Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Avastin Still In the News

There was a big headline on Google News, referencing a MedPage Today story, about how the FDA has warned of fake Avastin in the market.

The agency notified 19 U.S. medical practices that purchased unapproved cancer drugs, including the faux bevacizumab, to stop buying through Quality Specialty Products, a foreign distributor that may also be known as Montana Health Care Solutions, the FDA said in a statement.

As you know, I've written about Avastin several times on this blog, and I hold severe mistrust for the maker (Genentech in the US, Roche internationally). This sounds the slightest bit like extortion at worst, and coercion at best. The "counterfeits" are labelled Roche and the expiration dates are in a different format than the Genentech versions. Nowhere do they say it's not the "real" Avastin (or even that it's different), just that it wasn't sold through the correct channel. This may be a case of the drug being miraculously re-priced after being shipped to another country and then back.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More anonymous mayhem

Anonymous, in a week devoted to hassling the FBI, found a way to harass the US military as well. They hacked into the network of the lawyers who defended the Sgt. Frank Wuterich. He's the Marine accused of leading the raid in Haditha that killed 24 Iraqi civilians in their homes, including women and children, back in 2005. He recently received a serious slap on the wrist, followed by a time out, from a military courts martial [Ed: I believe that's the correct way to express the name of the court]. He was subjected to a cut in pay and rank, but no jail time. They had already given the rest of the members of the sergeant's squad immunity for testifying against him. This relatively light sentence offends anonymous (with some justification), so they hacked into, stole, and published several gigabytes of email files from the law firms servers-- after defacing their home page [Ed: I think this is an easy target-- the anons are picking the low fruit]. I'm not sure this punishment is anymore appropriate to the crime than that of Sgt. Wuterich. But make no mistake, there's some sloppy justice being laid down here on both sides.

War is madness. The US military court which basically looked the other way when judging one of their own knows this. They can't really say it, but the soldiers were not responsible for their actions when those actions were carried out, and no military court will convict. They can talk about rules of engagement, target verification, smart weapons, and other such things. At some level the system breaks down. War is madness, and those who participate and survive know this fact. Everyone else is dead.

Tossing Darts at Facebook and Apple

I noticed this weekend that my Facebook seems to be limited-- as if there's a restriction on my bandwidth. My feed this morning was only three or four screens deep. Sometimes in the recent past, it's 20 screens deep and has an "more stories" link at the bottom. This weekend it's pitifully short. [Ed: It was, I must admit, before 7:00 am on Sunday morning, but usually they just show me what happened last night.] Maybe that's why people have hundreds of friends, so their Facebook feed never ends. I hope it's not being restricted.

I have also noticed how Apple iTunes, running on my PC, will often, and so far as I can see, with no discernible pattern, delete music from my library. It does it one whole album at a time mostly, often leaving the covers. Usually they're albums I converted to MP3 from within iTunes. I've used many types of software to rip my CD's into the computer, not all of which were reliable. I still have the CDs, and will doubtless rip them again, though it's a challenge to find them, because I packed them away long ago, and since I don't know exactly which ones are missing from the computer, I'll have to check for each one.

I would be very resentful, and it would very much suck, to lose something I recorded myself-- voice clips of my children, or my band, or poetry, or videos or something. iTunes and Amazon both have offline backup of the music you purchase from them, but I have copied my whole library of purchased CD's at least twice, often three times, as music formats were standardized and my home computer equipment could do a better job converting and storing the data.

I believe the loss of music files is related to the fact I migrated much of my library, rather than created it in iTunes on this computer. My folder structure in iTunes is not "standard" (there are essentially two "roots"), and I'm using the Music "Library" feature new to Windows 7 where the "music library" folder can point to more than one disk location. This feature is not well supported by other programs, iTunes included. I may have told iTunes to look in Libraries. All I know is I lose somewhere near a dozen albums, roughly every month.

I've read a lot of posts about this problem on the internet, and they seem to point to iTunes having a bad interaction with the Windows file system. Both Microsoft and Apple have many published posts on the issue in their forums, and both companies deny having any issues they can reproduce. I believe big business would like it if we never had an actual "copy" of music or a movie except by accessing it directly from them or their proxies (iTunes store). If a user (such as myself) has a different idea of how to structure their music library, the big companies aren't going to help support that, or even admit they don't support it. I wish they would just fess up to it, because then it would be easier to fix the problem, or at least to design a workable backup strategy.

So be careful about saving your band music, or conversions from tape or vinyl LP's. iTunes on Windows 7 will occasionally eat your tracks. If you plan for that, you'll likely save yourself some sorrow. And don't expect Microsoft or St. Steve (Jobs) to help you out.