Monday, September 28, 2015

News Briefs 9.28.15

The World is Not Separated into "Bad" and "Good" People, but Rather into"Vegans" and "Potential Vegans"

The News: The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary moved this September from its original 23-acre location in (guess where) Woodstock, NY to its new, 150-acre spot in High Falls, NY. It's retaining its name, though, because, well... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Part of the property
The Place: Is a blessed animal utopia for those animals (usually factory farm escapees or rejects who have been subject to cruelty and emotional suffering. 

Some eggcellent chickens (not sorry)

The Rest: The sanctuary, open only on weekends, offers tours held by one or both of its owners: Jenny Brown and Doug Abel (married). On the tour, one is simultaneously educated about the animal agriculture industry and thrown into the arms of several species of sweet animals. On my tour, I met and interacted with chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, ducks, rabbits, and one (very special) llama. 

I call this...Attention Whore Llama with Selfie-Craving Millennial
I stared into the warm brown eyes of Fawn, the cow with two broken front legs, had apples slurped out of my hands by Frank the bull, and rubbed heads with Jenny the goat. 

Fawn <3
It was life-changing. That combination of documentary-esque lecture and face-to-face interaction really...stuck. The Woodstock Animal Sanctuary is run by two compassionate, no-nonsense enthusiastic people who really make a difference in the lives of animals who would have had tortured lives. 

So come visit (the sanctuary is open every year from April until October); it's only a 90 minute drive from the city! It's an unpretentious place with perspective and cute animals.


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I'm not a person that watches the news very often but when I do, it's my local news 12 - the Bronx channel. Traffic, weather, and a couple of current events are all I need, mostly because I'm an internet person. I read a lot of articles and Facebook posts, and although I'm not trying to claim that those sources are any more accurate or any less manipulated, they are, however, more convenient. Recently news 12 reported that a supermarket in the Soundview section of the Bronx is closing its doors after sixty years of serving the community. What's coming in its place, you might ask? The rumor is, Best Buy

Here's why this is a big deal: Key Food, the supermarket I keep referring to, is the only supermarket in walking distance for a five-mile radius. It is smack dead in the middle of three separate housing projects, a slew of private homes, two Mitchell Lama Co-ops, and three public schools. There is no other supermarket this central to all of these things. It is safe to assume that some, if not a lot, of the people in this neighborhood live without cars. A five-mile walk in the Bronx is probably like no other Five-Mile walk in any other borough, with the exception of perhaps Staten Island. There are hills. Hills that come with their own folklore stories about people dying on the way up. Sometimes, there are three or four consecutive blocks without a single street lamp. Most people have long bus rides to the nearest train station. This particular section of the Bronx is Urban Suburbia. 

Key Food has a sign across its door that reads "Closing: They Won't Renew our Lease." I'm not sure who "they" is, the property owners or perhaps a "bigger they," but I'm sure this is the way Key Food is letting the community know that they don't want to leave, they're being forced out. Big Bad Gentrification. I'm not a person who believed gentrification to be a myth, I fully understood it and its effects on communities. I just thought it was something that happened "over there," in other neighborhoods.  I never thought it would be on my News 12 - the Bronx.


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                                                           A Practice in Assholicism 

His face reminds me of a meme
In what has become common practice in capitalist douchebaggery and necropolitics, a pharmaceutical CEO hiked the price of a drug used by AIDS patients and critically ill children by approximately 5500%. Martin Shkreli, a 32-year-old ex-hedge fund manager and CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, made the rounds on the business news circuit defending the price hike, saying the drug was grossly underpriced and his company has to turn a profit. The drug in question, Daraprim, faced a price hike to a steep $750 from its $13.50 original price tag, bringing the total cost of treatment from around $1000 to over hundreds of thousands of dollars. The drug, which treats malaria and a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis, costs a little over $1 to manufacture. 

Daraprim is just one of many examples of a broken and often corrupt pharmaceutical system. Perplexing is the lack of a generic or other viable alternatives to the drug to challenge this heinous increase. Shkreli’s argument for increasing the price of the drug is to motivate the creation of a better more efficient product. I call bullshit on this. It’s a drug that has been around for over sixty years, yet instead of its price decreasing over the years it is subjected to a price hike. The truth is there is no good alternative to the drug and there currently is no research being done to create a drug that treats toxoplasmosis. Unless you have Medicaid or some government mandated rebate for the drug, you and your insurance company will be responsible for covering the price, and we all know how willing insurance companies are to open their fat pockets and dish out a few dollars.

Another example of pharmaceutical douchebaggery is found in the drug to treat a more common illness, hepatitis C. The drug in question is called Harvoni, owned and distributed by Gilead. There are a myriad of drugs used to treat hepatitis C, but Harvoni is special in that it offers the option of getting cured of the disease in as little as 12 weeks of drug therapy. This was a breakthrough in the treatment of hep C, being seen as a new wonder drug. What’s problem here? How about its astronomical price tag for its complete drug therapy: approximately $95,000. Making this more egregious is the fact that Medicaid and private insurance companies are reluctant to cover the cost of the complete drug treatment. What’s the alternative here? How about a lifetime of drug therapy, or even a costly new liver? The alternatives to Harvoni cost over $100,000 and does not promise a new lease on health. 

What is keeping the price of Harvoni high, as well as other wonder drugs, is the good old spirit of pure capitalist greed. As long as there is a market for these drugs, and there will always be a market on good health, prices will be subject to gouging. Maybe it is the $125,000 worth of chemotherapy to treat the leukemia, osteosarcoma, and the complications that have arisen from such a sweet cocktail of death that has me a tad pissed off about this. The most frightening feeling is the feeling of helplessness. The worst thing to do is nothing. Let’s face it: what can you do? Do you stop taking your medication in protest of such ghastly price-hikes and leave it to your body to do the fighting? Of course not. What has worked in the past is good old fashion protest. Larry Kramer and the ACTUP campaign is legendary in this regard. We as a society need to lead by example and show the faces of the sick; show everyone what illness looks like; demonstrate what illness feels like; take to the streets and to the pharmaceutical headquarters and demand reform. Just how much bullshit, douchebaggery, and assholicism can we take as a society before we demand change?


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