Tuesday, March 24, 2009

PA Education Secretary Promotes School Breakfast, Allows Eating in the Classroom

For many of us growing up, food in the classroom was against the rules. It seems those rules have changed. Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak today sat down to breakfast with several Harrisburg School District third-graders to unveil and promote his new directives for school breakfast programs. Zahorchak's plan includes allowing students to eat breakfast in the classroom and counting that time towards instruction. The changes aim at encouraging students to eat breakfast regularly. Spokesperson for the Secretary Leah Harris says the directives apply to all students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Studies show that students who eat breakfast regularly are better behaved and score higher academically. These initiatives took effect today.

Limbaugh gets poor numbers in North Carolina and Arkansas

New PPP surveys looking at the popularity of Rush Limbaugh in North Carolina and Arkansas find remarkably similar results, with only 31% of North Carolinians and 32% of folks in Arkansas holding a favorable opinion of the controversial talk radio host.

In North Carolina 27% of voters in the state believe that Limbaugh is the leading voice of the Republican Party. Interestingly the number of folks who think that is relatively equal along party lines- 30% of Democrats, 25% of Republicans, and 24% of independents hold that belief.

In some sense that speaks to the internal struggle Republicans have in North Carolina of finding the direction they should move the party in to overcome their recent losing streak in the state. The party needs to moderate its image to win, but a quarter of the party faithful see their voice as someone who's viewed dimly by 67% of self described moderates. How to keep that far right base happy while also trying to appeal more to voters in the center is a conundrum the party will have to figure out how to deal with to reach greater levels of success.

Other than Republicans (61%) and conservatives (56%) every demographic group that PPP tracks by ideology, party, region, gender, race, and age has a net negative opinion of Limbaugh. Only 26% of independents view him favorably, and even among conservatives 20% say they don't care for him.

In Arkansas 24% of the state's voters believe Limbaugh to be the voice of the party, and that view is held by 31% of respondents identifying as Republicans.

Full North Carolina Limbaugh numbers here.

INDYCAR: Penske, Ganassi drivers alternate top spots at Barber test

LEEDS, Ala. (Monday, March 23, 2009) – Will Power paced the final day of an IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. The Team Penske driver lapped the 15-turn, 2.38-mile circuit in 1 minute, 09.4557 seconds, 119.213 mph.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti had the second-quickest lap at 1:09.7776. Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing also filled the third and fourth positions, respectively, with Ryan Briscoe turning a best lap of 1:09.8401 and Scott Dixon at 1:09.8904. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos were fifth and sixth, respectively.

All 16 drivers participating in the test improved their lap times from Sunday, with the top 10 drivers going quicker than Sunday’s best time (Dixon, 1:10.5005).

Mario Moraes missed most of the afternoon after the No. 5 KV Racing Technology car sustained damage after contact with the tire barrier shortly before the lunch break. Moraes returned to the track for the final 20 minutes.

The test was the second and final Open Test before the 2009 season begins April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.


Results Monday with position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed:
1. (3) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 119.213
2. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 118.663
3. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 118.557
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 118.471
5. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 118.425
6. (06) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 118.247
7. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 118.132
8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 117.769
9. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 117.751
10. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 117.685
11. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 117.402
12. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 117.120
13. (12) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 117.106
14. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 117.080
15. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 116.881
16. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 115.765



            WILL POWER (No. 3 Team Penske, fastest): “It was good. I haven’t spent much time with this team, so I spent the two days gelling with my engineer. We’re really working well together now. We found some good things in the car, and we found a car that suits me. We’re happy and we’ll be pretty confident going into St. Pete. This is a great track to get fit on because you never stop working. We won’t use this much energy getting around St. Pete, so it was a good workout. I was just happy to get back in the car on a road course.”

            DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): “We accomplished a lot. It’s a really interesting track. It’s a fabulous facility – the way it’s built, the way it’s kept. The track is a real commitment track, a lot of really, really fast corners. I’m enjoying it a lot. I think if were to come back here and race a couple of changes would need to be made to create some passing opportunities, but I don’t think that would be a problem judging from what they’ve already done here. It’s been a really good weekend, get to know the team better and Scott (Dixon), as well. Each week is just learning more. It’s been a long week though with Sebring. We were at Sebring from Monday right through to Saturday night and then came right here. And before that we were testing at Phoenix. I feel like I&rsq uo;ve been working pretty hard this last week.”

            GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, fifth): “The car is pretty good. We’re learning quite a lot, which is important. I think at the end of the day we’re competitive here, but that’s not what matters most. What matters most to us is to make sure that when we go to all the road races we’ve got a good shot at winning, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now – learn as much as we can. I think we’re doing that. We’ve got a lot more knowledge and understanding than we did before, and that’s what we need. We’re trying things that we hope we can adapt to other tracks. That’s been our focus.”

            MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Andretti Green Racing, seventh): “I think the Meijer car ran really well these past couple of days. I think we are taking the right approach at this test; we are making big changes and getting clear results. There are times during a race weekend where we need to make these types of big changes and time is not on our side. So, I think we are going to be able to show up this season with a better idea of our baselines and that will allow us to be a step ahead.”

            TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Andretti Green Racing, eighth): “The great thing about a test is not having the pressure of lap times and who is the fastest. We are only concerned about figuring out what to do to make the 7-Eleven car better overall. We need to understand the changes that we make and learn what or what not to do to in order to make the car better. So, it’s a win-win for us and the team as a whole.”

            HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Andretti Green Racing, 10th): “I think we had an overall good test here at Barber these past couple of days. We were able to make some changes to the car that both were good and not so good, but we will be able to use all the information that we got, and use it throughout the season. I think we will be using a lot of the information in St. Pete. The Formula Dream team has worked really hard during the offseason and I feel good about going into the first race at St. Pete.”

            DAN WHELDON (No. 4 Panther Racing): “It’s good to be in the race car. It’s not often we get the opportunity anymore with the restrictions on testing. A track like this I think some people criticize to some degree because the relevance that it has to St. Petersburg or Long Beach is pretty insignificant. But in terms of being able to test stuff for the track being consistent I think this is a good place. That’s not only what we have been doing, but need to be doing, because as I said with the restricted testing it’s important. The car has actually been pretty good. On my new tire run just before lunch, I did an outlap and then my best lap and then I spun. There’s stuff that we’re working through. There’s a problem with the car that I think we’re making it better. We haven’t got it to go away yet, but we’re working towards that. Certainly it’s incredibly competitive. You can see from the times it’s very close. It’s good to be here. For the limited running that Panther and I have had together, we’re really pretty competitive.”

            MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): “It's been a good test. I think the last couple of days we definitely learned a lot about the car, not just the team but me also. We're just getting used to the car again on a road course. We struggled a bit on the first day, but the second day, we found a lot of time in the car. It was a lot easier to drive, and we gained a couple of seconds on new tires. That's a good thing, very encouraging. We just need to take what we learned at the test here and move forward to be strong for St. Pete.”

            DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Andretti Green Racing): “As you know, the road courses have been my weak spot in racing, but with that being said, I think we were able to learn some things that will help me to continue to strengthen my road course races. It’s not really easy to see my lap times where they are, but I really think we are on the right track with the Motorola car. I’m glad that I was able to do a road course test with my new race engineer, Eddie (Jones) before we head to St. Pete in a couple of weeks.”


            The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg. The races will be telecast at 6 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by VERSUS.

From John Griffin, Indy Racing League

DIRTcar: Keeping 'Tabs' on Miss Murphy

Photo attachments (by Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications)
#1).  Tabatha Murphy poses with her DIRTcar sportsman ride during the 2006 season at Brockville.
#2).  The Murphy Motorsports #66 sportsman turns a fast lap at Brockville Speedway.
#3).  The highlight of Tabatha Murphy's 2006 season was picking-up the win in a match race with Jessica Power.  The special exhibition race was arranged by Brockville Speedway fans.

Keeping 'Tabs' on Miss Murphy

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications

Go ahead, pick a cliché.  Tabatha Murphy defies them all.  The 18 year-old from Prescott, Ontario is an exception to every preconceived notion.  At first glance people might expect the pretty, blonde teen to fit the obvious stereotypes.  She doesn't.  A recent graduate of South Grenville District High School, Murphy is currently enrolled in her first year of the Police Foundation program at Brockville's St. Lawrence College.  Something else people wouldn't know right away is what she does during her spare time.

"I love to play baseball – I've played nearly all my life," she says with a sly smile and a twinkle in her eye.  "But racing has become a huge passion.  It's not something everyone gets to do and people certainly don't expect it of me.  When I tell people about driving the racecar, they always think I'm kidding.  If they don't believe me, I just invite them to come to the track and see for themselves."

2009 will mark Tabatha Murphy's 4th season behind the wheel of a DIRTcar sportsman modified at Brockville Speedway.  While she says her long-term plan is to pursue her obvious career path as a police officer, Murphy says the sport of stock car racing will always be part of her life.  Often seen wandering the pit area with her pug 'Peanut' at her side, the young lady with the heavy right foot says she enjoys the friendships she's made at the track.

"It's fun – we have a great time," says Murphy.  "We got an offer from Dingwall Motorsports a few years ago and it's all grown from there. Obviously, I'd love to win all the time but we're doing it as a hobby and if we weren't having fun, I don't know if we'd be racing at all.  When we first started, I didn't have a clue, but I've gotten better.  Stephane Lafrance (a driver in Brockville's premier division) has helped coach me a lot over the past few years and I've learned so much."

Sponsorship and support from family and friends means so much at every level of motorsports.  Tabatha Murphy is quick to acknowledge the people that keep her #66 car on the track every week.  She says her Dad works on the car day and night getting it ready for action at Brockville.  Sponsorship from King Edward Auto Parts in Prescott is a big help.  Brockville Tractor Trailer Maintenance in Maynard has been part of the team since the beginning.  Some of their employees lend a hand on race nights.  They haul the car to the track and have given the team space in their shop to work on the car.

"We also have a special person who helps-out behind the scenes", says Murphy.  "She likes to be at the track, but likes to stay in the background – out of the spotlight.  We call her the 'magnum lady'.  She a very sweet lady and probably the biggest supporter of everything we do on this team."

Murphy is looking forward to an awesome year at Brockville and might even travel around a little, depending on her schedule and the team's finances.  She says she has noticed her fan base growing year after year and appreciates the level of support she receives.

One thing's for certain – when the green flag waves, there'll be a huge crowd in the stands at Brockville Speedway keeping tabs on Tabatha Murphy.

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Did Mike Piazza tell reporters he used performance-enhancing drugs?

Posted by Lisa Swan

Fans have speculated for ages that Roger Clemens was suffering 'roid rage when he threw that bat against Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series. But now Clemens is not the only person in that rivalry accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

In his new book about Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth", which comes out today, Jeff Pearlman writes that:
"According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up.

"Sure, I use," he told one. "But in limited doses, and not all that often." (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation.)"
Pearlman, who writes about Piazza in the book's chapter on the 2000 World Series, continues:
"Whether or not it was Piazza's intent, the tactic was brilliant: By letting the media know, off the record, Piazza made the information that much harder to report. Writers saw his bulging muscles, his acne-covered back. They certainly heard the under-the-breath comments from other major league players, some who considered Piazza's success to be 100 percent chemically delivered."
Former Boston Red Sox first baseman Reggie Jefferson tells Pearlman, "He's a guy who did it, and everybody knows it. It's amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched."

Another veteran player agreed, saying, "There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids."

According to Pearlman, when that player is asked what are the odds, on a scale of 1 to 10, that Piazza had used PEDs, the player replies:
"A 12," he says. "Maybe even a 13."

You can read more details in Pearlman's book, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth," a book I highly recommend. It is a balanced biography of Clemens. I will do a full-scale review of the book later this week.

Former New York Times writer Murray Chass, who, along with the New York Post's Joel Sherman, wrote about Piazza's back acne last month, was the first to talk about what Pearlman's book said about the former catcher. Interestingly, however, Chass did not mention what I think is the most explosive part of what "The Rocket That Fell to Earth" said about Piazza - the charge that the former catcher admitted to some reporters that he was using PEDs.

Some might say that it's ancient history to talk about whether Mike Piazza juiced up. But Piazza isn't just any former player. He is one of the faces of the Mets' franchise - remember that it was Mike who caught fellow icon Tom Seaver's last pitch thrown at Shea Stadium - and he is said to be one of the greatest-hitting catchers of all-time. Piazza is also expected to go into the Hall of Fame in four years.

Look, I like Piazza, but I also think that if he's going to be considered for the Hall, he needs to be under the same microscope that would-be HOFers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa have faced. Piazza shouldn't get a pass from this type of scrutiny, even though he was a fan favorite and gave good quotes to the media.

What do you think about Mike Piazza? Leave us a comment!

Knowing Screenwriters Talk Birds and Poltergeist Remakes

Fresh off the success of sci-fi thriller Knowing, which opened in first place at the U.S. box-office this past weekend, screenwriting couple Juliet Snowden and Stiles White have been talking to The Wrap about their upcoming projects - remakes of both The Birds and Poltergeist.

Acknowledging fans' concern towards these new versions of the classic movies, White suggests that their version of the Hitchcock classic will return to the original novella by Daphne du Maurier for inspiration: "We went back to the source material rather than going to his film. Ultimately, what you would get is a modern-day retelling of what if a bird phenomenon happened like that again."

With regards to Poltergeist, expect a straight-up retelling of the original movie, albeit with a contemporary setting. "Poltergeist is a much more specific story - one family, one house. It's treasured; it's valuable. It was a real snapshot of the American family in the year that it came out and I think what we would do with the reimagining of it is, 'What is the American family up to today?'".

Snowden and White will undoubtedly encounter much resistance to these two projects as development moves forward, and fans will be hoping to avoid another abomination like The Boogeyman (2005), which the couple also wrote. However, they are keenly aware of how highly audiences regard the originals, with White explaning that, "Those are beloved movies that go beyond just a good film... You know, it's like riffing to a Beatles record: it's more than just a record - it's fused into your life."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Liverpool Continues to Move Toward the Top

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool grind to Aston Villa 5-0 yesterday and was just one point of leader Manchester United in the English Premier League.

No intention to close after losing 4-1 to the beating of him at the Manchester last weekend, the Reds do not sneer at the opportunity to narrow the gap after the setback of the current champions 2-0 on their visit Saturday at Fulham.

The Alex Ferguson has led a party of about Liverpool, but clearly going to fall layer. Quite the opposite happens to the wards of Rafael Benitez, who got 11 in both its past three games.

At Anfield, Liverpool home, the Dutchman Dirk Kuyt's goal at the 8 'launched the exhibition.

The second occurred at 33 ', when the Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina made a monumental clearance of 80 meters in front of the area rebounded girl. Spanish compatriot Albert Riera was responsible for turning on the ball with a volley, inatajable for Brad Friedel.

Riera emerged the third at 39 ', when it was demolished in the girl for Nigel Reo-Coker and Gerrard were instructed to nail the criminal.

Barely five minutes after the initiation of complement Gerrard free-kick to put the 4-0.

To make matters worse, Friedel was expelled at 65 'to overthrow the Spanish Fernando Torres. Gerrard was commissioned to collect the maximum sentence and not pardoned.

The victory revives all the hopes of a leading Liverpool 19 years in anticipation of its 19 championship crown also English.

Leading bit. The Devils set the pace with 65 points followed by Liverpool with 64 and Chelsea 61.

The Blues lost 1-0 on Saturday in their visit to Tottenham.

Manchester City beat Sunderland 1-0 (which is just three points away from the fall) with a goal from Micah Richards. The defender scored in the top 56 'after a free kick from Brazilian Elano.

Brazil's Robinho, no goals in 2009, ruled a penalty at 22 '.

In another match played in the day Sunday, Wigan won 1-0 at home to Hull City. The goal of the victory was the work of footballer Ben Watson for 84.

Come see Tillsonburg Outlaw Karter Amber Meyer's

From Dave Chesterman of Chesterman Power Products, Tillsonburg Indoor MX and Tillsonburg Outlaw Karts

Can you believe March is almost shot?  Warm weather has me thinking of Outlaw Kart racing for sure.

Amber Meyer and her support crew must be thinking the same thing as they are hauling their Outlaw Kart to the Tillsonburg Town Center Mall (located at Broadway St. & Bridge St. E. & Lisgar Ave. in Tillsonburg, ON) for a week-long display. If you get a chance, stop in and have a look.

There might be Jasen's BIG kart there to keep it company, too. Rumour has it that Amber grew out of her race suit; hopefully the basketball coach doesn't see her.

For those who can't make it to see the display, see above for a shot of Amber Meyer and her ride at the last race of last year.

Kart practice day is Saturday, May 2 at Tillsonburg Indoor MX.

Tobacco issue has potential to hurt Burr

A Charlotte Observer story over the weekend points out that Richard Burr ranks second in Congress for receiving tobacco money.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at our February poll and see how Burr's approval aligns with folks' opinions about the proposed smoking ban in the General Assembly.

The answer? Voters who don't have an opinion about Burr one way or the other- 25% of the electorate- are also the most supportive of banning smoking in public places.

Overall we found 64% of North Carolinians support the ban with 31% in opposition. But with the swath of the electorate that hasn't formed an opinion about Burr the numbers are 69% in favor of the smoking prohibition and just 26% opposed.

With the voters ambivalent about Burr pretty overwhelmingly not sympathetic to the tobacco lobby, it will be interesting to see if this becomes a liability in Burr's reelection campaign.

Fighting Like a Wolfe Against Johnson & Johnson

There are certain codes of conduct during advisory committee meetings. Come prepared having thoroughly read the briefing documents. Speak in turn. Don’t discuss the merits of the application over lunch.

Sidney Wolfe isn’t one to stand on protocol.

During the March 19 Cardiovascular-Renal Drugs Advisory Committee review of Johnson & Johnson’s anticoagulant rivaroxaban, Wolfe, the acting consumer representative, took the unusual step of calling out to an FDA drug safety reviewer—Office of Surveillance & Epidemiology associate director for science John Senior, who was sitting in the audience—to ask him point-blank the very question the committee was being asked to deliberate: whether rivaroxaban should be approved based on the available data.

It was clear from the start that Wolfe wasn't keen on a rivaroxaban approval, and he set up Senior to issue a negative opinion. Wolfe noted the divergent conclusions drawn by J&J and FDA on rivaroxaban’s liver toxicity profile, and the expectation that the drug could be used extensively off-label. Then he asked Senior: “You’ve been involved in this for some time … Do you think it is a good idea to approve now without waiting to see the results of much more data from much longer duration trials?”

The question was significant for a couple reasons. First, it demonstrated that Wolfe isn’t afraid to step outside the typical bounds of advisory committee meetings to make his point. As we’ve blogged before, Wolfe is not your average committee member, and he’s certainly no shrinking violet. And while there is no hard and fast rule against asking an FDA reviewer his or her opinion about an application, to put Senior on the spot was a bit unusual—especially since he was not part of the FDA team at the conference table.

Calling on Senior served another purpose: it was Wolfe's way of getting another public FDA opinion against the approvability of rivaroxaban. OSE was well-represented at the meeting: director Gerald Dal Pan was at the committee table, and medical officer Kate Gelperin delivered a compelling critique of rivaroxaban’s safety profile. But Senior’s reasoned evaluation of the NDA only fueled Wolfe's arguments.

Senior said that while he was “impressed” with J&J's early look of longer-term safety trials (known as the ATLAS study), “I'd like to see more.”

Senior then evoked AstraZeneca's failed anticoagulant ximelagatran (Exanta). FDA should “learn the lessons from ximelagatran,” Senior said. Exanta's heptotoxicity signal did not surface until longer-term studies were analyzed, he reminded the advisory committee. With Exanta, FDA issued a “not approvable” letter, and AstraZeneca's eventually discontinued development. Without reading much between the lines: FDA should take its time with rivaroxaban.

Senior added that only under one circumstance should rivaroxaban be approved without longer-term data: “If it can be shown that the drug is saving more lives than it is risking, then I would think reduction in mortality would trump the risk of liver injury. But I haven’t been convinced that those data are real. I think we need to see that.”

Those statements seem to sum up how FDA—or at least the drug safety office—is thinking about the NDA. As reported in “The Pink Sheet” this week, the good news for J&J is that those longer-term data are available: the six-month ATLAS study has concluded. But time is likely to run out: it is unlikely that J&J can submit the final report and FDA can review it before the late May user fee deadline.

In the end, Wolfe cast only one of two votes against approval. Sanjay Kaul, perhaps best known as the disinvited prasugrel committee member, also actively argued against rivaroxaban. Neither managed to convince the rest of the advisory committee to see things their way. But the Wolfe-Senior exchange still illustrated Wolfe's tenacity in making his point—and his savvy in understanding FDA politics. Like we said before, Wolfe is not your typical advisory committee member.

Rendell Dismisses Turnpike Chair

Governor Ed Rendell has nominated a Philadelphia lawyer to replace the fired Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin. Michael Pratt, a native of Fayette County, is a partner in the Pepper Hamilton law firm. He served as a deputy city solicitor for Philadelphia. Pratt's nomination needs approval from the state Senate. The governor fired Rubin yesterday for allegations that emerged during former state Senator Vince Fumo's corruption trial.
In a letter made public by the Rendell Administration, the governor told Rubin the decision has a lot to do with the jury's "guilty" verdict on charges that Rubin's company never did any work on a 150-thousand dollar state contract.
Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo says the governor spent the weekend reviewing court transcripts and consulting with legal advisers.

"They determined between those two that it was both prudent and legal to remove Mitch Rubin from the Turnpike Commission."

Republican State Senator Rob Wonderling, who chairs the Transportation Committee, says Rendell made the right decision.
He expects a new Commissioner will be named soon.

"I believe it's imminent. I spoke to the governor's office this morning, and I think a name will be forthcoming very shortly."

Wonderling says he'll work with the Administration to plan confirmation hearings for the new nominee.
Last week a federal jury convicted Fumo on all 137 counts and convicted Rubin's wife, Ruth Arnao, a longtime Fumo aide, of all 45 counts against her.

Judge Strikes Down Residency Restriction

U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster has voided an Allegheny County ordinance that would have restricted where registered sex offenders may live in the county once they've served their sentences. The ordinance was passed unanimously by County Council in October 2007 and was intended to ban sex offenders from living within a half mile of schools, licensed child care facilities, community centers and public parks. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the ordinance in court saying it amounted to after-the-fact punishment and that offenders would have virtually no place to live in the county. Judge Lancaster's ruling says the ordinance conflicts with state laws meant to help rehabilitate sex offenders and reintegrate them into society. County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, the prime sponsor of the ordinance, says he's somewhat surprised by the judge's ruling because the legislation was well researched with 6 months of meetings and hearings. Gastgeb says numerous local jurisdictions have been allowed to have residency requirements and that council "watered down" his bill to address any possible legal challenges. Gastgeb says he wants to meet with Chief Executive Dan Onorato and the county solicitor before the county decides whether to appeal.

Interesting Analysis from SSP

I pointed out in January that even though Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry got reelected by large margins last fall, they actually each under ran John McCain within their districts, something I felt was an indication Daniel Johnson and Roy Carter ran very strong campaigns even in defeat.

The good folks at Swing State Project took this analysis a step further and did it for the whole country, and I'd say the results are pretty interesting.

There were actually only 23 Republican members of the House in the country who did worse than John McCain within their districts. McHenry's performance relative to the party nominee was the sixth worst of any member of the GOP caucus.

That has a lot to do with what what a top notch challenger Johnson was for that district, but I think it also has some serious implications for McHenry's political future. Some have suggested him as a possible challenger to Kay Hagan in 2014 but it's hard to see how he would be a good candidate statewide when he underperforms in the swath of the state he already represents.

All that said the fact that Carter and Johnson were such strong candidates and still got creamed is a pretty clear indication these districts are completely unwinnable for Democrats in their current configuration. I think Democrats have probably maxed out the number of House seats they can win in North Carolina, but if there's another prospect it's Sue Myrick's district, not either of these.

RIP Ann Arbor News

Exceptionally sad news about my home town paper.

I actually hated the Ann Arbor News, as I think many progressive people in town did, but the thought that a city of 120,000 and home of the University of Michigan would not have a daily newspaper is kind of unfathomable.

Things aren't going very well financially at our newspapers of record here in North Carolina either, but we're going to have some polling numbers later in the week about what the public thinks of the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News&Observer that should at least warm the hearts of the surviving souls at those places a little bit.

Elon's Latest...

Elon's surprising poll results on gay marriage are getting a lot of attention. While a lot of focus has been on question wording, I'd be very interested to see the demographic composition of the poll, particularly by party, and crosstabs. I've always been pretty consistent that I think all publicly released polls should include those things. Beyond that I'm not getting into the debate.

I was actually more interested in Elon's release from Friday, which goes a long way toward explaining why Republicans have had trouble in recent elections with getting their message across. 56% of respondents approve of the job the General Assembly is doing with only 23% disapproving. Railing on the corruption of a body that is generally perceived positively by the public isn't a good election strategy. Democrats in the legislature also get reviews (53/26) than their Republican counterparts do (41/37).

Here's the problem for the GOP and the corruption issue, as I see it:

-First, you have to convince the voters that corruption is a problem.
-Then, you have to convince the voters it's the other guy's fault.

Voters know that they care about the economy or education. So when you use those things as major campaign issues half the work is already done. But if it's something- like corruption in Raleigh- that isn't automatically on voters' minds, it gives you twice as much work to do. Republicans need to overhaul and simplify their message about things that voters inherently are concerned about if they're going to have more success at the state level in North Carolina.

I don't really anticipate that happening though.

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Doctors Argue Taser Risks

The Use of Force Working Group, or taser working group, today met with doctors to discuss taser risks. The group, composed of local law enforcement and legal professionals, posed questions and offered their takes on the testimony. Dr. Joe Suyuma of the UPMC Department of Emergency Medicine testified that it’s best to subdue people showing symptoms of “excited delirium” as soon as possible citing the taser as the best method. However, Dr. Andrew Dennis, a Chicago Trauma Surgeon says tasers could cause catastrophic damage to the heart and could harm those subjects in a state of “excited delirium.” The Use of Force Working group was started by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala after several deaths this summer in which tasers were used.

There’ll be No Follow-On Biologics in the US at All...

...At least not if anything close to the Eshoo bill—one of two versions of biosimilar legislation currently before the House of Representatives—gets approved, according to Hannes Teissl, head of Sandoz’s Biopharmaceuticals unit.

Speaking to The IN VIVO Blog late last week, Teissl warned that if US biosimilar legislation, which he and many others expect will be enacted in some form or another this year, looks too much like the BIO-supported, innovator-friendly Eshoo bill, “biosimilars will not be a viable business” to pursue.

Not that he expects that to be the case: “I think we’ll see something much closer to the Waxman bill in the end,” he opines. Wishful thinking? The Waxman bill is, after all, by far the most generics-friendly: it doesn’t require biosimilar applicants to run clinical trials, has a broad, rather flexible definition of ‘comparability’, and mandates that comparable generics have the same name.

This last point on naming, along with Waxman’s position on interchangeability, are the two main advantages of the Waxman bill, according to Teissl. Europe took a while to resolve the issue of whether biosimilars could share the same International Non-proprietary Name (INN) but they now can, which goes a considerable way to proving generic makers’ case for scientific equivalence.

But not all the way. The main sticking point for biosimilars in Europe has been, and remains, interchangeability—whether a drug can formally be expected to produce the same clinical result as the reference product in any given patient. This is also closely linked to—but not the same as--substitutability, whether pharmacists may automatically substitute a branded drug with its cheaper generic equivalent, as in some countries they are mandated to do in the case of small molecules. The European regulator EMEA has passed the buck on both these issues, saying that individual member states should decide. Several, including France and Spain, have decided against allowing automatic substitution.

The Waxman bill doesn’t say biosimilars should be substitutable with their reference drug. But it includes in its wording “at least the potential for interchangeability,” opines Teissl. He sees it that FDA would “make a scientific statement that there is no clinically meaningful difference” between a biosimilar and its reference drug. (Eshoo’s bill would theoretically allow that too, but only after higher hurdles have been met.) Beyond that, it’s still up to individual states to decide whether to allow substitution, but Teissl reckons an FDA-stamp of biosimilarity will help.

And so, he adds, will Waxman’s decoupling the patent litigation process from the regulatory process. That will mean generics companies can launch at risk, which is critical to the viability of biosimilar businesses since patent litigation can drag on for years.

Teissl doesn’t underestimate the Eshoo-supporting innovator lobby but he thinks cost-savings will win in the end. “The US government wants these products, just as FDA wants more competition,” he says.

Four Catholic Schools to Close

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced the closing of four schools at the end of this school year: St. Titus in Aliquippa, St. Elizabeth Seton in Sheraden, Bishop McDowell in Baldwin, and St. Valentine in Bethel Park.

Father Kris Stubna, diocesan secretary for education, says all four schools faced the same basic problem of a declining population of school age children--a situation faced by public schools as well. As enrollment went down, tuition went up, and enrollment then went down further.

For students, Father Stubna says there are other Catholic schools available in their areas, which may have lower tuition, more varied programs and better extracurricular opportunities.

Displaced teachers will get preference when applying for openings at other schools in the diocese.

Merrittville Speedway: Turn 4 Collision Triple Crown Mini Series coming together


For Release   - March 23, 2009 From Jim Irvine // Merrittville Speedway Public Relations

Thorold, Ontario (March 23) – Merrittville Speedway Race Fans are celebrating today! Spring has finally sprung and is now firing on all 4 cylinders. For the Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinders and the rest of the Lucas Oil Racing Series Divisions – the race season just took a giant step as the first green flag of 2009 is that much closer.

The recently announced new for 2009 Niagara Motors King of the Crates Series for the Original Pizza Logs Sportsman Division shares something in common with a popular series that is preparing for its third season.

“Once again … it will be a race within the chase,” reveals (Merrittville Speedway General Manager) Erica Bicknell, “the year long points are one story … the Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder Triple Crown is another.”

Race fans of all ages have come to know the Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder Division in recent years as an exciting and affordable means to get involved in the sport of Dirt Track Racing at Merrittville Speedway.

“Long before the Casteleins, (father Abel – back to back and defending Champion and his sons A.J. and Matt) came to the division,” remembers Merrittville co-owner Nancy Bicknell, “there were families such as the Domineys and the Vanderzandens among others that al enjoyed their own successes.”

Merrittville Speedway Wall of Fame Member – the late Bill Dominey and his son Dennis were long time supporters of Mini Stock Racing at Merrittville before both generations moved on to other divisions as were Harry Vanderzanden and his son Dave.

The Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinders continue to present one of the most diverse fields each week as several automotive manufacturers are featured.

“It’s like no other division we have,” relates Bicknell, “GM … Ford … Honda … Volkswagen and others … each brand has their following and they’re all in the (4 Cylinder) starting fields every week … the mix creates quite a rivalry amongst the cheering fans in the grandstands as well.”

The Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder Division offers the entry level racer the same motorsport experience as the other divisions – the thrills and excitement of close competition.

While Abel Castelein appears to have a hold on the season long title – fellow driver Aaron Wiley has made his own headlines in winning the last two Triple Crown Series in 2007 and 2008.

“Like our other classes … the 4 Cylinders too play an equal role in the entertaining spectacle that is dirt track racing,” reveals Bicknell, “we’re proud of the guys and girls that support the class and we’re proud to announce the return Turn 4 Triple Crown.”

Kicking off with the May 30th Meridian Credit Union presentation of the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints, the series will also be featured Saturday August 1st when Cotton Inc. presents the Lucas Oil Patriot Sprints.

Southern Ontario and Western New York Sprint Car fans planning on attending the first two events of the Triple Crown – will surely want to return for the Finale Saturday August 22nd to witness who is crowned the third Miniseries Champion when the Pen Centre presents Three Dog Night.

The Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder Triple Crown is one of many exciting returning events featured in the schedule recently unveiled that will help celebrate 58 consecutive seasons.

“What can we say,” adds Bicknell, “we’ve got to thank Norm Ellsworth for his continued involvement in the sport … we are finalizing the Triple Crown and will be unveiling our plans in the very near future.”

Turn 4 Collision is located at 113 Cushman Road in St. Catharines – Unit 51. Turn 4 Collision provides service to all makes and models of cars and trucks – specializing in collision repairs and fleet maintenance. Call Turn 4 Collision at 905-687-4142.

For further information on the Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinders – including rules – visit www.merrittvillespeedway.com or call the Winter Office at 905-685-7723 until April 1st.

Dowd Campaigns to End "Pay-to-Play" Politics

Mayoral candidate Patrick Dowd wants voters to "wake up and smell the coffee." The Pittsburgh City Councilman gave away cups of coffee this morning to raise awareness of unethical politics he says occur in city government on a regular basis. Dowd attacked current mayor Luke Ravenstahl for awarding no-bid city contracts in return for campaign contributions. He says these types of policies hurt taxpayers and the city everyday, and are not enough to win re-election. "You can sell city contracts," says Dowd, "but you can't buy votes." Dowd's campaign will consist primarily of canvassing and talking to voters. The primary election is set for May 19th.

NC voters prefer TV news over newspapers, online news

By Katherine Rumbaugh, PPP Spring Fellow

Even as technology progresses, print newspapers switch over to online versions, and more people turn to blogs and news websites, 56% of people in North Carolina report that the television is their favorite source for news.

This trend is, surprisingly, even stronger among the people who are supposed to be the most tech-savvy, the 18-29 age group; 65% of them report that the TV is their primary news source. Only 20% said they prefer reading an actual newspaper and 15% said they prefer online news.

Democrats are more likely to read a newspaper than Republicans, 63% of whom said they prefer TV news.

So, the idiot box is the most popular news source, and the most popular television news outlets are the ones with (in my opinion) some of the biggest idiots: cable news networks. 42% of respondents said they prefer cable news like CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC over regular broadcast networks (23%) and local TV networks (34%).

Between a national newspaper, like the NYT or WSJ, and a local paper, people overwhelmingly favor their local newspaper, 87% to 13%.

Among online news sources, the most popular are websites affiliated with newspapers, at 43%. That's a good sign for papers that might eventually have to switch to a solely online version. Blogs are only favored among about 6% for online news. That's probably because, at least so far, bloggers mostly comment on existing news rather than produce original reporting. Perhaps we need to step up our game?

Full results here

Rendell Outlines Green Stimulus Plans

The federal stimulus package is sending $360 million to Pennsylvania for alternative energy projects and the Rendell Administration is making plans on how it will dole out the money. The federal funding will go toward a wide variety of projects, including grants for small businesses and homeowners to purchase and install solar panels. Grants will also be handed out to help Pennsylvania residents improve energy efficiency in their homes and workplaces. Acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger says additional stimulus money will go toward larger-scale alternative energy projects like wind farms and methane conversion plants. He says, “All of those projects create real energy, real electricity, real jobs. Increase supply of electricity, help keep our prices moderate, and do all of that with very little pollution.” Hanger says the state will direct money toward established operations with proven track records, so that funds aren't wasted. The Rendell Administration has set up a website, with information on all stimulus projects. Republicans are expected to outline their stimulus priorities later today.

Southern Ontario Sprints release 2009 schedule

By Tommy Goudge (March 19, 2009) - The fourteenth season of Southern Ontario Sprints competition is set to kick off in less than two months time. The tour will hold championship points events at Brighton Speedway, South Buxton Raceway, and Ohsweken Speedway, and has signed on as an affiliate sanction for non-points events at Ohsweken, Autodrome Drummond, and Brockville Ontario Speedway.

The month of May will find the tour at Brighton Speedway on Saturday the 9th as Mark Rinaldi's popular track hosts the SOS season opener for the 10th year in a row. The series then heads to the site of the first ever SOS race - South Buxton Raceway - on Saturday the 23rd.

In June the tour heads back to Brighton on Saturday the 6th, and then opens a busy July slate with a non-points affair at Ohsweken Speedway on Friday the 3rd, in the $3,000-to-win Northern Summer Nationals. The following weekend will find the SOS back at Brighton on Saturday the 11th, and then back at Ohsweken on Friday the 17th for a full SOS points race.

August features points-paying events at Brighton on Saturday the 8th and South Buxton on Saturday the 22nd, while drivers from the SOS will also participate in the first annual Quebec Sprint Car Nationals at Autodrome Drummond on Saturday the 15th. Paying $6,000 to the winner, the event is guaranteed to be one of the biggest sprint car events in the country this season.

In September, the SOS points championship will wrap up back at Brighton during the Labour Day Classic weekend for the second year in a row, with full points-paying events on Saturday the 5th, and Sunday the 6th. The SOS will also participate once again in the fifth annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken. The fast-growing event will pay $9,000 to the winner this season.

The sprint car season officially wraps up in Ontario at the Brockville Ontario Speedway, which again plays host to October racing this year. The 2nd Annual "360 Sprint Car Battle at the Border" on Saturday the 17th will feature participants from the ASCS Patriots, Southern Ontario Sprints, and others in a non-points affair.

1. May 9 - Brighton Speedway
2. May 23 - South Buxton Raceway
3. June 6 - Brighton Speedway
NP. July 3 - Ohsweken Speedway (Northern Summer Nationals)
4. July 11 - Brighton Speedway
5. July 17 - Ohsweken Speedway
6. August 8 - Brighton Speedway
NP. August 15 - Autodrome Drummond (1st Annual Quebec Sprint Car Nationals)
7. August 22 - South Buxton Raceway
8. September 5 - Brighton Speedway (Labour Day Classic)
9. September 6 - Brighton Speedway (Labour Day Classic)
NP. September 18 - Ohsweken Speedway (Night Before the Nationals)
NP. September 19 - Ohsweken Speedway (Canadian Sprint Car Nationals)
NP. October 17 - Brockville Ontario Speedway (Battle at the Border)

Please visit www.SouthernOntarioSprints.com for more news and information about the Southern Ontario Sprints. 2009 marks the 14th year of operation for the Southern Ontario Sprints, brought to you this season by Wiseco Piston, Kenetic Photos, Fatheadz Eyewear, BS&B Radiator, Triple X Race Co., ASI Racewear, and www.ImageFactor.ca.

World Challenge : Wittmer sidelined with mechanical failure

Sebring, Florida.— Starting from the second line in the maiden round of the 2009 Touring class SCCA World Challenge, Kuno Wittmer was on his way to a podium finish in his #44 Realtime Acura just like last year but a drive line problem forced him to pull over by the track side after the completion of 9 of the scheduled 18 laps around the famed 3.7-mile Sebring facility. The 25-year old driver from Montreal had a strong weekend topping the charts in second or third place in every outing before the race. Nevertheless, Wittmer remains positive even if the end result is 13th place in the race and 10th in the standings.

“It’s such a shame! I had such a strong car all weekend and was looking for a better finish,” he said. “I always get a good car from RealTime and we could not prevent that failure. At the start, Seth (Thomas) came out of the blocks like a rocket while Pierre (Kleinubing) slipped a wheel. I was in pursuit in third place and confident I could overtake at least for second. We drove away from the rest of the grid but I felt a little vibration by lap 5. I decided then to ease the pace and settle for a podium. But the vibration grew and I wasn’t able to nurse the car beyond lap nine when I had to forfeit.” 

“I feel the competition will be tough all season, he added. That’s the fun of this series. All cars are quick and the tracks sometimes make the difference. The next round in New-Jersey should favor our Acuras because it is very twisty and we are indeed pretty quick around the corners. It will be the first World Challenge outing there but some of us were there last year in the Grand-Am round.”

New Jersey in May: Kuno Wittmer will be back in action at Thunderbolt Raceway, a 2.25-mile race track with 14 turns, on May 1st to the 3rdfor the second round of the SCCA World Challenge. Kunick Autosport will announce in a few weeks the rest of the schedule for both Wittmer brothers, Kuno and Nick. The younger Wittmer is set to race in a Canadian touring series but both are considering other projects being at this point of the year.

From Michel Poirier-Defoy

New WVU President Looks Ahead

The new president of West Virginia University says he will spend the next few months learning from faculty members and others about the school's strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. James Clements will take the helm at WVU June 30th. He says he's already identified a couple opportunities for the school: first, it has several vacancies in high-level positions like provost and the chancellor of WVU's Health Sciences Center. Clements says he hopes to bring in leaders who have a long-term vision for the school and can work collaboratively. A second opportunity for the school is to become a better economic development engine for the state, Clements says. He says he thinks WVU contributes more to its home state than any other public university in the country.

Clements takes over following a scandal over an MBA degree that led to the departure of his predecessor, Mike Garrison. Clements says all schools go through bumps, and he thinks WVU will recover from this one. Towson University, where Clements now works as provost, had its own scandal that resulted in the departure of its president after only nine months. Mark Perkins left that job in 2002 after a controversy over spending on renovations at his state-owned home.

Chloramine to Be Used in More Local Water

More Pittsburgh-area residents may soon be drinking water treated with chloramine. The West View Water Authority recently notified customers that it will add chloramine during the summer months. The chloramine will replace chlorine, which can, especially in warmer weather, create byproducts linked to bladder cancer and reproductive problems. Pennsylvania-American Water customers in the Pittsburgh area may also soon have chloramine in their water. That utility recently received a construction permit related to the use of chloramine locally. Pennsylvania-American says customers will get three months' notice if and when chloramine is added.

Chloramine is created when chlorine combines with ammonia. And not everyone believes it's a better alternative. Chloramine creates its own byproducts, and some research has suggested that those byproducts are more toxic than the ones created by chlorine. Chloramine also corrodes lead and copper pipes, although many water systems add corrosion inhibitors. Chloramine also kills fish and cannot be used in dialysis machines without being treated first. Some people also believe that chloramine causes breathing and digestive problems.

Carnegie Mellon University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Jeanne VanBriesen says chloramine should not cause any public health problems at the concentrations it's used in drinking water. Chloramine has, though, caused what's known as "swimmer's asthma" in indoor pools. Chloramine is formed there when chlorine in the water combines with organic material on people's skin.

But VanBriesen says if your water provider is switching to chloramine, it's important to remember that the goal is to make the water safer. That was the same reason water providers first started adding chlorine to water in the early 1900s. VanBriesen says it was a huge advance because it greatly reduced water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid. It was only in the 1970s that researchers learned the addition of chlorine posed long-term health risks.

If you missed DUQ's earlier story on chloramine, you can listen to it here.

What baseball clip do you never get tired of seeing?

Just a reminder that we have a contest going on this week, with your chance to win a HAVA, a device that lets you watch your TV on a computer or a cell phone.

How do you win the HAVA? Tell us about your favorite baseball clip, one you would love to see over and over. Click here for more details, and to enter the contest

Natural Gas Prices a Silver Lining in Down Economy

While the economic downturn has made a lot of things less affordable, that hasn't been true of natural gas. Several providers in western Pennsylvania have been lowering their prices since last summer, as production has increased and oil prices have dropped. Large providers are required by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to adjust their rates each quarter based on the wholesale prices they pay. Utilities are not allowed to charge customers more than the commodity price, although that's only one component of their monthly bills. Natural gas providers also add other fees, such as a delivery charge and service charge.

Dominion expects its April 1st filing will reflect a lower commodity rate. A spokesman says the average residential customer paid about $160 in July; that dropped to $116 in January. Equitable Gas recently raised its delivery charge, but a spokesman says lower commodity prices should offset that increase. Columbia Gas says its rates have also been going down.

Smaller natural gas providers are also lowering their rates. Small providers are only required to adjust their commodity prices annually. But in Butler County, Andreassi Gas Company recently petitioned the PUC to lower its rates earlier. Owner Mike Andreassi says that's because prices have already dropped more than eight percent since November, and he wanted to pass on the reduction to his roughly 400 customers. Andreassi says many of his customers are unemployed and will appreciate saving the money now.

Pitt Researchers Create Quick T.B. Test

Currently, it takes weeks or even months to identify and diagnose different strains of the tuberculosis bacterium. Soon, thanks to research done at Pitt and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the process may take as little as a few hours. Dr. Graham Hatfull of Pitt says tiny viruses called bacteriophages infused with a flourescent green gene are the secret behind the speed of this new test. "We can take samples of T.B., add these bacteriophages, allow them to inject their DNA [into the T.B. cells], and we can now see the T.B. cells because they flouresce. They glow green," says Hatfull. In addition, by adding known tuberculosis antibiotics to the bacteriophages, scientists can determine what strains of bacteria the drugs work against -- and those against which they don't work. Though some strains of T.B. are untreatable, Hatfull says it is just as important to identify these victims as well as those they can help. "What is currently happening is they are spreading [untreatable strains] to other patients while they are in the clinic waiting for diagnosis or waiting for treatment," says Hatfull. "At least those patients could be isolated." Hatfull says this method of testing needs to undergo some length of clinical trials, but it should be ready to use as soon as it is deemed safe and practical.

Tax Checkoff Helps Organ Donation Efforts

The deadline to file your Pennsylvania income tax return is less than a month away and several groups are hoping last minute filers will be in a charitable mood with their refunds. In 1994 the Pennsylvania Legislature created the Governor Robert Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue donation Awareness Trust Fund and then gave income tax filers the option to send all or a portion of their refund to the charity. It is now one of five options at the bottom of the PA-40 form. Leslie Best runs the fund. She is the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Chronic Diseases. She says the funds raised do not go directly to transplanting organs. The funds are used to increase organ donations through awareness and education of the need for organ donors and the easy of becoming one when you renew your drivers licenses. Best says about 40-percent of Pennsylvanians with drivers licenses are signed up as organ donors. That number has been increasing in recent years. She says the educational efforts start in the grade schools and never stop. The fund also gives money to those making live organ donations to help defray travel costs. Best says to make sure the funds are spent wisely, they also have an advisory panel. The panel includes doctors, hospital officials, organ recipients and the families of those who have given organs. The PA 40 tax checkoff is the only revenue source for the organ and tissue donation and recover fund. Last year the support totaled $27,500. While most filers who fill out their own tax forms notice the 5 checkoff options, Best encourages those who use preparers to ask them to take advantage of those options on their behalf.

While You Were Watching Hoops

The West is where things got particularly ugly this weekend for anybody who took this advice about Cornell, but with zero surprises among the top 12 tournament seeds it's likely that most of you are still alive in your office pools. Unless you took our other advice about the Big East being overrated.

So what else happened this weekend, while you were developing a strong dislike for Coke Zero based solely on its NCAA ad blitz ...
  • You got your vacation in my surgery! You got your surgery in my vacation! NYT on medical tourism.
  • Clinical trials increasingly are conducted globally as companies hunt for treatment-naive patients and less expensive studies. The WSJ discusses some of the drawbacks and difficulties.
  • Is it splitsville for FDA's food and drugs arms? AP reporting in the Boston Globe and elsewhere that pharma industry advocates are pushing for such reform.
  • Will there be new life for the blockbuster in 2009? The Pink Sheet examines the 2009 user fee calendar at FDA and makes some interesting predictions and observations ($).
  • Merck-Serono is launching a strategic venture capital fund. News of which would have come in handy when a colleague asked us last Friday, "does Merck-Serono have a strategic venture capital fund?" The group will invest up to Eur 40mm over the next five years. Interested? Click here.
ugly bracket image by invivoblog

World Cinema - The 400 Blows (1959)

The 400 Blows, 1959.

Directed by François Truffaut.
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud.


The 400 Blows follows normal adolescent boy Antoine Doinel as he struggles to contend with all authority figures in his life, from schoolteachers to parents. As we are invited into this character study of Antoine it becomes increasingly clear that he is already disillusioned with life at his young age, and the film also uncovers the ineffectual dealings of the French government with juvenile offenders.

In this semi-autobiographical directorial debut, François Truffaut writes and directs a film light-years apart from the norm of French cinema at the time, which he had argued so aggressively against in the magazine Cahiers du Cinema (he was subsequently banned from the Cannes Film Festival in 1958). Needing to prove that he in fact could create a superior film to those which he argued so strongly against, Truffaut debuted with the imperious The 400 Blows, coming through this test with flying colours and creating his own brand of character based cinema as well as defining French New Wave cinema in one masterstroke. Based loosely on Truffaut’s own upbringing in the suburbs of Paris, The 400 Blows depicts Antoine Doinel as a disillusioned young tearaway, ignored by his parents and chastised at school, which ultimately results in him falling into the hands of the authorities in a young offenders institute.

Antoine lives a mistreated life with his mother, a distant, harsh figure with little interest in the day to day activities of Antoine and his stepfather, a seemingly jovial man who is revealed as someone with little love for Antoine and no interest in declaring the child as his own. They live together in a cramped apartment in Paris, with barely enough room for Antoine to sleep and nowhere near enough room for the three of them not to get on each others nerves. Antoine becomes increasingly disenfranchised with this situation when, while playing truant from school, he sees his mother kissing another man. After being repeatedly punished at school for his trouble making behaviour, Antoine eventually decides to run away, living at first with his school friend René and then fending for himself out on the streets until he is arrested and imprisoned at a juvenile detention centre.

Antoine’s life of petty crime materialises because of his lack of direction and boredom, rather than any malicious side of his personality, something which is displayed subtly but effectively in this character study. This is particularly evident in a superb scene where Antoine is in the juvenile detention prison, answering questions from a psychiatrist who we hear but do not see. This scene draws the audience towards Antoine, as his honesty and intelligence shines through despite his neglected upbringing. The performance of Jean-Pierre Léaud as the troubled runaway is what provides Antoine with this natural likeability in his first film role. Léaud incorporates much of his own demeanour into the performance of Doinel and was even encouraged to adlib and improvise by Truffaut, who was immediately impressed with the young actor whose mannerisms increased the overall reality of the film. Léaud proved so popular with Truffaut and other directors of the time that he quickly became the poster boy of the French New Wave, acting in several films for Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard for many years to come.

This film is rightly considered to be not only one of the best French films but one of the greatest of world cinema, and one which defined a generation. Truffaut’s wonderfully original, highly acclaimed film launched his career, as well as that of lead actors Léaud, and spawned several sequels and imitations, none of which live up to the complete quality and originality of The 400 Blows. Truffaut went on to make many other great films but The 400 Blows is often considered his masterpiece and, as it is semi-autobiographical, it is the one for which he will always be remembered.

Rory Barker

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Inter Wins and Maintains Lead over Juventus

With a doublet of Swedish attacker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Inter leader liquidated without regard andalusia andalusia gave Reggina a 3-0 win that kept them seven points separate him from Juventus in the Italian League.

When you need new dates for the end of the championship, the nerazzurri were 69 points above the 62 to Juve, who Golea 4-1 on Saturday to Rome.

Milan, meanwhile, won only a tie with goals in the home of Nápoli to maintain third place with 55 points.

Nápoli was closer to the victory that the Rossoneri. Even he was annulled a goal for 36 minutes, which won the Slovakian Marek Jamsik wheel, a position advanced by none of the player.

The Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, who returned to owner at Inter after 14 months, by Christian Abbiati head injury, played a good meeting with key saves each time was required.

Also returned to play the Brazilian Kaka, who entered the 57 minutes, and Ronaldinho, at 62. They had not played in recent matches due to injury. Nápoli left with 37 units.

Faced with an opponent up in the queue, the steering wheel Argentine Esteban Cambiasso Inter ahead of the six minutes in his San Siro stadium. Cambiasso was a ball with strength and with a soft shot over the goalkeeper from Reggina.

Ibrahimovic, a great party, was the author of a doublet. His first goal was a 10 with a penalty and then scored a 57. The second was a real pearl, andalusia exceed three defenders and define a globito from outside the area, beating the goalkeeper who was ahead.

Inter moving steadily toward its fourth consecutive Scudetto, whose aim is opposed, but at a respectable distance, the only Juve.

On another note outstanding, the Argentine defender Javier Zanetti played his game with the jersey of the 635 Inter, a record.

Although nerazzurri have many players injured, the wheel was removed again Chilean Luis Jimenez, who said during the week that felt like a ghost in the Inter.

The coach José Mourinho chose to Brazilian Mancini instead Jimenez. Even Mancini left 40 injured by a muscular problem, Mourinho sent to the court the attacker Nigerian Victor Obinna.

However, at 67, finally admitted Jimenez, replacing Serbian Dejan Stankovic.

For its part, Chile's Carlos Carmona Reggina was submerged in last place with just 20 points, a candidate for insurance Serie B. There are three teams that go down to the second division.

For the fourth, giving access to the preliminary phase of the Champions League, while the first three passes directly Génvoa mark the passing with 51 points, followed by Fiorentina (49) and Rome (46).

The attacker Argentine Diego Milito scored two goals one of which Genoa won 2-0 at Udinese. The first recorded as Giuseppe Sculli rioja (60) and the military was at the end of the meeting (90), to achieve a diversion center, which reached 16 in Serie A after 29 dates.

Udinese played with a man less from 72 by the expulsion of the attacker Chilean Alexis Sanchez, who received a red card for applauding the referee for not charging an absence that he had committed a defender of Genoa.

Fiorentina won 1-0 at Siena, courtesy of a goal of Romanian striker Adrian Mutu (72).

In the area of the fall, in addition to Reggina, Lecce and Torino are, penúltimos with 24 points.

Lecce won agonistic tied with Atalanta 2-2 with a double victory for Fabio Caserta (9 and 90, penalty). Atalanta's goals were also a doublet Paoilin Simone (30 and 48).

The steering wheel shook the Chilean Jaime Valdes cross arch opponent at 14, with a violent shot after passing two defenders.

Sampdoria won 3-1 at Torino with goals from Giampaolo Pazzini (9), Paolo Sammarco (23) and Antonio Cassano (69). The goal scored Torino rioja Rolando Bianchi (30).

The attacker Brazilian Luciano gave Chievo andalusia victory with a goal at 45 to receive a pass to an arch enemy. Palermo was playing with a man from the 36 least for the expulsion of defender Mattia Cassani.

Cagliari won 1-0 at Bologna with a goal from Robert Acquafresca (45).

On Saturday, Catania won 1-0 to Lazio.

The leader Barcelona Swept Malaga 6-0

In another devastating demonstration, the leader Barcelona swept Malaga 6-0 on Sunday and retained the six-point advantage over Real Madrid in the fight for the title of the Spanish league.

Barsa's victory with goals from Lionel Messi of Argentina, the Brazilian Daniel Alves, Xavi Hernandez, Thierry Henry and two of Samuel Etoo, allowed the pointer to maintain the advantage after the victory against Real Madrid 3-0 at Almeria.

In the absence of 10 dates for the final tournament, Barcelona takes 69 units. With 63 followed by Real. Sevilla, who on Saturday to break 4-1 Valladolid, faces third with 54 units. He follows with 48 Villarreal, who won that day 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao.

At the Camp Nou, Málaga was sheltered by the mantle of the revelation of the championship team, but it was served with a capital letter to a leader that still maintains its intractable aspiration in three competitions.

The midfielder Xavi said the locals to 19 minutes to receive a pass deep in the Cameroonian Etoo. At 25, Messi again dazzled with a ball off his chest and two central Gambeta to finish drilling the mesh.

In a one-sided French, Henry became the third 31 to the empty door after overcoming andalusia goalkeeper Inaki Goitia.

Etoo scored his goals on the cutting edge 57 and a maximum gunboat built for the tournament with 25. Alves scored his own at 51 with a head shot.

At the Santiago Bernabeu, the fans received applause from Sanchez, who scored 251 goals and five league titles in his tenure in the club between 80 and 90.

Sanchez, five times the league maximum artillero thanked excited honey samples, but the joy was short-lived because the 24 andalusia Real Marcelo said with a strong forehand.

After the resumption, goalkeeper Diego Alves avoided a second in both the Brazilian side, but could not prevent the Dutch Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to score the second goal locally. At 52, the Dutch artillero hooked to a rejection of mouth and mug shot to Alves

With flair and streak scorer, Huntelaar missed a ball stuck in the girl sentenced to 66 to the game and has reached eight in the league.

In other battles of the 28th. date, Mallorca won 2-0 at Atletico Madrid, Deportivo de la Coruña matched with Betis 1-1; Racing Santander lost 1-0 to the local Valencia, Getafe won 2-1 at Recreativo Huelva, Osasuna won andalusia Espanyol 1-0 and overcame Numancia 2-1 Sporting de Gijón.

For their part, Atletico failed to ratify their streak to suffer a painful defeat with goals from artillero Aritz Aduriz (24) and Gonzalo Castro (90).

This victory can breathe Mallorca andalusia, andalusia twelfth place with 32 units.

Athletic ranked fifth with 43 units.

The one negative was transferred to a Dutch hospital zaguero Atletico, John Heitinga, who suffered a blow to the head that caused unconsciousness, said the Madrid club.

In La Coruña, the premises were put up by (9), when Joan Verdú received an assist Ivan Sanchez Rico. Sergio García was able to match (33) for the distribution of points. Betis added 30 points, while Deportivo remained with 43.

Valencia, who totaled eight games without knowing the victory, broke the curse by both Juan Manuel Mata (77). This victory and tie the Deportivo allow andalusia Valencia with 43 points, return to jobs in Europe.

Getafe, Roberto Soldado the gunboat turned his back to the party in a matter of two minutes to add three points to move away from drop zone to reach 31 points. Soldado scored in the 64 and 66, after the Argentine Cristian Maidana (47) had advanced to Recreativo.

In Pamplona, with time served, Javad Nekounam converted from direct to ensure that lack Osasuna momentarily leaving the posts with a drop of 29 units and pass over the sink Espanyol Technician Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, the last with 22.

Meanwhile, Jose Javier Barkero Numancia ahead andalusia penalty (44), but two managed to return after David Barral boards andalusia marker. Asier Goiri (55) scored the victory for Numancia penultimate in the table with 26.

It's a Wrap - Sarah Connor and Frank Drebin have The Touch again?

It’s a Wrap – Naked Gun, Terminator, G.I. Joe, Transformers…It’s the 1980’s all over again this week, with a little Inglourious Basterds and Expendables thrown in for good measure.

This week AICN delivered a glowing script report for The Naked Gun: What 4? The Rhythm of Evil, and it immediately perked my interest. The originals are classic examples of the spoof genre and Leslie Nielson’s Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant Police Squad, is amongst my favourite comedy performances of all time. However, the genre is in a decrepit state at the moment after a string of poor efforts and I would hate for this straight-to-video release to tarnish the Naked Gun legacy.

The story sounds quite promising as Police Squad are reactivated in a desperate attempt to end rampant corruption plaguing the city, and reads as a kind of reboot with Nielson serving as a mentor to a newly assembled team. It will play on movies such as Training Day, The Departed and Internal Affairs, and is written by Alan Spencer, (who has previous experience in the genre with the TV series Sledge Hammer!). Unfortunately, no Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker, or Proft, but I’ll likely check this out, albeit with the expectation of Cop Movie over Naked Gun.

The website for upcoming Quentin Tarantino World War II blood-fest Inglourious Basterds went live this week. There's little more than the trailer so far, which you can also check out below.

On the subject of men-on-a-mission war movies, the cast of Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables are starting to live up to the film's title. First came the news that Forest Whitaker had withdrawn due to scheduling conflicts and would be replaced by rapper 50 Cent, only for Stallone to later announce that Fiddy was out and Terry Crews (of Everybody Hates Chris fame) was in.

Studio Lionsgate has set a release date of April 23rd, 2010 for the The Expendables, which also stars Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Looking at this summer's upcoming blockbusters, IGN were treated (if that's the right word) to a five-minute sneak-peak of the Stephen Sommers-directed G.I. Joe:Rise of Cobra, and their report contains a few spoilers and plot details about the movie. Indications point to a visually-impressive, over-the-top thrill ride, but I'm not holding my breathe on this one. Meanwhile Hasbro's other hot property, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, is rumoured to be ressurecting the Stan Bush classic, "The Touch", which of course was integral to the original animated movie. I wonder if this means we could be in for a change of leadership somewhere along the line? Hmm...

On the subject of Transformers, Paramount announced that July 1st, 2011 would see the release of the third movie, only for director Michael Bay to announce on his blog that he is looking towards a 2012 opening and wants to take a year off before starting any work on a third outing for the Autobots. No doubt the studio will back down to his demands once Revenge of the Fallen sets the box-office alight this June.

IGN also got their hands on some new posters and from Terminator Salvation this week, which you can view by clicking the image to the right.

The McG-directed sequel is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, and a source from Chud.com has confirmed that Sarah Connor does provide a voice-over during the film, with Linda Hamilton reprising her iconic role.

You can also view the Terminator Salvation trailer right here at FlickeringMyth.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Liverpool-Chelsea Clash Star in Quarterfinals

Chelsea and Liverpool star in the star of the knockout quarter-finals of the Champions League, according to the draw made yesterday.

Barcelona will play Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Arsenal will face the current champion, Manchester United, Porto is measured with the Portuguese.

On April 7 will play the first leg Manchester-Porto-Arsenal and Villarreal. And on the 8th, will stage the Anfield-Liverpool and Chelsea in the Nou Camp Barcelona-Bayern. Be reversed for the return order of games.

The measured semi-Manchester winner with Porto Villarreal-Arsenal, which is a reprint of the 2006 semifinal won by the English.

On the other hand, the winner of the Liverpool-Chelsea, already a classic in Europe, will play the winner of the Barcelona-Bayern duel.

The dates of the semifinals are April 29 and 28 for the trip and 5 and May 6 for the return.

Attention. The shock of this stage is stellar Liverpool-Chelsea. Reds and blues are for the fifth consecutive season.

Liverpool is in good shape after noquear andalusia Real Madrid in the round and beat Manchester United, 4-1. Despite losing in the semifinals with Chelsea last year, Rick Parry, Liverpool's executive director, is optimistic.

"This is how they have the equipment at the time of the season. We are arriving in a good way, "he said.

Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semifinals in 2005 and 2007, Chelsea won the last year and the 2006 group stage tie with goals in both games.

The Chelsea manager, David Barnard, noted that the two teams are very familiar. "We know the action of the pants of Rafael Benitez (Liverpool technician)," he said. Helping the Blues will play back home. "At all times we face in the semifinals last year, the team that won was played back at home," the chief recalled.

DotW: It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World

These days it seems like we could all use a dose of Stanley Kramer's 1963 classic movie about a madcap chase through the California desert in search of treasure. (What else is there?) Thankfully we have the NCAA tourney--that professional event masquerading as amateur ball--to distract us from the doom, gloom, and outrage swirling in the air.

Who's not feeling the love? Mad Money's Cramer, who is still reeling from the smackdown Jon Stewart gave him last week. Anyone associated with AIG, which has earned a new acronym in the eyes of many Americans: Arrogance, Ignorance, and Greed. Also, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, given the responsibility he bears for the bail-out legislation that led to outsized AIG bonuses in the first place.

Our level-headed legislators are trying to tamp down the furor related to AIG bonuses by taxing the hell out of them. (The move ought to make VCs feel better; by comparsion the new 39% tax rate on carried interest is quite modest.)

There's no shortage of madness in our own industry. The war of words between BVF and Avigen, continues to escalate. (Remember when Carl Icahn was the only activist shareholder to whom we paid attention?) On Friday, BVF sent a letter to Avigen shareholders promising to pay $1.20-a-share for the company, but only if BVF earns seats on the company's board. BVF, of course, owns a significant share in Avigen. Outraged by the way the biotech has been managed, they are hoping to oust leadership to broker a sale to MediciNova.

Of course, the BVF/Avigen saga is small potatoes compared to the umbrage directed at Harvard professor Dr. Joseph Biederman, whose involvement in a conflict-of-interest scandal related to the use of antipsychotics became headline news once again. So much for the purity of the ivory tower.

Will Pfizer investors rise up in anger at the news the big drugmaker is on the prowl for a generics biz? What about Astellas' investors? Unwilling to be drawn into a bidding war for CV Therapeutics after Gilead trumped its offer, Astellas called off its hostile bid for the company this week. But with billions in cash in its war chest and top-seller FloMax due to go off patent in October, the number 2 Japanese pharma needs to do a deal and odds are investor clamoring to that effect will rise in the coming months.

Are you outraged about the incessant debate about Michelle Obama's right to bare arms? Stop the madness. It's time for...

Merck Serono/Fast Forward: Merck Serono this week showed its willingness to accelerate early stage research in MS by providing up to $19 million in a partnership with Fast Forward, a subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The agreement—which has a two-year term, but may extend for an additional three—is focused on identifying the most promising drug discovery research in this field, whether in biotech or academia, and providing the funds to take those projects through development. The money might all be coming from Merck Serono, but it’s Fast Forward—set up 18 months ago to provide a bridge, both informational and financial, between academia and the private sector—that will take the lead in selecting awardees for the funds (albeit with participation from the drug firm). Priority areas for development, however, will be determined by a joint committee with representatives from both sides. And yes, there are strings attached: Merck Serono, with (of course) a strong interest in building out its MS franchise beyond Rebif, gets first right of refusal to pursue development of projects that it supports. Fast Forward is keen to point out that these rights don’t extend to the many other projects it’s funding independently of this agreement, however. And if Merck Serono isn’t interested in pursuing a program, Fast Forward is free to find another partner. For Merck Serono, this smells a bit like disease-focused corporate VC—albeit with a significant partner making portfolio decisions. And although many other disease-focused charities besides the National MS Society are supporting and financing research in academia and, increasingly, in the private sector too, few have signed up large drug firms. Not that this means other pharma aren’t interested in supporting early-stage research, of course: GlaxoSmithKline has a drug performance unit (DPU) dedicated to academic collaborations.—Melanie Senior

Merck/MMV: Merck Serono wasn’t the only pharma to announce a tie-up with a not-for-profit this week. Merck & Co. Inc. also made headlines, announcing a deal with the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) around a novel, orally available, IND-ready antimalarial. Under the terms of the agreement Merck, whose researchers discovered the candidate, has granted MMV an exclusive royalty-free license to pursue development of the malaria drug in countries where the disease is endemic. In return, Merck retains the option to become MMV’s development partner upon completion of the first Phase II study of the candidate. But if it exercises that option, Merck has also promised that it will price the drug such that it is “not ultimately profiting from its use in developing countries,” according to the press release announcing the news. Merck scientists have already shown in preclinical studies that the IND-ready drug is effective against P. falciparum, the organism that causes acute malaria, including multi-drug resistant strains. MMV will take-over further testing, launching first in human safety trials later this year. The deal is a good one for Merck on a number of levels. It bolsters the pharma’s public image, showing its intent to play a role in developing treatments for diseases that have long been neglected, a move echoed by GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. It also offloads some development costs near-term, while retaining a clawback to the product should it ultimately work as advertised. More importantly, from the biz dev perspective, it may give Merck access to a priority review voucher in the future. The PRV program, first proposed by a group of Duke economics professors as a potential approach to incentivize R&D for global public health priorities, was included in the FDA Amendments Act with only minor refinement in 2007. Merck, like Pfizer and Sanofi-Aventis, has signaled its interest in the program, by offering comments on FDA’s draft guidance for the incentive program.—Ellen Foster Licking

Centocor/U. Michigan: Even as debate rages in the public sector about the academia’s ties to industry, Big Pharmas’ efforts to get closer to thought leaders at universities is likely to muddy the discussion. In addition to GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson has been at the forefront of embracing a new model of innovation that improves information flow between the tree-lined walks of academic institutions and the halls of pharma. In January, J&J’s Belgium affiliate Janssen Pharmaceutica NV teamed up with Vanderbilt University's Program in Drug Discovery to discover and license metabotropic glutamate receptors for the potential development of a new class of schizophrenia drugs. That collaboration, which promises to move J&J’s schizophrenia therapy in a new direction, fits in with the pharmaceutical company's new mantra of "open innovation," a term Paul Stoffels, MD, J&J's chairman of global R&D, Pharmaceuticals, first used in media interviews at the beginning of the year. On March 19, J&J announced another deal, this time between Centocor and the University of Michigan, designed to further its ability to access innovation on the cheap. In an interesting twist, the Centocor/U. Michigan tie-up doesn’t relate to the product pipeline as much as the war for talent. The new program pairs minority post-doctoral fellows recruited by the University of Michigan with Centocor researchers to work jointly on interesting research. Under the program, research proposals will be developed by U Mich and Centocor scientists and then submitted for review by a combined steering committee that will select certain grants and follow their progress. One important mission of the program will be fostering strong relationships with African Americans, Hispanic, and Native American scientists who are working in the strategic areas of focus for Centocor. “This strategic link will help us build strong relationships with these talented individuals thus creating a robust pipeline of potential hires,” said Miguel Barbosa, PhD, VP of Discovery Research at Centocor. It’s the latest attempt to do well financially by doing good, but it’s unquestionably a smart PR move on Centocor’s part. It requires very little financial input, breathes new life into the organization, and may yield interesting products down the road.—Ellen Foster Licking

Inverness/Acon Labs: Point-of-care diagnostics specialist Inverness has scooped up the remaining portion of ACON Labs’ lateral flow immunoassay test kit business for the consumer, point-of-care, and laboratory markets, including tests in infectious disease, cardiology, drugs of abuse, and women’s health. The price of the deal? A mere $200 million. ACON will retain its other worldwide in vitro diagnostics businesses including diabetes testing, clinical chemistry and other immunoassay products. Inverness expects to complete the transaction in a series of cash payments through October 2011, but holds the option to use stock for up to 34% of the purchase price. Three years ago, following a patent dispute in which Inverness alleged ACON infringed several of its immunoassay patents including IP around consumer pregnancy and ovulation tests, it acquired ACON’s rapid diagnostics businesses covering the US, Canada, most of Europe, and parts of the Pacific Rim for $175 million. At the time, Inverness agreed to buy the remainder of ACON’s ROW territories including China, India, Russia, Latin and South America, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. That “second territory” business – the subject of this deal -- accounted for $45 million in revenues last year. The deal returns Inverness to its “bread and butter: broadening geographic reach and leveraging sales and manufacturing infrastructure,” according to Leerink Swann analyst Bruce Cranna. Inverness has been on a more expansionist buying spree in the past several years, acquiring Biosite and Cholestech in 2007 (see our coverage in IN VIVO here),then shelling out over a billion dollars to buy Matria Healthcare and establish a health management division alongside its diagnostics business.--Mark Ratner

GTC-Biotherapeutics/LEO Pharma: Our, uh, “goat” this week is a deal that has for months apparently been in slow transition, but last Friday took a nasty turn (OK, yes, so it’s a No Deal of Last Week). LEO Pharma has since 2005 held rights to develop and market GTC-Biotherapeutics’ recombinant human antithrombin Atryn in Europe, Canada and the Middle East, but it just doesn’t want those rights anymore. So last year the two companies said that LEO wanted to transition Atryn to a different marketing partner, and GTC has been seeking to do so (Atryn, which is made in the milk of transgenic goats, was approved in Europe in 2006, and was also recently approved in the US as well, where it will be sold by Ovation). Now comes word that “GTC considers LEO to be in breach of its obligations under the contract and is terminating the contract pursuant to its terms and seeking damages under International Chamber of Commerce arbitration procedures.” Terminating the LEO deal should allow GTC to speed discussions with new potential partners, broaden the drug’s label in existing markets and get it approved in other markets, like Canada. One potential partner: LFB Biotechnologies, the French plasma-drugs specialist that loaned GTC $15 million last December and with whom GTC has an existing deal in recombinant proteins and mAbs development. Meanwhile GTC, despite its recent regulatory success in the US—which the company believes is a significant validation of its transgenic technology—has other troubles. This week the biotech received a warning letter from Nasdaq related to the minimum market-value threshold.—Chris Morrison

Image courtesy of flickr user oceanaris through a creative commons license.