Quick hits (part II)

1) How Intel made the wrong bet on the future of technology 10 years ago.

2) Contrary to what politicians and media would have you believe “normal America,” is not some small town in “the heartland,” but rather, a racially diverse, mid-size metropolitan area.

3) Jon Cohn on why it is so hard to keep health care prices down:

If you want to know why it’s so hard to fight the pharmaceutical industry and reduce spending on prescription drugs, pay close attention to a new Obama administrationinitiative and the reaction it’s getting on Capitol Hill — even from would-be allies in the Democratic Party.

The initiative seeks to change how Medicare pays for cancer therapies and other medications that physicians administer directly to patients in their offices or other outpatient settings. Under the current arrangement, Medicare basically reimburses doctors for the price of these drugs and then adds on an extra fee.

Not everybody agrees, however. The administration’s proposal has provokedintense opposition from the pharmaceutical industry and other physician groups, such as oncologists, for whom the existing system is extremely lucrative. They insist the proposed changes could disrupt the medication supply for cancer patients and other people in need of life-saving medication — arguments that some patient organizations have also made.

4) Inciting political anger is a lucrative business.

5) Actual science behind “resting bitch face.

6) The N&O on the recent federal court decision upholding NC’s Voter ID law:

One and all, these changes in state and local law would have been closely scrutinized by the Justice Department, in pre-clearance, and probably disallowed.

In upholding the recent monkey business in voter-eligibility requirements and procedures, Judge Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote with wonderful obtuseness: “In North Carolina’s recent history … certainly for the last quarter-century, there is little official discrimination to consider.” Which raises the question of what the weasel words “little” and “official” mean in context. My own judgment is that Schroeder must occupy a noiseless and newsless cocoon.

7) Extend the range of you remote car key.

8) What do you do with the prisoner/whistleblower who reports the egregious malfeasance of prison guards?  Why, in America, punish him all the more, of course.

9) I’d been wanting a piece explaining how Leicester City has basically pulled off the most improbably feat in modern sports history (seriously, it’s the maintaining this level over a full 38 game season that is so amazing) and Slate has come through:

The best tactics in the world can help you steal a couple of games you shouldn’t win. They can’t steal you a league title. To win the Premier League, you need great players, and Leicester has them. For a team operating on a limited budget, the most valuable asset is the late bloomer, someone whose growth curve shoots skyward after the big clubs have taken their look and moved on. Right back Danny Simpson and midfielder Danny Drinkwater, who made his first appearance for England in March, spent time in Manchester United’s academy. Defender Robert Huth was brought to England from Germany by Chelsea, while Kasper Schmeichel, son of Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel, started his career at Manchester City. All are now regular starters for a team that is assured of finishing above those who deemed them surplus.

Leicester has somehow gotten all of these late bloomers to flower at the exact same moment. The 25-year-old Algerian Riyad Mahrez, English football’s newly anointed player of the year, has scored more goals this season than he did in his previous four of first-team soccer combined. Striker Jamie Vardy scored five goals last year in his first Premier League season and is currently on 22 and counting. Leicester’s youngest regular starter, pint-sized destroyer of worlds N’Golo Kanté, was brought over from the midtable French club Caen this summer for $8 million; he is now wanted by somewhere between most and all of Europe’s top clubs.

If any one of these players had broken out last season, he likely would have been sold off for a handsome profit. Leicester City would have gotten paid, the player would have gotten paid, and the fans would have been upset but ultimately accepted the realities of the game’s economics. Everybody would have been OK with the status quo.

10) Reagan’s tax cuts were definitely not the key to economic growth in the 1980’s.  Of course, Republicans will never stop claiming otherwise.

11) Will Saletan with the ultimate takedown of the polls say Bernie is more electable nonsense.

12) Women curse in public way less than men.  Good for them, damnit!  Seriously.  Not a big fan.  Nonetheless, it’s subtle sexism at work.

13) Yes,  Cruz naming Carly Fiorina as his VP runnnig mate was very short-term thinking, but as Seth Masket points out, VP selections are (lamentably) almost always short-term thinking.

But as we reflect on Ted Cruz’s pick, it’s worth remembering how many presidential candidates picked running mates based on immediate exigencies and naked political calculation. The multi-year scrutiny — with all the debates, speeches, ads, and punditry — that we apply to the top of the ticket is simply not in effect for the position that’s a heartbeat away from the presidency. It’s usually just a handful of people thinking about what will get their campaign through the next few months.

14) Republicans like to point to high risk pools as the key to replacing Obamacare.  Drum points out that there’s no way this would actually work.

15) And Drum again, with a brief look at a recent Pew report that interestingly shows that Democrats have a real education gap while Republicans have an age gap.

16) Our system of cash bail that punishes people for being poor is uniquely horrible and needs to be done away with.

17) I used to really like Salon way back when it was new.  I was even a subscriber.  Now, I pretty much only read it when I want to see what the far left is thinking.  This is an example of why.

18) British physicians urge a switch to e-cigarettes over the real ones.  Yes, harm reduction!  American doctors remain skeptical, but hard for me to see how this is not a positive step.

19) Love this Op-Ed from my NCSU colleague, Mark Nance, on how HB2 is part of the fruits of gerrymandering:

Of all the amazing aspects of this story, however, what is most striking is what’s not there. By most accounts, McCrory was not the driver of the bill. He likely preferred a very narrow bill to overturn the Charlotte ordinance as a strategy against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper. So where are those who really pushed the bill? Where has the GOP leadership been and why aren’t they on the front lines defending the bill? Where are the 11 Democrats who voted for it? Why aren’t they defending the good reputation of North Carolina?

The Associated Press recently went to great lengths to get comments from all lawmakers who voted for the bill, with miserably bad response rates. It took a comment from the president of the United States to get Senate leader Phil Berger to respond, an exception that proves the rule: The politicians who pushed hardest for this bill have said nothing in the face of staunch criticism. Why?

They don’t have to. About 90 percent of the legislators who voted for the bill either face no challengers in their elections this fall or won their last election by more than 10 percentage points.

20) Obama wants law enforcement to use smart guns.  Smart.  We need to create a market for these and a strong push from the federal government would really help with that.

21) Ross Douthat trying to understand how so many Republicans support Trump despite his obvious handicap in the general election:

On the evidence of past campaigns, this engagement inclines them (in the aggregate) to balance ideology and electability when they vote. That is, as engaged partisans they’re more likely to have particular litmus tests, more likely to have specific issues or causes that they care about. But they’re also more likely to loathe the other party, the other ideological team, with a passion that makes winning in November seem essential. And because they follow politics relatively closely, they’re more likely to have a clear sense of who can win and who simply cannot…

But here the model isn’t completely broken, because a majority of Republican voters don’t actually believe that Trump faces long odds, don’t agree that he’s less electable than Cruz or Kasich (or Rubio or whomever further back). Instead, since last fall Republican voters have consistently told pollsters that they think Trump is the candidate most likely to winin November. So the party’s voters are choosing electability — as they see it — over ideology; they’re just in the grip of a strong delusion about Trump’s actual chances against Hillary Clinton.

The reason for this delusion might be the key unresolved question of Trump’s strange ascent. Is it the fruit of Trump’s unparalleled media domination — does he seem more electable than all his rivals because he’s always on TV? Is it a case of his victor’s image carrying all before it — if you win enough primary contests, even with 35 percent of the vote, people assume that your winning streak can be extended into November? Is this just how a personality cult rooted in identity politics works — people believe in the Great Leader’s capacity to crush their tribe’s enemies and disregard all contrary evidence?

22) How regulating banks is like getting hockey players to wear helmets.

 

It’s all about Calories In

Enjoyed this Vox feature summarizing all the research on diet, exercise, and weight loss.  The research is clear and comes to the conclusion that I intuited myself years ago based on personal experience– it’s all about the calories in.  Exercise is great for all sorts of reasons.  What it is not great for is the primary means of losing weight.  This is quite a thorough (and well-worth reading) exposition of the issue, and I really like that it hits on how it is politically expedient, but scientifically misguided to focus on exercise.  Here’s the final summary on weight loss:

10) So what actually works for weight loss?

At the individual level, some very good research on what works for weight loss comes from the National Weight Control Registry, a study that has parsed the traits, habits, and behaviors of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of one year. They currently have more than 10,000 members enrolled in the study, and these folks respond to annual questionnaires about how they’ve managed to keep their weight down.

The researchers behind the study found that people who have had success losing weight share a few things in common: They weigh themselves at least once a week. Theyrestrict their calorie intake, stay away from high-fat foods, and watch their portion sizes. They also exercise regularly.

But note: These folks use physical activity in addition to calorie counting and other behavioral changes. Every reliable expert I’ve ever spoken to on weight loss says the most important thing a person can do is to limit calories in a way they like and can sustain, and focus on eating more healthfully.

In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with onlymarginal additional weight-loss benefits.

So, again, nothing magical– find a system of eating that works for you for not eating too many calories over the long-term.  And exercise, because it’s good for you.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Ryan Lizza makes the case that Paul Ryan is actually still running for president.

2) If Sweden and Denmark were US states they would be among the poorest.  And yet who really doubts that they are superior places to live than Alabama and Mississippi.

3) Jim Rutenberg on the squeeze on modern media outlets.

4) Jon Cohn on the difference between Clinton and Sanders:

Keep in mind that many experts think the Sanders plan, as currently written, would actually require a lot more money than he has said — so asking him to go back and find yet more revenue, to cover the exposure these low-income Americans would face, is no small thing.

This is the point that the liberal wonks have been making. (And, yes, I am one of those wonks.) Sanders is holding up his healthcare plan as an alternative to the status quo. But the status quo is a result of real-world compromises and sacrifices. If Sanders became president and had a chance to push his plan through Congress, he’d quickly discover all kinds of other complications — like the fact that many people with employer-sponsored insurance don’t want to give it up, or that severely ratcheting down payments for doctors and hospitals would reduce access and threaten real economic disruption.

To address these issues, Sanders would have to make painful concessions. What came out of the other side of the legislative process would look very different, and less attractive, from what he’s proposing now, in much the same way that Obamacare looks very different, and less attractive, from what Obama sketched out as a candidate in 2008.

5) When it turns out the bully is your kid.

6) I’ve come to enjoy vexillology as Mike Pesca is always plugging it on the gist.  Here’s a pretty cool flag infographic to warm the hearts of vexillologists everywhere.

7) Hey, look, I’m in Mother Jones about Ted Cruz and NC’s HB2.

8) Really interesting, thoughtful, interview on free trade.  I think this part is especially revealing:

ZB: So the US policies like permanent normal trade relations with China only accelerated something that was ultimately going to happen?

GH: It was inevitable.

Once China became part of the global economy, what was going to happen was the US getting out of the really labor-intensive stuff as China moved into that, and that’s specializing, and more skill- and technology- and capital-intensive industries. It didn’t happen earlier because, for many complicated historical reasons, China just wasn’t part of the global economy. Latin America wasn’t that much part of the global economy either until the 1980s and 1990s.

9) John Oliver’s year in criminal justice.

10) Satisficing is so important.  I need to work harder at it.

11) Andrew Prokop on Kasich’s strategy for winning the nomination.

Indeed, Kasich’s actual plan seems to fit perfectly into the classic South Park“underpants gnome” framework, in which step 1 is “lose every primary and caucus except Ohio,” step 2 is “???” and step 3 is “party turns to Kasich at a contested convention.” He really does not seem to have even the slightest plan to get from step 1 to step 3.

12) Liked this list of “podcasts for grownups who still dig learning” as I already listen to most of them.  Oh, I still really dig learning.

13) Enjoyed this post from my good friend (and great promoter of my research), Matt Shipman, on how his role as a dad makes him oppose HB2 all the more.

14) Speaking of HB2, N&O editorial on the Republicans just digging in their heals come hell or high water.  It takes a big person to admit when they are wrong.  Not even any modestly-sized persons in sight.

Now it seems the Republican schisms and blind zeal that let this law pass will also obstruct its necessary repeal. Until HB2 is repealed, jobs will continue to be lost.

“We’ve had some companies choose to suspend their site selection search in North Carolina and consequently in Wake County,” said Adrienne Cole, executive director of Wake County Economic Development. “Some have said they’re taking North Carolina off the list, others have said they’re postponing things to see what happens.”

Unfortunately, Berger and Moore represent districts in less-populated areas of the state, and although their constituents might well benefit from economic development in cities (Moore’s Kings Mountain isn’t that far from Charlotte, and Berger’s Eden is fairly close to Greensboro), they have such antipathy for cities they just don’t care. They are putting an anti-urban ideology ahead of the best interests of North Carolina, a reprehensible position for two supposed leaders.

15) Being rich (or comfortably middle class) means having more money to spend to perpetuate that with your kids.

16) Dahlia Lithwick’s excellent take on the 4-4 Supreme Court and the recent immigration case.

17) Given how much I hate extended fight scenes in movie, I love this analogy about Hillary Clinton from Drum:

For some reason this got me thinking about fight scenes in movies. Bear with me here. If you watch a movie from 50 years ago, the fight scenes will mostly strike you as ridiculous. The staging is weak, the sound effects are amateurish, and the choreography is slapdash. Things improved over the next couple of decades, but then they went overboard. Fight scenes began to devour blockbuster movies, with directors all trying to one up each other. But really, a fight is a fight. After a while, there’s little new you can do, and all the CGI in the world can’t hide that. Anyone who saw the most recent Star Trek movie knows what I’m talking about. The final fight scene was absurd, tedious, and completely unnecessary. But JJ Abrams put it in because he figured his audience demanded it. And I suppose they did. But those of us who have been watching movies since the 60s or 70s found it boring and predictable.

Now on to politics. To me, Bernie is like one of those fight scenes: I’ve seen it all before. On the Democratic side, primaries have specialized in having at least one bold truthteller like Bernie in every cycle since the 1960s. Sometimes they’re lefty truthtellers, sometimes they’re “hard truths” truthtellers, and sometimes they’re a bit of a mishmash. But the one thing they have in common is that they can afford to tell the truth—in the beginning, at least—because they’re mostly running as rebels who don’t really expect to win. And if you’re not seriously trying to win, there’s no downside to being entirely candid. Who cares if you’re going to lose a few important demographics in the process?

18) Sub-hunting drones.  Cool!

19) Really enjoyed the “Steve Jobs” movie, but totally agree that with David Edelstein that there’s way too much focus on what kind of a father Steve Jobs was.

20) Damn straight buying a car should be more like buying an Apple product.  You’ll be hearing more on this from me.

21) Progressively fewer ear infections in each of my children.  My family is representative of a larger, and very good, trend here.

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Richest zip code in Oklahoma cannot even afford an art class in public schools?  Pathetic.  This is what you get from a Republican war on taxes and public schools.

2) The adult skills every 18-year old should have.  Not a bad list.  Need to work on these with my 16-year old.

3) The absurd primary of the car in American life.

4) Interesting take on why the Republican Party won’t be able to wrest the nomination from Trump.

5) Yes, campus rape is a genuine problem.  But, boy do I hate when people lie and mislead with statistics.  Here’s a nice, succinct video on the matter.  Meanwhile, my university this week was encouraging people to believe that 1 in 5 women on campus will be raped.  (Reality check).

6) Aren’t you glad that people like Jeff Sessions are making important public policy decisions for this country?  Good people don’t smoke marijuana!!

 

Caucus member Jeff Sessions (R.-Al.) spoke of the need to foster “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Oh, and the government spent $18 million eradicating marijuana plants last year.  Ugh.  Even worse, the money for those efforts came from civil asset forfeiture.  It’s like the trifecta of bad policy.  Meanwhile, the public increasingly knows better.

7) Hillary Clinton and Kevin Drum in defense of politics.

8) Well done billboard funders, well done.

9) Finding answer to disease in genetic superheroes:

“I had an a-ha moment,” says Friend. “If you want to find a way of preventing disease, you shouldn’t be looking at people with the disease. “You should look at people who should have been sick but aren’t.”

These people, unbeknownst to them, carry genes that all but guarantee that they’ll get fatal diseases. And yet, somehow, they’re completely healthy. They might carry other genes that mitigate their risk. Or perhaps, some aspect of their diet, lifestyle, or environment shields them from their harmful inheritance. Either way, Friend reasoned that if he could find these “genetic superheroes,” and work out the secrets of their powers, he could find ways of helping others to beat the odds.

10) Why teachers need to know the wrong answers.

11) Open tab too long– Yglesias on the anti-free trade backlash that doesn’t really exist.

12) You know would be awesome?  Basic scientific literacy among Republican members of Congress.  Presumably, that’s too much to ask for.

13) I loved David Kessler’s The End of Overeating.  Had as much of a lasting impact on my thinking (and that of my wife) as any book I’ve read in recent years.  I’m very much looking forward to his Capture.

14) Great Dahlia Lithwick on the insanity that is Charles Grassley on judges:

Wait, what? So the problem for Grassley isn’t “political” justices—it’s justices appointed by Republicans who don’t advance “conservative policy” 100 percent of the time. And with that, he revealed his real issue. His Senate floor attack isn’t about depoliticizing the court at all. It’s about calling out Roberts for being insufficiently loyal to the Tea Party agenda when he voted not to strike down Obamacare.

What is really being said here is that there is only one way to interpret the Constitution and that is in the way that “advances conservative policy.” According to Grassley’s thinking, a justice who fails to do that in every single case before him or her is “political” and damaging the court. By this insane logic, the only way to protect the court from politics is to seat nine Chuck Grassleys and go home. And to achieve this type of court he will stop at nothing, including trash talking the entire institution from the Senate floor

 15) One of my best friends from way back at Duke is in the photo of this story about surf gangs.  Fascinating story, though my friend’s only involvement was looking at the beach.
16) The Post on the difficulty of being McCrory in today’s Republican party.
17) The best 71-second animation you’ll watch today.  Indeed.
18) Innovation is overrated.
19) Post editorial in favor of Kasich:
IN A different election year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich would not be the moderate in the Republican presidential race. An instinctual tax-cutter who wears his religion on his sleeve and signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, Mr. Kasich is more Jack Kemp than Bob Dole. Yet it is a sign of how cracked the GOP has become that Mr. Kasich is the only Republican left in the race who acknowledges many of the principles essential to this country’s democracy.
 20) Time magazine ran a horrible cover story on the national debt.  Yglesias wonderfully deconstructs it’s awfulness (as do good pieces in Wonkblog).  Shame on Time.  Drum with the succinct take:
 Sigh. Matt Yglesias draws my attention to this week’s cover ofTime, a Trump-friendly warning that we’re all doomed thanks to the national debt. Matt takes apart this inane argument just fine, but I’ll do it more quickly: You will never have to pay down this debt. Nor will your children. Or your grandchildren. Just forget about it.

And if we ever do have to pay some of it down? We’ll get to pay it off over decades, just like any other debt. And the rich will pay a bigger share than you. But I guess “You might someday owe $145 per year” doesn’t make a very good magazine cover.

Quick hits (part I)

1) More evidence that anti-bacterial soaps do more harm than good (the point of soap is to actually wash the germs away, not kill them).  I’ve tried to use regular soap for years, but it can actually be hard to find the liquid soap that is not anti-bacterial.

2) Really enjoyed reading about Peggy Orenstein’s new book on girls and sex.  I think I’ll be giving this to Sarah in 8-10 years.

3) How to get your children to behave through positive behavioral reinforcement.  Maybe too late for my kids.  But I probably should try, because they sure won’t behave.

4) Just a video of a submarine surfacing through ice.  Nothing cool to see here.

5) Had this article about the lawyer who took on Dupont in an open tab for a long time.  Glad I finally read it.  Really good stuff.

Bilott doesn’t regret fighting DuPont for the last 16 years, nor for letting PFOA consume his career. But he is still angry. ‘‘The thought that DuPont could get away with this for this long,’’ Bilott says, his tone landing halfway between wonder and rage, ‘‘that they could keep making a profit off it, then get the agreement of the governmental agencies to slowly phase it out, only to replace it with an alternative with unknown human effects — we told the agencies about this in 2001, and they’ve essentially done nothing. That’s 14 years of this stuff continuing to be used, continuing to be in the drinking water all over the country. DuPont just quietly switches over to the next substance. And in the meantime, they fight everyone who has been injured by it.’’

Bilott is currently prosecuting Wolf v. DuPont, the second of the personal-injury cases filed by the members of his class. The plaintiff, John M. Wolf of Parkersburg, claims that PFOA in his drinking water caused him to develop ulcerative colitis. That trial begins in March. When it concludes, there will be 3,533 cases left to try

6) Apparently, it is quite exhausting when your full-time job is blurring out people’s exposed private parts for a television show.

7) Steve Benen on the amateurishness of Trump’s delegate operations.

8) Thanks to Pat McCrory, it’s not easy being Pat McCrory.

9) Time to re-think how we think about the “tree of life.”

Existing genetic studies have been heavily biased towards the branches of life that we’re most familiar with, especially those we can see and study. It’s no coincidence that animals made up half of the “comprehensive tree of life,” and fungi, plants, and algae took up another third, and microscopic bacteria filled just a small wedge.

That’s not what the real tree of life looks like.

We visible organisms should be the small wedge. We’re latecomers to Earth’s story, and represent the smallest sliver of life’s diversity. Bacteria are the true lords of the world. They’ve been on the planet for billions of years and have irrevocably changed it, while diversifying into endless forms most wonderful and most beautiful. Many of these forms have never been seen, but we know they exist because of their genes. Using techniques that can extract DNA from environmental samples—scoops of mud or swabs of saliva—scientists have been able to piece together the full genomes of organisms whose existence is otherwise a mystery.

Using 1,011 of these genomes, Laura Hug, now at the University of Waterloo, and Jillian Banfield at the University of California, Berkeley have sketched out a radically different tree of life. All the creatures we’re familiar with—the animals, plants, and fungi—are crowded on one thin branch. The rest are largely filled with bacteria. [emphasis mine]

10) The octopus who escaped back to the ocean.

11) NYT Editorial on the endemic racism in the Chicago PD.  Also, a good occassion to plug the old, but truly not at all dated, Courtroom 302.  

12) Evan Osnos on Trump’s convention strategy.

13) Apparently, Republicans only think Zika virus affects blue states.  Or maybe, they are just against doing something about it because Obama is for it.  Ugh.

14) Mike Munger on the beauty of the virtual classroom discussion.  It’s got it’s value, but I think Munger is over-selling it.

15) Should we have government-sponsored childcare?

In a new report published Wednesday, a group of economists argued the market alone can’t fix this problem. Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in the District, say daycare should become a national priority, a human right on par with public education, because it contributes to academic achievement gaps, among other unequal outcomes later in children’s lives.

In order to make high-quality child care — with well-trained staff and a cognitively enriching environment — available to all in the current system, many children would have to be crammed into the best day care centers and safety would have to be severely compromised, said co-author Josh Bivens, EPI’s research and policy director.“The easiest way,” he said, “would be to shove 70 kids in one class.”

Rather than encourage this dystopia, he said, America should invest more resources into building a national childcare system, one that rewards quality.

16) 538 on how a Penn State lab is predicting sunset quality.  Cool.

17) Speaking of the sun, the Sunlight Foundation on how lobbyists effectively prevent saner tax policy.

18) How about a space probe to the “nearby” star Alpha Centauri?  Mostly, this caught my eye because despite having almost no creative ability, the one good story I remember writing in elementary school was “journey to Alpha Centauri.”  The beginning and end of my career as a science fiction author.

19) This is pretty damn cool– click on the caterpillar and see the moth/butterfly it becomes.

You are getting verrrrrrryyyyy sleepy

Or not, if you  are taking Belsomra.  There is so, so much wrong with America’s policies towards prescription drugs and a lot of that starts with the absurdity of allowing direct-to-consumer marketing (New Zealand is the only other country foolish enough to do so).  Great Huffington Post article (that I let sit in an open tab way too long, but so glad I finally got around to it) by Jon Cohn that uses the barely-effective, new insomnia medication Belsomra to demonstrate how much is wrong with our policy towards prescription drugs.  Read it.  Here’s the intro:

e evening in the late summer of 2015, Lisa Schwartz was watching television at her Vermont home when an ad for a sleeping pill called Belsomra appeared on the screen. Schwartz, a longtime professor at Dartmouth Medical College, usually muted commercials, but she watched this one closely: a 90-second spot featuring a young woman and two slightly cute, slightly creepy fuzzy animals in the shape of the words “sleep” and “wake.”

Schwartz had a reason to be curious about this particular ad. Two years earlier, she had been a member of the advisory panel that reviewed Belsomra for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—and the process had not gone well for the manufacturer, Merck. The company saw its new drug as a major innovation, emphasizing that the medication acted on an entirely different mechanism within the brain than the previous generation of insomnia medicines like Ambien and Lunesta. During the drug’s development, Merck had suggested that it could treat insomnia more effectively and produce fewer side effects than existing medications. In 2012, one Merck scientist described the science underlying Belsomra as a “sea change.”

But when Schwartz and her colleagues scrutinized data from the company’s own large-scale clinical trials, what they found was a lot less impressive. People taking Belsomra fell asleep, on average, only six minutes sooner than people taking a placebo and stayed asleep for a mere 16 minutes longer. Some test subjects experienced worrying side effects, like next-day drowsiness and temporary paralysis upon waking. For a number of people, these effects were so severe that the researchers halted their driving tests, fearing someone would get into an accident. Because of these safety concerns, the FDA ended up approving the drug at a lower starting dosage than the company had requested—a dosage so low that a Merck scientist admitted it was “ineffective.” [emphasis mine]

Of course, the real problem is that Belsomra is entirely typical.  And lett’s be clear, these are political choices we have made that allow this situation to exist.

Quick hits

Late on these because I’ve been at a Political Science conference.  Using 30 minutes of free WiFi in Chicago-Midway to see how many I can get through.  Relatedly, less quotations this week.  Sorry.

1) Really interesting Washington Post story on the incredible hardship faced by women after they have been freed from Boko Haram.

2) SAT and ACT are now making big money by having states (including NC) using them as Common Core tests.  Meanwhile, the tests actually designed to be used with Common Core… not so much.

 

3) Of course many of the businesses who are now opposing NC’s HB2 helped elect them social conservatives who brought us this backward legislation.

4) I hadn’t realized that the Washington DC Metro was so new when I started riding it as a kid.  It’s now really showing it’s age at 40.

5) Nicholas Kristof’s latest on what whites don’t get:

LET’S start with a quiz. When researchers sent young whites and blacks out to interview for low-wage jobs in New York City armed with equivalent résumés, the result was:

A) Whites and blacks were hired at similar rates.

B) Blacks had a modest edge because of affirmative action.

C) Whites were twice as likely to get callbacks.

The answer is C, and a black applicant with a clean criminal record did no better than a white applicant who was said to have just been released from 18 months in prison.

A majority of whites believe that job opportunities are equal for whites and blacks, according to a PBS poll, but rigorous studies show that just isn’t so. [emphasis mine]

6) Garrett Epps on how the challenge to redistricting backfired.

7) A former student of mine shared this in all seriousness on FB (and praised NC’s recent efforts on HB2).  Oh my.  Thought about defriending her for rank stupidity, but decided there’s utility in having some of the crazy come across my feed.

8) The Constitution as a Code of Honor.

9) Conor Friedersdorf on how the drug war has helped fuel the opioid epidemic.

10) I’ve really wanted to do a full post on Hillary Clinton and gender and perceptions of honesty.  I haven’t.  So, do me a favor and read Jill Abramson and Christina Cauterucci.

11) Every time I go through airport security, I feel like the terrorists have one.  In this case, IBM won by making $1.4 million for an app that makes a random left or right arrow.

12) So, this article about Jay Bilas and Mike Gminski is totally old, but new to me, about my two favorite basketball analysts who are both former Duke players.

13) The day after a friend was asking me about the relationship between religiosity and income in the US, this from Andrew Gelman popped up in my feed.

14) Hillary Clinton’s taking autism seriously from a policy perspective.  Of course, my favorite thing about Hillary is that she takes most everything seriously from a policy perspective.

Clinton’s autism plan, announced Tuesday, is well-informed and shows a grasp of the issues that few outside of disability rights circles have. If she wins the election and does even half of the things she promises, she could make an enormous difference in the everyday lives of autistic people. If she loses, she has still tremendously raised the bar on how presidential candidates can and should address autism.

Her plan focuses on necessary and sorely needed support programs for autistic people: improving employment opportunities and housing availability, significantly limiting the use of physical restraints, guaranteeing access to assistive communication technology for people who are nonverbal or have difficulty with spoken language and a specific call to do research on adult autism prevalence and needs. These issues are of vital importance to autistic people and our loved ones. No other major US presidential candidate has made these issues a part of his or her political platform.

15) Really good Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker on the institutionalized resistance to change in the Republican party.

16) Well, North Carolina can no longer claim to be the more sensible, non-backward Carolina (seriously, Nikki Haley looking like a statewoman compared to our “leaders”), but we’ll always have Mississippi.

17) If Donald Trump published an academic article.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

18) Frum with a really interesting take on how the world might have been different had the Allies lost WWI.

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