A former pharma rep explains how the industry pushes doctors to overprescribe

The pharma industry spends $2 on marketing for every $1 it spends on R&D: Shahram Ahari was a rep for Eli Lilly, so he knows how the money was spent: in a tell-all op-ed in the Washington Post, Ahari describes how he lavished spending over doctors, everything from dinners at "so many fancy Manhattan restaurants that the maitre d’s greeted me by name" to free ballgames and Broadway musical tickets to offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to top prescribers. Read the rest

Talking with the Left Field podcast about Sidewalk Labs's plan to build a surveilling "smart city" in Toronto

We've been closely following the plan by Google sister company Sidewalk Labs to build a surveilling "smart city" in Toronto; last week, I sat down with the Out of Left Field podcast (MP3) to discuss what's going on with Sidewalk Labs, how it fits into the story of Big Tech, and what the alternatives might be. Read the rest

Wealthy people are the most likely to give "spiteful gifts"

Finder reports that Americans waste $13 billion every year buying gifts that the recipients don't want. The most interesting part of the report was the section about "spiteful gifts," that is gifts that the giver knows the recipient will dislike:

Interestingly, we found that 15% of Americans — roughly 38 million people — have deliberately bought a present knowing their recipient wouldn’t like it. Men are about four times more likely than women to intentionally gift a bad present, with 25% of men surveyed saying they’d done it in the past, versus about 6% of women.

Of the generations, Gen Xers are most likely to knowingly give bad gifts, with 22% admitting they’ve done so. That’s only slightly higher than the rate for Gen Y (18%) but 11 times higher than the rate for boomers (2%).

Those with money to burn — people earning $100,000 to $150,000 — are most likely to buy spiteful presents, with 28% saying they’d done so. That’s almost three times higher than those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 (11%) and almost five times higher than those earning between $25,000 and $50,000 (6%).

Read the rest

Across America, DMVs make millions selling your license data to private eyes -- and randos

It's not just Florida: Motherboard sent public records requests to DMVs across America and found that they were routinely selling off access to drivers' license databases to some of the sweatiest, sketchiest companies and individuals, on the cheap, and doing so much of it that they're making millions (California's DMV makes $50m/year selling off driver's license data). Read the rest

USPTO denies "vegan butcher" trademark to indy food shop, then gives it to Nestlé

Aubry and Kale Walch run a vegan specialty food shop, called The Herbivorous Butcher in Northeast Minneapolis. In 2017 they applied to trademark the term "Vegan Butcher" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Their application was denied, reports Business Journal. The USPTO told the Walches that the term was ineligible for a trademark because it was “merely descriptive.” But when Nestlé  later applied to trademark the same term, the USPTO granted it to them.

The Walches are challenging the decision. According to Business Journal, they "say they're trying to either get to keep using the phrase or to keep it in the public domain so that any business can use it. The case is entering the discovery phase and will go before an administrative panel next."

Image: The Herbivorous Butcher website Read the rest

A poor, Trump-voting Florida town opened a government grocery store to end its food desert, but it's "not socialism"

68% of the 1600 residents of of Baldwin, Florida -- where the median income is $44k/year -- voted for Trump in 2016, and in the years since, they've lost their only grocery store, which has been a particular hardship for the large number of seniors who live there, many of whom are no longer able to drive. Read the rest

Civil society groups protest the sale of .ORG to a private equity fund and a collection of Republican billionaires

Earlier this month, management of the .org top-level domain underwent a radical shift: first, ICANN dropped price-caps on .org domains, and then the Internet Societ (ISOC) flogged the registry off to Ethos Capital, a private equity fund, and a consortium of three families of Republican billionaires: the Perots, the Romneys, and the Johnsons. Read the rest

Public treated to obfuscation at Waterfront Toronto meeting on negotiations with Google sister company over surveillance district

[Rosemary Frei is an independent journalist who broke the story that Google's Sidewalk Labs had quietly sewn up the rights to turn most of Toronto's lakeshore into a surveilling "smart city" (Google/Sidewalk lied about this at first, were cornered, admitted it, and rolled back the plan). Now she's back with a report on last night's "Public Update on Quayside" meeting, where any hope anyone nursed that Google would be pursuing humane urbanism, rather than surveillance and extraction, were firmly dashed. -Cory]

At Waterfront Toronto’s first meeting for the public after its board of directors voted Oct. 31 to continue negotiating with Sidewalk Labs on the parameters of a 12-acre surveillance district, officials from the public agency made it clear they’re already wedded to the Google sister company.

The hundreds of attendees of last night’s ‘Public Update on Quayside’ were each given a package that included a copy of an Oct. 29 letter from Waterfront Toronto President and CEO George Zegarac to Sidewalk Labs’s Chief Development Officer Josh Sirefman. Zegarac lays out in the letter how the two bodies will work closely together -- with Waterfront Toronto taking the lead in on such things as negotiations with all three levels of government – to "develop an ‘Innovation Plan’ to advance and achieve Waterfront Toronto’s priority outcomes." Based on this newly arrived at ‘realignment of Master Innovation and Development Plan threshold issues,’ Waterfront Toronto’s final decision on whether to proceed with the plan will be taken by its board by March 31, 2020. Read the rest

Terabytes of data leaked from an oligarch-friendly offshore bank

The Distributed Denial of Secrets Twitter account has published links to terabytes of data identified as raw data from the Cayman National Bank and Trust; Phineas Fisher (previously), the public-interest hacker(s) behind the Hacking Team breach, is credited with the leak. Read the rest

Beyond the gig economy: "platform co-ops" that run their own apps

I've written about Up & Go before: that's the worker-owned co-op of home cleaners in New York City that has built a version of the on-demand economy that keeps the convenience but jettisons the predatory capitalists, and as a result, is able to pay its workers $25/hour. Read the rest

Trump's signature tax break for poor people went to subsidize a superyacht marina in Florida

Trump's 2017 #taxscam transferred more than a trillion dollars to the richest people in America, but when Trump talks about it, he likes to tout the bill's "opportunity zone" provisions that provided massive tax breaks to investors who put money into places that would supposedly create jobs and housing for poor Americans. Read the rest

American health care's life-destroying "surprise bills" are the fault of local, private-equity monopolies

Surprise billing -- when your urgent or emergency medical care results in massive bills that your insurer won't cover -- are a life-destroying phenomenon for an increasing number of Americans, who not only can't shop around for an emergency room from the back of an ambulance, but who also have no way to learn in advance whether their visit will generate five- or even six-figure bills. Read the rest

The poorest half of Americans have nothing left, so now the 1%'s growth comes from the upper middle class

The Fed's latest figures on American household wealth paint a rosy picture -- in the aggregate. US households now own a record-breaking $107T worth of assets! Read the rest

Before you ask your Chinese factory for a discount, make sure you won't be kidnapped and/or have your product cloned

A post called "The Right Way to Reduce Your China Product Costs" on China Law Blog (previously) sounds like pretty anodyne stuff, but it turns out to be a catalog of several technothrillers' worth of ultra-weird, real-world skullduggery and chicanery from the world of late-stage capitalism and trade war. Read the rest

T-Mobile: because we have a (stupid) trademark on one magenta shade, no one can use pink in their logos

T-Mobile has a trademark on RAL 4010, a shade of magenta. Trademarks on colors (see also: UPS, John Deere) are a dangerous trend, robbing us of the spectrum one shade at a time, but T-Mobile's views on its trademark made this bad situation much worse. Read the rest

The Porch of Doom: a Halloween haunt that sends visitors to a billionaires' Mars where they are expected to do all the dirty work

Pete Tridish and pals made a hell of a Hallowe'en haunt this year: on their "porch of doom," trick-or-treaters were sent to a Mars colonized by billionaires where they were expected to mine Mars rocks and put them in Amazon Mars boxes at a sweatshop Amazon Mars warehouse; Pete notes that the haunt was partly inspired by my 2011 young adult novella Martian Chronicles, which was recently podcast in two parts by the excellent Escape Pod podcast! Read the rest

The inspiring story of how Cloudflare defeated a patent troll and broke the patent-trolling business-model

In 2016, Cloudflare was targeted by a notorious patent troll called Blackbird Technologies; rather than capitulate, the company set up a fund called "Project Jengo" to pay bounties to researchers who documented prior art that could be used to invalidate the patent in question -- and all of Blackbird's patents, and began to file to have additional patents invalidated based on that crowdsourced research. Read the rest

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