Colin Powell in favor of repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

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Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former secretary of state, has come out in favor of eventually repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay and lesbian service members.

“In the almost seventeen years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” Powell said in a statement released by his office Wednesday. “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will be closely following future hearings, the views of the Service Chiefs and the implementation work being done by the Department of Defense,” Powell said…

“General Powell has made clear that his position is about effectiveness in the military,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solomonese said.

“His powerful voice for ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is a tipping point in favor of the brave men and women who are serving our nation in silence. The support of respected present and former military leaders brings us closer to repeal, signaling that we’re moving forward and will get there soon.”

The truth is that there are no more excuses, the death knell for ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been rung and now is the moment to send this law into the history books where it belongs.”

Bravo! I keep forgetting there used to be Republicans with a conscience. There are so few left.

Cybercrooks are hiring – just click on their ad. Har!

The people who brought the world malicious software that steals credit card numbers from your personal computer and empties bank ATMs of their cash are hiring, and they’re advertising online.

Two companies that are hiring — at least on a contractor basis — advertise online, said Kevin Stevens, a threat intelligence analyst for SecureWorks, who presented findings on the organizations at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference outside Washington on Monday.

What they are seeking is people who are willing to take malicious code they provide and link it to something that people will click on — like a picture of Britney Spears getting out of her car. These people then collect a fee for each 1,000 times that the malware is downloaded.

One site, for example, pays $180 for each 1,000 times that malware is downloaded onto a U.S. computer but less for computers elsewhere. It refuses to pay for any downloads to Russian computers, causing Stevens and others to strongly suspect that it, like other similar sites, are based in Russia.

“We pay your wages via the following systems: Fethard, WebMoney, Wire, e-gold, Western Union (WU), MoneyGram, Anelik and ePassporte, and PayPal,” the site said…

Cripes. What makes the sleazy entrepreneurs who sign for these contract jobs think they’re any less likely to be screwed – than the people they themselves are setting out to screw?

Journal retracts dishonest paper linking autism to vaccines

The research paper that triggered claims linking autism to the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella was formally retracted by the Lancet, the medical journal that published it more than a decade ago.

Following a ruling last week by the General Medical Council that Dr Andrew Wakefield had breached his professional duties, the Lancet said in a statement on its website that he had made false claims in his 1998 paper and concluded: “We fully retract this paper from the published record.”

With Dr Wakefield until now able to boost his credibility by citing the Lancet paper, the journal’s action marks a symbolic step in the saga, which led many parents to refuse the MMR vaccine for their children and sparked a surge in infections and health problems…

Dr Wakefield’s subsequent calls for separate vaccines for the different infections – including an experimental product under development by a company in which he had an interest – came under sharp scrutiny as MMR vaccination rates fell sharply in some parts of the UK, and infections rose…

“The big flaw is that everyone takes the whole system on trust and if trust breaks down, everything collapses,” he said, adding that the Lancet now imposed much tougher peer review on controversial papers, withholding those judged likely to spark public misinterpretation.

How’s that for a back-asswards admission that publication was less subject to demanding standards and scrutiny in the past.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a decade of nutball non-science spin…based on what looked like approval.

Will Salazar cave-in on religion demands – halt wind farm?

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There was US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the man deciding the fate of the controversial wind farm, sitting on the bridge of a Coast Guard vessel and peering out across the Sound with binoculars a few hours after meeting with Native Americans opposed to the Cape Wind project.

“Very meaningful,’’ said Salazar about his visit that included a private sunrise meeting with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on a Cape Cod beach, and a later discussion with the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe on Martha’s Vineyard…

Salazar announced no conclusions yesterday about the advisability of locating the wind farm in the scenic Sound, but his visit to the Wampanoag and the area underscores just how high-stakes the Cape Wind farm has become to the Obama administration, which is hoping to accelerate renewable energy efforts and show the world it is serious about fighting manmade climate change. If completed, the project’s developers say it will supply, on average, the equivalent of 75 percent of the energy needs of Cape Cod and the Islands…

Salazar’s visit appeared to ease the Wampanoag tribes’ longstanding complaint that the federal government never took them seriously when they said the wind farm would interfere with their spiritual sun greetings and be built on ancestral grounds that were dry land thousands of years ago…

Speaking to the reporters, Salazar reiterated that a final decision on Cape Wind would be made by April.

He said he was not “holding my breath for a consensus’’ among Native Americans and the project’s developer…

I don’t think it matters to the future of energy and environmental costs whether or not the folks concerned about their view are Native American priests or Kennedy-level brahmins of Massachusetts politics. They’re standing in the way of clean energy for the whole region strictly on selfishness.

Ready for some depressing news about antidepressants?

Research has shown that antidepressants help about three quarters of people with depression who take them, a consistent finding that serves as the basis for the oft-repeated mantra “There is no question that the safety and efficacy of antidepressants rest on solid scientific evidence,” as psychiatry professor Richard Friedman of Weill Cornell Medical College recently wrote in The New York Times. But ever since a seminal study in 1998, whose findings were reinforced by landmark research in The Journal of the American Medical Association last month, that evidence has come with a big asterisk. Yes, the drugs are effective, in that they lift depression in most patients. But that benefit is hardly more than what patients get when they, unknowingly and as part of a study, take a dummy pill—a placebo. As more and more scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding, that suggests that antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs.

Hence the moral dilemma. The placebo effect—that is, a medical benefit you get from an inert pill or other sham treatment—rests on the holy trinity of belief, expectation, and hope. But telling someone with depression who is being helped by antidepressants, or who…hopes to be helped, threatens to topple the whole house of cards. Explain that it’s all in their heads, that the reason they’re benefiting is the same reason why Disney’s Dumbo could initially fly only with a feather clutched in his trunk—believing makes it so—and the magic dissipates like fairy dust in a windstorm…

The study’s impact? The number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled in a decade, from 13.3 million in 1996 to 27 million in 2005.

To be sure, the drugs have helped tens of millions of people, and Kirsch certainly does not advocate that patients suffering from depression stop taking the drugs. On the contrary. But they are not necessarily the best first choice. Psychotherapy, for instance, works for moderate, severe, and even very severe depression. And although for some patients, psychotherapy in combination with an initial course of prescription antidepressants works even better, the question is, how do the drugs work? Kirsch’s study and, now, others conclude that the lion’s share of the drugs’ effect comes from the fact that patients expect to be helped by them, and not from any direct chemical action on the brain, especially for anything short of very severe depression.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – a thoroughgoing record of physicians continuing to run a marathon in an ethical cul-de-sac. And the pharma manufacturers? They just love it. As the article says, “A triumph of marketing over science!”

Thanks, Mr. Fusion

Probe reveals crap airline maintenance

At least 65,000 U.S. airline flights shouldn’t have occurred during the last six years because the planes were maintained improperly, a USA Today survey said.

The six-month investigation found that below-standard repairs, mechanics who were unqualified and slack oversight by airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration weren’t unusual, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

The probe included an analysis of government fines against airlines for maintenance violations and penalty letters sent to airlines obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Many repairs are not being done or done properly, and too many flights are leaving the ground in what the FAA calls ‘unairworthy,’ or unsafe, condition,” John Goglia, a former airline mechanic and National Transportation Safety Board member from 1995 to 2004, told USA Today.

The airlines “regard safety as their highest responsibility,” and “their maintenance programs reflect that commitment to safety,” said Elizabeth Merida, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, which represents larger U.S. airlines. The organization said its members haven’t had a fatal accident because of a maintenance issue since since Jan. 1, 2000.

“All these departures from the rules,” Goglia says, “raise the risk little by little until there’s an incident or a crash.”