Monday, March 31, 2008


There a good article in the AZ Republic today about the non-efficacy of one of the latest cholesterol medicines... This is why we need stronger, INDEPENDENT scrutiny of the pharmaceuticals industry.

Some relevant excerpts:

The study tested whether Vytorin was better than Zocor alone at limiting plaque buildup in the arteries of 720 people with super-high cholesterol because of a gene disorder.

The results show the drug had "no result - zilch. In no subgroup, in no segment, was there any added benefit" for reducing plaque, said Dr. John Kastelein, the Dutch scientist who led the study.

The New England Journal also published a report showing that Vytorin and Zetia's use soared in the U.S. amid a $200 million advertising blitz. In Canada, where marketing drugs directly to consumers is not allowed, sales only about one-fourth as strong.

Two congressional panels launched probes into why it took drugmakers nearly two years after the study's completion to release results.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The situation in Iraq

I just got back from a lecture at ASU by John Burns, the New York Times foreign correspondent. The title of the talk was The Battle for Baghdad: What the Outcome will mean for America, Iraq, and the World.

Burns is the longest-serving foreign correspondent in The New York Times' history, having worked for more than 30 years on assignment in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

It was a good talk -- in fact, Mr. Burns made many of the same points I made if I had to give such a talk. In discussing the situation in Iraq he pointed out that the recent successes in Iraq are due to many factors -- "the surge" strategy which has our troops patrolling the streets, the Shia cease fire, the Sunni awakening and (probably) the populaces impatience with all of the bloodshed.

As for the Shia cease-fire, al Sadr - the leader of the Office of the Martyr Sadr and essentially the biggest shit-bag in the country - is learning to play politics: and quickly. His Madhi Army - a private militia of thugs financed and backed by Iranian proxies - is nothing more than a weak reflection of the Iranian Republican Guard: the same people that bring Islamic terror to the streets of Tehran. If Sadr has a say in the future of Iraq we can expect Islamic oppression throughout Iraq: its already germinating in the south. One of the (many) big mistakes we made in this war is not taking him out early.

The Sunni awakening is founded in the tribal leaders desire to end the indiscriminate killing in their towns and villages. From my recent 'visit', I can say they have been very effective. However, the US and Iraqi governments are arming the Sunni's who fully realize they have only a minority position in a government that will be perpetually led by a Shia majority: a majority they have oppressed for decades. While its expedient for them to fight al Qaeda now, those weapons can just as easily be used again Shia and American interests... I'd like to hope things will continue to improve on the security front, but as they do there's more and more pressure for the Sunnis to rebel against the Shia and their facilitators (us).

The tragedy of the situation was articulated by Colin Powell when he uttered the cliche: "You broke it, you bought it" ... As much as I'd like to offer a simple solution -- like "we need to leave now" I just can't see a solution... Mr. Burns echoed the sentiment.

But stay or go, its our problem.

Shia militia's in Iraq - Where the power is...

The shia militias are the defacto policing and social power in the southern part of the country... dealing with them could plunge the country into chaos -- but so could leaving them alone.
clipped from
For much of the past three years, the Iraqi government has had little influence over Basra. As British troops have steadily withdrawn from the city, it has fallen into the control of three major Shi'ite militias - Moqtada al'Sadr's Mahdi Army, the Iran-backed Badr Brigades and a local group associated with the Fadila Party.
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