Links and Quick Takes 1/17/08

How the Pentagon planted a false story Asia Times

Giant self-destructing palm tree BBC

Cholesterol as a Danger Has Skeptics New York Times. This has been a hobbyhorse of mine for years, and I finally see conventional wisdom coming around to my point of view.

Antidepressants Under Scrutiny Over Efficacy Wall Street Journal. We are having a run of medical stories in areas that interest me. Key quote:

Dr. Turner, who once worked at the FDA reviewing data on psychotropic drugs, said the idea for the study was triggered in part by colleagues who questioned the need for further clinical drug trials looking at the effectiveness of antidepressants.

“There is a view that these drugs are effective all the time,” he said. “I would say they only work 40% to 50% of the time,” based on his reviews of the research at the FDA, “and they would say, ‘What are you talking about? I have never seen a negative study.'” Dr. Turner, said he knew from his time with the agency that there were negative studies that hadn’t been published.

Despite that comment, I recall having read more than once that the efficacy rate for antidepressants is about 50%, and the efficacy of placebos in treating depression is 30%. The eagerness to prescribe antidepressants has struck me as way overdone.

Will the “Real” Anti-Foreclosure Mr. Paulson Please Stand Up? Katie Porter, Credit Slips. Yes, it’s the other Paulson.

Big drug companies raided in EU probe Financial Times. The raid was over suspicions of price-fixing in off-patent drugs. This would seem to be a big story (it’s a first-page item for the FT) yet I see it nowhere in the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, or Bloomberg (not to say it isn’t there, but the story certainly isn’t anywhere prominent).

Rationality Quotes 1 and Rationality Quotes 2 Eliezer Yudkowsky, Overcoming Bias

Private Equity Council Says PE Is a Jobs-Creating Machine Deal Journal. And what did you expect them to say? Note this study is being released to muddy the water before a larger (and not sponsored by the industry) study to be presented at Davos January 25. Preliminary results publicized earlier found that PE acquisitions did not keep pace, employment-wise, with comparable companies.

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