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BBC Reports GlaxoSmithKline Paid Academics to Fudge Data on Child Paxil/Suicide Link

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 12:27 PM PST

The BBC is broadcasting a report later today alleging GSK tried basically tried to make up for studies that showed that Paxil did not help depressed children (and put some at risk of suicide) by issuing other studies, studies that just so happened to be conducted by scientists on their payroll, that found guess what? Just the opposite...

Read the rest of this post over at The Blue Marble, our new Environment and Health blog.

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Scary Impacts of Temperature Increases from Global Warming

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 12:08 PM PST

Ever wonder just what is coming our way from global warming? How bad can it get? Check it out. Reuters reports on estimates of the global implications of different temperature rises from Nicholas Stern, chief British government economist:

Temp. rise/ Impacts 1 DEGREE

* Shrinking glaciers threaten water for 50 million people

* Modest increases in cereal yields in temperate regions

* At least 300,000 people each year die from malaria, malnutrition and other climate-related diseases

* Reduction in winter mortality in higher latitudes

* 80 percent bleaching of coral reefs, e.g. Great Barrier Reef


2 DEGREES

* 5 - 10 percent decline in crop yield in tropical Africa

* 40 - 60 million more people exposed to malaria in Africa

* Up to 10 million more people affected by coastal flooding

* 15 - 40 percent of species face extinction (one estimate)

* High risk of extinction of Arctic species, e.g. polar bear

* Potential for Greenland ice sheet to start to melt irreversibly, committing world to 7 metre sea level rise


3 DEGREES

* In Southern Europe, serious droughts once every 10 years

* 1 - 4 billion more people suffer water shortages

* Some 150 - 550 additional millions at risk of hunger

* 1 - 3 million more people die from malnutrition

* Onset of Amazon forest collapse (some models only)

* Rising risk of collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet

* Rising risk of collapse of Atlantic Conveyor of warm water

* Rising risk of abrupt changes to the monsoon


4 DEGREES

* Agricultural yields decline by 15 - 35 percent in Africa

* Up to 80 million more people exposed to malaria in Africa

* Loss of around half Arctic tundra


5 DEGREES

* Possible disappearance of large glaciers in Himalayas, affecting one-quarter of China's population, many in India

* Continued increase in ocean acidity seriously disrupting marine ecosystems and possibly fish stocks

* Sea level rise threatens small islands, coastal areas such as Florida and major cities such as New York, London, and Tokyo

A Reader Writes In...

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 12:03 PM PST

Loyal reader Gordon writes in with a late observation about the interview Cheney gave to CNN last week in which the vice president called suggestions that the war is going badly "hogwash" and summarized conditions in Iraq by saying, "Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes."

Gordon's question: Mr. Vice President, given that things are going so well, how do you explain the need for 20,000 more troops?

BBC Reports GlaxoSmithKline Paid Academics to Fudge Data on Child Paxil/Suicide Link

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 11:55 AM PST

The BBC is broadcasting a report later today alleging GSK tried basically tried to make up for studies that showed that Paxil did not help depressed children (and put some at risk of suicide) by issuing other studies, studies that just so happened to be conducted by scientists on their payroll, that found guess what? Just the opposite :

GSK's biggest clinical trial of Seroxat on children was held in the US in the 1990s and called Study 329. Child psychiatrist Dr Neal Ryan of the University of Pittsburgh was paid by GSK as a co-author of Study 329. In 2002 he also gave a talk on childhood depression at a medical conference sponsored by GSK. He said that Seroxat could be a suitable treatment for children and later told [BBC program] Panorama reporter Shelley Jofre that it probably lowered rather than raised suicide rates.
In amongst the archive of emails in Malibu, Shelley Jofre was surprised to find that her own emails to Dr Ryan from 2002 asking questions about the safety of Seroxat had been forwarded to GSK asking for advice on how to respond to her. She also found an email from a public relations executive working for GSK which said: "Originally we had planned to do extensive media relations surrounding this study until we actually viewed the results".

Don't you hate when science gets in the way of good PR?

Mother Jones has been reporting on big pharma's disturbing pattern of pushing dangerous psychotropic drugs on kids with little (or counterveiling) evidence of their safety for many years. Try these on for size:

Doping Kids: As pharmaceutical companies push their products, more and more kids are being treated with powerful -- and untested -- adult drugs.

Disorders Made to Order: Pharmaceutical companies have come up with a new strategy to market their drugs: First go out and find a new mental illness, then push the pills to cure it.

Prosecuting for Pharma: Antidepressant manufacturers team up with district attorneys to make sure the Zoloft defense doesn't fly.

And if you want to be truly terrified of Pharma's lack of oversight and how it puts our kids at risk, read:

Medicating Aliah: When state mental health officials fall under the influence of Big Pharma, the burden falls on captive patients. Like this 13-year-old girl.

For an archive of our Big Pharma stories, check out our new Environment and Health page.

Joe Lieberman: "Yeah, Sure, What's Wrong With Supporting a Republican for President?"

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 11:50 AM PST

Lieberman sat down with Fox News on Sunday and said that he is considering supporting a Republican for president. I'm going to put some block quotes below so you can read for yourself, but consider this question: Is this a product of (1) Joe's anger from the treatment he received from the Democrats in the last campaign cycle, when Democratic Party support for Ned Lamont almost ended Joe's political career, (2) a genuine rightward shift in Joe's thinking, or (3) Joe's desire to scare the crap out of the Democratic Party to gain leverage and to force it into buying him off with deferential treatment and plum positions/gigs? Hard to tell.

WALLACE: Let's look ahead to 2008. Are there any Democrats who appear to be running at this point that you could support for president?
LIEBERMAN: Are there any Democrats who don't appear to be running at this point? Look, I've had a very political couple of years in Connecticut, and I'm stepping back for a while to concentrate on being the best senator I can be for my state and my country.
I'm also an Independent-Democrat now, and I'm going to do what most Independents and a lot of Democrats and Republicans in America do, which is to take a look at all the candidates and then in the end, regardless of party, decide who I think will be best for the future of our country.
So I'm open to supporting a Democrat, Republican or even an Independent, if there's a strong one. Stay tuned.

There's a ton of smarmy Lieberman being Lieberman. Bashing Democrats, agreeing with the president... Read it for yourself.

Republican Sens. Snowe and Collins -- Hurting Their Own Chances in Future Elections?

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 11:24 AM PST

I saw on TPM's Election Central that moderate Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are endorsing John McCain for president. It's a bit odd because Snowe and Collins, both from Maine, have come out against the surge that is so thoroughly associated with John McCain that is being called the "McCain Doctrine." But they have years of experience working together in the Senate back when John McCain was a moderate, so I can understand the move.

But it got me wondering. A ton of people are talking about John McCain's presidential hopes like they are dead in the water, because McCain is the main proponent of a failing and miserably unpopular war and because McCain's move rightward to embrace social conservatives/extremists has lost him support amongst independents and failed to convince some of the most important figures of the religious right. If McCain becomes persona non grata in a few months -- previously unthinkable, right? -- will House and Senate candidates avoid him on the '08 campaign trail the same way Republicans avoided Bush in 2006?

Let's say that is the case. The folks who are going to eat it the worst are the moderates, because a leftward shift in American voting (I won't say a leftward shift in America, because I think this is still a conservative country) will swallow up those closest to the water mark. Witness the loss of Lincoln Chafee in last year's midterms. That means Snowe and Collins are up next. Snowe was just reelected in 2006, which is why she can afford to align herself with a potential political landmine like McCain, but Collins has a reelection battle coming up in less than two years. Trouble brewing...

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Fox News Admits Obama/Muslim Story Was Toxic

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 10:43 AM PST

The New York Times has a story that gets a comment from all the major players in the "Is Obama Secretly a Muslim??" semi-scandal that we wrote about as long as ten days ago.

The story -- that Obama was educated at a madrassa for a few years as a child, and has hidden the fact that he was raised Muslim -- was originally published by Insight, a website run by the Moonies that is closely associated with the conservative Washington Times. It carried no byline and used anonymous sources. Not surprisingly, the whole thing was thoroughly debunked by CNN only days after it hit the web. The Times reports that even the Wash Times wouldn't touch the story with a ten-foot pole.

Its national editor sent an e-mail message to staff members under the heading "Insight Strikes Again" telling them to "make sure that no mention of any Insight story" appeared in the paper, and another e-mail message to its Congressional correspondent instructing him to clarify to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama that the Washington Times had nothing to do with the article on the Web site.

That's funny, because you know who didn't have the journalistic chops to identify a real stinker of a story? Fox News, that's who. They ran with the story big time, with multiple members of their talking head stable hashing it out over and over. Now, they're sorry.

...in an interview, John Moody, a senior vice president at Fox News, said its commentators had erred by citing the Clinton-Obama report. "The hosts violated one of our general rules, which is know what you are talking about," Mr. Moody said.

I suppose there is a joke to be made about how if the standard at Fox actually was "know what you are talking about," they'd put nothing on the air at all, but that'd be.... well, I guess I've already gone and said it, haven't I?

Anyway, Insight's editor, Jeffrey Kuhner, won't back down. "Our report on this opposition research activity is completely accurate," he told the Times. In fact, he thinks CNN got duped when it sent a reporter to Indonesia to talk with officials at the school Obama attended. Fighting words: "To simply take the word of a deputy headmaster about what was the religious curriculum of a school 35 years ago does not satisfy our standards for aggressive investigative reporting."

Hmmm. I guess that makes this little gem even funnier.

Mr. Kuhner, in an editor's note on Insight, said the Web site could not afford to "send correspondents to places like Jakarta to check out every fact in a story."

Stem Cell Progress Left Up to the States

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 10:30 AM PST

The House may have passed a bill calling for an end to the federal ban on new embryonic stem cell research lines, but we're still a long way from dollars coming down from the feds (assuming the bill survives a veto). Thus more and more states are continuing to take action, proposing millions to get the research moving, creating what is essentially de facto foundations for research that should be the domain of the National Institutes of Health. Currently, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Connecticut, Maryland and Illinois all mandate state spending to support ESCR (though to date only two, New Jersey and Illinois, have state-funded research in the works). We can now add three more states tp the list of those that could proactively fund this voter-supported research:

Iowa - On Thursday Gov. Chet Culver (D) called on the state Legislature to lift the state's five-year-old ban on a type of embryonic stem cell research called somatic nuclear transfer and proposed the construction of a $12.5 million Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Florida- On Tuesday state rep. Franklin Sands (D) filed a bill that would require the state to provide at least $20 million annually over the next 10 years for research using human embryonic stem cells, amniotic fluid-derived stem cells and adult stem cells.

New Mexico- Gov. (and presidential hopeful) Bill Richardson (D) submitted a state budget to his legislature earlier this month that proposes providing $10 million over three years on facilities, equipment, training and staffing for an adult and embryonic stem cell research center at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Good. But considering how long it has taken to get these programs off the ground -- California's voter-approved $3 billion initiative passed in 2004 is still wrapped up in court -- it's a little like moving sand with a thimble while the shovel sits in Executive lockdown.

Florida, New Mexico, Iowa Hop on the Stem Cell Research Funding Bandwagon

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 10:17 AM PST

The House may have passed a bill calling for an end to the federal ban on new embryonic stem cell research lines, but we're still a long way from dollars coming down from the feds (assuming the bill survives a veto). Thus more and more states are continuing to take action, proposing millions to get the research moving, creating what is essentially de facto foundations for research that should be the domain of the National Institutes of Health. Currently, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Connecticut, Maryland and Illinois all mandate state spending to support ESCR (though to date only two, New Jersey and Illinois, have state-funded research in the works). We can now add three more states tp the list of those that could proactively fund this voter-supported research:

Iowa - On Thursday Gov. Chet Culver (D) called on the state Legislature to lift the state's five-year-old ban on a type of embryonic stem cell research called somatic nuclear transfer and proposed the construction of a $12.5 million Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Florida- On Tuesday state rep. Franklin Sands (D) filed a bill that would require the state to provide at least $20 million annually over the next 10 years for research using human embryonic stem cells, amniotic fluid-derived stem cells and adult stem cells.

New Mexico- Gov. (and presidential hopeful) Bill Richardson (D) submitted a state budget to his legislature earlier this month that proposes providing $10 million over three years on facilities, equipment, training and staffing for an adult and embryonic stem cell research center at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Good. But considering how long it has taken to get these programs off the ground -- California's voter-approved $3 billion initiative passed in 2004 is still wrapped up in court -- it's a little like moving sand with a thimble while the shovel sits in Executive lockdown.

Stuck on the Terrorist Watchlist

| Mon Jan. 29, 2007 9:59 AM PST

If you're falsely accused of being a terrorist, what happens to you once you're freed? It depends on what country you're dealing with. Apparently, Canada will apologize and give you millions of dollars, but the U.S. will deny any wrongdoing and threaten to arrest you if you set foot in the country.

On Friday, Canada gave Maher Arar an $8.9 million settlement, legal fees, and an official apology for its role in his wrongful detention and torture. Canada had previously provided information which led to the United States' 2002 arrest of Maher, a Syrian-born Canadian. Arar was renditioned to Syria, where he was tortured, forced into false confessions, and eventually released. Last year, Canada's public inquiry cleared Arar of wrongdoing. The U.S., however, has kept Arar on its no-fly list and terrorist watchlist.

The squabble shows that "Canada and the U.S. are on fundamentally different paths when it comes to matters of terrorism and human rights," according to the Toronto Star. But it's not just Canada -- leaders from other U.S. ally states are questioning their own involvement in the United States' extraordinary rendition program.

Domestically, Dems are finally on the attack, asking why the Bush administration won't admit to mistakes like Arar's arrest -- and why we're rendering suspects to countries like Syria at all. Here's Sen. Patrick Leahy to Alberto Gonzales at last week's judiciary committee hearing (yup, the same one where Gonzales argued the Constitution didn't guarantee the right of habeas corpus):

LEAHY: Why was he sent to Syria instead of Canada?...We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated. We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

Gonzales dodged the question. So what's the answer to this and other questions about Arar's extraordinary rendition? It looks like Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper was correct when he said "we simply have a U.S. government that won't admit it's wrong."

LISTEN: Click here to listen to Gonzales and Leahy's exchange.