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Pieces Together

Good News For Some

“The housing crisis and credit crunch may end the American dream of property ownership for millions of people,
but for landlords seeking bargain investment properties the market is looking up. ...Building contractor Chad
Blankenbaker seeks foreclosed homes to ‘flip’ -- buying at well below market value, refitting then selling them at a hefty profit. ‘I’m shocked at how low the prices are here,’ he said. ‘There’s so much inventory that no one has to fight to buy anything’. Around the country the housing crisis represents both a business opportunity for landlords and a huge shift in the rental market.” (Yahoo News, 17 March)

Heartless Capitalism

“Genzyme, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, has long charged more than $300,000 a year
for typical patients on Cerezyme, a drug used to treat Gaucher disease, a rare, sometimes fatal, inherited disorder that can cause enlarged livers and spleens, anemia and bone deterioration.
Cerezyme, which is administered intravenously, eases their symptoms. ...The experience with Cerezyme and
other biological drugs defies conventional wisdom on drug marketing, which holds that blockbuster drugs — generating revenues of a billion dollars a year or more — are generally those that can be sold to vast numbers of people.

But Genzyme has made Cerezyme a blockbuster, with sales of $1.1 billion last year, by charging very high prices for a few thousand patients. That could bode ill for efforts to curb health care costs if, as expected, the future of medicine lies in targeting treatments to limited numbers of patients most likely to benefit from them. The company is essentially exploiting a monopoly position to charge what the market will bear to treat desperate patients with no other option.” (New York Times, 23 March)

A Free Society?

“The Stasi secret police may have died with communism but its surveillance methods are still alive at Lidl, the
German supermarket chain. George Orwell’s Big Brother, it seems, stalks the aisles between the cornflakes and the canned dog food. Detectives hired by Lidl - which has more than 7,000 stores worldwide, including 450 in Britain - have been monitoring romance at the cash till, visits to the lavatory and the money problems of shelf-stackers. Several hundred pages of surveillance have been passed on to Stern magazine, causing outrage among unions and data protection officials.” (Times, 27 March)

Food For Thought

“Five years after the United States invaded Iraq, plenty of people believe that the war was waged chiefly to secure U.S. petroleum supplies and to make Iraq safe -- and lucrative -- for the U.S. oil industry. We may not know the real motivations behind the Iraq war for years, but it remains difficult to distill oil from all the possibilities.” (Washington Post, 16 March)