Later On

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

Archive for December 17th, 2007

Bias follows money for drug research

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Watch out: peer review is not working as it should.

Source: British Medical Journal, December 8, 2007

“Meta-analyses,” or reviews of several studies’ worth of data on a single drug, influence patient care and healthcare policy. Increasingly, the people carrying out these meta-analyses have financial ties to drug companies. So researchers at Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco set out “to determine whether financial ties to one drug company are associated with favourable results or conclusions in meta-analyses on antihypertensive drugs,” which are taken to lower blood pressure. They found a connection between drug company ties and meta-analyses with favorable conclusions, but not favorable results. That means that — regardless of what the data actually showed — meta-analyses done by people with financial ties were more likely to interpret the data as favorable to the drug. The researchers conclude that “meta-analyses, as with other study types, are open to the influence of systematic bias.” Their findings also suggest “a failure of peer review,” since “editors and peer reviewers must have read manuscript versions of those meta-analyses containing discordant results and conclusions, yet they did not prevent publication of biased conclusions.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Business, Medical

Huckabee: not qualified due to Alzheimer’s?

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Huckabee has a serious memory problem:

Source: Newsweek, December 17, 2007

Baptist preacher and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee denies knowing about a financial boost he received from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company back in 1994, when RJR donated $40,000 to a secretive organization called Action America, a front group set up by paid RJR lobbyists J.J. Vigneault and Greg Graves, to foster grassroots opposition to a national health care plan then being advanced by the Clinton Administration. RJR funded Huckabee to fly around the country persuading other evangelicals to oppose the health care plan proposed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Clintons’ plan was to be funded through an additional federal excise tax on cigarettes, which explains cigarette company opposition. Mr. Huckabee, now a Presidential hopeful who is running on morals and ethics, asserts that he was unaware of the donation, but Vigneault claims Huckabee was present at the meeting with the RJR representative where the idea for the Action America was hatched. Vigneault even recalls that Huckabee made the rep step outside to smoke.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 4:24 pm

Dark Knight preview

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Wow. (click “download” at the link)

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Even when you’re Right, you can be right

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Take a look:

As a friend of presidents and hobnobber with governors, David Fleming makes an unlikely insurgent against the War on Drugs.

He’s been dubbed by a local business weekly as “The Valley’s Most Powerful Person,” chairs the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and doles out dollars to charity by the millions.

He works for one of the world’s largest law firms. He can preach for hours about business tax, government reform and transportation.

With his immaculate white shirts, slicked-back hair and easy familiarity with powerful people, Fleming embodies The Man.

“I smoked marijuana once, 25 years ago,” he said. “I got high for three hours and decided: `Yecch. This is not for me.”‘

Although it was not for him, he doesn’t begrudge those who opt for comfort with a bong or a needle. The Man, a registered Republican and consummate insider, thinks the drug war is “stupid.”

And he’s putting his money – and his reputation – on the line to try to win more recruits to his cause.

Fleming and his wife, Jean, put thousands of dollars of their considerable personal fortune into producing “Smoke Screen,” a 90-minute docudrama promoting the medical marijuana movement.

They’ve previewed it for local politicians and powerbrokers and are looking for film festivals.

Jean Fleming co-wrote the script and produced the film. David Fleming narrates it. After years of research, he effortlessly tosses off statistics used in the film in his deep, even voice.

“The War on Drugs has cost the American taxpayer $1 trillion since 1972,” he said. “We’re paying $69 billion a year to make a health problem into a criminal one.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 4:03 pm

Big collection of personal-finance links

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Interposed with Christmas cartoons. Something for everyone, I expect.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Interested in neurons?

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Very good explanation with interactive flash demo. Quite good.

This goes out especially to The Older Grandson.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Science

Best of WebMD, 2007: reader’s choices

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Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

A post for the John Edwards skeptics

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Read this:

Back in October, I wrote that it was critical that Democrats select a surefire winner in our Presidential primary. At that time I made the case fore John Edwards’ win-ability. My prognostication has now been made official in the form of this week’s CNN poll, which pitted Clinton, Obama, and Edwards individually and Head-to head with each major Republican contender.

Once again, in every one of those match-ups, Edwards wins by the largest margin against any of the Republicans. And what could be more valuable a statement in the 2008 general election than a landslide?

Remember, after the 2004 election, George Bush made his bloviating statement about his perceived “political capital” – which, of course he squandered on a 60-city tour to sell his dead-on-arrival Social Security privatization scheme. That, with a 2-point “win”

But, given (as in CNN’s Edwards vs. Huckabee race) a 25-point true landslide, the political capital would be palpable and spendable. Edwards, winning with a foreseeable 65% of the vote, would be coming in with that sort of long-unseen approval rating that would enable him to embark on populist policies with the actual backing of the populace (unlike the elitist policies of Bush ineptly attempted to be served to his handpicked audiences – and even they didn’t bite!).

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Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

More on Portland as a bike-friendly city

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Interesting post, with good links. And in the Netherlands, we have an example of an entire country that has gone the bike route, as it were. (Note the big return on the relatively small amount spent on bike-izing the city (vs. cost of a highway interchange).)

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 1:55 pm

Worth a close look: free software

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Lifehacker has just posted their 2007 guide to free software. Check it out.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Software

Christmas dinner

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This article in Food & Wine has several interesting dishes (list at the right). For example, this one:

Horseradish-and-Herb-Crusted Beef Rib Roast
Active time: 20 min
Total time: 4 hrs 15 min
Serves: 12

Besh opts to smear the roast with a horseradish, garlic and herb butter, which bakes to form an irresistible crust.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped sage
  • One 16-pound rib roast of beef
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a food processor, combine the butter with the garlic, horseradish, thyme, rosemary and sage and process to a paste.
  2. Stand the roast in a very large roasting pan. Season generously all over with salt and pepper and set it fatty side up. Spread the horseradish-herb butter all over the top. Bake for about 3 1/2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125° for medium rare. Transfer the roast to a carving board to rest for at least 20 minutes or for up to 1 hour before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The horseradish-herb butter can be refrigerated overnight. Let the butter soften before using.

NOTES If making Pat’s Popovers, reserve 3 tablespoons of the beef fat from the roasting pan.

WINE This impressive rib roast will pair well with a substantial Cabernet Sauvignon; Cabernet’s firm tannins help cut the richness of red meat, and its slight herbal edge makes a nice partner to the herb-horseradish crust. The 2004 vintage in Napa Valley produced fleshy, generous wines that are easy to drink now; two to look for are the blackberry-inflected Robert Mondavi Napa Valley and the curranty 2004 Provenance Rutherford.

Also this:

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Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 12:55 pm

Urgent! Vote today in independent poll

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Via email:

We are persuaded that none of the so-called front-runners in the
current Democratic primary process may yet represent the true choice
of the people, and suspect they are being foisted on us by a
disproportionate share of media attention, and even speaking time in
the debates.

There is a totally independent primary poll being conducted at Independent Primary Poll: http://independentprimary.com/

We are encouraging all our participants to make your voice heard for
the candidate you really like before this poll closes at the end of
the day, this coming Tuesday, Dec. 18. This major on-line poll is
being conducted by a consortium of Independent voters around the
county, and is sure to have a significant impact on the real
primaries just about to start.

The groups running this poll do not favor one party or the other,
they vote on issues, and character of the candidate. And they are a
large constituency. Independents make up more than 40 percent of the
electorate, and it is expected there will be several hundred thousand
votes in this poll by the time it closes Dec. 18, so the media is
paying attention.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 11:39 am

Posted in Election

More confirmation of benefits of walking

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Again:

Research from Duke University Medical Center shows that even a modest amount of brisk walking weekly is enough to trim waistlines and cut the risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS), an increasingly frequent condition linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

It’s estimated that about a quarter of all U.S. adults have MetS, a cluster of risk factors associated with greater likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke: large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, low amounts of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and high blood sugar. To be diagnosed with MetS, patients must have at least three of these five risk factors, and according to many studies, a growing number of people do.

But Johanna Johnson, a clinical researcher at Duke Medical Center and the lead author of a new study examining the impact of exercise on MetS, said a person can lower risk of MetS by walking just 30 minutes a day, six days per week. “That’s about 11 miles per week. And our study shows that you’ll benefit even if you don’t make any dietary changes.”

“The results of our study underscore what we have known for a long time,” said Duke cardiologist William Kraus. “Some exercise is better than none; more exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise can be disastrous.”

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Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 11:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Tagged with ,

Warning on Windows Vista

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Schneier on Security:

Microsoft has added the random-number generator Dual_EC-DRBG to Windows Vista, as part of SP1. Yes, this is the same RNG that could have an NSA backdoor.

It’s not enabled by default, and my advice is to never enable it. Ever.

Comments at the link are interesting and some quite useful.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 11:30 am

A Christmas movie for the whole family

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I’ve been thinking a lot about a Christmas movie I saw recently. One reason, I suppose, is that it reflected back to me many of my own deepest beliefs—we all like that, I think. It’s reassuring and it also helps one to grasp better the principles that underlie those beliefs by making our unconscious outlook explicit so that we can examine and test it.

Moreover, when you see something that’s true—factually true as well as true in a larger sense, in the implications including the implied precepts for how you can and should live—it moves you to a new way of looking at your daily life. You suddenly notice things you overlooked before, you become away of how you have been wearing blinders that blocked things from your view, and, in an expression I love, the scales fall from your eyes.

As you watch the movie, you’ll feel somewhat like the Spring earth must feel in the plot where you’re going to plant a garden: the shovel sticking in—uncomfortable; the sudden pain as each shovelful of dirt is wrenched free and overturned; the odd but pleasant sensation as the clods of dirt are broken and raked smooth; the tickle of new seeds planted; and the glorious feeling of renewal as the showers and sun of Spring bring forth new life on what had become a trap of routine.

So use that widescreen, computer-connected home theater to watch this movie with your family. I think you’ll find it strangely absorbing, and the best part will be in the days afterward as the movie starts to resonate with what you see around you and how you become more aware of your own life.

As Tiny Tim said in his chirpy little voice, “It’s the bestest Christmas movie ever!”

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 11:27 am

Posted in Daily life

The worst ethics scandals of 2007

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released the top 10 ethics failures for 2007:

There is no ranking of these egregious activities, rather the following list outlines CREW’s new annual study on the past year’s on-going scandals:

No new enforcement mechanisms for congressional ethics;

Ted Stevens still sitting on Senate Appropriations;

Senate Ethics Committee looking into Sen. Craig, but not Sen. Vitter;

Millions of missing White House emails still unaccounted for;

Rep. Murtha’s abuse of the earmarking process remains  unchecked;

Lurita Doan remains chief of GSA despite illegal conduct;

White House covering up its role in the firings of the U.S. Attorneys;

No Child Left Behind funds directed to Bush fundraisers who provide inadequate reading materials for kids;

Court decision regarding search of Jefferson’s office limits ability of DOJ to investigate other corrupt lawmakers; and

FEMA knowingly let Katrina victims live in hazardous trailers

You can see the complete report (PDF file—and you can save it to your computer), which contains details of each failure of our elected leaders.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 10:33 am

I go with Edwards

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I’ve decided that I simply do not like the votes and the vast sums in earmarks that Hillary Clinton has contributed—her support for Kyl-Lieberman was about the last straw. And I have to agree with Paul Krugman that Barack Obama simply is too naïve to be president: if he thinks he can sit down at a table with the health insurance and pharmaceutical drug companies and get their help in creating a national health insurance plan, then he simply has not been paying attention. These are exactly the groups that have fought and will fight any national health insurance tooth and nail and do everything in their considerable monied power to destroy such plans. Barack is, at best, ignorant.

So it’s John Edwards or Chris Dodd, and I think I have to say that John Edwards has a better chance. Perhaps an Edwards-Dodd ticket would work.

Barack Obama needs to spend a little more time gaining experience and knowledge. Hillary is, I think, at heart corrupt.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Dodd’s effort to combat Reid’s mendacity

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Harry Reid is showing us his core—and it’s rotted. Unfortunately, he has direct support from other Democratic Senators, and implicit support from those such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who claim to be opposed to what he’s doing with the Surveillance/Telecom Immunity bill but won’t leave off campaigning to actually match deeds to their (cheap) words.

But Dodd left his campaign to return to the Senate to do what he can after Reid simply ignored the hold that Dodd had placed on the bad bill. Read Greenwald here and here.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 10:14 am

Does open-source stifle innovation?

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Interesting article suggesting that, while the open-source approach can greatly refine and polish existing ideas, it doesn’t lend itself well to maverick insights that take off in a new direction. That is, the wisdom of crowds can lead to a herd mentality.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 9:27 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Technology

Tagged with

Hilarious video

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If you’re a tech-industry geek, you’ll find this video extremely funny due to high truth content.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2007 at 9:17 am

Posted in Business, Humor, Video

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