America’s big drug makers have long tried to justify the outrageous prices they charge by hooking those prices to their need to do a lot of research and development work. Oh, wail the pharmaceutical executives to those who want to curb soaring prices, if you do that we’ll have to slash our research budgets and then there’ll be epidemics and people will die, The consumer watchdog group, Families USA, however, decided to examine the industry’s hook up close, checking to see if the high prices really are attached to R & D. Based on the drug corporations’ own annual reports, they found that the firms that market the 50 most-prescribed drugs to seniors spend twice as much on advertising, marketing, and corporate bureaucracy as they do on research and development. Moreover, the net profits of such giants as Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Labs, and Eli Lilly dwarf their expenditures for R & D. Indeed the drug industry by far reaps the highest rate of profit of any U.S. industry, with margins four times greater than the average Fortune 500 company. While the CEOs of these outfits pretend to worry about research budgets, they are personally hauling millions of dollars out of their companies. Just in stock payments–not counting their multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses–these guys are making a killing, including $130 million worth of stock compensation to Pfizer’s chief, $181 million to the honcho of Merck, and $227 million to the head of Bristol-Myers. They’re raking in these paychecks while their rip-off pricing policies force seniors across the country to choose between medicine and food.
Monsanto Douses Colombia
Here’s a proven formula for human disaster: Take one part avarice from the Monsanto corporation, add one part arrogance from federal officials, mix, spray on a small foreign country, then cover up the mess with official secrecy. This is the formula used in Vietnam, where Pentagon officials liberally doused the countryside (and people) with a monsoon of Monsanto’s toxic defoliant, Agent Orange. At the time, corporate and government officials both claimed that while this stuff would strip a jungle’s foliage bare, it posed no health threat to humans. They lied–as we learned after 50,000 birth defects, hundreds of thousands of cancers, and untold numbers of deaths from Agent Orange exposure.
Now, Monsanto and our government are applying their disastrous formula to Colombia, where hundreds of thousands of gallons of Monsanto’s toxic herbicide, Roundup, are being sprayed on the jungles and the people. Once again, our government claims that while this stuff will decimate a field of coca (from which cocaine is made), it poses no risk to humans. Once again, they’re lying. As reported by CorpWatch’s online news service, AlterNet, Monsanto’s own label warns that Roundup is a deadly threat to plants, pets, people, and all other living things. Plus, the Roundup sprayed in Colombia is supercharged, creating toxic exposure 100 times higher than allowed in the United States. Not to worry, say the officials, for our satellite-directed planes are so precise that only coca plants get sprayed. Yet the people who live there testify that their villages, water supplies, vegetable crops, and even school yards are routinely drenched. The official Monsanto-Government lie was embarrassingly exposed last December when Senator Paul Wellstone was taken to Colombia to witness the pinpoint accuracy of our spraying. Standing well away from the coca field, the senator was drenched in Roundup on the very first flyover.
The “Miracle” of Self Cleaning Glass
As if you don’t have enough chemicals, heavy metals, and other compounds in, on, and around your home, a British glassmaker called the Pilkington Corporation has announced that it has discovered a process for producing one of the holy grails of home-building products: Glass windows that clean themselves. How do they do this? The New York Times reports that Pilkington applies a permanent coating of a metallic compound called titanium oxide to the glass. This synthetic substance apparently causes rainwater to act differently. On regular glass, rainwater that contains dust, pollen, and other particles beads up and runs down in rivulets, leaving those dreaded streaks and spots. The titanium-treated windows, on the other hand, cause water to run down the glass in a continuous sheet, diffusing the various particles across the window.
But what if there’s no rain? No problem–the ultraviolet rays of sunlight react with the coating to break down dirt over time, also helping to clean the windows. Perfect, right? Not entirely. It seems that this “self-cleaning” is an ongoing process so, as a company official conceded to the Times, the window “never looks totally spotless.” Then there’s the cost factor–these jewels will run about $240 to more than $700 per window, which prices most of us out of the market. Also, there’s no mention of any health effects of surrounding your family with titanium oxide, or of the environmental impact of the water run-off. When it comes to technological miracles, behind every silver lining, there’s a cloud.
Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com or write [email protected]