The Federal Reserve is in the spotlight again this week with another interest rate hike to try and squash the inflation beast. Prices are rising just over 8% year-over-year, while wages are rising at a 5% annual rate, a losing proposition for workers and consumers. The Fed has been raising interest rates this year to slow spending. These rate hikes have resulted in higher mortgage rates, but general consumer spending remains solid and that’s a problem. The 10 Year Treasury Bond now yields 4%, the cost of financing the federal debt is rising. The cost of small business loans has tracked that rate for 48 years. Historically low now due to the 0% rate policy which is being abandoned, owners paid an average of 19% for their short-term loans in the early 1980s. Now the rates are 4%-5%, but rising as the Fed raises its rate. So far, the percent of owners complaining that they didn’t get all the credit they wanted and the percent reporting credit as their top business problem are historically low. But that is likely to change as rates rise and the Fed stops buying Treasury bonds.
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Saturday, September 24, 2022
Nearly 3,000 people were murdered on 9/11 by terrorists who entered the United States. Immediately, our government took action to prevent future attacks and protect Americans. We tightened security. We put checkpoints in our airports – and we began special screening procedures for people entering America from overseas. We changed our cockpit access. We created "no fly" lists. We didn’t just sit there and hope that the threat would go away.
After COVID-19 surfaced in January 2020, it was quickly apparent that our nation was again under attack, very much like that sunny Tuesday morning in September 2001. Except that this time the culprit was a virus from abroad. To respond, our government – and governments around the world – took similar decisive action to slow the spread. The United States and other nations temporarily closed their borders and restricted international travel until we could fully identify the problem and get this enemy under control. When travel reopened, we created new checks and tests to try to prevent infections from overwhelming our health care systems, until we had treatment options and a less lethal form of the coronavirus.
Yet when it comes to a third enemy coming from abroad, one that killed more than 71,000 Americans last year – many of them young people – our government is relying on outdated tactics and old ideas.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A lethal dose may be as small as 2 milligrams.
When used illicitly, it can kill on the first use. The raw ingredients for illegal fentanyl come from China and are then sent to Mexico, where they are often pressed into pills – including what appear to be legitimate prescriptions like Xanax and valium or prescription pain medication. They could also be made into a powder, or combined with other illegal drugs to lower the cost and create a bigger “high” – a grisly imitation of putting fillers into foods to cut costs.
In one weekend, Sept. 17-18, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Nogales, Arizona, confiscated about 400,000 fentanyl pills arriving from Mexico.
Legitimate fentanyl is used in medical settings, but illicit fentanyl is different. We politely label fentanyl deaths “overdoses,” but a truer term would be “poisonings” – or, given the explosive rise in deaths over the past few years, “murders.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, law enforcement seized nearly 10 million fentanyl-laced pills last year, an astronomical rise from the fewer than 300,000 pills seized in 2018.
And what is our federal response to this deadly killer coming into our country?
The Biden administration is asking Congress for $42.5 billion for drug control programs – $3.2 billion more than this year. But when it comes to fentanyl, drug control – which is predominantly a combination of prevention and rehab strategies – is too late.
Fentanyl poisoning is often a one-time mistake. A teenager ingesting a fentanyl-laced pill does not simply become an addict needing rehab. Too often, tragically, all we can offer their family is a funeral home.
Last January, a 16-year-old high school sophomore and junior varsity basketball player in Bethesda, Maryland, died in a bathroom in his home after taking what turned out to be a counterfeit Percocet pill, laced with fentanyl. The pills were sold to him by a 23-year-old, according to Montgomery County police.
What about interdiction? The administration did set aside $275 million to disrupt drug trafficking across the nation through law enforcement programs. But by that time, fentanyl is already inside the USA.
It’s past time for all of us, Washington included, to uncover our eyes and see the situation for what it is: an international attack on our people. We are sacrificing more of our people in one year to fentanyl poisoning than the valiant Americans we lost in the Vietnam War.
We must commit ourselves to fighting back: Let’s get tough with China’s manufacturing and exporting of fentanyl raw materials. Let’s use trade and financial restrictions to get Mexico to clean up its cartels, and let’s stop the fentanyl from coming over the border. Let’s wake up and fight this crisis head-on.
Greta Van Susteren anchors "The Record" on Newsmax. She is also a former television news anchor for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
With the help of a consulting firm, the Providence hospital system trained staff to wring money out of patients, even those eligible for free care.
In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line. ... The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up. ... Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.
In training materials obtained by The Times, members of the hospital staff were instructed how to approach patients and pressure them to pay. ... “Ask every patient, every time,” the materials said. Instead of using “weak” phrases — like “Would you mind paying?” — employees were told to ask how patients wanted to pay. Soliciting money “is part of your role. It’s not an option.” ... If patients did not pay, Providence sent debt collectors to pursue them.
More than half the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals are nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate. ... But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.
To understand the shift, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of court records, internal hospital financial records and memos, tax filings, and complaints filed with regulators, and interviewed dozens of patients, lawyers, current and former hospital executives, doctors, nurses and consultants. ... The Times found that the consequences have been stark. Many nonprofit hospitals were ill equipped for a flood of critically sick Covid-19 patients because they had been operating with skeleton staffs in an effort to cut costs and boost profits. Others lacked intensive care units and other resources to weather a pandemic because the nonprofit chains that owned them had focused on investments in rich communities at the expense of poorer ones. ... And, as Providence illustrates, some hospital systems have not only reduced their emphasis on providing free care to the poor but also developed elaborate systems to convert needy patients into sources of revenue. The result, in the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed, The Times found.
A conservative activist group has filed a complaint with the IRS asking the agency to deny personal tax exemptions for Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan arising from the couple’s funding of grant programs to help municipalities pay for the 2020 general election.
Poland has begun a program of distributing iodine tablets to emergency workers and first responders, starting with regional fire departments - who can in turn hand them out to the general population - in the event of a possible radioactive disaster at Europe's largest nuclear power plant.
On the web, inflation isn’t an issue for buyers. Instead, it’s one for the businesses that promote there, with a repute for providing bargains.
Friday, September 23, 2022
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine could let doctors ramp up production of blood-clotting platelets on demand, a timely finding following the Red Cross' declaration earlier this year of a national blood "crisis." The group labeled it the worst blood and platelet shortage in more than a decade and said it posed a "concerning risk to patient care."
Only 48% of people age 50 to 80 who take blood pressure medications or have a health condition that's affected by hypertension regularly check their blood pressure at home or other places, a new study finds.
A new study by researchers at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine found that lower initial cortisol levels may serve as a predictor for retention in treatment programs for substance use disorder.
When you're cooking or cleaning inside your home, what chemicals are you breathing, and are they potentially harmful? Colorado State University chemists have given us a solid start on the answer.
Taking a dip in cold water may cut 'bad' body fat in men and reduce the risk of disorders such as diabetes, suggests a major scientific review published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Circumpolar Health.
Updated COVID-19 boosters have gone into 4.4 million arms in the United States since a new revaccination campaign began three weeks ago, government data shows, a slower pace for the shots targeting the Omicron variant of the coronavirus than the rollout of the first boosters last year.
The government said earlier this week it has shipped 25 million of the Omicron-tailored shots, mostly from Pfizer /BioNTech.
Production of the similarly retooled Moderna shots has been slower due to what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration flagged as quality control issues at a contract manufacturing site run by Catalent Inc.
The FDA on Tuesday said it had cleared some vaccine from that plant.
Last year, when the United States initially authorized COVID boosters just for older and immunocompromised people, nearly 10 million received their third shot in the first three weeks.
The latest data, released late on Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), did show increased interest in the Omicron shots over demand for the older boosters during the previous three weeks.
In those three weeks, about 930,000 people received booster shots of the old vaccines available to those aged 50 and older or at risk for severe disease, according to CDC data.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said he expects demand for the updated shots to be low, "as has been the case with boosters from the very beginning."
"I think that stems from kind of the poor messaging in the way this booster campaign and prior booster campaigns have been managed, as political issues rather than focusing on where boosters are going to beneficial," he said.
That focus should be on high-risk populations and those aged 65 and over, Adalja added.
The updated shots target the widely circulating BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants as well as the original version of the coronavirus included in all previous COVID vaccines.
Moderna had been producing new boosters aimed at the older BA.1 Omicron subvariant when the FDA asked them to change course to address the currently dominant variants for the U.S. market.