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A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 23rd, 2009

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Daily life

Gift idea for men who use an aftershave

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The idea is obvious, but let me mention it anyway: 1-oz samples of all the Booster aftershaves. A wonderful gift. But now the problem is finding such a set. Anyone know where to buy? (Shaving Essentials seems to have dropped the item.)

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Trusting business: Vioxx

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Daniel J. DeNoon at WebMD:

Merck should have known Vioxx was deadly years before they pulled the drug from the market, a study of Merck’s own data suggests.

The study, published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, is by Joseph S. Ross, MD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and colleagues. The study authors were paid consultants to plaintiffs’ lawyers in Vioxx lawsuits — in which much of the Merck data first was revealed.

"By our analyses, the association is clear that by June 2001 — more than three years before the drug was eventually taken off the market — the risk could have been known," Ross tells WebMD.

Merck took Vioxx off the market in November 2004, after the "APPROVe" study conclusively demonstrated that Vioxx users had more heart attacks and strokes than patients receiving a placebo.

In their study of data from Merck-sponsored clinical trials, Ross and colleagues found that:

  • By December 2000, data from 21 trials showed that the risk of a heart- or stroke-related adverse event (a cardiovascular thromboembolic event or CBT) or death (from all causes) was twice as high in Vioxx patients — but the finding was just shy of statistical significance, meaning it could have been a chance finding.
  • By June 2001, pooled data showed Vioxx increased the risk of a CBT adverse event or death by 35% — a statistically significant finding, meaning it is unlikely to be a chance finding.
  • By April 2002, adding new studies to the pooled data showed Vioxx increased the risk of CBT or death by 39%, a statistically significant finding.
  • By September 2004, adding new studies to the pooled data showed Vioxx increased the risk of CBT or death by 43%, a statistically significant finding.

In a written statement and in an interview with WebMD, Merck says the study is flawed…

Continue reading. Of course Merck says the study is flawed.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 4:57 pm

Blackwater’s secret war in Pakistan

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So the US is turning to mercenary troops—another sign of decline. Jeremy Scahill in The Nation:

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services." The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war–knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country. Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater’s covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There’s no question that’s occurring." …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 4:52 pm

Healthcare reform opponents show their true colors

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Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress:

At a town hall event on health care reform hosted by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) earlier this month, Midge Hough told the tragic story of how her daughter-in-law, Jenny, and her unborn grandchild died recently because they didn’t have health insurance. Jenny came down with “severe double pneumonia, septic shock and respiratory failure,” Hough said, “and laid in an ICU unit for the next two months at a cost of $22,000 a day.” Her baby died in the womb and Jenny died a few weeks later. But as Hough was telling her story, tea partiers at the meeting “ridiculed” her, the South Town Star reports. “They moaned and rolled their eyes and interrupted,” laughing loudly and shouting her down at points. Watch it (beginning at 1:30):

Chicago Tea Party Patriots sent out a flyer to encourage attendance at the event, saying Lipinski had “sold us out!” by voting “to pass socialized medicine.” In defense of the heckling, an organizer for the group falsely claimed that the Houghs fabricated their story and called them operatives of President Barack Obama who “go from event to event and (cry) the same story.” At another recent event, Hough told Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) that she has been “personally attacked” by tea party activists at her home address. (HT: Crooks and Liars)

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Healthcare

Global warming sea-level rise starting to hurt

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Chris Kraul at the LA Times:

Reporting from Cartagena, Colombia – The effect of climate change is anything but hypothetical to retired Colombian naval officer German Alfonso. Just ask him about the time his neighborhood in this historic coastal city became an island.

For five years, Alfonso, 74, has watched tides rise higher and higher in the Boca Grande section of Cartagena. This month, tides briefly inundated the only mainland connection to his neighborhood, a converted sandbar where about 60 high-rise condo and hotel towers have been built in the last decade or so.

"Before, people thought it a normal phenomenon. But we’re becoming more conscious that something is going on," Alfonso said. "If the sea keeps rising, traffic could just collapse."

According to a recently updated World Bank study on climate change in Latin America, Alfonso and his neighbors have reason to be concerned. Not only are the effects of global warming more evident in Latin American coastal cities, the report says, but the phenomenon could worsen in coming decades because sea levels will rise highest near the equator.

Colombian naval Capt. Julian Reyna, a member of a government task force monitoring climate change, said the sea level around Cartagena, renowned for its Spanish colonial fortifications and beaches, has risen as much as one-eighth of an inch each year over the last decade, an increase that scientists expect to accelerate in coming years.

According to some scenarios that the authors of the World Bank study say are not that far-fetched, Cartagena and the rest of the Caribbean coastal zone could see sea levels rising as much as 2 feet, possible more, by the end of the century. Even at the lower end of projections, parts of this city would be knee-deep in sea water…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 2:53 pm

Steve Benen on the GOP lies

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From his post:

… Over the weekend, Josh Marshall noted in passing that the congressional GOP lied quite a bit during the 1994 reform debate, but Republicans are now "upping their game … lying even more shamelessly than in round 1."

I’m reminded of Ruth Marcus’ reaction to the House debate a few weeks ago, when she marveled at the "appalling amount of misinformation being peddled" by Republicans.

I don’t mean the usual hyperbole about "a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system," as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses….

I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill…. You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?

Their Senate colleagues were just as offensive, shamelessly pretending as if reality had no meaning whatsoever.

John McCain, for example, said in a written statement that the reform bill would add "more than a trillion dollars to our country’s deficit," would put medical decisions "in the hands of government bureaucrats," and amount to a "government takeover of our health care system." He’s obviously lying. None of this is even remotely true.

But McCain and his cohorts have a strong incentive to be as blatantly dishonest as they can be. For one thing, it keeps the rabid GOP base worked up. For another, it might confuse the American mainstream, who won’t know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.

Ordinarily, the media would help sort this out. So much for that idea: "The media is basically letting all opponents of health care say whatever the hell they want about health care reform with little pushback. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when this happens, but I do…"

Without political consequences for dishonesty, this is only going to get worse.

Read his entire post.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2009 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Healthcare

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