What Happened at Fast Company?

I have been a reader of Fast Company since 2001.  Some of their articles have been brilliant, such as the expose on China’s involvement in Africa.  Others, not so much.  I always objected when the annual Masters of Design issue didn’t include the designers of processes.  But the March 2012 issue was the first that was so offensive, so disgusting, so unconscionable that I was actually thinking of cancelling my subscription. In their list of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” they had the unmitigated nerve to list the Occupy Movement in seventh place after Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Square and Twitter!  Unbelievable!

I always tell my clients and students that everyone is entitled to make one mistake.  And did they ever make one!  In fact, they owe an apology to their subscribers, readers, advertisers, the 49 real innovative companies – first and foremost Square to which they compared Occupy, and, perhaps most importantly, to the victims of Occupy Wall Street.

What were you thinking?  Occupy Wall Street is an “innovative company?”  They compare them to Square?  When Square started operations did they articulate a list of goals?  (As is noted in the article, Occupy “notoriously won’t list its demands.”)  Did Square occupy private property?  Did Square damage private and public property?  Did Square have to be removed by court order?  Did Square defecate on their neighbor’s property?  Did Square urinate on their neighbors’ property?  Did Square constantly beat drums  destroying their neighbors’ quality of life?  Did Square attack the police?  Did Square want to get arrested?  Were Square’s facilities the sites of rapes?  Did Square ever refer to their competitors as “enemies”  (which is how Fast Company quotes them as referring to the 1%)?  Did Square hinder, and in some cases, stop people from going to work?  Did Square stop people from patronizing local stores and restaurants?  Did Square get people fired because the drop in customers forced business owners to lay them off?   Really?  Occupy Wall Street?  An “innovative company?”  Praised in Fast Company?  Seriously?

Fast Company, and its sister publication Inc., not only laud companies and entrepreneurs trying to get to be part of the “1 %,” they provide valuable insights to help companies grow.  With the exception of the non-profits, all the  companies listed in the “Most Innovative Companies” feature,are part of the 1% (or want to be!) that  the Occupy Movement considers to be their “enemy.”  Occupy will utilize their technology, but that does not mean that they want to emulate them.  They don’t want to build; they want to destroy.  They don’t want to create; they want to ruin.  That’s an “innovative” company?  Shame on Fast Company!

Beware Diploma Mills

For my BlogTalkRadio program I am looking for Ph.D.s to interview about their research.  The idea is to inform, enlighten and educate the general public about research that is being conducted at institutes of higher learning.

Today I received a response from a woman claiming to have a Ph.D. in “Natural Health.”  Not exactly a topic that interests me but, the purpose of the program is not to interest me but rather listeners.  Health and wellness are topical subjects, and “natural” is very popular.  So I asked her to send me her research proposal and I also asked her where she received her doctorate.

She wrote me back that she did not do her own research but rather researched other people’s research.  That might actually be legitimate, but the fact that she wrote “I did not do my own research,” set off some alarms.  Regardless of how she did what she did, all colleges require students to submit research proposals explaining what they want to do, how they are going to do it, and what the expected results are.  Something did not sound right.  So I Googled her school, Clayton College of Natural Health.  Take your time, I’ll wait.

So you saw the lawsuit.  You saw that the website no longer exists, except for one allowing graduates to order transcripts and diplomas.  And you saw Wikipedia’s first paragraph, “The Clayton College of Natural Health was a non-accredited American distance-learning natural health college based in Birmingham, Alabama, offering classes on natural health. It was founded in 1980 by Lloyd Clayton, Jr. According to its website, the school at one point had more than 25,000 students and graduates. Before 1997 it was known as the American College of Holistic Nutrition  The school and some of its more notable graduates have been the subject of controversy.”

When I e-mailed her back to explain that because her degree is from a non-accredited college I felt uncomfortable having her on the program, she politely replied that she had a friend from Stanford who just got his Ph.D. and she would tell him about my program.   She did not respond to the issue of the college’s accreditation or lack thereof.

What’s sad is that she goes around the country speaking and uses the Ph.D. openly.  On her website she even mentions Clayton.  She is hiding nothing.  It’s all out in the open.  Wasn’t it Sherlock Holmes who said that the best place to hide something is out in the open?  Need to hide a book?   Stick it on a book shelf.  Her degree is out there.  I Googled her and did not find a single reference to the fact that her Ph.D. is illegitimate.   In fact, on one of her websites, she states that she has attended programs at Harvard and at the National Institutes of Health.  I know for a fact that they do not require a Ph.D. to participate in Harvard or NIH programs.  But one would think that someone would have picked up on this.

The point, my friends, is that if you attend an unaccredited college or university, you may get away with it.  But you may not.  And if you get caught, by an employer who only hired you because you qualified – in other words, you met the minimum academic requirements – when it becomes known that your degree is from an unaccredited college, you could very well be fired.

A couple of years ago I had an incident with a candidate.  He had a Bachelor’s from a State college but a second Bachelor’s from another school and ten years later got a Ph.D. from that same school.  The first thing that was strange was that he had two Bachelor’s.  It happens.  But he did not have a Master’s degree.  Again, plenty of Ph.D.s don’t have Master’s.  A friend of mine, now a professor at Yale, went to the London School of Economics.  He was accepted to their Master’s program.   After maybe a year  they told him, with British humor, that he was being kicked out of the program.  They waited long enough for his heart to stop and then told him they were putting him directly into a doctoral program.  It happens.  But I decided to check.

Google “Glendale University.”  Did you notice the link at the bottom to “Glendale University diploma mill?”  If you visited the Glendale website, it looks impressive.  They claim to be accredited by the National Distance Learning Accreditation Council.  If you visit their website, they have a long list of schools that meet their “minimum requirement and standards.”  But it does not say that those schools are actually accredited by them.  Want to know why?  Because they aren’t.  The University of Phoenix, which they list near the top of their list,  ” is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.” They are legitimate!

But look again.  Notice that some of the universities are highlighted and some are not.  Click on “Suffield University” and go to their accreditation page.  They don’t even try to hide the truth.  They make it clear that their degrees are not recognized.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Cheaters never prosper.  Don’t waste your time buying a diploma.  Do it the right way.  Just think about how embarrassed you will be if someone publicly asks you about it.  My Clayton Ph.D. claims to be a sought after speaker.  What will happen if one day someone questions her Ph.D.?  The rest of her credentials may be legitimate.  She may actually know what she’s talking about.  She may even be good at what she does.  But whose going to take the advice of someone who claims to be something she is not?  True, she claims to be a Clayton Ph.D.  But the inference is that that is a legitimate Ph.D.  And that’s where the cheating comes into play.

I do career counseling.  I have a Ph.D.  My Ph.D. is in International Relations.  It says so on my website.  When clients come to me they are coming to me for my expertise learned on the job, not in the classroom.  They know it ahead of time.  Nothing is hidden.  Why?  Because I never want anyone to questions my credentials, my ethics, or my credibility.  I’m not perfect; I make mistakes.  But I’m right about this.  If you are thinking about “cheating,” don’t do it.  Get the degree the right way.

WORD OF WARNING TO VETERANS:  If a college is going to give you credit for your military work, check them out.  My guess is that they are a diploma mill.  Don’t let them take advantage of you.

Pharmaceutical Fornication – Part I

We’re being screwed!  It’s as simple as that.  If you did not get the chance to listen to my interview with Dr. Jeffrey Lobosky, you missed a fascinating discussion about the pharmaceutical industry.  Here are some of the highlights, or perhaps I should say, lowlights!

The $802 Million Controversy

Following World War II the pharmaceutical industry took off.  The cost of drugs began to rise, especially for seniors.  Seniors have always been a powerful lobby because seniors vote.  Congress threatened to regulate the pharmaceutical industry.  So the industry held a conference and explained, and this is true, that in the development of medications there are very few successes.  Research and development (R & D) did not guarantee the creation of new medications.  If the price of drugs was regulated, so they claimed, there would not be enough money to develop new drugs.  Everyone backed off and the matter was dropped.

Well, not everyone backed off.  The editor of the New England Journal of Medicine decided to research the claims made by the pharmaceutical industry and, specifically, the claim that it cost $802 million to develop a drug.  What she discovered was that in their calculations they neglected to deduct the cost of R & D which is tax exempt.  Moreover, their research focused on the 68 most expensive drugs that were developed in the year on which the research was based.  Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry factored in what is called the “Cost of Opportunity” which means the money that the company would have made had they invested the money in, for example, the stock market, and not used it for R & D.  (Feel free to read that sentence again.)  For her part, the good editor looked at all of the drugs produced in the same year and, deducting the cost of R &D and ignoring Cost of Opportunity, she came up with the price of $260 million for the development of a drug.  A lot of money, but far less that $802 million!

The Price of Drugs and Medicare

The grandparents are going to love this one!  The price of drugs is determined by the manufacturer, the insurance company and the pharmacy.  The more bodies the insurance company can deliver to the manufacturer, the lower the price.  Good ole’ fashioned capitalism at it’s best.  However…

The largest health insurance provider in the country is Medicare with 50 million members.  Medicare is forbidden, by law, to negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies.  According to the Prescription Drug Act which passed during the second Bush administration, not only is it illegal for Medicare to negotiate prices, but it is also illegal to import less expensive drugs from Canada.  And it gets worse…

When the Republicans took over Congress after the debacle of the health care insurance attempt of the Clinton Administration, Representative Billy Townsend, a Democrat from Louisiana, switched to the Republican party.  When George W. Bush was elected president, he picked Townsend to shepherd the Prescription Drug Act through Congress.  Townsend worked closely with the pharmaceutical industry and, after the law passed, he resigned and became the head of the pharmaceutical industry lobby at an annual salary of $2 million.   (Don’t scream yet; I’ll tell you when I’m finished!)

When Senator Obama was running for president, he used Townsend as the example of what was wrong with the system.  When he became President Obama and wanted his own health care legislation passed, he sent for Townsend.  They came to an agreement.  The pharmaceutical company would agree to give back $80 billion over a 10 year period to Medicare and to sponsor ads supporting the president’s health care plan, and Medicare will still be forbidden to negotiate prices.  The problem is that it is estimated that if Medicare could negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies the price of medications, they would save between $70 and $100 billion annually!  (You may now scream.)

The Bayh-Dole Act

Historically, if research was conducted at a public institution using public funds, the results of that research were in the public domain.  In other words, if the research resulted in a new process or a new substance, a private manufacturer would not be able to get a patent if it were to commercially develop the substance.  In 1980 Senators Bayh and Dole sponsored legislation that enabled researchers to obtain patents on their discoveries and to license those patents to private industry.  In other words, tax payer money goes to a team of researchers at a university who develop a new drug.  They get the patent and license it to a pharmaceutical company that then manufacturers the drug at the normal high price of a medication that the company develops on its own.  So not only do tax payers pay for the research, they don’t benefit monetarily from the fruits of that research – they pay full price and the pharmaceutical company makes huge profits.

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

Before 1997 only New Zealand allowed pharmaceutical companies to advertise.   Then the US joined them!  Between 1997 and 2006, with the birth of television, radio and print advertising of medications, the average price of a drug went from $30 to $68 and the average amount of money spent annually for medications rose from $72 billion to $300 billion.  The advertising budgets (and this would be a component in the price of a drug) rose from $780 million to $5 billion.

Academic Journals

Pharmaceutical companies have formed a relationship with medical journals.  It’s really simple:  the pharmaceutical companies pay for ads and the journals publish articles that downplay side effects or exaggerate the benefits of certain drugs.  It’s a clear conflict of interest.  Questionable science is being supported by major advertisers forcing editors to choose between staying in business or academic/scientific credibility.

Ad-Induced Diseases

Because of the ads seen by the public, mild medical complaints have become diseases.  Simple maladies are now complex conditions.  Heartburn is now acid reflux.  Instead of just taking a couple of Tums, people were prescribed Tagamet.  When Tagamet’s manufacturer lost their patent, the new drug was Prilosec.  And, of course,  each new drug is more expensive than its predecessor.  But it’s not just heartburn.  A runny nose is now allergic rhinitis requiring Claritin.

Managed Care

Physicians are now in the hands of the insurance companies.  When the new system began, if they wanted the insurance companies to send patients their way, the doctors had to agree to lower fees.  In order to make up for lost revenue, that meant they had to increase volume.  So they hired physician assistants and nurse practitioners to see patients, or they simply sent patients to the emergency room.  And when they do see a patient, and the patient asks for a drug they have seen advertised, it takes less time to simply write the prescription than to explain to the patient why the cheaper generic alternative is just as good.

Robert Torricelli

Torricelli used to be a senator from New Jersey.  (He decided not to run for reelection following a campaign finance scandal.)  In 1999 he was chair of the Senate Democratic Reelection Committee.  It was his job to raise money to get Democrats reelected (or elected) to the Senate.  The manufacturer of Claritin was going to lose its patent on the drug.  They went to the Senator, gave him a check for $50,000, and the next day he introduced legislation extending their patent.

You have my permission to scream again!  And you are invited to listen to my next program on the pharmaceutical industry, on Monday, June 27 at 2:00 PM.  My guest will be Tom Loker, author of The History and Evolution of Health Care in America: The Untold Backstory of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Why Health Care Needs More Reform.

What Am I Missing Here? Spousal Abuse and Stupidity or Just Stupidity?

Here’s a story that was related to me by someone I trust.

Like me, he commutes everyday from New Jersey to Manhattan.  He takes the bus.  A few days ago he got an aisle seat.  Sitting across from him were a husband and wife.  The husband had the window seat; the wife had the aisle seat.  So much for the geography of the story.

After the bus left Manhattan, it’s first stop was in Jersey.  A woman got on.  There was no seat so she stood a couple of feet in front of my source who told me that the husband, sitting across from him, looked up and said to his wife, “A beautiful woman should not have to stand.  Give her your seat!”

The wife actually stood up and told the woman to sit.  The woman accepted the offer.  (There was no way she could not have heard what the husband said.  She was not listening to music or talking on the phone.)  My source offered the wife his seat; she refused.

My initial reaction was that the wife is an abuse victim and is used to being treated disrespectfully.  As for the woman who accepted her seat…

What do you think?