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Have Militant Atheists Created a New Religion?

March 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Frans De Waal, W. W. Norton & Company



The following is an excerpt from “The Bonobo and the Atheist”,  by Frans de Waal (W.W. Norton, 2013).

One quiet Sunday morning, I stroll down the driveway of my home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, to pick up the newspaper. As I arrive at the bottom—we live on a hill—a Cadillac drives up the street and stops right before me. A big man in a suit steps out, sticking out his hand. A firm handshake follows, during which I hear him proclaim in a booming, almost happy voice, “I’m looking for lost souls!” Apart from perhaps being overly trusting, I am rather slow and had no idea what he was talking about. I turned around to look behind me, thinking that perhaps he had lost his dog, then corrected myself and mumbled something like, “I’m not very religious.”

This was of course a lie, because I am not religious at all. The man, a pastor, was taken aback, probably more by my accent than by my answer. He must have realized that converting a European to his brand of religion was going to be a challenge, so he walked back to his car, but not without handing me a business card in case I’d change my mind. A day that had begun so promisingly now left me feeling like I might go straight to hell.

I was raised Catholic. Not just a little bit Catholic, like my wife, Catherine. When she was young, many Catholics in France already barely went to church, except for the big three: baptism, marriage, and funeral. And only the middle one was by choice. By contrast, in the southern Netherlands—known as “below the rivers”—Catholicism was important during my youth. It defined us, setting us apart from the above-the-rivers Protestants. Every Sunday morning, we went to church in our best clothes, we received catechism at school, we sang, prayed, and confessed, and a vicar or bishop was present at every official occasion to dispense holy water (which we children happily imitated at home with a toilet brush). We were Catholic through and through.

But I am not anymore. In my interactions with religious and nonreligious …read more
Source: ALTERNET

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Where Does It Say the Supreme Court Has the Constitutional Power to Hike Medicine Prices to 5x Their Cost?

March 30, 2013 in Blogs

By David Dayen, Salon.com



The Supreme Court oral arguments on marriage equality deserved all the attention they received — but it’s another case heard this week that will affect even more people over the course of their lifetimes. And it could cost Americans millions in prescription drug bills.

The case falls within a sadly predictable continuum for the Roberts Court, which virtually always sides with the corporate litigant over the government or individual. This time, the arguments in FTC v. Actavis revolve around an insidious tactic common to the nation’s largest drug companies, and known as “pay for delay.” As a result of the likely ruling in this case, drug companies will be able to charge consumers as much as five times the potential cost of their products. And both government regulators and consumers will watch helplessly as pharmaceutical companies bribe generic drug makers to retain their exclusive holds on the lifesaving medicines we all inevitably require.

The first thing to know here is that U.S. pharmaceuticals get a very good deal from the federal government. For every new drug they produce, they get rewarded with long-term patents that grant them exclusive rights to market and sell the product for as much as 20 years – which guarantees them billions in profits and no competitors in the marketplace. Drug companies claim that they must be allowed to profit off of products they nurtured with expensive research and development. In reality, taxpayer-funded research from academia or the National Institutes of Health account for the vast majority of vital drugs brought to market every year, and R&D is a small fraction of the overall drug company budget. What’s more, drug companies routinely use their monopoly power to jack up pharmaceutical prices, which cost far more in the U.S. than anywhere in the world.

Congress tried to deal with this problem as far back as 1984. The Hatch-Waxman Act accelerated the FDA approval process for generic drugs, essentially copies of the brand-name products. Typically, generics sell at a much lower price – in most cases by 80-90 percent, which obviously makes them quite popular. So the introduction of a generic drug basically …read more
Source: ALTERNET