Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Trivia: "New Rules" Edition -- From Another Property...

[Click the thumbnail masthead image above, to reach/read about it all, on the other property.] I am, by nature, a free markets adherent. So, I make very few rules here. I love the free-wheeling discussions. [And... just for fun, and for a little more "bonus" background -- here is the press letter brief, on access to voir dire sidebars -- from Tuesday -- and Mr. Shkreli's motion for a hearing, of last night -- regarding the government's right to conduct FBI interviews -- of defense witnesses. Both are PDF files.]

And now, the new rule: starting today, and until the verdict is announced, I am politely asking all commenters -- and I will try mightily to do so as well, in posts -- to refer to the primary defendant solely in honorable terms. We will call him "Mr. Shkreli" henceforth. I will edit future comments to fix it -- if it is an oversight.

The notion here is that the evidence alone will convict him.. There is plenty of it, and he creates more day by day -- as our commenters have quite ably noted. Most of it is now MSM fodder.

So, on the eve of trial -- I've updated the masthead, and made the above request -- that we accord him at least a modicum of professional respect. Our tiny blawg will not change any outcome -- and the MSM is likely to cover all of this far more graphically than we may -- but let's play fair, just the same.

Let the evidence do the talking, from here on.

Okay -- let 'er rip! Bring on the piping hot french fries, ketchup, icy real cane sugar Coke and if you'd like... popcorn.

I'd expect some final (weekend) orders out of the able Judge's chambers, in Brooklyn -- and I will post them, in near real time, from PACER -- then jury selection begins in earnest, on Monday morning. Have a restful, languid, free spirited weekend, one and all. I don't expect Mr. Shkreli will sleep (much) -- for at least the next six weeks.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Merck And Premier Expand Vaccine- And Chronic-Patient Care/Affordability Alliance

Not Earth-shattering, by any means -- but (I think) likely a response to the lower rungs of the 45 Administration's (Scott Gottlieb and Tom Price, primarily) idealistic talking points -- about exploring ways to bring total costs in line with tangible patient benefits achieved.

[And as is true with so many US Health Care ideas en vogue today in 2017 -- it is, in many respects, a "retread" -- of Mr. Obama's suggestions from early 2011.]

Here it is, from Kenilworth's press release -- and a bit:

. . . .In 2016, Merck and Premier agreed to collaborate to develop and assess solutions that promote wellness and better care for specific groups of at-risk patients across the continuum. The organizations have now launched two projects under this collaboration model. One is a preventive care model that seeks to improve adolescent and adult vaccination rates. The other is a chronic disease model that includes a new focus on type 2 diabetes patients at risk of hypoglycemia, as well as osteoporosis identification and treatment (as announced in 2016).

“Our expanded collaboration allows us to more effectively support health systems and clinicians that are evolving from volume to value-based models, but lack adequate prevention and wellness solutions,” said Dr. Mimi Huizinga, M.D., chief health information officer at Premier. “We’ve been working with Merck to design data-driven interventions for some of the top population health challenges facing our country, and we’re eager to start testing them in the real-world.”

The vaccination and chronic care models combine the improvement expertise and technical capabilities of Premier with Merck’s education and therapeutic area expertise. The companies are now developing plans with interested health systems to test these models on the frontline, in real-world settings. . . .

Good ideas. . . are simply. . . good ideas, henceforth. Now you know, with a smile going out to one and all of good will -- which seems a smaller and smaller subset. . . indeed. Onward.


Y A W N. Senate Version Likely Will Not Clear US House...

To much faux-hullabaloo, the Senate GOP leadership is releasing its super secret plan for health care delivery, at this very moment. YAWN.

It is, in the main, ObamaCare 2.0 -- with decreasing subsidies after seven years -- conveniently just beyond the time when the more moderate Senators will need to seek re-election. It is actually not too horrific -- as in many ways it is ObamaCare 2.0, or Lite -- if one prefers. It keeps protections against pre-existing conditions exclusions. [One of my literally dozens of backgrounders, here.] Of course anything in it is likely to be amended in the next five to seven years -- even if by some miracle both chambers agree on. . . anything.

And that is why it is DOA in the US House. Those GOP critters face re-election in 2018. And all of them told lies about repealing ObamaCare. This Senate package does no such thing. So I'll adhere to my view that 45 will receive nothing to sign, before 2018 mid-terms -- and maybe. . . never. From the Wa Po's Health 202 blog, then -- a bit:

. . . .The Senate bill. . . subsidies closely mirror Obamacare subsidies, which are currently available to Americans earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Starting in 2020, under the Senate bill, this assistance would be capped for those earning up to 350 percent — but anyone below that line could get the subsidies if they’re not eligible for Medicaid. As under the ACA, the subsidies would be pegged to a benchmark insurance plan each year, ensuring that the assistance grows enough over time to keep coverage affordable for customers.

McConnell is also offering moderates an approach to Medicaid he hopes will be more politically palatable to them. It's true the draft proposes even deeper cuts to Medicaid than the House version by tying federal spending to a slower growth index. But that wouldn't kick in for another seven years, well past moderate senators' next reelection battles. And it doesn't fully end the ACA's Medicaid expansion until five years from now, gradually easing down the extra federal payments over three years starting in 2021. . . .

Y A W N. So, the ACA of 2010 remains the law of the land, just as I foretold. No binding changes in existing law -- in any case -- until after 2018. That's Condor's (my) prognostication. What a pack of incompetents. How droll. I think I'll go take a sunshine-dappled June summer's morning. . . stroll.

Hey. . . that rhymes. Smile. . . .


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We May Now Probably Call The 2017 Congolese Ebola Outbreak... Over.

The latest WHO Situation Report contains exceedingly good news. We -- the collective "we" -- may breathe a sigh of relief, now.

Here late on Tuesday evening, I will go out on a limb and say that -- with a 97 per cent confidence/probability factor -- from these WHO statistical regression models, there will be no new cases in the Congo, in the next 30 days. That, in turn, would mean the current Ebola outbreak has been. . . arrested. From that June 20 WHO report, then:

. . . .Cumulatively, since the start of the outbreak, there have been five confirmed and three probable cases.

Additionally there have been 99 suspected cases reported that following laboratory analysis tested negative for EVD and therefore were deemed not to be cases. The last confirmed case was isolated on 17 May 2017 and tested negative for EVD by PCR for the second time on 21 May 2017. Of the confirmed and probable cases, four survived and four died, resulting in a case fatality rate of 50%. The confirmed and probable cases were reported from Nambwa (four confirmed and two probable), Ngayi (one probable) and Mabongo (one confirmed).

Data modelling suggests that the risk of further cases is currently low but not negligible, and decreases with each day without new confirmed/probable cases. As of the reporting date, 97% of simulated scenarios predict no further cases in the next 30 days. . . .

Excellent. Now, I will be on trial (pro bono), essentially all day tomorrow -- so, phone off. . . in federal court. If 45 does something stupendously inane -- it will have to wait, until evening. Be good to one another.


Part Two, of How Mr. Bannon Painted Mr. Trump Into A Corner, On Muslim Ban 2.0...

The able lawyers for the State of Hawaii just filed the first 12 pages of their answers to the Administration's papers -- at the Supremes, mere moments ago. [Hawaii's additional moving papers, another whopping 8 MBs worth of PDF goodness here.]

Below in blue are the high points -- but Mr. Bannon continues to kill Mr. Trump's efforts, here. Actually, that may be a tad unfair, since it is not so much the inept, and ultimately transparently dishonest drafting of Mr. Bannon -- as it is the odious religious animus of Mr. Trump -- openly tweeted -- that has doomed him, in the Supreme Court.

. . . .The government’s insistence on implementing the ban even in these circumstances [Ed. Note: That would be the hastily slapped together Presidential memo of June 14, 2017 -- decoupling the effective dates for any review from the ban's effective dates] is inconsistent with the purposes stated in the Order and in the government’s papers — but is consistent with the President’s clearly and repeatedly stated goal of preventing Muslims from entering the United States. . . .

[T]he President's June 14 memorandum decouples the bans from the vetting upgrade they allegedly facilitate. . . . Because there is no remaining facially legitimate secular rationale for the Order, the Government can no longer dispute what has always been obvious: the travel and refugee bans represent an unconstitutional effort by the President to fulfill his campaign promise to enact a Muslim ban. . . .

[The courts below have not disagreed (on the outcome, or the substance, really) at all -- ALL have held that Muslim Ban 2.0 cannot pass muster, each just on slightly differing analytical grounds. . . . so there is no real split among the circuits, that needs resolving, here. . .] [A]s the lower courts have repeatedly observed, the case is truly unique. App. 61a-62a; 252a. . . .

No case in our history involves an even remotely similar factual record, and the court of appeals’ decision applying this Court’s precedent to this unique set of facts does not restrict this or any future President’s legitimate exercise of his or her extensive national security powers in any way. See Opp. Cert. 15, 20-29. There is no reason for this Court to grant certiorari. . . .

[Footnote:]. . .Should the Court grant the petitions for certiorari in this case and the Hawaii case, the respondents concur with the government that the cases should be heard in tandem, rather than consolidated. . . .

Now, in truth -- I still think the Supremes aim to take this case -- and rule, issuing some truly towering Hamiltonian language. But there is nearly no chance the Ban will survive. Condor predicts: Nine-to-Nuthin' -- upholding the various TROs and preliminary injunctions entered below. See 'ya, 45.


Back To Matters Merck: Dr. Gerberding Elected, At BIO...

We now return to some Merck-focused (people) reporting. The slow summer news cycle appears to be in full effect, this languid June morning -- and I'll not comment on any super-secret, largely meaningless and illusory Senate bill rumors. I just. . . won't.

So, instead -- I will laud Dr. Gerberding, now the elected Board Secretary of trade group BIO (and a member of the board of directors of NASDAQ traded Cerner, a health information technology company) -- well done! [My December 2014 backgrounder on her portfolio of increasing responsibilities, while at Kenilworth, here.]

Here's the BIO press release -- and a bit:

. . . .BIO is pleased to announce the election of John Maraganore, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., as the new Chair of its Board of Directors for the 2017-2018 term, and the election of Julie Gerberding, Executive Vice President for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy & Population Health & Chief Patient Officer, Merck, as its new Board Secretary. . . .

As I say -- our congrats go out to this fine bio-sciences leader (with deep history in the vaccines arena)! Onward.


Monday, June 19, 2017

As The Two Year Anniversary of The Mother Emanel Massacre Passed This Past Weekend...

I thought it might be useful to compare then President Obama's 2015 remarks on Juneteenth to those of Mr. Trump -- remarks he only issued after some shaming internet hoots -- around lunch time today.

First, Mr. Obama -- from 2015:

. . . .On this day 150 years ago, more than the two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves of Galveston, Texas finally received word that the Civil War was over. They were free. A century and a half later, Americans still recognize this occasion, Juneteenth, as a symbolic milestone on our journey toward a more perfect union. At churches and in parks, lined up for parades and gathered around the barbecue pit, communities come together and celebrate the enduring promise of our country: that all of us are created equal.

Yet this year, our celebrations are tinged with sorrow. Our prayers are with the nine members of the Mother Emanuel community — nine members of our American family — whose God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were so cruelly snatched away. Our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and the entire city of Charleston.

We don’t have to look far to see that racism and bigotry, hate and intolerance, are still all too alive in our world. Just as the slaves of Galveston knew that emancipation is only the first step toward true freedom, just as those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago knew their march was far from finished, our work remains undone. For as long as people still hate each other for nothing more than the color of their skin – and so long as it remains far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun – we cannot honestly say that our country is living up to its highest ideals. But Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. Instead, it’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, things do get better. America can change. So no matter our color or our creed, no matter where we come from or who we love, today is a day to find joy in the face of sorrow, to count our blessings and hold the ones we love a little closer. And tomorrow is a day to keep marching. . . .

And now, Mr. Trump's whitewash of it:
. . . .Melania and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Juneteenth, a historic day recognizing the end of slavery.

Though President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, news traveled slowly from Washington, D.C., to the southern states. More than two years later, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger stood on the Ashton Villa balcony in Galveston, Texas, to deliver the belated message of the then-deceased President: all slaves were free.

Granger’s astonishing words inspired soulful festivities and emotional rejoicing. [No mention at all, of the struggles of the following 153 years, for full civil rights.] Over the years, as freedmen and freedwomen left Texas, they took Juneteenth and its meaning with them. Today, we celebrate this historic moment in 1865, as we remember our Nation’s fundamental premise that all men and women are created equal.

On Juneteenth 2017, we honor the countless contributions [no mention of the theft of labor, and lives -- no, it is all white-washed into a happy, thoughtful "gift" from African Americans(!)] made by African Americans to our Nation and pledge to support America’s promise as the land of the free. . . .

And with that, even our back up blog has seen its two-millionth unique visitor. Do not let anyone whitewash your history. Goodnight.


[U] While We Celebrate Juneteenth -- 152 Years On -- We Reflect Upon The Power Of Information...

UPDATED: Noon Eastern -- I retract my jab, below -- at least in part. Just moments ago, at noon (Eastern -- did they read this?), though never mentioning stolen labor or stolen lives -- 45's White House has put out a remembrance message, of sorts. I salute it -- typos, and all. [I think he means promise, when he says "premise", at the conclusion of the second paragraph from the end. But maybe. . . that's no typo -- and that too, is telling -- in Mr. Trump's America, the nation only thinks about equality as a premise, it doesn't promise it. Fascinating. ". . .Nation’s fundamental premise. . . ." End updated portion.]

Who controls the information? It seems almost an antiquated notion now, some three decades on -- with the internet having democratized almost all access to. . . information. Regardless of how one feels about Snowden, Assange and Chelsea Manning, or even the Shadow Brokers and Anonymous -- it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, now. [Allowing the extended family to see a grand niece's first steps, in real time, is a wonderful side benefit here, in truth! But I digress. . . .]

Witness the truthful -- but anonymous -- sources now filling the pages of the NYT and WaPo, with less than savory news of how 45 really operates his "kingdom" -- in dereliction of the promises he's made to the American people.

But as I celebrate this day, for its 152nd anniversary -- I must note that the Emancipation Proclamation is over 154 years old. And so, while the celebration is about the end of bondage -- and freedom -- for people of color, nationwide -- in many parts of the South, people were not informed of their freedom. . . for years.

Galveston is widely-recognized as the first mover in what became known as the Junteenth celebrations -- but as the record amply establishes -- none of the by-then former slaves there knew they were freed. . . for more than two full years.

They continued to endure the unspeakable, while the white, landed, moneyed and powerful people of Galveston. . . kept mum. Every one of them. Plainly, almost all of the white people knew -- in Galveston, and most of the South, in truth.

[Hey (in an echo, of sorts, of that) -- what are the odds that 45 will tweet out a heartfelt remembrance of Juneteenth(?!) -- affirming and thanking people of color for all the labor that was stolen from them -- to build this nation, and sustain it, even into this morning? Nil.]

So. . . I close where I opened: be wary of any government that tries to control the peoples' access to its dealings. That is -- as Alexander Hamilton well said -- the ordinal sign of. . . a tyrant. I am speaking to you, Mr. Trump. But we will not be snowed -- not this time. Onward -- to fully assert our. . . freedoms.

[The truth is almost always far stranger, no? On reflection, I must say more -- about Mr. Trump's press statement, above: He intentionally, I think, distorts history. He says "news traveled slowly. . . ." -- but ignores the very strong historical evidence that throughout the South the news was. . . SUPPRESSED -- by whites in power. Nary a mention of that, in his presser/missive, either. His version of the story of America is. . . white-washed (and literally, so) -- lacks. . . candor. Lacks perspective -- lacks empathy (i.e., "land of the free" -- but not a land of. . . "equality". Those are 45's last two thoughts on the topic, apparently.) Here endeth my sermon.]


Friday, June 16, 2017

Let's Lead On Friday At Lunch With Something That At Least Arguably "Matters" -- rather than all the rest -- that clearly doesn't...

There is at least a vaporous rumor wafting by -- of a "super secret" Senate bill -- (ooh! spooky!) on Health Care -- but I don't think it can garner 50 votes -- let alone 52 (in secrecy). And even if it miraculously somehow does -- the provisions needed to attract the last five or so votes will be the death knell of it, in the US House. So no law on this topic, until after 2018 mid-terms -- and in view of where the below is almost certainly headed (as I've repeatedly predicted, some eight months from now, under Mr. Mueller's watchful eye) -- maybe. . . never.

Now -- just a scant mention: the image at right will do my talking for me -- but 45 here refers to his own Justice Department picks -- as he assails a predicament entirely of his own making. This is either the rats saving themselves, on the foundering HMS Trump, or the captain blaming his own crew -- for things he's plainly chosen to do. Either way, he is beginning a death spiral, with Mr. Pence hiring his own personal criminal lawyer, overnight. Eeesh.

Onward. Gray Friday, indeed. . . .


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Some Stellar "Pairing" Truths Emerge -- Like Dawn -- In A Luminous Cloud, It Seems -- At First...

Of course my masthead and companion graphic overstate it just a very little bit -- for dramatic effect, here.

But a newly published paper, relying on the Very Large Array, and some of NASA's public domain Hubble space telescope data (related to the star forming region known as the Perseus Molecular Cloud), very strongly suggest -- almost as a mathematical certainty -- that stars like our sun (small to medium sized ones) are always born in pairs.

For the first million years, it seems, they dance -- revolving in an ovoid cocoon, drawing ever nearer one another (in a space-time whirlpool, of sorts) -- until either they merge into one larger sun -- or one is flung off, slingshot like -- into interstellar space.

Here's the dry technical paper's abstract, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that led me to this somehow goofily-romantic notion -- and a bit:

. . . .We explore the relationship between young, embedded binaries and their parent cores, using observations within the Perseus Molecular Cloud. We combine recently published VLA observations of young stars with core properties obtained from SCUBA-2 observations at 850 um. Most embedded binary systems are found toward the centres of their parent cores, although several systems have components closer to the core edge. Wide binaries, defined as those systems with physical separations greater than 500 au, show a tendency to be aligned with the long axes of their parent cores, whereas tight binaries show no preferred orientation. We test a number of simple, evolutionary models to account for the observed populations of Class 0 and I sources, both single and binary.

In the model that best explains the observations, all stars form initially as wide binaries. These binaries either break up into separate stars or else shrink into tighter orbits. Under the assumption that both stars remain embedded following binary breakup, we find a total star formation rate of 168 Myr^-1. Alternatively, one star may be ejected from the dense core due to binary breakup. This latter assumption results in a star formation rate of 247 Myr^-1. Both production rates are in satisfactory agreement with current estimates from other studies of Perseus. Future observations should be able to distinguish between these two possibilities. . . .

To be clear, these million year dances occur at vast distances -- far greater than the width of our current planetary system's disk. . . . burning, at a distance -- indeed -- rather than freezing, nearby. Smile. So, in that way, at least -- we humans too are a distant echo of. . . our own host star. Each of us has one, and probably only one -- formative partner. One with whom we are destined to dance. . . . for at least. . . a million years, give or take. That'll bake your noodle, right. . . .?


YAWN: "Fish. Barrel. Shoot. Repeat." The (Not So) New Way Donald Trump Is Losing... America.

I'll devote only as much time and attention -- to 45 this morning, as his tweets merit -- which is to say. . . not much.

With multiple, independently sourced, very reliable news outlets reporting that the Special Counsel is in fact investigating Mr. Trump personally for (among other matters) obstruction of justice, I will simply let the imagery do the talking. Click at right, to embiggify.

Later today, we will see the next salvo of briefs in the US Supreme Court, on Muslim Ban 2.0.

I may add commentary on the Trump positions, post the Ninth Circuit ruling, as an update to this post -- since, as I say. . . there really isn't much substance in anything Mr. Trump tweets any longer. Now you know. Life does feel a bit like the Arizona desert, at dawn. . . of late -- thus the masthead reprint below. . . .


Gosh -- Mr. Bannon's Lack Of Even Rudimentary Drafting Abilities On FULL Display, Tonight...

The White House just put out an official memo -- ostensibly to "interpret" various dating infirmities (created by that dopey Steve Bannon) in Muslim Ban 2.0. [March 22, 2017 backgrounder here.]

So -- let us take a moment now, in the wee hours of Thursday morning -- to thoughtfully consider what happens when a sitting President allows an ex-Goldman banker, and hack alt right wanna be media mogul (who also happens to dabble in conspiracy-theories and traffic in white supremacy themes), to draft. . . Executive Orders. One sees a laughable freshman's drafting contortion -- all caused by using actual calendar dates, rather than reference dates (i.e., ones measured by time periods past a certain event's occurrence -- but not a specific date on a calendar, like say "March 16, 2017").

And so, for the world to see -- better lawyers on Team 45 have had to put out an embarrassing subsequent memo, under the President's name to clarify what they say was the President's actual intent. Now, they say, the order won't be mooted until 90 days after all injunctions are lifted (but they may well never be so lifted, of course).

Nope. It won't ultimately matter -- at all, I predict -- but here it is, and a bit:

. . . .Various provisions of sections 2 and 6 of the Executive Order (as well as sections 3 and 12(c), which delineate the scope of the suspension contained in section 2(c)), refer to the Order's effective date. Section 14 of the Executive Order provides that the Order was effective at 12:01 a.m., eastern daylight time on March 16, 2017. Sections 2 and 6, however, were enjoined before that effective date, and the courts of appeals have affirmed the injunctions with respect to certain provisions of sections 2 and 6. As a result, under the terms of the Executive Order, the effective date of the enjoined provisions (as well as related provisions of sections 3 and 12(c)) is delayed or tolled until those injunctions are lifted or stayed.

In light of questions in litigation about the effective date of the enjoined provisions and in the interest of clarity, I hereby declare the effective date of each enjoined provision to be the date and time at which the referenced injunctions are lifted or stayed with respect to that provision. To the extent it is necessary, this memorandum should be construed to amend the Executive Order. . . .

Of course, Mr. Trump hopes that this all gets buried by the coverage of today's shooting on the baseball diamond. Ever an opportunist, that guy.

Nonetheless, for my part, I'd like the Supremes to say they will allow this memo to effectively amend Ban 2.0 (though strictly speaking that is not, as a matter of law a particularly rock solid view) -- and thus not have to hold it mooted, as of sometime in the morning on June 15, 2017 -- by its own rather obvious drafting infirmities. You see, I want the Supremes to strike it on the merits -- not mere technicalities. Ban 2.0 richly deserves to be stricken by a unanimous opinion, 9-0 in the Supreme Court, and to lose overall, something like 0-11 -- in the federal courts. Now you know. Off now, to let sleep try to find me. . . why do I write like I'm running out of time. . . like I'm running out of time. . . because we all are. . . . we are.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When The Dying Stops... The Really Hard Work Begins... Africa's Ebola Surviors -- Two Years On...

Perhaps the most important point to be gleaned from this story below, is that once the acute epidemic is arrested in any given locale, the truly life-long work begins: survivors face discrimination, and a banishment from schools -- and usually have lost most of the income generating support of their extended families -- to the virus, in its acute phase. [Earlier background on the nurse, here.]

The lack of an education -- as a path away from destitution -- will likely cripple these young survivors in the future. Please read the below story -- and please consider donating to StreetChild, a charity addressing these problems, globally.

From The Independent (UK), then -- a bit -- but do go read it all:

. . . .[W]hen you dig below the surface, for the worst-impacted families, things are far from back to normal. Pauline battled tears as she met survivors and orphans still facing extreme poverty, social stigma and excruciating health problems as a result of the epidemic that killed 4,000 people in 2014-15. In spite of calling the last two years of her own life "a whirlwind of nastiness", she said that: "It would be an insult" to compare what she had been through to the horrendous situations faced by Sierra Leone’s worst-hit survivors and orphans, like 17-year-old Mbalu. . . .

Mbalu contracted the deadly disease while caring for her five-year-old niece. She said: "When my sister died I took my little niece home with me to care for her, then she started showing signs of sickness herself and died. . . ."

The legacy of Ebola is still very real for children like Mbalu. She hasn’t been in school for two years since Ebola took her father, the family’s breadwinner. Her mother’s meagre earnings are not enough to afford school materials. Her mother said: "I feel so awful that Mbalu cannot go to school, I haven’t been able to send her because we don’t have enough money. I barely make enough to feed us. . . ."

"We had the same virus but our similarities stop there", said Pauline. "I had world-class treatment and she didn’t. . . ."

Indeed. There is still so very much yet to be done in the Congo, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and all of central Africa, in truth. Please do consider donating. . . please. Running silent, now. . . on, to family matters.

UPDATE: I abhor and condemn political violence -- all forms of it. I welcome political discourse -- civil, and otherwise. See Amendment, First. In that regard, I express my sincerely charitable and statesmanlike wishes -- for the speedy and complete recovery of the US House Majority Whip, and all others injured this morning -- save one.

I note that the shooter is widely-reported to have used an assault rifle. I note that he is white. I note that he is a multi-generational, native born US citizen. Thus, no Muslim ban talking point, there for 45.

It is my opinion that, in fact -- his rampage was (in part) made more effective, and potentially more lethal, by the easy availability of assault rifles in the US.

I do continue to support his right to express sentiments critical of the current Administration -- and to have (in 2016) supported Senator Sanders, while opposing HRC.

But now -- as of this morning -- he is just another mass murder (attempt) suspect. And should he survive his "returned fire" wounds -- ones he richly deserves -- I support prosecuting him to the limit of the law. Here endeth this rant.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Few (Largely-Belated) Updates -- On Merck's Keytruda®...

Overnight, Kenilworth disclosed (on the recommendation of the DSMBs) a pause, in two late stage clinical trials -- each using pembrolizumab in combination with other chemo agents -- including Celgene’s Pomalyst®, and Revlimid®, in patients with multiple myeloma. Merck did so, in an abundance of caution, in order to study some additional data related to unexpected patient deaths, more closely -- before restarting the trials' enrollments.

I don't expect to see any widespread downturn in Merck's NYSE price though, as overall Keytruda® has posted very impressive data in a wide array of cancers. [Backgrounder here from August 2016.] Celgene's stock, meanwhile, may ride a down-bubble on the news.

Separately, over the weekend, AB Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson suggested skepticism about the wisdom of Merck's relatively late entry in early stage studies of pembrolizumab -- in combination with CTLA4 (as opposed to chemo-). Here is FiercePharma reporting, as of June 9, 2017:

. . . .In light of the competition, Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson said Merck needs to “go big or go home” with its duo. “Unless Merck believes it has a differentiated product, it is difficult to justify development of this new molecule given the substantial lead-time advantage that its two competitors have in this area,” he wrote in a Thursday note to clients.

What would make the study “easier to justify,” in Anderson’s opinion? Simultaneously launching another combination trial—this one marrying Keytruda and Bristol’s CTLA4 med, Yervoy -- the only one currently on the market. This way, as he sees it, if Bristol or AZ succeed with their trials, “Keytruda would remain relevant in the nearer-term” in the setting.

“As long as Merck generates clinical data like this, physicians would likely feel comfortable mixing-and-matching” Merck and BMS’ products, he hypothesized. “Then, Merck has more time to eventually come in with a CTLA4 of its own. . . .”

Now you know -- but as I say, Merck isn't likely to see much of a buying opportunity on the NYSE, here -- most of this is already baked into Merck's stock price.

Finally, and also largely unrelated: I will note that if -- in some mythical Brigadoon-like land, 45 is able to pass a tax package -- and if that tax package includes some of what US House alt-right folks are whispering about -- Pfizer and Apple might reap additional one time windfalls -- and Merck and Microsoft might have to come up with new cash for tax payments.

This is so, because Merck and Microsoft have reserved proportionately much smaller amounts for repatriation taxes than Pfizer and Apple, respectively. But none -- literally none -- of any such tax package exists on paper even, in any legislative chamber. So this is mostly the reporting of rumor and innuendo -- just to be clear -- by the Denver Post. Onward -- now you know.


Monday, June 12, 2017

[U] The Thus-Far-Undefeated Plaintiffs Tell The Supremes "Nothing To See Here; Move Along" (Smile !)...

UPDATED @ End of Office Day 06.13.2017: quite a bit transpired today, on scheduling, at the nation's highest court. Amy Howe is your reliable guide to it all, right here. Namaste -- and, I'm out. Other family commitments call. . . . [End, updated portion.]

Okay. . . I've had a chance to read the filings made at 3:00 PM EDT today, in the US Supreme Court. I was wrong -- I guessed. . . incorrectly. No shame -- I can openly admit that. [And to be clear -- I respect these lawyers, completely.]

The ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center (in a move that I understand, but don't think puts their strongest foot forward) chose to ask the Supremes not to review the Fourth Circuit decision. While I agree with every argument they do make -- I think it would have been worthwhile to make one more argument. One they did not make: the plaintiffs are something like 10-0 now, in putting down Muslim Bans 1.0 and 2.0 in the lower courts. In fact, just this afternoon, the Ninth Circuit also ruled 45 was out of bounds.

So, I see scant risk in encouraging the Supremes to take the case, and finally bury the notion that any President may openly call for Muslim Bans, and openly flout the Johnson amendments to the INA -- when issuing specious executive orders (forgetting for a moment the First Amendment). In sum -- I'd seek. . . a knockout -- 9-0 in the Supremes -- and like 11-0 overall. But instead, the ACLU played it safe. That's okay. I still think the Supremes will take the case -- and dump. . . Trump. A bit of the 48 pager, then:

. . . .The INA’s anti-discrimination provision forbids discrimination “in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.” 8 U.S.C. § 1152(a)(1)(A).

This provision reflects a common principle in our law: Reducing individuals to such characteristics is “odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” App. 91a (Wynn, J.) (quoting Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 100 (1943)); cf. Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495, 517 (2000) (“One of the principal reasons race is treated as a forbidden classification is that it demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry instead of by his or her own merit and essential qualities.”). . . .

I still foresee some swift Supremes' action, in the offing. But almost certainly, now -- we will wait a tick -- at least until this Thursday morning's regular conference of the Justices. That would be the logical next time that they might announce a granted cert. petition.

We shall see (but in my mind -- the ultimate outcome is almost certain now: Trump loses -- either by a declaration that the Supremes won't review the matter -- because 10 or so lower courts all got it right -- on slightly varying reasonings; or the Supremes will rule to toss 45's Ban permantently, and explicitly articulate their own reasoning for doing so). But it will die. Onward.


Plaintiffs' Supreme Court Position Due In Moments -- And 45 Loses (Yet Again!) In Ninth Circuit -- On The INA Grounds I Discussed In January

It is very significant, from a legal perspective -- that in some 11 separate close reviews of Mr. Trump's Muslim Bans 1.0 and 2.0 -- not a single court has found that it passes muster [such complete unanimity wasn't seen -- even in the plenary power to tax and spend (by Act of Congress), in the cases putatively brought against the ACA of 2010 -- those failed, BTW].

Not one. He's something like 0-10, now -- but maybe worse -- since I haven't been covering the Detroit area federal case, at all.

Here is the Ninth Circuit's per curium opinion (just published a few moments ago, as a large PDF file) -- it primarily relies on the Johnson-era amendments to the INA I first mentioned in January of this year. Here's that bit -- in context:

. . . .Contemporaneous to enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Congress passed the INA of 1965 to eliminate the “national origins system as the basis for the selection of immigrants to the United States.” H.R. Rep. No. 89-745, at 8 (1965). Section 1152(a)(1)(A) was enacted as part of that act, and provides:

[N]o person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence. 8 U.S.C. § 1152(a)(1)(A) (emphasis added).

Section 1152(a)(1)(A)contains specific exemptions, and § 1182(f) is not among them. . . .

We cannot blind ourselves to the fact that, for nationals of the six designated countries, EO2 is effectively a ban on the issuance of immigrant visas. If allowed to stand, EO2 would bar issuance of visas based on nationality in violation of § 1152(a)(1)(A).

The Government did not dispute this point at oral argument, and it stands to reason that the whole system of the visa issuance would grind to a halt for nationals of the six designated countries whose entry is barred from the United States. Issuance of visas will automatically stop for those who are banned based on nationality.

Yet Congress could not have used “more explicit language” in “unambiguously direct[ing] that no nationality based discrimination shall occur.” Legal Assistance for Vietnamese Asylum Seekers, 45 F.3d at 473. . . .

Indeed. On to the Supremes, where in a few moments, the plaintiffs from the Fourth Circuit will argue that the Supremes should take the case on cert., right now -- and decide it, right now. That's my conjecture. And, those likely very cogent briefs are due -- in about 15 minutes at the SCOTUS. Now you know. [Graphics soon.] Sweltering, and twisty copper colored afternoon, this. . . now -- with Loving Day 2017 rolling like thunder. . . across our wonderful and re-awakwening. . . nation. . . smile.


Only Active Live English US Web Addresses Need Be Disclosed To US Merck, By German Merck -- For Now -- In Lanham Act Name Spat

Onward marches the fight over how each of these two life science and pharma titans may employ the trademark "Merck" globally.

But it does so, in teeny, tiny "baby steps" -- the latest being a (for now) limited disclosure of which "live" registered domains and web addresses -- aimed at the US markets, and written in English, that the German Merck controls, since 2008. US Merck had asked for a wider universe of disclosures -- but the able Magistrate Judge in New Jersey's federal District Courts curtailed that request, in an order issued just this morning:

. . . .IT IS ON THIS 9th day of June 2017. . . ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ request that the Court require Defendant to produce domain names or web addresses for all of Defendant’s websites available to Internet users within the United States, other than websites accessible only before 2006 and websites entirely in another language, is denied without prejudice; and it is further. . .

ORDERED that Defendant is not required to produce: (1) domain names for websites that contain a non-U.S. ccTLD; (2) domain names that do not resolve to any websites; or (3) domain names the sole function of which is to redirect users to another domain name. . . .

Onward. Awaiting word, as above. With hope. [Two more states have begun the quite sensible, and well-founded, process of suing to enforce the federal Constitutional emoluments clause prohibitions today, against 45 -- so I may smile, at that -- just as our below masthead foresaw.]


Nation-Wide Ebola Epidemic Risk Inside Congo Reduced To "Moderate"; 83 Percent Probability Of No More New Cases: WHO

What a difference early -- and aggressive, comprehensively resourced -- public health efforts make, in viral epidemic outbreaks. Consider that this 2017 outbreak is now nearly fully arrested, just three elapsed months on.

The last one became a full-on multi-country epidemic -- and lasted nearly two and three quarter years; tens of thousands died. Here only four have died -- and four others are now Ebola survivors. Still -- we must remain vigilant. Here is the latest good news, from WHO:

. . . .On 08 June 2017, no new confirmed, probable or suspected EVD cases were reported. The last confirmed case was isolated on 17 May 2017 and tested negative for EVD by PCR for the second time on 21 May 2017. There are currently a total of five confirmed and three probable cases. Of these, four survived and four died, resulting in a case fatality rate of 50%. The confirmed and probable cases were reported from Nambwa (four confirmed and two probable), Ngayi (one probable) and Mabongo (one confirmed) in Likati Health Zone.

All contacts completed the follow up monitoring period. Active case search is ongoing and thirteen community alerts were reported and investigated, none of which fulfilled the criteria to be a suspect case.

Modelling suggests the risk of further cases is currently low but not negligible, and decreases with each day without new confirmed/probable cases. As of the reporting date, 83% of simulated scenarios predict no further cases in the next 30 days. . . .

Now you know. Good news indeed -- and onward, now to a new week, and new challenges.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

[U] Exactly One Year On, Now -- An Update On Implications Of Any "Brexit" -- For Pharma And BioScience -- And The Timeline We Predicted...

I'll have more on all of this, Sunday at some point, after I've finished seasoning, prepping and grilling the requested baby-back ribs, whipped up the cornbread, and wilted/reduced the mixed greens (and assorted other sides) -- all for a feverish, yet slowly recovering (but thankfully recovering, just the same) elderly relative. My time line (from June 2016) still looks spot on -- if there is in fact ever to be a "Brexit", it won't be until late 2018 or even late into 2019, now. [Backgrounders here and here.]

UPDATE: I think it is too early to guess at what a "hung Parliament" may mean for that prospect -- and whether Prime Minister May still has the political wherewithal to make Brexit a reality, at all. Overnight, the Belfast Unionists have suggested there is "more wood to chop", with Ms. May's Tories -- before they might back her slowly emerging coalition government. So this "what's ahead" post will have to wait a few weeks. . . minimum. I still think my time-line will prove accurate, though. [End, update.]

More tomorrow late in the day/mid-evening, most likely.

Until then, then. . . . There is nothing more peaceful than watching a baby sleep, and hearing the nearly imperceptible, but steady rhythm of the rise and fall of their small lungs taking the warm late Spring night air in and out. . . . smile. Sleep well, one and all. . . . [and on a Sunday midday tangent -- I am smiling, wryly -- as I read that my cousins in Ireland intend to broadly protest should 45 still visit later this Summer -- based on his deplorable, insulting comments -- about the Mayor of London, among many other matters. He is truly. . . a lost soul -- and he will now cancel his UK visit, because he cannot stand to see the truth of what most people think of him, in a free society.]


Saturday, June 10, 2017

UPDATE: On That Hapless SaaS Micro-Cap [Chicago-HQ] Public Company...

This is cross-posted, from another property of mine, on a largely sleepless hospital overnight. . . Headlined: "Apple iOS 11 + = New Threat To Mattersight's Model -- Or... the END?"

Many [regular readers of the other property] will recall the connections "Bob" outlined mid-last year, between and Hercules, Mattersight's current vulture lender. is also a smallish customer/client as to of some of Mattersight's "warez"1 (yes that's snark), if memory serves. That corporate IP backbone regularly fills our visitor logs, [at the other property] as well -- so I know they are reading this.

And -- the punchline? I read with keen interest this latest overnight Apple organ announcement (styled as an article), in which we learn that iOS 11 will be embedded with very deeply sophisticated iMessage apps, which all of Mattersight's clients may deploy on the fly (and customize!) with their respective ultimate consumers -- without ever involving. . . Mattersight. Here's a bit:

. . . .Similar to placing a phone call, the new Business Chat icons or QR codes open a new conversation type in iMessage. A specific chat button or QR code includes a URL payload that can associate the user with a geographic location (such as a local retail store presented in Maps), a specific product configuration they are looking at or have purchased, their language, or a specific team ID (such as order tracking) that identifies what they need help with.

Business Chat connects the incoming IM request to the appropriate response team at a company via a CSP, and the firm's chat agent can then pull up previous conversations with that customer, access the details of the product they want help with, their associated orders or other shipments in progress, and provide authenticated answers.

The customer service agent can also do anything iMessage can do, including sending photos or other attachments, as well as receive photos and other attachments from the customer to troubleshoot a problem. Companies will able be able to send the customer links to download their apps. . . .

Companies can also build their own custom response app extensions for use with Business Chat. Apple demonstrated an example of an airline seat selector, presenting a user interface the user can interact with to return their choice. . . .

So -- with one of Mattersight's own customers helping design the effort, and Nuance providing the tech -- Messrs. Conway and Muellen look to be... out, in the cold.

This isn't some under-capitalized smallish MIT-lab's start-up idea, either. Apple is embedding it in the next release of iOS. That's the gateway to the best demographics -- in the voice over IP world. About that, there is no serious doubt.

It will be a small step for Apple and Nuance to apply the public domain NASA IP that MATR relies upon -- to deliver smart live voice agent matching, via a routed phone call -- all inside the app, if one but asks for a live agent.

Yep -- $2/share is looking expensive, on the NASDAQ, for MATR.

And (as a reminder) I am neither long nor short -- and never have been -- nor will I ever be. OTOH, I suppose MATR may become a "me too" here, and offer an app, for the Apple App store to. . . resell.


1. "Warez" -- with a "z" -- is the urban dictionary's term, given to purloined (or dubious origin) software. Public domain, three decades old NASA tech -- here meets that definition, in my opinion.