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July 2017

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates Hospitals and pharmacies are required to toss expired drugs, no matter how expensive or vital. Meanwhile the FDA has long known that many remain safe and potent for years longer. by Marshall Allen

This story was co-published with NPR’s Shots blog.

The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.

But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Cantrell called Roy Gerona, a University of California, San Francisco, researcher who specializes in analyzing chemicals. Gerona had grown up in the Philippines and had seen people recover from sickness by taking expired drugs with no apparent ill effects.

“This was very cool,” Gerona says. “Who gets the chance of analyzing drugs that have been in storage for more than 30 years?”

The age of the drugs might have been bizarre, but the question the researchers wanted to answer wasn’t. Pharmacies across the country — in major medical centers and in neighborhood strip malls — routinely toss out tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs when they hit their expiration dates.

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

ProPublica has been researching why the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world. One answer, broadly, is waste — some of it buried in practices that the medical establishment and the rest of us take for granted. We’ve documented how hospitals often discard pricey new supplies, how nursing homes trash valuable medications after patients pass away or move out, and how drug companies create expensive combinations of cheap drugs. Experts estimate such squandering eats up about $765 billion a year — as much as a quarter of all the country’s health care spending.

Experts say the United States might be squandering a quarter of the money spent on health care. That’s an estimated $765 billion a year. Do you believe you’ve encountered this waste? Tell us.

What if the system is destroying drugs that are technically “expired” but could still be safely used?

In his lab, Gerona ran tests on the decades-old drugs, including some now defunct brands such as the diet pills Obocell (once pitched to doctors with a portly figurine called “Mr. Obocell”) and Bamadex. Overall, the bottles contained 14 different compounds, including antihistamines, pain relievers and stimulants. All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers.

The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations.

“Lo and behold,” Cantrell says, “The active ingredients are pretty darn stable.”

Cantrell and Gerona knew their findings had big implications. Perhaps no area of health care has provoked as much anger in recent years as prescription drugs. The news media is rife with stories of medications priced out of reach or of shortages of crucial drugs, sometimes because producing them is no longer profitable.

Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard. One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston says the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit, but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term care pharmacies, retail pharmacies and in consumer medicine cabinets.

After Cantrell and Gerona published their findings in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, some readers accused them of being irresponsible and advising patients that it was OK to take expired drugs. Cantrell says they weren’t recommending the use of expired medication, just reviewing the arbitrary way the dates are set.

“Refining our prescription drug dating process could save billions,” he says.

Summertime, and the College Reading Is Liberal by Richard Bernstein

Remember Rigoberta Menchu? Twenty-five or so years ago, she, and the book “I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala,” were the rage in academia. Menchu had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work advancing the cause of indigenous Guatemalan women, and the book, which she co-wrote with Elizabeth Burgos-Debray, caught on, appearing on mandatory reading lists at schools, colleges, and universities all over the country.

I remember particularly a conference at St. Johns University in New Mexico where the debate topic was which book would have greater educational value, George Orwell’s “Burmese Days” or “I, Rigoberta Menchu.”
‘I, Rigoberta Menchu’ was the hot read of the early ’90’s.

Enough academic traditionalists were present for Orwell to garner a few votes, but the liberals wanted Menchu. She was relevant. She spoke for the oppressed people who had no voice, for diversity, ethnic and racial justice, for political virtue. She was the perfect counterpoint to the dominant white male culture, so slow, so reluctant to yield some place for minorities, women, native peoples.

Is anybody reading Rigoberta Menchu today? The book is ranked around 32,000 on Amazon, which indicates that it still sells, if modestly. But if the summer reading lists being assigned to the current crop of rising college freshmen is any indication, she’s had her time. The culture has moved on to other books of the moment.

Still, as the latest in an annual report on summer reading titles done by the National Association of Scholars shows, the trend represented by Menchu a quarter century ago – the trend favoring social justice, diversity, and immediate relevance – is, if anything, more dominant now. Menchu already represented a turn away from what were called, with a strong element of denigration, the white male classics, a yearning for otherness, for students to be alert to the struggle against racism and oppression, and that trend is ever more reflected in the books college freshmen are being asked to read, and to be ready for visits by the authors and small-group discussions on campus in the fall.

The scholars’ group is made up of politically moderate and conservative professors at numerous institutions of higher education across the country, generally united in their belief that an often-intolerant liberal orthodoxy threatens to wipe out genuine intellectual diversity. Not surprisingly, the group’s 191-page report, “Beach Books, 2016-17: What do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class?” comes to an unfavorable conclusion: that the choice of books is “banal and intellectually unchallenging” even as it mirrors liberal and progressive preferences, to the exclusion of contrary ideas.

The EPA Is Everywhere By Ted Hadzi-Antich & Ryan D. Walters

Starting in 2009, the Obama administration began regulating greenhouse gas emissions through a so-called “endangerment finding” by which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined greenhouse gases pose an unacceptable risk to human health and welfare. The most prevalent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is a natural substance that it is virtually everywhere and in everything. As a result, the endangerment finding provided the federal government with a springboard to arrogate to itself authority to regulate practically every nook and cranny of our nation’s economy.

The administration lost no time in using it. Starting with the transportation and electricity sectors, Obama’s EPA made plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from mining, manufacturing, construction, and farming operations, at the risk of displacing not only millions of American workers but also severely fettering the nation’s vibrant marketplace.

California provides a cautionary tale of central planning scenarios likely to arise from an unchecked endangerment finding. Under recently enacted state laws aimed a regulating greenhouse gases, Sacramento is on a path to dictating the fate of energy, transportation, agriculture, water, waste management, land use, and “green buildings” throughout the Golden State. Known as the Scoping Plan, these authoritarian economic controls are redolent of Soviet efforts at central planning.

An echo of California’s approach is found at the federal level in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a regulatory behemoth wholly dependent on the endangerment finding. The Clean Power Plan imposes unprecedented burdens on electricity generation, distribution, and retail sales, requiring a wholesale shift from fossil fuels to renewables and risking soaring electricity costs along with brownouts and blackouts. The Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan pending legal challenges, and President Trump also issued an executive order instructing the EPA to reconsider the plan. But as long as the endangerment finding remains on the books, the energy sector is not safe from the EPA’s assumption of centralized controls based on regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

However, the EPA missed an important step in making the endangerment finding. Specifically, the EPA was required by statute to seek peer review from the Science Advisory Board, a blue-ribbon panel of experts established by Congress to ensure that EPA’s regulations are based on accurate data and sound science. For more than 40 years, the EPA routinely sought peer review from the board for its regulatory proposals. But it refused to do so when the time came for the endangerment finding. Why?

By rushing to judgment, the EPA was able to circumvent the Science Advisory Board and advance the Obama administration’s ideological assumption that the endangerment finding was needed to protect human health and welfare. Despite the EPA’s acknowledgement that there are “varying degrees of uncertainty across many of these scientific issues,” it nevertheless concluded that the excessive rule was necessary with a 90–99 percent degree of certainty — a level of certainty that should give even the most fervent supporters of greenhouse gas emissions controls pause.

On May 1, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed an administrative petition with the EPA on behalf of a number of businesses, trade associations, and individuals. The petition, which asks the agency to reconsider the endangerment finding by seeking input from the Science Advisory Board, gives the new EPA administrator the opportunity to correct the Obama administration’s failure to obtain peer review. The EPA must comply with the law, just like the rest of us. Moreover, only with the open and studied process mandated by Congress for reviewing the scientific adequacy of regulatory action can the EPA make a sound decision on this economically fraught issue.

Ted Hadzi-Antich, senior attorney, and Ryan D. Walters, attorney, are with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and represent the parties asking EPA to reconsider the Endangerment Finding.

The Trump Jr. Meeting: A Smoking Gun? By Jim Talent

JIM TALENT Senator, MO Republican (2002–2007)
A number of writers in these pages have been critical of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Rob Goldstone, and a Russian lawyer. They include a lot of people I respect highly. Here are a few: Charles Krauthammer, David French, and the editors of National Review.

The visceral reaction of these writers was that there was something terribly abnormal or unethical about Trump Jr. being eager to meet with Goldstone and his Russian contact.

I didn’t react the same way. My first impulse was to think that, if I had been Trump, I too would have wanted to get useful information from the Russian, or at least to see what information she had. I wouldn’t have “loved” the idea, as Trump Jr said he did, but I would have wanted to listen to what the contact had to say.

After reading the NR articles, I thought perhaps I was missing something. So I called one of my former campaign staffers and asked him what he would have done in Trump Jr.’s place.

He said that “it would have been campaign malpractice not to explore the opportunity.” He added: “The first thing I would have done was to call the lawyers to see how I could proceed.”

That pretty much sums up my opinion. If I were running in a close race against an opponent who had been credibly accused of using her foundation to do favors for foreign entities, and a contact from one of those entities had approached my campaign with an offer of information, I would have wanted my campaign to follow up, albeit with caution. (More on the cautious part later.)

I would have been suspicious, of course, of the motives of the representative and the foreign entity. Maybe somebody was playing my campaign — setting us up. On the other hand, I would have also thought that it was precisely people connected with the foreign entity who might have the kind of information that would expose illegality by my opponent.

In other words, my reaction was that the meeting proves nothing other than that the Trump campaign was exploring a lead it thought credible, as it would have explored any other credible lead, whatever the source, and as most campaigns would have done in similar circumstances.

I ran for office eleven times, and in four highly competitive races: one for Congress, one for governor, and two for the Senate. Naturally, I wanted very much to win, in part because nobody likes to lose, but also because I really felt that I could accomplish worthwhile things in office.

To be sure, in any given election, many voters think that all of the candidates are pretty worthless, but understandably enough, the candidates themselves rarely see it that way. President Trump wasn’t the first politician, and won’t be the last, who believed that he could make America great again if only he could get elected.

In addition, when you become the nominee of your party, you have a responsibility to do everything you can to succeed. The agenda of your movement is at stake, your party is counting on you, and your supporters are working hard to elect you. Of course, every campaign should operate within ethical as well as legal constraints, but a candidate doesn’t have the luxury of eschewing an opportunity for political advantage because it carries some risk or is in some way distasteful.

I think most politicians of both parties would feel that way. And most candidates wouldn’t care too much about whether a foreign entity was rooting for them to win. How, really would you know what a foreign government is thinking? And what difference would it make to your campaign if you did know?

It’s a pretty good bet that Vladimir Putin preferred Barack Obama to Mitt Romney in 2012, given this episode, and this one.

So what should Obama have done? Blow the race to frustrate the Russians?

One of the things the press likes to do is to raise the visibility of something that has been part of the political culture for a long time, when by focusing on it they think they can embarrass a politician they don’t like. The press manifestly dislikes President Trump, and it has now discovered how terrible it is that foreign governments get involved in our elections — as if that never happened before, and as if the media hadn’t pretty much ignored it when it did.

I am not accusing Charles, David, or NR’s editors of engaging in such a double standard. But a double standard definitely is at play in much of the coverage of the Goldstone-Trump Jr. meeting.

Now for the caution part. Politics is a highly regulated affair, and so is dealing with foreign entities and people who purport to represent them.

The Trump campaign should have had experienced lawyers and senior national-security advisers, and those people should have been consulted when the request for a meeting was made. They could have helped lower the risks attendant to such a meeting. In fact, I would have had a lawyer and an intelligence professional attend the meeting, to assess the motives of the parties, the value of any information, the possibility of foreign intrigue, and whether the information should be shared with the authorities.

Gore: ‘Some Levels of the Earth System Have Crossed a Point of No Return’ By Nicholas Ballasy

WASHINGTON – Back with a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore reflected on his 2006 prediction that “the world would reach a point of no return within 10 years” if “drastic measures” were not taken to combat climate change.

Gore was asked why he made that prediction in the first film and if he has another prediction to make about climate change now 11 years later.

“First of all, we’ve seen a lot of progress since the first movie came out. We have the Paris agreement now. The cost of renewable energy has come down so quickly that people are switching over. Unfortunately, some levels of the Earth system have crossed a point of no return,” Gore said during an interview with PJM on the green carpet of the An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power screening Wednesday evening at the Newseum.

“The big chunk of the West Antarctic ice sheet, for example, makes a considerable amount of sea level rise inevitable in the future. But we still have the ability to stop short of other points of no return and we now have the solutions available to really solve this crisis. We need the political will, but political will is a renewable resource,” he added.

Gore recently said the U.S. still has time to “avoid catastrophe” related to the effects of climate change. PJM asked Gore what specific catastrophe he thinks might occur.

“I’m very optimistic because the entire world has now reached the agreement in Paris to go down to net-zero global warming pollution as early in the second half of this century as possible,” Gore replied. “Many countries are making dramatic changes now and, regardless of President Trump’s statement about the Paris agreement, our governors and mayors and business leaders are stepping up to fill the gap. I think we’re going to meet our obligations under the Paris agreement regardless of what he does.”

Jeff Skoll, a producer of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, said Gore was not predicting the “end of the world” when he said in 2006 that the “point of no return” would be reached within 10 years.

“The 10 year ago prediction wasn’t that it would be the end of the world, it would just be it’s going to be a lot harder 10 years from now if we don’t get started,” he said. “So here’s the good news: we actually have solutions now that we didn’t have 10 years ago. We have solar panels and wind that are less than the price of coal, which has always been, sort of, the lowest energy cost. We have batteries that are about to hit the next generation. We have electric cars that are a lot of fun to drive and are taking off.” CONTINUE AT SITE

Highlights From a Summer in Eurabia By Bruce Bawer

Adventurers that we are, we decided this year that during fellesferie — the three weeks in July during which, by Norwegian government decree, virtually everybody in the country goes on vacation at the same time – we would travel not to Gran Canaria or the Caribbean or the Greek islands but, instead, to the next sizable town over from ours, where we spent one night at a budget hostel.

So it was that last weekend we could be found sitting outside at a bar in Kongsberg, famous (at least in Norway) for its silver mines and for being the location of the Norwegian mint, and, more recently, as the city that produces such impressive cutting-edge defense technology as the new Joint Strike Missile.

One thing we noticed while wandering around Kongsberg was that there seemed to be a lot fewer women in hijab (or worse) than in our own somewhat smaller burg twenty miles away. I wondered if the government, which owns 50.001 percent of the Kongsberg defense conglomerate, had deliberately chosen not to settle too many Muslims in the city because of its sensitivity as a hub of classified military intelligence. Just a guess.

In the evening – it was a Friday – we went to a bar and sat outside sipping our beers at a sidewalk table. We had only been there for a matter of moments when the woman at the next table, who was alone, began speaking to us. This is common in Norway. Most Norwegians won’t meet your eyes when you walk past them on the street, and if you smile at them they’ll assume you’re crazy or dangerous or both; but after they’ve had a beer or two on a weekend evening, they’ll think nothing of sitting down at your table with you and telling you their life stories.

This woman, who must’ve been around fifty or so, was eager to do precisely that. Until a couple of years ago, she told us, she’d worked as an instructor in a government school, teaching Norwegian to adult immigrants, mostly from the Muslim world. She complimented me on my Norwegian but said that most Americans are terrible at learning Norwegian – Afghans and Iraqis, she insisted, put them in the shade.

I decided not to argue with her. True, most Americans, however long they’ve been in Norway, still don’t get the pronunciation right, especially the “r” sound. But back in the Dark Ages, when I took my own Norwegian course in Oslo, in a class made up exclusively of people from Western countries, our teacher told us that we were the class that every faculty member in the school coveted, because we were, relatively speaking, a breeze to teach: the other several dozen classrooms in the building were packed with students from Africa and south Asia, who would take a lot longer time to learn Norwegian than we would.

One reason for this was that, to put it euphemistically, those students were not accustomed to the classroom experience and to the manners and mores appropriate thereto. Nor were most of them terribly motivated to learn Norwegian. Their attendance was spotty. Some of them were women who had to be accompanied by male chaperones from their families, and who tended to drop out after a few weeks at most.

Teaching those classes could be dicey because, for cultural reasons, certain topics had to be avoided. Another part of the reason why they were tough to teach was that the students’ grasp of their own native languages was so tenuous. Many of them were actually illiterate, or only minimally literate, in their own tongues: how do you teach a second language to somebody who barely has a first one? CONTINUE AT SITE

Samantha Power Takes Center Stage in Unmasking Investigation By Debra Heine

Samantha Power has agreed to testify before a congressional panel, although an exact date has not yet been confirmed, a spokesman for the former ambassador told Fox News.

“Ambassador Power strongly supports any bipartisan effort to investigate and address Russia’s interference in our electoral process and she wanted to engage both House and Senate Committees charged with investigating it,” David Pressman, counsel to Power and partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, told Fox News. “Ambassador Power is very much looking forward to providing any assistance and encouragement she can to bipartisan efforts aimed at addressing this serious threat to our nation’s security.”

Red flags were immediately raised when House investigators identified Power as someone who was involved with the “unmasking” of Americans connected to the Trump campaign. She was President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, not an intelligence analyst. What business did she have unmasking the names of Trump campaign/transition officials?

According to Fox News, several other Obama officials are appearing on Capitol Hill this week to testify behind closed doors as well:

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared before both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on Monday.

Former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will also testify this week, Fox News was told.

But according to the Washington Free Beacon, House investigators now see Power as “central to efforts by top Obama administration officials” to unmask American citizens named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team.

The names of Trump allies in the raw intelligence reports were leaked to the press in what many in Congress and the current administration claim is an attempt by Obama allies and former officials to damage the White House.

A former senior U.S. official told WFB: “Unmasking is not a regular occurrence—absolutely not a weekly habit. It is rare, even at the National Security Council, and ought to be rarer still for a U.N. ambassador.”

“It might be defended when the communication in question relates directly to U.N. business, for example an important Security Council vote,” explained the former official, who would only discuss the matter on background. “Sometimes it might be done out of other motives than national security, such as sheer curiosity or to defend a bureaucratic position. Or just plain politics.”

The Intelligence Committee’s focus of Power and other key Obama officials is a prime example of the Obama administration’s efforts to spy on those close to Trump, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.

“The subpoena for Power suggests just how pervasive the Obama administration’s spying on Americans actually was,” said one veteran GOP political operative who has been briefed on the matter by senior Congressional intelligence officials. “The U.N. ambassador has absolutely no business calling for the quantity and quality of the intelligence that Power seems to have been asking for.”

The source questioned why Power would need to uncover such classified intelligence information in her role at the U.N.

“That’s just not the sort of thing that she should have been concerned about, unless she was playing the role of political operative with the help of the intelligence community,” the source said. “It gives away what was actually going on: the Obama administration was operating in a pervasive culture of impunity and using the intelligence community against their political opponents.”

Rice was scheduled to speak to House Intelligence Committee this week, but the meeting was reportedly postponed. Some sources speculated this could be a delaying tactic by Rice aimed at pushing the testimony back until after Congress’s summer recess. CONTINUE AT SITE

Venezuelan Opposition Stages General Strike Action brings cities to standstill in protest of President Nicolás Maduro’s plans to rewrite country’s constitution By Anatoly Kurmanaev

CARACAS, Venezuela—The cities of this economically distressed country largely came to a halt on Thursday, as the opposition staged a 24-hour general strike in a last-ditch attempt to force President Nicolás Maduro to abandon plans to rewrite the constitution.

Most residents of Caracas stayed home and businesses were closed, further depressing the country’s feeble economy. Members of opposition factions erected road barricades to block any remaining traffic, clashing in some neighborhoods with security forces.

“We have to make the government understand that people are dying of hunger and lack of medicines,” said Carlos Ramírez, an accountant who joined the strike in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz.

The country’s biggest business and farming associations were among the groups that spoke in favor of the action, and the National Transport Federation told its 200,000 bus drivers to stay home.

“It’s obvious that today is not a normal day and that Nicolás Maduro doesn’t have a way to prevent Venezuelans from exercising their will,” said opposition lawmaker Juan Andrés Mejía.

“We accompany the citizens who are looking for a peaceful exit from this crisis,” said Carlos Larrazabal, who is head of Fedecámeras, an umbrella organization for Venezuela’s chambers of commerce. He added that many of its members have been effectively idled anyway because of the economic depression.

The strike is part of the opposition’s “Zero Hour” protest campaign to prevent Mr. Maduro from staging a vote on July 30 for the Constituent Assembly, which is to be tasked with overhauling the country’s political system. The opposition, which controls congress, and ruling party dissidents are boycotting the vote and calling it illegal.

On Sunday, the opposition said it collected 7.6 million signatures, more than a third of all registered voters, in support of scrapping the vote. U.S. President Donald Trump promised “swift economic actions” if Mr. Maduro goes ahead with elections.

Mr. Maduro has responded by doubling down on the election campaign and accusing Mr. Trump of imperialism.

On Thursday, Mr. Maduro danced and sang at a youth rally in Caracas, playing the strike down as a failed effort by a few detractors. He threatened jail for the strike’s organizers. CONTINUE AT SITE

‘Do What You Can’ Senate Republicans try once more to rewrite ObamaCare. by James Freeman

“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spurred Republican senators Thursday to resolve internal disputes that have pushed their marquee health care bill to the brink of oblivion,” reports the Associated Press. At a White House meeting on Wednesday, President Trump urged the GOP lawmakers to try one more time to avoid pushing themselves into political oblivion.

According to the A.P.:

Aiming to finally resolve the issue, McConnell has said he’ll force a vote on the legislation early next week.

After a face-to-face lecture from Trump, around two dozen of them staged a nearly three-hour bargaining session Wednesday night to resolve their disputes. When it was over, none offered specific examples of any progress.

“We still do have work to do to get to a vote of 50, but people are committed to continuing that work,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., a member of the GOP leadership who hosted the meeting in his office.

Also attending Wednesday’s private meeting were health secretary Tom Price and Seema Verma, the Medicaid and Medicare administrator. It was interrupted by prayer after the lawmakers learned that [Sen. John] McCain, 80, had a cancerous brain tumor.

Earlier Wednesday at the White House, Trump told them they must not leave town for their August recess without sending him an “Obamacare” repeal bill to sign.

“I’m ready to act,” Trump said, foisting the responsibility on Republican lawmakers, not himself.

Of course it’s the U.S. Constitution, not Donald Trump, that has foisted the responsibility of passing bills on the elected legislators. And, as reported by the Journal, Mr. Trump makes a good case that GOP senators have a moral responsibility as well:

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare,” Mr. Trump said before a lunch with the senators Wednesday. He gestured at one wavering GOP lawmaker, Dean Heller of Nevada, saying, “He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” and warned lawmakers not to leave town in August without a deal.

“I’m ready to act, I have pen in hand, believe me, I’m sitting in that office. You’ve never had that before,” Mr. Trump said. “For seven years, you’ve had an easy rap: ‘We’ll repeal, we’ll replace, and he’s never going to sign it.’” CONTINUE AT SITE


Governor Bruce Rauner can term limit the matriarch of Illinois’ most powerful political family to 41 years.

House Speaker Michael Madigan is her husband. (34 YEARS) Attorney General Lisa Madigan is her daughter.(15 YEARS0 It’s an Illinois political dynasty.

In 1976, Shirley Madigan was appointed to the Illinois Arts Council – a state agency “…making art accessible for all.” (41 years)

Madigan became the chairman in 1983. In 2017, she’s still chairman.

On July 1, Shirley Madigan’s term expired and she’s up for reappointment. Governor Bruce Rauner should replace Madigan with a fresh face.

Here’s why reform is needed on the Illinois Arts Council:

grants were conferred without official meetings

rampant conflicts of interest were ignored

millions of taxpayer dollars were funneled to asset-rich arts organizations – including media outlets – which don’t need public money.


The Illinois Arts Council – led by the matriarch of the most powerful political family in Illinois – conferred grants without official meetings, ignored rampant conflicts of interest, and funneled millions of taxpayer dollars to asset-rich organizations – including media outlets – which don’t need public money.

Although Michael Madigan has served as the Illinois House Speaker for 34 years, interrupted for just two years in the 1990s, his wife, Shirley Madigan, has clinched a position on the Illinois Arts Council since 1976. She has servedas the chair of the council since 1983.

Governor Bruce Rauner must move immediately to end Shirley Madigan’s tenure on the Illinois Arts Council. Rauner has an historic opportunity to appoint thirteen fresh faces and take a reform majority on this important council of twenty-one. Two weeks ago, Shirley Madigan’s latest term expired alongside twelve other board members.

Over the past three years, Shirley Madigan’s Arts Council rarely met. Instead of holding tri-annual board meetings – as they’ve pledged to do – the council never met during the entire fiscal year of 2016. Still, without the sunshine of a public meeting, the council paid-out grants, salaries, and operational expenses. Only later did the board ratify the payments.

How does a governmental body confer and distribute millions of dollars in federal and state funding over a two-year period without an official meeting? The Edgar County Watchdogs sued the Illinois Arts Council for violations of the Freedom of Information Act and found no official meetings from August 2014 until October 2016.

Conflicts of interest between board members and affiliated organizations are rampant at the Arts Council. In fiscal year 2015 alone, board members disclosed conflicts causing 40 vote ‘abstentions.’ Loyola University – where Shirley Madigan received her master’s degree – has received $95,100 in grants since 2012. Henry Godinez is the resident artistic associate at the Goodman Theater, and Goodman received $165,650 since 2012.

One of the most conflicted board members is Christina Gidwitz, the wife of prominent Republican scion Ron Gidwitz. Since 2014, Ms. Gidwitz’s self-declared conflicts include The Field Museum of Natural History (theyendowed the Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds), Loyola University (they’re big donors), and the Lyric Opera (Ron serves as a director). These entities received $503,000 in Arts Council grants since 2012.

The Illinois Arts Council’s grants are not only made in the dark and riddled with conflicts, but they’re funding some of the richest arts organizations. Largely, taxpayer funding wasn’t awarded to ‘starving artists,’ but to well-connected entities with political clout.