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Medical device tax is probably here to stay

The guess is Congressman Erik Paulsen didn’t sleep all weekend. Jim Spencer of the Strib says: “The medical device industry says its fight to kill a new tax on its products is not over, but public policy experts say chances of winning an outright repeal have all but disappeared. Hundreds of companies in Minnesota's medical technology sector became responsible for paying the tax on sales of certain devices Jan. 1 after efforts to delay it as part of the federal fiscal cliff deal failed. First deposits of the 2.3 percent levy are due on Jan. 29. ‘The odds are close to zero’ that the industry can get rid of the tax completely now that it is in place, predicted Don Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. … Implementation of the tax marks a setback for Minnesota's congressional delegation. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen sponsored a bill to kill the tax; it passed the House but never came up in the Senate. Paulsen, who voted against the fiscal cliff deal partly because it did not postpone the device tax, was unavailable for comment.”

And, fact is, it isn’t over yet … . Last week I bemoaned the passing of the Trevor Cook Ponzi scheme story. I was premature. Dan Browning of the Strib says: “The strange case of Patrick Kiley, a Christian radio host-turned-convicted swindler, heads back to Minneapolis federal court this week with his third attorney and the potential for even more courtroom drama.
It's anyone's guess what will take place at Friday's hearing. Kiley was supposed to be sentenced Jan. 3 along with three other men convicted in the state's second-largest Ponzi scheme. But when it came time to hear the penalty, the 74-year-old huckster forced a surprise postponement by accusing his longtime friend and attorney of mishandling his defense. This is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of a worldwide currency investment scam based in the Twin Cities that parted more than 700 investors, mostly retirees, from about $194 million in savings. The case has involved thousands of financial documents, allegations of boozy sex parties at a Minneapolis mansion and an offer by one of Kiley's co-conspirators to write a $19 million check to the court in exchange for a lighter sentence.”

I guess if we’re going to get serious about recycling … Bob Shaw of the PiPress writes: "Every time someone flushes a toilet in the Twin Cities, chances are the contents will end up on a farmer's field. In that way, the sewage system operated by the Metropolitan Council performs the ultimate in green alchemy -- transforming poop to payola. ‘I don't use the word 'waste.' Nothing is a waste,’ said Harry Dessner, a southeastern Minnesota farmer who sells the human-based fertilizer. ‘We want to reuse and renew.’ A new version of the fertilizer, called MinneGrow 5-4-0, just ended its first season of production at a plant in Shakopee. In Dakota County, a similar product — a kind of processed human manure — is growing more popular.”

Need more info on “white nose syndrome”? In the Alexandria Echo Press: “Editor's note: The following is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's ‘Question of the Week’.
Q: White-nose syndrome has decimated many bat populations in the eastern United States. Is it having an impact on Minnesota’s bats?
A: White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease that was first observed in New York during the winter of 2006-2007. It has since spread across parts of the U.S. and Canada, killing nearly 7 million bats. The disease is often characterized by white fungal growth on the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats and is associated with abnormal behavior, such as flying outside hibernacula during the winter. This causes the bats to use up their stored fat reserves, and as a result they often freeze or starve to death. Minnesota DNR staff biologists conducted surveys during winter 2012 for White-nose syndrome and the disease was not detected. Surveillance will continue this winter.”

What? No rampant voter fraud? Via the Brainerd Dispatch, the Better Business Bureau’s Top Scams of 2012. A sample:
“■ A text scam in January which resulted in a $10 charge — per text — on the cellphone bills of people who received the unsolicited messages, regardless of whether or not they opened or responded to these messages.…
■ Power4Home Pro. A company which claims a Minnesota address (however it’s a UPS Store) and also claims on its website it can teach people how to 'slash their power bill or eliminate it completely.' The company has an F-rating with the BBB due to unanswered complaints and a pattern of complaints alleging incomplete orders or non-shipment of training materials.”

Very interesting post by MPR’s Paul Huttner on the latest federal study on climate change: “A new Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment Report from the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, or NCADAC, released Friday projects that at current greenhouse gas emissions rates... Minnesota and the Midwest will warm an additional 5-degrees F by 2050. Lake Superior waters are projected to see a 7-degree F increase by 2050. … Bottom line?
This magnitude of warming will likely cause some dramatic... and potentially alarming changes in our Minnesota Landscape. Our forests will shift north. Pine forests may disappear, and transition to hardwood forests in significant sections of northern Minnesota.
Prairies will also overtake areas that are now forested ... possibly even the parts of Twin Cities metro.
Increases in the frequency of extreme rainfall events will create more events like the multiple ‘500 to 1,000 year ‘flood events seen in Duluth and southern Minnesota in the past 9 years.

Polaris’ re-launch of the Indian motorcycle gets attention from Dee DePass of the Strib: “This past weekend, Polaris Industries introduced the 2013 "Indian Chief Vintage Final Edition" at the International Motorcycle Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The limited edition bike is the last one to be based on designs from the previous owners in Kings Mountain, N.C., and only 25 will be made. But come fall, Medina-based Polaris — which bought the 112-year-old company in 2011 — will unleash hundreds of its closely guarded, fully redesigned 2014 Indian. By year end, the new generation bike will roar out of the factory in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and onto showroom floors at new dealerships set up across North America.”

A PiPress team of Andy Greder, Sarah Horner and Will Aschenmacher tells the story of an Army psychologist’s suicide: “Peter Linnerooth was an affable, punctual and conscientious graduate student at Minnesota State Mankato. He later earned a doctorate degree, became an Army psychologist and was deployed to Iraq during the height of the war. When he returned to Mankato, Linnerooth was a paranoid and disorganized assistant professor. He went to Iraq to help U.S. troops deal with the damage post-traumatic stress disorder inflicts, but upon return, he also was in the clutches of PTSD, said his mentor Dan Houlihan, professor director of Minnesota State's School Psychology Doctoral Program. On Jan. 2, Linnerooth, 42, killed himself in his native Mankato.”

On the blog Mad in America, a collaboration of professionals and others concerned about psychiatric care, Dr. Carl Elliott offers a post titled “How to Get Away with Academic Misconduct at the University of Minnesota.” In it he says: “In early 2009, antipsychotic fraud was making headlines.  Eli Lilly had announced in January that it would plead guilty to charges that it had illegally marketed Zyprexa. The company agreed to pay a record-breaking $1.42 billion in penalties. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca was defending itself in federal actions over its own antipsychotic, Seroquel, in which damning internal documents showed that the company had buried and manipulated data to boost sales. In March 2009, articles in the St Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Charles Schulz, the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota and a consultant both to Lilly and AstraZeneca, was  implicated in AstraZeneca’s deception. … [U of M General Counsel Mark] Rotenberg’s review doesn’t read anything like a legitimate review. It reads like a contrived defense of Schulz, complete with evasive statements, cherry-picked facts, and technical justifications of academic misconduct.  Actually, not only does it read like a defense of Schulz; it reads like a defense of AstraZeneca, which had already agreed to pay over half a billion dollars to settle federal charges addressing these very issues. All of which raises a number of disturbing questions about officials at the University of Minnesota.  Why is the General Counsel defending the actions of a pharmaceutical company? In fact, why is the General Counsel involved in an academic matter at all?”

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Comments (7)

Climate assessment report

Each time I read a report regarding the dire consequences of "global warming" 40 years from now, I remind myself to think back to the 1970s. That is when the same type of people — if not the same people — were warning us that in 40 years the world would be facing an extreme food shortage and we would have to kill others in order to survive.That was also the same time Newsweek and Time magazines were warning us about the coming Ice Age.

Ironically, no alarmist way back then ever mentioned a major issue for the wife of the president of the United States in 40 years would be obesity.

The alarmists have got to hate those folks who have gray hair and good memories.

Good thing we're fat and happy, eh?

Because we're all fat from excess food supply, and nothing worth talking about happens in the rest of the world, right?

1. America's obesity problem is less about too much food than about empty calories. It's got little to do with the global food shortage and lots to do with the American nutrition shortage. In other words, just because we're fat, doesn't mean we're not malnourished.

2. A good portion of the world has an insecure food supply. About 6 million children die of starvation per year. About 14% of the entire global population is malnourished. About 65% of the world is one drought or civil war away from malnourishment or starvation. The US has record low reserves of corn. All in all, the coming year (probably more) is going to be hard throughout the world, with food prices remaining high, and food supplies critically low in some places.

3. Some of the effects of the supposedly averted food crisis were dampened with larger-than-forecasted yield gains due to the introduction of directed breeding programs and transgenic plants as molecular techniques advanced and plant and animal genomes were sequenced. However unpopular, these advances have resulted in larger crop yields even as available arable land decreased. As genetically modified organisms fall out of favor in net export countries, so will the yield gain be lost unless we can find a way to regain the yield in a more accepted manner.

In sum, "the same type of people" weren't wrong. You're just lucky you live in America and have an income that allows you to buy food on a regular basis.

in other words, Jeff,

So in other words, Jeff, because scientists were "wrong" once, they'll always be wrong in the future. Makes perfect sense as long as you ignore the four decades of additional climate research, increased scientific scrutiny, improved modeling, etc. I'm assuming that when you go see a physician, you sit patiently while he/she bleeds you to rid your body of its "poisonous matter" and return balance to your four humors.

Similarly, just because obesity is a problem in America doesn't mean hunger can't be an issue in the rest of the world. It is.

Strangely enough, I doubt there are any "alarmists" out there worrying about your gray hair or self-described good memory. They're probably busy doing actual science and trying to advance our knowledge.

The Youngsters Have Got to Hate Us Old Folks

Who think we know it all, have heard it all before, and don't have the slightest concern for how we're messing up the world they're going to have to try to live in.

Just because we'll conveniently be dead before the worst of whatever is going to happen occurs doesn't mean us older folks are free to sit on our backsides, collect money from our investments in the fossil fuels industry and leave it up to those who come after to deal with the effects of our pathetic laziness, irresponsibility, willful ignorance.

We need to stop being such cowards, turn off our electric security blanket (weasel news) face the truth of what we're doing to the earth's climate,...

(even though we aren't at all sure what effects we're creating, and, since this is unprecedented, likely will NOT know what we've wrought until it knocks a lot of us flat, economically if not physically).

It is impossible to know every detail of every effect we're currently creating, because earth, as a system, is far too complex for us to figure it all out, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be doing our very best to minimize those effects,...

unless, of course, we don't care in the least for the people who are coming after us.

Thank God that our own offspring are not as selfish and self-serving as some of us are, because if they were, they'd be stealing our pensions, selling off our stock portfolios, cleaning out our bank accounts and skipping the country to someplace where we'll never be able to find them when we figure out what they've done.

I still don't understand the case against the medical device tax

The rules on this tax were finalized two weeks ago.

" Beginning on Jan. 1, 2013, manufacturers, producers and importers are required to remit a 2.3% manufacturers excise tax levied on the sale of medical devices. There are exceptions for devices sold for further manufacture or export, and devices that are generally purchased by the public at retail for individual use."

1. It applies to foreign and domestic products, so doesn't seem to alter the playing field between foreign and domestic manufacturers significantly.

2. There is no legal bar to building it into product pricing and, since it applies to all manufacturers, producers and importers, there appears to be no significant competitive bar to doing so.

3. Yes, doing so will increase the cost for the ultimate consumer, meaning that we will pay for it in the end. Isn't that what the private sector claims regarding every tax?

Unfathomable

How does Mark Rotenberg keep his job? Off the top of my head, he completely blew the Jimmy Williams/Tubby Smith case. How this guy keeps his job is, in and of itself, worthy of investigation.

To pile on a little more

the Arab Spring uprisings were largely impelled by limited access to affordable food. Perhaps even more problematic for the US going forward, the monoculture that grew up as Monsanto's response to the food shortages of the 70s make our existing food supplies MORE vulnerable to a potato-famine-type blight, or the recent and apparently accelerating droughts and depleted or fracking-contaminated aquifers.

But that fact is that, whether you call it alarmist or pragmatic, and whether they were wise or misguided, steps were taken in the 70s, by the United Nations and others, to address some very real problems -- and the vested oil, gas and coal industries and their cronys and dupes seem determined to prevent any such action when it comes to climate change. Mores the pity. Earth worms are already investing our pine forests. Having grown up in the North Woods, I hate to think that my great niece may live to see a Minnesota without any pine trees.