Tuesday, 12 August 2008

vote this way

yesterday i forgot to link to this piece by tapu misa, which is one of the best i've read on the herceptin debate. the real concern is of the failure to publish full data:

A recent article in the Lancet claimed that Herceptin as used throughout much of the world is much less effective than thought because important clinical data from 1000 women has been omitted from published results, resulting in "publication bias".

As the Lancet's editor Richard Horton has noted, some crucial data on side-effects was missing, and the fact that results from two of the three trials had been combined suggest "that neither trial alone would demonstrate a positive result".

given that some of these side effects could include serious heart problems, there really should be some rules against the hiding of unfavourable data - though i don't know how you'd police it.

my fellow-bloggers at the hand mirror have posted in full detail on the national party's welfare policy, and it's well worth popping over to have a read. judith collins was on radio nz this morning, stating that there would be no need to employ extra staff at MSD to carry out all the extra checks on beneficiaries. this was because she claimed there were only a third of them on the "front line". the PSA shows refutes that:

“The facts are that more than 90% of the staff at the Ministry of Social Development are involved in front-line work,” says Public Service Association National Secretary, Brenda Pilott. “The other 9.7% perform essential work providing legal, financial, IT, human resource, policy and communications support to the front line staff.”

of course, unless ms collins gives us the source data and her definition of what constitutes front-line and back-line staff, we can only suppose she is talking nonsense. if she's getting her data from ANZ chief economist cameron bagrie, then she definitely is.

in other news, the catholic church hierarchy has decided not to render unto ceaser, in that they are providing guidance for members of the faith in order to help them make their voting decision. of course they are careful not to endorse any particular party. however, having read through some of the issues in the article, i find that it would be difficult to make any kind of decision based on the list given. unless you go for a lefty christian party that embraces social justice, opposes a hard-line justice policy, rejects racism but also opposes homosexuality and abortion. i haven't yet seen a party which has that particular mix of policies. therefore, you'd have to make trade-offs based on the values you think are most important. it's not clear from the article any guidance has been given to the faithful on which issues they should place before others, and without that, the list is not very helpful.

and finally, i came across a situation at work last week where a client had an investment with ING. remember that ANZ pretty much pushed their clients into the ING investments, and when they bought out national bank, those clients got the same treatment. in previous years, the investment would pay out an amount of income (in cash) from the investment every quarter.

since october last year, ING chose to take advantage of changes in tax rules, which meant that income from that investment is no longer taxable to investors. that sounds really good, except that it has also meant that they no longer pay out any cash distribution either. i rang their 0800 number to confirm this. for elderly clients who rely on the cash to meet their daily living expenses, this is a real blow.

never mind, you say. just take the money out and invest it somewhere else. except you can't do that. ING is one of those that has frozen the funds so that investors can't make that decision. i think it's appalling that this can happen. of course it's better than the bridgecorp investors who lose their nest eggs or blue chip investors who are losing the homes that represent their life savings. but it's still pretty rotten that companies in the finance sector can get away with this kind of behaviour.

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