Friday, December 15, 2017

On The Dark Side Of Pharma -- A Worthy Read, In The Nation, This Morning...

In the distant past, I used to offer much more fare like this -- and less so, more recently. It may be time to return to it.

I'll just link to it, and quote a tiny bit:

. . . .[These] price spikes have received surprisingly little media scrutiny given the widespread coverage of the opioid crisis and the viral outrage over drug company greed, from pharma bro Martin Shkreli to Mylan’s profiteering from EpiPens (as mentioned above, Mylan also produces naloxone). . . .

That’s likely because naloxone patients aren’t as sympathetic as the children and parents buying EpiPens. They are opioid users. And despite the fact that the white face of the opioid crisis tends to elicit the sort of public and political empathy that was never offered to black crack users in the 1980s, drug use remains heavily stigmatized. . . .

Do go read it all. That's all I've got, this Friday morning.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Well. THAT Was Unexpected. And In Tumors That Express PD-L1, To Boot...

At the head (by way of caveats) -- these are patients with very stubborn cancers -- where the tumors have failed to respond to two prior courses of therapy. Still the news from Reuters this evening is that these were tumors that express the same protein against which Keytruda® has shown significant results in other solid organs.

It may not be a vast market, for third line stomach cancers, here -- but this result will puzzle the researchers (I think).

This bit is from the great John Carroll:
. . . .For Merck, which has hundreds of trials running around Keytruda, the focus now shifts to KEYNOTE-062, a Phase III clinical trial studying Keytruda as a monotherapy or in combination with chemotherapy as first-line treatment for patients with PD-L1 positive advanced gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer. There is also KEYNOTE-585, a Phase III trial studying Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in combination with chemotherapy in a neoadjuvant/adjuvant setting. . . .

So it is that we are back to the middle of the fairway -- with some disappointing Kenilworth/Merck news. Perhaps -- like many complicated bioscience matters -- we don't fully understand all the ways these proteins really interact, to work. Or occasionally -- don't.

Personally -- though the stock is off somewhat in the early NASDAQ after-market, I wouldn't expect the regular NYSE trading to be very much affected tomorrow -- as BMS, Roche/Genetech and others have seen puzzling (and spotty) disappointments in Phase III with their respective checkpoint inhibitor programs, as well. We shall see -- off to catch a train.


NASA/Ames Kepler Space Telescope News -- Machine Learning Edition: Many More Worlds, Out There

Well -- no evidence of life, just yet. And not a peep (yet) from that tumbling needle, now streaking away from Jupiter. But we could hear (with Breakthrough Listen's capabilities) even the "leaky" chatter of the wattage of a single cell call (figurately speaking), were it made, from that needle, out past Jupiter.

So, all in all, a rather ho-hum space news day -- but here is the Kepler press briefing video, from a few minutes ago -- just the same:

Now you know. Onward, with a wide grin for Anon.. . . .


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sanity Starts To Make A REAL -- And Progressive -- Comeback...

I think the New York Times headline (in blue, below) says it all -- so I will simply say. . . I am well-gratified (click that link for the thoughts of a 20 year old Roger Ebert -- half a century ago, on Birmingham's four little girls -- and it was Senator-Elect Jones in 2000 who prosecuted Klansmen Blanton and Cherry for those terroristic bombings/murders).

And Mr. Trump: take notice. Your time in office. . . is drawing to a close. The time for honoring yourself, is coming to an end.

. . . .The Democrat Doug Jones won in Alabama. The upset trims the G.O.P. Senate majority to 1 and is a snub of President Trump, who backed Roy Moore. . . .

Do sleep well one and all -- as we once again bend the arc of history back toward. . . . progress.


Good News, From WHO: As Of Last Friday, The 2017 Ugandan Marburg Outbreak Is... Over.

I certainly feel as though we could use some better news here (after the NYC subway attack, yesterday morning).

[And separately (in the ongoing hunt for habitable exoplanets), we may get some, on Thursday at lunch from NASA's Kepler telescope mission. Stay tuned. I'll cover that, for certain.]

In the mean time, WHO has seen no new cases in contacts of contacts for 42 days, as of last Friday -- so Ugandans may breathe easier, once again:

. . . .8 DECEMBER 2017 | GENEVA - Uganda has successfully controlled an outbreak of Marburg virus disease and prevented its spread only weeks after it was first detected, the World Health Organization said on Friday (December 8).

“Uganda has led an exemplary response. Health authorities and partners, with the support of WHO, were able to detect and control the spread of Marburg virus disease within a matter of weeks,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. . . .

In additional non-fake, non-sad news -- I am likely to report anew later this week, on that mysterious smoldering copper colored spot on Jupiter. The data from last summer's close dip into its upper regions is now pouring out, in peer-reviewed papers this week.

Amazingly, the undulating 400 year old swirly storm, some 2-1/2 times the size of Earth -- runs over 280 miles deep -- into the lower atmosphere of Jupiter. And its peak temperature -- near the middle altitudes of the eyewall of the vortex -- is about about 510 degrees Kelvin, or about 460 degrees here on Earth, like the inside of your pizza oven. Smile.

And, for much of the upper width of the copper colored storm, the data reflect readings just a sweet bit above body temperature -- at 102 degrees. And I cannot fully explain here how that fact fires my imagination. . . . smile. Onward.


Monday, December 11, 2017

A Lightly Snowy Monday Morning Update: In Which Martin Shkreli Thinks "He Won" -- And He'll "Be Out Soon"... Hah!

True enough: it is merely a tangent, as to this blog's narrative arc, at this point -- but I am on record ( and repeatedly so) that the convict Martin Shkreli is likely to draw a decade in jail, as his sentence, come this January. This morning, we learn that he's done some more "jailhouse creative writing", to increase the odds that I will be right about that. So, without any additional ado -- from another property I curate:

Billy has alerted us to a new Shkreli jailhouse missive. Kudos, to his keen eyes, here. . . . click it to enlarge -- and laugh -- as we see that "denial isn't just a river in Egypt. . . ."

Apparently Ms. Christie Smythe became aware of it yesterday -- on a Sunday. Since all correspondence from inmates at the Brooklyn MDC is read by the prison guards prior to being sealed in an envelope, and posted, we may safely assume that this one -- imaged at right -- is already in the hands of the Brooklyn AUSAs.

There is no way for us to know exactly when it was written, but it is clearly post-incarceration. And I am pretty sure the AUSAs have already accurately dated it -- via Brooklyn MDC mail-log records.

An "exclamation point"-handled commenter asked about Marty's expectations of privacy, as apparently some Twitter users have castigated the addressee of Marty's letter, for making it public (assumedly without Marty's express written consent).

However, Marty well-knows none of his correspondence is private. His lawyers likely advise him of this each time they meet with him -- only in person, because good defense lawyers (with high profile incarcerated clients) don't trust that even "Attorney/Client" marked mail might not also be opened and scanned, or read. Likewise, his phone calls.

So, any complaints about the letter being seen in public, on Twitter, strike me as... silly. Marty has essentially no rights of privacy, as a three time convicted (but not yet formally sentenced) felon, writing from inside a prison, when he comments about his case. These are party admissions, and the letter will be used by the AUSAs -- at sentencing. It establishes that, even as late as five weeks in front of his sentencing date, and after more than two months in a harsh lock-up, Marty still cannot accept responsibility for his crimes.

It is always someone else's fault, in Marty's mind. And Ms. Smythe as much as said so. She is right. He is effectively increasing his likely sentence -- with each letter.

It almost seems like Marty wants to get sentenced to ten years or more, on the inside.

[Ironically, it was exactly nine years ago this very morning, in Manhattan, that Bernie Madoff was taken into custody -- on a perhaps $18 billion, multi-decade Ponzi scheme.]

Onward; and I'm off for a walk, toward the trains -- to enjoy those gracefully floating, soft and large wheeling flakes, now falling here. . . . Smile.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Of The Manifold "Unintended Consequences" Of 45's Attack On Expanded Health Coverage (Under the ACA of 2010)

The for-profit model, for all larger US hospital groups, is increasingly under siege. Increasingly, the not for profit, or non-profit hospitals are consolidating, and developing purchasing power that will soon eclipse the largest for-profit chains' bargaining power.

Here late on Sunday night, there is word of a truly outsized, mega-deal -- in the non-profit (Catholic charities) sector -- one that would overnight eclipse the Frist-family built for-profit hospital empire. . . called HCA. For decades, HCA has been the largest hospital/provider group in the United States (for-profit, or not so). No more, it would seem. And the fact that CVS and Aetna are talking tie-up deals should be of perhaps even greater concern in Nashville. The old paradigm of more than half of all hospitals losing money is shifting -- the few surviving larger US chains will soon become at least break-even, and that will put tremendous price pressure on the for profit hospital model, in my estimation.

Afterall, if the Catholic mega-systems are willing to provide the same level of care -- but at "break-even" pricing, we should rightly wonder (longer term, with reduced insurance coverage and ever increasing costs -- for drugs and doctors), just how HCA will be able to extract (or fold-in, more charitably) a profit layer ON TOP of that "break-even" pricing offered by the mega non-profit chains. That's going to be an increasingly significant fly in Nashville's ointment.

Do go read this well-put together and timely Modern Healthcare article -- on the pending deal talks. In passing, I'll quote below a few recently announced deals -- also mentioned (and linked) in the article. Nashville's HCA HQ should be moderately to significantly-concerned:

. . . .On Thursday, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health announced that they had signed a definitive agreement to align their systems. The new health system would include 139 hospitals, more than 159,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and other advanced practice clinicians. The combined revenue would total $28.4 billion.

On Dec. 3, CVS and Aetna proposed a $69 billion merger. That would be the year's largest and would leverage CVS's pharmacy benefits management business.

Earlier in the week, Downers Grove, Il.-based Advocate Health Care announced it would cross state lines to merge with Aurora Health Care Network in Wisconsin. That merger would create the 10th-largest not-for-profit health system in the country. . . .

These will indeed be interesting times -- but if one believes 45's rhetoric about reducing the cost of drugs, and of delivery of health care, generally, the for-profit HCAs of the world are now increasingly facing the sharp tip, of that spear -- and it will increasingly be wielded by those non-profit, or not-for-profit providers (albeit perhaps unintentionally), as they offer much the same service, but at break-even pricing. . . . Fascinating, and. . . g'night!


116 Years Ago, Tonight -- The First Nobel Prizes Were Awarded, In Sweden...

The Nobel Prizes are once again being awarded at a ceremony in Sweden. . . . [My personal favorite of this year's batch is going to Kip Thorne, and two others -- for physically detecting Einsteinian gravity waves, via monster facilities Dr. Thorne conceived of in 1977, and others built in the ensuing dacades -- in Louisiana, and Washington State.]

But this early snowy Sunday dawn, I write to remind us of the very first Nobel. It was awarded 116 years ago, tonight -- to Emil Adolph Von Behring (though other contemporaries also showed much of the same work), for essentially inventing the entire field of serum vaccination, of humans as a disease prevention protocol. He showed that the concept worked for diptheria. . . and one of his godsons was studying with Madame Marie Curie at the time. Here's a bit, from the Nobel website:

. . . .In 1900, Emil von Behring introduced serum from immune horses into human hosts as a method to cure and prevent diphtheria. . . .

Emil von Behring and other researchers showed that by means of blood plasma, or serum, antibodies could be transferred from one person or animal to another person, who also then became immune. . . .

Putting aside the later appropriation (long after his death) of his legacy -- by the Nazis in 1940, it is only right to remark that his life's works saved hundreds of millions of human lives. Onward, as ever -- with a sweet little one now snoozing peacefully, at my side. . . . soon it will be time for oatmeal, orange juice and apple-sauce. And lots of books. letters and blocks -- smile. Maybe even some finger painting. . . . inspire a discovering mind. . . right?


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Next Mandamus Stop, At Supremes -- On Dreamers -- Is Wednesday.

Once again, this is no finding on any merits, related to the Dreamers' challenge case, out of California. The Supremes' brief order merely means we move forward in that court. It is reasonably likely that 45 himself will ultimately moot this dispute in its entirety, by not taking the threatened action -- for purely political reasons. And I sense at least some on the high court have suspected as much.

We now await the filing of the Dreamers' lawyers, come Wednesday evening. Please read Justice Breyer's dissent.

I think, in the end, his view will prevail. We are only at the curtain of Act I, in a three act play, before the Supremes, on DACA. Below are (to my eye) the most salient bits:

. . . .Indeed, judicial review cannot function if the agency is permitted to decide unilaterally what documents it submits to the reviewing court as the administrative record. Effective review depends upon the administrative record containing all relevant materials presented to the agency, including not only materials supportive of the government’s decision but also materials contrary to the government’s decision. See Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assn. of United States, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43–44 (1983).

Otherwise, the reviewing court cannot engage in the “thorough, probing, in-depth review” that the APA requires. Overton Park, 401 U.S., at 415–416. A court deprived of a full administrative record could not consider, for example, whether the decision was based on the consideration of irrelevant factors, id., at 411–412; whether it considered the relevant factors, id., at 416; whether the decision was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. . . ."

I do not see how we can restrain by mandamus an order that the Government merely fears that the District Court might enter in the future. . . .

And here is where things stand -- in the trial court in the Northern District of California. So onward, to Wednesday, at 4 PM EST. And so it goes -- with a sweet baby sleepover, in a few hours, now. . . adios!


Friday, December 8, 2017

[U] In An Hour: Oral Argument On Muslim Ban 3.0...

UPDATE: Mr. Trump's lawyer is being buried alive by the Fourth Circuit -- as he was in the Ninth, two days ago. He is 55 minutes into his duly alotted 30 minute grilling. Stick a fork in him — he’s done. Smile. End, update.

You may listen in here, starting at 9 AM EST -- courtesy of the en banc panel of the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

And here is that lineup:

. . . .Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, Judge William B. Traxler, Jr., Judge Robert B. King, Judge Dennis W. Shedd, Judge G. Steven Agee, Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, Judge James A. Wynn, Jr, Judge Albert Diaz, Judge Henry F. Floyd, Judge Stephanie D. Thacker and Judge Pamela A. Harris. . . .

Busy Friday morning -- clear and cold -- ahead. To be certain, I'll be listening for. . . the ping. Two pings, actually -- both the Fourth, and the Ninth Circuits will shortly rule Mr. Trump out of bounds, once again. Then it is on to the Supremes. Onward. Ever onward.


50 More North Carolina Merck Controllers Unit Employees Hear They Will To Lose Jobs -- In December

This is never easy. [H/T -- Anon., in comments, yesterday. . . .] And this is in addition to the 1,800 US salespeople who learned in later 2016 -- that their jobs would end just a month from now -- in January 2018.

But December is an especially tough time to learn that the holidays will need to be lean, for the foreseeable future. We might talk here about better, more rational incentives than the abomination of these proposed tax packages -- to discourage off-shoring -- to Ireland, and elsewhere, but the truth is (like GE's 12,000 employee layoff announcement in its power unit, earlier this week). . . there is not a whole lot that can (reasonably, and swiftly) be done about it, with a paralyzed (but nominally single-party controlled) Congress, and an utterly clueless President (and therein lies the biggest obstacle).

Here is the local report, on Kenilworth's subsidiary in North Carolina:

. . . .A subsidiary of Merck & Co. Inc. plans to lay off 50 employees and shutter its south Charlotte facility.

The dismissals will happen at Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.’s Charlotte Service Center between mid-February and June 2018 as it discontinues its global controllers unit at 8050 Microsoft Way in Charlotte.

Those to be laid off include eight employees of the human resources unit, which is also housed in the Charlotte Service Center. An undisclosed number of employees remaining in the human resources unit will be transferred to another Charlotte Merck facility. The location of that second facility also wasn’t disclosed. . . .

“The planned actions are expected to be permanent,” Lee writes in the Dec. 5 letter to the N.C. Department of Commerce. Lee notes that the notice was written as required by [WARN,] the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. . . .

This is truly unfortunate news, for a Friday. My sincere and
empathetic thoughts and meditations are with the affected families. Even so, onward. . . still -- as a final oral argument looms (this time in the Fourth Circuit) before the heading to the Supremes -- on Muslim Ban 3.0 this morning.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bitcoin Bubble -- And Marty Shkreli -- On My Mind...

Hmmm. . . My daily train rides are rarely quite this "interesting". . . but today's was. I mentioned this in comments on another property I curate, where we were discussing the crazy Bitcoin bubble.

It will soon burst. But Bitcoin (just as is true with the accomplices in the below video), and Marty both rely, and relied, on willing shills. Inside helpers, that are made to look like independent "outsiders" assessing value.

So do keep your Benjamins in your pockets, on the trains, this Christmas:

The above actually happened on my train ride in this very morning. Crazy world -- sleep well, one and all. . . .


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Ninth Circuit Just Promised A Very Fast Decision -- On Muslim Ban 3.0

The panel specifically mentioned the Supremes' admonition -- for a speedy opinion.

There is almost no doubt in my mind, having carefully listened to the arguments, that the Ninth Circuit will hold that President Trump has violated the INA's non-discrimination scheme, as to nationality, in his attempt at Ban No. 3.

So it is on to the Supremes -- with a stop in the Fourth Circuit, this Friday, where I expect to hear much the same, as I heard in the Ninth, just now. No images, tonight. Just facts. This Ban No. 3, in fact, violates the law. Out.


Kenilworth's UK Arm Partners With Wayra UK -- But Real Story (Beneath The Story) Is... Name Spat?

So. . . it is laudable that MSD in the UK is partnering with Wayra UK -- to provide incubator funding to two lucky winners -- in digital healthcare/IT.

But I mention it primarily because I think this "placed" story appeared today across the pond, as a retort, of sorts to the GERMAN Merck putting out a presser (which was naturally picked up by US outlets) on Monday, in which German Merck used the full "Merck" name, and simply ran a by-line saying "not intended for US and Canadian audiences". Cheeky.

This marks an escalation in the battle over the name. As we all by now remember, US Merck has the exclusive right to the full Merck name in the US and Canada. The German entity has it in the rest of the world. Fascinating. In any event, here is the UK presser from "our" Merck:

. . . .Merck Sharp and Dohme will once again be offering support to digital healthcare start-ups through a partnership with Wayra UK.

The pharmaceutical company is allying with the Wayra UK accelerator organisation to launch the third annual Velocity Health scheme, which aims to accelerate start-ups creating technology to address healthcare challenges facing the NHS.

This year, the partners are specifically looking for up-and-coming businesses creating digital innovations to support disease and illness prevention, with a particular focus on start-ups utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Two start-ups will be chosen to take up a ten-month accelerator programme, giving them access to funding of 68,000 pounds each, as well as a network of mentors, coaches and investors who will nurture their entrepreneurial talent and technological expertise. . . .

Entertaining. Onward -- to the Ninth Circuit arguments on Muslim Ban 3.0, at 4 PM CDT today.


Sweet "Hidden Figures" Trivia: What Is Being Calculated, Here -- And Why?

I'll come back to this in a few weeks. . .

But this matters, to a certain launch date, upcoming.

See if you can guess as to why.

And see if you can guess what it depicts. Smile. . . .


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mr. Trump's Personal Lawyer Said Something UNUSUALLY Stupid Today.

Ahem. It was reported earlier today that Robert Mueller, III has begun receiving subpoenaed bank records, from Deutsche Bank, as to Mr. Trump personally, and as to his family -- and their collective family of companies.

Perhaps in a testosterone-fueled (but colossally stupid) attempt to blunt the import of those news stories/disclosures, one of Mr. Trump's personal lawyers, a Mr. Jay Sekulow, was quoted by Reuters (later in the day) as saying that there had been no such turnover, and the bank itself had advised him of that.

Well -- Jay, the stupid -- it burns. You see, 18 USC § 1510(b) makes a bank's disclosure of such a subpoena, to someone like someone like Jay. . . a felony; and even if done without intent, it is still a one-year misdemeanor under §§ (b)(2)(B):

. . . .(b)(1) Whoever, being an officer of a financial institution, with the intent to obstruct a judicial proceeding, directly or indirectly notifies any other person about the existence or contents of a subpoena for records of that financial institution, or information that has been furnished in response to that subpoena, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(2) Whoever, being an officer of a financial institution, directly or indirectly notifies —

(A) a customer of that financial institution whose records are sought by a subpoena for records; or

(B) any other person named in that subpoena;

about the existence or contents of that subpoena or information that has been furnished in response to that subpoena, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. . . .

It is highly unlikely that Deutsche Bank is unaware of this long-standing provision of federal criminal law. It is even more unlikely that the bank would risk felony prosecution -- by talking to Mr. Sekulow -- about Mr. Mueller's subpoenas of Mr. Trump's financial records, given that 45 himself is now very-likely a target of an obstruction investigation.

Now you know. Jay is a "pants on fire" liar, in my opinion.

[And, in passing, here is the expenditure report, from Mr. Mueller, through Q3 2017.] Sleep well -- we will cover the Ninth Circuit arguments, tomorrow afternoon.


[U, X2] Listening In -- On Masterpiece Cakeshop, This Morning...

I will confess that it surprised me not to see Justice Kagan's name, as a dissenting voice -- in last night's Muslim Ban 3.0 order (lifting the trial courts' injunctions, at the SCOTUS). Time to do some research, on background (is the Court shifting, to the right?). I will spend much of the day listening in to the slightly delayed oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop, as it may be a bellwether of sorts, on the Muslim Ban 3.0 cases. And so. . . I'll be off-grid for most of the day. [Updated: Here is the 116 page PDF transcript, from today's argument.]

Just FYI -- and I do expect the Supremes will adhere to the "public accommodation" rule, from the civil rights era cases: if one holds one's business open to the public, and engages in interstate commerce (or uses jurisdictional means), one must not discriminate against one's paying customers, on any prohibited basis. But we shall see.

UPDATED: This morning -- in the Fourth Circuit -- the plaintiffs moved (in a 16-page PDF file) to have the court supplement the record, on the manifest discriminatory purpose, and bias, of the sitting POTUS, thus:

. . .On November 29, 2017, the President used his Twitter account to publish to his more than 43 million followers three videos from the account of Jayda Fransen, the Deputy Leader of Britain First, an extremist political party in the United Kingdom, the mission of which includes opposition to Islam. . . .

. . . .Each of the three videos distributed by the President depicts an act of violence or the destruction of a Christian religious symbol coupled with a caption attributing the actions depicted to a “Muslim” or “Islamist.” In at least one case, the claim is demonstrably false, and in the rest remain unverified. The first video is captioned “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!. . . .

It does not in fact depict a Muslim migrant. . . .
Is it possible that the Supremes intend to say that, but for Donald Trump's manifest and public discriminatory statements, the Ban 3.0 would have been a lawful exercise of his authority (and thus the trial courts' orders were temporarily lifted, just last night), but due to his clearly articulated (prohibited) motivations -- it must fall (when it is properly before the high court in a few months)? We shall see.

Falling silent for a while. . . .


Monday, December 4, 2017

[U] Well — The Supremes Just Made Wednesday’s Ninth Circuit Oral Argument More “Interesting”...

I’m on a train at the moment, but the Supremes have just decided to stay the trial courts’ orders on Ban 3.0.

‘Tis a brief, and opaque pair of orders — a pair that mean nothing on the merits.

But this will counsel for quick decisions in the Ninth and Fourth Circuits, on the merits — after this week’s oral arguments. The Supremes said as much, too.

. . .The application for a stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is granted, and the District Court’s October 20, 2017 order granting a preliminary injunction is stayed pending disposition of the Government’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and disposition of the Government’s petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is sought. If a writ of certiorari is sought and the Court denies the petition, this order shall terminate automatically. If the Court grants the petition for a writ of certiorari, this order shall terminate when the Court enters its judgment.

In light of its decision to consider the case on an expedited basis, we expect that the Court of Appeals will render its decision with appropriate dispatch.

Justice Ginsburg and Justice Sotomayor would deny the application. . . .
Update: The Supremes (completely separately) have also asked the US Solicitor General’s Office to weigh in on Merck’s pending Fosamax® MDL cert. petition, thus: "17-290 MERCK SHARP & DOHME CORP. V. ALBRECHT, DORIS, ET AL. The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition. . . ." That’s actually bigger news than the above. It means Merck may be on the road to overturning the order reinstating these cases at the Court of Appeals. Busy day in chambers, it seems!

I’ll have more — when I’m off the trains. . . . Smile.


On A Monday Morning -- Thinking Of "Lost Einsteins": Why Math (And Income) Matters, So So Much.

The morning's NYT editorial here is a very worthy read. Its object lesson is about the accelerating of net-worth disparity -- and income-inequality effects -- in the proposed tax packages. I still doubt anything will be signed into law -- but even if there is no tax measure (for 45 to ultimately sign), we should all be very concerned about the continuing and accelerating income- and net-worth inequality -- in America.

Our greatness -- as a leader in the world -- relies upon our ability to be first in the sciences, to a very large degree. And we are choosing (via 45). . . to relinquish that lead. Here's a bit of the opinion piece I mentioned -- do go read it all.

. . . .Much of human progress depends on innovation. It depends on people coming up with a breakthrough idea to improve life. Think about penicillin or cancer treatments, electricity or the silicon chip.

For this reason, societies have a big interest in making sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to become scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. It’s not only a matter of fairness. Denying opportunities to talented people can end up hurting everyone. . . .

[The latest Stanford research] looks at who becomes an inventor — and who doesn’t. The results are disturbing. They have left me stewing over how many breakthrough innovations we have missed because of extreme inequality. The findings also make me even more frustrated by new tax legislation that will worsen inequality. This Congress is solving economic problems that don’t exist and aggravating those that do. . . .

Not surprisingly, children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.

This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families. . . .

Let that sink in: there are generations of "lost Ramanujans" (see image at right) out there: picking your fruit -- waiting your tables (and like Einstein, himself) working at the Post Office. . . because they lack access to the capital needed to prepare and file a patent application, and start a company. To be sure, the problem is more complex than just throwing money at very bright math students -- yes, there are many layers to this onion. But that layer stops (or Trumps, if you will) all others.

I know my readers realize -- as a life science innovation matter -- when we adopt (or grudgingly accept) policies that favor only the very richest, without any reasonable doubt, we are consigning entire generations of potential future Einsteins and Ramanujans to work that is sub-optimal for their estimable gifts. And we as a society will lose our place as the innovator to the world, in the hard sciences, as a plain result of this choice. And it is a choice.

Doubly so, where (as here, at this point in history) our sitting president would exclude the importation of entire generations of the best mathematicians, as well. We should be alarmed. And we should act -- to blunt his agenda.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Unfired -- At Negative 280 Degrees -- For Longer Than Many Of You Have Been... Alive.

At about 140 times further away from us than we here on Earth are, from the sun, the light (and thus radio) pulses take some 19 hours -- to make it out to this graceful golden/copper-clad sprinter -- one that left here while the Jackson Five still featured young Michael, and performed as a group on Soul Train, and American Bandstand. . . . smile.

The pulses took that long to traverse the almost 13 billion miles that gossamer, long legged lil' Voyager from her original point of departure (one long college road trip, that) -- all while now sailing at a sprinters' pace, over 110,000 miles an hour, through interstellar space -- completely outside our solar system. So the command call and answer sequence alone. . . took almost two full days. But the back-up thrusters fired right up, and will now be employed to eventually re-orient Voyager so that it may continue to send communications back to Earth.

Those thrusters were last fired in early 1980. Yes -- that's thirty seven years ago. For a bit of perspective here -- I don't imagine your car would start, after thirty seven years sitting idle, in a freezer, at negative 280 degrees Fahrenheit.

But this firing is a testament to the "can do" ethos of the NASA teams (welded to a rock-solid understanding of electrical and chemical engineering, by select team members) of the 1960s, '70s. . . and beyond.

And as if that feat weren't enough, the instruction-sets, to refire the back-up thrusters were all written in "Assembler" -- a computer code very few still speak. So it was that the commands were spoken in a nearly dead language, retaught to youngsters (relatively speaking), by space scientists now past retirement age -- to continue Voyager's ability to phone home. At least through 2020, now, we believe.

You may read more about it all, here -- from the NASA website.

I just thought this would be better (more cheerful) Sunday fare, than the patently awful -- but sorely needed -- updating of the investigations of a sitting President, today. Enjoy your sunshine, all day -- as will I -- as it takes barely seven minutes to reach you, here 93 million miles from our sun. Smile.

[Oh -- and before I forget -- do go read the series: "Ten Years of Empty Wheel" posts. You will be glad you did. . . out.]