FDA warns makers of unapproved narcotics

Seeking to remove unapproved drugs from the marketplace, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered nine companies to stop manufacturing narcotics whose therapeutic claims have not been proved.

The FDA’s warning letters notified the companies they may be subject to legal action if they do not stop manufacturing and distributing “prescription unapproved products” that include high-concentrate morphine sulfate oral solutions and immediate-release tablets containing morphine sulfate, hydromorphone or oxycodone.

This action does not include oxycodone capsules. All of these drugs are used for pain relief and are forms of previously approved medications…

If these drugs are not off the market by those deadlines, a company could face seizure of the narcotics and legal action…

The FDA believes Americans have access to plenty of legal narcotics for pain relief and removing these unapproved drugs will not create a shortage.

Anyone remember the FDA standing up on their hind legs like this…oh, say, a couple of years ago?

British forces begin withdrawal from Basra

U.S. General Michael Oates and British general Andy Salmon

After six years as America’s closest western ally in Iraq, Britain handed over command in the Basra area to the United States on Tuesday as a prelude to withdrawing its last 4,100 troops from the country.

At its height, the British commitment to the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 totaled more than 40,000 personnel, including ground troops and pilots. But with its army stretched by a growing deployment in Afghanistan, Britain has gradually scaled back its presence and handed over security duties to Iraqi forces.

At a ceremony at a civilian air terminal here, Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon of Britain’s Royal Marines handed control of forces in the Basra area to American Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, who will command the British forces as they draw down.

Most are scheduled to leave the country by the end of July, but several hundred will be left an advisory capacity…

Iraqis security forces are technically in control of Basra, and the remaining American troops will primarily serve as advisors, General Oates said.

Bring ’em all home from Iraq. Both sides of the pond.

Fall asleep on the job – wake up in another city!

A luggage handler flew from New York to Boston after falling asleep in the cargo hold of a JetBlue airliner but was unharmed and not charged with any crime.

Massachusetts state police said the 21-year-old man was discovered in the cargo hold when the plane landed at Boston’s Logan Airport on Saturday but provided no further details…

Channel 7 News in Boston reported the man fell asleep with the luggage in New York and that baggage handlers in Boston were shocked to discover him when they opened the cargo door.

Har! I hope he had to pay his own way back home.

Salmonella Alert: Pistachios this time. Cripes!

Barely two months after a huge recall of peanut-related products, federal officials say that a California processor will recall about one million pounds of pistachio products because of concerns about salmonella contamination.

The company, Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, based in Terra Bella, Calif., decided to recall its 2008 crop after one of its customers, Kraft Foods, found several types of salmonella during routine analysis of the product. Kraft Foods alerted the Food and Drug Administration of its findings on March 24.

F.D.A. officials warned consumers not to eat pistachios until the scope of the contamination was clear.

A spokesman for Setton declined to comment, saying the company’s own inquiry into the cause of the contamination was continuing. Setton says that the California plant is the second-largest pistachio processor in the United States.

Kraft Foods said its inspectors visited the California plant where the pistachios were processed, and found that the plant was not keeping its roasted pistachios separate from the incoming flow of raw nuts. Like other nuts, raw pistachios can carry pathogens that are killed in the roasting process.

Kraft Foods on Wednesday recalled a trail mix containing pistachios marketed by its Back to Nature Foods unit.

Like most who grew up with an Italian heritage [which is the half of my family who really knew how to cook], I love pistachios. Now, I have to clear out the pantry.

Arrest tests loyalty of Iraq Awakening – and more

Daylife/Getty Images

Iraq’s Awakening groups have been given much of the credit for reducing the level of violence in the country. But the arrest of a prominent leader of one of the groups may signal a wavering of loyalty to the government among some of the fighters, says the BBC’s Hugh Sykes in Baghdad.

A photograph published on an official website shows Adil al Mashadani standing in an office of the Ministry of the Interior, his wrists cuffed in front of him. He is wearing a beige polo shirt – with his name scrawled in English on white tape stuck across his chest.

A press release from the Multi-National Force in Iraq says he is suspected of leading a cell that has attacked and killed Iraqi security forces with IEDs – roadside bombs. They also believe he operated mortar or rocket teams, and “extorted bribes in excess of $160,000 a month from the citizens of Fadhil”, as the press release puts it.

The Iraqi authorities have made another serious accusation against Mr Mashadani – that he maintained links with remnants of the former regime of Saddam Hussein. The Centre for Imposing Law on Baghdad – set up under the “surge” of US troops in 2007 – says Mr Mashadani was running a new military wing of the old Ba’ath Party.

If this is true, it is a profoundly worrying development. But it would not be a surprise.

RTFA. After Bush’s invasion, a famous quote from a Ba’athist official was, “What should they do? Sit in their kitchens with their wives? Do you expect them to sing and dance?”

“They can do anything and they can do everything,” he added.

Is our tame Iraqi government smart and shrewd enough to utilize their experience and skills? And, yes, they mostly are Sunnis who used to govern the majority Shia community now dominant in the government.

The Celebrity Twitter Ecosystem Map

Click on image to enlarge


What is the sound of celebrities tweeting? Well, it might be Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails notifying Dave Navarro, a musical collaborator who now plays for Jane’s Addiction, that he’s “hanging on the bus.” Or maybe it’s Ashton Kutcher and John Mayer comparing notes on being 31 years old (from John to Ashton: “Let’s open a hip new restaurant together. ‘31 club.’ Where it’s always standing room only. It will fail but we will have had fun.”).

Most celebrities let anybody follow them on Twitter, but are pickier about whom they follow themselves. Mr. Kutcher, for instance, in addition to following his wife (Demi Moore) and a stepdaughter (Rumer Willis), follows a mix of boldface names from different walks of life, including Evan Williams (a Twitter founder), Soleil Moon Frye (remember “Punky Brewster”?), Maria Shriver and Ellen DeGeneres. (The latter two are not shown on the already-too-crowded chart below.)

It seems that — just like the rest of us — celebrities enjoy hearing about other celebrities, and Twitter lets them participate in a giant cross-disciplinary mash-up of a conversation.

Twitter still bores me. The boss over at the “big blog” I edit has about 50,000 followers.

I’ve considered using it to support this – my personal blog – but, can’t crank up the motivation to add one more step to the simple process of communication, my journal of interesting news and events, opinion.

Apple’s iPhone brings Skype to the mobile masses

IPhone users will be able to make free phone calls from today as Skype becomes available for the first time on the popular Apple gadget.

Skype, the internet telephone unit of eBay, has more than 450 million registered users. It has been pushing to make its service available on “smart-phones” – such as the iPhone – rather than only desktop computers. As with the Skype service on PCs, phone calls will be free between Skype users and calls to other landlines and mobiles will cost less than normal network rates.

Scott Durchslag, Skype’s chief operating officer, said: “There’s a pent-up demand. Skype software for the iPhone has been the No 1 request among our users.”

Skype also said that its service would be available on millions of BlackBerry phones in May. It has already announced Skype for Nokia phones, as well as handsets that run on Google’s “Android” software for mobiles such as the T-Mobile G1, and Windows Mobile phones.

Telephone companies continue their death spiral. They deserve it.

Brits support EU plan for universal surveillance of drivers

The government is backing a project to install a “communication box” in new cars to track the whereabouts of drivers anywhere in Europe, the Guardian can reveal. Under the proposals, vehicles will emit a constant “heartbeat” revealing their location, speed and direction of travel…A consortium of manufacturers has indicated that the router device could be installed in all new cars as early as 2013…

The Guardian has been given unpublished documents detailing the proposed uses for the system. They confirm that it could have profound implications for privacy, enabling cars to be tracked to within a metre – more accurate than current satellite navigation technologies.

The European commission has asked governments to reserve radio frequency on the 5.9 Gigahertz band, essentially setting aside a universal frequency on which CVIS technology will work…

Paul Kompfner, who manages CVIS, said governments would have to decide on privacy safeguards. “It is time to start a debate … so the right legal and privacy framework can be put in place before the technology reaches the market,” he said.

The system allows cars to “talk” to one another and the road. Blah, blah, blah.

Data will also be sent to “control centres” that manage traffic, enabling a vastly improved system to monitor and even direct vehicles…

Although the plan is to initially introduce the technology on a voluntary basis, Kompfner conceded that for the system to work it would need widespread uptake. He envisages governments making the technology mandatory for safety reasons. Any system that tracks cars could also be used for speed enforcement or national road tolling.

OK. So, we’re talking about RFID chips for your car. All the useful stuff is completely understandable.

Is there anyone in power in British politics who can be trusted with this technology? On the Right? On the so-called Left?

Then, when the Brits are finished with prototyping the system, it’s our turn in the U.S..

Indoor motocross race sets off Carbon Monoxide detectors. Duh?

Some 300 people attending a weekend indoor dirt bike event had to be evacuated from Toronto’s domed Rogers Center because of carbon monoxide fumes. The retractable roof was closed because of rain Saturday night for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championships.

Around 11 p.m., carbon monoxide detectors in the Renaissance Hotel that overlooks the field began going off and the fire department responded, police Staff Sgt. Karen Smythe said.

The Hard Rock Cafe and Windows Restaurant were also evacuated for about an hour until the air cleared…

The center originally built as SkyDome in 1989 is the home of the baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

Also the home of 300 not-too-bright motorsports fans.