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Saturday, August 29, 2015

New York Times Editorial, "The Battle for Biomedical Supremacy": What About the Reproducibility of Findings?

In an editorial entitled "The Battle for Biomedical Supremacy," The New York Times tells us:

"States from coast to coast are using public funds to help their medical schools recruit scientific stars from other states or to prevent their own stars from being lured away by lucrative offers.

. . . .

New York’s medical schools are feeling the heat. Over the past four years, institutions in Texas have offered almost $40 million in research grants to tempt scientists to leave New York. According to medical school leaders here, 11 states have programs to recruit biomedical talent. Along with Texas, they include California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Utah and Virginia, although the programs of some are modest in scale.

. . . .

In New York, a consortium of all 16 medical schools is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to invest $100 million a year for the next decade to recruit outstanding scientists from other states and retain top scientists who are already here but might be wooed by other states."

Is it worth investing this amount of money to recruit and keep scientists at New York universities? I believe that a cost/benefit analysis involving such a plan might be appropriate. Attention should be paid to the fact that in the past, promising academic biomedical research has not always been reproducible by pharma companies. As observed in a December 2, 2011 Wall Street Journal article entitled "Scientists' Elusive Goal: Reproducing Study Results" by Gautam Naik:

"This is one of medicine's dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can't be reproduced.

. . . .

Reproducibility is the foundation of all modern research, the standard by which scientific claims are evaluated. In the U.S. alone, biomedical research is a $100-billion-year enterprise. So when published medical findings can't be validated by others, there are major consequences.

Drug manufacturers rely heavily on early-stage academic research and can waste millions of dollars on products if the original results are later shown to be unreliable. Patients may enroll in clinical trials based on conflicting data, and sometimes see no benefits or suffer harmful side effects.

There is also a more insidious and pervasive problem: a preference for positive results.

Unlike pharmaceutical companies, academic researchers rarely conduct experiments in a 'blinded' manner. This makes it easier to cherry-pick statistical findings that support a positive result. In the quest for jobs and funding, especially in an era of economic malaise, the growing army of scientists need more successful experiments to their name, not failed ones. An explosion of scientific and academic journals has added to the pressure."

Has there been improvement with respect to this phenomenon concerning the reproducibility of results? Surely, this is something that should be considered before New York State invests this amount of money.

Maureen Dowd, "Bush and Clinton Dynasties Hit Trump Bump": Has Dowd Been Hit by Writer's Block?

Re Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Bush and Clinton Dynasties Hit Trump Bump," don't even bother, unless you've run out of melatonin. Trump has paved the way for Biden? Given that we already have the narcissists, it's time to send in the clowns!

Friday, August 28, 2015

David Brooks, "When ISIS Rapists Win": . . . and Iranian Thugs Are Empowered by Obama

Observing in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "When ISIS Rapists Win" that the Islamic State "fills the vacuum left by decaying nationalist ideologies," David Brooks concludes:

"So far the response to ISIS has been pathetic. The U.S. pledged $500 million to train and equip Syrian moderates, hoping to create 15,000 fighters. After three years we turned out a grand total of 60 fighters, of whom a third were immediately captured.

It’s time to stop underestimating this force as some group of self-discrediting madmen. ISIS is a moral and political threat to the fragile and ugly stability that exists in what’s left in the Middle East. ISIS will thrive and spread its ideas for as long as it has its land.

We are looking into a future with a resurgent Iran, a contagious ISIS and a collapsing state order. If this isn’t a cause for alarm and reappraisal, I don’t know what is."

A "contagious ISIS"? A pity the president isn't being informed of this. As reported in a Daily Beast article entitled "Spies: Obama’s Brass Pressured Us to Downplay ISIS Threat" by Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef:

"Senior military and intelligence officials have inappropriately pressured U.S. terrorism analysts to alter their assessments about the strength of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, three sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to these sources, and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going."

Be that as it may, maybe Nobel winner Obama should cut a multi-billion dollar peace deal with ISIS, in the hope that they will also discover reason and civility within 15 years? Yeah, right!

More important, what about "a resurgent Iran"? Obama went on record on December 29, 2014, as saying that Iran could become "a very successful regional power." Meanwhile, however, the mullahs continue to hang gay men; stone to death women accused of adultery; oppress Baha'is, Kurds, Christians and Sunni Muslims; threaten Israel with annihilation; arm Hamas and Hezbollah; and execute poets accused of "waging war on God."

ISIS is a curse on humanity, and so is Iran in equal measure, but what Obama decides not to see cannot hurt him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Carol Morello, "Retired generals and admirals urge Congress to reject Iran nuclear deal": Partisan Reporting Infects WaPo?

You will recall that two weeks ago, Karen DeYoung wrote a Washington Post article entitled "Dozens of retired generals, admirals back Iran nuclear deal," informing us that 36 retired generals and admirals had signed an open letter supporting Obama's agreement. DeYoung, however, made no mention of the controversy surrounding the top signatory on this letter, James Cartwright, or the controversy surrounding the third signatory on the letter, Merrill McPeak.

Well, today there is a new Washington Post article entitled "Retired generals and admirals urge Congress to reject Iran nuclear deal" by Carol Morello. Beginning in her fifth paragraph, Morello declares:

"The signatories include retired generals and flag officers from every branch of service, including a handful who were involved in some public controversies during their careers.

One is retired Lt. Gen. William G. 'Jerry' Boykin, who was deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence under President George W. Bush and is now executive vice president of the Family Research Council. He had a history of making controversial speeches, including one in which he characterized U.S. military operations against Islamist extremist organizations as a Christian fight against Satan.

It also was signed by retired Vice Adm. John Poindexter and retired Maj. Gen. Richard Secord, who were involved in the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration, in which arms were sold to Iran to fund the contras in Nicaragua."

Got it: No need to point out controversies surrounding those supporting Obama's nuclear deal with Khamenei, but it's of critical importance to highlight so-called controversies involving those who signed the letter opposing the deal.

Cute . . .

Dennis Ross and David Petraeus, "How to put some teeth into the nuclear deal with Iran": How About Dentures?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "How to put some teeth into the nuclear deal with Iran," Dennis Ross and David Petraeus explain why they remain undecided concerning approval  of Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. Ross and Petraeus conclude:

"Deterrence would be more effective — and full implementation of the agreement more likely — if the Iranians understand that there will be a price for every transgression, no matter how small, and that we will raise the cost to them of de-stabilizing behavior in the region. The president’s letter to [Congressman Jerrold] Nadler was useful but fell short of addressing our concerns. It is still possible for the administration to do so."

Threaten Iran with a price for every transgression, no matter how small? Heck, Iran has been callously violating the interim Joint Plan of Action, and now, suddenly, Obama is going to respond to minor breaches of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?

Get real, Dennis and David! I would be satisfied if the deal came with dentures.

Dana Milbank, "Biden probably won’t beat Clinton. He should run anyway.": Care to See Gore, Kerry or de Blasio in the Oval Office?

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Biden probably won’t beat Clinton. He should run anyway.," Dana Milbank takes the position that if Joe Biden runs for president, he "probably won’t beat Hillary Clinton," because "[h]e’s been a lackluster presidential candidate in the past, and there’s no clear path for him to win the Democratic nomination this time." However, Milbank believes that if Biden does run, he "would shake up the race and thereby lower the barriers for other, potentially better-positioned, candidates to join the fray." Milbank goes on to say:

"Previous nominees Al Gore or John Kerry could jump in, validating Mo Udall’s theory that presidential ambition can only be cured by embalming fluid. Mike Bloomberg could rejoin the party and put his billions to work in a shortened primary season. Populists such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) or, failing that, Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) or Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York could reconsider."

Gore, Kerry or de Blasio? Excuse me, but where's my vomit bucket?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Obama: A Majority of Americans Are "Crazies"

In his remarks today at an Event for the Nevada State Democratic Party, President Obama said of persons opposing his nuclear deal with Iran:

"Harry [Reid] and I drove over here together and we were doing a little reminiscing, and then figuring out how we’re going to deal with the crazies in terms of managing some problems. And then we talked about riding off into the sunset together."

Obama maligned all those opposing his deal with Iran notwithstanding an August 3, 2015 Quinnipiac University National Poll which found that "American voters oppose 57 - 28 percent, with only lukewarm support from Democrats and overwhelming opposition for Republicans and independent voters, the nuclear pact negotiated with Iran."

And yesterday, a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll also determined that "voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania oppose the proposed nuclear pact with Iran by margins of more than 2-1."

Or stated otherwise, Obama believes that a majority of Americans are "crazies." But don't worry: Obama is determined to ignore those deranged voters, as are Democrats in the Senate, who simply don't give a damn if Iran's "breakout time" is reduced to a few weeks in another 15 years - if the mullahs don't cheat on the deal long before then, which of course they will.

In other news today, the Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam, called for the "annihilation" of Israel, but this, of course, is of no concern to Obama and his fellow Democrats. You see, in his heart of hearts, Hossein didn't really mean it . . .