Hillary Clinton denounces Halliburton’s move
NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday denounced oil giant Halliburton’s planned relocation to Dubai.
“I think it raises a lot of very big concerns and we’re going to be looking into it in Washington,” the New York senator said at a news conference in the Bronx. “I think it’s disgraceful that American companies are more than happy to try to get no-bid contracts like Halliburton has, and then turn around and say, ‘You know, we’re not going to stay.’”
On March 10, Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar announced that the conglomerate’s headquarters would move from Houston to Dubai, a booming city in the United Arab Emirates known for its liberal tax and residency laws. Lesar said the company’s business was now largely based in the Middle East and Asia.
Halliburton, which was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000, received several lucrative no-bid government contracts to manage the reconstruction of Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion there. Last month, federal investigators alleged Halliburton was responsible for $2.7 billion of the $10 billion in contractor waste and overcharging in Iraq.
In 2006, Halliburton earned profits of $2.3 billion on revenues of $22.6 billion.
“We have a lot of evidence about their misuse of government contracts and how they have cheated the American soldier, cheated the American taxpayer, they have taken money and not provided the services,” said Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “So, does moving overseas mean that we won’t be able to pursue these investigations?”
Halliburton spokeswoman Melissa Norcross said the company did not expect to receive any tax benefits from the Dubai move and that it would comply with U.S. government oversight.
“With the addition of a corporate headquarters office in Dubai, we join the ranks of many major corporations with multiple centers of senior management,” Norcross said.
Veterans Administration orders review of 1,400 clinics
WASHINGTON — The VA is ordering its 1,400 hospitals and clinics to report on the quality of their facilities to determine if squalid conditions found at Walter Reed Medical Center exist elsewhere.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson issued the directive in an internal memorandum sent last week to the VA’s medical center directors. He said “recent events” compelled him to redouble efforts to improve the physical environment at outpatient center and medical facilities.
“I am directing you hereby to conduct and supervise a full and immediate review of your facility’s environments of care,” Nicholson wrote in the March 7 memorandum, which was obtained Monday. The memo asks for a full report by March 14.
“As medical center and network directors, you all are responsible,” he said. “Negative responses are required.”
On Monday, Nicholson paid a surprise visit to the VA medical center in Richmond, Va., as part of the department’s ongoing efforts to “make sure veterans are receiving access to the best possible care and environment.”
During that time, he met with center officials for two to three hours to hear their concerns about what can be done to improve care, the department said, with more visits planned to other facilities in coming months.
Nicholson’s moves come in the wake of disclosures of roach-infested conditions and shoddy outpatient care at Walter Reed Medical Center, one of the nation’s premier facilities for treating those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also comes as Democrats newly in charge of Congress have questioned whether Nicholson, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is up to the job of revitalizing a veterans care system beset with bureaucratic delays and poor coordination.
Prescription drug sales rise 8.3 percent
NEW YORK — U.S. prescription drug sales rose 8.3 percent to $274 billion last year, fueled by the Medicare drug benefit, increased use of generic medicines and new treatments for diseases such as cancer and diabetes, according to a new report.
This year, the pace of sales growth is expected to slow but remain in a compounded annual rate of between 6 percent and 9 percent through 2010 as the Medicare drug benefit is annualized and more generic products enter the market, according to the report released last Thursday by IMS Health.
IMS Health provides data to the pharmaceutical and health care industries.
U.S. drug sales rose 5.8 percent to $253.7 billion in 2005.
But in 2006, the Medicare drug benefit offered prescription coverage to some individuals who were previously uninsured or underinsured. Prescriptions dispensed through the Medicare drug benefit accounted for 17 percent of retail prescriptions by the end of the year, the report said.
Sales of unbranded generics rose 22 percent to $27.4 billion, driven by prescriptions for medicines such as the copycat versions of cholesterol agent Zocor and antidepressant Zoloft.
IMS also noted some new drugs performed well last year, such as cancer agent Sutent from Pfizer Inc. and diabetes treatments such as Eli Lilly and Co.’s Byetta and Merck & Co.’s Januvia.
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