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Submission + - Unintended Consequences of the Prometheus Decision (

An anonymous reader writes: In the case Mayo v. Prometheus recently covered on Slashdot, the Supreme Court ruled that patents 'based on laws of nature' are not valid. In a scathing 5 part series San Francisco IP Lawyer Robert R. Sachs attacks both the reasoning and the prose of the Supreme Court opinion. As evidence of the decision's potency, several patents have already been invalidated by the Prometheus decision in the month since it came out. For my personal take, I am a graduate student doing biomedical research. After finding a new compound allowing early diagnosis of a disease where the only diagnostic test is symptomatic, I was advised by our legal counsel not to attempt patenting the compound until further court rulings clarify Prometheus. As a result, my compound may never see publication. At the very least my publication will be delayed significantly. It seems that if Prometheus is applied broadly, the only way to profit off of these sort of discoveries will be through trade secrets: a major step backwards for scientific progress.

Submission + - Why Medical Bills Are a Mystery

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Regardless of what decision the Supreme Court reaches on the legality of the Affordable Care Act, Robert Kaplan and Michael Porter write in the NY Times that solutions to our health care problems are failing because of a fundamental and largely unrecognized problem: We don’t know what it costs to deliver health care to individual patients, much less how those costs compare to the outcomes achieved. Providers themselves do not measure their costs correctly. They assign costs to patients based on what they charge, not on the actual costs of the resources, like personnel and equipment, used to care for the patient. The result is that attempts to cut costs fail, and total health care costs just keep rising. In a pilot program to address the problem, doctors asked their staffs to help them map out each step in a patient’s treatment, from the moment they’re checked in at the door of the hospital to their final follow-up visit. Mapping the process allowed the doctors to identify inefficiencies, like the amount of time nurses spent filling out paperwork instead of tending to patients. After mapping the process, one surgeon repairing cleft palates at Children’s Hospital Boston discovered that 40 percent of the total cost of an 18-month-care process was due to the time a child spent in the intensive care unit before and after surgery and that by using a far less intensively staffed and equipped observation room, the hospital could achieve equivalent quality and safety at much lower costs. Kaplan and Porter say there are hundreds of opportunities like this one in every hospital to use time, equipment and facilities more intelligently using Time-Driven Activity-Based Accounting (PDF) but these opportunities have been obscured by existing costing systems that have little connection to the processes actually performed. "Understanding costs could be the single most powerful lever to transform the value of health care. This would give payers and providers the data they need to improve patient care, and to stop arbitrary cuts and counterproductive cost shifting.""

Submission + - Congressional Democrats Propose Amending the Const ( 4

hessian writes: "UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh runs down the free speech-crushing consequences of HJR 90, a proposed constitutional amendment backed by House Democrats including Reps. Theodore Deutch (Fla.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), and Alcee Hastings (Fla.), which would forbid “for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes” from “making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.” As Volokh explains, this would be bad news indeed at places like the New York Times Company:

        Nearly all newspapers, TV stations, cable networks, and rations (except of course for nonprofits such as NPR) are organized as corporations or other entities established for business purposes. Under section 3, they “shall be prohibited” from making expenditures “in any election of any candidate ... or the vote upon any ballot measure.” Since to write or print or broadcast anything, newspapers, networks, and broadcasters must spend money, this would ban — not just authorize Congress to ban, but itself ban — editorials supporting or opposing a candidate or a ballot measure."


Submission + - The $443 Million Smallpox Vaccine that Nobody Need 2

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Once feared for its grotesque pustules and 30% death rate, smallpox was eradicated worldwide as of 1978 and is known to exist only in the locked freezers of a Russian scientific institute and the US government. There is no credible evidence that any other country or a terrorist group possesses smallpox, but if there were an attack, the government could draw on $1 billion worth of smallpox vaccine it already owns to inoculate the entire US population and quickly treat people exposed to the virus. The vaccine, which costs the government $3 per dose, can reliably prevent death when given within four days of exposure. David Williams writes that over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work. So why did the government award a "sole-source" procurement to Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, a longtime Democratic Party donor, calling for Siga to deliver 1.7 million doses of the drug for the nation's biodefense stockpile at a price of approximately $255 per dose. "We've got a vaccine that I hope we never have to use — how much more do we need?" says epidemiologist Dr. Donald A. Henderson who led the global eradication of smallpox for the WHO. "The bottom line is, we've got a limited amount of money.""

Submission + - The End of Cheap Labor in China ( 3

hackingbear writes: The Time magazine reports, in what is supposed to be a land of unlimited cheap labor — a nation of 1.3 billion people, whose extraordinary 20-year economic rise has been built first and foremost on the backs of low-priced workers — the game has changed. In the past decade, real wages for manufacturing workers in China have grown nearly 12% per year. The hourly cost advantage, while still significant [comparing to the West], is shrinking rapidly. The changing economics of Made in China will benefit both the rich and poor world. Countries like Cambodia, Laos, India and Vietnam are picking up some of the cheapest labor manufacturing left by the Chinese. And there is already evidence of at least the beginning of a shift in manufacturing operations returning to the U.S. Perhaps we will soon stop picking at "Made in China" but instead complaining "Made in Vietnam/Cambodia", while serving the flood of Chinese tourists stocking up brand-name merchandises on US tours and Chinese students paying high tuitions to our cash-strapped universities.

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