Friday News: Three's a crowd


WALKER ON THE VERGE OF DROPPING OUT OF GOP SENATE PRIMARY: A candidate seeking North Carolina's Republican U.S. Senate nomination for over a year says he'll now reveal whether he'll stay in the race. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker scheduled a Thursday evening announcement in Greensboro, much of which he represented in Congress for six years through 2020. Walker fell behind nomination rivals Ted Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory in campaign fundraising in 2021. Budd — a current congressman — received President Donald Trump's endorsement in June. That's made it harder for Walker to win over Trump loyalists, especially among conservative Christians. Walker's campaign says he was offered the ex-president’s endorsement if he ran instead for a House seat in central North Carolina. The Trump effect: when a gun dealer steals the Christian vote from a Baptist Minister.

NC DEMOCRATS NEED TO FOCUS MORE ON THE SUBURBS: Two Duke University researchers have identified 28 counties crucial to former President Donald Trump’s victories in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections—areas that could present challenges for Democratic candidates in future elections. The so-called “countrypolitan” communities are located outside bigger cities and rest along an urban-rural divide. Duke researchers Mac McCorkle and Rachel Salzberg cite them as the biggest political problem for North Carolina Democrats in 2020 and an uphill battle for the party heading into 2022 statewide races. McCorkle, a former Democratic political consultant, said his analysis shows Democrats cannot afford to assume they will inevitably win statewide races because of growing city sizes and dwindling rural populations. While much analysis of Trump’s 2020 victory in North Carolina focused on the gap between major urban hubs and rural communities, McCorkle and Salzberg note Trump received significantly more votes in the 28 countrypolitan counties they identified compared to all of North Carolina’s 50 non-metro counties. Yes, big counties also have a lot of Republican voters, and we've known about our suburban weakness since 2012 (actually before then, but Obama losing and McCrory winning was a smack in the back of the head), but we do need to hear it again.

MEDICARE AND MEDICAID REFUSE TO COVER NEW ALZHEIMER'S DRUG: A drug that Alzheimer’s patients thought was going to be their next big hope has gotten much harder for them to access. Aduhelm {agu-helm} was approved by the FDA in June, but this month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made a preliminary decision not to cover the cost of the drug. The out-of-pocket cost for treatment is about $28,000 per year. It’s very rare that federal insurance coverage is denied for an FDA-approved drug. "It was devastating news for me," says Jay Reinstein, a patient who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's three years ago at the young age of 57. He left his job as an assistant city manager in Fayetteville. In a preliminary decision, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, known as CMS, says it plans to deny coverage for the drug – saying research shows it has unclear benefits and safety risks. It would only be covered for use in clinical trials, which is something most patients don’t have access to. Katherine Lambert, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association in North Carolina, says they are lobbying CMS to reverse its decision. They need to get this straightened out. I've lived this nightmare, and you probably will too, if you haven't already.

YEP, SARAH PALIN IS STILL A DANGEROUS IDIOT: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who is unvaccinated and revealed this week that she tested positive for the coronavirus, dined again at a New York City restaurant Wednesday night, flouting local health and safety measures calling for positive cases to isolate. Elio’s, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, has faced blowback after Palin dined indoors at the establishment on Saturday, in violation of the city’s dining mandate for people to show proof of vaccination. The Manhattan judge in Palin’s defamation trial against the New York Times revealed Monday that the proceedings would be delayed because the Republican tested positive for the virus. It’s unclear when Palin first tested positive. Even though local guidelines advise people who test positive to be in isolation for five days after their positive test, Palin returned to the restaurant on Wednesday night. In photos posted to Mediaite, the first to report the news, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, who has said she would only get vaccinated against the coronavirus “over my dead body,” was seen dining at a heated outdoor area of the restaurant. The city’s vaccine requirement does not apply for outdoor dining. “Tonight Sarah Palin returned to the restaurant to apologize for the fracas around her previous visit,” Guaitolini said in a statement. “In accordance with the vaccine mandate and to protect our staff, we seated her outdoors. We are a restaurant open to the public, and we treat all civilians the same.” Ah, the old apologize for fracas by creating more fracas stunt. Charming to the last. (that last was in Grand Moff Tarkin's voice, by the way.

WE'RE FINALLY GETTING AROUND TO CLEANING UP SPACE JUNK: The Pentagon wants to clean up space. Well, not all of it. But at least the increasingly polluted region in low Earth orbit, where thousands of bits of debris, spent rocket stages and dead satellites whiz uncontrollably, like so much flotsam. All of that junk from decades of space travel is not just unseemly but also poses serious risks to all sorts of satellites, including those the Pentagon and intelligence agencies use for national security. But tidying up space is far more difficult than cleaning a freeway or even an ocean. For one, objects in orbit are traveling incredibly fast — about 17,500 mph, or about five miles a second. Some of them are tumbling violently, making them difficult to grab. And it’s expensive to launch a spacecraft capable of sidling up to a piece of space garbage, grabbing it and tugging it out of orbit so it can burn up in the atmosphere. Still, the Defense Department, as well as other government agencies, has grown convinced that as Earth’s orbit becomes more crowded — and dirty — something needs to be done. Even something as small as a screw acts like a bullet in space and can cause enormous damage. Recently, it has launched a program, called Orbital Prime, under the U.S. Space Force that would give companies seed money to develop the technology needed to clean up space. In the first round of the program, companies would win awards of $250,000, with as much as $1.5 million in a second round of funding. The program would culminate with a test demonstration in orbit. In a video posted online advertising the program, Gen. David Thompson, the Space Force’s vice chief of space operations, said the Pentagon tracks more than 40,000 objects in space the size of a fist or larger. But he said there are at least 10 times as many smaller objects in orbit that the Pentagon can’t reliably track.



The problem with Aduhelm...

is that it's actually a really poor drug that should never have been approved by the FDA to begin with. While it may be basically safe, it's efficacy is very low, not really all that much better than a placebo. The FDA's own advisory panel recommended against approving it. I can see exactly why the CMS is not willing to spend limited dollars on something that is almost certainly ineffective. I understand the desperation of Alzheimers patients and their families (we went through this with my mother-in-law), but that's no excuse for CMS dropping $28,000/year/patient on a drug that has no clearly demonstrable effect.

And on another note entirely, I can only say that I hope Sarah Palin gets her wish about vaccination (okay, not really, but lets just say that she's setting herself up for a Herman Cain award with a statement like that.)

Countrypolitan Counties

In 2012 I remember working hard to get as many D votes as we could in my county. Everyone knew that we had no chance of ousting David Lewis, or winning the sheriff's race or more than the one minority/majority commissioner or school board races. But dang it, we got a few people that were up to that point fitting in and staying comfortable with our friends and family to do the unthinkable, vote for some Democrats. I have to feel that reducing the margin of victory in my county and others like it was the difference in Obama winning. Since then nothing has disappointed me more that seeing my party give up on rural white voters and just leave those votes to the Republicans. If you don't try you've already lost. I certainly hope that the movers and shakers take note and make a real effort to challenge in these counties and in the other rural strongholds.

I'm a moderate Democrat.