Friday, April 30, 2010

Flaws of health-care overhaul grow more apparent every day

Almost daily, the ill effects of the health-care overhaul passed by Congress last month are becoming apparent. As employers and government bureaucrats analyze the law's effect on bottom lines for the private sector and for government, the alarm bells are ringing.

The tragedy is that these ill effects could have been and should have been calculated before the law was passed, not after.

In fact, many of them were prophesied before passage of the bill, but the prophets were ignored by President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. That's because their uppermost goal was not to pass the best health-care bill possible but merely to pass anything that could be called "health-care reform" and could be claimed as a political victory by a president desperate for one.

The latest analysis of the bill's likely effects comes from the Office of the Actuary in the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The report by Chief Actuary Richard S. Foster says that, far from reducing the cost of health care, the overhaul will add $311 billion to the nation's health-care costs over the first decade the law is in effect.

That's just for starters. The report also warns that the $575 billion in Medicare reductions that are supposed to help pay for the overhaul are unrealistic. If the cuts are not implemented by Congress, then hundreds of billions of dollars will be added to the national debt.

In the extremely unlikely event that Congress allows the Medicare cuts to occur, then

15 percent of hospitals and other care facilities that rely on Medicare reimbursements would become unprofitable, meaning that they might drop Medicare patients.

This would limit the availability of care for millions of seniors in the Medicare program at a time when doctors and hospitals already will be stretched thin by the addition of millions of other Americans clamoring to use the health insurance the overhaul will provide. (And to quantify the anticipated shortage of doctors, the American Academy of Family Physicians predicts a shortage of 39,000 family physicians by 2020.)

The report notes that there are many overhaul effects that simply cannot be calculated but that could have a dramatic impact on the cost of medical care.

For example, by extending Medicaid coverage to 18 million people and offering government subsidies to 16 million others to pay for health insurance, the overhaul will drive up demand for health-care services.

The report says this increase "could result in higher total expenditures or in some of this demand being unsatisfied. Alternatively, providers might tend to accept more patients who have private insurance (with relatively attractive payment rates) and fewer Medicare or Medicaid patients, exacerbating existing access problems for Medicaid enrollees."

The actuary notes that a new, long-term-care benefit called the CLASS program that was included in the overhaul will become unsustainable in 15 years, and its deficits will be added to the national debt.

Meanwhile, Monday's New York Times reports that congressional Democrats are acknowledging that companies such as AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere and Verizon were correct for making filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the large earnings hit they will take as a result of tax changes in the health-care overhaul.

Initially, Democratic leaders suspected that these companies were simply trying to undermine the new law by exaggerating its harm. U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California , chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, intended to subpoena these companies and subject them to a public lashing before Congress.

But after analysis of data substantiated the companies' SEC filings, he is now saying in effect, "Um, never mind."

The Times also reported that AT&T documentation shows that it spent $4.7 billion on medical costs for employees and retirees in 2009, an amount far higher than it would pay in penalties imposed by the health-care overhaul if the company dropped health-care coverage altogether. Those employees presumably then would seek government-subsidized health-insurance paid for by taxpayers.

Underlining the law's perverse incentive, documents provided to Congress by Caterpillar included an e-mail from a company executive saying that provisions of the overhaul could "drive many employers to just drop coverage for retirees altogether, and let the government foot the whole bill."

Of the ostensible goals of the overhaul - to expand coverage, to curb costs and to pay for the program without adding to the deficit - only the first has any chance of being achieved under this law.

And even the expansion of coverage may turn out to be an empty promise if there are too few doctors and hospitals willing to accept inadequate reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

As the weeks roll by, more and more unintended and should-have-been-anticipated consequences of this ill-conceived law will be revealed.

This should be no surprise, considering that the law was slapped together behind closed doors without proper testimony and vetting by health-care, financial and insurance experts, and is a patchwork of political and special-interest deals rammed through Congress using procedural gimmicks.

The nation deserved something much, much better than this.

Harmful Regulations Video Contest: California Dust Bowl

As ALG News has previously reported, in response to an EPA video contest seeking to gather films promoting government regulations, Americans for Limited Government/NetRight Nation and the Fr33 Agents Network have announced our own contest — against government regulations.

The reward is $2,500 for the best video highlighting the harm caused by government regulations. The above video is an ALG-produced example is just how easy it is to put together a video with a cheap video camera, in this instance covering Congress' protection of the delta smelt fish at the cost of farm production in California. In fact, the regulations have caused a drought!

After you're done, just plug the camera into your home computer, drag and drop the file onto my desktop and then upload it to your YouTube account. It's pretty easy! So there is no reason that you shouldn't be able to make a video for the contest and possibly win $2,500!

Here are the rules to enter:

1.Create a video promoting how government regulations have harmed business in your area. Get creative. Examples: a video showing the rising cost of food prices due to government subsidies or the FDA preventing the release of life saving medications. Think outside the box and show us how government regulations are harming you!

2. Post your video to YouTube. Send the link to

3. Two weeks from now, on May 11, we will post the top selection of videos that have been entered. We will also announce the judges for the contest that will narrow down the field to the best video entry in the coming week. Also, we will post your video submissions as they come in.

4. We will announce a winner on May 18 and they will receive the $2,500 cash prize that has not been stolen from the taxpayer!

A New ObamaCare horror story

By Rick Manning

America is discovering in horror just what Nancy Pelosi meant when she famously stated during the health care debate that, "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

The past couple of days the news has been filled by reports that the Obama Administration's own actuary for the Center for Medicare Services estimates that costs of the law are anything but revenue neutral and that they far exceed the 'estimate' provided to the public by the Administration. While many are chasing the question of if Obama knew about the higher estimates, when he knew, and if he suppressed them until the vote occurred, there is another massive problem discovered within the law.

Businesses will have to file 1099 forms with both the IRS and send them to the company that provided the services or sold the product for every expenditure that exceeds $600. If you react to this sentence the way my wife, who has run a small business did, you are saying, "that can't be right, 1099s are only for contract employees."

Well forget everything you thought you knew about 1099 forms, because Obama's health care law has changed it.

In practical terms, here is what the new law means. Joe's Plumbing prints up 100 color presentations at FedEx Kinko's for a trade show in New Orleans , where they are staying at a Holiday Inn for six days.

At a minimum, Joe's Plumbing will have to contact FedEx Kinko's, the airline, Holiday Inn, the rental car company, and the organization sponsoring the trade show and get taxpayer identification numbers from them so they can comply with this tax law. The company will then have to send out 1099 forms to each of these vendors and dozens, hundreds or thousands more vendors, depending upon the size of the company, thus adding significant compliance costs to every business in America. Everyone from a company's accountant, to building supplier, to carpet cleaner to janitorial service will be trading 1099 forms.

Yes, that's right, trading 1099 forms, because at the same time, Joe's Plumbing will also be receiving 1099 forms from every one of their business customers who spent more than $600 with them over the course of the year, which they will be required to keep and reconcile against their books.

Do you have any wonder why Joe's Plumbing might be more than a tad bit irritated? The new Obama health care takeover just took a guy with a pipe wrench, pvc pipe and a plunger and forced him into Dante's eighth circle of hell – tracking and filing IRS paperwork.

So, what kind of IRS rules will be put into place to set the framework for how all these tax forms must be filed and stored?

Actually, bombshell number two is that the IRS will not be setting these rules. Instead, those noted tax experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be writing and overseeing these tax regulations. Why? Who knows? It is the Alice in Wonderland world of the Obama health care bill.

U.S. Representative Dan Lungren (R-CA) has taken the first steps in alleviating this paperwork chokehold on America 's small business by introducing legislation to repeal this new burden.

Let's hope that America 's businesses tell their Members of Congress to repeal what Lungren calls the "rat" tax, but what many observers believe should rightfully be called the preparation for the liberal Shangri-la of the VAT tax.

After all, once businesses are tracking every transaction over $600 and filing IRS paperwork on it, how much harder will it be for Congress to just say, add 10% to each bill and send it our way, extending taxation to every level of business unseen to unwary consumers who suddenly just see retail prices rise without knowing the increase is a new, hidden tax.

The requirement goes into effect January 2012. Better get a CPA on retainer. And stock up on toner and paper.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government, and the former Public Affairs Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Goldman: Creeping Socialism Finds A Convenient Enemy

By Howard Rich

In its quest to ram perpetual bank bailouts and draconian new government regulations through the U.S. Congress under the guise of "financial services reform," the administration of Barack Obama and its allies have seized upon a convenient new enemy – Goldman Sachs.

Armed with a government lawsuit tailor-made to stoke populist headlines, Obama and his allies want to further force Washington 's tentacles into a financial industry that it ostensibly "rescued" using trillions of dollars borrowed from future generations of U.S. taxpayers.

"If we don't change what led to the crisis, we'll doom ourselves to repeat it," Obama said recently in an article conveniently headlined "Charges Against Goldman Sachs Boost Case for Financial Reform."

Never mind that Goldman Sachs actually supports the bill. In typical Washington fashion, Obama's proposed "reforms" do nothing to address government's starring role in the most recent debacle. Nor do they protect taxpayers from future raids on the public treasury. In fact, the legislation Obama is championing would maintain (and even expand) the same federal regulatory conditions and incentives that led to the collapse of the housing market in the first place – while making taxpayer-funded bailouts for financial institutions a permanent part of public policy.

In other words, Washington has learned absolutely nothing.

"The American public has a lot to be angry about, but the spark for that rage was the bank bailouts," writes Mark A. Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute.

And yet as Calabria and others have astutely observed, government's solution to the sub-prime mess is to encourage the same loose lending practices that created it – particularly as it relates to government-owned behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose toxic assets helped sink Bear Stearns at the beginning of the current downturn. Accordingly, Obama's reforms "wouldn't bring stability to our financial system, but (would) further erode market discipline — while asking us to put all our faith in the same regulators who have failed repeatedly," Calabria writes.

Ironically, the beleaguered Wall Street firm that Obama has selected to play the role of whipping boy in this process is a familiar "enemy," having pumped $4.4 million into the coffers of Democratic candidates in 2008 (compared to $1.4 million for Republican candidates). Apparently, Goldman Sachs forgot the old adage about "not feeding the tiger in the hopes of being the last one eaten."

All of this leads us to a fundamental question that must be asked (and answered) about our economy moving forward: Specifically, is it government's job to assume the risk associated with bad business decisions? Or if you prefer to get even more Orwellian about it: Is it government's job to arbitrarily restrict free market exchanges in an effort to prevent bad decisions from being made in the future?

If the government's answer to either of those questions is "yes," then it is embracing a Soviet-style command economy and repudiating the free market principles on which this nation was founded.

Finally, in assessing Obama's populist push on "financial reform," it would be wrong not to briefly mention the flimsiness of the federal case that's at the forefront of literally tens of thousands of international headlines. At the heart of the SEC's complaint against Goldman Sachs is the allegation that the firm misled a German bank into buying toxic assets at the behest of a savvy hedge fund manager. This simplistic salvo ignores two salient facts – Goldman's $90 million loss on the deal as well as clear and compelling evidence that the German firm knew exactly what it was getting into.

In fact, just a year before the Goldman deal, the German bank referenced in the SEC filing was concluding similar agreements with other companies and bragging about its expertise in evaluating the very sort of "corporate loan portfolios" that it now claims it was misled into purchasing.

But as much as Obama and his allies are picking a fight against a convenient enemy, this debate isn't about defending Goldman Sachs – it's about defending the free market from additional government intervention.

The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

We All Love A Ruckus, But Where Does It Get Us?

By Richard A. Lee

“TV loves a ruckus.”

That’s what President Obama declared last summer when news coverage of town hall meetings on health care focused on protests, shouting and angry crowds instead of the substance of the issue at hand.

The President’s observation was correct. TV does in fact love a ruckus. So do most media outlets. Conflict is news. It’s also what people watch and what they read. TV loves a ruckus because we love one too.

With health care, this pattern continued through the passage of legislation in March. News reports on vote counts, strategy, parliamentary procedures, and threats against lawmakers outnumbered those on health care itself. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, during the week President Obama signed the bill into law, only 22 percent of the coverage focused on how it would change the nation’s health care system. Nearly half of the news reports were about the political implications of the bill.

Debating who is responsible for the focus of news coverage is a bit like attempting to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. Do news organizations cover the ruckus because that is what the public wants? Or does the public watch the ruckus because that is what media outlets offer them?

Regardless of who is at fault, we all lose when the focus is on the ruckus and not the substance; we don’t obtain the type of information we need to make intelligent, informed decisions. And, unfortunately, the ruckus is gaining momentum in New Jersey.

New Jerseyans spent a lot of time this week discussing and debating Governor Christie’s accomplishments as he completed his first 100 days in office. One of the most significant developments that occurred during this period was the plunge in the level of discourse in our state.

We had a union official who circulated an email jokingly praying for the Governor’s death. We had a Governor who charged that students were being used like “drug mules,” carrying information about their parents’ plans to vote in school board elections. The atmosphere at legislative committee hearings has escalated from contentious to confrontational, and the exchanges between opposing party members have deteriorated from the normal partisan bickering to trash talk. With every day that passes, state government is looking more and more like MTV’s Jersey Shore.

The result, once again, is that the ruckus has overshadowed the issue. We know more about the back-and-forth between Governor Christie and the teachers’ union than we do about education funding policy in New Jersey – how it works, its strengths and weaknesses, and what needs to be done to educate our children and prepare them for the future.

Assigning blame, however, is another case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Clearly, Governor Christie is a man who speaks his mind and makes no apologies for the words he chooses. But he has had plenty of partners – Democrats and Republicans – who have helped to lower the level of civility in public discourse in New Jersey over the past 100 days.

If there is to be a change, it must start at the top. Whether it is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the manager of a baseball team or the Governor of a state, the person in charge sets the tone for the entire organization.

In his inaugural address on January 19, Governor Christie declared: “The era of partisanship and acrimony has not served the people well. Problems have festered while too much of the time of our leaders has been spent assigning blame instead of assuming responsibility. Today, we are taking a new direction.”

One hundred days later, partisanship and acrimony are stronger than ever in New Jersey. In order for our state to move away from the ruckus and foster the constructive debate and discussion we need to address the public policy challenges of the 21st Century, the Governor must lead the way – and all of those who have helped to lower the level of discourse must be willing to follow.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Halle Berry And Baby Daddy Gabriel Aubry Reportedly Split Up

Los Angeles, CA, United States - Halle Berry has reportedly split from her baby daddy. The 43-year-old “Monster’s Ball” star is said to have already worked out a financial and custody deal with model Gabriel Aubry.

According to, the couple, who raise 2-year-old daughter Nahla Ariela Aubry together, spent months trying to work out a deal with a lawyer.

The heartbreak culprit was reportedly their 9-year age gap. Aubry, 34, apparently thought dating an older woman didn’t sit well with him anymore.

A source told the website, “Gabriel just felt it wasn’t working anymore. When they were first together the 9-year age difference between them didn’t phase him, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever dated and he was totally in love.”

“But as time went on he started feeling it more and more.”

There is also the issue of being attracted to another. The insider added that although Aubry would never cheat on the Academy Award winner, he started noticing other women and now felt “it just wasn’t right to stay with Halle in those circumstances.”

“Gabriel is a really nice, decent guy and he would never cheat on her, but I suspect that he had become attracted to someone and that he felt he needed to break it off with Halle before anything developed further.”

Berry, who was married twice before, had previously stated that although she met her soulmate in Aubry, she would never get married again.

The now ex-couple, who started dating since late 2005, reportedly ironed out monetary issues with Aubry declaring he doesn’t want a dime of Berry’s vast wealth, but he wants a 50/50 joint physical custody of Nahla, which Berry agreed to.

Video: Justice Dept. Investigating Goldman Sachs

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into possible securities fraud in mortgage trading at Goldman Sachs, law enforcement sources said Friday.

Nicole Murphy Wants Kim Kardashian's Ex to Vacate Her Property Now!

Eddie Murphy's ex-wife Nicole, allegedly wants Kim Kardashian's ex-hubby Damon Thomas out of her 9,200-square-foot mansion, because he owes her more than $100,000 in rent.

According to TMZ, Thomas has been calling the sprawling, ultra-lavish, Murphy-owned mansion home for the past few months. Apparently, Thomas, a music producer, has been failing to fork over the monthly $30,000 fee to live in the Calabasas estate.

Murphy filed an eviction notice last week in L.A. County Superior Court, claiming that Thomas owes her big time to the tune of $114,500.

When TMZ contacted Thomas, he claimed that the rent misunderstanding is due to him wanting to buy another exclusive dig in the ritzy area Britney Spears, Melissa Gilbert and Kourtney Kardashian call home.

Thomas also claims that the issue has been settled and that the outstanding rent has been paid.

"Ain't nothin' going on but the rent...."

By Ruth Manuel-Logan

Actress Aasha Davis' Brother-in-Law Arrested for Murdering His Wife

Actress Aasha Davis, best known for her roles on popular television shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Friday Night Lights" faced her toughest role yet, when she went on television a year ago to ask the public for help in finding her missing sister, Leslie Ann Herring. Now a year has passed and her sister's body has still not been found, but police think they've caught the woman's killer: her husband, Davis's brother-in-law, Lyle Herring, Sr., who was arrested Wednesday.

According to police reports, Herring had a heated argument with his wife on February 8, 2009. Aasha reported her "creature of habit," 46-year-old sister missing shortly thereafter, when she did not report to work after a few days.

When police investigators questioned Herring about his wife's disappearance, he was not cooperative, making him an instant suspect. Investigators described the man as being "fragmented, less than helpful and not behaving as a grieving husband."

During a press conference last year, Herring, a university recruiter, denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance. He appealed for his wife to come home. "Please give us a call," Herring said. "Let us know what's going on. We have a lot to talk to about." Police were not buying his act.

Herring will be arraigned today in Los Angeles. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Watch Aasha and her mom talk about the case here:

By Ruth Manuel-Logan

Media’s Fascination With Single Black Women & Why It’s Getting On My Nerves

“Don’t believe the hype…” –Public Enemy

If you are a black woman and watched ABC’s Nightline Single Black Women special panel on Wednesday night, you are probably pissed. I know that I was. And it wasn’t because of the nature of the conversation but the blatant media spin and bias that would lead the public to think that we as single black women are poor lost souls who cannot find a man. Believe you me, that is furthest from the truth. What could’ve been an intelligent conversation about problems between both black men and women turned into a fluffy headpiece about men unbraiding our hair and taking down our weaves. I was totally appalled and saddened that it has come down to this. Again, the media has taken a topic and drilled it to death, until it reached its very last compound of silliness. What is the media’s fascination with single black women?

Media will have you thinking that we are bitter bitches that need constant attention, and that we are single because we cannot keep a man, because we are self indulgent and involved, because we are all about ourselves, because we can do it on our own, because we are independent women who don’t need any help, because we are survivors, because we run our black men away and they go to white women. Um…no.

First of all, I will not be lumped into one category. I am Danyelle, first and foremost. I am an unique individual who doesn’t subscribe to the mistruths society may bare. I have been proposed to. I have been married. I have been a wife and a mother. I am successful, but I have no qualms in admitting I need the comfort and love of a man. I am independent but I do like a man around. I do like to have nice things, but that does not mean I am not self centered. I do aspire to be the best I can be, and yes that means wanting a home, and a car, and a family, and to live a comfortable life. Does that make the me the bad guy?

I have white girlfriends who find it just as hard to find a good man as we do. If we are going to have this conversation, I don’t think it should be limited to black women only. White women have the SAME problem, and other cultures do as well. Why does the media only want to spotlight us, like we are the step-children from “cannot do relationship” hell?

Someone answer that one for me, please.

I don’t have a problem dating outside of my race. I do not judge black men who do the same. I do have a problem when a brother goes out of his way to NOT date a black woman though, yes, I will admit to that, but interracial relationships do not bother me. I know who I am and what I am about. His loss is another man’s gain. NEXT!

Being a single black woman is NOT bad. Most single black women are not single because they CAN’T find a man. They are single by choice. Because they don’t want to take lightly their decision of who they will spend the rest of their life with. Are there shallow, siddity, goldigging black women? Hell yeah! But there are plenty of shallow, siddity, golddigging white women as well. We didn’t invent this group of women.

I am sick and tired of seeing these stereotypes being perpetuated in the media. But I know it continues because WE as black women do not step up and say enough is enough. WE should be telling OUR story, not the other way around. Once we own our stories and our legacies, there will be a much more well rounded picture of who we really are.

And you black men who high five and believe these stereotypes are just as wrong. You don’t want us labeling each and every one of you as lazy convicts who whine that you can’t make it. So why judge us that way as well? Step up and put in work and get to know me based on ME. Not your ex who left you because you weren’t ’successful’ enough!

I could go on and on about this subject, but it would take a book for me to fit all of the content. Simply put, we all have work to do when it comes to making a relationship work. Patience, love, understanding, are just some of the qualities needed. Stop looking at panelists who have been married five times or who have never been married to try to tell you how to find a husband or wife. Look to those in strong relationships with a positive track record for guidance in that department.

Do not let the media or anyone else tell you WHO you are. And with that. I am done *throws down the mic*

By TheCubicleChick

Spurs finish off No. 2 seed Mavs in 6

Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, of Germany, falls on his back after his shot was blocked by San Antonio Spurs' Antonio McDyess during the first quarter of Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, April 29, 2010, in San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs moved on, and Dallas is done early again.

Manu Ginobili scored 26 points and San Antonio survived blowing a 22-point lead to beat the Mavericks 97-87 in Game 6 on Thursday night, handing Dirk Nowitzki and second-seeded Dallas another first-round exit.

The Spurs got payback after the Mavs eliminated them a year ago, and will play either Phoenix or Portland in the Western Conference semifinals.

“For us there was no tomorrow,” Ginobili said after the Spurs finished off the Mavs in front of a raucous home crowd and avoided going back to Dallas for a Game 7.

Nowitzki nearly carried the Mavs to an unbelievable comeback, getting 25 of his 33 points in a remarkable second half. But the Mavs still stumbled to their third first-round exit in the last four years.

George Hill had 21 points for the Spurs, who are coming off their worst regular season in the Tim Duncan era — making this series all the more impressive.

It will technically go down as an upset. San Antonio is only the fifth No. 7 seed to win a first-round series, and the first since the opening round became a best-of-7 in 2003. It hadn’t been done since New York beat Miami in 1998.

But with a healthy Big Three and a championship pedigree, the Spurs could hardly be called underdogs. And with no clear favorite in the West, they might be as good a finals pick as any.

As for the Mavs, it was yet another early playoff disappointment.

It comes three years after the Mavs came into the postseason as the No. 1 seed, only to be knocked out by No. 8 Golden State. The Mavs were the NBA’s best road team in the regular season, but went 0-3 in San Antonio and couldn’t pull themselves out of a 3-1 deficit.

This one is especially tough for team owner Mark Cuban, who plunked down an extra $30 million for a deal at the trade deadline that brought Caron Butler from Washington.

Butler scored 25 points and rookie Rodrigue Beaubois had 16 points. But aside from them and Nowitzki, no other Dallas player scored more than six points.

Now comes an interesting offseason for a team that’s won 50 games for 10 straight seasons, but has only one trip to the NBA finals to show for it.

Will coach Rick Carlisle return? What about Nowitzki? Dallas isn’t likely to get rid of either. Nowitzki also could choose to become a free agent, although he’s steadily said he won’t. There’s no telling how this early exit will change Cuban’s approach toward a bumper crop of free agents.

In the meantime, the Mavs will have a long time to sulk over this one.

Plagued by slow starts in this series, Dallas got off to its worst yet when it mattered most. The Mavs trailed 22-8 after the first quarter, hitting just four of their first 18 shots. By halftime it was 47-34, a franchise playoff low for Dallas.

But the Mavs clawed back.

Nowitzki, who had four fouls in the first half, shrugged off the foul trouble and put Dallas ahead 57-56 with a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. Cuban jumped out of his chair behind the Mavs bench, while the Spurs watched their big lead evaporate in disbelief.

But Hill, the hero of Game 4 for the Spurs, came through again to finish off Dallas. He scored 10 points in the fourth, none bigger than a corner 3-pointer with 3:19 left that put the Spurs up 89-81 and deflated Dallas.

The Spurs wanted to play the Mavericks so badly that they basically forced the matchup. By benching Duncan and Ginobili in the season finale against Dallas, they made it easier for the Mavs to win and seal them as the second and seventh seeds.

It looked like a case of being careful what you wish for when Dallas won the opener by 12 points. But San Antonio evened the series with a road win in Game 2, then swept two home games.

When the arena cleared out after winning a third home game, Spurs owner Peter Holt — who’s much quieter than his Dallas counterpart — had his own words while walking across the court.

“Go Spurs Go!” he roared.

NOTES: Spurs rookie F DeJuan Blair ran his car off the interstate on the way to the game when he hit a guard rail, swerving into a ditch and deploying the air bag. He wasn’t injured, and a Spurs staffer picked him up and took him to the arena. “It’s questionable for the next game,” Blair joked about his car. … The dismal first quarter for the Mavs was just one point better than their franchise playoff low.


WSJ: Goldman Sachs Under Criminal Investigation

by Frances Martel

The situation at Goldman Sachs keeps getting more and more dire. The Wall Street Journal is reporting this evening that federal prosecutors are looking at criminal charges for Goldman after this week’s Senate hearings on the company’s activities during the 2007 housing crisis.
The profane emails between high-ranking Goldman officials released by the Senate seem to be the least of CEO Lloyd Blankfein and company’s problems. From the WSJ:

Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its mortgage trading, people familiar with the probe say.

The investigation from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is at a preliminary stage, stemmed from a referral from the Securities and Exchange Commission, these people say. The SEC recently filed civil securities-fraud charges against the big Wall Street firm and a trader in its mortgage group. Goldman and the trader say they have done nothing wrong and are fighting the civil charges.

The investigation is in its nascent stages, and whether Goldman will be found guilty of securities fraud or not is still undetermined.

FDA Approves Vaccine Treatment for Prostate Cancer

For the first time ever, a treatment that uses the body's own immunity to fight cancer cells has been proven to work.

Finding a cancer vaccine is the Holy Grail of oncology, but has remained largely an unrealized dream — until now. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug that actually trains the body's immune system to fight off advanced prostate cancer.

That's a big deal. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men (after lung cancer,) according to the American Cancer Society, and about one in six men will be diagnosed with it during his lifetime.

The drug, called Provenge, is the first drug to be developed by the Dendreon Corporation, which was founded in 1992 by a pair of Stanford professors. Provenge is not exactly a new drug. In fact, according to The New York Times, three years ago it failed to meet the FDA's standards for approval.

But while the drug's unique capabilities are a huge step forward, it's hardly a panacea. In clinical trials, the treatment only extended the lives of patients about four months compared with a placebo. After three years, 32 percent treated with Provenge were alive, compared with 23 percent of those who got the placebo.

"The big story here is that this is the first proof of principle and proof that immunotherapy works in general in cancer, which I think is a huge observation," Dr. Philip Kantoff, chief of solid tumor oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the lead investigator in Dendreon’s largest clinical trial for the drug told the Times.

Provenge is not a preventive vaccine like those for the measles, hepatitis or the newer vaccine developed to block the virus that can lead to cervical cancer. It's a therapeutic vaccine, used only after prostate cancer has already developed and approved by the FDA specifically for more advanced stages.

The way the drug works is a marvel of modern science: first, the patient's white blood cells are extracted from their blood, the same way they would be during blood donation, and certain immune cells are separated out. Those cells are then injected with a combination of a protein often found on prostate tumors and an immune booster. The treated cells are then re-introduced to the patient's blood supply three times over the course of a month. The main side effects of Provenge in clinical trials were fever, chills, fatigue and pain.

Typically, men with prostate cancer have to undergo surgery to remove the prostate gland (which can have undesirable side effects, such as difficulty achieving erection) along with radiation and/or chemotherapy, both of which have a host of uncomfortable side effects, followed by treatment with drugs that reduce the levels of testosterone (which contributes to tumor growth.)

According to the Times, Dendreon hopes to develop other similar cancer vaccines, including one for bladder cancer. In fact, treatment vaccines could be the wave of the future in the world of oncology: dozens of other vaccines are in development with other companies.

By Darragh Worland