Blogs

A Black Box for Botox?

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 10:51 AM EST

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In a move likely to be protested by TV anchorwomen and medi-spas everywhere, the consumer group Public Citizen has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to place a black box warning label on Botox indicating that the popular anti-wrinkle treatment can be deadly. The FDA has received reports of at least 16 Botox-related deaths, including four in children under 18, as well as 180 cases of serious adverse reactions to the drug.

The adverse reactions are much worse than a few laugh lines. The botulism toxin, which smooths wrinkles by relaxing muscles, occasionally migrates far beyond the creased brow. Botox can paralyze the respiratory muscles or cause difficulty in swallowing, a problem that leads to food and liquids lodging in the lungs and causing life-threatening pneumonia.

European regulators have already widely publicized the risk, but the FDA has been slow to react, leaving Americans blissfully ignorant about the perils of vanity and doctors free to administer the drug for all sorts of unapproved uses. (The only cosmetic use of Botox approved by the FDA is for smoothing wrinkles between the eyebrows.) While the new FDA data are striking, didn't we all sort of know, deep down, that paralyzing your face with a deadly poison was probably a bad idea? Here's hoping that Public Citizen helps make wrinkles fashionable again.


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Charlie Wilson's War FY'08: New Defense Authorization Bill's 1,168 Earmarks

| Thu Jan. 24, 2008 3:34 AM EST

Good government group, Taxpayers for Common Sense' Laura Peterson writes, "With all the fuss about Bush putting the brakes on the 2008 defense authorization bill, which the Senate passed for the second time on Tuesday, one could almost forget about all the money the bill potentially contains. Authorization bills are intended to lay policy foundations for an agency, while the appropriations bills lay out the cash. Yet authorizations still contain earmarks—1,168 in this particular case, way more than the House version's 449 and the Senate's 309 combined. Even if authorization bills are passed after appropriations, as DoD's was this year, authorization earmarks are worth tracking because they often crop up as programs in the following years' budget request or pork added to future spending bills.

"Though we have not yet been able to database all the earmarks in the authorization conference report (you can see the House and Senate versions here) I have picked through them to ferret out 'airdrops,' meaning earmarks not included in previous versions. Some notable items:

New Iraq Timeline

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 9:58 PM EST

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In a much-heralded move, the Center for Public Integrity has gone live with "The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War," a searchable database of 380,000 words of "Iraq-related public pronouncements" by top officials, including 935 "false statements" made by President Bush and seven of his deputies before the war.

Mother Jones released its own searchable Iraq timeline, titled "Lie by Lie," back in 2006. (Watch for a major online update soon.) So check out both timelines and while you do, it's worth bearing in mind an important point made by CPI's Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith:

Bush and the top officials of his administration have so far largely avoided the harsh, sustained glare of formal scrutiny about their personal responsibility for the litany of repeated, false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. There has been no congressional investigation, for example, into what exactly was going on inside the Bush White House in that period. ... And, of course, only four of the officials—Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz—have testified before Congress about Iraq.

Maybe next someone will make an accountability timeline. Course, it'd be awfully sparse.

—Justin Elliott

Warm-Weather Tunes: Music to Turn Your Heater On

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 9:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-tropicalsunset.jpgOkay, call me a wimp, but lately temperatures in San Francisco have struggled to get above 45 degrees, and even for a guy who grew up suffering through Nebraska winters, it feels pretty damn cold. Maybe it's the poorly-insulated apartment heated with a space heater? Anyway, with wind chills currently freezing the tootsies off of most of America, it seems like we could use some music that reminds us of sunnier times. So put on your shades and join me in some creative visualization in pursuit of warmth.

Last.fm Makes Deal With Labels to Stream "Every Track"

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 7:20 PM EST

mojo-photo-lastfm.JPGLast.fm, the music and "social networking" site acquired by CBS last year, has announced deals with all four major record labels in an apparent attempt to become the leader in free online music streaming. The site started as a "public diary" of members' listening habits; its software reads what you play in iTunes and uploads it to your page, then tallying it all up on artist pages and recommending similar music. Their lists of "most played" tracks are kind of interesting—and I'm not just saying that because I have one.

CBS bought the company last May for $280 million and since then has increased the number of tracks available as free streams to over 3 million. Now, Last.fm co-founder Martin Stitskel says "the mission is to have every track available." Golly, and good luck: it's always seemed a little ridiculous to me that if I want to point to an example of a song, YouTube makes referencing the video the easiest thing in the world, but if I just want the audio by itself, there's no one place to go. Unfortunately, Last.fm doesn't currently allow embedding of its player on other sites (like Imeem does, for instance) but if it succeeds in its mission to become a "free music discovery tool," it'll be a lot better than just listening to 30-second samples on iTunes.

A quick test of Last.fm was a bit disappointing: I looked up Cat Power, whose new album Jukebox is getting some good reviews, and found only four tracks available as streams, none from the new album, although there were a bunch of messages in the "Shoutbox" wishing Chan a happy birthday yesterday. Aww. So, for now it's back to YouTube and MySpace.

New 'Manifesto' Suggests Preemptive Nuclear Strikes

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 7:15 PM EST

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The West should strike first, and with nuclear weapons, if necessary. So says a new, 150-page "manifesto" penned by five retired senior NATO officers and military strategists and distributed over the last 10 days to Pentagon officials and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. First reported yesterday by the Guardian's Ian Traynor, who managed to obtain a copy of the secret document, the manifesto forms the collective opinion of prominent military thinkers from the United States, the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands—including former NATO commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman John Shalikashvili.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the report's authors conclude. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction." The former military chiefs go on to characterize the "first strike" nuclear option as "indispensable" and claim flatly that there is "no realistic prospect of a nuclear free world."

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To Serve You Better, I Will Not Appear, but 'Appear' at your Life-Changing Event

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 6:54 PM EST

Prince Charles 'Appears' at an Energy Summit (NY Times)

Prince Charles gave a keynote lecture at a summit meeting on advanced energy technologies in Abu Dhabi on Monday — not in the flesh, but as a three-dimensional hologram. By not flying there and back, he avoided adding about 20 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (the carbon cost of flying him and his entourage).

Hello, kids. It's Mommy! I can't believe you both graduated valedictorian and saved some stinky, homeless losers from a burning flophouse! I'm so proud of you both, I could just cry. But the programmers' quote for tears was ridiculous. You still want to go to Harvard, right?

Don't worry—no, please, don't try to hug the hologram. I know where your hands have been. I'm 'here.' Just not here. I love you, Mommy does. I just love the planet more. Were I not menopausal, I could have more kids—but another planet? Be reasonable. Just think; by not driving those five minute down Main Street from home, my entourage and I (you remember Bob the mailman, right? And that cute contractor over-charging the Smiths next door?) have spared our poor planet 1/20,000th of a ton of carbon di-whateverit's called. You know, the yucky stuff that makes the Earth cry. You don't want the Earth to cry do you? You do? OK, buck up, kiddies and stop that wailing. I'll be home soon, I promise. Just as soon as the local Indian casino cuts me off. Mommy can't be in two places at once, can she? That's my guys! You are soooo brave. Give Mommy a kiss. I mean, 'kiss'. Oops, careful. Who put that marble column there? I'll call Dr. Paul about that contusion tomorrow. Or next week, I promise. That's better, the bleeding's stopped, almost.

Here—have some holographic cupcakes. Such a deal I got on the holographic snack options. And NO!, I do not want to hear another word about Janey's Mom's famous whole wheat vegan, fako bacon beet juice and quinoa muffins! What harm could a little lard and a lot of high fructose corn syrup do? Besides, I happen to know little Miss Whole Foods drinks tap water. And she's having an affair. With your art teacher.

Cheer up and remember: this is for the good of the planet. Mommy will 'see' you as soon as my 'entourage' and I... finish entourag-ing. Kisses!

How High Gas Prices Are Making Us Safer. Seriously.

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 3:37 PM EST

traffic-jam.jpgGas prices, thanks to the Global War on Terror and Hurricane Katrina, are now the highest in the nation's history. Gas easily tops $3 per gallon in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and other cities across the nation, making driving an expensive way to get around. For reference, gas prices have increased roughly 100% since 9/11.

What's the upside? That ridiculously expensive petroleum is prompting people to drive more slowly on highways, drive less often, buy more fuel-efficient cars, and take mass transit more often. A recent Congressional Budget Office report found that based on statistics from 2003 to 2006, a theoretical 15-year, 10% increase in gas prices would reduce consumption by 4% as consumers replaced their gas-guzzlers with more fuel-efficient cars.

This Is the Iraq Recession

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 3:03 PM EST

Think Progress reminds us that before the Iraq War, economists were predicting that a prolonged occupation could lead to a recession here at home and around the world. Witness:

"A war against Iraq could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars, play havoc with an already depressed domestic economy and tip the world into recession because of the adverse effect on oil prices, inflation and interest rates, an academic study [by William Nordhaus, Sterling professor of economics at Yale University] has warned." [Independent, 11/16/02]
"If war with Iraq drags on longer than the few weeks or months most are predicting, corporate revenues will be flat for the coming year and will put the U.S. economy at risk of recession, according to a poll of chief financial officers." [CBS MarketWatch, 3/20/03]
"If the conflict wears on or, worse, spreads, the economic consequences become very serious. Late last year, George Perry at the Brookings Institution ran some simulations and found that after taking into account a reasonable use of oil reserves, a cut in world oil production of just 6.5 percent a year would send the United States and the world into recession." [Robert Shapiro, former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, 10/2/02]

And lo and behold...

What a Peaceful Palestinian Crossing Means for Egypt, Israel, and Hamas

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 2:29 PM EST

gaza.jpg At 2am on Wednesday morning, the iron fence between Gaza and Egypt came down. Residents of Gaza, lacking basic supplies since Israel imposed a blockade nearly a week ago, have been crossing as quickly as they can and bringing back all that they can carry.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's decision not to beat back the surge so far has not backfired on him, not least because of how little violence has accompanied the crossing. One news report described the scene as a bazaar; another called it a carnival. Though Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed that the breach of the fence was rife with opportunities for terrorist activity, so far it seems that the Palestinians have sought mostly to bring food and staple goods across the border. Though both Egypt and Hamas have sent police to the site, they are mostly directing traffic, and on the Israeli border, not a single rocket has been fired all day.

If this potentially volatile situation continues to unfold calmly, it will be as difficult for Israel to justify a renewed crackdown as it will for Hamas and Fatah to continue their refusal to work together. The citizens of Gaza can't meet their basic needs, and right now it seems that the government most friendly to their plight is that of Egypt, though that country too is walking a fine line. If the next few days continue peacefully, perhaps tensions will dissipate enough for the governments to at least begin to reassess.

—Casey Miner