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Parasitism

Mr. Trump’s point man is Ryan Zinke, a native Montanan who rode a horse to work on his first day as head of the Interior Department. A former member of the Navy SEALs and Republican congressman, Mr. Zinke oversees the national park system, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, which controls 250 million acres nationwide, parts of which are used to produce oil, gas, coal, lumber and hay. ...

Under federal rules adopted in 1920, coal companies are required to pay “not less than” 12.5 percent on sales of surface coal mined on federal lands. But for years, studies indicate, the companies paid far less — as little as 2.5 percent of the ultimate sale price — because they often negotiated large royalty discounts with sympathetic federal officials. Companies also often sell coal first to a corporate affiliate at a sharply reduced price, before reselling it to the intended customer, costing the government a chunk of its royalties, according to the Government Accountability Office study. The technique was particularly popular among mines with foreign buyers.
To eliminate the loophole, the Interior Department adopted a rule last year requiring that the payment be calculated on the first arm’s length transaction, meaning sales to corporate affiliates would not count. Such a change would be a blow to the bottom lines of companies mining in the Powder River Basin.... ...
The coal industry was bent on killing the rule, sending executives to plead its case to the White House and filing a federal lawsuit to block it. ...
The alliance between Mr. Zinke and the coal industry is well documented in his campaign finance disclosures.

Elected to the House in 2014, Mr. Zinke received $14,000 in campaign donations from the company that owns BNSF Railway, the chief transporter of coal in the Powder River Basin, as well as a total of $26,000 from Cloud Peak, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, three of the nation’s largest coal companies. Several of the donations arrived just as Mr. Zinke pushed in Congress to block the new royalty rule, campaign finance records show.

Cloud Peak and other mining industry giants also put their objections in writing, asking the department to delay the rule until the industry’s lawsuit was resolved. Within days, they got their wish. The agency, reversing its position during the Obama presidency, froze the rule and told Cloud Peak and other industry lawyers that they had “raised legitimate questions.”
- ERIC LIPTON and BARRY MEIER, Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets New Life on U.S. Lands, NYT, AUG. 6, 2017



It’s standard advice for consumers: If you are prescribed a medicine, always ask if there is a cheaper generic.

Nathan Taylor, a 3-D animator who lives outside Houston, has tried to do that with all his medications. But when he fills his monthly prescription for Adderall XR to treat his attention-deficit disorder, his insurance company refuses to cover the generic. Instead, he must make a co-payment of $90 a month for the brand-name version. ...
“There’s only one reason why they’re requiring you to use a more expensive product,” Mr. Frankil said. “Because somewhere down the road, somebody is earning more money.”
- CHARLES ORNSTEIN and KATIE THOMAS, Take the Generic, Patients Are Told. Until They Are Not., NYT, AUG. 6, 2017


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