Looking at the upcoming Danish government and its platform

Denmark is currently led by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who leads the party Venstre, which currently forms a minority right-winged government. The government is supported by the parties Konservative (the Conservative), Liberal Alliance, and Dansk Folkeparti, who all have a heavy influence on the policies, with the two first parties focusing on tax breaks for the wealthy, while the latter is a xenophobic populist party, fighting against Denmark taking in refugees and immigrants.

In Denmark, the Prime Minister is not elected, but is found through the support of the parties – basically, the person who gets the support from party representing a majority of members of parliament, gets to form the government. For the last twentyfive years, it has been a member of either Venstre or Socialdemokratiet, depending on whether the right-wing parties or the centre-left parties got the majority of votes at the election.

For the last week or so, however, the current PM has tried to expand the government, so it includes more parties – more specifically Konservative and Liberal Alliance. This would still make it a minority government, but a much larger one, meaning that he would have to find less votes outside the government when he wants to get new measures passed.

Unfortunately, it also means that the libertarian policies of especially Liberal Alliance will get a much more prominent position, as it will get a place in the government platform. Due to the continuing reliance on the xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti, it also means that the government platform takes an anti-immigration slant.

The new government platform can be found here – unfortunately it seems like there only is a Danish version.

The title of the platform is “For a freer, richer and more confident Denmark”.

Reading through the platform, I have a hard time seeing the “freer” part – there are mentions of creating new laws about logging of data for the police’s use, about restricting refugees’ access to Denmark, making it harder to get a Danish citizenship, making it harder to reunite families in Denmark, and about putting restrictions on religious preachers (this is aimed at Muslims), but there are nothing that actually makes Denmark freer in my opinion.

The richer part, is a bit better – there are a number of measures aimed at ensuring economic growth and that Denmark is ready for the future. There are, however also some measurements that probably will work the other way, among other the reduction of the top tax bracket.

It is well documented that giving tax breaks to the people who earn the most, is a bad way of creating economic growth. Public spending or funneling the money to the people earning the least, creates a lot more growth. The reason for this is, that public spending goes directly into the economy, as does money funneled to low-income people, since they spend their money on goods. People with higher income, uses the money for paying off debt or for savings, as they usually have their needs covered. Money spend on debt-payment or savings, doesn’t create growth.

The last part of the platform is about confidence – or rather it is about feeling safe (I had a hard time finding the right word). Here there are the usual measures about more police, stricter laws etc. that you would expect from a right-winged government.

All in all, no great surprises in the platform.

Since the government already was dependent upon the two parties, I don’t think the expansion will make any great differences. It will make the Prime Minister’s work slightly easier, as he will have to find fewer votes outside government in order to get things passed, but other than that, I can’t really see how this will create a difference.

The only positive thing I can say, is that the expansion of parties, also creates a bigger group of candidates for government positions. Given how abysmal some of his government members have been, this might be worth something. Unfortunately, some of those candidates are even worse than the current lot of ministers.

 

 

 

Moving music videos

I frequently come across questions on Facebook about what music videos that people find most moving, and my go to answer is Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt. It is an extremely moving video, especially when you know a bit about the backstory.

Another moving music video is Tom Wait’s Hell Broke Luce, again especially if you know the story behind the song.

What music videos moves you? And why?

Problems in Chinese clinical trials

I came across this story some weeks ago, and have been wondering why it hasn’t received more widespread coverage in the science-sphere and in the news.

80% of data in Chinese clinical trials have been fabricated

A Chinese government investigation has revealed that more than 80 percent of the data used in clinical trials of new pharmaceutical drugs have been “fabricated“.

The report uncovered fraudulent behaviour at almost every level, and showed that some pharmaceutical companies had hidden or deleted records of potentially adverse side effects, and tampered with data that didn’t meet their desired outcomes.

In light of the findings, 80 percent of current drug applications, which were awaiting approval for mass production, have now been cancelled.

The investigation, led by the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), looked at data from 1,622 clinical trials for new pharmaceutical drugs currently awaiting approval. The applications in question were all for Western medicine, not traditional Chinese medicine.

The SFDA found that the more than 80 percent of the data failed to meet analysis requirements, were incomplete, or totally non-existent.

The lack of general coverage worried me, as this seems like a major story, so I decided to try to dig deeper into the story before writing about it.

This proved to be wise, as the first reports wasn’t as complete as one could have wished.

CFDA: reports of clinical trial data fraud ‘not fact based’

The Chinese Food and Drug Administration (CDFA) has fired back on lack of context in media reporting “80% of China’s clinical trial data are fraudulent.”

According to this article, most of the trials were voluntarily withdrawn during a self-examination process, and were thus not found to be fraudulent by the CFDA. Another article adds a bit more details:

Asia Regulatory Roundup: CFDA Investigates Trial Sites Over Data Integrity

China’s Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has opened investigations into 11 clinical trial sites and contract research organizations (CROs) as part of a data verification drive initiated last year. The regulator suspects the sites and CROs generated fraudulent clinical trial data to support 27 new drug applications.

CFDA released details of the investigations as part of a breakdown of the numbers associated with the self-audit of drug applications by organizations seeking approval in China. Of the 1,622 applicants asked to carry out the self-examination in July 2015, 1,193 organizations withdrew their submissions voluntarily after receiving the regulator’s request. CFDA allowed applicants to withdraw their filings without facing punishment. As 193 of the applicants were exempt from clinical trials, the withdrawals amount to 83% of all the submissions that went through the self-audit.

The regulator is seeking to dispel reports all of the applications were withdrawn because their data were fraudulent. While CFDA acknowledges some of the applications included false data, deliberately or by mistake, others were withdrawn because of more prosaic failings. Some of the withdrawals were triggered by recognition of failures to comply with good clinical practices (GCPs). Others were a result of the clinical trial data falling short of what is needed to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of a medicine

So, it seems like it is overstating it to claim that over 80% of all Chinese clinical trials contained fraudulent data.

It does, however, seem like one could make the claim that there have been found widespread problems with the data in Chinese trials – either through self-examination or through official data verification – otherwise, why would so many results be voluntary withdrawn?

I am happy to see that the Chinese authorities are following up with investigations into clinical trial sites and contract research organizations.

 

 

A reversal of roles in India

India is a country with a huge problem with inequality between the rich and the poor. If you look at the list of countries by inequality-adjusted HDI, India appears as number 99 on the list. Much of this is caused by the caste system, but other related factors, such as widespread nepotism and corruption also plays in.

In an attempt to root out the problems of unaccounted wealth and corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scrapped the 500 and 1000 rupee notes overnight. People in possession of such notes, have to deposit them in banks by the end of December (though I have seen news reports, that indicate that the exchange might continue after this). Of course, the tax department is keeping a keen eye on these deposits, and any unaccounted money will be hit with taxes and a heavy fine.

Not everyone in India thinks this approach is the right one, but it does look like it has some effect:

For the first time in India, the rich beg the poor to help them

Driver Rahul Sharma, 25, remembers the exact day when his employer turned from a wolf into a lamb. It was November 9 when his employer called him  beta  – Hindi for “dear” – for the first time. The maid was asked to give him a cup of tea, for the first time.

“I was shocked at his sudden niceness. It went on for two days,” said Sharma. For the past three years, his New Delhi-based employer has been abusive, bad-tempered, and imperious, often demanding that he turn up for work at 6am after finishing work at midnight.

“He didn’t even bother to remember my name. When he wanted to summon me, he’d call out ‘driver!’,” Sharma said.

“On the third day, the penny dropped. He asked me to deposit 250,000 rupees ($4900) in my bank account on his behalf so that he could get rid of his black money.”

According to the article, a lot of poor people employed by rich Indians, are getting approached by their employers in order to help them whitewash their money. This certainly indicates that there is some kind of effect. I am cynical enough to think that the rich people will find ways around the barriers (if nothing else, then through bribery), but in the process, there might be some benefits for the poor.