Later On

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

Archive for January 10th, 2009

FDA scientists complain to Obama

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Glad they’re speaking up, and I hope Obama is listening. The story:

In an unusually blunt letter, a group of federal scientists is complaining to the Obama transition team of widespread managerial misconduct in a division of the Food and Drug Administration.

“The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the scientific review process for medical devices at the FDA has been corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers, thereby placing the American people at risk,” said the letter, dated Wednesday and written on the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health letterhead.

The center is responsible for medical devices ranging from stents and breast implants to MRIs and other imaging machinery. The concerns of the nine scientists who wrote to the transition team echo some of the complaints from the FDA’s drug review division a few years ago during the safety debacle involving the painkiller Vioxx.

The FDA declined to publicly respond to the letter, but said it is working to address the concerns.

In their letter the FDA dissidents alleged that agency managers use intimidation to squelch scientific debate, leading to the approval of medical devices whose effectiveness is questionable and which may not be entirely safe.

“Managers with incompatible, discordant and irrelevant scientific and clinical expertise in devices…have ignored serious safety and effectiveness concerns of FDA experts,” the letter said. “Managers have ordered, intimidated and coerced FDA experts to modify scientific evaluations, conclusions and recommendations in violation of the laws, rules and regulations, and to accept clinical and technical data that is not scientifically valid.” …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 2:22 pm

Extremely interesting post on healthcare proposals

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Matthew Yglesias has the post, which is illustrated with two graph, one showing the number of Americans that would be newly covered by each proposal, and the other showing the cost of each proposal.

Surprise: the proposal that newly covers the greatest number (by a wide margin) also is the least costly (by a wide margin). The decision, thus, would seem easy. And it is: that proposal will be roundly rejected.

UPDATE: In addition to the post above, here is an excellent report (PDF file, and includes graphs) of the healthcare situation in the US and how it got there.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 2:19 pm

One George Bush success

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The success is that he failed to privatize Social Security, which today looks like a very good thing. (BTW, Bush himself calls this failure a “success” in his legacy tour interviews.) Paul Krugman:

What would have happened if George W. Bush had actually succeeded in his plan to privatize Social Security? Ask the Italians.

Italy did for retirement financing what President George W. Bush couldn’t do in the U.S.: It privatized part of its social security system. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

The global market meltdown has created losses for those who agreed to shift their contributions from a government severance payment plan to private funds meant to yield higher returns.

Gaetano Turchetta, a Rome office manager, made the irreversible move to a private plan after a union representative boasted of the potential for 20 percent annual returns. The 43- year-old father of three now says he would sign with “two hands and two feet” if he could switch back.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 11:57 am

Congress acts after disasters

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It’s a pattern, and it’s happened again. McClatchy reports:


Federal regulations are needed to make sure that ash from coal-fired power plants is stored safely, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on Thursday as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the spill of 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge in East Tennessee.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers promised to make sure that the Tennessee Valley Authority helps the region recover from one of the nation’s worst spill and looks for ways to prevent other spills and leaks.

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 11:49 am

John Pizzareli on Marian McPartland

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I really like John Pizzarelli and in fact saw him perform with his trio at a wonderful Baltimore Museum of Art function—my one tuxedoed social occasion. He’s a wonderful guitarist and singer, and you can hear him on Marian McPartland’s program here, via James Fallows.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 11:40 am

Posted in Jazz

Starbucks has wrong attitude toward unions

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In fact, their attitude is illegal. That’s pretty much wrong. Here’s the story:

Starbucks, once the undisputed leader in premium-price caffeine fixes, has long cultivated a corporate image for social responsibility, environmental awareness, and sensitivity to workers’ rights. Now that carefully crafted reputation is under assault, thanks to a messy legal dispute with a group called the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) (part of the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW), which started recruiting employees in 2004 and now claims 300 members.

The National Labor Relations Board found on Dec. 23 that Starbucks had illegally fired three New York City baristas as it tried to squelch the union organizing effort. The 88-page ruling also says the company broke the law by giving negative job evaluations to other union supporters and prohibiting employees from discussing union issues at work. The judge ordered that the three baristas be reinstated and receive back wages. The judge also called on Starbucks to end discriminatory treatment of other pro-union workers at four Manhattan locations named in the case. The decision marks the end of an 18-month trial in New York City that pitted the ubiquitous multinational corporation against a group of twentysomething baristas who are part of the Industrial Workers of the World.

The timing isn’t ideal for Starbucks, which faces lower demand from the recession, an overall loss of panache for the brand, and a sliding stock price. “[The ruling] is a real thumb in the eye—a real gotcha moment with potential for heartache,” says Eric Dezenhall, chief executive officer of Dezenhall Resources, a crisis management public relations firm in Washington D.C. “I don’t think it’s a crisis, but it hovers between [being] a nuisance and a problem.” …

Continue reading. Note that this is the current National Labor Relations Board, which is not especially friendly to labor.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 11:36 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Hydraulic hybrids

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Very interesting idea: using a hydraulic system to store and provide energy for a truck:

In the next few months, United Parcel Service (UPS) will begin testing an automotive breakthrough that comes straight from the Environmental Protection Agency. UPS will launch two prototype delivery trucks whose ordinary-looking brown exteriors mask an exotic assembly of pumps, tanks, and high-pressure hydraulic fluids. Working in concert with a diesel engine, these novel parts will replace the transmission and other standard components.

The big brain behind such “hydraulic hybrid” vehicles is Charles Gray, a top scientist at a laboratory the EPA operates in Ann Arbor, Mich. Barack Obama may never have heard of hydraulic hybrids, but such fleets could go a long way toward meeting goals the President-elect has spelled out in many speeches, says Gray, whose team has racked up 60 patents on green automotive technology. The payoff is not just cleaner air, he says, but something “very important right now—jobs for Americans.”

It was UPS that proposed a joint research project in hydraulics when it learned of the EPA’s efforts back in 2004. After studying the agency’s work, UPS concluded that this sort of hybrid truck, when mass-produced, would cost about $7,000 more than standard delivery trucks, which run $40,000 to $50,000. But the EPA said savings on fuel and maintenance over the life of the truck could be as much as $50,000, while reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would be 30% or more. “I think we’re going to be able to help the environment, but certainly it’s going to be a good business decision, too,” says Robert Hall, a UPS vice-president versed in the hybrid project.

If the upcoming trial goes well,  …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2009 at 11:32 am

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