New wave of terror in Pakistan!

The Marriott hotel in the centre of Islamabad has always been a major potential target for militants. For a long time it was the Pakistan capital’s only luxury hotel and it remains the favoured haunt of the city’s westernised elite. Only a few hundred metres from the National Assembly, opposite a compound of official residences for ministers, next to the new offices for Pakistan state television, an attack on the Marriott is an strike to the heart of the Pakistani state and the establishment elite of the 173 million strong nation.

And along with power, the Marriott symbolises something else for the ultra-conservative Islamic lobbies: Westernisation and its concomitant “moral decadence”. The swimming pool where expats swam in bikinis, the sports bar in the basement where alcohol was served, the lurid stories of debauch that circulated, all contributed to making the Marriott a target of choice.

So did the political situation. Two major elements have come together. First, the accession of a new president, Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, who is known to be relatively pro-Western and spoke yesterday about his determination to stand together with the international community in the fight against terrorism. Secondly, a sudden uptick in activity in the violence-wracked tribal agencies along the frontier with Afghanistan involving highly controversial raids into Pakistani territory…
Continue reading

Missing: the clinical trials that did not make the news

This week the media ignored a study looking at that exact question. It was also one of the most important papers to be published this year: only one in five trials on cancer treatment actually gets published; the rest are missing in action. And it gets worse: only 5.9% of industry-sponsored trials on cancer treatment get published. Later, it will get worse again.

For decades people have known that negative results tend not to get printed in academic journals, and it can happen for all kinds of reasons: they’re not newsworthy, they’re not much fun to write up, they don’t look good on your CV, and they might not flatter your idea or product.

One suggestion which I bang on about incessantly is that all clinical trials should be registered before they begin: then people stand a chance of noticing if and when a trial goes missing in action. This took about 20 years to be put into practice. But there is a problem: who will chase up the missing studies?
Continue reading

General Motors hits the revolving credit card…


See if they can offer something even less useful?

General Motors said that it intended to draw down the remaining 3.5 billion dollars of its 4.5-billion-dollar secured revolving credit facility to maintain what the auto giant described as “high level of financial flexibility” at a time when the financial markets are uncertain.

Borst said the proceeds from the draw would also be available to be used to retire 750 million dollars of debt maturities coming due in October, and to pay Delphi Corporation in excess of 1.2 billion dollars as part of its reorganization efforts, assuming court approval of the revised agreements between GM and Delphi that were filed with the court earlier this month.

The US Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation had demanded that bankrupt the Delphi Corp come up with 1.2 billion to cover pension liabilities by the end of September…

GM secured the 4.5-billon-dollar revolving credit facility in July 2006 from a consortium of banks and provides liquidity that GM can draw on from time to time to fund working capital and other needs.

If you clean out the silo, maybe you’ll also look more like a legitimate beneficiary in the next round of bail-outs, eh?

“Taleban bring the Dark Ages. Americans are worse!”

US raids on Taleban and al-Qaeda targets in Pakistani territory have caused outrage in Pakistan. And that has added to the loathing that some people there have long felt for the way that the US conducts itself on the world stage.

“I would rather live in the dark ages under the Taleban than be subservient to any foreign power.” The unexpected comment comes from an urbane, sophisticated and, I had always thought, Westernised Pashtun lawyer.

He wears none of the badges of Islamic piety – a beard, for example – and he normally sports a navy blazer not the local shalwar kameez. He is a former minister with the Pakistan People’s Party, the most liberal in Pakistan.

The word liberal in the Pakistani context means modern, educated, secular rather than theocratic and, up until now at least, pro-Western.
Continue reading

Put up with Apple’s rules, collect $250,000 – why complain?

We have been back and forth on the pros and cons of the App Store from both consumer and developer standpoints. For consumers, a lack of a demo mechanism and general App Store unreliability have acted as speed bumps on the store’s triumphant stampede. For developers, a persistently-muzzling NDA and lack of communication from Apple have cast a shadow over the company’s already-walled garden. But what kind of rewards can a third-party iPhone app developer look forward to after putting up with all this?

Just over two months into the App Store’s existence, another impressive mark of success answers that question. When speaking at this week’s Mobilize conference, Steve Demeter, the developer behind Trism (iTunes link), revealed that his $5 game for iPhone and iPod touch has generated over $250,000 in revenue. The game has been available since the App Store opened its doors on July 11, which means it’s been purchased and downloaded an average of 800 times every day for the last two months…

iPhone user behavior aside, 50,000 downloads and $250,000 in revenue in two months is a shining achievement for a casual game on such a new platform. It will undoubtedly bolster the App Store’s appeal to developers and venture capital firms alike, so we only hope that they actually give Trism a spin and notice that it’s a quality application that is earning what it deserves.

I agree – which I guess is a fairly objective opinion from someone with beaucoup business experience – and who doesn’t own an iPod or iPhone.

Back up and look chronologically at what Apple’s done from iPod to iTunes to iPhone to App Store – and it’s simply irresistible.

Transsexual wins lawsuit against Library of Congress

A former Army commander who underwent a sex change operation was discriminated against by the U.S. government, a federal judge has ruled in an important victory for transgenders claiming bias in the workplace.

Diane Schroer won her federal lawsuit against the Library of Congress after officials backed out of a 2005 job offer when told of her intention to become a transsexual. At the time of the job interview for a position as a senior terrorism research analyst, David Schroer was a male. He had been a onetime Army Special Forces commander.

“The evidence established that the Library was enthusiastic about hiring David Schroer — until she disclosed her transsexuality,” Robinson wrote. “The Library revoked the offer when it learned that a man named David intended to become, legally, culturally and physically, a woman named Diane. This was discrimination ‘because of … sex.’ ”

“I knew all along that the 25 years of experience I gained defending our country didn’t disappear when I transitioned, so it was hard to understand why I was being turned down for a job doing what I do best just because I’m transgender. It is tremendously gratifying to have your faith in this country, and what is fundamentally right and fair, be reaffirmed,” said Diane Schroer.

Bravo! Obviously the Library of Congress is being run by politicians instead of librarians.

I’ve spent over a half-century in battles against Americans being relegated to 2nd-class citizenship by assorted hues of red-white-and-blue bigotry. There have been significant and wonderful victories.

There is also no reason to stop, rest and reflect. Not when crap like this continues at the highest level.

Condi Rice says Russia will become isolated, irrelevant

Russia’s policies are putting it on a path to isolation and irrelevance says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a “critical moment for Russia and the world,” Condoleezza Rice says.

Even though Georgia invaded South Ossetia.

Rice also said that Moscow’s other behavior, including using oil and gas as a weapon, threatening countries with nuclear attack, selling arms to rogue states and political persecution of journalists and dissidents, paints a picture of “a Russia increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad.”

Her comments came in a moment of forgetfulness of American history since the Monroe Doctrine.

You can RTFA if you want the details of her petty foot-stamping. I posted this only because the headline is a chuckle.

In a few more months, Condi Rice will become even more isolated, irrelevant.

Comic escapes prosecution for insulting pope

An Italian comic who said Pope Benedict would be punished in hell for the church’s treatment of homosexuals was spared possible prosecution when the government blocked an investigation against her.

Sabina Guzzanti, one of Italy’s most biting political satirists, made the remarks before a cheering crowd of thousands gathered at Rome’s Piazza Navona in July.

A Rome prosecutor suspected the comments broke a law protecting the honor and dignity of the leader of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics under a 1929 Italian treaty with the Vatican.

But the treaty, signed by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, required government approval before the investigation could go forward. Justice Minister Angelino Alfano decided to block it.

I decided not to authorize it, knowing well the stature and capacity of the pope for forgiveness,” Alfano told Italian media.

What a crock!

Fact is that prosecution might also be another straw on the broad camel’s back of Italian voters – beginning to look askance at the fascist antics of the buffoon they’ve elected, again.