Auto Outlook: GM, feds reach deal to wrapup U.S. auto bailout

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Dec 23rd, 2012
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General Motors is bailing out of its federal bailout. “Government Motors” was the derisive moniker critics gave GM in when it accepted $49.5 billion in taxpayer dollars to stay alive.

Published: Dec. 23, 2012 at 5:30 AM

General Motors is bailing out of its federal bailout.

“Government Motors” was the derisive moniker critics gave GM when it accepted $49.5 billion in taxpayer dollars to stay alive.

Four years later, the U.S. Treasury still owns more than 500 million shares of General Motors Co., which was born out of the bankrupt General Motors Corp.

Treasury announced last week GM is buying back $5.5 billion worth of the shares — paying a premium of $27.50 a share — before Dec. 31 and that the government would sell its remaining 300.1 million shares by March 2014, ending Washington’s ownership role in the auto industry.

“As we come to the end of this chapter in our history, I believe most people are glad that General Motors is on the move once again, thanks to the courage and foresight of Presidents Bush and Obama and the Canadian government,” GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson wrote in an email to GM executives. “We are learning to be humble and to genuinely appreciate every customer.”

The government has already recovered $28.9 billion and under the proposed scenario the bailout would end up costing taxpayers $12 billion to $13 billion. The government said it never anticipated making a profit. To do that GM common stock would have to sell for about $53 a share.

Treasury lost $1.3 billion when it closed the books on the $12.5 bailout of Chrysler Group last year.

The payoff was saving the U.S. auto industry and more than a million good-paying industry jobs at manufacturers and suppliers.

“The government should not be in the business of owning stakes in private companies for an indefinite period of time,” Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Timothy Massad said.

Don’t worry about GM. The company has posted more than $16 billion in profits since 2009 and says it will have $38 billion in liquidity after it buys the 300.1 million shares.

Canada and the government of the province of Ontario gave GM $9.5 billion in 2009 and currently hold about 9 percent of GM shares, The Detroit News said. The other major stakeholder is the United Auto Workers health trust fund.


Chevy Camaro to be ‘Made in USA’

Chevrolet is bringing its muscular rear-wheel-drive Camaro home.

GM says it plans to build the next-generation Camaro in Michigan — shifting production from Oshawa, Ontario, to the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in 2016. The Lansing plant makes the rear-wheel-drive Cadillac CTS and ATS.

“It’s nice that the American muscle car is coming home,” Mike Green, president of UAW Local 652 in Lansing, told The Detroit News.


Vehicle data recorders spark privacy concerns

In an era when drivers can get a ticket in the mail generated by a robotic “red light” camera, and even non-smart cell phones allow your whereabouts be tracked, does anyone care about data recorders in cars?

After all most new vehicles sold already have so-called black boxes — called event data recorders — that monitor as many as 15 data elements, including a vehicle’s speed, acceleration, deceleration, steering input, braking and even whether the seat belts were buckled and if airbags deployed in a crash.

The devices do not use GPS and don’t record a vehicle’s route or speed over an extended period.

The government’s automotive watchdog, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is expected to finalize a proposal that would mandate data recorders for the approximately 9 percent of new vehicles built without them.

Requiring the $20 devices on all new light vehicles, those weighing less than 8,500 pounds, would only cost automakers about $25 million.

But there are some concerns.

Carmakers and consumer groups, alike, have said the government should consider the issue of driver privacy.

“Data recording devices play a critical role in advancing safety, but motorists should own the data their vehicle generates,” said Robert Darbelnet, President and chief executive officer of AAA. “Congress needs to ensure motorist rights are protected by passing legislation that prohibits access to data without permission from the owner or from a court order, unless the data is used for research purposes and cannot be tracked to a single vehicle.”

The data recorded by a black box often is used by law enforcement during investigations of serious or fatal accidents and sometimes is obtained by insurers collecting information for claims investigations or litigation.

“Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy,” said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing 12 major automakers including Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen. “Automakers do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy.”

All new GM, Ford, Toyota and Mazda vehicles are equipped with an event data recorder.

Congress debated mandating event data recorders for all vehicles in 2010. It didn’t happen then, but the White House Office of Management and Budget this month completed its review of NHTSA’s proposal clearing the way for the agency to publish its final regulation mandating installation of EDRs in all cars and pickups manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2014.

The public had 60 days to comment after the notice.

“All auto manufacturers should be required to prominently disclose the existence of EDR devices on new vehicles, not just a sentence in the owner’s manual,” AAA’s Darbelnet said in a statement.

“EDRs provide critical safety information that might not otherwise be available to NHTSA to evaluate what happened during a crash — and what future steps could be taken to save lives and prevent injuries,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in an email to The New York Times. “A broader EDR requirement would ensure the agency has the safety-related information it needs to determine what factors may contribute to crashes across all vehicle manufacturers.”

Separately, NHTSA is expected to make public a rule requiring rear-view cameras in new vehicles by the end of 2012.


Americans hitting the road for the holidays

Lower gasoline prices and an optimistic view of the economy have more than 93 million people traveling for the holidays — up nearly 2 million from last year — and most will go by car.

AAA projects more than one-in-four people plan to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday season, almost equaling the record holiday travel of pre-recession 2006-07.

And it projects about 1.2 million will need roadside assistance because of breakdowns or the weather.

The price of unleaded regular gasoline is forecast to average $3.20 to $3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day, helping out the 84.4 million expected on the road.

“The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of all travel holidays as Americans will not let economic conditions or high gas prices dictate if they go home for the holidays or kick off the New Year with a vacation,” said Beth Mosher, director of Public Affairs for AAA Chicago.

About 5.6 million people are expected to travel by air during the holidays, and 3.3 million by rail, bus or cruise ship.

The AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight of Boston.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported U.S. traffic deaths are expected to rise for all of 2012 after falling 1.9 percent last year.

The 32,367 traffic deaths in 2011 was the lowest per 100 million vehicle miles since 1949.

“The latest numbers show the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

Black Eyed Peas Sarah Ryan

China probes safety of Yum Brands’ KFC chicken products

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Dec 23rd, 2012
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A woman walks past a KFC restaurant as a logo of McDonald is reflected on a door window, in Wuhan, Hubei province, December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

A woman walks past a KFC restaurant as a logo of McDonald is reflected on a door window, in Wuhan, Hubei province, December 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

SHANGHAI | Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:07pm EST

(Reuters) – Yum Brands Inc’s fast-food chain KFC was supplied with chicken in China that contained excessive amounts of antibiotics, said food safety authorities investigating allegations of tainted KFC products.

The finding by the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) deals a blow to KFC’s reputation in China, where it is facing fierce competition from the likes of Taiwanese-owned fried chicken chain Dico and Japanese-style noodle chain Ajisen (China) Holdings Ltd. Yum Brands has forecast a drop in same store China sales in the fourth quarter.

Eight of the 19 batches of chicken samples Yum Brands sent to a testing laboratory in 2010 and 2011 contained overly high levels of antibiotics, the SFDA said in a statement on its Website late on Thursday.

An investigation is underway to determine whether Yum Brands had taken corrective measures at that time, and the Louisville, Kentucky-based company may face harsh penalties if the probe showed laws had been violated, the SFDA said.

On Friday afternoon, Yum said it was cooperating with the Chinese government’s review of two poultry suppliers who provided chicken with unapproved levels of antibiotics to KFC, adding that these suppliers “represent an extremely small percentage of product to KFC.”

In a securities filing dated Dec 21, the company said it does not anticipate a shortage of product supply, though “recent publicity has resulted in moderate sales impact the past few days.”

Shares in Yum Brands have slumped 4 percent since December 18 when China’s state television CCTV reported that some poultry suppliers in eastern Shandong province had fed chickens with anti-viral drugs and hormones to accelerate their growth.

The SFDA is looking into the CCTV report and has not released its findings yet, but authorities in Shandong have already shut two chicken farms in eastern China, including one that supplied KFC and McDonald’s Corp, the official Shanghai Daily newspaper reported on Thursday.

KFC’s subsidiary in China has pledged to cooperate with the authorities, while McDonald’s wrote on its official microblog that its chicken and raw materials pass through independent, third-party laboratory tests.

Shares in Yum Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, closed 1 percent lower at $69.49 in New York on Thursday.

China has been trying to stamp out health violations that have dogged the country’s food sector amid reports of fake cooking oil, tainted milk and even exploding watermelons. In 2008, milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine killed at least six children and sickened nearly 300,000.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago, Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada; Editing by Ryan Woo and Richard Chang)

Paula Jai Parker Sydney Moon

My Beauty Purchases

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Dec 22nd, 2012
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My recent beauty purchases:

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer SPF 15 With Dermaxyl Complex SPF 15 With Dermaxyl Complex
I use this primer everyday!  It creates the perfect canvas for foundation application, while helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores for visibly softer skin.  Love it!

Yves Saint Laurent ROUGE PUR COUTURE Glossy Stain 5 Rouge Vintage
This is a new product I’m trying.  It claims that is coat your lips with this lip color that offers a lightweight texture, which immediately melts onto lips. Glossy Stain delivers intense glossy color for an extremely long-lasting shine.  So far so good.

Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer Ocher
There’s a reason why it continues to win “Best Concealer!” Moisturizing and blends perfectly to conceal dark circles, spots and imperfections.  It’s worth the premium price.

NARS Blush Orgasm
This is a staple in my beauty routine, a classic blush.

Smashbox Brow Tech
I love the angled, long-wearing waterproof gel pencil for easy filling and defining along with a brow brush applicator to groom brows perfectly into place.  No need for sharpening!

Ali Landry read other stories

Mother loses UK legal fight to stop son’s cancer radiotherapy

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Dec 22nd, 2012
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Sally Roberts, Mother of seven year old cancer sufferer Neon, arrives at The High Court in central London December 21, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Sally Roberts, Mother of seven year old cancer sufferer Neon, arrives at The High Court in central London December 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

LONDON | Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:03pm EST

(Reuters) – A mother in Britain, who was so desperate to stop her cancer-stricken son having to undergo conventional medical treatment that she went into hiding with him, lost a court battle on Friday to prevent him receiving radiotherapy.

The case of Sally Roberts, 37, a New Zealander living in Brighton, southern England, and the plight of her seven-year-old son has made headlines in Britain.

Roberts wants to try alternative treatments first, including immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy for her son Neon. She has been told the boy needs treatment fast but fears the side-effects of conventional medicine.

Doctors treating the boy had warned that without radiotherapy he could die within three months

Judge David Bodey told the High Court in London the life-saving radiotherapy treatment could start against the mother’s wishes, the Press Association reported.

“The mother has been through a terrible time. This sort of thing is every parent’s nightmare,” the judge said.

“But I am worried that her judgment has gone awry on the question of the seriousness of the threat which Neon faces.”

The story of the sick blue-eyed blonde boy came to public attention earlier this month when Roberts prompted a nationwide police hunt by going into hiding with Neon for four days to stop him from undergoing the treatment.

The mother’s relentless battle in court also cast a light on the dilemmas parents can face when dealing with the illness of a loved one, considering the short-term and long-term risks of a treatment and handling conflicting medical information available at the click of a mouse.

Roberts said in court she had researched on the Internet her son’s condition – a fast-growing, high-grade brain tumor called medulloblastoma – and sought advice from specialists around the world because she did not trust British experts.

She feared radiotherapy would stunt the boy’s growth, reduce his IQ, damage his thyroid and potentially leave him infertile.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Neon could undergo emergency surgery to remove a tumor which had resisted an initial operation in October, despite opposition from his mother, who found he appeared to be recovering after what she said was a “heartbreaking” stay in hospital.

“EXPERIMENTAL AND UNPROVEN”

Surgeons said Neon’s operation on Wednesday had been successful but that radiotherapy was needed to ensure no residual tumor was left behind.

Neon’s father Ben, who lives in London and is separated from Roberts, has sided with his son’s doctors.

But his wife suggested exploring several alternative treatments, including immunotherapy, which mainly consists of stimulating the body’s immune system to fight cancerous cells, and photodynamic therapy, which uses a photosensitizing agent and a source of light to kill malignant cells.

The hospital treating Neon slammed “experimental and unproven” methods which entered “unchartered territory”. The hospital, which cannot be named, also questioned the credentials of some of the private specialists contacted by Roberts’s team.

The court heard that at least one of these could not even correctly spell medulloblastoma.

Radiotherapy is used to prevent cancer from spreading or striking back after surgery but it can damage nerve tissue and healthy brain cells.

Long-term side effects tend to be more common in children, whose nervous systems are still developing.

(Reporting by Natalie Huet; Editing by Sophie Hares)

Ann-Maree Biggar Josie Maran

Daylight savings tied to bump in heart attack rates

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Dec 21st, 2012
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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Setting the clock ahead for daylight savings time may set the scene for a small increase in heart attacks the next day, according to a small new study that suggests sleep-deprivation might be to blame.

Researchers at two Michigan hospitals reviewed six years of records and found that they treated an average of 23 heart attacks on the Sunday Americans switched to daylight savings time. That compared to 13 on a typical Sunday.

“Nowadays, people are looking for how they can reduce their risk of heart disease and other ailments,” said Dr. Monica Jiddou, the study’s lead author and a cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

“Sleep is something that we can potentially control. There are plenty of studies that show sleep can affect a person’s health,” she added.

But one cardiologist not involved with the new study cautioned that people should be careful interpreting the findings.

“We haven’t generally thought that missing an hour of sleep causes heart attacks. This may or may not hold up,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

This is not the first study, however, to find a connection between semiannual time shifts and heart attack rates.

A 2008 Swedish report, for instance, found the chance of a heart attack increased in the first three weekdays after the switch to daylight savings time, and decreased the Monday after the clocks returned to standard time in the fall. (See Reuters Health article of October 30, 2008. http://reut.rs/Z6cSH2)

Jiddou told Reuters Health that her team, which published its findings in The American Journal of Cardiology, wanted to see if their respective hospitals experienced the same increase and decrease in heart attacks seen in the Swedish study.

For the new work, she and her colleagues reviewed records for the 328 patients who were diagnosed with a heart attack during the week after a time change between 2006 and 2012, and for the 607 heart attack patients who were treated two weeks before and after the time shifts.

They found that except for the small increase on the Sunday that daylight savings time kicked in, there were no significant differences in heart attack rates in the first week after the spring clock change or in the fall, when people set clocks back.

The authors note, however, that the small trends they observed suggest shifts to and from daylight savings time may be linked with small increases in heart attacks in the spring, and small decreases in the fall.

They speculate that sleep-deprivation resulting from the time changes could raise levels of stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals just enough to trigger a heart attack, especially in those already at high risk.

Though the slight increase in heart attacks in the days following time shifts were so small they could have been due to chance, Jiddou told Reuters Health that she believes the problem was the size of the study population.

“(The findings) weren’t significant, but I think a lot of that is just because we didn’t have the numbers,” Jiddou.

“The numbers aren’t necessarily striking, but the trends make you stop and think,” she added.

Nissen told Reuters Health that the study looks at a good question and that he applauds the researchers’ efforts, but stressed the limitations of the results.

“Whenever you do this type of study you worry whether it’s by chance or not,” he said. “The size of the effect is not huge even though I realize the data on the first day seems worse.”

Jiddou said she doesn’t think the average person should be overly concerned, “but I think it’s something that they should be aware of.”

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/W391bW The American Journal of Cardiology, online December 10, 2012.

Carey Lowell other facts

The Myth of Self-Correcting Science

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Dec 21st, 2012
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Recent academic scandals highlight a history of data falsification and questionable research in social psychology, and serve as calls to action. 

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Carlos Jasso/Reuters

Over the last two years, the field of psychology has endured a wave of scandal bookended by fraud cases involving Harvard primatologist Marc Hauser and Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Even researchers desensitized by scandal-fatigue did a double take when the final report on Stapel’s case came out last month. The extent of his creative misinterpretation of the facts make the Hauser case look like child’s play. Stapel not only manipulated and fabricated data, he invented entire schools where said data was allegedly collected.

As if the fraud files weren’t enough, then come the mea culpas — salt in the wounds for students and colleagues still recovering from shattered reputations and a shaken faith in science. The two men released two very different statements telling very similar stories of reckless, ruthless ambition and playing the odds against getting caught. Stapel’s “narcissistic wail” was so emotional and contrite as to seem a bit unhinged, while Hauser’s read as a cold, calculating non-admission of guilt.

Hauser deftly concedes chagrin for errors made within his lab “whether responsible for them or not,” implying that the same students bullied into committing academic fraud were somehow responsible for the car veering off the cliff. Stapel faults a noxious combination of publication pressures, addictive tendencies, and assorted personality issues for his downfall. And while publication pressure was among those issues, he caps off his mea culpa with a plug for his new book — Derailment, a collection of his therapeutic diaries.

The Slippery Slope

It’s easy to revel in the high drama surrounding the downfall of a Hauser or Stapel, but what about the journals that published these scholars? Stapel was a widely cited and highly revered figure. His fraud went undetected for decades in spite of eerily perfect data sets and improbable statistical values. According to Tilburg University’s final report, Flawed Science, “There was a general neglect of fundamental scientific standards and methodological requirements from top to bottom.”

Scientists fought back, noting that it is rare for reviewers in any field to detect fraud and demanding an apology for the ‘slanderous conclusions’ drawn in the report. Social psychologist Kate Ratliff, teaching at Tilburg when the scandal broke noted, ” It’s a small community and people considered Diederik a friend and mentor…No one understands why these young researchers didn’t realize that it was weird that Diederik was giving them datasets. But you learn from watching others. And if there are no others, how would you know what’s weird or not? I think that people started out being really sympathetic toward them and have gotten more and more punitive as time passes and hindsight bias kicks in. I think that’s really, really unfair.”

They managed to find statistically significant evidence for the absurd hypothesis that listening to a Beatles song could make you 1.5 years younger

Almost more alarming than the few individuals committing academic fraud are the high percentage of researchers who admitted to more common questionable research practices, like post-hoc theorizing and data-fishing (sometimes referred to as p-hacking), in a recent study led by Leslie John.

For the uninitiated: post-hoc theorizing involves creating or revising a hypothesis after you’ve collected the data; data-fishing entails running a study, continually checking the data after each participant, and stopping as soon as you see a significant result. These practices are eschewed by some, but plenty of others embrace them. Joseph Simmons and colleagues ran a simulation showing how unacceptably easy it was to attain statistical significance using these ‘degrees of researcher freedom.’ By employing four of these questionable practices at once, they managed to find statistically significant evidence for the absurd hypothesis that listening to a Beatles song could make you 1.5 years younger.

“Clearer identification of the problems associated with some research practices is incredibly helpful,” writes Linda Skitka, who sits on numerous journal editorial boards. “Because I’m guessing at least some scholars who engaged in questionable practices did not recognize the full implications of doing so. Given the intense attention these issues are now getting in the field, they certainly know better now.”

So are the social sciences more prone to misconduct and fraud than biomedicine and other fields? A recent study titled ” Scientific Misconduct and the Myth of Self-Correction in Science” found no such evidence. Even Stapel’s wildly narcissistic mea culpa can’t make you forget Yoshitaka Fujii, the Japanese anesthesiologist with a record-breaking 172 retractions.

Biomedicine shares some of the more nebulous concerns regarding data transparency, collection and dissemination as well. Citing the current drama surrounding Tamiflu , Nick Genes notes, “This is a hot topic [in medicine] right now … There’s a movement to bypass what’s published and dive into the original data that’s kept by drug companies and/or given to regulatory agencies like the FDA.” Much as with the social sciences, the raw data from clinical trials is not made publicly available, and many fear that the temptation to tell a self-serving story with the data in journal articles (for individuals or pharmaceutical companies) will be too great.

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Neuroskeptic/Perspectives on Psychological Science

The Old Guard and the New

Though a wave of ignominy is cresting at the moment, these problems are not new. Back in the “golden era” of the NIH during the fifties and sixties, David Guston writes, if fraud occurred, the director would make a few phone calls, look into the alleged misconduct, and the offending scientist would be “quickly and quietly removed from the map of science.” At that time, “the social contract for science was highly informal and contained entirely within the community.”

It’s safe to say this gentleman’s agreement handling of scientific integrity had some issues. Philip Handler, then president of the National Academy of Sciences, insisted that the charges of misconduct sparking the first hearings on scientific integrity in 1981 were overblown, defensively declaring complete confidence in a “system that operated in an effective, democratic, and self-correcting mode.” Today the cast of characters is different, but the claims and tensions are the same.

Then as now, underlings and younger scientists were often at the forefront of reform, trying to convince their elders to take the problem more seriously. The old guard tends to claim that critiques are overblown, that outside reforms and practices will hinder or hurt science, and that science is a self-correcting process. The new guard tends to embrace transparency and openness, seeing reform as the best way to salvage damaged reputations and keep the field from falling into disrepute. Incidentally, most of the recent fraud cases were unearthed by whistle-blowers (usually graduate and undergraduate students) working within the lab or… Uri Simonsohn. But none were revealed by the “self-correcting process of science.”

Brian Nosek has emerged as one of the key reform figures with his work on the Open Science Framework and the Reproducibility Project. His professional commitment to ferreting out injustice and implicit bias (and a lifelong obsession with Star Wars) would seem to undergird a life-long fixation with good and evil. He’s the kind of man you can see investing considerable amounts of time and energy trying to save science from its own dark side.

Even before Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman issued an open letter telling researchers to embrace reform and set up a replication protocols, Nosek was hard at work on his Open Science Initiative. In one of his “Scientific Utopia” articles, he imagines a world where researchers will pre-register their hypotheses, openly share and archive raw data in one central location, and check one another’s work through replication. While fraud has captured the lion’s share of attention as of late, the more mundane matters of keeping track of research done by migrating students and post docs, tracking patient records, and modernizing the archival infrastructure for the digital age is one of the essential undertakings in 21st-century science.

The blowback to Nosek’s effort has mostly centered around the reproducibility project. “People are mostly afraid that the replications won’t pan out, and that could look bad for the field; but no one is opposed to the Open Science Framework,” Nosek says. “I don’t know how any scientist in good conscience could be opposed to transparency.”

The Problem of Frogishness

Social psychology is perhaps best known for examining the implicit roots of human error and bias; so there’s a sad but all-too-human irony in the wave of suspicion emerging around scandals based on human error and bias. But with vulnerability also comes strength. “Social psychology already has the tools at its disposal to confront these issues and lead the pack when it comes to reform,” Nosek enthuses. But even if every study was conducted in a digital-age utopian orgy of scientific openness and transparency, some would doubt the accuracy of the field’s claims, likening it to pseudoscience — a faddish line of inquiry walking a fine line between frontier and fringe.

The social sciences don’t have the luxury of physical object variables like frogs; the components of studies are often more abstract concepts like morality or intelligence. “There’s no such thing as ‘frogishness,’” sighs Nosek, addressing the issue. “Well,” he recants, ever the scientist, “I suppose you could have differing degrees of frogishness; but basically, everyone agrees on what a frog is.”

People have different concepts of what intelligence is. “There are more and less useful ways of trying to define these things,” says Nosek. But basically, the intellectual subjectivity inherent in the social sciences leaves more room for self-serving interpretation of the data than with hard variables. “When you’re operating on the frontiers of what is known, you’re going to make mistakes,” Nosek explains. “Knowledge acquisition is messy…but science doesn’t become pseudoscience unless people stop questioning themselves, stop seeing the need for criticism and correction.”

Science 2.0


MORE ON REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY

  • In Defense of Science: How the Fiscal Cliff Could Cripple Research Enterprise
  • How Transparency Can Empower Patients and Fix Health Care
  • How Medical News Becomes Ridiculous

While it’s too early to tell where the chips will fall, signs of consensus between the old guard and the new are on the horizon. Even researchers who think the scandal blowback is overblown are fairly well convinced that the issue isn’t going away on its own. As Barbara Spellman, the editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science writes, “The tumbrels have rolled, the guillotines have dropped, and I’m hoping that the publication of the Stapel report represents the end of Revolution 1.0.”

If Revolution 1.0 was about head-rolling, Spellman (like the vast majority of “law-abiding” scientists) hopes that Revolution 2.0 will be the quieter work of enacting reforms while getting back to science 2.0 — a science with greater emphasis on replication and transparency. Maybe these scandals can result in a little scientific utopia to ring in the New Year.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/the-myth-of-self-correcting-science/266228/

Kim Katrel Winona Ryder

Venezuela’s Chavez improving after surgery complications

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Dec 21st, 2012
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CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez suffered unexpected bleeding caused by a six-hour cancer operation in Cuba, the government said, although the ailing president’s condition began to improve on Thursday.

The 58-year-old’s health has deteriorated dramatically since he won re-election two months ago, casting doubt on the future of his “21st century socialism” project, which won him huge support among the poor but infuriated adversaries who denounce him as a fledgling dictator.

Officials said Chavez’s medical team in Havana had to use “corrective measures” to stop the bleeding which resulted from Tuesday’s surgery, his fourth cancer operation in 18 months. But they said his condition had improved since then.

“In the last few hours, his process of recovery has evolved from stable to favorable,” Vice President Nicolas Maduro told a rally of Socialist Party supporters, who cheered as he spoke.

“That allows us to continue saying that there is a growing recovery in Comandante Hugo Chavez’s situation.”

The president claimed he was cured earlier this year, and was able to campaign for re-election in October, but now looks to be fighting for his life again. Officials have stressed that his post-operation process will be long and complex.

The ashen faces of cabinet ministers and somber tone of their terse official statements since Tuesday’s surgery appeared to suggest top government officials are preparing for the worst.

The president has refused to divulge details of the cancer that was diagnosed in June of last year.

He won re-election by a big margin in October and is due to start a new six-year term on Jan. 10. According to the constitution, if he is unable to do so or steps down after starting a new term, an election must be held within 30 days.

On Saturday, Chavez anointed Maduro as his heir apparent in case he had to step down – the first time since he took office in 1999 that he has named a successor.

The 50-year-old Maduro, a former union organizer and loyal Chavez disciple who is seen as a pragmatic moderate, would be the ruling party’s candidate.

‘FATHERLAND IS SAFE’

The president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, said he planned to visit Chavez in Cuba, and Venezuelans held vigils and gathered in plazas to pray for their president’s swift return.

State TV launched a spot that opens with Chavez’s voice thundering “I am no longer myself, I am the people,” followed by Venezuelans of all ages telling the camera: “I am Chavez.”

Another shows short clips of Chavez singing folk songs with supporters and reciting poetry. One rally for a “Chavista” candidate in Sunday’s regional elections kicked off with a recording of the president singing the national anthem.

The Information Ministry published a document with the words “Loyalty to Chavez – The fatherland is safe” over a picture of Chavez and Maduro sitting below a painting of liberation hero Simon Bolivar. Chavez is shown holding an ornate golden replica of Bolivar’s sword.

Senior government officials have begun cautiously preparing people for the reality that Chavez may not survive.

“At the same time as we pray, we should be ready to turn our sadness and pain into a force that can mobilize the people,” Aristobulo Isturiz, a top ally of the president, told a rally of red-clad supporters.

Even if he dies, Chavez is likely to cast a long shadow over Venezuela’s political landscape for years – not unlike Argentine leader Juan Peron, whose 1950s populism is still the ideological foundation of the country’s dominant political party.

Elections shortly after the Venezuelan leader’s death could create an awkward scenario for the opposition. Campaigning on day-to-day concerns such as crime and inflation would be difficult in such an emotionally charged atmosphere.

BEYOND VENEZUELA

The implications of Chavez’s illness go far beyond Venezuela. Regional allies, most notably Cuba, have for years relied on him for subsidized oil and fuel shipments.

It could also slow the resurgence of the left in Latin America and weaken a global “anti-imperialist” alliance stretching as far as Syria and Iran that has sought to undermine the influence of the United States.

Energy companies are keenly watching events and hope a change in government will lead to greater access to the country’s vast crude oil reserves – the world’s largest. Years of combative state takeovers have alienated major oil companies.

Investors who pack their portfolios with Venezuelan bonds, among the highest-yielding and most widely traded emerging market debt, are hoping for more fiscal responsibility after a year of blowout campaign spending.

Venezuela’s opposition has begun discussing which candidate they might field in a new presidential election.

Henrique Capriles, a state governor who lost to Chavez in October but galvanized the opposition with a nationwide house-to-house campaign tour, is the obvious choice to face Maduro.

But he may not be able to count on the support of all the 20 or so parties that make up the opposition’s coalition, some of which are anxious to field their own candidate. The opposition hopes to retain its seven state governorships out of 23.

The key will be whether Capriles can win re-election on Sunday as governor of Miranda state, where he faces a challenge from Elias Jaua, a Chavez protege and former vice president. If Capriles loses, half a dozen opposition figures could emerge as possible candidates for a new presidential election.

The polls in Miranda are mixed, with one showing Capriles way ahead and another giving Jaua a 5 percentage point lead.

Rallies for Socialist Party candidates ahead of Sunday’s vote have become mass vigils for the president’s health.

“We have a great chance to win all 23 governorships. That would be the best support we can give Chavez,” the president’s brother Adan, who is running for re-election in Barinas state, told a rally.

Barbara Schoeneberger Neriah Davis

Los Angeles Sample Sales

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Dec 20th, 2012
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Rachel Pally Warehouse Sale

Big Star Friends & Family Sale

Michelle Branch Sonia Couling

A New Antidepressant Inspired by Ketamine

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Dec 20th, 2012
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A promising treatment for clinical depression that works like a club drug has passed its first round of testing.

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Paul Yeung/Reuters

The latest “breakthrough” in depression treatment is a drug that’s supposedly able to relieve symptoms in a little over an hour. It works in patients who were previously resistant to treatment that, in any case, could take weeks to start working. 

Related Story

‘The Biggest Breakthrough in Depression Research’ in 50 Years Is … Ketamine?

The strongest effects of the new drug, which is being tested by the National Institutes of Health, only lasted for about a half-hour, sometimes lingering for two more days. But the researchers are encouraged because so far, the drug seems to be just as promising as ketamine.

Yep, that ketamine. The club drug, as a positive side effect of its other, dissociative side effects, is able to rapidly relieve symptoms of depression in the most hopeless of cases. The news from this past October was that its ability to do so was helping scientists to rethink the way they conceptualize the depressed brain. As I reported then, the focus was shifting away from the “low levels of serotonin” model of depression:

Instead, the studies reviewed here support a different theory, one which suggests that depression is the result of damage to the brain cells responsible for controlling mood. In mice, at least, this atrophy of neurons occurred in response to stress. Although the reasons stress causes this to happen are unclear, the weakening of synaptic connections appears to be at the root of depression and other stress-related disorders.

SSRIs are intended to increase brain levels of serotonin, but they do also, eventually, restore neurons. Ketamine is able to repair these synaptic connections in mice with near-miraculous speed. Indirect evidence from brain imaging supports the theory that this “synaptogensis” is the mechanism allowing for ketamine’s rapid effects in humans as well.

Reporting on these findings, Yale researchers writing in Science expressed the hope that they’d be able to develop faster-acting, longer-lasting antidepressants that work through the same mechanism, but that they’d feel more comfortable prescribing than a drug that variably causes “pleasant dream-like states, vivid imagery, hallucinations, and emergence delirium.” The promise this holds for people with depression, especially those for whom SSRIs and electroconvulsive therapy have proven ineffective, can’t be overstated.

The results from the NIH’s clinical trial are a first step in this direction. The new drug isn’t as headline-grabbing as ketamine — it’s definitely going to need a better name than its current “AZD6765″ — but when tested on 22 patients, it had a 32 percent success rate, which is approaching the 52 percent seen with ketamine. Strengthening its case, AZD6765 worked significantly better than a placebo, and had fewer ketamine-like side effects.

The trial established “proof of concept,” meaning that although there’s still much more testing and refinement to do before it can begin to be offered to the wider public, researchers are at least heading in the right direction.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/a-new-antidepressant-inspired-by-ketamine/266427/

Carey Lowell other facts

Iran claims lead in drone technology

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Dec 19th, 2012
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Published: Dec. 19, 2012 at 10:16 AM

TEHRAN, Dec. 19 (UPI) – Stealth capabilities from unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured in Iran are more advanced than rival programs, a deputy commander said.

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, said Iranian drones are more sophisticated than some U.S. counterparts. Iran’s stealth drone program, he said, is among the best in the world, he told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

In early December, Iran claimed it captured a Boeing ScanEagle, a low-budget drone used by the U.S. military and other Western powers.

“The technology used in the ScanEagle is very old and our UAVs are much more advanced than them,” Salami said.

Iran said it was able to extract the data from the drone. Last year, the country said it was able to reverse-engineer an RQ-170 Sentinel drone operated by the CIA that strayed across the border with Afghanistan. This week, the military announced it began production of its own ScanEagle variant.

“We will use every opportunity to design all kinds of drones,” said Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi.

Paula Jai Parker Sydney Moon

Economic Outlook: What’s going right?

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Dec 19th, 2012
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Something must have gone right in Greece for a change.

Credit rating service Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that it would raise Greece’s credit grade from selective default to B-minus, a six-notch improvement. That’s a rare bit of good news for the eurozone and for Greece, which has been in a recession for six years.

What went right is that Greece has tightened its budgetary belt repeatedly at the behest of the European Union. In return, finance leaders recently allowed Greece its next loan disbursement of $65 billion.

In addition, Greece which was thrown into selective default by initiating its bond buyback program, has just completed that step.

European leaders have rallied around the Greek cause, albeit reluctantly. S&P cited the “determination” of eurozone countries to keep Greece as a member in good standing.

In response to the upgrade, yields for Spanish and Italian benchmark bonds dropped, The Wall Street Journal reported.

News from Washington Tuesday can be taken two ways, apparently.

The news in question is House Speaker John Boehner’s revealing he has been working on a backup plan in case budget talks with the White House fail to produce a compromise that would avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

The “fiscal cliff” is the popular term for mandated spending cuts and tax hikes put into place in the summer of 2011. Economists fear the sudden budget shift, $500 billion in spending cuts, would throw the U.S. economy back into a recession.

Every whisper that talks between Boehner and President Obama are going well is translated into positive news on Wall Street. Similarly, every time an aide rolls his or her eyes or breaks into a sweat, stocks go down.

How did investors react to finding out there was a “Plan B,” which really should have been dubbed a spare budget, to be used like a spare tire if budget talks blew out?

If market numbers are a reflection of our times, the back up plan sounded sensible, as gains on Wall Street held up Tuesday.

That was after an initial jolt, however. Just knowing there was a backup plan was a bit like realizing an ocean liner has lifeboats. Regardless of the practicality, it makes anyone on board stop and think — uh, oh, these things might be needed.

Then again, the response among Republicans on Capitol Hill was not exactly warm and fuzzy. The backup plan is not a gimme.

“Plan B” calls for raising taxes on incomes exceeding $1 million. It also calls for $500 billion in defense spending cuts over 10 years, The New York Times reported.

That gave the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., pause. And if a committee chairman pales it is likely that there are underlings lined up behind him or her with similar concerns.

While some complained about the impact of cuts on military readiness, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio added that the cuts would be so deep they would also have a negative effect on the economy.

And then there’s the time factor.

The Times said Republicans could put various proposals up for a vote by Thursday, including one that allows the George Bush-era tax cuts to end for everyone making less than $250,000 a year. The idea, however, would be to demonstrate that such a plan would never get enough votes to pass.

In the middle is a plan from President Obama that would have the line set at $400,000. And then there’s Boehner’s plan, setting the tax increase for those making $1 million or more.

Spending cuts already in place total more than $1 trillion over 10 years and Republicans could decide to just let those ride. Additional spending cuts would be on the agenda in January or February, when the issue of raising the debt ceiling re-emerges.

It was the debt-ceiling issue in 2011 that Republicans used to force a debate on debt reduction. They might use a similar stonewalling tactic in 2013, the Times said.

In international markets the Nikkei 225 index in Japan gained 2.39 percent while the Shanghai composite index in China lost 0.01 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.57 percent while the Sensex in India gained 0.57 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia added 0.49 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain climbed 0.64 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 0.26 percent. The CAC 40 in France gained 0.5 percent while the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.54 percent.

Heidi Klum Denise Van Outen

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