29 April 2006

Why the Houstan Texans Are the Worst NFL team

Houston signs a DE.

Houston needs an offensive line more than anything else. How could that not be more obvious? I thought it was funny that everyone figured they'd pick Reggie Bush. Yes, he's amazing but great RBs need great OLs. It's hard to imagine Reggie Bush being a great performer behind such a weak OL.

Houston needs an OL that gives QB David Carr a chance. So far, he hasn't gotten one. As one sportswriter said, he's more a pinata than a QB.

Bad players and bad managment. That's why the Texans will stink once again next season.


In other sports news, tennis players Albert Costa and Thomas Enqvist are retiring. Costa has a French Open title. I feel bad for Enqvist because he had so many injury problems. I've seen him play at the Cincinnati ATP when he was healthy, and he was overpowering. Huge serve, huge strokes and extremely fit. And like all Swedes, he was cool as a cucumber. But he could never string together a series of solid victories because he kept getting hurt. He can join the club (it's a big one: Andres Gomez, Yannick Noah, Patrick Rafter...)

Anyway, thanks for the memories and best wishes to both these fine players.

28 April 2006

But Will it Work with Heroin?

It wasn't invented by a kid, but lord knows every kid has been wanting this invention for a long time:

The needle-free injection device.

It's won an award for excellence in medical design, and initial tests show that it works perfectly: delivers the drug with less pain and less skin reaction.

(hat tip: Medgadget.com)

27 April 2006

If Only There Was an Options Market for Corporate Hubris

I might have made as much money as Pfizer's CEO/chairman, Hank McKinnell. In the 5 years he has held his job, he has made

$28 million in salary and bonuses,
$55 million in stock options.

And now he stands to gain as much as $83 million upon retirement. People are a bit ticked off.


And the saga of Computer Associate's former CEO Sanjay Kumar (also part owner of the NY Islanders) continues:

Kumar and Stephen Richards, its former head of worldwide sales, had been accused in a 2004 indictment of engaging in a widespread scheme to falsely inflate the company's quarterly earnings by backdating contracts.

The Islandia, N.Y.-based company restated its financial results from 2000 and 2001 to reflect $2.2 billion in revenue that was improperly booked.



It's still a good time to be a corporate CEO, as Lee Raymond can attest.

Unfortunately, it looks like the outlook for small business is quite a different story.

FCC Investigating Radio Companies

Don't blame Britney Spears for ruining music. Blame the corporate execs who make us listen to it:

The FCC confirmed Thursday that it had requested documents this week from Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio Inc., Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp.

The agency wants to learn more about accusations that radio programmers received gifts, cash and other items in exchange for playing certain songs without publicly disclosing the deals.


[Sun-Sentinel...]

Clear Channel owns 8 area radio stations (4 AM, 4 FM) and the local CBS affiliate, WKRC-TV.

Find out who owns what in your state (and check out my other sidebar media links sometime).

26 April 2006

Ohio Gives $125 Million to Farmers

Ohio is one of many states that gives low-interest loans to agricultural businesses. According to the Ohio Treasurer's office:

In order to apply and be considered for a reduced interest rate Ag-Link loan, a farmer must have a farm that is headquartered in Ohio, maintain 51 percent of the land and/or operating facilities in Ohio and be organized for profit. The maximum allowable loan is $100,000 per applicant.

The Dayton Business Journal reports that $125 million was given out last year in Ag-Link loans. But how is a "farm" defined? The requirements quoted above (from a Ohio Treasurer's office press release) don't make any distinction between a family farm and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cargill. I'd prefer to see my tax dollars helping the former rather than the latter.

I tried to get more specific information from the Ohio Treasurer's website, but the link for "Agricultural Linked Deposit Program" returns a 404 error.

The rules above state the maximun loan is $100,000, but the DBJ article cites figures for Greene County that 21 farmers got $2.7 million, which averages to over $128,000.

The Treasurer's website is either not maintained or under renovation because many links did not work. Maybe when (if?) it works we can find out if our tax dollars are being used for family farms and small businesses or if the Ag-Link program is just another thinly-veiled corporate welfare scheme.

Please feel free to enlighten if you have any information.

25 April 2006

Drake Center Up for Sale Again

The Business Courier reports that Hamilton County and the Health Alliance cannot agree on a final price for the Drake Center. The Health Alliance has been managing the facility on an interim basis. The parties have agreed to open it up for bids.

The Drake Center has also cut costs and improved income under its new management (at least according to the new management):

Health Alliance executives have said that in the four months they've been running Drake, the hospital's acute-care inpatient count has increased to 106 from 68 and operating costs have been cut by several million dollars.

The Drake Center was fiscally inefficient (I had an inside source) so that needed fixing. But it provides an important service to a specific patient population so the county should ensure that whomever manages the facility maintains fidelity to the mission.

24 April 2006

Exciting Development in Artificial Vision

To me, loss of sight is one of the two worst things that can happen to a person (the other is quadriplegia). The reduction in quality of life is insurmountable for all but the most extraordinary individuals. Few of us can be Ray Charles or Steven Hawking.

A company called Intelligent Medical Implants is testing a device which bypasses the retina and sends information directly to the brain. Initial results are hopeful, as in this case:

"One patient, for example, a 65-year-old female from Marienberg, Germany, has not had sight for more than a half century. From early childhood she has suffered from RP, meaning that she has not seen normally for more than 60 years. Nevertheless, in her first pattern recognition test, she described continuous objects such as a half circle. There is no doubt that this result is extremely positive, given that she has had no sight for almost her entire life, yet was still able to immediately receive a visual perception from electrical stimulation."

It's not sight, but it's a start.

Artificial vision combines engineering and surgical technology. It's an important area of research, but it's analogous to prosthetic research in that it doesn't fix the damage per se, but it allows artificial devices to compensate for loss of function.

The other side of the coin is research in neural regeneration, which is focused on how to actually fix the damaged nerve cells. Generally this is focused towards spinal cord injuries (Christopher Reeve, e.g.) and degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson's.

3 Arrested in Wacky Insider Trading Scheme

A Goldman Sachs analyst, a Merrill Lynch banker and a printing plant worker were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly participating in a $6.7 million insider trading ring that involved stolen magazines, strippers and a retired underwear factory worker in Croatia.

It’s an interesting scheme.

One of their schemes involved insider info on the P&G acquisition of Gillette last year. After reading about their scheme and its simplicity, one has to wonder how many traders are slipping through the nets.

21 April 2006

'Blow Your Mind' Friday

It sure is fun to think about things that are beyond the limits of human comprehension. Like infinity, for example. There's an unruly hooligan.

But my favorite is space-time. Space-time was created when the universe was created. What was there before the universe? Where was it if there was no such thing as space? How long was it there if there was no such thing as time? Where did all the energy and space-time come from?

I'm reminded of such questions whenever I read something about black holes, like this computer simulation scientists developed to determine what happens when two black holes collide. There's a video.

And I'll leave you with Heidegger's fundamental question: why is there something instead of nothing?

(Have it on my desk by Monday)

20 April 2006

Jean Schmidt Gives Greatest Debate Performance Ever

Last night was the debate between Republican OH-2 candidates Bob "Two-states" McEwen and Jean "I support the President on that" Schmidt.

It was Jean Schmidt's finest performance ever. Check out QCF's report to see why.

Nanotechnology: the Transistor of the 21st Century?

We don't think about it much, but the most significant invention of the 20th century is probably the transistor (what is a transistor?). Just about every electronic device, including the computer, depends on transistors to function. The inventors of the transistor shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics.

The news about nanotech these days is starting to give me the impression that nanotech devices may become as much an imbedded, integrated part of the things we surround our lives with in the 21st century as the transistor did for the 20th century.

Georgia Tech scientists have developed a "battery" that charges itself with body motions.

A couple of possible applications:

“You could envision having these nanogenerators in your shoes to produce electricity as you walk,” Wang said. “This could be beneficial to soldiers in the field, who now depend on batteries to power their electrical equipment. As long as the soldiers were moving, they could generate electricity.”

“These nanogenerators can take that mechanical energy and convert it to electrical energy for powering devices inside the body. This could open up tremendous possibilities for self-powered implantable medical devices.”


I'll be keeping my ear to the ground for nanotech investment funds.

19 April 2006

A Seussian Paean for Donald Rumsfeld

The Sadly No! blog channels Dr. Seuss on Donald Rumsfeld. Would I mention it if it wasn't worth reading?

(via TravisG. If you're not reading his blog, then you ain't right in the head. The "2-minute Townhalls" are classic)

Ohio Town Learns Anti-Tax Lesson the Hard Way

I just love people who know there's no such thing as a free lunch and then complain about not getting free lunches:

Budget problems have forced officials to turn off streetlights and cut the hours of the community's only police officer and street maintenance worker.

The village lost nearly $16,000 in annual revenue when voters rejected a tax issue by one vote in November. More reductions could be ordered by the Village Council if another tax measure fails at the polls May 2.


The best comment:

Some residents have accused council members of having the 78 streetlights turned off - beginning in February - because voters defeated the first tax measure.

"Because the levy wasn't passed, they just turned the lights out," said Beatrice Dean, a resident who owns the Stonefront Tavern. "I really and truly believe that they are trying to get back at the townspeople for not passing that levy."


Yes, that’s right Ms. Dean- just like college canceled my registration to “get back” at me for not paying my tuition on time. And like phone company turns off the phone to “get back” at people that don’t pay for the service. And the electric company, and the cable company…

18 April 2006

Ohio Native Gay-bashed in St. Maarten

In the bar, some men started verbally harassing Smith and Swensen after they hugged. While their harassers were ejected by bar staff, the men waited outside for the couple when they left to return to their hotel.

[…]

Dick Jefferson, a senior broadcast producer for CBS News, saw Smith being attacked when he returned from the casino and tried to intervene. He was knocked unconscious by a blow from a four-way tire iron.

“The police response has been no police response. The best way I can explain the police response is when the detective finally came after three phone calls to get my report, he asked, ‘Why should I even bother talking to you? Are you guys even going to file charges? You are just going back to America,’ ” Jefferson said. “Police were totally indifferent to the situation, the crime, or to the seriousness of it.”

The 6’ 7” Smith was still in intensive care six days later in a Miami hospital, unable to speak coherently with severe head trauma. Doctors believe he has a long period of rehabilitation ahead of him.


[more...]

16 April 2006

An Easter Meditation

To me, Easter just means closed stores and big brunches. Thanks to the maniacal wingnutedness sweeping America, I now have an automatic distaste for pretty much anything "Christian" (i.e. un-Christian).

But I AM thankful that Dobson & Co. haven't rolled out any "war on Easter" delusions, at least not this year.

Wingnuts don't think about what it means to be a Christian, but my buddy Wes at Walk-In Brain does. And he's got some good thoughts about it this Easter.

15 April 2006

FDA Approves Injection for Alcoholism

Alkermes and Cephalon said Thursday that they have received approval to market their new alcoholism treatment Vivitrol.

The drug has been touted by the companies as a way to improve patient compliance because it is a once-a-month injectable medication rather than a daily pill. Vivitrol is an extended-release formulation of an existing, now-generic alcoholism treatment pill called naltrexone.

According to an agreement signed last June, Cephalon has primary responsibility for marketing and sales while Alkermes will handle the manufacturing.


[TheStreet.com…]

Naltrexone (Vivitrol is just the trade name for the injection form) is an opoid antagonist and has been used to treat heroin and opium addiction.

This is a good description of how it works.

According to a study in the JAMA, Vivitrol given in a higher dose resulted in "a 25% decrease in the event rate of heavy drinking days" and when given in a lower dose the decrease was 17%. Patients who started abstaining before treatment ("lead-in abstinence") also did better, and men responded better than women. 14% had to discontinue treatment because of adverse drug reactions.

These aren't numbers that make eyeballs pop out, so don't rush to invest all your money just yet. But alcoholism has such high social and economic costs that even a small double-digit decrease in rates would be significant.

And here's something to consider: less alcoholics mean less godaholics. Given what is happening in this country, THAT may end up being the best boon of all.

14 April 2006

Urban Planning 101: Recruit Young Graduates

Thriving cities and states need young people, especially college graduates, according to an AP study. This is bad news for Ohio because we're at the bottom of the list in retaining college students and providing affordable education. This state is bleeding young people too much, and that's a poor prognosticator for a healthy future.


College graduates are flocking to America's big cities, chasing jobs and culture and driving up home prices.

Though many of the largest cities have lost population in the past three decades, nearly all have added college graduates, an analysis by The Associated Press found.

The findings offer hope for urban areas, many of which have spent decades struggling with financial problems, job losses and high poverty rates.

But they also spell trouble for some cities, especially those in the Northeast and Midwest, that have fallen behind the South and West in attracting highly educated workers.

"The largest predictor of economic well-being in cities is the percent of college graduates," said Ned Hill, professor of economic development at Cleveland State University. To do well, he said, cities must be attractive to educated people.


[more...]

13 April 2006

What to do on Saturday

XU's South Asian Society is hosting an intercollegiate dance festival on Saturday. Now this may surprise you, but I am not a dance aficionado. But I am not a fool, either. I know a quality activity when I see it. I have seen Indian/Asian dance performances (most recently Shangri-La at the Aronoff) and they can be spectacular.

So I recommend this weekend activity. More information at the Midwest Masala website (there's even a buffet!).

UD Student is also Rwandan Refugee

One night in 1994, most of ClĂ©mentine Igilibambe’s family piled into their car and fled their hometown of Gisenyi, a city in western Rwanda near the border of Congo. Because the car was too small to hold them all, 7-year-old Igilibambe and her two older brothers walked alongside. People ran in every direction in an effort to escape a barrage of bombs and bullets. Amid the chaos, Igilibambe and her brothers were separated from their parents.

...Long story, short...

Now a sophomore at UD, Igilibambe is majoring in international studies and human rights in an effort to assist the millions of people around the world who suffer human rights abuses. She is also a youth delegate in the United Nations Agents of Change program.

[more...]

11 April 2006

Space Exploration in the News

3 items having to do with space exploration:

NASA’s newest satellite, Orbiter, has transmitted Martian pictures with its HiRISE camera (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment).

Here is the first “color” image.

Here is the image with 3-D perspective.


If you like those and want to see more pictures of space (they can be pretty cool), check out this site with user-submitted pictures.


And in a related story:

U.S. Losing Unofficial Space Race, Congressmen Say

Some congressmen believe the United States and China are in an unacknowledged space race that this country could lose if it doesn't spend more money on the civilian space program. [more…]

The U.S. space program is also being gradually turned over to private corporations (what isn't?). It’s part of “neoconomics”. But like everything else neocon, it will be a losing proposition in the long term.

Anti-Smoking Fever on a Roll in Ohio

Here's an ONN article if you need a briefing on the proposed statewide smoking bans.

On a related note, U of Dayton students are trying a different tactic to curb smoking on campus.

On an unrelated note, Subodh Chandra is still the man. Here's Chandra on why the office of AG should matter.

10 April 2006

Corporate Profits Surge to 40-yr High

U.S. corporate profits have increased 21.3% in the past year and now account for the largest share of national income in 40 years… Meanwhile, the share of national income going to wage and salary workers has fallen to 56.9%.

"It's a big puzzle," said Josh Bivens, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute. "If this is a knowledge economy, how come the brains aren't being compensated? Instead, the owners of physical capital are getting the rewards."

While profits are up 21.3% in the past year, labor compensation is up just 5.5%. After adjusting for inflation, population growth and taxes, real disposable per capita incomes are up just 0.5% in the past year.


[more…]

If the Democratic Party were a true opposition party, it would specifically address the overconcentration of economic and political power among the corporate sector. Any true opposition party would have to address this (and the true opposition parties- the 3rd parties- do).

Apartheid, communism, monarchies, and dictatorships are all examples when political and economic power was concentrated among the few. It does not matter whether power is leftist or rightist; political ideology is the phantom menace of American politics. The true danger is the concentration of power in too few hands.

08 April 2006

Scientists Create First Artificially-Grown Organ

Growing an entire organ in a lab is a tall order, but these scientists did it:

Scientists say they have for the first time successfully rebuilt a complex organ from living, laboratory-cultivated tissue: new bladders engineered and implanted into seven patients. [more...]

Advances like this have enormous potential to cure disease and trauma. Growing in vitro livers and skin (for burn victims) are two uses that come to mind.

As with many medical advances, ethical issues are a concern. Will there be organ-for-order labs in the future? Will organs be available to anyone who can afford them (is it really a stretch to imagine hordes of middle-agers lining up for new, unwrinkled skin)? Will labs create "better than natural" organs ("Doctor, I want to be a pro athlete; how much is the Miguel Indurain cardiopulmonary system?")?

(Miguel Indurain, the Spanish cyclist, won the Tour de France 5 straight times, 1991-5. His performances were so strong that scientists actually tested him to find out how his body could perform that highly. As it turns out, he is a freak of nature: his heart and lungs are much larger than normal and can function at almost TWICE the normal level.)

06 April 2006

Worse than Enron?

David Wittig, the former president, CEO and chairman of Westar Energy (shares of which I once owned) and a former vice president, Douglas Lake, have been sentenced to 18 and 15 years, respectively.

...jurors in a second trial last September found the two men guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and circumventing internal controls during their tenures at Westar, the largest electric utility in Kansas.

During sentencing,
[Judge Julie] Robinson drew parallels to the Enron scandal, but said she thought Wittig and Lake's behavior may have been worse.

"The defendants' greed was unbridled and seemingly limitless," she said. "The defendants weren't trying to keep an unhealthy company afloat. They were trying to destroy a healthy company and for what reason? Their own compensation."


[CBS...]

01 April 2006

Medical Science vs. Prayer

In six U.S. hospitals, researchers involved in the Study of Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) analyzed the healing effects of third-party prayer—in which individuals pray for a stranger whom they have never met.

Daily prayers by three Christian groups began on the eve of the patients’ surgeries and lasted for two weeks.

In the 30 days following bypass surgery, doctors found that prayer had no positive effect on rates of postoperative complications. In fact, complication rates in the first two groups—the ones that didn't know whether they were receiving prayer—were nearly identical.


[Time…]

There is nothing magic or supernatural about prayer. Prayer offers comfort. Some people pray, some meditate, some play sports, some paint, some drink. It’s all the same, whether one wants to believe it or not. Prayer is hot home-cooked meal for the psyche when it's cold outside.

If you want to feel better, prayer is an option. If you actually want to get better, medical science is the only option.

Boston Archdiocese Genuflects for Scalia

A freelance photographer has been fired by the Archdiocese of Boston’s newspaper for releasing a picture of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making a controversial gesture in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday.

Smith snapped the photo of Scalia flicking his hand under his chin after a Herald reporter asked the conservative jurist his response to people who question his impartiality on matters of church and state.

Smith said Scalia said, “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” while making the gesture. That’s Italian for (expletive) you.


[Boston Herald...]

Scalia is a supposed member of Opus Dei, the secret ultra-conservative subcult within the Catholic Church. Clarence Thomas and John Roberts are also supposed members, as is the Pope.

But that’s besides the point. The real issue here is that neocons can do no wrong, and if it seems like they can, you can be sure that it is the media’s fault.