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Bush’s Iraq ‘Strategy’ seen as public relations exercise

Sunday, December 4, 2005

The US commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq said that he had no knowledge of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq document released by the US President. This, along with speculation that the document was chiefly authored by a public opinion analyst recruited by the White House have led to some critics claiming that the drafted ‘strategy’ is targeting US public opinion, not the Iraqi insurgency.

The military, political and economic strategy for Iraq, outlined last week by President Bush in a speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, was based by a 35-page document titled the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. A metadata tag on the document posted on the White House website identified its author as a computer user ‘feaver_p’. It is believed to refer to Dr. Peter D. Feaver, a special advisor to the National Security Council staff.

A political scientist at Duke University, Dr. Feaver analyzed public opinion polls about the Iraq war and attitudes towards war casualties. Dr. Feaver found that US public opinion will support military engagement abroad, despite growing casualties, provided that the public believed that the war was being fought for a worthy cause and that victory was achievable.

Dr. Feaver was one of the people who helped “conceive and draft” the document, according to a White House staffer, who said that Meghan L. O’Sullivan, the deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, and her staff played a larger role. White House officials confirmed to the New York Times that the document’s “creation and presentation strongly reflected the public opinion research”.

The document “reflects the broad interagency effort under way in Iraq” according to an NSC spokesman Frederick Jones and had received major contributions from the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury and Homeland Security, as well as the director of National Intelligence.

On Friday, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, whose Multinational Security Transition Command is responsible for building Iraq’s security forces, told reporters that he had seen the strategy document for the first time when it was released to the public. The White House had said that not all senior officers in Iraq had necessarily seen the document and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that he had read and critiqued the document on several occasions.

Earlier, replying to questions about the President’s strategy, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that the document was an “inter-agency document” and an “unclassified version” of the administrations “strategy for victory in Iraq” published for the public to view.

Christopher F. Gelpi, of Duke University, who co-authored Dr. Feaver’s work titled Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq, stated, “The Pentagon doesn’t need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion.” In their work together, Gelpi, Feaver and Reifler found that the most important factor which determines the US public’s tolerance for US military deaths in a war is the public’s beliefs about the likelihood of success, and a secondary, but still important, factor, was found to be the public’s belief in the rightness of a war.

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Officials: Plot to kill Indonesian president foiled

Friday, May 14, 2010

Indonesian authorities said earlier today that they have uncovered a plot by rebels to assassinate several senior government officials, among them president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

National police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri commented on the matter earlier today, saying that several rebels intended to conduct the attack and declare an Islamic state during the August 17 independence day ceremony. “They were confident that all state officials and dignitaries would be there. Killing all the state officials would have accelerated the transition from a democracy to a state controlled by Islamic Shariah law,” he said.

Danuri added that the attacks also included a plan to attack foreigners and hotels in the capital Jakarta — somewhat similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 174 after rebels attacked tourist spots like hotels and a train station.

“Their plan was also to launch attacks in Jakarta against foreigners — especially Americans — and attack and control hotels within certain communities, imitating what happened in Mumbai,” the police chief said. “If we had not detected them and their military training had been successful, then they would have assassinated foreigners.”

The plot was revealed in part due to several anti-terror raids near the capital, which saw twenty people arrested. Many of those now in custody were reportedly trained at a camp in Aceh, and operated by a branch of the Jemaah Islamiyah group called al-Qaeda in Aceh.

This is reportedly the second alleged plot to assassinate the Indonesian president in a year; last August, security forces said they had evidence suggesting rebels would blow up a car by Yudhonoyo’s motorcade. The last large rebel attack was in last July, when suicide bombers targeted hotels in the capital.

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Forex Trading In Pakistan

Submitted by: Christopher Granger

Forex trading in Pakistan has been developing at a fast rate, and regular people are now producing more profit through currency pair trading. Even though a lot of people in the trade industry are around Lahore and Karachi, there are still several more people joining from the other areas. The foreign exchange trade, or more commonly known as Forex, is a large market and only financial firms and big banks was to be involved until recently. Today, almost any individual with an Internet connection can be involved in Forex trading because of its fast development and the introduction of broker spot trade.

When it comes to Forex trading in Pakistan, among the biggest obstacles for trading was language. English may not be the main language of Pakistan, but there is an increasing use of the language around the country. Thus, more and more Pakistanis are starting to get comfortable with the Forex trading world. Only a basic comprehension of English is sufficient to be a Forex trader. What you have to understand most importantly are the charts and figures. If you have no trouble with this part of the deal, then you may go on to the next step, which is finding the best online Foreign exchange broker in Pakistan.

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There are a lot of factors to mull over when selecting the best Forex broker for you. Some of these include: the withdrawing and depositing alternatives they support; the minimum quantity you require depositing in order to begin trading; whether they provide a demonstration profile with play cash to practice your techniques or not; the performance of the support staff; how much they are obtaining as spread; whether their interface is user and beginner friendly, and up to standards; as well as plenty of other factors. Considering all these factors, you may come up with the conclusion that the best Forex trading in Pakistan is E-Toro. E-Toro is generally deemed on of the finest beginner-friendly Forex interfaces offered all over the world, and was deemed the most ground-breaking trading interface in 2010. With its existing features such as the Forex marathon, live chat with other Forex traders, and Forex chart, E-Toro is a terrific place for a novice to learn the strategies of the trading system.

If you have finally chosen the ideal Forex broker in Pakistan for you, you may then start learning the fundamentals of Forex trading. You must try new techniques in your demonstration profile and enhance your skills. It is recommended to make use of your demo profile for at least one month prior to involving yourself with the real trade.

An important thing to take not of is that even though you may begin investing your profile with as small as $25, you may want to invest larger amount as you may benefit from excellent offers such as first-time deposit bonuses. For instance, E-Toro offers a first-time deposit bonus of 50 percent for deposits of $1,000 at most. This means that if you invest $200, you will get an additional $100.

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Antje Duvekot on life as a folk singer, her family and her music

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Boston-based singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot has made a name for herself in the folk music world with powerful ballads of heartbreak and longing for a deeper spirituality, but coming up empty-handed. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with the folk chanteuse.


David Shankbone: Tell me about your new album.

Antje Duvekot: It’s called Big Dream Boulevard and it’s the first studio album I made. It’s not so new; I made it in May of 2006. It’s produced by Séamus Egan, who is the leader of a fairly renowned band named Solas.

DS: You mentioned you used to explore more dark themes in your work, but that lately you are exploring lighter fare. What themes are you exploring on this album?

AD: In the future I am hoping for more light themes. I feel like I have worked through a lot of the darkness, and personally I feel like I’m ready to write a batch of lighter songs, but that’s just how I’m feeling right now. My last record, Big Dream Boulevard, was a pretty heavy record and that was not intentional. I write what is on my mind.

DS: What were you going through that made it so dark?

AD: The record is drawn from my whole writing career, so it’s old and new songs as well. I wasn’t going through anything in particular because it was spanning a wide time period. I think it’s fair to say that over all I turn to music in times of trouble and need as a therapeutic tool to get me through sadness. That’s why I tend to turn to music. So my songs tend to be a little darker, because that’s where I tend to go for solace. So themes like personal struggle with relationships and existential issues.

DS: What personal relationships do you struggle with?

AD: A lot of my songs are about dating and relationship troubles. That’s one category. But a lot of my songs are about existential questions because I struggle with what to believe in.

DS: Do you believe in a higher power?

AD: I’m sort of an atheist who wishes I could believe something.

DS: What do you believe?

AD: It’s undefined. I think I’m spiritual in music, which is my outlet, but I just can’t get on board with an organized religion. Not even Unitarianism. I do miss something like that in my life, though.

DS: Why do you miss having religion in your life?

AD: I think every human being craves a feeling that there is a higher purpose. It’s a need for me. A lot of my songs express that struggle.

DS: Does the idea that our lives on Earth may be all that there is unsettle you?

AD: Yes, sure. I think there’s more. I’m always seeking things of beauty, and my art reflects the search for that.

DS: You had said in an interview that your family wasn’t particularly supportive of your career path, but you are also saying they were atheists who weren’t curious about the things you are curious about. It sounds like you were a hothouse flower.

AD: Yes. I think what went with my parents’ atheism was a distrust of the arts as frivolous and extraneous. They were very pragmatic.

DS: They almost sound Soviet Communist.

AD: Yeah, a little bit [Laughs]. They had an austere way of living, and my wanting to pursue music as a career was the last straw.

DS: What’s your relationship with them now?

AD: I don’t actually speak to my mother and stepfather.

DS: Why?

AD: A lot of reasons, but when I was about 21 I was fairly certain I wanted to go the music path and they said, “Fine, then go!”

DS: That’s the reason you don’t speak with them?

AD: That’s the main. “Go ahead, do what you want, and have a nice life.” So the music thing cost the relationship with my parents, although I think there may have been some other things that have done it.

DS: That must be a difficult thing to contend with, that a career would be the basis for a relationship.

AD:Yes, it’s strange, but my love of music is perhaps stronger for it because of the sacrifices I have made for it early on. I had to fight.

DS: Would you say in your previous work some of your conflict of dating would have been birthed from how your relationship with your family? How do you see the arc of your work?

AD: My songs are sort of therapy for me, so you can trace my personal progress through them [Laughs]. I think there is some improvement. I wrote my first love song the other day, so I think I’m getting the hang of what relationships are all about. I’m ever grateful for music for being there for me when things weren’t going so well.

DS: Has the Iraq War affected you as an artist?

AD: Not directly, but I do have a few songs that are political. One about George Bush and the hypocrisy, but it’s very indirect; you wouldn’t know it was about George Bush.

DS: How has it affected you personally?

AD: I feel sad about it. People say my music is sad, but it’s a therapeutic thing so the war affects me.

DS: The struggle to be original in art is innate. When you are coming up with an idea for a song and then you all of a sudden stumble across it having been done somewhere else, how do you not allow that to squelch your creative impulse and drive to continue on.

AD: That’s a good question. I started writing in a vacuum just for myself and I didn’t have a lot of feedback, and I thought that what I’m saying has been said so many times before. Then my songs got out there and people told me, ‘You say it so originally’ and I thought ‘Really?!’ The way I say it, to me, sounds completely trite because it’s the way I would say it and it doesn’t sound special at all. Once my record came out I got some amount of positive reviews that made me think I have something original, which in turn made me have writer’s block to keep that thing that I didn’t even know I had. So now I’m struggling with that, trying to maintain my voice. Right now I feel a little dried-out creatively.

DS: When I interviewed Augusten Burroughs he told me that when he was in advertising he completely shut himself off from the yearly ad books that would come out of the best ads that year, because he wanted to be fresh and not poisoned by other ideas; whereas a band called The Raveonettes said they don’t try to be original they just do what they like and are upfront about their influences. Where do you fall in that spectrum?

AD: Probably more towards Augusten Burroughs because when I first started writing it was more in a vacuum, but I think everyone has their own way. You can’t not be influenced by your experience in life.

DS: Who would you say are some of your biggest influences in the last year. Who have you discovered that has influenced you the most?

AD: Influence is kind of a strong word because I don’t think I’m taking after these people. I’ve been moved by this girl named Anais Mitchell. She’s a singer-songwriter from Vermont who is really unique. She’s just got signed to Righteous Babe Records. Patty Griffin just moves me deeply.

DS: You moved out of New York because you had some difficulty with the music scene here?

AD: I feel it is a little tougher to make it here than in Boston if you are truly acoustic folk lyric driven. I find that audiences in New York like a certain amount of bling and glamor to their performances. A little more edge, a little cooler. I felt for me Boston was the most conducive environment.

DS: Do you feel home up in Boston?

AD:I do, and part of that is the great folk community.

DS: Why do you think Boston has such a well-developed folk scene?

AD: It’s always historically been a folk hub. There’s a lot of awesome folk stations like WUMB and WERS. Legendary folk clubs, like Club Passim. Those have stayed in tact since the sixties.

DS: Is there anything culturally about Boston that makes it more conducive to folk?

AD: Once you have a buzz, the buzz creates more buzz. Some people hear there’s a folk scene in Boston, and then other people move there, so the scene feeds itself and becomes a successful scene. It’s on-going.

DS: Do you have a favorite curse word?

AD: [Giggles] Cunt. [Giggles]

DS: Really?! You are the first woman I have met who likes that word!

AD: Oh, really? I’ll use it in a traffic situation. Road rage. [Laughs]

DS: Do you find yourself more inspired by man-made creations, including people and ideas, or nature-made creations?

AD: I love nature, but it is limited. It is what it is, and doesn’t include the human imagination that can go so much further than nature.

DS: What are some man made things that inspire you?

AD: New York City as a whole is just an amazing city. People are so creative and it is the hub of personal creativity, just in the way people express themselves on a daily basis.

DS: Do you think you will return?

In theory I will return one day if I have money, but in theory you need money to enjoy yourself.

DS: What trait do you deplore in yourself?

AD: Like anyone, I think laziness. I’m a bit a hard on myself, but there’s always more I can do. As a touring singer-songwriter I work hard, but sometimes I forget because I get to sleep in and my job is not conventional, and sometimes I think ‘Oh, I don’t even have a job, how lazy I am!’ [Laughs] Then, of course, there are times I’m touring my ass off and I work hard as well. It comes in shifts. There are times there is so much free time I have to structure my own days, and that’s a challenge.

DS: When is the last time you achieved a goal and were disappointed by it and thought, “Is that all there is?” Something you wanted to obtain, you obtained it, and it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as you thought it would be.

AD: I was just thinking about the whole dream of becoming a musician. I want to maybe do a research project about people’s dreams and how they feel about them after they come true. It’s really interesting. They change a lot. When I was 17 I saw Ani Difranco on stage and I wanted to do that, and now I’m doing it. Now I think about Ani very differently. I wonder how long it took her to drive here, she must be tired; I’m thinking of all the pragmatic things that go on behind the scenes. The backside of a dream you never consider when you’re dreaming it. To some extent, having my dream fulfilled hasn’t been a let-down, but it’s changed. It’s more realistic.

DS: What is a new goal?

AD: Balance. Trying to grow my career enough to make sure it doesn’t consume me. It’s hard to balance a touring career because there is no structure to your life. I’m trying to take this dream and make it work as a job.

DS: How challenging is it to obtain that in the folk world?

AD: There’s not a lot of money in the folk world. In generally right now I think people’s numbers are down and only a few people can make a living at it. It’s pretty competitive. I’m doing okay, but there’s no huge riches in it so I’m trying to think of my future and maintain a balance in it.

DS: Do you think of doing something less folk-oriented to give your career a push?

Not really, I’ve done that a little bit by trying to approach the major labels, but that was when the major labels were dying so I came in at a bad time for that. I found that when it comes to do it yourself, the folk world is the best place to make money because as soon as you go major you are paying a band.

DS: More money more problems.

AD: More money, more investing. It’s a hard question.

DS: What things did you encounter doing a studio album that you had not foreseen?

AD: Giving up control is hard when you have a producer. His vision, sometimes, is something you can’t understand and have to trust sometimes. See how it comes out. That was hard for me, because up until now I have been such a do it yourself, writing my own songs, recording them myself.

DS: What is your most treasured possession?

AD: I’d like to say my guitar, but I’m still looking for a good one. I have this little latex glove. [Laughs] It’s a long story—

DS: Please! Do tell!

AD: When I was in college I had a romantic friend named David, he was kind of my first love. We were young and found this latex glove in a parking lot. We though, “Oh, this is a nice glove, we’ll name him Duncan.”

DS: You found a latex glove in a parking lot and you decided to take it?

AD: Yeah [Laughs]. He became the symbol of our friendship. He’s disgusting at this point, he’s falling apart. But David and I are still friends and we’ll pass him back and forth to each other every three years or so when we’ve forgotten his existence. David surprised me at a show in Philly. He gave Duncan to the sound man who brought it back stage, and now I have Duncan. So he’s kind of special to me.

DS: If you could choose how you die, how would you choose?

AD: Not freezing to death, and not in an airplane, because I’m afraid of flying. Painlessly, like most people. In my sleep when I’m so old and senile I don’t know what hit me. I’d like to get real old.

DS: Would you be an older woman with long hair or short hair?

AD: I guess short hair, because long hair looks a little witchy on old people.

DS: Who are you supporting for President?

AD: I’m torn between Obama and Hillary. Someone who is going to win, so I guess Hillary.

DS: You don’t think Obama would have a chance of winning?

AD: I don’t know. If he did, I would support Barack. I don’t really care; either of those would make me happy.

DS: What trait do you value most in your friends?

AD: Kindness.

DS: What trait do you deplore in other people?

AD: Arrogance. Showiness.

DS: Where else are you going on tour?

AD: Alaska in a few days. Fairbanks, Anchorage and all over the place. I’m a little nervous because I will be driving by myself and I have this vision that if I get hit by a moose then I could freeze to death.

DS: And you have to fly up there!

AD: Yeah, and I hate flying as well—so I’m really scared! [Laughs]

DS: Is there a big folk scene in Alaska?

AD: No, but I hear people are grateful if anyone makes it up there, especially in the winter. I think they are hungry for any kind of entertainment, no matter the quality. [Laughs] Someone came to us! I actually played there in June in this town called Seldovia, that has 300 people, and all 300 people came to my gig, so the next day I was so famous! Everyone knew me, the gas station attendant, everyone. It was surreal.

DS: So you had that sense of what Ani DiFranco must feel.

AD: Yeah! I was Paul McCartney. I thought this was what it must be like to be Bruce Springsteen, like I can’t even buy a stick of gum without being recognized.

DS: Did you like that?

AD: I think it would be awful to be that famous because you have moments when you just don’t feel like engaging.
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Eric Bogosian on writing and the creative urge

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eric Bogosian is one of America’s great multi-dimensional talents. “There’s sort of three different careers, and any one of them could exist by itself, on its own two feet. There was that solo stuff, and then I started writing plays in the late seventies.” Although his work has spanned genres, most readers will recognize Bogosian for his acting, which has included a memorable performance in Woody Allen‘s Deconstructing Harry to co-writing and starring in the Oliver Stone movie Talk Radio (based upon his Pulitzer Prize-nominated play) to playing the bad guy in Under Siege 2 to his current role in Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Captain Danny Ross. They may not know, however, that he had collaborated with Frank Zappa on a album, worked with Sonic Youth, and was a voice on Mike Judge‘s Beavis & Butthead Do America. He started one of New York City’s largest dance companies, The Kitchen, which is still in existence. He starred alongside Val Kilmer in Wonderland and his play Talk Radio was recently revived on Broadway with Liev Schreiber in the role Bogosian wrote and made famous.

Currently at work on his third novel, tentatively titled The Artist, Bogosian spoke with David Shankbone about the craft of writing and his life as a creative.

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Sunflower oil saves at-risk newborns from infection

Saturday, March 5, 2005Simply massaging low birth weight babies with sunflower seed oil can protect them from potentially fatal infections.

Infections and complications from preterm birth cause more than half of all neonatal deaths, and very low birth weight babies are particularly vulnerable.

Preterm babies have immature skin that lacks a protective film called vernix that has antimicrobial properties.

In some countries, such as India, newborns are routinely massaged with mustard oil.

But mustard oil, says Gary Darmstadt of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, can delay recovery of the skin barrier and have a toxic effect on skin.

Seeking an alternative low-cost product, Darmstadt and colleagues experimented with sunflower oil and an ointment called Aquaphor that comprises petrolatum, mineral oil, mineral wax and lanolin.

The researchers tested the treatments on 497 newborns (72 hours old or less) and preterm babies (less than 33 weeks gestation) between 1998 and 2003 in Bangladesh.

They applied the treatments to the entire body besides the scalp and face three times daily for the first 14 days and then twice daily until discharge.

Babies treated with sunflower oil were found 41% less likely to develop infections than controls.

“Evidence is emerging that the skin is much more important as a barrier to infection than previously recognized, particularly in preterm infants whose skin is underdeveloped,” says Darmstadt. “The good news is that treatment is available to strengthen the function of the skin as a barrier in these vulnerable newborns.”

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Formulation Development: Amorphous Dispersions In Pharmaceutical Development

Submitted by: Bruce Rehlaender, Ph.D.

Background

Many new drug molecules have solubility problems with some having almost no aqueous solubility. This creates formulation development issues since many standard formulation techniques may not be successful in delivering a drug orally. A common approach to improving oral delivery is to use the amorphous form of an active pharmaceutical ingredient. The amorphous form will have higher apparent solubility compared to its crystalline counterpart. This improvement in apparent solubility can be a strategy to increase oral absorption and bioavailability when in-vivo dissolution is the rate-limiting step. In general, the increased surface area exposure of the amorphous form can decrease time for drug to solvate and be absorbed.

Benefits

The key benefit of the higher apparent solubility is a faster dissolution rate which may lead to higher bioavailability when poorly water soluble drugs can be enhanced with this technique. The higher dissolution can also improve exposure with a more rapid onset and some cases allow a lower dose than needed for a crystalline form of the drug.

Downsides

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The major disadvantage of using an amorphous form is their enhanced properties are offset by the decreased physical and chemical stability relative to the crystalline form. Amorphous solids are metastable and may recrystallize during storage,. Another limitation occurs during dissolution where trace amounts of crystalline drug may act as nucleating agents when the drug is introduced to aqueous media. Another issue is when an amorphous solid is undergoing dissolution. The supersaturated solution generated in the dissolution media around this solid is thermodynamically metastable or unstable and may undergo a phase transformation to a lower free energy state. At supersaturation there will be a thermodynamic driving force for crystallization from solution to a more stable crystalline form. If this phase transition takes place rapidly, the actual supersaturation will be much lower than expected and the benefits of the amorphous form will be lost.

Techniques

A common technique to stabilize an amorphous form in solid state and to protect from phase transition during dissolution is to formulate the drug as a solid dispersion. This formulation is a mixture of the API in the amorphous form with a solid dispersion with a second component, such as a polymer. The stabilizing of amorphous APIs has been attributed to an antiplasticization effect since solid dispersions typically possess higher glass transition temperatures than the pure amorphous drug thus resulting in a lower molecular mobility that prevents phase transition. The stability may also be due to formation of specific drug-polymer interactions such as hydrogen bonds.

There are many cases where the addition of a polymer significantly delayed the onset of crystallization in the solid state. This physical stabilization has been attributed to several factors, such as reduction in molecular mobility, reduction in the thermodynamic driving force for crystallization, increase in the energy barrier for crystallization, disruption of molecular recognition necessary for drug crystallization, or a combination of these factors. Regardless of the specific mechanism, drug polymer blends are more resistant to drug crystallization than the amorphous drug alone. Polymers that are commonly used to stabilize the amorphous state during storage include HPMC, HPMCAS, HPMCP, CAP, Eudragit and Povidone.

An approach is to use an amorphous dispersion where there is an intimate mixture of a drug and a polymer in which the polymer disperses the drug and helps to maintain it in an amorphous form. In this system the drug is dispersed on a molecular level and its release is controlled by erosion of the polymer framework rather than by the dissolution of the drug. This can provide a dissolution pattern that is an independent mechanism of controlled release.

The formulation development team has a number of techniques available to stabilize amorphous drugs with polymers. In a dispersion processes, the API and polymer are heated until they melt or a molten drug or dissolved in a molten polymer. The melt is then extruded, cooled and milled. In a spray drying process, a solution of the drug and polymer in a common solvent is sprayed and dried thus forming a highly concentrated drug/polymer gel also known as a solid solution. The hot melt extrusion has gained popularity for preparing solid dispersion due to many advantages, such as free of solvents, simple procedures and uniform product quality. Co-crystallization is another solid state approach which improves the apparent solubility of the without compromising its structural integrity and bioactivity.

Conclusion

In the formulation development of poorly soluble compounds, forming and stabilizing the amorphous drug has become an important approach when attempting to produce a drug product that will perform consistently over time. These formulations can maintain the performance benefit of an amorphous form while preventing phase transitions during storage thus allowing for the development of viable pharmaceutical products containing a poorly soluble drug.

Look for more articles like this one by searching for “PharmaDirections Formulation Development Blog”.

About the Author: Bruce Rehlaender, Ph.D., Principal, Formulation Development at

PharmaDirections

, a pharmaceutical consulting and project management company specializing in

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,

CMC

and

regulatory affairs

. We design and direct preclinical programs for biotech firms.

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U.S. House rejects Senate version of payroll tax cut

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives voted to effectively reject the Senate version of a bill, passed with bipartisan support, to extend a payroll tax cut two months past its year-end expiration date. The House voted instead to create a conference committee to settle differences between members of both bodies.

Although the tax cut extension itself has support among Republicans and Democrats, lawmakers disagree on how Congress should go about compensating for the cost of extending the cut and the policy changes it would entail.

During an appearance yesterday, President Obama condemned opposition to the Senate-passed version of the bill, accusing Republicans in the House of trying to negotiate on matters unrelated to the bill. Republicans, in response, say there is still time to negotiate the bill, insisting that lawmakers ought to concentrate on a year-long plan rather than a two-month extension. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, however, says he will not agree to negotiate the tax cut extension until the Senate-approved bill is passed by the House.

If the tax cut is not extended and instead expires on December 31, approximately 160 million Americans will be affected by the tax increase; President Obama insists the only way to prevent the tax hike beginning January 1 is for the House to pass the Senate bill. In response, House Speaker and Republican John Boehner wants Obama to “call on the Senate to return” to negotiate. The Senate, shortly after passing the bill, adjourned for the Holiday break.

Also included in the bill is a provision that would require President Obama to make a decision regarding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that would transport oil from Canada to Texas.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi blamed the congressional year-end impasse on “Tea Party Republicans.” In a letter to President Obama, Speaker Boehner requested he galvanize the Senate to negotiate on the bill’s provisions, writing “The differences between the two different bills can be quickly reconciled to provide the American people the certainty of a full-year bill. There are still 11 days before the end of the year, and with so many Americans struggling, there is no reason they should be wasted. You have said many times that Congress must do its work before taking vacation”.

 This story has updates See U.S. Congress reaches deal on payroll tax cut extension, December 23, 2011 
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WHO: Polio reemerging in Africa

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier today that polio has reemerged in several countries in Africa. WHO Africa regional director Luis Gomes Sambo made the announcement at the beginning of a Zimbabwe conference regarding child immunisation.

“Several polio-free countries have suffered setback in polio eradication. The number of countries with polio outbreaks following wild poliovirus importations has increased from thirteen to nineteen in 2009,” Sambo commented.

He also added that “we need better management of the available resources for immunization, human resources, technologies and we need increased funding to improve the capacity of governments to purchase vaccines and we need also greater mobilization of people. We need to inform people that to bring their people to vaccination campaigns.”

The Zimbabwe conference takes place at a time when there has been a considerable decline of under-five mortality in the region. Sambo, however, said that sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 51% of all under-five deaths globally in 2008. At this rate, he noted, Africa cannot achieve the fourth UN Millennium Development Goal to reduce under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.

The countries that have had increases in polio included Angola, Chad, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The WHO attributed the rise mostly to lack of immunisations. The agency estimates that 75% of children on the continent receive vaccines, and has said it will try to raise the number to 85%.

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46 illegal Afghan immigrants suffocate in truck in Pakistan

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

 Correction — Nov 1, 2013 The article below claims each passenger paid 4000 to 8000 USD. Each paid 30,000 Rupees, equivilent at the time to about US$375. 

The bodies of 46 Afghan illegal immigrants who suffocated to death in a container truck Saturday near Quetta, Pakistan, returned home Tuesday.

The Edhi Foundation placed the victim’s bodies into coffins to transport them back to Chaman. Funeral prayers were said before victims left Quetta hospital. “We are taking these dead bodies to Spin Boldak and later these will be flown to Kabul by helicopter. We are thankful to Pakistan government for every help,” said Afghan consul general Daud Mohsini.

Afghan officials received the bodies from The Edhi ambulances and Pakistan police escorts at the Pak-Afghan border Bab-e-Dosti (Friendship Gate). Security was high and traffic was backed up at the border crossing. The bodies were taken to Kandahar then to Kabul before they were laid to rest in their home towns.

Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan dispatched aircraft to Pakistan to bring home the 46 victims. Poor weather grounded the planes, and the bodies were driven back across the border.

Pakistan police found a locked truck packed with approximately 111 Afghan illegal immigrants around 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Quetta on Saturday. The driver had fled the scene where 62 people were initially pronounced dead. Police said that from the strong smell emanating from the truck, the victims may have died days before they were discovered.

45 other people were found unconscious and taken directly to the hospital. At hospital two more migrants died. “The death toll is 46,” said Ghulam Dastagir, a police official.

Wazir Khan Nasir, a senior police official said, “We have been able to talk to some of the people, who were trapped in the container. They were all Afghans in the container and the container was going to Iran, When the condition of people inside the container deteriorated, the driver fled, leaving the container.”

Survivors have reported that a human smuggling racket locked 64 Kabul residents and 37 Spin Boldak residents in the truck container Friday afternoon. The truck’s air conditioning unit stopped working causing the locked passengers to cry out for help which was unheeded by the truck’s driver, and they fell unconscious. However, the loud ruckus caused by the trapped people inside did alert police and local residents to their plight.

The trip had cost each illegal immigrant US$4,000 to 8,000 for the trip. Gul Zameen, a survivor said, “We are all poor and wanted to find jobs in Quetta and Iran.”

The survivors have been charged under the Foreigners Act and some have been detained. Karzai has ordered an investigation and “demanded people avoid dangerous illegal migration and not be deceived by smugglers.” “We’ll go to Pakistan and talk to the survivors to find out what had exactly happened. The culprits will be brought to justice,” said Moheeddin Baluch head of the investigating delegation.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is also investigating. Five suspects believed to be involved in running the human smuggling racket have been arrested.

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