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Perfect your plank, exercise to banish back pain

Planks are God’s gift to people with low back pain, which is the third most expensive medical condition in the United States. More than $57 billion a year is spent on low back pain, behind only diabetes and heart conditions.

The key to planks is they strengthen the core muscles — the muscles in the front, the six-pack that everyone wants — and the back at the same time.

If you don’t do them right, planks can actually hurt. Here’s how to do planks better:

  • Stay firm. The idea of a plank is like a plank of wood. You don’t want to be a wilting flower.
  • Don’t sag. You should feel some lift in your butt as you contract your core muscles.
  • But don’t pike, either! Keep your hips in line with your shoulders.
  • Relax your shoulders. People tend to be too tense in the shoulders and scrunch up. Be sure your shoulder blades are wide on your back.
  • Keep your hands and forearms aligned with your shoulders.
  • Relax your hands. Don’t grip your fingers.
  • Put your forearms on the ground for a somewhat easier plank. Do a full push-up position to increase difficulty.


I recommend 3 minutes of planks a day to give yourself a better life: One minute center, one minute on each side. But you can start with 30 seconds, and you can try it with bent knees like an assisted push-up.

A Better Plank 0:27

Shire downgraded to neutral by Bernstein

Bernstein downgraded Shire (NASDAQ: SHPG) from Outperform to Market Perform.

The analyst calls it a “soft downgrade” noting this is “a classic case of a business we like with diversified exposure, in attractive segments, with good cash generation but, our EPS numbers are below cons (by 10% in 2020) and the next 12 mo’s news flow could be mixed. If we are right, cons #’s will bleed lower. If cons #’s were less aggressive, we would prob keep as OP. The frustrating thing with SHPG is that valuation is not expensive, but we think cons needs to come down.”

EdwardsLifesciences best large cap med tech idea: B of A

BofAMerrill Lynch analyst, Bob Hopkins, reiterated his Buy rating on shares of Edwards Lifesciences (NYSE: EW) and raised his price target to $140 from $120 citing the company as his best large cap idea in Med Tech.

The analyst stated “we think the Street underestimates the strength of the US TAVR market, as growth has accelerated to 55% in Q1 on a 3-yr average trend growth, the highest trend growth in years for the US TAVR market. In our view, EW’s global TAVR guidance assumes a steep slowdown in TAVR US trend growth throughout the rest of the year, which we view as unlikely”.

Vanda started at buy by Wainwright

H.C. Wainwright initiates coverage on Vanda Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VNDA) with a Buy rating and a price target of $18.00.

Analyst Dr. Corey Davis comments “We don’t think any of the pipeline (primarily tradipitant) is priced in and hence, assuming success in clinical trials, could provide substantial upside. There are four important data readouts: (1) tradipitant P2 in pruritus in Q3; (2) tradipitant P2 in gastroparesis in 4Q; (3) Hetlioz P3 for jet lag in 4Q; and (4) Hetlioz P2/3 in Smith-Magenis Syndrome in 2018. Our DCF valuation projects an $18 target including success with tradipidant. But if we’re wrong, and tradipitant fails, we still calculate a $15 valuation without it; hence, we see little downside from current levels.”

Quest Diagnostics opens more testing centers in grocery stores


Through Quest Diagnostics’ partnership with Alberstons Cos., patient service centers are being added in certain grocery stores nationwide including the Randalls at 3131 W. Holcombe Blvd.


Quest Diagnostics, the world’s largest diagnostic service, has expanded its program offering routine medical testing within grocery stores, adding two more Randalls locations in the Houston area in coming days, the company announced Monday.

The medical collection centers, tucked into grocery stores and offering basic testing and blood draws, are part of a nationwide partnership between Quest and the grocery giant Albertsons, parent company of Randalls. The idea, thought to be the first of its kind, is to allow shoppers one-stop convenience.

Patients either wait to be seen at the in-store centers or are given restaurant-style pagers that buzz when it is their turn so they can continue to shop, the company said.

“It allows us to reach people in the communities where they live and shop and gives them greater access to healthcare,” said Keith ward, Quest’s patient service director for the southwest region.


In all there will be six Houston area locations by the end of May. Two will open this week: 9420 College Park Dr., The Woodlands, and 12312 Barker-Cypress Rd. A location in Pearland at 10228 W. Broadway, opened in March. Three other locations, one in Katy and two in Houston, opened late last year.

Quest said it hopes to have 200 testing centers in grocery stores nationwide by year’s end, including six more in the Houston region.

Walk-ins are welcome but the company urges people to make an appointments online to lessen wait times.

Egypt, Manchester prove 4th Circuit wrong

The massacre of Christians and innocents in Manchester, England and again in Egypt comes against the backdrop of the Fourth Circus, er, Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Trump travel ban as an unconstitutional ban on Muslims. Your honors, may I submit as evidence against your ruling the bodies of the dead murdered by radical Islamic terrorists in Egypt and in England?

Fortunately, the case is now likely to go to the Supreme Court upon which, thanks to President Trump, Justice Neil Gorsuch now holds the Scalia seat.

The Manchester bomber’s family is from Libya, one of the countries included in Trump’s travel ban. Descriptions of the terrorist as “home-grown” because he was born in Britain are inaccurate. Being born in Britain doesn’t make one British, any more than in the San Bernardino attack being born in America makes you American. You have to want to be British or American or anything else, immersing yourself in and respecting the culture of your new homeland. You must assimilate, not plot to murder your hosts who welcomed you. As Fox News reported:

Other terror links involving the bomber’s relatives emerged Wednesday. Abedi’s father, Ramadan, was a member of the Al Qaeda-backed Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s, according to former security official Abdel-Basit Haroun — but the father denied the claim. In addition, the killer’s brother Hashim had links to the Islamic State and may have been planning a separate attack in Tripoli, a Libyan government spokesman told Reuters. Salman Abedi left Libya for England four days before the bombing, his mother said. He apparently fooled his parents by telling them he was heading to a pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Sounds suspiciously like the Tsarnaev brothers, doesn’t it, traveling back to one’s terrorist roots before murdering innocents. Yet another case in point for Trump’s “extreme vetting.” The latest massacre of Coptic Christians, this time travelling on a bus in Egypt, may not seem to be, but is a reminder of the worldwide reach of ISIS. Egypt is not on the travel ban list but is an example of how terror willalways find an opening to spread its deadly venom.

A team of gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo Friday, killing at least 28, including children, and wounding 22 other people, Egyptian officials confirmed.

As many as 10 attackers stormed the bus dressed in military uniforms and wearing masks, according to witnesses. The victims were on their way to visit a monastery. Only three children survived the attack, the Copts United news portal reported…

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Egypt’s Coptic Christians have become the preferred target of the Islamic State in the region. Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, have repeatedly cried out for help from discrimination, as well as outright attacks, at the hands of the country’s majority Muslim population. Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s 93 million people.

Someone should tell the Fourth Circuit that this is what discrimination, aka religious persecution, really looks like. The navel-gazers on the Fourth Circuit, however, think, based on campaign rhetoric rather than any recitation of actual law, that it is discrimination to bar the killers in Manchester and Egypt from being properly vetted or by being denied entry until proper vetting can be done.

We are asked to show compassion for potential jihadis but not for potential victims who publicly express their fear of unrestricted admission of refugees from hotbeds of terror. The protestors are wrong that such jihadists have a “right” to be here. The President under the Constitution has authority over immigration policy and the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Those who go abroad to be radicalized should not be readmitted. Those who believe Sharia law trumps the Constitution should not be allowed in, period. Give us you poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but not those desiring to end our way of life. That is what extreme vetting is all about.

As Rush Limbaugh noted on his show, President Trump’s travel ban is lawful under 8 U.S Code 1182, and there is ample historical precedent for employing its bestowed authority to ban any class of aliens at any time,  for any reason if the President deems the national security of the United States requires it:

Here is number eight US Code 1182, inadmissible aliens. This law was written in 1952. It was passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, House and Senate, and signed by a Democrat president.

“Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by president. Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, the president may, by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Over here, everybody in the establishment in the political class, Republican, Democrat, media, you name it, is all claiming that what Trump said is dumb, stupid, reckless, dangerous, unconstitutional, while it is the law of the land. And it was utilized by Jimmy Carter, no less, in 1979 to keep Iranians out of the United States, but he actually did more. He made all Iranian students already here check in, and then he deported a ton of ’em….

In November the 1979 United States attorney general had given all Iranian students one month to report to the local immigration office. Seven thousand were found in violation of their visas, 15,000 Iranians were forced to leave the United States, 1979. When this law, inadmissible aliens I just read to you, which I’m gonna be reading a lot to you today to the point you’re gonna get tired of hearing it, but you won’t forget it.

As for the application by Judge Derrick Watson of the Establishment Clause to Trump’s travel ban, this is from some Alice In Wonderland law book. If the travel ban violates the Establishment Clause, why hasn’t 8 U.S. Code 1182 been struck down by Judge Watson or any other liberal judge?  Oklahoma Attorney Robert Barnes, interviewed on Sirius XM radio, says Judge Watson is clearly wrong  in extending the Establishment Clause to non-citizen foreigners:

“His basis for doing so was an extraordinary interpretation of the right to travel and the freedom of association, which before, has only been associated with U.S. citizens,” Barnes continued. “Every court decision in the 200 years prior to this has said that people who are not citizens of the United States, who are not present within the United States, have no First Amendment constitutional rights. The Constitution doesn’t extend internationally to anybody, anywhere, anyplace, at any time. Instead, this judge said it did, as long as you had a university here who wanted to assert, quote-unquote, the foreigner’s rights, or you had some physical person here. In this case, it was one of the leading Muslim imams in Hawaii; he wants to bring over various family and friends from the Middle East.”

“The Hawaii judge’s decision says he has a First Amendment constitutional right to do so because he’s Muslim. It was one of the most extraordinary interpretations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment ever given, which is that because these are Muslim countries that were banned where the issue of terror arises from that that meant they had a special right to access the country and visit the country,” he said.

“As long as there is somebody here that wants them here, no president can ever preclude them from coming here. He basically gave First Amendment rights to everybody around the world and gave special preferences to people who are Muslim under his interpretation of the First Amendment,” Barnes summarized.

“So it’s an extraordinarily broad order. Its legal doctrine has no limits. If you keep extending this, it means people from around the world have a special right to access the United States, visit the United States, emigrate to the United States, get visas to the United States. There wouldn’t be any limit, and the president would never be able to control our own borders. It would be up solely to the whim of a federal judge who effectively delegated it, in this case, to a Muslim imam in Hawaii,” he contended.

And who is this Imam who prompted Judge Watson’s order by asserting he had been harmed by President Trump’s travel ban? Conservative Review described the man behind the lawsuit:

Dr. Ismail Elshikh — the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii — is suing Trump in reaction to the second version of his immigration moratorium, which was signed on Monday. The order imposed a 90-day hold on foreign nationals from six terror-tied countries from entering the United States. According to the Muslim Association of Hawaii website, Imam Elshikh is a member of the North American Imam Federation (NAIF), a fringe Islamic organization that has a board and current leadership stacked with radical Islamic connections. Kyle Shideler, a terrorism expert and director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy, tells CR that it’s concerning that Imam Elshikh is a part of NAIF. “Given NAIF’s history it should come as no surprise that the end goal of this lawsuit is, ultimately, weakening American counter-terrorism or immigration security efforts,” Shideler said. He added: “That a member of an organization whose leaders have included a convicted war criminal, an individual who defended donating money to a Hamas linked charity, and an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism bombing wants to tell the American people who they can admit for immigration should say a lot about why such an executive order is needed in the first place.”

The fact is that the Constitution, which gives the President exclusive power to conduct foreign policy, does not extend infinitely to every non-citizen on this planet who may have some connection to someone here. The law clearly gives the President the legal authority to ban entry to any noncitizen who he determines may be a threat to the national security of the United States.

Manchester and Egypt are chilling reminders of the threats we face from those who respect laws nor any religion. The terrorists of Egypt and Manchester would slaughter the judges of the Fourth Circuit in a heartbeat. Our courts, like our President, has an obligation to protect us from such predators. The greatest social service a government can perform for its people is to keep them alive and free.

STEM growth expands beyond core markets

Between 2014 and 2016, the US added nearly half a million jobs in the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector. However, less than one third of those jobs were located in the usual suspects, such as Silicon Valley, Austin and Seattle. Instead, 345,000 of the 490,000 STEM positions created during that period could be found primarily in what MetLife Investment Management calls NextTech markets, including Washington, DC; Pittsburgh; Salt Lake City; and San Diego.

“The NextTech markets are poised to outperform in this cycle and the next,” says Adam Ruggiero, associate director, MetLife Investment Management. “The shift towards specializations in these markets also offers investors the opportunity to place strong bets on the technologies of the future and the real estate demand their success will generate. They offer lower concentration risk, strong starting yields, solid income growth and rich future valuations.”

A new report from MetLife Investment Management’s real estate division, “Tech Markets 2.0,” makes it clear that the core tech hubs continue to set the pace in terms of STEM growth and the sector’s role in local economies. However, the report notes a broadening of employment beyond the Big Six of Austin, Boston, Raleigh, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle, especially as well-compensated and in-demand tech industry workers seek out opportunities across the nation.

“Situated along both coasts and in numerous locales in between, these markets mimic those of the core during an earlier stage of life,” the report states. “Often supported by strong university systems, enjoying substantially lower costs of living, and benefiting from the skill and experience of transplants from the core, the NextTech markets have witnessed a rapid increase in STEM employment over the past three years. These increases are gradually reshaping their local economies as STEM employment makes up an ever greater share of the total.”

What constitutes STEM employment may vary from NextTech market to market. In contrast to some of the core tech markets, which house a cross-section of the tech sector, the NextTech markets tend to exhibit specializations in one segment or another.

“As this degree of specialization intensifies, and the tech sectors of the NextTech markets claim an ever greater share of their economies, we believe that the ‘tech market’ designation itself may become outmoded,” according to the MetLife report. “In the near future it may be far more appropriate to refer to them as defense markets, biotech markets, or robotics markets. We believe the fortunes of these specific industries, not those of an ambiguous and amorphous ‘tech sector,’ will drive future STEM job growth and commercial real estate demand.”

For investors, this specialization offers the advantage of opportunity to tailor their risk and investment strategies, “By gaining exposure to the NextTech markets they can maintain an overweight toward high-income STEM jobs while reducing the risk presented by concentrating their investments solely in the core tech markets,” according to the MetLife report.

Along the same lines, “investors can expand their opportunity set by focusing on the future of individual industries and technologies. As many of these markets remain early in their transitions toward STEM, investors are likely to enjoy this opportunity for several years.” Early movers are apt to enjoy the greatest benefits in terms of NOI and value growth, though, MetLife says.

Sanofi responds to criticism of Army deal on Zika vaccine

Sanofi has been publicly chastised by lawmakers and public health groups for its proposed Zika vaccine deal with the U.S. Army. Now, an executive is explaining the rationale behind the company’s development plan and defending against claims his company is out to make a quick buck.

Sanofi VP and head of U.S. government relations Adam Gluck says Sanofi has plowed its own resources into the effort and set aside other projects to put its Zika work on a fast track. The company struck the Army partnership “in the face of opportunity costs associated with delaying other R&D programs in order to advance this vaccine at an unprecedented pace,” Gluck said in a

May 22 letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

A leading vaccine developer globally, the French pharma has committed more than 60 full-time scientists to the effort, as well as its manufacturing know-how and “robust” clinical trials network for flaviviruses, Gluck said. Sanofi partnered with the U.S. Army last summer on the program and has since won $43 million in government funding to support the work. Another $130 million could be awarded to fund later research.

Because of that taxpayer funding, some politicians and public-health activists have called for pricing assurances on an exclusive licensing deal Sanofi is negotiating with the Army. Sanofi R&D head Elias Zerhouni previously defended the company in a New York Times op-ed, but Gluck laid out a more detailed case in his letter to members of Congress.

Vaccine partnerships between government and industry aren’t uncommon, especially in emerging diseases that require a fast response and a great deal of resources right away to respond to a new threat. The Sanofi-Army research collaboration is only one of many Zika vaccine approaches in the works, Gluck pointed out. An exclusive license wouldn’t prevent other companies—some of them funded via government partnerships—from bringing their own candidates to market and competing on price.

GlaxoSmithKline, Takeda and Moderna have all struck their own Zika vaccine partnerships with U.S. agencies. Takeda’s collaboration includes up to $312 million in potential funding if development proceeds as hoped. Changes to government licensing terms “could undermine the intent of these types of collaborations,” Gluck said.

So far, the U.S. Army and reportedly Sanofi itself have rejected calls for pricing guarantees in their licensing agreement. An Army official responded to the requests by saying his group simply can’t enforce future vaccine prices. Gluck agreed with that sentiment, writing in his letter that it’s “premature to consider or predict Zika vaccine pricing at this early stage of development. As noted earlier, ongoing uncertainty around epidemiology and disease trajectory make any commercial projections theoretical at best.”

The Sanofi shot has passed early proof-of-concept testing and is working its way through five different phase 1 safety and dosing assessments; meanwhile, the company is laying the groundwork for a phase 2 trial testing efficacy and safety. Vaccines then go on to phase 3 trials in thousands of patients before hitting the market. In public health emergencies, vaccines can be used before final regulatory approval under specific conditions, an option said to be under consideration for the new Ebola outbreak in Congo.

Gluck’s letter was submitted for the record at Tuesday’s meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. At the hearing, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., he doesn’t believe there are any “mechanisms in place right now” to ensure the candidate vaccine is affordable if it reaches the market.

Jamie Love, director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, contends that such a pricing assurance is warranted in this case and would be “very simple” to add to the license. KEI filed early complaints against the license last year and recently appealed the Army’s decision. One clause KEI has requested, according to Love, would ensure that U.S. residents don’t pay more than the median price for the vaccine in other high-income countries.

Earlier this month, Louisiana Governor John Edwards wrote to U.S. Army Acting Secretary Robert Speer to express “serious concern” about the license, especially if it doesn’t include an affordable pricing guarantee. Edwards’ state saw 38 Zika cases last year, according to the CDC.

Seeking to assuage those worries, Gluck wrote that it’s “in the public-health interest to price this and other vaccines in a way that will facilitate access to and usage of a preventive vaccine.”

The Sanofi executive pointed to the drugmaker’s ranking in the recent Access to Vaccines index as evidence of its commitment to affordable pricing. “We have demonstrated that commitment in the past,” he wrote, “and, if we bring a Zika vaccine to market, we intend to do so for Zika as well.”