31 January 2007

Pledge to the World - Part II

Part One: Puerto Rico can--should--undertake the clinical trials for developing dichloroacetate, known as DCA, as a cancer-fighting treatment. Call it "Our Space Mission," a national project to benefit the world.

Part Two: How?

Let's start with the key physical component: qualified laboratories. These would run from pharmaceutical-grade to clinical, from sheer equipment to patient-oriented. At present, Puerto Rico has around 18 world-class pharmaceutical laboratories (private and university-based). Although having one or more dedicated laboratories would speed up the clinical trials, We could "timeshare" these labs and use the overall proximity the Island's small size imposes to keep all the research teams "connected."

If you think face-to-face doesn't matter in these things, you're wrong. Human beings are very much social animals that thrive on personal contact. Scientific endeavors with millions of lives at stake must have the greatest possible contact levels to ensure the best results.

As for patient-oriented labs, at the clinical level, Puerto Rico has a second-tier hospital network (lacks world-class cancer treatment centers), but this is actually a plus because it keeps the DCA trial simple: Chemo- and radiotherapy are the methods most likely to reflect DCA effects.

With a population density of over 1,000 persons per square mile (the U.S. averages about 240), Puerto Rico can offer up--sadly--a wide range of cancer patients coming from a variety of backgrounds, from the controversial Vieques bombing area to the Agent Orange-strewn west central mountain region, not to mention other rural and heavily-populated urban centers.

And as hosts, We have three distinct university systems--two are private--that could jump at the opportunity, not to mention several teaching hospitals who could see this project as a way to make themselves an international beacon for students of oncology.

Now, the intangibles: Do We have the will?

Pardon the pun, but the answer is: Not now, but We will.

For one, hardly anyone on the Island knows about this idea. That will change.

Second, although We tend to wait for the government to step in and take the lead, in this case, the government is clearly in second position. Although they will provide some or even most of the $400-$600 million tab, once private industry, academia and the general public come together, the government will have no choice but to provide some level of support. The DCA Pledge to the World is exactly what the government has been trying to create locally for economic growth: a tripartite fusion led by industry and academia. Backing away from this DCA Project would be tantamount to slamming the door on future progress, but more importantly, would leave The Fools out of the white-hot limelight this Project would generate.

And if there's one thing Fools love almost as much as money, it's white-hot limelight.

And third: We have a clear-cut potential spokesman, leader and rallying point for The DCA Pledge to the World, a former Health Secretary with impeccable credentials, excellent presence and passionate vision. His name is Dr. Johnny Rullán. His integrity and drive would spearhead the effort to take The DCA Pledge from idea to conceptual plan to final reality. With Dr. Rullán and dozens, maybe even hundreds of Our best professionals behind The DCA Pledge, We can give the world a life-enhancing gift unlike any other ever given.

One that Dr. Rullán can personally appreciate better than most of Us as he continues his own battle against cancer.

And finally, for those of you who simply have to have some "Uncle Sam" connection, the former Surgeon General of the U.S., Dr. Richard Carmona, is Puerto Rican and has been very public about his opposition to cancer-inducing products. His inspiring and unique climb from poverty to Surgeon General along with his engaging public personna could add plenty of influence in the development of The DCA Pledge.

When Jack Kennedy challenged the U.S. to reach the Moon, the nation was barely a hundredth of the way there. For The DCA Pledge, We--Puerto Rico--are better prepared. And what We can achieve could surpass even the vaunted windfall of "One small step for Man."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 January 2007

A Pledge to the World

It's called dichloroacetate, or DCA for short. It repairs the damage cancer cells do to their own mitochondria, which means that cancer cells can get their "engines" back on-line for other treatments to be effective. Cancer cells--those with inactive mitochondria--are essentially like zombies: there's no easy way to hurt them. With DCA, you can make them vulnerable and kill them off.

This isn't theory. Researchers at the University of Alberta have run extensive trials on animals and human tissue tumors and the results are not short of spectacular. The treatment is not only effective, it attacks almost all types of cancer cells, attacks only cancer cells (healthy cells don't need their mitochondria reactivated, so DCA leaves them intact) and a DCA treatment would be relatively easy to implement, inexpensive and significantly reduce the damage done by chemo- and radiotherapy.

So what's the catch? Dichloroacetate is not patentable: It's like salycilic acid, better known as aspirin. It's become a generic compound, used often to treat genetically-induced metabolic disorders in children. Because it cannot be patented, pharmaceutical companies will not invest the money to develop DCA in clinical trials. Without that development, the potential breakthrough in defeating cancer will remain experimental. Unless there's a megaprofit down the line, no drug company will do the work.

How much money are We talking about? From $400 to $600 million. Not exactly chump change, but compared to drug company profits, it's not even a mild stretch. The Alberta researchers are hoping for universities and other private entities to step forward and help finance the development, made prohibitively expensive by the numerous and laberynthian hoops the Food and Drug Administration throws at drug development. Doing it in Europe is an option, but there'd still be the hurdle of FDA approval for treatment in the U.S.

However, any disjointed effort would slow down the clinical trials and thus delay the development of the DCA tumor treatment, while cancer rages on. If you don't think this is important, then you don't have a loved one battling cancer.

So why am I bringing this up in The Jenius? Stop. Think about it. Pull the elements together...Clinical trials, drug development, FDA procedures, scientists, human test subjects, controlled conditions, U.S.-based to speed up approval, a central "organizing" entity, but above all, a funding entity that states unequivocally: We will do this and make the treatment available without regard to profit.

Here's where I'm going with this: Puerto Rico should pledge to sponsor, with monies and support resources, the clinical trials and development of DCA as a cancer treatment.

Puerto Rico has enough basic resources, both human and infrastructure, to begin organizing clinical trials. There's more than enough personnel for the millions of hours needed and whatever specialized knowledge is needed can be brought in. The government and private sector can pledge to put up $600 million over a 5-year period to make this happen.

But beyond those and other minor physical details (yes, We have more than $600 million floating around), the most significant factor in doing the DCA clinical trial is that it will unite Puerto Rico in a visible, measurable and globally-significant manner.

"We shall place, before the end of the decade, a man on the moon and bring him back safely." When President John Kennedy launched that challenge in 1960, the goal was beyond imagining: We had barely covered 100 miles of an almost 600,000 mile round trip into the pure unknown. The U.S. could and did pull that off. Puerto Rico can and should pull off the DCA clinical trial for development of a cancer treatment.

Think of the benefits. From medical "magic bullet" to "world center stage," Puerto Rico's pledge and activity in this project would set an example, one that would continue to shine if the treatment is then donated to the world as Puerto Rico's offering to develop a better world.

Would this unite Us? I believe so. Will there be detractors? Of course, but there are always naysayers both bright and dull against every idea. More importantly: Is it doable? Can Puerto Rico take a deep breath, stand up and get the job done? I believe it can. I believe it must.

The possible ramifications of this idea, of this pledge to the world, are too numerous to explore here, but I will mention one: Have you ever heard of a nation pledging its resources to help all of humanity? How would that nation be perceived by the rest of the globe's denizens? And finally, how would that nation feel about itself, during and after this pledge?

Puerto Rico should do this. No, more than that: We must.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 January 2007

Tax(i) to Mammon

A few people who keep close track of their expenses have told Me that prices seemed to have gone up about 12-15% in supermarkets, department stores and drugstores. Not on all items, for that impact would be like shooting out the tires of Our consumerist economy, but on a wide variety of products.

Services have also been hit, as I paid a 7% tax on the cremation services for My dad after the price had already gone up about 7%, for a total impact of roughly 13%. According to the law, services are exempt from taxation...but there it is. I'll be talking to the Department of Consumer Affairs about that tomorrow. And now local hospitals want to raise the charges on their services some 13%.

Do ya see a trend here, matey?

Let Me quote the Magnificence of Me:

"...a consumption tax at the point of collection causes an 'impact cost rise' of between 11 and 18%, on average."

Like a true Jenius, I was standing on the shoulders of Giants to make that statement and the evidence--based on decades of economic activities around the world--is hitting Us squarely in the pocketbook.

Some of you will note We're still at the "low" end of the average, but here's an even harsher awakening: Puerto Rico's economy tends to higher prices anyway, so the overall pricing impact could easily exceed 20% by 2008.


--We're an island, subject to higher logistics costs made worse by the U.S. imposition of cabotage restrictions through the Jones Act.

--We have a weakening economy that is less productive now than it was during the last economic boom and has failed to find a coherent strategy or cohesive economic engine.

--Corruption is widepsread and institutionalized; money spent to "grease the wheels" needs to be recovered somewhere else--legitimately--thus higher prices. (See "construction," "government contracts" and "business permits.")

--The current exodus of middle-class families combined with increased immigration/return of destitute and near-destitute individuals creates not only a widening economic gap, but also a burgeoning economic "underclass" with fewer options. Those with fewer options pay more because they have to, or turn to crime, which adds a security cost on top of the tax cost.

And what have The Fools done now? They've put up a bill to give all public employees automatic raises, too! Forget about defending the indefensible deal The Fools have: Just bribe the big herd of idiots out there into silence and who cares what the cost will be? And if the tax monies are to pay for the raises, then what about the "pledge" that the tax monies were going to improve Our infrastructure?

A percentage here, a percentage there, a little bill here and a huge bill down the road, one that sells Us off to dwell in Mammon's cloaca. I can't wait for 2008!

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 January 2007

Passing Pages, Marking Time

As My dad's remains are being cremated, I spend almost 2 hours leafing through a local daily, turning pages like a metronome, eventually seeing an item or two on each pass-through:

Front page: The Archbishop favors the use of the National Guard to fight the current crime wave. First of all, the archbishop is entitled to his opinion, but his moral authority is suspect at best and nil at worst, so what he has to say on anything outside of Catholicism is not news. If I want prattle, I'll turn on the radio. The underlying cause for this front page ink-waster is the obscene murder rate We have going so far in 2007: Almost four deaths a day. The Jellyfish, governor Aníbal Acevedo, floated the suggestion of using the National Guard as a sort of "hard line" stance on crime. Here's the problem, oh spineless floater: The National Guard will make the problem worse, as they are neither a long-term nor an "attack the roots" solution. All you'll be doing is sending well-meaning citizens into harm's way for purely political reasons. And speaking of which, the top result for a Google search on "the murderous moron" yields Yours Truly. So do yourself a favor, oh indecisive invertebrate, and avoid acting--even in a much smaller scale--like the so-called "commander"-in-chief of the U.S. of part of A.

Page 14: Patient Ombdusman receives over 11,000 complaints about health reform services. Only 11,000? My guess is that most people don't know there's an office to deal with their health service complaints. The general stat breakdown is interesting: 70% of the complaints were against the public sector, with 30% against the private side, but in a more interesting light, roughly 98% of the complaints were resolved in the patient's favor. According to the Office's director, Dr. Luz Teresa Amador, only 2% of all complaints were considered to be "without merit." I wonder what will happen in 2007 when complaints skyrocket to what I expect will be double the current rate...

Page 28: On the way to becoming the best-paid legislators. Uh-huh. The year has barely dawned and the unremittingly debased and morally inept tribe of Fools is on the warpath to raising their salaries and benefits package once again...automatically. See, they have this nifty "If we don't vote against it, it happens for us" deal that makes their cushy and upwardly-mobile living a fait accompli. (And no, I didn't forget to capitalize "we" and "us.") One solution: Make them part-timers, so they'll have less time to screw Us over. Chances of that happening: Same as unicamerality...nil. If We don't slash through this tribe and significantly--drastically--reduce their numbers by voting most of them out and showing the political will to do the same to whoever slimes their way into those seats, We will have the best-paid legislators and the worst-led state/territory in the U.S. of part of A. Oh wait! We already do!

Page 40: Permit halt holds banking back. Residential construction permits are so slow and so backlogged that house sales on this property-mad Island have dropped 50%. Boo. Hoo. Houses are grossly overpriced due to those same "permit restrictions," so when they get back on the market--at higher prices because of demand--the money will eventually flow back to the banks. They're just miffed because they ain't getting theirs at the rate they used to. How much you want to bet that those banks that own "easy loan" services (those that charge a modest 20-28% interest) will go on an advertising rampage in the next eight weeks?

Page 57: Editorial cartoon: A futuristically-dressed newscaster reads: "Greetings. Today is March 7th, 2026 and these are the news. The World Coalition of Nations unanimously agreed to build a permanent Lunar station. As usual, Puerto Rico will not participate in the world effort because they still haven't decided if they want to be an independent nation (and) member of the Coalition or continue as a free associated state." How sadly true, on too many levels.

Page 67: A new book out about a "Most Wanted" criminal who was gunned down by the F.B.I. about 20 minutes from where I live. To think they wasted perfectly good toilet paper on this book...

Taken from El Nuevo Día, on the day We said goodbye to Abuelito.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

11 January 2007

Goodbye, Dad...I Love You

My dad died today.

He was 79 and had been severely depressed for two, maybe three years. A case can be made that he was depressed most of his adult life.

In My dad's case, his depression was masked--weakly--by alcoholism. Beginning some four years ago and becoming entrenched after about a year, My dad's daily routine consisted of black coffee in the morning, followed by red wine until mid-afternoon when he switched to rum until he either ate or passed on his meal for a few more drinks.

His activities went from a healthy handful to a few to just radio and TV. Never very tall, he became stooped from osteoporosis and his weight dropped to under 90 pounds. Everything surrounding him was centered on his routine, on his need for caffeine, nicotine--two packs a day--and alcohol.

My dad had a highly capable mind. His memory was excellent and he absorbed information with meticulous care. To watch this man, whose influence on Me is enormous, melt away in mind, body and spirit was disheartening. In what turned out to be his final months, We barely spoke to each other. Now We'll never speak again.

I tried. I tried to reach him, to make him understand what he was doing to himself. My sister, mother and other relatives tried, too. In the end, as his lungs filled with phlegm and he refused to eat or even drink water, it was pneumonia brought on by severe dehydration that eventually led to his death.

But before the heart attack, before the pneumonia, before the dehydration, before the phlegm or even the mild cold it all sprang from, there was his depression. When his father died, My dad told Me that Grandpa wouldn't talk anymore, wouldn't do the things he once did with joy, that he--in essence--shut down and waited to die. I was a boy then, but I told Myself I wouldn't let that happen with Grandpa's son...My dad.

I tried. God damn it, I tried. We all did. But in that deep dark recess of a person's mind, that black hole where Life is smothered to a feeble glow, that hole I've explored too often and for far too long in My adult life, never really let My dad go. He let it swallow him, turning him into a passive vessel for coffee, cigarettes and drinks, transforming an elf-like gentleman with a whimsical charm into a bed-ridden cave dweller who only rarely--but oh how brilliantly!--would recall the elf and let him shine.

My dad died today. My dad died yesterday, in the ambulance, as the EMTs labored to stabilize his badly-weakened body. My dad died last week when his body started to break down badly and he refused medical attention. My dad died the day he fell and hurt himself, taking to his bed as his only occupied space. My dad died when he chose--each and every time--to sacrifice his health out of fear or sheer indifference.

My dad died when depression closed his every door. How long will it take Me to reconcile Myself to the fact that not one of those doors broke under My blows? How long will it take Us--those who loved him--to accept that My dad had a part of him no one could ever really understand? How long until the pain of his death is replaced by the warm memories of his wit, soul and heart?

I didn't say goodbye to My dad, for when I left him it was but to take a nap and come back to be with him in the hospital. In the larger sense, I didn't say goodbye, either. But in an even larger and more painful way, depression made it impossible for him--or Me--to say what We really wanted to say to each other.

Goodbye, Dad. I always loved you, even in those darkest hours when you didn't love yourself. Thank you for teaching Me what you could and for sharing more than you know. And rest assured, Dad, that I will do everything I can to break the pattern Grandpa and you followed. Someday--not today, but soon--I'll stop blaming you for that pattern. Until then, let Me repeat what neither you nor I ever said enough: I love you. Rest in peace.

08 January 2007

Memo to Morons

This won't take long...

Early reports on the revenue generated for the government by the sales tax are on the sunny side. For one, the amount collected in the 15-day implementation period (from November 15th to the 30th) is higher than the government expected.

Oh really.

The lackwits at Caribbean Business trumpeted their own foghorn by stating that had predicted a higher-than-projected revenue because they had taken into account the underground economy and "hidden money" so pervasive in Our cashflow.

Do tell.

To the lackwits: Do you really think The Fools didn't have a higher number, but chose a lower one for public relations clout?

To The Fools: A trend is never assumed based on extraordinary conditions. The buying period you Malfeasant Morons are looking at is by far the biggest one of the year. Let's wait until July and August to see what's really up with the sales tax.

And as for the underground economy, it takes about 90 days for it to adapt to the new conditions. After that, there'll be more money flowing underground than ever before.

Calculate that, Fools and lackwits.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 January 2007

Gotcha Again, Stupid Rosselló

How the f#%@ did You know?

That expostulation came over the phone, from a friend of Mine, once a rabidly-fanatic supporter of Stupid Pedro Rosselló (I am nothing if not open-minded) and now is merely a lukewarm observer of The Stupid One's stupidities.

The question came because of My recent post where I imply--insinuate, infer, implicate--that the non-judge who passed on Stupid Rosselló's pension case (Ada López is the incompetent's name) may have been influenced by some link with The Stupid One in the past.

Two days ago, and just 4 days after My post, two local dailies trumpeted the connection and the highly-irregular confirmation process of the judge who turned out to be singularly blind to the weight of evidence against her nominator.

Just the facts:

--Stupid Rosselló shoved dozens of nominations into the legislative hopper as his second term mercifully ended.

--Now-judge López was rushed through the nomination process, along with many others. In López's case, her nomination was never approved by the 5-vote simple majority needed, falling 3 short.

--In fact, out of 15 possible votes, López received only the two votes and no recommendations whatsoever. And yet, she was approved for the bench, just like any two-bit scrub.

--In addition, López had worked with two of Stupid Rosselló's defense lawyers and has close ties to Charlie Rodríguez, a close ally of Stupid Rosselló. Despite this well-documented and public affiliation between the non-judge, the accused and the accused's defense team, López deemed herself "clear" of any possible ethics violations and instead of recusing herself--the honorable and wise thing to do--she decided to stay with the case and render a non-judgement worthy of Solomon...Grundy.

So why was My friend so upset? Because he was sure--sure--that I had overextended Myself, that I had bitten off more than I could chew, that I had stuck My everlovin' nose where the schnozz had no business being. In short, that I had screwed up and his erstwhile "hero" was truly in the clear from My skewerings.

Maybe next time, pal. Because for now, Stupid Rosselló is living what My father has often said is a depressing truism: "An idiot can always find bigger idiots to cheer him on." Add López to the list, pal, which numbers well into the hundreds.

And just so you know: When it comes to Stupid Rosselló, I'll be right every f#%@ing time.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 January 2007

Time for Value

--Once again, My Thanks to Georgia Popplewell for selecting another one of My posts, "Do You See What I See?"

I just spent 138 minutes copying photographs to my Screen Saver file, all because I wanted to find one particular picture featured on the website's home page. (No, it's not the kind of website you think it is. It's this one: http://www.outdoor-photos.com/)

The picture I wanted is the small one at the top left. And though I searched every picture in the archives looking for the full-size image, I didn't find it. I did end up copying some 85 pictures though, so My image file and screensaver are now a lot more interesting.

Was I productive? Not really. Was I procrastinating? Yeah. Am I bothered by it? No. So long as I don't do it again anytime soon.

In Our rush-rush, get-it-done-yesterday, freakish-focus-on-speed world We've forgotten that some of the best experiences We enjoy are not the product of speed, but of patience. Sure, one can buy a CD with 10,000 images on it, but is it more valuable than the 2,000-image CD I can create now, all the images personally selected by Me over a period of many hours? Not to Me it isn't.

Or how about buying a collection of figurines, say 12 at once, and judging its value over a collection of a dozen figurines acquired over the years in travels and unexpected places? If you want to show off--to say "Look what I have"--then buy bulk, buy now and forget value. If you want to savor, enjoy and explore, then time is your ally and patience its vehicle.

Yeah, I spent over 2 hours chasing a picture I couldn't find. Found 80+ more I did like and that makes My collection--My effort--more valuable to Me. It really is a personal matter and what you value is going to be different from what I value. But no one can reasonably claim that what is instantly-acquired with minimal effort has more value than what takes time.

Isn't that what "Easy come, easy go" refers to?

And isn't that exactly the reason Our Fool's focus on "quick fixes" means nothing to anyone, not even them?

Enough about Fools: I've got an interesting picture to track down.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 January 2007

Time for Passion

If money were not a problem--in other words, if you had enough to deal with your interests and obligations with no worry--what would you do?

While you ponder an answer, here's Mine:

--I'd write more fiction. I love science fiction and fantasy and have had some modest successes in those genres, with a handful of published stories, two of them award-winners. I currently have four science fiction or fantasy series in mind, two other series (SF and mystery) already have multiple stories and there are three unedited novels in My files.

--I'd play more games. I am a game fanatic, preferring strategy and simulations to games of chance. Because I know My capacity for obsessiveness, I avoid playing computer and online games. Ever since My college days, with the incomparable Don Muchow, I have either modified, redesigned or created games, so I'm also interested in game theory and design. There's a lot of parallels between writing fiction and creating games, so doing both would be easy and enormous fun for Me.

--I'd regularly play sports again. I lost that habit after I got married and there was no good reason for that. I may not be as athletic as I once was, but I can certainly get better, become more fit and enjoy the competition. I could even take up golf for that "I'm pretending to be an athlete" feeling.

--I'd go dancing. I love to dance and that too went by the wayside with the "I do." I'd love to take a ballroom dance class and find a place or two where I could indulge in moving to merengue, salsa, plena, rock-and-roll or whatever "oldie" style fills the air. Like sports, I'd need to work My way back to best form, but the sharing and fun go hand in hand with the pleasure of moving to the rhythm.

--That's it. Maybe travel, but only if I find the right person to travel with. Maybe My son when he's older, or someone currently close to Me. I could travel alone, but alone is where I've been a bit too long.

You have your answer and would most likely make a vague list of 3-4 items, like Mine, and then forget it. Now here's the thing: Why not go ahead and do them anyway?

What? You don't have that much money? Neither do I. But here's how I see it: In almost every case, it isn't a matter of money, it's a matter of time. Where you invest it and how you want to use it.

So here's My list with time thrown in to make it all work:

--Write fiction: Find 30 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week. How do I know I can do it? I've been blogging that way for almost three years.

--Play games: With a son and two nephews, playmates are there and have already become enthused with gameplay. Once a week, play a favorite game or introduce a new one. And by cutting back on even the small amount of TV time I have (see below), I can modify or create games for personal pleasure.

--Play sports: I watch 8-12 hours of sports a week (football season, Steelers, you get the picture.) Cut back to watching only Grade-A events (playoffs, Tiger Woods in the final round of a major, Roger Federer in a final) and the time for My sports play (and more) appears is if by magic.

--Dance: My local phone book lists a ballroom dance class just 20 minutes from where I live. Guess who I'm calling tomorrow morning? As for going out, I can look around for good dance places, find a willing partner and just go. I have the time.

Think about your list. The odds are very much that waiting until the money appears to do what your heart desires is dooming you to live a Life of "not" instead of "did." And here's the secret benefit: The better you feel about how you use your time, the better you will be able to generate money. Think that's not true? Ask the most financially successful people you meet if they do their activities with or without passion. For them, passion in work and play is the fuel that powers their engine.

And you can't have passion while living a Life you don't like, doing what you don't want to do and letting your heart's desires remain figments of your imagination.

Now excuse Me, I have some dance steps I want to polish...

The Jenius Has Spoken.