacteria that eat and excrete electrons, the most obvious use is in the growing fields of molecular motors and nanomachines. These bacteria, at their most basic, are machines that consume raw electricity — and so, with some clever (genetic?) engineering, it stands to reason that we might one day use them to power tiny machines that can perform tasks that are currently carried out by expensive, human-operated machines (cleaning up chemical spills, for example). These bacteria might also allow us to find out exactly how much energy a living cell needs to survive; put them in a test tube, and then slowly dial back the electrode voltage until they die. A cruel experiment, but one that would yield very informative results.

In a separate study a few years ago, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark found that some electric bacteria also have the ability to form microbial nanowires — long chains of bacteria that can span several centimeters. These nanowires ferry nutrients to bacteria further down the chain, which might be stuck underneath some mud. Curiously, these nanowires are about as conductive as standard copper wires, which leads us to wonder if electric bacteria might one day be coerced into building subsurface networks for human use. It would be a little more efficient than spending billions of dollars on laying submarine cables