Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 24, 2005

Believe Your Enemy

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:07 pm

Lots of people were surprised, and/or in denial, when the Bolsheviks started to kill off the small independent farmers in the Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s, even thought Marx had written that they’d have to get rid of the “capitalists” by any means necessary to build socialism. They didn’t think he really meant it, or that Lenin and Stalin would go to such lengths.

Lots of people were surprised when Hitler started killing off the Jews of Europe, despite the fact that he’d said in Mein Kampf that he wanted to do exactly that. The just thought he was blowing smoke, and would never actually do something that extreme.

TigerHawk points to the modern-day version of this phenomenon. People who oppose democracy on principle.

“We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,” said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq. “Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.”

TigerHawk’s comment, upon which I cannot improve:

He just does not believe in the consent of the governed, because he believes that only Allah can give that consent. The United States could leave [Iraq] tomorrow and al-Zarqawi would fight on because he rejects popular sovereignty as a matter of principle.

The Most Minor Casualty of The Wave

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:28 pm

Wordlab reports on products and companies with the word “tsunami” in their names … for now.

A Cure for Hepatitis C?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:21 pm

Scott Gottlieb reports in Forbes Online on a possible cure for hepatitis C. This would be a major advance in medicine, not just because hepatitis C is a really bad, really contagious (when exposed to infected blood) disease, but because there aren’t very many viral diseases for which there are reliable cures.

When I was a resident in medicine, there was a virus that frightened doctors who had to handle needles and scalpels. Doctors were afraid that in the hurried delivery of emergency care, a hand would slip or a scalpel would fall, and a doctor would accidentally stick herself. If a patient had the virus, chances were good that a doctor could soon have it, too.

There are about 200 million people in the world who are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV)–almost five million in the U.S. alone. The virus causes your liver to swell and stops it from working. Eventually, the liver can become incapable of functioning because constant inflammation kills the organ. HCV is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person, and it is extremely contagious, even more contagious than AIDS.

Today, the standard treatment for hepatitis C is the combination of an antiviral medicine that targets the virus and an immune system-boosting drug that helps the body fight the infection. This elixir works for about half of all patients, but many patients can’t tolerate the regimen or their bodies don’t respond to it.

But there is new hope in the development of a class of drugs known as protease inhibitors. This isn’t the same kind of protease inhibitor that has been used to successfully treat AIDS. In the case of HCV, the drug is targeted at a unique kind of protease enzyme only used by the hepatitis C virus.

The most advanced and most promising protease inhibitor for hepatitis C belongs to the Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Scientists at Vertex used structure-based drug design to create the drug, known as VX-950. Structure-based design means that scientists use special equipment to make computer models of a three-dimensional structure of the enzyme they are targeting. This enables more rational attempts to design drugs to stick inside the enzyme’s active site, by building the ideal drug one atom at a time, like a microscopic Lego set.

The small trial is going to compare the safety and effectiveness of VX-950 to a sugar pill in about 60 healthy volunteers and patients with hepatitis C. The study is expected to finish up this year. It should give Vertex a good look at just how potent the new drug is, as well as a peek at whether it is safe.

It will take a long time to test the drug and make sure it works and is safe, and even more time and more testing to convince the FDA it works and is safe. How many people will die while the FDA does that extra testing to make sure it’s “safe”? How much testing is safe for those patients?

Carnival of the Commies

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:09 pm

Carnival of the Capitalists, the weekly roundup of economics blogs, has been going strong since October 2003, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the “other side” has gotten into the act as well. Here’s week #2 of Carnival of the Commies. Thanks to The Glittering Eye for the link.

By the way, just to keep things straight: I am an “economist” not an “e-communist” like those folks. Try keeping that straight, even if you say it out loud. ;-)

CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION: I posted this before fully reading through the round-up, and before getting the first comment below. Carnival of the Commies is a round-up of left-wing blogs, compiled by a non-left-wing blogger who keeps watch on the other side, “so you [other non-lefties] don’t have to.”

And he adds:

And, no, I don’t really think that lefty bloggers are “commies.” I chose the name because (a) it is delightfully alliterative, (b) it is juxtaposed to the Carnival of the Capitalists, a well-known “Carnival” brand and (c) it is so dated that it is much more goofy than insulting, and I’m really not interested in offending anybody (in this post, anyway).

Carnival of the Capitalists

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:17 pm

Thanks to Dane Carlson at the Business Opportunities Weblog for including my post on Medicare in this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, the weekly roundup of economics blogs coordinated by Jay Solo.

And, welcome to all of you who got there from here! :-)

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