The Economy Hub With Michael Hiltzik
A physicians' attack on Dr. Oz explodes into a new controversy

Sometimes a cogent attack on a worthy target ends up making the target stronger. That may be happening with last week's letter signed by 10 physicians urging Columbia University to sever its ties with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has made a fortune promoting quack nostrums to his huge television audience.

Oz's TV producers say he'll be devoting a large portion of a forthcoming "Dr. Oz" show, probably Thursday's, to a counterattack. Of the doctors behind the letter, the producers say, "We plan to show America who these authors are, because discussion of health topics should be free of intimidation."

As is often the case with Oz's spiel, there will be a nugget of truth in what he says. Much of that also will be irrelevant to the substance of their campaign, which is that Oz, a licensed physician who assiduously spotlights his relationship with Columbia to burnish his own credibility, pushes unproven and even potentially dangerous therapies, treatments and health choices to his listeners.

Still, it...

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Fines may not be enough to punish PG&E for its misdeeds

Isn't it time to put Pacific Gas & Electric out of business?

California's largest utility company, PG&E Corp. long has been one of the state's most troublesome corporate citizens. The September 2010 natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif., in which the company bears responsibility for the deaths of eight people and the leveling of an entire neighborhood, is only its most spectacular misdeed.

This is the company that squandered $46 million in 2010 on an unsuccessful campaign to write a regional monopoly for itself into the state Constitution, via the ballot measure Proposition 16. The company that declared bankruptcy in 2001 because it didn't like the terms it was offered for a taxpayer bailout after the state's electricity deregulation scheme (concocted in part by, yes, PG&E) collapsed. That engaged in allegedly illegal back-channel contacts with former Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and other PUC officials, compromising the commission's regulatory work, according...

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These doctors are trying to turn the tide against 'quack' Dr. Oz

Physicians are finally speaking out against Dr. Mehmet Oz and the "quack treatments and cures" he promotes to the huge audience of his television show.

Led by Henry I. Miller, a physician, former Food and Drug Administration official, and fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, 10 doctors from across the country urged Columbia University to drop Dr. Oz from its faculty. They made the point in a letter dated Wednesday to Columbia's president, chairman of its board of trustees, and dean of the medical school, where Oz is listed as vice chair of the department of surgery. Miller says that numerous other doctors have said they would have signed it had they known of its existence. 

"We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery," they wrote. Because of the publicity Oz gives to nonscientific and even potentially...

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Silicon Valley's foundation stone: Moore's Law turns 50

Fifty years ago last Sunday, Electronics Magazine published a very technical paper by a youthful pioneer in the silicon chip business named Gordon Moore.

Inelegantly titled "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits," the article observed that the number of electronic components then fitting on a chip--at least in the laboratory--was about 60.

Moore was then research director of Fairchild Semiconductor, which had been formed in 1957 by eight engineers who had left William Shockley’s prototypical Silicon Valley startup, Shockley Semiconductor, in discontent over their boss’s manipulative and paranoid behavior. (Shockley called them the “traitorous eight.”)

Moore, who would later co-found Intel, noted in his article that the number of components on a chip had roughly doubled every year since the first silicon oxide transistor in 1959. Moore "blindly extrapolated" that trend 10 years into the future, as he recalled later. By then, he computed, a single chip would hold 65,000 components. 


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Brownback signs spectacularly punitive Kansas welfare bill

Brownback did it.

Not satisfied with cratering his state's economy, cutting education budgets and rescinding long-established job protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday signed a punitive, intrusive and counterproductive measure placing wholly unnecessary restrictions on how Kansas relief recipients can spend their benefits.

We earlier reported on the bill, which was passed by the Legislature in early April, and on the long discreditable history of poor-bashing. The measure bars spending relief funds on movies, at swimming pools, or on "cruise ships," as well as at any "jewelry store, tattoo parlor, massage parlor, body piercing parlor ... psychic or fortune telling business, bail bond company, video arcade ... or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state."

It also places a $25 daily limit on ATM withdrawals using the debit cards issued to...

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A U.S. court quashes the dopiest Obamacare lawsuit of all

It is widely held that the dopiest anti-Obamacare lawsuit is King vs. Burwell, a conservative contrivance that tortures four words in the Affordable Care Act to assert that consumer healthcare subsidies in three dozen states should be invalidated.

But the Supreme Court has taken up King for a ruling, which implies that at least four justices think the assertion is worthy of consideration. (A decision is due early this summer.)

That leaves a lawsuit entitled Johnson vs. U.S. Office of Payroll Management holding the crown. On Tuesday, however, the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit tossed the case with a horselaugh, so its reign may be ending.

The lead plaintiff in the case is Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a fierce opponent of the ACA. His novel argument is that the law denies him his constitutional right to equal protection because it offers him a benefit -- to wit, the same insurance subsidy enjoyed by most other Americans who get health coverage from their employer --...

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