A long Michael Pollan article on gut flora. Interesting shit.
This post was deleted for the following reason: Double. — beamish
Dylan Matthew's post on kids that go to Wall Street in order to maximize the money they can give away has been making the rounds. My take is this: it is a good thing that they are doing, absolutely. But this type of thing - and often charities in general - make me a little sad as they symbolize the death of collective action. I don't want to structure my life around saving as many lives as possible. I want everyone to give a negligible amount and solve the various problems (and for the assholes to quit making problems worse), and leave me and my guilty conscience alone.
Ydnew writes: I'm not sure that this would be of interest to Unfogged, but it's a huge and underreported corporate scandal involving almost cartoonish villains. Also, there's outsourcing, racism, government regulation, and patents. So, maybe? "Who cares? It's just blacks dying"
In short, Ranbaxy Labs is one of India's largest and best-respected pharmaceutical companies. They basically focus on generics, and since 1998, their generics have been sold in the US. On his first day of work, Dinesh Thakur, the eventual whistle-blower, was greeted with the news that the company had been falsifying data.
Drug applications work on the honor system: The FDA relies on data provided by the companies themselves. 'We depend on that information to be truthful,' Gary Buehler, who headed the FDA's office of generic drugs for 10 years, said in December 2009. ...
[T]he company culture was for management to dictate the results it wanted and for those beneath to bend the process to achieve it. ...
[A]s Thakur's project managers gathered data and interviewed company scientists and executives, he says, they stumbled onto Ranbaxy's open secret: The company manipulated almost every aspect of its manufacturing process to quickly produce impressive-looking data that would bolster its bottom line. 'This was not something that was concealed,' Thakur says. It was 'common knowledge among senior managers of the company, heads of research and development, people responsible for formulation to the clinical people.' ...
[C]rucial testing data for many of the company's drugs did not actually exist and submissions to regulators had been forged. ...
The congressional inquiry into the FDA petered out over the years. But under the direction of David Nelson, investigators interviewed the FDA inspectors who went to Paonta Sahib and asked them a simple question: Would they feel comfortable taking Ranbaxy drugs? 'Every single inspector that went to India said they would never take a Ranbaxy drug,' says Nelson, 'like eight out of eight.'
Of 163 compounds Ranbaxy had developed post-2000, only 8 had been fully tested with non-falsified data. Allegedly, executives would carry suitcases full of the brand name drug back to India (rather than following appropriate legal import procedures), and these drugs were used to generate data which was reported as being from the Ranbaxy compounds. (Generics are required to be tested for "bioequivalence," meaning that they have the same biological effect as the name brand.) Probably the worst part of this story is that Ranbaxy was providing low-cost antiretrovirals at low cost to many African markets (through PEPFAR) which had failed various tests, particularly stability, which is crucial in countries with poorly functioning public health systems (e.g. medication can't be refrigerated). When an employee expressed concern, she was told, "Who cares? It's just blacks dying." The FDA received its first report from the whistle-blower in 2005, but it took until late 2008 for the FDA to file an import restriction. Ranbaxy drugs are still on the market in the US, including a generic for Lipitor. It's pretty clear from the linked article that the corruption was present at the highest levels, and the extent of the fraud is staggering.
The eventual fine (levied recently) for Ranbaxy was $500 million, $48 million of which will go to the whistle-blower. I seriously hope the FDA gets their act together in terms of overseas inspections, even though they are underfunded and it's politically hard to stand in the way of business. It's one of the scariest stories I've seen in a while, but for some reason, it's not really been widely reported here, maybe because we don't care too much about adulterated ARVs going to HIV-positive Africans, either?
Heebie's take: Yep, it's ydnew that we all met in DC. Don't worry, she got a fruit-basket. LET'S RE-NAME HER PSEUD AGAINST HER WILL! (After discussion of the OP takes hold.)
Reminder - email me if you spent money buying party supplies, so that I can reimburse you.
Also email me if, in hindsight, you spent more than you felt comfortable spending and could use some help.
Also email me if it seems like I've forgotten an old email that you've sent me, about money.
I think it is a reasonably good heuristic that anyone who ingenuously talks about disrupting an existing institution, or, worse, ingenuously pairs "disruption" in any of its forms with "innovation" in any of its forms, is — I don't want to say not worth paying attention to (since one may do well to keep one's eye on such a person), but either malicious, culpably ignorant, or both.
Sec'y of Education Arne Duncan, ladies and gents:
On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the online courses could increase access and keep costs down. "I am very, very, very interested in MOOCs," he said. "We need some disruptive innovation in higher education."
(Via zunguzungu on twitter.)
Here's is what naturally tidy people don't tell untidy people: if you organize that drawer, or closet, or whatever, and make it tidy and beautiful, it will hold much less stuff. I'm talking about useful stuff, not just a closet that needs weeding through and crap purged. Naturally organized people automatically assess that they need more storage, when the tidy and beautiful space is in danger of no longer looking tidy and beautiful. I see empty space around the tidy items and then I cram stuff in the empty space.
Here's something else I'm terrible at: estimating the right size container to hold the leftovers, after dinner.
Could this be the same phenomenon?
Get to know the woman behind Prancercise.
Via Helpy-Chalk, elsewhere
I hate all these people. Who falls off an elliptical machine?
Nine years ago, Graham woke up and discovered he was dead.
He was in the grip of Cotard's syndrome. People with this rare condition believe that they, or parts of their body, no longer exist.
A peek inside Graham's brain provided Zeman and Laureys with some explanation. They used positron emission tomography to monitor metabolism across his brain. It was the first PET scan ever taken of a person with Cotard's (Cortex, DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.03.003). What they found was shocking: metabolic activity across large areas of the frontal and parietal brain regions was so low that it resembled that of someone in a vegetative state.
I'm sure I'm trolling Tweety in some way by posting this, but I found it fascinating.
This guy fought student loans in court, and got about 2/3 of the loan discharged. He was a law student who didn't pass the bar, and ended up earning $40K/year in Klamath Falls. He jumped through hoops to try to pay the loans, and still couldn't.
This week's NY Times Magazine had an article on attempts to develop a Viagra equivalent for women. The bit that popped out for me from the story was a report of research saying that women tend to lose sexual interest a few years into a committed relationship, that reawakens with a new partner, while men are more likely to stay interested in the same partner indefinitely:
Dietrich Klusmann, a psychologist at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, has provided a glimpse into the bedrooms of longtime couples. His surveys, involving a total of almost 2,500 subjects, comprise one of the few systematic comparisons of female and male desire at progressive stages of committed relationships. He shows women and men in new relationships reporting, on average, more or less equal lust for each other. But for women who've been with their partners between one and four years, a dive begins -- and continues, leaving male desire far higher. (Within this plunge, there is a notable pattern: over time, women who don't live with their partners retain their desire much more than women who do.)
And I thought, I bet you could get some terribly entertainingly strained evo-psych just-so stories for that. I've never heard any, but I'm sure we can make some up. (I'm sure everyone could guess what I think, which is that it's probably all cultural, and probably related to unequal division of domestic labor. Anecdotally, the friends I have that fall into this pattern are the ones with the most gendered divisions of responsibilities. And thinking this way lets me console myself for the frankly horrific state the kitchen's usually in by believing that that's the reason we're still having sex.)
(Nine out of ten, I'm not going to be able to comment on this thread from work.)
Minivet writes: I'm pretty impressed at the reception Covered California (our health insurance exchange) has gotten for its unveiling of participating plans and their rates next year. (Detailed document here.) Short version: by aggressively negotiating with plans and pitting them against each other on a level playing field, rates might actually go down with health reform, even before subsidies. Even a naysayer declared himself impressed.
Also, in California, 5 out of the 13 selected plans are publicly operated or affiliated, and so in their counties (which include some very populous ones) could conceivably act a bit like a public option over time.
Lots and lots of caveats, but still, how far that little candle throws his beam, &c.
Heebie's take: the best thing that could happen would be for the media to take up this narrative as gospel truth.
I liked this op-ed in Sunday's Times pointing out how very weird it is that we name military bases after Confederate generals:
Other Confederate namesakes include Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, Fort Rucker in Alabama and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana. All these installations date from the buildups during the world wars, and naming them in honor of a local military figure was a simple choice. But that was a time when the Army was segregated and our views about race more ignorant. Now African-Americans make up about a fifth of the military. The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable; the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd. Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?
I remember having had the same thought walking around West Point and looking at statues of Confederate generals -- I understand that there are reasons to not hold a grudge, but it still seemed to be going a bit too far.
Mexican blogger of El Narco writes an extremely well-read blog chronicling the drug war. Interview with her here, from April. Then a few weeks ago, her partner called her and said "Run", which was their codeword that the shit has hit the fan, and she has fled the country. Now she's in Spain and there's no communication from her partner.
(I can't think of an angle for us to argue about, but this is still interesting and sad, both.)