Archive for March 12th, 2009

Beaker Ready

March 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Source: NY Times

yourmoneyoryourstimulusWhen Arlen Spector held up Senate Democrats for $10 billion in NIH bonus funding as a quid pro quo for his yes vote on the Big O’s economic Hail Mary, people thought it was the slickest heist since Butch and Sundance held up the Union Pacific in 1899.

But now it’s time to assure all those greenbacks get spent in ways that stimulate economic growth, like right now.

So last week the NIH’s acting director practically begged university administrators to refrain from applying for dough except for beaker ready projects.

“It would be the height of embarrassment,” Raynard Kington told the New York Times, “if we give these grants and find out that institutions are not spending them to hire people and make purchases and advance the science the way they’re designed to do.”

“Piece of cake!” was the resounding response from the administrators who’d been struggling with flat funding for years.

And the scientists couldn’t hide their glee.

“This is a miracle, I think,” said AJ Stewart Smith, Princeton’s dean for research. “It is redressing this terrible problem where the success rate for excellent proposals was very low,” he explained.

Maybe so, but all the money has to be spent in 2 years. NIH grant proposals typically run 4 or 5.

Assuming they can be rejiggered, grant proposals that NIH review committees have already deemed worthy, just not fundable with the pre-windfall budget will be first in line for dollars.

The agency also plans to beef up payments to projects in progress.

shouldn'thaveleftthebenchClinical researchers may not get much because their trials generally take longer than 2 years to complete.

And Kington is about to distribute more NIH dollars than any director in history. Not bad for an acting director.

So Raynard, you’re not tempted to fund any pet projects or researchers, right?

“We’re not going to sell our soul for $10 billion,” he told the Times. That “would cost much more” he deadpanned.


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The Mother of all Stimulus Packages

March 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Source: Wall Street Journal

When the Big O packs his gym bags for the G-20 in London 3 weeks hence, he’s planning to include a proposal to hike emergency government spending around the world, an audacious idea that might limit the Great Economic Crisis to, oh, say a decade.

HedgefundmanagerThat’s going to sound a bit loopy to Angela Merckel, Nic Sarkozy and Co. who think job one is to overhaul  global financial regulatory systems, with something extra special in there for hedge funds and private-equity firms which they perceive to be the second coming of Snidley Whiplash.

The philosophical divide was apparent during last week’s Washington visit by Downtown Gordon Brown, who hosts the April meeting.

Brown was all about the need for the G-20 to “set principles for the banking system for the future,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

To which the Big O nodded, squared his shoulders and said his concern was assuring that G-20 countries are, in “a coordinated fashion…stimulating their economies.”

G-20 party-goers know the event needs to be choreographed so as not to give markets the dry heaves or raise doubts whether government leaders know what they’re doing, which almost certainly they do not.

So quite possibly this weekend, when the G-20 finance ministers show up in Washington, they will hash out the matter while the doors are still more-or-less closed.

Youwannapieceofthis?If he sticks to his guns, the Big O can bank on support from China since it passed a hefty stimulus of its own.

But it’ll never fly for Angela’s Germany which actually tries to balance its books every year and passed a measly stimulus package after much hand-wringing. 

Plus, Angela knows the EU might still have to bail out most of Eastern Europe, like it or not.



How Long Has This Been Goin’ On?

March 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Source: Am. Cancer Society, USA Today

The American Cancer Society has reported yet again that African-Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer than all other groups.

Cancer mortality in black men and women is 33% and 16% higher than in whites respectively, and these yawning gaps haven’t closed a bit since at least 1981, according to Ahmedin Jemal, a co-author of the report.

andwhenwillitend?A key reason for the disparity is that whites tend to get diagnosed at an earlier stage in the disease, when chances for a cure are higher.

But it’s also true that blacks are less likely to receive high-quality treatment, Peter Bach told USAToday.

The Sloan-Kettering oncologist had shown in 2004 that physicians treating black cancer patients were less likely to be cancer specialists and to have access to the latest diagnostic imaging facilities.

Blacks also tend to have lower educational levels, and that makes a big difference regardless of race. In the ACS study, cancer mortality for people with a high school education or less was twice as high as that for people who attended college.

Earlier studies have shown that cancer patients with low educational levels experience significantly longer delays between diagnosis and onset of treatment, as well.

And if that’s not enough, blacks tend to exercise less and are more likely to be obese than whites. These are both major risk factors for cancer. And they receive fewer colonoscopies and other cancer screening tests, and on and on and on.

“This study shows a real disparity in mortality between the haves and the have-nots in this country,” Jemal concluded.



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