Open letter to NY Times staffers

From WhoWhatWhy.com:

New York Timesians, welcome to the real world. In the end, the problem is the ownership of the media. In the end, you work on a plantation. Granted, it is a plush plantation, and there are many benefits, not the least of which is the status it accords.

But you’re very much working for the establishment. And the establishment is looking out for their interests, chiefly, not yours, or ours, no matter how much they try and tell us otherwise.

Why not, in this new world, take a risk to create a better journalism, one not owned by rich people or corporations? Why not get involved with journalism whose only agenda is to figure out what is really going on, and then say so? That gets right to the point of what you discovered in your reporting, without pretending to be above the fray and reporting what powerful, self-interested “sources” tell you as if it is the gospel?

You can see what corporate ownership (even the kind dominated by single families—think Walmart and the Waltons, not just the Sulzbergers and the New York Times) does to journalists: it causes them to hold their fire. News outlets are really too important to democracy and the public interest to let them nestle in the bosom of the rich.

Think of all the times The Times has been wrong, pressing you toward the establishment consensus on stories where you knew that was not the right place to be, journalistically.
Continue Reading →

So the intellectual basis for austerity

Is based on a bad formula on an Excel spreadsheet.

So what do Herndon-Ash-Pollin conclude? They find “the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim].” [UPDATE: To clarify, they find 2.2 percent if they include all the years, weigh by number of years, and avoid the Excel error.] Going further into the data, they are unable to find a breakpoint where growth falls quickly and significantly.

This is also good evidence for why you should release your data online, so it can be properly vetted. But beyond that, looking through the data and how much it can collapse because of this or that assumption, it becomes quite clear that there’s no magic number out there. The debt needs to be thought of as a response to the contingent circumstances we find ourselves in, with mass unemployment, a Federal Reserve desperately trying to gain traction at the zero lower bound, and a gap between what we could be producing and what we are. The past guides us, but so far it has failed to provide an emergency cliff. In fact, it tells us that a larger deficit right now would help us greatly.

[UPDATE: People are responding to the Excel error, and that is important to document. But from a data point of view, the exclusion of the Post-World War II data is particularly troublesome, as that is driving the negative results. This needs to be explained, as does the weighting, which compresses the long periods of average growth and high debt.]

Ricin at Congressional mail facility

Seems odd, doesn’t it? Faintly familiar?

Washington (CNN) — An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol’s off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was told the letter was addressed to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. After the envelope tested positive in a first routine test, it was retested two more times, each time coming up positive, the law enforcement source said. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing.

Senators were briefed on the matter Tuesday evening and told the congressional post offices would be temporarily shut down.

“It was caught in the screening facility. That’s why we have an off-site screening facility for mail,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.

Why we love Big Pharma

By Rob Garver and Charles Seife, Special to ProPublica

On the morning of May 3, 2010, three agents of the Food and Drug Administration descended upon the Houston office of Cetero Research, a firm that conducted research for drug companies worldwide.

Lead agent Patrick Stone, now retired from the FDA, had visited the Houston lab many times over the previous decade for routine inspections. This time was different. His team was there to investigate a former employee’s allegation that the company had tampered with records and manipulated test data.

When Stone explained the gravity of the inquiry to Chinna Pamidi, the testing facility’s president, the Cetero executive made a brief phone call. Moments later, employees rolled in eight flatbed carts, each double-stacked with file boxes. The documents represented five years of data from some 1,400 drug trials.

Pamidi bluntly acknowledged that much of the lab’s work was fraudulent, Stone said. “You got us,” Stone recalled him saying.

Based partly on records in the file boxes, the FDA eventually concluded that the lab’s violations were so “egregious” and pervasive that studies conducted there between April 2005 and August 2009 might be worthless.

The health threat was potentially serious: About 100 drugs, including sophisticated chemotherapy compounds and addictive prescription painkillers, had been approved for sale in the United States at least in part on the strength of Cetero Houston’s tainted tests. The vast majority, 81, were generic versions of brand-name drugs on which Cetero scientists had often run critical tests to determine whether the copies did, in fact, act the same in the body as the originals. For example, one of these generic drugs was ibuprofen, sold as gelatin capsules by one of the nation’s largest grocery-store chains for months before the FDA received assurance they were safe.

The rest were new medications that required so much research to win approval that the FDA says Cetero’s tests were rarely crucial.

Stone said he expected the FDA to move swiftly to compel new testing and to publicly warn patients and doctors.

Continue Reading →

Site Meter