Cassini Has Plunged Through Saturn’s Icy Ring Plane — But Runs Silent, Until Early Tomorrow, Now…

April 26, 2017 - Leave a Response

A couple of hours ago (local time), after twisting with unwasted grace — to face its large dish into the path of potential damage, much like a shield — Cassini likely whizzed through a gap in the Saturnian rings, completely unscathed.

But because she is running silent, we won’t know whether she hit a stray block of ice or rock (perhaps even just the size of an SUV), and was damaged or obliterated, until very late tonight. So we wait — and hold our breath:

. . . .If all goes as planned:

— 5 p.m. PDT (8 p.m. EDT) on April 25: Cassini is approaching Saturn over the planet’s northern hemisphere in advance of its first of 22 planned dives through the gap between the planet and its rings.

— 1:34 a.m. PDT (4:34 a.m. EDT) on April 26: As it passes from north to south over Saturn, Cassini begins a 14-minute turn to point its high-gain antenna into the direction of oncoming ring particles. In this orientation, the antenna acts as a protective shield for Cassini’s instruments and engineering systems.

— 2 a.m. PDT (5 a.m. EDT) on April 26: Cassini crosses the ring plane during its dive between the rings and Saturn. The spacecraft’s science instruments are collecting data, but Cassini is not in contact with Earth at this time.

No earlier than around midnight PDT on April 26 (3 a.m. EDT on April 27): Earth has its first opportunity to regain contact with Cassini as the giant, 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, listens for the spacecraft’s radio signal.

— Likely no earlier than 12:30 a.m. PDT (3:30 a.m. EDT) on April 27: Images are scheduled to become available from the spacecraft. . . .

While we wait — we will gaze skyward, facing generally south; smile expectantly, and read appropriately relatable poetry — sharing bits of that here — with an edited image — late in the day. Onward — and, in honor of this shepherded moon-lette — do today “dare mighty things“, just as the Cassini team has, for over 13 years now.


[U] And Now, 45’s Unconstitutional Threat To Cut Off Funding To Sanctuary Cities… Is Toast — Enjoined.

April 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

UPDATED — 04.26.17 @ 9 AM EDT: Mr. Trump has tweeted (silly boy!) that the below-opinion (and the Ban 2.0 rulings) are “ridiculous” — and smack of “judge shopping. . . .”

You read it here first: Mr. Trump will lose — on his sanctuary city threats executive order, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Not a single USSCT Justice will agree that he possesses the power to violate the Tenth Amendment — which is exactly what he vainly tried to do, here. Condor doesn’t just predict — on this — no, Condor flat out guarantees. . . 45 loses (again). [End, updated portion.]

I’ve not mentioned this piece of federal litigation here before, as it all seemed painfully obvious on its face — but 45 was just officially handed another courtroom loss — in his apparently unending quest, to be the least Constitutionally literate President. . . in our 240-plus years of history.

A nationwide preliminary injunction order, in the federal courthouse in San Francisco was just issued — leaving 45 rather completely hamstrung, in trying to end funding to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Milwaukee and various other cities around the nation. See The New York Times — here:

. . . .Judge William H. Orrick of United States District Court for the Northern District of California, issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the administration, directing it to stop trying to cut off aid to sanctuary jurisdictions. But the order does not prevent the federal government from moving forward on designating certain places as “sanctuaries,” nor does it keep the administration from enforcing conditions for doling out federal money if they already exist, as the Justice Department has already begun to do with some law enforcement grants.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County, which had asked the judge for an injunction, “have a strong interest in avoiding unconstitutional federal enforcement and the significant budget uncertainty that has resulted from the Order’s broad and threatening language,” the judge wrote, referring to Mr. Trump’s January executive order on immigration. . . .

And, from the able Judge Orrick’s opinion, then:

. . . .Although the Government’s new interpretation of the Order is not legally plausible, in effect it appears to put the parties in general agreement regarding the Order’s constitutional limitations. The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds. Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that the total financial incentive not be coercive. Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which
the President disapproves
. . . .

The Supreme Court has acknowledged that applying a narrow construction to an unconstitutionally overbroad statute does not address the confusion and potential deterrent effect caused by the language of the law itself. See, Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205, 216 (1975) (concluding, in a First Amendment case, that a narrow construction of an overbroad statute was likely inappropriate because the “deterrent effect on legitimate expression is both real and substantial.”). As discussed below, the coercive effects of the Order’s broad language counsel against adopting a narrow construction that deprives it of any legal meaning. The Government’s construction is not reasonable. It requires a complete rewriting of the Order’s language and does not “save” any part of Section 9(a)’s legal effect. There is no doubt that Section 9(a), as written, changes the law. . . . [and thus fails]. . . .

Quite so. And so — on some sunny Spring afternoons, it seems the entire Universe vibrates perfectly as one, in sublime synchronicity. This moment is one of those. Smile. . . . you know who you are. . . .


In The “It Is Much Easier To LIE (On The Campaign Trail) — Than To Lead (In The White House)” Department…

April 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

It scarcely bears mentioning that 45’s latest bluster on doing something — anything — about health care delivery is. . . D.O.A.

The Washington Post gets it quite right here, this morning — so just go read it:

. . . .[O]ne of the proposals that’s moved to the center of the conservative focus on reforming Obamacare — removing the mandate that preexisting conditions be covered — is opposed by majorities across the political spectrum. Even a majority of Trump voters think that there should be a national standard to protect preexisting conditions. . . .

Unlike all those I care about, this whole ball of wax is decidedly. . . DOA. Onward on a perfect sunny Tuesday, with not a worry, or care — on this green Earth. Or at least that’s how the whole rest of the Earth will see. . . me — because I get to decide that. . . for me. . . .


In What Is Likely A First, CSPAN-TV Will Broadcast Ninth Circuit Hearing On “Ban 2.0” LIVE, On May 15, 2017

April 24, 2017 - Leave a Response

It is (I think) wise to allow the people of this great nation to see how their system of checks and balances functions, in their name.

But it is a rare thing, indeed, to see the inside of a federal appellate courtroom, LIVE, in real time, in session — on television. However, that is just exactly what’s on tap for May 15, in the Ninth Circuit, in Seattle. Excellent — per the court’s order, tonight:

. . . .C-Span applied to broadcast live, the case captioned above, scheduled to be heard at The William K. Nakamura Courthouse in Seattle, WA on Monday, May 15, 2017. C-Span’s request to broadcast live is GRANTED.

C-Span will serve as the pool-feed for all media organizations that submit an application. . . .

That is wonderful, truly — I am smiling ear to ear, here. But, in darker doings, do see the masthead — I couldn’t make this sort of Don-foolery up — if I tried. As of 10 PM EDT, the Trump Administration had removed the ad for his golf club from the Department of State website. Like many a person completely unaware of how others see them, I guess. . . but very nauseating — just the same. . . . G’night.


In What Might Be Thought Of As A “Nuisance Value” Patent Payment…

April 24, 2017 - Leave a Response

. . .over the weekend, Kenilworth apparently agreed to pay a waifish one time amount to a patent estate managing bio-science company with its HQ in Incline Village, Nevada. [That tells you something. Grin.]

The fact that it is less than $20 million, paid once only, and grants Merck perpetual freedom from nonsense value suits filed against pembrolizumab patents, tells us much about the context, here. Merck would spend that much, in all likelihood, should a trial and appeal occur — so all Merck has done here is avoid paying more legal fees, by simply and cheaply buying peace with the so-called Queen patent-holder (which PDL apparently itself acquired from a third party). From Yahoo! News:

. . . .Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will pay the Company a one time, lump-sum payment of $19.5 million, and the Company will grant Merck a fully paid-up, royalty free, non-exclusive license to certain of the Company’s Queen et al. patent rights for use in connection with Keytruda as well as a covenant not to sue Merck for any royalties regarding Keytruda. In addition, the parties agreed to dismiss all claims in the relevant legal proceedings. . . .

So Kenilworth made one payment of something well-shy of one half of one per cent of its likely 2017 sales of this product — to close PDL out. And with that, we are back at full-speed! Baby-Face grinning, on a sunny Monday. . . . Onward!

UPDATED: Signal acquired. Smile. Now you know — sunny and crisp here — still awaiting signal acquisition from Cassini, after her bend around Titan for the final time — yes, that lil’ “shepherd moon-lette” I’ve grown so fond of. Smile.


Update: The Ninth Circuit Is Once Again Back To A Three Judge Panel, On 45’s Muslim Ban 2.0

April 23, 2017 - Leave a Response

This order was entered while I was in the air on Friday.

It restores the Ninth Circuit’s clear timing advantage, in getting an opinion out first. And I for one believe the Ninth will preserve the nationwide injunction against the Ban 2.0. The order, then:

. . . .The full court was advised of the petition for initial hearing en banc. A judge requested a vote on whether to hear the matter en banc before the limited en banc court. Another judge requested a vote on whether to hear the matter en banc before the full court. The matter failed to receive a majority of the votes of the nonrecused active judges in favor of initial en banc consideration. Fed. R. App. P. 35. Therefore, initial en banc proceedings are concluded, and all remaining issues will be decided by the three-judge panel. . . .

Now you know. G’night to all of good will.


While I Was Away… News On Samsung/Merck; And J&J Remicade® Connections…

April 23, 2017 - Leave a Response

We have been following this specific arc of narrative for just over four years now (and the more general S-P Remicade® choke, for going on eight). Whilst we were off grid, our buddy John Carroll very-ably picked up the slack. Do go read all of his, from Friday, past. It is spot-on.

Even so, there is more history to be re-told here. As they say, one’s history is defined by the narrator, after the fact. [We hinted at some of this when we discussed J&J results, last week.]

In this case, the story (in our opinion) starts with less than careful lawyering by the then-GC at legacy Schering-Plough. And it devolves into a multi-billion dollar arbitration with J&J — in the settlement of which, Merck is required to surrender the US rights to Remicade®, to its opponent — J&J. So, when John closes below by saying that Merck will compete in the US against the branded version, while selling its new biosimilar with collaborator Samsung Bioepis — that leaves unsaid WHY that odd state of affairs now exists (with Merck still selling the branded version in Europe). It exists, in my opinion, due to a far too cute attempt to skirt a plainly enforceable contractual provision (which favored J&J/Centocor) — by the lawyers who (last-minute) tried to engineer a more-favorable sale — of legacy Schering Plough — to Merck, in late 2009/early 2010.

. . . .The FDA has approved a new knockoff of J&J’s top earning drug Remicade, which may finally start to shift the market dynamics toward greater competition with lower prices.

This new one is dubbed Renflexis and comes from Samsung Bioepis, one of the big players in the biosimilars field. And it arrives in the US market close to a year after the EMA approved it for Europe.

J&J’s Remicade earned close to $7 billion last year, making this by far its biggest drug in the portfolio. And as J&J noted a few days ago during its Q1 call with analysts, the pharma giant has yet to feel much of an impact from the first Remicade biosimilar from Pfizer, Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb), which was developed by Celltrion and then bagged by the pharma giant in its acquisition of Hospira. That was approved last fall.

Now Merck will pick up the commercialization work of this second knockoff as J&J enters a new stage in defending the huge franchise. Ironically, Merck will now market Remicade in Europe, while competing with it in the US. . . .

But if you’re a regular reader, here — you already well-knew that the irony mentioned above was born in the feverish opium den of drug and biologic non-discovery that was Fred Hassan’s version of Schering-Plough. . . smile.

And so, as we slip into the easy chair in our city-flat, on another languid, clear Sunday night — we will observe that this all unfolded, just as we had predicted — in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Grin-worthy. Onward. . . as we “wait for sleep to find us” — but tonight, we’ll not need to wait very long, at all [as sometimes it feels like we “write like we are running out of time,” indeed].


As I Head Off-Grid — For A Long Weekend, Of “Unwasted Grace”…

April 20, 2017 - Leave a Response

This evening, I will note the sublime synchronicity here — gossamer-like, and gracefully twisting, the dark-amber, almost cinnamon hued Cassini (at least as seen by these eyes, in the perpetual half-light that is Saturn, and her moons). . . will this weekend make her final close fly-by of the haze-shrouded big moon Titan.

[It seems I too will make a derivative-equations-laced version, of such a final fly-by, within hours of that time — but in our own southern states.] This has put me in mind of ways to best handle things that come naturally, but sweetly. . . to their ends. As all good things. . . do.

So as we often are wont, on such occasions, we will offer some poetry, welded to an image of that moment [click it to enlarge] — and a solid space science video, after the NASA pull-quote. Do enjoy, the wonder here offered:

. . . .NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s haze-enshrouded moon Titan this weekend. The flyby marks the mission’s final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the moon’s northern polar region, and the last chance to use its powerful radar to pierce the haze and make detailed images of the surface.

Closest approach to Titan is planned for 11:08 p.m. PDT on April 21 (2:08 a.m. EDT April 22). During the encounter, Cassini will pass as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan’s surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

The flyby is also the gateway to Cassini’s Grand Finale — a final set of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and its rings, ending with a plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15 that will end the mission. During the close pass on April 21, Titan’s gravity will bend Cassini’s orbit around Saturn, shrinking it slightly, so that instead of passing just outside the rings, the spacecraft will begin its finale dives which pass just inside the rings. . . .

So do treat each other well, whilst I’m twisting around Alabama — for if you do not, I will know of it, via astro-dynamics — and come visit, as a shipwreck — amongst those shepherded orbital ellipses — smile. . . .[Subsequently — oh my. My ‘Hawks looked awful last night. Congrats to the Preds. Next year. Always next year.]


Another Excellent Brief — By Amici — In The Ninth Circuit, Tonight…

April 20, 2017 - Leave a Response

This time, the amicus brief is authored by a coalition of the most esteemed Constitutional law professors our nation has to offer. So, I’d trust their views.

And this time, a great bit of scholarly attention is paid (in a 43 page PDF) to the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment — and long standing precedents there under. As you might imagine, Mr. Trump’s twin (but serial) Muslim banning orders flunk every imaginable test — and so, the Framers’ whose views are recounted here, and the language the amici use to convey the same is. . . towering, in its command of our system of ordered liberties (as this case is almost — but only almost — without precedent):

. . . .The bill against which James Madison famously remonstrated has been consigned to the dustbin of history. But the underlying evils against which Madison warned are still with us. This case does not present them in disguise. No, “this wolf comes. . . as a wolf.” Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 699 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting). President Trump repeatedly and ostentatiously expressed the animus that brought it forth in his calls, and subsequent acts, to ban persons of a single faith from entering the United States. For liberty to endure, the Order must be rejected. . . .

The Framers thus understood that their task was to design a “government for a pluralistic nation — a country in which people of different faiths had to live together.” Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation 101 (2006). As George Washington wrote, “the government of the United States. . . gives to [religious] bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Letter from George Washington to the Jews (Aug. 18, 1790). . . .

Thomas Jefferson, in turn, saw the Establishment Clause as “proof that [the people] meant to comprehend, within the mantle of [the law’s] protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo. . . [and] every denomination.” Thomas Jefferson, Writings 40 (Merrill D. Peterson ed., Library of Am. 1984). . . .

Even acknowledging the deference due to the President in matters of immigration and national security, it is hard to imagine a clearer case of governmental action motivated by animus toward a single religion. . . .

[A]s a matter of law, the Supreme Court has never suggested that statements in some fora — such as campaigns — are uniquely irrelevant to motive analysis. To the contrary, courts must consider “the historical background of the decision under challenge, the specific series of events leading to the enactment or official policy in question, and the legislative or administrative history, including contemporaneous statements made by members of the decisionmaking body.” Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 540 (opinion of Kennedy, J.) (citing Arlington Heights, 429 U.S. at 266). That reflects simple common sense: “[T]he world is not made brand new every morning.” McCreary, 545 U.S. at 866. . . .

[Now, as to that last bolded bit — in other contexts, I do so wish. . . that it were.] But so it goes — we try anew, tomorrow. And. . . a reckoning soon arrives — on swift and dark wings, indeed. That much is now a certainty — so I will smile — and smile widely, tonight. . . . Word.


Merck Adds Another $300,000 In Cash — To Neglected Disease Eradication — In Africa…

April 20, 2017 - One Response

The total will rise to $600,000, as it is a matching grant — for anyone else who decides to chip in [that’s a hint, Mr. Reed. . . grin]. And the World Health Organization has set an aspirational goal of eradicating this scourge, and many others, throughout Africa — by 2020. Merck has already contributed over 2.5 billion doses of medicines, to the effort.

This underscores our post of Monday — and reminds the world of Kenilworth’s almost solitary original role (since the late 1980s — later picked up by GSK and others) in ending river blindness, in Africa. This is the highest and most noble calling — of stewardship, at a life science company blessed with the resources Merck enjoys. [In fact, in October of 2015, a former Merck scientist did win a Nobel for this work.] Kudos, Mr. Frazier — and a bit:

. . . .Merck announced today a $300,000 cash donation to support non-governmental organization (NGO) partners working to eliminate river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Africa. The donation will be offered to 10 NGOs beginning this year, and will be administered through the MECTIZAN® Donation Program (MDP), a public/private partnership established in 1987 following the announcement by Merck to donate MECTIZAN® to control and eliminate river blindness.

River blindness and LF are targeted for elimination in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Roadmap on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), and NGOs have long played a critical role in the broad partnership focused on achieving those targets. Grants will be given to support activities focused on the elimination of river blindness or LF, and will be offered to our partner NGOs who are directly involved in the distribution of MECTIZAN®. Eligible NGOs will be able to request funds through an application process in which they will be required to secure a 50-50 matching grant, effectively doubling the resources to $600,000. . . .

Now you know. And now with feelings of a sweet reckoning abounding — and copper colored satellites once again twisting gracefully overhead — I cannot stop smiling. Word. . . .