Ebola: Should profit-seeking drive development of Ebola medicines?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Ebola
HOW WILL A CURE BE FOUND? In addition to corporate and university research, government-funded centers are working on the puzzle. This photo shows a researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, better known as USAMRIID (pronounced you-SAM-rid).

HOW WILL A CURE BE FOUND? In addition to corporate and university research, government-funded centers are working on the puzzle. This photo shows a researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, better known as USAMRIID (pronounced you-SAM-rid).

Have you heard of “Ebolanomics”? It’s what happens when humanitarian needs clash with the profit motive.

So far this week, we’ve discussed how Ebola has dominated the news and our daily conversations, the extent to which people are changing their personal travel plans, whether hysteria makes sense, and the public’s slipping confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle the Ebola threat. Today, we consider the economics of the situation.

“Ebolanomics” has entered our lexicon to refer to the challenges of the business model for developing vaccines or treatments for Ebola. To put it bluntly, drug companies are for-profit enterprises and there isn’t much money to be made in medicines for Ebola or other so-called tropical diseases that predominately afflict the peoples of poor nations. While there is certainly an humanitarian need for these medicines, drug companies aren’t going to make much money by developing them.

Drug companies make much more money by developing and selling medicines for the ills and afflictions of the people of affluent nations. Now, I’m not chiding drug companies for focusing on profits. Making money is an imperative for private companies organized as for-profit, market-driven corporations. And drug companies do considerable philanthropic work.

But the dilemma remains. How do we promote and reward the development of medicines where there is dire human need for them, but little money to be made? Should the government fund the research? Should big prizes be awarded for breakthroughs? These are some of the questions be considered right now by the World Health Organization and other organizations.

Should humanitarian needs outweigh the profit motive?

How would you solve the dilemma?

Doing Good: What 10 percent could do

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Doing Good
Chronicle of Philanthropy Stubborn 2 percent

Click this preview image to visit the Chronicle of Philanthropy and read the entire report.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, Gayle Campbell is exploring the ways we think we’re doing good. Here is the third of her five parts …

10% is the number we often hear in conversations on charitable giving. The origins of the figure date back to ancient times, when kings or rulers often mandated civilians pay a tenth of their goods or income to be offered as a sacrifice to the gods, or maintain the kingdom. In many religious traditions today, members are asked to “tithe,” or give back a tenth of their income to God.

On average, however, Americans generally give away just 2 percent of their disposable income, according to Giving USA, an annual report conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. That’s a sizeable difference from the 10% giving level often suggested by charities and churches.

So, what could change if more of us gave our money away?

Giving What We Can, the organization we covered yesterday, gives us one example: “If the average US citizen gave 10% of his or her income to the Against Malaria Foundation, then each year it could distribute 700 mosquito nets, preventing 190 cases of malaria and 2.2 deaths. This would amount to saving 90 lives over the course of his or her life.”

Mike Holmes, of TitheHacker.com, points out that if all Christians tithed 10%, there would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute, and over the course of five years, hunger, starvation and death from preventable disease could be relieved, illiteracy eliminated and the world’s water and sanitation crisis solved.

Curious what kind of difference you could make by giving 10%? Check out this calculator to see how many lives you could save by donating 10%.

We want to hear from you!
Do you prioritize charitable giving in your finances? What keeps you motivated?
Are you surprised to hear what the world could look like if everyone gave?


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Why wait? Know what happens as soon as you quit smoking?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Why wait?
Quit smoking2

CLICK ONCE ON THIS POSTER, based on CDC data, to see a larger version. Then, you can click again to see the poster in even more detail.

Don’t wait! Do it now!

This week’s Our Values posts have looked at some of the benefits of waiting, and why it is sometimes better to postpone a tough decision.

But that’s definitely a wrong strategy when it comes to your health. If you’re a smoker and want to quit—and are waiting until the end of the year to make that a New Year’s resolution—you’ll miss out on months of better health between now and then.

Many long-term smokers think that they’ve already done permanent damage to their hearts and lungs, and underestimate what they’ll get out of quitting right now.

But the Centers for Disease Control says the benefits kick in nearly immediately. “Within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years,” according to their studies.

As the poster explains, “Within 20 minutes—Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.” Click on the poster to read it in more detail.

Exercise has some of the same benefits, no matter how late you start. “It’s never too late to start exercising,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Exercise has benefits at any age.”

So let’s stop kicking this can down the road, unless we’re kicking an actual can down an actual road.

Know other life changes that shouldn’t wait?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: In recent years, Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. We invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Contraceptive Mandate: Who has the power?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Contraceptive Mandate

The contraceptive mandate brings together so many issues, each of which can be controversial by itself: sex, reproduction, gender, religion, federalism, and more.

Hobby Lobby store at night

What do the employees want? Their preferences aren’t at issue in this case. The chain’s owners and the high court hold the power.

One issue that hasn’t received enough attention is power. Who has the power? Who doesn’t?

This week, we’ve covered various facets of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning religious objections, by corporate owners, to the contraceptive mandate. These include the concept of corporations as persons, women’s rights versus religious rights, and differences in public opinion about the issues from the beginning of the month to just this week.

Today, we consider the issue of power. By power, my focus isn’t the power of the high court to decide these matters. It’s the age-old issue of the power of business owners versus employees. Let’s put aside the issue of religious principles. I know that’s at the heart of the matter, but let’s hold it in order to consider the issue of power.

Employees have very little power vis-à-vis the power of the business owners. Business owners make decisions and impose them on their many employees. Employees don’t have a say.

I would love to see results from an opinion poll of the employees of Hobby Lobby. What are their feelings about the contraceptive mandate? Do they want no-cost access to all contraceptive technologies, including the morning-after pill and IUD? Do they have religious objections? Presumably, some do and some don’t. Each employee has his or her own moral and religious principles that come into play when making decisions about conception and contraceptives.

But the high court will make a decision that sweeps over all employees, one way or the other. This decision might favor the will of corporate owners, or it may not—either way, the employees are voiceless.

Should the employees have a say?

Should their voices be taken into consideration?

Or, does the power reside with the corporate owners?

Contraceptive Mandate: Women’s rights versus religious rights?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Contraceptive Mandate
One century ago, in March 1914, birth-control pioneer, launched her famous magazine, The Woman Rebel. She took the slogan "No Gods, No Masters" from a famous slogan in the early labor movement. By August of that year, she was indicted under U.S. postal obscenity laws for mailing the magazine.

One century ago, in March 1914, birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger launched her famous magazine, The Woman Rebel. She took the phrase “No Gods, No Masters” from a famous slogan used in the early labor movement. By August of that year, she was indicted under U.S. postal obscenity laws for mailing the magazine.

The CONTROVERSY over the so-called contraceptive mandate is being framed as a clash of basic rights: women’s reproductive rights versus an employer’s religious rights. Adam Liptak, in yesterday’s New York Times, wrote that the case opening before the U.S. Supreme Court today “pits religious liberty against women’s rights.”

The contraceptive mandate requires employers to provide birth control as part of their insurance plans. The cases before the high court concern the owners of some for-profit corporations who object to the contraceptive mandate on religious grounds. To be precise, they don’t object to all forms of contraception. They object to contraceptives that “end life after conception” such as the morning after pill and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

About one-half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unwanted, according to an article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Reducing unwanted pregnancies would cut risks to women’s health and costs to families and societies. “Contraception is a highly cost-effective public health measure, and the most effective methods are also the most cost-effective,” write the authors. “Unfortunately, the cost to individuals can be a substantial barrier to the use of highly effective methods.” The most cost-effective methods, such as IUDs, “carry a high up-front cost that can present an insurmountable barrier to women who might otherwise want to use them.”

Is “religious rights versus women’s rights” the correct framing of the issues?

Should public health trump religious objections?

Contraceptive Mandate: Do corporations have the people’s rights?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Contraceptive Mandate
US Supreme Court blog logo

The “Supreme Court of the United States” (SCOTUS) blog has a lot more about this case and will include updates this week. Click the logo to visit the blog.

The U.S. Supreme Court begins hearings this week on the contraceptive mandate—the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to include birth control in their insurance plans. Several issues are in play—all have to do with values.

One issue is this: Do corporations have religious rights? Are they “people”?

Churches and religious groups are exempt from the contraceptive mandate, meaning that they don’t have to provide this coverage if it violates religious principles. The cases the high court considers this week involve secular corporations whose owners object to the mandate on religious grounds. The companies are Hobby Lobby (owned through a trust by evangelical Christians) and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation (owned by a Mennonite family).

Similar cases heard in federal courts around the country have produced conflicting decisions, which is why this challenge to the Affordable Care Act has risen to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An argument preview on the Supreme Court of the United States blog presents one of the core issues: “At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can ‘exercise’ religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference… In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are ‘people.’ The First Amendment protects the rights ‘of the people,’ and the … law protects the religious rights of ‘persons.’ Do profit-making companies qualify as either?”

Do corporations have religious rights?

Are corporations “people”?

How would you decide the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases?

LGBT Trends: Who still thinks AIDS may be ‘divine punishment’?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series LGBT Trends
2014 PEW report on LGBT related attitudes


In 1992, over a third of Americans (36%) said that AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior. Over time, public opinion has become more supportive of gay rights and even legalized same-sex marriage. Has this trend also lessened the opinion that AIDS could be divine punishment for immorality?

The percent of Americans who now agree that AIDS is God’s punishment has dropped considerably, according to the just-released report by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). But a sizable minority—14% of all Americans—still believe that AIDS is divine punishment.

We see big drops in the “divine punishment” theory across the board. In 1992, the majority of white evangelical Protestants (51%) subscribed to this explanation of AIDS; today, the percent is 24%, according to PRRI. Similarly, 50% of black Protestants in 1992 said that AIDS was God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior, but that figure has fallen to 20% today.

Only 7% of white Catholics today perceive AIDS to be divine punishment, 10% of white mainline Protestants, and 8% of the religiously unaffiliated.

We also see differences by political party affiliation. One of four Tea Partiers (24%) today subscribe to the theory of divine punishment. About two of ten Republicans (19%) agree. Support for the idea that God uses AIDS to punish immoral sexual behavior is the lowest for Democrats (13%) and Independents (14%).

Do you agree or disagree that AIDS is God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior?

What explains the trend towards fewer and fewer Americans believing that AIDS is divine punishment?