November 15, 2018

What to Know About Getting a Flu Shot This Year, No Matter Who’s Paying

Effectiveness varies each year. Because it takes at least six months to make and distribute the shots that become available in September, scientists have to make their best guess about which strains will circulate, and thus what to include in a vaccine, well in advance. During that time — and even while vaccines are being produced — the circulating viruses can mutate, lessening the effectiveness of the chosen vaccine. It’s an imperfect science.

“We do the best we can,” said Dr. Offit, who also sits on the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that recommends which strains to include. “But you are trying to predict what is going to happen six months from now.”

Sometimes, he said, the experts guess wrong. In the 2014-15 season, the vaccine was only 19 percent effective. Last flu season, the overall vaccine effectiveness against both influenza A and B viruses was estimated to be 40 percent. In other words, it reduced your risk of having to seek medical care for the flu by 40 percent, according to the C.D.C.

Most people with health insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act are entitled to a flu shot without a co-payment or coinsurance. Be sure to check with your insurer; it may require you to get a shot from your doctor or specific providers.

Medicare beneficiaries’ flu shots are covered under Part B; beneficiaries pay nothing as long as the doctor or other provider accepts Medicare.

Medicaid covers flu shots for children and young adults through age 20. Adults eligible for Medicaid are also generally covered, though that can vary by state.

If you’re not covered, prices vary depending on the type of vaccine. Walgreens said that more than 90 percent of the customers it vaccinates are covered by insurance. Those who are not can expect to pay $40.99 for a quadrivalent shot, while both options for those 65 and older — the high-dose shot and the one with adjuvant — each cost $69.99.

At CVS, the quadrivalent is $41.99, and the high-dose shot is $66.99.

Rite Aid offers a standard trivalent flu vaccine for $34.99 and a quadrivalent shot for $39.99. For people over 65, it offers Fluad, which includes adjuvant, for $74.99.

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Why the Housing Market Is Slumping Despite a Booming Economy

In contrast with the stock market, where relatively unemotional traders are buying and selling shares every day and the market stays liquid, home purchase and sales decisions can take months and are deeply emotional for the participants.

What seems to be happening is that sellers are trying to cling to the spring 2018 prices that their neighbors received, while there aren’t enough buyers in late 2018 willing or able to pay those prices.

In a Fannie Mae survey of home purchase sentiment, the proportion of people who think it is a good time to buy a home has decreased significantly since the spring, to a net 21 percent from 29 percent. But so has the proportion who think it is a good time to sell, which has dropped to 35 percent from 45 percent.

You would expect, in a zero-sum transaction like a home sale, for those numbers to move in opposite directions. Instead, it seems that sellers are unhappily realizing that they aren’t going to get what they thought their house was worth six months ago, and buyers still think homes are too expensive.

That helps explain why transaction volume, especially for new houses, has fallen substantially while prices haven’t (at least yet). It’s a standoff. And the outcome of the standoff will, in the aggregate, play a role in shaping the future of the economy.

There is precedent for this, and it isn’t a happy one. In the last housing boom, new home sales peaked in July 2005, and home prices didn’t start declining until May 2006. It didn’t start to hurt the overall economy until December 2007, when the damage had spread through an overleveraged global financial system.

But that doesn’t mean this episode has to end in tears. Home prices are not nearly as out of line with incomes as they were then; speculative activity hasn’t been nearly as frothy; and consumer debt levels are considerably more measured.

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Natural gas skyrockets as China pledges huge supply boost

The company, one of three state-run oil majors, said that it will supply 24.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas during the heating season that kicks off this week, up 20 percent year-on-year, to meet rising natural gas demand in the country.

China is in the process of replacing over reliance on coal usage for both industrial and residential end users to offset rampant air pollution, particularly in its larger urban centers. By government mandate, at least 10 percent of the country’s energy mix needed for power generation by 2020 must be natural gas, with further earmarks set for 2030.

Russia to become China’s top supplier of gas soon

CNOOC, the country’s largest oil and gas producer, said 6.1 bcm of natural gas will be supplied to seven northern provinces and municipalities, up 63.5 percent from last year. The company added that most of the natural gas it’s supplying this year is from offshore fields, coal bed gas and imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).

According to reports, CNOOC has also been negotiating with LNG suppliers to ensure gas supply, including dealers from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Qatar, Nigeria and Russia. However, due to the ongoing trade war between the US and China, CNOOC spot purchases of LNG is coming to a halt amid Beijing’s retaliatory tariff on US-LNG imports.

LNG tariffs will also come full circle, since other LNG producers will likely increase their spot prices in the mid-term to a point just under US LNG prices including a tariff, with Chinese firms being forced to pay the extra price. Yet, unlike last year when China relied more on spot purchases to fill supply gaps, the country’s oil companies have largely been filling up storage more than last year’s levels. Also, putting downward pressure on LNG spot prices in Asia are forecasts for a warmer winter in the Northern hemisphere.

Warmer temperatures

El Nino, the warming in Pacific Ocean sea-surface temperatures, has emerged and there’s an increased chance of it continuing through the Northern Hemisphere spring, the Japan Meteorological Agency said on Friday. The weather pattern usually causes warmer temperatures during winters in Japan. “With warmer weather expected now, the demand pull from China would be even less,” Xizhou Zhou, an analyst at IHS Markit, told Bloomberg. “The kind of tightness in the market we had seen last year will unlikely repeat.”

Na Min, a senior analyst for oil and gas at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said “the chance of a ‘cold winter’ is quite small this year.”

This landmark LNG deal will change energy geopolitics forever

LNG prices have tumbled for the past seven weeks amid weaker demand from North Asia while companies in Japan, China and South Korea (the world’s three largest LNG importers) already nearing full storage capacity. LNG prices in Asia, which are either linked directly to an oil price formulation or the global oil price trajectory, are extending its longest losing streak since January 2016, when Brent crude prices dipped below the $30 per barrel price point.

Other Chinese oil companies are also gearing up for the winter season. Sinopec, the world’s largest refiner by volume, said on Monday it would supply 18.17 billion cubic meters of natural gas during the heating season, up 17.7 percent year-on-year, with supplies to seven northern province-level regions set to increase by 29.1 percent. A report on Tuesday in the China Daily said that Sinopec has been speeding up the construction and operation of new pipelines in northern regions in addition to increasing its spot purchases of LNG. All of the company’s three LNG terminals are expected to run at full capacity.

This article was originally published on

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No volunteers: EU countries bow to US pressure over alternative payment channel for Iran

All the members of the 28-nation bloc are reportedly scared by the punitive measures that Washington may potentially introduce against them for such an act of disobedience.

Earlier, EU officials proposed creating a clearing house, or a special purpose vehicle (SPV), to eliminate the bloc’s dependence on the US and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) which currently provides high-value cross-border transfers for members across the world.

©Europe working on payment system alternative to SWIFT IMF to attain financial independence from US

The decision was prompted by US sanctions imposed on Iran and anyone doing business with the country.

“No one has come forward at this stage. If we don’t have a host country, we have a very big problem. So much is riding on this that some way will need [to be found] for someone to host this. There is a lot of nervousness about what hosting an SPV means,” an EU diplomat told Reuters.

So far, France and Germany have ruled themselves out as SPV hosts. At the same time, the EU major powers are reportedly planning to put more pressure on Luxembourg and Belgium to host the headquarters for the SPV after Austria declined a request to manage the project. Both Belgium and Luxembourg have reportedly dropped a hint of doubt over the issue.

“Austria has indeed refused. It’s not dead, but it’s not going in the right direction. We are going to try again with Luxembourg, but we’re under no illusions,” another diplomat told the agency.

Earlier this week, European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova pledged to find an effective solution, saying that technical work on creating the mechanism to allow EU trade with Iran continued.

“We Europeans cannot accept that a foreign power, not even our closest friend and ally, takes decisions over our legitimate trade with another country,” she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, stressing that the bloc would not be cowed by probable US penalties.

Shortly after President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, signed between Tehran and major world powers, leaders of European states activated legislation banning the bloc’s companies from complying with US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

However, the measure failed to prevent European business giants, including Total, Volkswagen, Daimler, Peugeot, Renault and Siemens from withdrawing from the country. European multinationals are much more concerned about losing the US market than the possible fines they could face from Brussels for leaving Iran.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Johnson & Johnson wins trial over cancer claims linked to baby powder

After a seven-week long trial the jury in Humboldt County Superior Court rejected claims by the woman who said her mesothelioma (a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure) was caused by the company’s talc products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder.

JJ denied the allegations, saying that decades of scientific testing and regulatory approvals have shown its talc to be safe and asbestos-free. The company said it was pleased with the jury’s decision.

Johnson Johnson ordered to pay $4.7bn in talc cancer lawsuit

“While we deeply sympathize with anyone suffering from any form of cancer, the science and facts show that her disease was not caused by her use of our talcum-based products,” the company said.

The company is battling some 11,700 US lawsuits, involving its signature baby powder, according to an October regulatory filing. Recent filings in the New Jersey federal court, where most of the cases are consolidated, showed that more than 9,700 of those cases involve claims over ovarian cancer.

READ MORE: Huge talcum powder verdict opens floodgates for lawsuits against Johnson Johnson

The rest of the plaintiffs allege asbestos in the company’s product caused them to develop mesothelioma. They also allege that JJ knew of asbestos fibers in its cosmetic talc and concealed risks associated with the products.

JJ has been fighting talc cancer lawsuits for several years. So far, it has been cleared of liability in three mesothelioma cases while having lost two cases in New Jersey and California, with juries awarding a total of $142 million in damages.

READ MORE: Monsanto asks judge to overturn $289m cancer verdict, claims dying man presented lack of evidence

In July, a Missouri jury awarded $4.7 billion in total damages to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in JJ’s talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer. The company still rejects any connection between cancer and its talc-based products.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Breaking bad: Bitcoin crashes to lowest level in over a year

The digital currency’s price recovered slightly on Thursday, trading at $5,680.01, down over $800 over the last 24 hours after a relatively calm few months.

“The market is trying to find the bottom,” Michael Terpin, a San Juan, Puerto Rico-based partner at Alphabit Fund, said. He told Bloomberg that “People who are chartists look at historical patterns, and they note there’s one last final capitulation drop to get the last people fleeing out of the market.”

After nearly touching $20,000 in December 2017, bitcoin’s value has nosedived in volatile trading over the following months. The virtual currency has enjoyed a period of relative stability since early September, hovering between $6,000 and $7,000.

READ MORE: $1mn by 2020: John McAfee will still ‘eat his own d*ck’ if he’s wrong about Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s market capitalization fell below the $100 billion mark on Thursday, to $98.7 billion, according to That’s a level not seen since October 2017.


The sharp fall in bitcoin’s price was accompanied by steep sell-offs in other cryptocurrencies and digital assets as well. BitcoinCash was down more than 12 percent, at $453. The second largest cryptocoin, ethereum, dropped to a two-month low, trading at $180 on Thursday.

The total cryptocurrency market cap is down more than 70 percent from its highs earlier in 2018, at just under $185 billion.

As bitcoin plunged below $6,000, it’s possible that stop loss orders were automatically going into effect and investors were “trying to play the breakout,” eToro Senior Market Analyst Mati Greenspan told CNBC.

READ MORE: Principal fired for running secret cryptocurrency mining scheme at school

He added that another “contributing factor is the selloff in tech stocks, which could be having a spillover effect into crypto markets.”

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

Three years ago, Mr. Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in 2004 while attending Harvard, was celebrated for the company’s extraordinary success. Ms. Sandberg, a former Clinton administration official and Google veteran, had become a feminist icon with the publication of her empowerment manifesto, “Lean In,” in 2013.

Like other technology executives, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg cast their company as a force for social good. Facebook’s lofty aims were emblazoned even on securities filings: “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.”

But as Facebook grew, so did the hate speech, bullying and other toxic content on the platform. When researchers and activists in Myanmar, India, Germany and elsewhere warned that Facebook had become an instrument of government propaganda and ethnic cleansing, the company largely ignored them. Facebook had positioned itself as a platform, not a publisher. Taking responsibility for what users posted, or acting to censor it, was expensive and complicated. Many Facebook executives worried that any such efforts would backfire.

Then Donald J. Trump ran for president. He described Muslim immigrants and refugees as a danger to America, and in December 2015 posted a statement on Facebook calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States. Mr. Trump’s call to arms — widely condemned by Democrats and some prominent Republicans — was shared more than 15,000 times on Facebook, an illustration of the site’s power to spread racist sentiment.

Mr. Zuckerberg, who had helped found a nonprofit dedicated to immigration reform, was appalled, said employees who spoke to him or were familiar with the conversation. He asked Ms. Sandberg and other executives if Mr. Trump had violated Facebook’s terms of service.

The question was unusual. Mr. Zuckerberg typically focused on broader technology issues; politics was Ms. Sandberg’s domain. In 2010, Ms. Sandberg, a Democrat, had recruited a friend and fellow Clinton alum, Marne Levine, as Facebook’s chief Washington representative. A year later, after Republicans seized control of the House, Ms. Sandberg installed another friend, a well-connected Republican: Joel Kaplan, who had attended Harvard with Ms. Sandberg and later served in the George W. Bush administration.

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Live: National Book Awards 2018 Updates: Tonight, It’s the Oscars for Authors

Rebecca Makkai, “The Great Believers” Viking Books

Sigrid Nunez, “The Friend” Riverhead Books

Colin C. Calloway, “The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation” Oxford University Press

Victoria Johnson, “American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic” Liveright/ W.W. Norton

Sarah Smarsh, “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth” Scribner

Jeffrey C. Stewart, “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke” Oxford University Press

Adam Winkler, “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights” Liveright/ W.W. Norton

Rae Armantrout, “Wobble” Wesleyan University Press

Terrance Hayes, “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin”Penguin Books

Diana Khoi Nguyen, “Ghost Of” Omnidawn Publishing

Justin Phillip Reed, “Indecency” Coffee House Press

Jenny Xie, “Eye Level” Graywolf Press

Négar Djavadi, “Disoriental” Translated by Tina Kover. Europa Editions

Hanne Ørstavik, “Love” Translated by Martin Aitken. Archipelago Books

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Tech Fix: What’s Hot (and What’s Not) This Black Friday

Google, for one, plans to offer its miniature smart speaker, Google Home Mini, for $25, down from $49, and its Nest smart thermostat will drop to $179 from $249. Similarly, Target plans to sell Amazon’s compact smart speaker, Echo Dot, for $24, down from about $50.

Black Friday also tends to be the best time to buy smart kitchen appliances, like sous vide wands or the internet-famous Instant Pot pressure cooker.

Wirecutter also anticipates that audio gear like headphones will drop to their lowest prices all year. During Black Friday last year, Bose’s premium noise-canceling headphones, QuietComfort 25, were priced at $180, down from $280.

Mr. Burakowski said he expected similar deals for high-quality headphones next week. Be on the lookout for deals on Apple’s AirPods, which retail for about $160, and Bose’s QuietComfort 35, which normally cost about $350.

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U.K. Ad Highlighting Plight of Orangutans Is Deemed Too ‘Political’ to Air

According to a judicial case heard in the House of Lords in 2008, the rationale behind the regulation is “to protect democracy from overpowerful voices,” Mr. Scott said.

“It’s almost the flip side to what you find in the United States, where there is more of a laissez-faire approach, if you want to spend your money on buying airtime, you can,” he said. “There is a more paternalistic, condescending view reflected in this law.”

The United States once had what was called the Fairness Doctrine, introduced in 1949, requiring broadcasters to give equal time to opposing viewpoints, but that was done away with in the Reagan administration.

Political spending, and by extension advertising, was unleashed in two Supreme Court decisions, Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 — which allowed unlimited campaign spending outside of direct donations — and Citizens United in 2010, which allowed unlimited spending as long as it was not “coordinated” with a political campaign.

Political is in the eyes and ears of the beholder.

There is little doubt that huge areas of rain forest are being leveled to make way for palm oil plantations. According to Greenpeace, “an area the size of a football pitch is torn down in Indonesia’s rain forest every 25 seconds, with palm oil driving the destruction.”

And habitat destruction is assuredly bad for orangutans and other species. Nearly 150,000 orangutans living in Borneo, an enormous island in Indonesia, vanished from 1999 to 2015, a 16-year research effort showed. They are now an endangered species.

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, the food retailer, said in a telephone interview that the company’s ad was neither too aligned with Greenpeace nor political.

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