SHORT TAKES ON CURRENT EVENTS

ABSTRACT:

CONFIRMING PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEES: The US Senate voted on 11/21 to change its rules and eliminate the use of the filibuster to block presidential nominees other than Supreme Court Justices, given that Republicans had returned to full-scale obstructionism since the deal to approve 7 nominees in July. Under the new rules, the Senate has confirmed 11 nominees and Senate Democrats are pursuing at least 10 more confirmations before the holiday recess. Roughly 70 nominees remain pending.

FINING DRUG CORPORATIONS FOR COLLUSION: The European Union has fined two giant drug corporations, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis, $22 million for colluding to delay the availability of a cheaper generic drug.

FDA REDUCING ANTIBIOTIC OVERUSE AND DRUG-RESISTANT INFECTIONS: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics in meat production. This overuse of antibiotics used for treating infections in humans is linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. 23,000 people are dying each year from such infections. The FDA is asking drug corporations to voluntarily stop labeling drugs used to treat human infections as acceptable for growth promotion in animals. The FDA is using this voluntary approach and giving the drug corporations 3 years to comply because it believes the complex regulatory process a mandatory rule would require would take many years and might not be successful.

FULL POST:

CONFIRMING PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEES

The US Senate voted on 11/21 to change its rules and eliminate the use of the filibuster to block presidential nominees other than Supreme Court Justices. Democrats in the Senate exercised this option, the so-called “nuclear option”, because after a deal in July that allowed the approval of 7 nominees for executive branch positions, Republicans had returned to full-scale obstructionism. With roughly 90 judicial vacancies and some key executive branch openings, the Democrats threatened again to change the filibuster rule and proceeded to do so when the Republicans refused to relent from their obstructionism.

Since then, the Senate has confirmed 11 nominees including the Secretary of Homeland Security, an Assistant Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Air Force, and 2 judges, despite continuing Republican use of delaying tactics. Interestingly, once the Republican blockade of the first two of these was overcome, they were confirmed by 78-16 votes.

Senate Democrats are pursuing at least 10 more confirmations before the holiday recess, including the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the head of the Internal Revenue Service. Roughly 70 nominees remain pending and some of them may have to be re-nominated and start the process all over again in the new year. (1. Alman, A., 12/16/13, “Jeh Johnson confirmed by Senate as Secretary of Homeland Security, The Huffington Post.  2. Reuters, 12/13/13, “U.S. Senate confirmation marathon approves two more Obama nominees,” Reuters) (See my post A Respite from Obstructionism on 7/25/13 at https://lippittpolicyandpolitics.org/2013/07/25/a-respite-from-obstructionism/, as well as those of 7/21/13 and 7/16/13, for more details on the July deal and obstruction of nominees’ confirmations.)

 

FINING DRUG CORPORATIONS FOR COLLUSION

The European Union has fined two giant drug corporations, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Novartis, $22 million for colluding to delay the availability of a cheaper generic drug. A patent on a J&J pain killer expired in 2005 but J&J paid Novartis to delay for 17 months production of a cheaper generic version of the drug. Both corporations were more profitable as a result. (Daily Briefing, 12/11/13, “EU fines drug firms over delay,” The Boston Globe)

FDA REDUCING ANTIBIOTIC OVERUSE AND DRUG-RESISTANT INFECTIONS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics in meat production. Many producers of cattle, hogs, and poultry give their animals antibiotics to make them grow faster. This overuse of antibiotics used for treating infections in humans is linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, which are much more difficult and expensive to treat, and can be fatal: 23,000 people are dying each year from such infections. The FDA is asking drug corporations to voluntarily stop labeling drugs used to treat human infections as acceptable for growth promotion in animals. This would make such use illegal without a prescription for use in a sick animal. The FDA is using this voluntary approach and giving the drug corporations 3 years to comply because it believes the complex regulatory process a mandatory rule would require would take many years and might not be successful. (Jalonick, M.C., 12/12/13, “FDA working to phase out some antibiotics in meat,” The Boston Globe from the Associated Press)

 

NOTE: There are so many issues and events that I think those of us trying to be well informed citizens and voters should know about that I can’t write full posts on all of them. And I’m sure you don’t have time to read full posts about them. Therefore, I’ll use this format to complement the full posts: Short Takes on current events. Please let me know if you find these valuable by commenting on them. I will provide references or links to more information for the topics, so you can pursue them in more depth if you have the interest and time.

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