US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
By MARCIA DUNN
AP Aerospace Writer
Monday, March 4
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A sleek new American-built capsule with just a test dummy aboard docked smoothly with the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing the U.S. a big step closer to getting back in the business of launching astronauts.
The white, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station nearly 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position.
Dragon’s arrival marked the first time in eight years that an American-made spacecraft capable of carrying humans has flown to the space station.
If this six-day test flight goes well, a Dragon capsule could take two NASA astronauts to the orbiting outpost this summer.
“A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the Space_Station,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. “Congratulations to all for this historic achievement getting us closer to flying American Astronauts on American rockets.”
Ever since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been hitching rides to and from the space station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In the meantime, NASA is paying two companies — SpaceX and Boeing — to build and operate America’s next generation of rocket ships.
SpaceX’s 27-foot-long (8-meter-long) capsule rocketed into orbit early Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with a mannequin strapped into one of its four seats in a dashing, white-and-black, form-fitting SpaceX spacesuit. The test dummy was nicknamed Ripley after the main character in the “Alien” movies.
Ripley and the capsule are rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses and monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems.
As the capsule closed in on the space station, its nose cap was wide open like a dragon’s mouth to expose the docking mechanism. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.
The three U.S., Canadian and Russian crew members aboard the space station watched the rendezvous via TV cameras. Within hours, the capsule’s hatch swung open and the three astronauts floated inside to remove supplies and take air samples, wearing oxygen masks and hoods until they got the all-clear.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques pronounced the docking flawless and called it “a beautiful thing to see.”
“Welcome to the new era in spaceflight,” he said.
Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it will undock for an old-school, “Right Stuff”-style splashdown in the Atlantic, a few hundred miles off Florida.
As part of Sunday’s shakedown, the space station astronauts sent commands for Dragon to retreat and then move forward again, before the capsule closed in for good. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered the docking, then burst into applause again when the Dragon’s latches were secured.
The two astronauts set to fly aboard Dragon as early as July, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, witnessed the Florida liftoff, then rushed to Southern California to watch Sunday’s maneuver.
“Just super excited to see it,” Behnken said minutes after the linkup. “Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here.”
Next up, though, is Boeing, which is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.
SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons. The version designed for humans is slightly bigger and safer.
It can carry as many as seven people and has three windows, emergency-abort engines that can pull the capsule to safety, and streamlined controls, with just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit’s 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney takes BP cuts at Cardinals camp
By CHUCK KING
Monday, March 4
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — For a few hours at spring training, Dabo Swinney became the Kyler Murray of coaching.
Swinney slipped away from Clemson’s spring football practice to speak to the St. Louis Cardinals and take a little batting practice Sunday.
“Kyler Murray’s not the only guy with conflicts,” Swinney said, referring to the former Oklahoma quarterback and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner who initially signed with the Oakland Athletics but chose the NFL instead. “I’ve got baseball and football going on. That’s what I told my team yesterday. I was like, Kyler ain’t got nothing on me. I’ve got called to the big leagues. I’m on a plane. I’m heading out.”
Two months ago Swinney coached Clemson to a 44-16 victory over Alabama in the national championship game for the Tigers’ second title in three years.
St. Louis manager Mike Shildt contacted Swinney about 10 days ago to see whether he’d be interested in speaking to the Cardinals about creating a winning culture.
A three-sport athlete in high school who considered walking onto Alabama’s baseball team as a shortstop before ultimately choosing Crimson Tide football, Swinney jumped at the opportunity.
“I really always thought I’d make it to the major leagues — this just isn’t how I thought I’d get here,” Swinney said.
He addressed the Cardinals for 50 minutes, explaining how at Clemson coaches and players create daily habits that generate excellence over the course of a season.
“Some of the core values that he teaches to his kids down there, we got a glimpse of it today,” third baseman Matt Carpenter said. “He’s got a special thing going. It was a thrill to get to listen to him talk.”
St. Louis presented Swinney with a red Cardinals jersey bearing No. 88, his football number at Alabama.
After speaking to the team, the 49-year-old Swinney eagerly awaited his chance to take some major league swings. Shildt originally considered giving Swinney his hacks on a back field.
“We were like, nah, this guy’s a stadium guy,” said Shildt, sitting a few feet from a Clemson helmet autographed by Swinney.
Borrowing Carpenter’s bat and donning a red Cardinals spring training cap that didn’t exactly blend with his purple and orange Clemson knit shirt, Swinney took about 15 swings right-handed — displaying the warning-track power he predicted — and then another handful of cuts from the left side.
“Better from the right side, for sure,” Shildt joked.
Afterward, Swinney raised his arms above his head and pronounced the experience a “dream come true.”
Swinney wasn’t the only special guest to visit the Cardinals on Sunday. St. Louis great Lou Brock also made his first appearance in camp.
“It was great because I had a two-time national champion, and I walk out in the hall and there’s a Hall of Famer and World Series champion,” Shildt said. “It’s like, what world am I living in now?”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Purdue Pharma taps a Gilded Age history of pharmaceutical fraud
March 4, 2019
Author: Jonathan S. Jones, PhD Candidate in History, Binghamton University, State University of New York
Disclosure statement: Jonathan S. Jones does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Binghamton University, State University of New York provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Newly unsealed documents from a lawsuit by the state of Massachusetts allege that Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and other addictive opioids, actively sniffed out new, sinister ways to cash in on the opioid crisis.
Despite years of negative press coverage, unwanted attention from regulators, multi-million dollar fines and several major lawsuits, Purdue staff and owners sought to expand the company’s sights beyond its usual array of opioid painkillers. Purdue planned to become an “end-to-end pain provider,” by branching into the market for opioid addiction and overdose medicines, looking to peddle these medicines even while the company continued to aggressively market its addictive opioids. Internal research materials coldly explained the rationale behind this plan: “Pain treatment and addiction are naturally linked.”
As thousands of Americans continue to overdose on opioids annually, Purdue’s secret marketing research predicted that sales of naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, and buprenorphine, a medicine used to treat opioid addiction, would increase exponentially. Addiction to Purdue’s opioids would thus drive the sale of the company’s opioid addiction and overdose medicines. Purdue even planned to target as customers patients already taking the company’s opioids and doctors who prescribed opioids excessively, according to the Massachusetts lawsuit filing. To keep the plan quiet, Purdue staff dubbed the scheme “Project Tango.”
The audacity of Project Tango enraged many observers. But considered in historical context, the news that Purdue sought to peddle opioid addiction medicines while continuing to sell opioids seems less surprising. In fact, there is clear historical precedent for Purdue’s business plan. Over a century ago, “patent medicine” sellers pioneered this strategy during the U.S.’s Gilded Age opiate addiction epidemic.
Opiate addiction in the Gilded Age
Opiates were some of the most commonly prescribed medicines in American history until the 20th century. Pills containing opium, hypodermic morphine injections and laudanum, a drinkable liquid concoction of opium and alcohol, constituted half or more of all medicines prescribed in American hospitals during most of the 19th century, according to research by the historian John Harley Warner. Opiates were also present in countless “patent medicines,” over-the-counter panaceas made of secret ingredients, often sold under catchy brand names like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. Americans could choose from 5,000 brands of patent medicines marketed for all manner of ailments by the 1880s. In 1904, just before federal oversight began, patent medicines had matured into an astonishingly profitable industry, with estimated sales at US$74 million dollars annually – equivalent to about $2.1 billion dollars today.
Opiate-laced prescriptions and patent medicines often caused addiction. The historian David T. Courtwright estimates that opiate addiction rates in the U.S. skyrocketed to 4.59 per thousand Americans by the 1890s – a high rate, although lower than the rate of fatal opioid overdoses in recent years. Most individuals developed addictions through medicines, rather than the infamous smoking variety of opium. Victims of “the habit” cut across demographic lines, encompassing middle-class housewives suffering from menstrual pain, Civil War veterans reeling from amputations and many others in between.
Yet even for those who became addicted to prescription opiates, the condition was socially stigmatized and physically dangerous. Like today, addiction to opiates often led to fatal overdose, condemnation and sometimes even involuntary commitment to mental asylums. As one doctor reported to the Iowa Board of Health in 1885, addicted people lived “truly in a veritable hell.”
To avoid these frightful outcomes, desperate, opiate-addicted Americans frequently sought out medical treatment for their condition.
Gilded Age Americans could choose from a range of therapies for opiate addiction. Wealthy patients frequented plush private clinics, where they could receive inpatient treatment for opiate addiction. The most popular were the Keeley Institutes, which offered patients injections of the “Bichloride of Gold” remedy, invented by the doctor Leslie Keeley.
Scores of Keeley Institutes sprang up around the country in the late 19th century, a testament to the popularity of Keeley’s “Gold Cure,” which he marketed for alcoholism and drug addiction. No up-and-coming Gilded Age city was complete without a Keeley Institute. At the height of the Gold Cure craze, there were 118 institutes serving 500,000 Americans between 1880 and 1920. Even the federal government had a contract with Keeley to provide the Gold Cure to addicted veterans. Although injections of the Gold Cure had little intrinsic medical value, historians believe that socializing with other like-minded patients in the Keeley Institutes may have helped some patients recover from addiction.
Keeley faced stiff competition, however. Other popular therapies for opiate addiction included patent medicine “cures” and “antidotes,” which were cheaper than inpatient care. These could be ordered by mail without a prescription, and consumed in the privacy of one’s home, away from prying eyes.
Fueled by high demand, during its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, addiction cures bloomed into a multimillion-dollar sector of the patent medicine industry. Dozens of pharmaceutical companies peddled their “cures” to willing, opiate-addicted customers, which they marketed through pamphlets, postcards, and newspaper and magazine classifieds.
Ironically, these “cures” for opiate addiction almost universally contained opiates, unbeknownst to hopeful customers, who received little therapeutic benefit by today’s standards. But in an era before federal regulation of medicines and narcotics, there were no effective safeguards to protect addiction patients from medical fraud.
Much like Purdue Pharma, which famously marketed Oxycontin as non-addictive precipitating the opioid crisis, Gilded Age patent medicine companies also fraudulently marketed their addiction treatments as non-addictive, targeting and intentionally deceiving addicted customers. For their part, Gilded Age doctors were deeply skeptical of such products, and they often accused proprietors of fraud in medical journals and newspapers.
Samuel B. Collins of La Porte, Indiana, inventor of the “Painless Opium Antidote,” one of the era’s most popular brands, insisted that his product was not addictive. Collins was proven a fraud, however, by a skeptical Maine doctor, who in 1876 sent off a sample of Collins’ product to several chemists for analysis. Their tests indicated that the Painless Opium Antidote contained enough morphine to perpetuate opiate addiction, actually fueling demand for Collins’s product, rather than curing the underlying addiction.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, however, without any effective medical regulation or oversight, Collins maintained his fraud for decades. His business strategy presaged Purdue’s Project Tango by targeting vulnerable opiate-addicted individuals.
After decades of exposés by doctors and journalists, however, the opiate addiction cure trade collapsed during the Progressive Era under mounting public pressure and new federal legislation. One famous “muckraking” exposé, The Great American Fraud by the journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams, pulled back the curtain on the industry of opiate addiction cures for millions of appalled readers.
Hopkins painted such a scathing portrait of opiate addiction cures, whose proprietors the writer dismissed as “scavengers,” that the American Medical Association paid to disseminate Adams’s reporting as part of a lobbying campaign for the regulation of patent medicines. This strategy paid off. Although far from perfect solutions, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 regulated the ingredients and sale of patent medicines and narcotics, including opiate addiction medicines. These measures ultimately ensured that Collins, Keeley and other patent medicine sellers could no longer prey upon opiate-addicted customers.
Like its Gilded Age predecessors, today’s Big Pharma actively schemes to profit off of vulnerable, addicted customers, even while taking steps to ensure that opioid addiction persists. I believe that only sustained, vigilant oversight can prevent the reemergence of a medical Gilded Age, one in which companies like Purdue Pharma can manufacture an addiction crisis and charge customers for “curing” it.
Invectives old and new fill Trump’s marathon speech at CPAC
By KEVIN FREKING
Monday, March 4
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — In a slashing speech packed with braggadocio and grievance, President Donald Trump denounced Democrats as the party of “the socialist nightmare,” re-litigated his crowd sizes back to the inauguration and took on “sick,” ”lunatic” and “dirty” foes at every turn, earning him the unvarnished adoration of cheering conservatives.
After a trying week of tumult and setbacks, Trump delivered a stem-winder Saturday that extended beyond two hours and hardly left him winded.
Trump let loose against House Democrats, who are broadening their investigations of him, predicted he would win re-election by a greater margin than his 2016 victory, taunted his potential White House challengers and sounded themes that are staples of his rallies. He complained often of getting “no credit” for his achievements as he proudly drifted “off script” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
His comments capped a week that saw his nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader collapse without an agreement, his former lawyer deliver damaging congressional testimony about his character and business practices and Congress take action to nullify his emergency declaration to secure money for the border wall that lawmakers have denied him.
On the stage, he was a prideful and at times profane figure as he complained that past political appointments had allowed a situation where political foes were trying to take him out.
Trump reached back to old criticisms of his ex-attorney general, mocking Jeff Sessions’ Southern accent and calling him “weak and ineffective.”
It took him more than an hour to get to the message that Republicans and members of his administration have been emphasizing in recent weeks as they try to brand Democratic policy ideas as socialism.
“America will never be a socialist country,” he said. “Socialism is not about the environment, it’s not about justice, it’s not about virtue.” He said it’s about “power for the ruling class.”
For every prepared line like that, there were multiple improvisations from a president on policy and personality.
“That’s how I got elected — by being off script,” Trump said early in his speech as the crowd roared its approval.
He took particular delight in going after the Democrats’ Green New Deal, brought forward by some liberal Democrats in Congress and backed to varying degrees by several of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates.
“I think the New Green Deal or whatever … they call it — the Green New Deal — I encourage it,” Trump said mockingly as he wound up for a round of exaggeration. “I think it’s really something that they should promote. They should work hard on it. … No planes, no energy. When the wind stops blowing that’s the end of your electric. Let’s hurry up. Darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.”
He returned to the topic again and again, and jokingly kicked himself for doing so, saying it would give the Democrats time to back away from it. He also turned the topic into an attack of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and one of the top Democratic contenders for president.
“I’m going to regret this. This speech should have been delivered one year from now, not now, damn it.” Trump said. “I should have saved the Pocahontas thing for another year because that destroyed her political career and now I won’t get a chance to run against her. I don’t want to knock out all of the good stuff and wind up with somebody who’s actually got talent.”
Trump also went after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, essentially accusing him of being a drag on the economy.
“We have a gentleman that likes raising interest rates in the Fed. We have a gentleman that loves quantitative tightening in the Fed. We have a gentleman that likes a very strong dollar in the Fed,” Trump said. “…With all of that, we’re doing great. Can you imagine if we left interest rates where they were?”
Trump defended his declaration of a national emergency to obtain wall funding beyond the $1.4 billion that Congress approved for border security. He said the order doesn’t set a bad precedent for future administrations because Democrats are “going to do that anyway, folks. The best way to stop that is to make sure I win the election.”
Trump continued to bask in his 2016 victory and the crowds that attend his events. He talked of how few gave him a chance to win.
“I think we’re going to do even better in 2020,” Trump said.
When he made his prediction of a second term, the crowd responded with chants of “USA, USA, USA.”
He also took a lengthy detour back to the inauguration, claiming that an enormous if not unprecedented crowd showed up, contrary to the thorough video and photo coverage that showed otherwise.
Trump revisited his meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, calling their summit “very productive.” He also took another crack at explaining his remarks that he didn’t believe Kim knew about or would have allowed the death of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was held prisoner in North Korea, then sent home in a vegetative state. His remarks were widely criticized and led the Warmbier family to say they held Kim and his regime responsible for their son’s death.
“I’m in such a horrible position because in one way I have to negotiate. In the other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier and I love Otto. And it’s a very, very delicate balance,” Trump said.
With special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation seemingly approaching its end, Trump spoke of the “collusion delusion” and lashed out at newly empowered House Democrats who are opening new inquires involving him.
“This phony thing,” Trump said of the Russia probe, “looks like it’s dying so they don’t have anything with Russia there, no collusion. So now they go in and morph into ‘Let’s inspect every deal he’s ever done. We’re going to go into his finances. We’re going to check his deals. We’re going to check’ — these people are sick.”
House Democrats are undertaking several broad new investigations that reach far beyond Mueller’s focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign. So far, Mueller has not brought any public charges alleging a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Russia; the investigation continues.
Their efforts increased this past week after Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appeared before two House committees and a Senate committee. In his public testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cohen called the president a “con man” and a “cheat” and gave Democrats several new leads for inquiry.