Comments From Cornwall
by John de Rivaz
This file contains the text of a monthly column that appeared in The Immortalist, a magazine published by The Immortalist Society <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.
Financiers Miss Growth at Deprenyl Animal Health Inc
Writing in his third quarter annual report dated 30 September 1992, Dr Morton Schulman, M.D., criticised the market's valuation of his company, in view of the substantial progress that has been made. The operating results for the quarter had been extremely encouraging, both with respect to the Anipryl development programme and the company's patent development activities.
The results from the first pilot study evaluating Anipryl therapy in Canine Cushing's Syndrome have become available, with a statistically significant positive outcome. An expanded study has now been implemented, and the "first pivotal trial" is scheduled for 1993.
University of Toronto studies have shown that Anipryl may assist older dogs suffering from cognitive dysfunction. Again more results are expected in 1993, including "assistance dogs".
An ongoing study in New Mexico has already shown that Anipryl increases immune response in old dogs.
The company claims that its development programme for Anipryl has cost a lot less than comparable vetinary programmes.
I repeat that if this company can produce a product that extends the lifespan of dogs, then the political and legal implications for life extension in humans will be revolutionary in effect. As the lifespan of the average dog is 15-20 years, improvement will be easily noticeable within the human lifespan. Life extension will have been demonstrated to work. In addition, deprenyl may be of benefit even if given to older animals, so we won't even have to wait 15 years to ge the first results. The first dogs to live to 25 or more in good health may be alive today!
I refer readers to an excellent article in Canadian Cryonics News for Autumn 1992, no 19, by Ben Best. He details the career of Dr Morton Schulman, and even described how he met him for a prescription of Deprenyl. Dr Schulman has always known his own mind, and the article makes fascinating reading; how he fell in and out of favour with various professions and institutions as his diverse campaigns coincided or opposed their members' interests and aspirations.
Canadian Cryonics News is about 20 pages long and appear four times a year. It is by far the best of the newsletters put out by non-US cryonics organisations, and it is disappointing that only 22 people in the United States read it. You can add to that number by subscribing yourself, and the cost is only $10 for one year. ($14 outside Canada and the US). Another well researched and useful article in issue 10 is a discussion of the chance of sudden death occurring to an individual and the implications for cryonicists. (Address Canadian Cryonics News PO Box 788, Station "A", Toronto, Canada M5W 1G3
Laser Scanning System for Dental Surgery
An article in New Scientist 19/26 December described a prototype system that will make dental surgery more efficient.
As he cuts into your teeth the surgeon, instead of looking at what he is doing, will view the progress of the drill on a video monitor hooked to a computer. This will receive data from a laser scanning system fixed around the tooth being drilled.
The advantage of this system is that the dentist can see inside the teeth as he drills. Previously, he took an X- ray and based his entire procedure on this one image. Unlike X-rays, laser light is not ionising, and therefore can be used with safety. The computer can make three dimensional images that can be rotated and viewed from different angles.
The system will also be of use for restorative works such as crowns, giving a far better result than plaster moulds.
The laser system works because the light is scattered more by decayed areas than healthy tissue. Using a light whose wavelength is sensitive to blood, the system can also detect dead teeth for extraction. Dead teeth are identifiable by the fact that they have no blood circulation.
Teeth are a hard but porous structure, so the laser light can get through them. However it is said not to be a complete replacement for X- rays, because they are better at detecting existing fillings. (I don't understand why - I should have thought that mercury amalgam would not be porous and therefore block laser light completely.)
International Sensor Corporation, Pittsburgh, is now developing a commercial system. Trials are due to start in about a year.
Schering Plough Forecasts 20% Growth for the year
Pharmaceuticals company Schering Plough forecast that its earning per share would grow by 18 to 20% in the next year, in its quarterly report dated 6 November.
Domestic sales of prescription pharmaceuticals grew by 5% during the quarter and exported products grew 29% in real terms, or 41% including the effects of currency movements. However eye care and OTC products declined by 11%.
Carr Calls for Tort Reform
In his address to shareholders dated 30 September, 1992 Alan G. Carr, President of H & Q Life Sciences made a number of political statements of relevance to the progress of his company.
On the US economy generally, he pointed to signs that the recession may be ending, but expressed concern at the state of the banking system and the state of consumer confidence in the light of declining house prices. However the incentives to repay debt rather than consume will result in lower inflation. Owning common stocks will also be more remunerative than investing in fixed interest. "After approximately 20 years of US households having been nett sellers of equities, data suggests that in 1992 households were significant net buyers," he said.
Mr Carr suggests that in 1993 we may see the American economy afflicted by attempts to deliver on Presidential campaign promises, "but taxing upper income families in some kind of wealth redistribution scheme doesn't seem likely to produce enough revenue to make a real difference." (Presumably he means to the American people as a whole - obviously punitive taxation will make a difference to the people involved. I call this concentration of wealth - into government control, so that government officials can claim all the credit for "giving" it to some cause they consider worthy. If it was aging research or even cryonics we would think it worthy too!)
Containment of healthcare costs is already in the price of most common stocks in this field. However Mr Carr and his fellow directors would like to see efforts in other areas of cost containment. He doubts whether the government would consider tort reform to limit medical malpractice awards, but that is really what the system needs. The administration of the healthcare system in order to comply with regulations is estimated to be as much as 20% of its operating costs. And it contributes to 30% of the overall rate of cost increase! A doctor is quoted as having to deal with more than 30 different regulatory bodies, each with different rules, whilst running his practice.
H & Q Life Sciences is a Massachusetts business trust registered as a closed-end management investment company. It has a diversified portfolio of stocks in the health care sector. They see the sector as offering above average investment returns, more through innovative processes than the price rises that have dominated it in the past.
My comment is that this could be a good vehicle for investors who believe that science will advance in this field yet who would prefer not to choose their own common stocks in which to invest. At the time of writing the share price is around $15.
If the predicted progress is not made, then this will probably also mean that the cryonics and life extension promises will not be met, so you will never be aware of your investment failing! There are probably other funds with similar perspectives, and as always my advice is never to put all your investment eggs in one basket.
Prudential-Bache Predicts Mutual Funds Replace Bank Deposits
In its annual forecast for 1993, Prudential Bache Inc., the brokerage firm, predict that increasing public awareness of financial matters may result in fixed interest cash deposits falling from favour as a means of saving.
George F. Salem, CFA, says that there is $1.5 trillion in demand deposits at banks and this represents 56% of all bank deposits. If banks do not offer mutual fund accounts, then there is a real risk that this hugs sum of money will pass into brokerage accounts and mutual funds. He refers to this as "the bank's ticking time bomb".
However he argues that the banks are in a strong position to move their clients into their own new mutual fund accounts rather than lose them, and in the long term he sees the change as beneficial to banks' profits.
He points out that investor sophistication is a one way process - investor's knowledge and requirements won't decline. As America's "baby boomers" reach retirement, they will have definite financial goals in mind, and will not be content to accept the very low returns from fixed interest bank deposits as opposed to mutual funds or brokerage accounts.
He seems to suggest that the American middle classes have been contented with low returns on their savings until now. I would comment that maybe the cryonics organisations - all of them - have had this attitude, and in their funding arrangements for new members will have to bear in mind that people are much more aware of how money can work for them. They are going to be more resistant to being pushed into low yielding life policies and the suchlike when their deathist friends are making much more from their unfettered investments.
However there are risks with stock market investing. One has to allow for a "worst case scenario", ie realisation is required when the market has just fallen.
But there are still products available for those willing to pay professional fees. One such is a mixture between fixed interest and futures. The volatility of futures - essentially gambles on the future prices of stocks - means that fortunes can be made and lost with very little capital. So the mixture invests say 80% in fixed interest and 20% in futures. The downside is limited, whereas the upside is still available as a result of the amplifying effect of the futures contract - the underlying stock is never purchased.
Readers may be wondering why I have dragged "professional costs" into this. The reason is simple - there are very heavy costs involved with dealing with futures. However a fund can reduce these by increasing the volume per deal. There have been a few attempts to launch these funds in the UK, at the moment with limited success. A recent example did not attract enough funds to attract the more favourable dealing costs for futures, and has only offered its investors a deposit return rate!
Unprecedented Chances for Investors in Stocks
There is an important point that I would like to make. Most adults alive today have known markets fettered by massive global military spending, by two world wars and then the cold war. This spending may create "defence stocks" that have been good investments for some, but their products create no real wealth. Indeed, the two world wars represented a terrific loss of wealth to the world as a whole.
I see the two main factors emerging as we move into the 21st century:
1. A substantial shift of spending into projects that multiply the wealth of the world as a whole.
2. AIDS will make a substantial cut in the dependent populations of the "third world", reducing their drain on the world's economy.
Either a cure will be developed for AIDS, or a sector of the population with a natural immunity will appear as carriers unaffected by the disease. But whichever of these is to appear as the end of the AIDS saga, the disease will end the overpopulation doomsday scenario. By the time the human population growth recovers, we will have access to space colonisation. It will be a long time before humanity can overpopulate the entire universe!
These two factors will make a profound shift in the movements of world stock markets. Two heavy downward pressures are being removed.
We have no model for the effects of population reduction. However it is fair to say that with growing unemployment and increasing automation everywhere the world's economy does not need so many people in order to grow.
We do have a model for a low military costs economy, and that is Japan and West Germany, who were forbidden military expenditure after World War 2. Everyone knows how strong those economies are.
Personally I had thought that the German economy would enter a period of weakness as a result of having to absorb Eastern Germany following the collapse of its highly regulated (communist) government. I would liked to have been able to borrow funds in Deutchmarks feeling secure that the DM would fall and I would make a profit. Fortunately for me in this case, my difficulties in getting good deals with professional meant that I never made the transaction.
The enormous strength of the German economy was shown by the fact that it appears to have swallowed the East whole without so much as a hiccough!
Japanese stocks sell on a much higher multiple compared to others. The returns, ie dividend, on stocks seems to be a national phenomenum. In the UK, you get about 5%, the US about 3%, and in Japan the return is negligible. If Japan is the model for the rest of the world, then dividend yield will have no more importance than as a comparison between stocks. It will almost not be worth writing out the check except on very large holdings, and indeed dividends may disappear altogether with stocks being compared on a price/earnings ratio basis only.
If you are used to fixed interest, your 3% per year, then you may be forgiven for thinking it is a retrograde step to accept no interest! However what you get instead is the prospect of growth. You may buy a stock for $30 a share at the beginning of the year and sell it for $80 at the end of the year. Or you could keep a stock for decades and see an original investment grow from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. Technology stocks that are successful can have a double figure percentage growth rate for decades. The smart operator knows exactly when to buy and sell. The professional will work to a short timescale and get a return of over 30% a year on his funds, regardless of whether markets as a whole rise or fall. This takes a lot of hard work, but the average investor can do quite well by picking good stocks and "riding the market".
Up to now, riding the market has been risky, but during the next few decades as the world moves into a different trading routine, as outlined by my two points earlier (less military spending and population reduction), the general movement must be up.
This is unless something totally unexpected happens, such as an asteroid impact, or a mutation making AIDS infectious by an aerosol, like colds and flu. However such doomsday scenarios are likely to result in an end to the cryonics and life extension programs as well, so trying to invest around them is a pointless exercise.
The Bad News for Markets
The bad news is that there are a large number of people "trading" and receiving money without creating wealth. These people are heavily represented in the legislature, and their influence and drain on the world economy could grow like a cancer and kill it. The purest example is almost trivial, but it illustrates the point. Over the past ten years or so I have received from time to time copies of a so-called opportunity to wealth. It is called various things, but is best known as The Edward L. Green Letter.
It consist of several sheets of paper stapled at one corner, urging you to buy four products at $10 each from four names. You then cross off the top name, move the others up, and add yours at the bottom. You then sell the $10 product, which is usually a "report" typed on one side of a single sheet with a title like How to Succeed in Business Without Work or some suchlike. Most of the sheets are highly persuasive exhortations to join the scheme.
The fact the Edward L Green's letter continues to circulate, despite it being almost common knowledge that the scheme does not in fact work, means that people are wasting their money on postage and printing for decades in the forlorn hope of getting something for nothing. Like a computer virus or cancer, this letter is almost impossible to stop and may well survive for centuries. There have been imitators, but this one seems to be the most persistent.
Alright; this is trivial and the sums involved small. But what is not trivial is the rise of what Professor Richard Dawkins calls "Fat Cat Professions". A case in point is computer virus experts. Unknown until very recently, these people charge large sums of money to check computer installations are free of computer viruses, (programs designed to destroy computer data that pass when infected disks are copied). No one knows who the writers and disseminators of these computer viruses are, but I should imagine that virus experts are also amongst their number!
The established professions no doubt would resent being compared to Edward L. Green or computer virus writers. However as society becomes more sophisticated new drains will appear - professions who make the problems that they are then paid to cure.
Money is an important medium for transferring wealth, and with its invention came lawyers and accountants. The international mailing system produced the chain letter (Edward L. Green), and computers the virus creator/clearer.
Nanotechnology looks very exploitable in this respect, as it creates a new medium. It has the potential to create unlimited wealth, but will this wealth be spread amongst humanity, or will it be swallowed up by one of Dawkins' Fat Cats?
Shifts in Religious Observance
An article in The Financial Times of 24 December observed that Christmas was chosen to be on 25 December not because it was the anniversary of the birth of Christ but because that was a date used by previous religions to celebrate mid winter.
It went on to discuss the popularity of various religions, and commented that by the turn of the century adult affiliation of the Anglican Church will have dropped to one and a half million people. This is a little less than the projected membership of the Roman Catholic Church. However the number of members of Islam are rising, and by 2000 they will roughly equal Anglicans.
The importance of this to cryonics is that Christianity has been broadly neutral or even sympathetic to cryonics. Islam is an unknown in this respect. It is known that it tends to worship death - dictators and other authoritarians have used the concept that death in battle is a sure ticket to paradise to make their people sacrifice their lives for their country. It could be that a worldwide decline of Christianity in favour of a more bloodthirsty faith that makes a greater virtue out of "axekneeling" could be a problem that cryonics societies ought to consider protecting themselves against now, before it is too late.
If there is someone who reads The Immortalist who knows something about how Islam views cryonics, it would be worthwhile for him to put his knowledge to paper for the other readers to consider this point.
Cornish Scene this month waa computer image taken from a video recording of Cliff Cottage. This was owned by a smuggler in the late middle ages, who had a passage to the house from the beach. In addition, he mounted a gun on nearby Battery Point to shoot at customs boats that dared enter his cove.
The Other Life Extensionists
I have recently been mentioning other people interested in life extension, such as Morton Schulman and Milan Panic. Although they are not as vociferous about extending life as people like Saul Kent, they have actually raised a lot of money, millions of dollars in fact, for their researches. Previous items in this column have detailed the fund raising activities of these men, and indeed they have come into a certain amount of criticism from the financial professionals for their methods. Dr Schulman has been accused of making money in his companies by investment rather than developing the selegiline products specified, and Milan Panic has been accused of manipulating the markets.
As a shareholder of companies run by these two men I haven't anything to complain about. But then I have been a long term holder rather than trying to make a quick profit out of market movements. It has been suggested that the financiers who complain are those that have been outwitted by Mr Panic and lost their money. If Mr Panic could make money by these machinations, then presumably any shareholder thinking alongside him could make similar profits.
Trans Time, of course, has also made money from floating companies such as Bio Time on the stock market.
One ought to look at why Schulman and Panic have raised so much more money than any of the cryonics organisations, or indeed the Life Extension Foundation, MegaHealth Society and similar groups.
I may be wrong, but I think that it is because they have offered participation by selling shares rather than seeking donations or merely selling products or services. Furthermore, they have sold shares on a recognised stock market, rather than privately. This means that people can if they wish buy and sell them at will, realising profits and losses to enable capital tax planning.
Most people attracted to immortalism are individualists, and regard taxation as slavery, and they only reason they pay it is summed up in one word (by Bob Brakeman) "Guns". If you don't pay, the government come after you with guns. Tax planning by incorporating losses on speculative shares, investing in something you believe in, is far better than tax planning by making tax-deductible donations. Shares only give a chance of a financial loss.
In fact, certain inbuilt factors in stock markets make it the only "game" where the odds are biassed in favour of the punter. This may not apply in times of severe financial chaos, such as during a world war, but otherwise the built in growth of the world economy makes money for investors.
In actual practice as far as the issuer is concerned, there is little difference between offering shares and asking for donations. In neither case does one have to pay dividends or pay the money back - ever! People are often happy to buy shares on the prospects of being able to sell them for a higher price later.
What usually makes a company offer dividends is that when it has become prosperous, it can afford to pay them and by so doing its shares become attractive to institutional investors whose clients require an income. These are usually mutual funds or insurance companies. A case in point is the semiconductor manufacturer Intel. It has managed for decades without paying a dividend, but has recently started to pay. This has had the consequence that the share price has gone up as a result of institutional buying. Apart from the obvious, the company will gain by having greater share price stability.
One may well ask why does a company care that its share price has gone up. I said earlier that once it has floated its shares, it doesn't have to pay dividends or buy the shares back. The reasons it cares is that it can go on floating new shares to finance new projects. The higher the share price, the more money it can raise. If the new projects are successful, then the share price will go on rising making it even easier to fund further advances, and so on.
There are, of course, problems associated with raising money by share issues. One is the availability of money. People may love to invest in your company, but simply don't have the money available. People who are "rich" don't have the money in bank accounts or even savings accounts. It is certainly invested somewhere working hard for them. That means that they may not be willing to invest somewhere else when it will cost them money to move their money.
This is particularly true at times like the present when the economy is stagnant. People are unable to buy and sell houses, for example, and many are stuck in property that is now worth less than they paid for it. Anyone familiar with money will know that these times don't exist for ever and patience is rewarded by a recovery in the price of their home. So everyone waits and no one moves. This idea continues into every sphere of business, with the result that those desperate to sell their goods and services have to cut prices until someone decides to buy.
The desperation to sell can result from either the urge to buy "an unrepeatable bargain" or alternatively because they have been forced to buy a service or raise money to pay taxes. People can be forced to buy services by force of circumstances (eg medical care) or legislation (eg lawyers fees). One doesn't have to be a financial genius to realise therefore that fees for "distress purchases" don't fall as do voluntary purchases.
So timing has to be right for a share floatation to be a success. One way round this problem is to have the issue "open" for a long time so that people can buy in their time rather than yours. However the difficulty with this is that people are reluctant to buy early as the price of shares is fixed and they have nothing to gain by not leaving it to the last minute. And, of course, by the time the last minute has arrived something else has claimed their funds! But the American markets are so large that there are usually always enough people around to buy.
Genelabs to develop Hepatitis E Vaccine
According to their third quarter report for 1992, Genelabs Inc entered into an agreement with Smith Kline Beacham for the development and commercialisation of a Hepatis E Vaccine. 2% of the US population are believed to have been contaminated with the hepatitis E Virus (HEV), and the exposure rate has been much higher in the Far East, India, Africa, Asia, and South America.
The company is also working on Hepatitis C, AIDS, and an oral antithrombotic drug. At present the company is reporting losses, but obviously people are buying the shares in the expectation of a payoff from the important research they are doing.
Evening Primrose Oil Chemical Used for New Cancer Treatment
An article in the Financial Times of 20 February detailed some new products of the UK-Canadian company Scotia Pharmaceuticals. One is a product known as EF13, which is similar chemically to Evening Primrose oil. EF13 is said to destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells and has no side effects. It is said to double the life expectancy of late stage pancreatic and breast cancer sufferers. Mr Ken Fearon from the University of Edinburgh's department of surgery admits that the drug "really is something different from what is currently available", although there is the inevitable delay before the authorities can be sure that it is really efficacious.
Another drug from the group, EF27 is said to benefit patients suffering the side effects of radiotherapy treatment for cancer. It helps conserve the normal cells whilst still allowing the radiation to kill the cancer cells.
A third product, EF9, can be used in photodynamic therapy, where light is used to destroy cancer cells sensitised by it.
British Politician Complains at Excesses of Lawyers
According to The Financial Times of 6 February, Mr Michael Hestletine gave an address to the Institute of Directors in which he stated that the excessive fees charged by lawyers and accountants in relation to the fees earned by people who created wealth were damaging the nation.
Mr Hestletine is a UK politician who at one time tried to oust Mrs Thatcher and become Prime Minister, thereby causing her political demise. The nation's accountants accused him of bias, after his speech, because he failed his final exams to become a Chartered Accountant. Nevertheless, the fact that he got as far as the finals indicates that he must know enough about the profession to make an educated comment about the value offered by practitioners in relation to their fees.
The newspaper article went on to say that the emphasis in the British government is now changing from service industries, favoured by the previous administration, to manufacturing. The bulk of world trade, said Mr Hestletine, is in manufactured goods. He said that Britain has 120,000 accountants. This is 20 times as many accountants per head of the population than Japan or Germany - which are examples of successful economies. The paper said that he had got it wrong - the figures are even worse. Britain has 200,000 accountants!
As immortalists we rely on scientific progress, and this relies on manufacturing to provide an industrial infrastructure. There is no doubt that we are very near solving major problems in relation to ageing. If these problems are solved and solutions available to the public only a few years sooner rather than later, it could mean the difference between the more elderly members of the Immortalist Society going into cryonic suspension or taking an incremental route to immortality by using serious life extension advances as they come up.
Therefore I conclude that high professional fees and systems forcing industry to pay them via legislation are threatening the lives of elderly immortalists.
An article in Funeral Service Journal February 1993 discussed the problems of burial space, particularly in areas where people are most concentrated, such as Hong Kong.
Two methods were mentioned, one being that bodies are left to rot for 10 years, and the remains were then dug up and stuffed into jars. Another is that of the coffin house, a building where occupied coffins are placed. Some have rooms that are occupied by a single family.
Our Cornish Scene this month waa computer image taken from a video recording of a water mill at Port Isaac. I once considered it as a home that could generate its own electricity.
Periastron Proposes a New Scientific Journal
Periastron volume 2 no 3 starts with an article explaining the schism between the establishment of science and cryonics. It details how the scientific establishment used the methods of Goebells' propagandists to try and crush cryonics. However Dr Donaldson points out that cryonics is not 100% pure science. Although its processes involve scientific method, it depends on "ideas about future abilities which necessarily cannot be proven NOW in any way".
Scientific papers have been written by and for cryonicists and apart from political censorship are just as suitable for publication in ordinary science journals as other papers. Therefore Dr Donaldson has been approached by some cryonicists with a view to forming a real scientific journal that would not be subject to the political restraints but otherwise assess all material on its scientific merit as do other professional journals. As some future date they may want to raise funds for it. It is not clear at this stage whether people will be asked to invest in the project with a chance, however small, of reaping some reward, or simply give money to it.
Also there is mention of an article in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine by J.B. Bodkin and S.G. Post (Autumn 1992, p129-138) about the definition of death. Apparently the authors got very close to the ideas behind cryonics, but didn't mention it by name. Dr Donaldson has written to them and will report on any reply in a future issue of Periastron. Amongst the remaining articles, one on New Treatments for Brain Aging discussed various substances that may help non-Alzheimer's brain aging.
Periastron PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087. Subscriptions cost $2.50 per issue. If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
Is Productivity at its Theoretical Limit?
In his review of Paepke's book on human advancement in Venturist Monthly News March 1993, Max Moore mentioned that Paepke says that productivity is close to its theoretical limit. I don't know when this was written, but casual observation at the present time in a deepening depression makes this statement seem very hollow. For example, RTL, the company that publishes Longevity Report suffered a 300% increase in audit fees this year on an unchanged turnover, and its banking fees went up 83% on a reduced number of transactions. The former increase was due to the accountancy profession's colleagues in Parliament pushing through legislation that requires small private companies to be audited to the same standards as large public companies.
Productivity is nowhere near its limit because too many talented people have gravitated to professions that destroy rather than create wealth. This is particularly true in the United States, which had more lawyers, and related professionals such as accountants, per head of population than any other country. If this talent was instead employed in design and manufacturing, the cumulative effect to the overall wealth of the country and indeed the world would be staggering.
The loss to progress from the legal profession is not just the obvious - ie the loss to litigants whose lives and earning capacity are ruined. The loss is also the loss of all that the abilities of its practitioners could otherwise achieve if they were put to productive work. The law is a memory intensive study, just as biochemistry, biology and medicine. All these subjects would benefit mankind enormously if pursued more vigorously. People who become lawyers have the sort of minds that are capable of taking in vast amounts of facts and memorising them, bringing them to the fore when needed. They may not have the numerate skills of engineers and "hard" scientists, but by and large these can be hired or even achieved by the use of a computer.
There is a lot of bad feeling growing in the lay population against the legal professions, especially amongst people who have been bankrupted or who worked for companies that have gone under. If this can be used constructively to deter people from entering the legal professions then it will accelerate progress towards the goals of the Venturists. Shooting lawyers may be a justifiable gut reaction, but encouraging them to retrain to work in constructive areas would be a whole lot more productive and in keeping with the ideals of Immortalism.
Such encouragement could be two pronged. If being a lawyer makes a person a social pariah then he is more likely to want to change. Also citizens can suggest to politicians that steps be taken to curb lawyers' salaries and fees and similarly steps be taken to improve the remuneration for research and development. If everyone in the world suddenly stopped going to lawyers and accountants, then the profession would wither.
In the UK the government attempted to fund education and a few much smaller local services by a "Poll Tax". This was a fixed charge per head of the population. The intention was that by making the local authorities' expenditure noticeable by everyone, people would vote in authorities that would spend less. However the local authorities were terrified at the thought of being responsible to so wide an electorate. They whipped up so much public feeling against the tax that there was mass non-payment, and it was impossible to use the courts and the prison system to deal with so many cases. The tax was abolished after only a few years, and replaced by a wealth tax on property owners similar to the tax that Poll Tax replaced.
My point in mentioning this is that there is already almost enough public feeling in the USA and the UK against lawyers and accountants that a similar level of protest could emerge, especially if organised by powerful and influential groups. A possibility might be Unions worried about unemployment. A solicitor (a UK lawyer that can't appear in high court, but who takes instructions from clients and deals with pre- litigation business) earns roughly ten to twenty times the average wage. If companies employ one solicitor then this means that they can't employ ten ordinary people who would actually make things. This information would undoubtedly interest people standing in line for unemployment support.
This ratio should also interest people concerned with the depression. Lawyers say that society is complicated so we need them to sort it out. However we cannot afford the cost of the luxury of such a complicated society. Remove this cost and the economy will grow again, and progress towards a solution to the problem of death and aging will result.
If anyone has access to the following statistics I would be interested:
How much of the Gross National product of various countries is spent on legal work, including accountancy? How has this changed with the passage of time, ie do we now spend more or less? These figures may add credence or detract from my arguments, but my own experiences with the professions suggest that the figures would support what I and others are saying. I would predict that successful economies spend less of their GNP on legal services than others in the developed world.
Women Wait for their Birthdays
According to Funeral Service Journal March 1993, women near death as their birthday anniversary approaches are more likely to hang on and survive for the occasion than men. A study by Dr David Philips, a sociologist at the University of California was based on nearly three million deaths from natural causes.
Dr Philips conjectured that men may perish before birthdays because they review their lives, are dissatisfied, and decide to give up. Women may hang on because they are family orientated and may want to spend one last celebratory day with them.
Home is the Place to Die
Also in March's Funeral Service Journal was a report on a Gallup Poll commissioned by the National Hospice Association that nine out of ten Americans would prefer to spend their last days in their own home and to die there.
For the second year running, the Chosen Heritage Funeral Costs Survey exposed the fact that funeral costs have risen more than general costs of living. The average funeral now costs £1039.88 [$1,500]. In rural areas the costs is nearer £500, whilst in cities it is nearer £2,000.
The rise in costs are not due to funeral directors taking more fees, but in "disbursement costs", such as doctors' certificate fees, which take 28% of funeral costs.
Chosen Heritage is an organisation that enables people to pay, whilst alive, for their funeral.
Time Share Graves
Recycling of graves is standard practice in North America and some European countries, says Funeral Service Journal. A congress late in March was told that re-use of graves may lead to less vandalism of neglected graves and resolve the shortage of cemetery land.
The movement towards making municipal services public companies instead of being privately owned by local authorities may lead to one stop funeral directors, offering everything from collection to cremation and memorialisation. At the present time the profession does not know whether the public will mind this change.
PICS, my lonely hearts club for immortalists, has now had nearly 100 enquirers. However it still has only four members, all men. (One woman did eventually join.) This lack of support makes me consider why people are reluctant to employ an agency to look for that special someone.
One reason may be that they feel the agency is doing the choosing. This is, of course, not correct, at least for listing sheets like PICS. A listing sheet merely gives a list of people available, usually under box numbers, and the clients select their potential partners themselves. In the ordinary way of things people meet each other, and although A may fancy B, the chances of either or both of them being paired off already is very high. By selecting an environment where people are all single, and furthermore by knowing something about the likes and dislikes of the people in that environment, one has altered the odds substantially in one's favour.
However it is a deep seated concept with the masses that the universe is somehow benign and everything has a reason and purpose. Everything that happens however horrible is for the ultimate good. This concept pervades most religion, and is an excellent tool for those in authority to keep control of the rabble.
The concept has as a side effect the idea that one cannot meet the ideal companion unless it was meant by God. A perfect marriage is often described by the expression "they were made for each other". Therefore to look actively for a companion is to deny that God will do it for you. Or it could be regarded as thwarting God if he has planned a life of solitude for you. Working against God is obviously an anathema to religion and also indicates that the individual is not willing to be led by authority - a trait that governments wouldn't want to encourage. However dating agencies aren't banned, merely scorned.
This has strong parallels in immortalism. People accept death because it is natural. It is what God planned therefore it must be good. People accept being ordered (in time of war) to forfeit their lives for the government, and many would be willing to accept shortening of maximum lifespan "for the general good".
There is talk of rationing medical care for the elderly. This is fine if it means incurable cases can be given mercy suspensions, but more likely it will mean that any treatment to prolong life healthy or otherwise could be unavailable to elderly people. Indeed, if cryonics is ever accepted as medical practice rather than a funerary practice it could only be legal for young people who die of disease or accident!
Immortalists reject God's deadly end to their lives, yet they still seem reluctant to use agencies to reject God's plan for the duration of their lives. Maybe they have all found companions through their daily lives in the conventional way. But somehow I doubt this. Maybe they don't want companions, preferring to be single.
However it is not surprising that after so many have enquired that few have joined given that most enquirers are men and we have yet to attract the first female to actually join. We have a special offer where no one pays until there are twenty members, roughly divided between the sexes. (ie if all twenty were men we wouldn't charge anyone until we had ten females.) The few women who enquire are sent the list of four men that we have, in the hope of that one of the listing may interested them and inspire them to join.
It is possible that most agencies get started by introducing fictitious names to get the ball rolling. I have chosen not to do this.
Comments on April's Immortalist:
I was very impressed with Peter Christiansen's items in ACS Reports in the April issue of The Immortalist on the medical profession and the call to end the use of violence in the drug war. This bears out the items that appear in Zehse's Cuttings from time to time re bogus doctors in the UK.
It would seem to me in both cases the role of the government should be in educating the public only, ie advising them to see qualified doctors and advising them against hallucinogenic drugs through advertisement. The power of advertisement is very strong, and indeed in the case of drugs may even turn out stronger than the physical violence at present used.
A controversial UK judge, Judge Pickles, has himself pointed out that the present prohibition of drugs is in fact increasing the profits of the suppliers that don't get caught. The crime wave in the UK is most likely drug related.
In fact, the Value Added Tax rate on honest business is 17.5% whereas the detection rate for housebreaking is only 15%. I don't know whether the detection rate relates to value or number of crimes. It would be a better comparison if the detection rate related to the value of property stolen or embezzled. However it is likely that a per valorem basis would be a smaller proportion than per crime, as so many crimes only involve a small amount of property. Also, "big" crimes such as murder are usually given more police time and are therefore solved. But they don't relate to a value of property.
These comments mean that it is likely that, on a value basis, crime is even more lightly penalised than honest business throughout society as a whole.
The 20th Century Lament
A programme was screened on British Independent Television concerning the recent popularity of Górecky's third symphony (the first classical symphony to make the UK popular music charts) early in April. In it, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was described as being the herald of the 20th century, and this symphony was its lament, a comment on the mess humanity had made of the world.
This type of thinking is unfortunately prevalent, and it is hostile to the ideals of immortalism. Admittedly there is a lot of mess in the world, but it isn't due to humanity as a whole or to science in particular. Science, or rather the misapplication of it, may be tools that were mis-used to create mess, but science itself is neutral.
What did cause the mess is large concentrations of power, particularly in the forms of Communism and National Socialism. Poland, Górecky's country, saw National Socialism under the German occupation, and this was followed by Communism after the war. The result of these authoritarian regimes was a country made squalid by years of central development.
The most effective government must be the barest minimum necessary to maintain a society in which people can interact without fear of being assaulted or robbed. Although Communism may be on the way out, unfortunately large power groups now threaten to replace government in smothering and choking back progress, simply for their own financial gain.
An example of this can be seen in the pharmaceutical industry, where there is a three cornered struggle between various governments, the drug companies themselves, and regulatory authorities. The companies say that they cannot fund research unless they charge high prices for their products, yet the governments wants them to reduce their prices.
The regulatory authorities on the one hand know that they will cease to exist if the drug companies go bust, but at the same time they seek to choke back any fast progress. They don't seek to maximise the lives saved, but to maximise safety on a policy similar to Star Trek's "prime directive", ie non intervention (in, in this case, disease). According to the regulators, it is better to let a person die of a disease than die in a failed attempt to get rid if the disease. Paradoxically, however, they seem to allow futile surgery to produce a few more weeks of life still to be followed by certain death!
There may well be a better alternative to funding research than by the market process of selling drugs at a profit. However we have yet to find it.
One method might be for the government to fund research, and let the companies to concentrate on production of drugs designed by such funding. The problem with this is that with a single source of funding, some worthy projects may not be completed, as once rejected there is no alternative source innovators can approach.
Another could be for the companies to raise funds for each research project independently via the stock market, and give investors a cut in the profits. This is almost what we have now, except that the profits of any one company depend on both its successes and failures, and everyone is out for the most they can possibly get.
Some of the smaller drug companies are "one product companies" and these are more speculative - you can easily lose your investment if the drug is a failure. However the opportunity for profit is also higher, ie the share price will be volatile.
If a better method of funding research is to appear, then probably the best way is via natural selection amongst many innovations that may appear during the current turmoil facing the industry. The present cap on drug prices proposed by the US government will in the short term cut back on research, but there is a reasonable chance, given that there is not too much control, this change in the environment could cause a better funding method to evolve. However there is also a chance that it could be the end of the era of growth. It will be interesting to see!
I have never been in favour of making initial customers for a product pay for the research that developed it. I think it is better to spread research costs throughout the life of the product.
Funding Development in the Electronics Sector
In computer software, Microsoft is selling its MSDOS 6.0 operating system for PCs at reduced cost for the first few months in order to boost initial sales. I regard this as an excellent policy, and bought shares recently. I also upgraded from MSDOS 4 to 6, and found the upgrade very worthwhile.
In contrast, commentators say that wide screen 16:9 television is likely to be a flop, because although sets are actually cheaper to make, they are being sold at five times the cost of conventional 4:3 sets. However over here at least programme makers are originating programmes in 16:9 format which means a black band top and bottom of the screen on 4:3 sets. I regard this as crass behaviour, and I sold my last holding in the electronics entertainment sector last month.
Why Graduates Shun Science Careers
An important article in New Scientist of 27 March looked into the reasons why UK graduates were preferring careers in accountancy or law instead of science. Fee income etc didn't seem to be a major factor according to author Charles Arthur.
One problem facing students changing from education to industry is that of collaboration. In education, collaboration is cheating which means that you get sent down in disgrace with no degree, whereas in industry it is essential for corporate, rather than individual, progress.
Many technologists feel constricted into a narrow focus when they enter industry, whereas an accountant or law career sees more varied work, said Mr Arthur.
Mr Martin Duffell, head of management recruitment at Unilever, is quoted as having said that scientists and engineers had a more crowded university timetable than lawyers and accountants, and therefore develop fewer social skills. (I wonder whether this is really true: law at any rate involves a lot of memorising and I should have though the successful student would have had to do a lot of "swotting". Interpersonal skills are more likely to result from the nature of the training. Maybe a lawyer who reads The Immortalist would like to comment.)
Mr Duffell also said that a successful industrial company is likely to have a technologist at its head, whereas a failing one appoints an accountant - to reduce costs.
Employers want science and engineering graduates, especially those with "interpersonal skills". Graduates want careers that will exercise their intellectual abilities, already shown by winning a degree, from the start.
A computer programmer said that he wanted more varied work. His first job was to design come code and present it to someone higher up the chain of command in a few months.
The article concludes that graduates and employers will remain dissatisfied unless both business and the design of degree courses change.
Periastron suggests caution on Nanotechnology's role in revivals
Periastron for March 1993 starts with an article which expresses worries about the concept that nanotechnology is capable of restoring any damage done by present freezing methods. Because nanotechnology is not happening on any large scale practical level now, only theories exist. Theories are not constrained by the physical world, and therefore they can be dressed up by a sort of virtual reality into a world of wishful thinking.
The article goes on to talk about supramolecular chemistry, which is getting results now, and also mentions progress on Dr Donaldson's work in forming a scientific journal that will accept work from cryonics researchers. Unfortunately the journal has met with rejection from scientists outside of cryonics who were approached to join its editorial board. They say that they will be looking for funding, but not yet, and again there is no mention of whether they are looking for donations or investments. However the organisation is to be called The Institute for Neural Cryobiology and its journal will be Neurocryobiology.
The rest of the magazine contained some more on memory, and an article on laser controlled chemical reactions, and a piece entitled A Greek Drama.
This tells of a woman dying of a brain tumour for which no approved treatment exists who could benefit from an experimental treatment. Legal and political posturing between regulatory authorities is likely to delay treatment until the woman has died. Dr Donaldson wrote "I, particularly, wish the woman well, but I also suspect that she will probably be ground to death between the two wheels that mill around her."
The treatment involves removing tumour tissue, inserting a gene to stimulate the immune system against that tissue, and then re-implanting it into the patient. The gene stimulates the patient's immune system into a vigourous attack on the tumour. It has worked on animals, as yet it has not been tried in humans. Ultimately, such treatments could completely replace surgery for cancer, hence the aforementioned wrangling.
The primary source for this item is Science (259(1993) 452).
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Science vs Religion
An article in The Financial Times over Easter discussed the differences between science and religion. Amongst the points raised, was the criticism of science that it offers an inhumane unapproachable universe. Science creates its institutions which are self serving and cut off from people in general.
The article said that most people did not understand scientific methods of hypothesis, experiment, debate and deduction. Religions offer no chance of change. They are governed by dogma and tradition, in defence of which people are prepared to die - and kill.
Inasmuch as science creates professional groups that are unwilling to listen to outsiders, one must agree with the inhumanity criticism. An example is the feud between cryogenics and cryonics. However this criticism isn't really against scientific method but against people who form into groups to defend their financial and other interests. Such groups appear outside of science, of course, the law being another example. Medicine could be described as a branch of science, although some refer to it as a art. However it is notoriously difficult to introduce new ideas.
Although today organ transplants are commonplace, as recently as the 1930s horror films were being made where transplant surgeons are depicted as homicidal lunatics. Today such films as Chiller similarly decry cryonics, thus supporting the existing financial and other structures of the medical profession.
A reply article from the Dean of Salisbury said that any form of extreme blinkered thinking is bad and he could not condone the excesses of religion. However he felt that science was unable to answer some fundamental spiritual questions that people want to consider.
ICN Pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures the antiviral Ribavirin, had a sharp increase in its share price when its chairman and chief executive officer, Mr Milan Panic, lost the election in Yugoslavia. It has now sent out a letter to its shareholders in which Mr Panic explains why he left the company for an eight months leave of absence to head his former country.
His decision to take the chance offered to him was not taken lightly, but in view of the involvement by ICN in the largest privatisation in Yugoslavia, the chance to restore peace to his homeland was something Mr Panic could not pass by.
Eventually, he decided the answer would be for him to attempt to become President of Serbia, and his failure ended his political career. He said that the fact that he was still able to get 35% of the votes in what most nations regard as a rigged election give great hope for a final peaceful settlement for the region.
However his personal priorities are now to lead ICN into its next phase of growth and progress. Mr Panic will aim to use his contacts and experiences as a statesman to expand his company into emerging eastern markets. The company has as its motto "He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything."
The mailing also included some newspaper clippings. in The Los Angeles Times of 3 July 1992, Mr Panic is quoted as saying "No idea is worth killing for". Had he gained power in Serbia, he would have jailed extremists on all sides who would not put down their weapons, be they Serbs, Muslims or Croats.
What defines a Proper Religion
An item on breakfast television in the UK was discussing the Davidian cult massacre at Waco, Texas. "They are not a proper religion, with only 80 dead. To qualify as a proper religion, millions must have died for the cause." was the comment made by one studio guest. How true!
The Immortalist April 1993 reprinted a page from Technology Review where the possibility of a microwave tumble drier was discussed. The idea is that the use of microwaves would be 20% more efficient than resistance heating to dry clothes. Microwaves would only heat the water that needs to be evaporated.
Water boils at the 100C temperature only at sea level. The lower the air pressure, the lower the temperature at which it boils.
Therefore I suggest a better high technology method of drying clothes may be to put them in a vacuum chamber. The cost of running the pump until they are dry would be less than providing the equivalent heating power. Indeed, any heat generated by inefficiencies in the pump motor and in the pumping process can be used to raise the temperature of the load, where the water can boil off at near room temperature.
The only problem I can foresee with this method is providing a chamber light enough and strong enough at reasonable cost to the consumer. Oh yes, and making sure that customers don't dry their pets in it and sue the manufacturer when they suffocate!
Panoramic View of Aging
On 26 April the BBC broadcast a program about the problems of the aging population of Britain and other European countries in their current affairs series Panorama. They started off by mentioning the problem of Granny Dumping, seen in the United States for some while. Unable to care of aging relatives, people dump them near hospitals or other social services and refuse to have anything more to do with them. Sometimes they change the locks of their doors etc to prevent them returning or being returned by the authorities.
In the US more people rent their accommodation, and so therefore can more easily vanish leaving no trace for the authorities to catch up with them. This problem is less relevant in the UK, where most people own their own homes. The authorities often make charges on homes and can threaten to evict people if they don't care for elderly relatives.
However the program pointed out that this was a less than satisfactory solution in the long term, and looked to Germany where consideration is being given to changing this for a general tax the proceeds of which is directed to care of the elderly. Needless to say this tax is meeting opposition with big manufacturers and the trade unions.
Unfortunately the program did not mention the alternative solution of looking to research to abolish the process of aging itself. This is most likely to be felt in the first instance by "squaring the curve", ie people will be active for a longer portion of their lives and then deteriorate rapidly towards the end. This will be of great benefit to governments concerned about caring for a population of elderly people.
Thymosin Alpha One Shares Followed by Major Stockbrokers
In its annual report for 1992, Thymosin Alpha One, the company whose flotation was announced in Anti Aging News (now Life Extension Report), said that its shares are being covered by Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley are one of the most prestigious Wall Street firms, and their reporting on the company to their clients has increased institutional investment in the company and a heightened appreciation of the potential of their product Thymosin Alpha One.
During the fourth quarter, the company has initiated a new pilot study into the interaction of their product with some others in the synergistic treatment of AIDS. A "statistically significant improvement" was found in patients using a mixture of Thymosin Alpha One, alpha interferon and AZT.
Patients Should See Operation Death Lists
Writing in The Financial Times 2 May 1993, Dominic Lawson in his regular column addressed a problem with people submitting to surgery.
First he recounted a visit to a dentist, where he says he was butchered, but other dentists called in to made good the damage refused to criticise their colleague. In fact they tipped him off that Mr Lawson might be angry when he recovered, and the malpracticing dental surgeon had quickly emigrated to avoid litigation.
Mr Lawson went on to say that National Health patients often received details of waiting lists for various hospitals for particular operations. He suggests that this is not as important as the death lists for various operations. These are compiled and are available to doctors but not the public. The death rates from common operations vary widely between hospitals. The medical profession said that this depends on what goes on outside the hospital, not the merits of the surgeons and other staff involved. But Mr Lawson concluded that as with every other activity, there must be good and bad practitioners of surgery, and it is time that the profession as a whole recognised the seemingly obvious fact, and stopped trying to whitewash itself by making the public believe that all doctors are equal.
British Police Forces to Research Effects of Relaxing Drug Laws
According to The Financial Times of 16 May, a senior police officer has called for research into the effects of licensing users and suppliers of illegal drugs. The aim would be to reduce the levels of crime against the elderly and vulnerable, at present high to finance drug users' habit.
The present war on drugs merely serves to strengthen the profits of those that are not caught. The violence used against drug dealers is transformed into violence against the general public by robbers and other criminals.
Vultures Pecking at Bankrupt Companies
A letter appeared in The Financial Times of 16 May concerning the collapse of an international company Polly Peck. Its chairman, Mr Azil Nadir, fled the British legal system to take up residence in northern Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with the UK.
In the letter Mr Rhys-Burgess, a former shareholder in Polly Peck, said that Mr Azil Nadir had been accused of misappropriating £32 million of the company's money.
However the legal administrators who had been appointed to run the remains of the company following its collapse had already taken £16 million in fees. Mr Rhys-Burgess wrote that the administrators are "people who create nothing, contribute nothing, and do nothing except to trade for their own profit in the misfortunes of others."
On the other hand, Mr Nadir had built the company up from nothing, and Mr Rys-Burgess feels it would seem more sensible to allow him to continue running the remaining profitable parts of the business.
More on Cold Prevention
I was pleased to see mention of Mr Bozzonetti's cold vaccination articles in Longevity Report in the Quickies section of The Immortalist for May 1993.
The reason why a general vaccination can't be found for colds is that what we refer to as a cold is in fact a whole range of diseases with similar symptoms. These diseases have been designed to mutate rapidly, so although a specific individual never gets the same cold twice, there is always a different cold to infect him if he is contaminated with the appropriate virus.
However there are instances where people are forewarned that they are going to be exposed to a particular virus. Typically this is when a member of a household or work group brings in a cold from outside.
What Mr Bozzonetti has outlined is a method whereby the person bringing in the cold to a group can be used as a source of the virus from which to make a vaccine to vaccinate the remainder of the group, so that they can obtain immunity without experiencing any symptoms. The original virus can be donated by simply spitting into a receptacle, so there is no reason why the introducer should not cooperate.
Mr Bozzonetti's proposal is based on recent biochemical research, and would require the manufacture of kits by a pharmaceutical manufacturer. These kits could be used, like any other domestic appliance, by people who are not professionally qualified. Indeed, anyone with access to the right equipment and materials could follow the recipe right now, but it would require some detailed knowledge to obtain exactly the right components.
A Funeral Director and a Bank
According to Funeral Service Journal of May 1993, a Stockport funeral director blockaded his bank's car park with a hearse in protest over excessive bank charges. After five days, says the article, the bank withdrew its imposition.
In the same magazine, a funeral director is reported to have insisted that a client (whom he suspected of having unpaid previous bills) pay for a funeral in advance. He was sued for breach of contract and ordered to pay £100 compensation.
Liquid Krypton Proposal
I offer the following suggestion to those who may be interested in using liquid krypton but are put off by the cost. Why not use it in a system where all the boil off is recycled? Then you have the purchase of the liquid krypton as a one-off expense only.
I suggest that the krypton dewar has a tube fitted to its top which is surrounded by a dewar containing liquid nitrogen. As the krypton attempts to boil off, it has to pass up the tube and is condensed by the colder nitrogen and falls back into the dewar.
I appreciate that if this idea was to be taken up, it would need further refinement, but it does have the advantage of using a passive system to stabilise the temperature at a warmer -152oC. The passive nature of the liquid nitrogen system was a big selling point - low maintenance and no dependence on mains electricity.
Periastron Considers Warming Cryonics Patients by 66C
Volume 2, no 5 of Periastron starts with news and comment about the benefits and costs of storing cryonics patients at the warmer temperature of -130C. Mention is made of the new scientific journal, with talk about forming a non-profit corporation. So it looks as though they plan to ask for donations not investments again. Undoubtedly the reasons for this have been gone into carefully, but I must comment, as I have done before, that those who offer investments, such as Mr Milan Panic (Ribavirin research and development) and Dr Morton Schulman, (Deprenyl development) seem to have got far greater funding as a result. Both these men have expressed anti-death sentiments in their objectives.
However Periastron has some bad news for Dr Schulman in this issue: an article reviewing recent research mentions a Deprenyl study on mild Alzheimer's disease patients undergoing a 15 month double blind program. After two months, no patient showed any sign of improvement. However this does not rule out Deprenyl giving benefits to normal elderly people, and other work mentioned in the review still suggests that it is of benefit.
Other articles covered brains, memory, nanotechnology etc. Again, Dr Donaldson seemed to be the sole writer.
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Glaxo Develop New Influenza Anti Viral
According to The Financial Times of 3 June, Glaxo, working with researchers at Monash University in Australia, have designed a new antiviral. It is known only as GR121167X, and attaches itself to an enzyme, on the surface of flu viruses, that does not change during mutations.
The article says that thousands of people die each year from 'flu, even when there is no epidemic. Millions of people suffer the disease each year. The virus is so successful because it is designed to mutate sufficiently to confuse the body's immune system.
The new drug has been tried in cell cultures and in ferrets, and has "potent anti-influenza activity".
Human volunteers are expected to start trials with the drug as a nasal spray within a year, and Glaxo expect to have the product available for regulatory approval after five years.
Other companies are also investigating anti-flu drugs. Wellcome has an experimental compound that attacks another enzyme. It would be taken by mouth. However it has been suggested that the Glaxo product is the best so far.
The Financial Times article referred to an article in Nature published on the same day.
Deprenyl Animal Health Shares Fall for Professional Reasons
The price of shares in Deprenyl Animal Health Inc have undergone wild fluctuations. They have been as high as $10, but in May I was able to buy some for only $1.50. There has been no changes in the company's research program and indeed progress has been made. The fall has been due to market sentiment against health stocks because of Mrs Clinton's attitudes, and also due to professional financiers' short term horizons.
Long term investors are well advised to purchase at these low levels, as the company's objectives, to sell Deprenyl products to extend the life of companion animals (pets), could show results in the next few years and send the share price soaring.
Their recent quarterly report, dated 31 March, said that they had achieved significant milestones: In January, interim positive results were achieved in treating cognitive dysfunction in dogs.
In February and March a new animal drug application was submitted to the FDA and a US patent was issued, and finally there was a presentation to the American Animal Hospital Association.
The company is pursuing its application on the grounds of treating specific diseases. However the ultimate objective is to get dogs living beyond their conventional lifespans by the use of deprenyl. This should be demonstrable well within human lifetimes, and could lead to a public outcry if people are denied access to the same treatment.
However having said that, I should report on a conversation I had with a doctor in a social (ie non- professional) situation. I asked him what would happen if a patient had come into his surgery and asked for Deprenyl for life extension purposes. He said that he would look up the literature and report to the patient what, if any, the risks would be with such a course of action. If he felt that the risk would be severe, he would try and dissuade the patient. Otherwise he would be willing to prescribe. There would be no question of "Aging is not a disease, please don't waste time I could be giving to people who are really sick" or some suchlike. However this doctor came from a highly underpopulated country and may not be under the same pressures as a doctor in the UK or the US.
Sea Drama with a Cryonics Flavour
A film was repeated on British television recently with superficially a rather silly plot. A ship, The Goliath (also the title of the film) sank in the early days of World War Two and survivors trapped in an air pocket continued to survive for 40 years. They achieved this by various improbable actions to generate an artificial air supply, using electrolysis of sea water and a very large supply of diesel oil left intact on the sunken ship to generate electricity. After 40 years, they were then offered rescue by some divers.
There were some interesting arguments when some of the survivors elected to remain on the sea bed and die (because their energy supply to make air had nearly run out) rather than live in the "new" world above. This is, of course, similar to the people today who would rather die than take as an alternative to annihilation the chance of cryonic suspension.
Letters to Comments from Cornwall:
From Mr Mark Plus
I noticed your mention in the May 1993 issue of The Immortalist of my review of Owen Paepeke's book The Evolution of Progress. I would like to respond to it.
I would point out that Paepeke is not some neo-Malthusian kook like, say Jeremy Rifkin. He praises what economic growth has accomplished over the last two centuries, and anticipates what technology can do to improve human beings beginning in the next century. Where he parts company with technological cornucopians, however, is in his argument that technology has already accomplished most of what it can accomplish in the economic realm. The orders of magnitude increases in productivity are behind us, he says; future productivity increases will be of the order of a few percent. And a lot of that will come by using computers to improve management productivity, as Paul Krugman acknowledges in his review in Fortune magazine. But these trivial improvements will not change our lives that much. Paepke even refers to Engines of Creation for support; Drexler makes a similar argument about how, after the maturity of nanotechnology, technological progress will eventually stop because of the fixed character of physical laws.
Regarding attorneys: on pages 184- 187 Paepke discusses the phenomenum of "rent seeking". Many have gone into legalised looting because (a) the wealth is there to be manipulated, and (b) it's easier to make a living this way than in productive business, due to the deceleration of productivity.*
Keep in mind, I am not happy with this scenario. But I find it sufficiently plausible that cryonicists ought to consider it. A lot of the cryonicist investment advice assumes continued economic growth, which may not happen, at least not like it has in the last century or so.
[Mark Plus is editor of Venturist Monthly News, which is available from PO Box 458, Wrightwood, CA92397-0458, for $12/year USA, $15 Canada, $18 rest]
I wonder whether the deceleration of productivity may be more due to the financial looters. A UK example is that sawmills have to have dust extraction equipment. Fine. But now the government requires you to register (cost £900) and have them inspected by a private inspectorate which costs £550 per year. Some bloke walks into a factory once a year and says "Ah yes, you still have your dust extractor. Havn't you been good boys. Five hundred and fifty pounds please." I should think that the protection racketeers of the 1930s would be green with envy at people who are able to do this sort of thing not only within the law but with the force of law to support them.
Larger companies have to spend a lot on lawyers just to enure compliance with manufacturing laws. They could employ ten people actually making things for the employment of one solicitor who doesn't make or contribute anything. Those ten people are standing in an unemployment queue. Arthur C Clarke once wrote that if you had an industrial robot that could do a small proportion of what a man can do you wouldn't pay for it to stand on a street corner doing nothing. Yet in order to employ a solicitor who does do nothing in terms of productivity, you leave TEN men standing on a street corner. No wonder productivity is falling!
From Dr Thomas Donaldson
In Longevity Report 39 page 11, and The Immortalist June 1993 page 16 you summarized my opinions about nanotechnology in a manner which made me feel that they had been distorted in major ways.
I would not say or claim that nanotechnology is presently only a matter of theory. I believe that the proper meaning of the word nanotechnology (that is, technology involved in manipulating matter on a nano scale) includes biochemistry, large parts of present materials science, supramolocular chemistry, and all of the other connected fields and techniques. In this sense, nanotechnology is rich in real technology and real results. The growing role of biotechnology should convince everyone of that. What I have objected to, not just once, but many times, is the appropriation of this word nanotechnology to mean only that small part of the field engaged by Dr Drexler and his disciples.
Anyone seriously interested in renewal of cryonics patients, not to mention all the many other achievements which mastery of matter on a nanoscale will bring, cuts short their imagination and their understanding if they refuse to cast their attention wider than the fields inhabited by Drexler's disciples. There is a great deal of inventiveness by people originally from many fields. The opinion these scientists and engineers have of the work of Drexler's disciples also ranges widely, from highly favourable to outright contempt. (I recently received a letter of this latter kind from an American researcher in supramolocular chemistry now in Japan. The fact that Drexler has virtually ignored chemistry may play a role in such attitudes.)
Furthermore, my own feelings about Drexler himself differ from my feelings about some of his disciples. Drexler's original book, Engines of Creation, contains his invention of the word nanotechnology, and a summary, lacking in a few respects but generally very well done, of all the work up to that time which had gone on in nanotechnology (defined as the manipulation of matter on nano scales). By inventing this word, Drexler drew attention to a major scientific trend which had been growing, almost invisibly, all around us. This was both important and very useful. This books deserves notice and praise. [Available as the recent paperback edition from Longevity Books for £11.20 post paid. -ed]
As for Nanosystems, [not available from Longevity Books - ed] my review in Cryonics summarised my opinion of it: it suffered from a lack of either actual experimental creation of nanosystems of Drexler's kind, or the full computer simulation of a complete system (instead of the simulation of single parts which it presented instead). Either one would have greatly improved it. Either one would also present considerable problems of expense and time, to which I alluded in my original review. While I sympathise with the problem, sympathy alone does not make me conclude that Nanosystems has provided a good case for the systems Drexler describes. To me the work by supramolocular chemists toward actually building working molecular tools deserve at least equal emphasis. It too has not reached a conclusion. But these chemists are wrestling with the real world, which as always turns out messier than any pure theory.
You may also recall that I made a distinction between Nanotechnology and nanotechnology. Capitalization in the first word alludes to another fault of many of those charmed by Nanotechnology. It takes on, in their minds, many aspects of religion, not science. One major characteristic of such religion is the fundamentally passive attitude of its believers. Nanotechnology will sometime solve all problems, so we need not stir ourselves to work towards any solutions. All will be solved when the Apocalypse of Nanotechnology arrives! (Mike Perry has pointed out that not all Christian thinkers, even early Christian thinkers, took this passive attitude, but the attitude is rife in Christianity regardless.) And of that religious attitude, I doubt that Nanotechnology will even help nanotechnology itself, much less any revivals of cryonics patients.
I hope that in this letter I have explained my own views on the issue of nanotechnology.
[Dr Donaldson is the editor and publisher of Periastron.]
UK Public Hostility to Lawyers
In the UK the public hostility to the legal profession is accelerating, with ample representation in the media. On UK's Channel Four in peak Sunday evening viewing time a programme called Street Legal exposes the most incredible stories about the profession.
Another programme referred to the shortage of high court judges in the UK. Such a posting one would have thought a great honour and a pinnacle of a barrister's career, with its $150,000 per year salary, long holidays and a short working day. But not a bit of it. Barristers earn far more than that, typically $375,000 a year, and sometimes as much as $1,500,000. They also say the work is more interesting than being a judge.
These statements were made by the programme in two booklets it distributes:
The English legal system is a maze of oak-panelled corridors, unintelligible jargon, pitfalls and concealed traps - and, sometimes loneliness, fear and financial hardship.
The more that individual citizens know about the law, the better they will be able to use it.
Law making, like law breaking, is out of control. Year by year Parliament swamps us with new laws. Much of this is lost on most of us. Even when it is not, the problem of affording and obtaining the legal services necessary to take proper advantage of all this law is formidable.
UK Government Joins Terrorists by Charging Tax on Money Paid to Extortionists
According to The Financial Times of 12 June, the UK government has revealed draft rules that prevents businesses that are threatened by terrorists to pay up or be blown up from paying the money out of pre- tax funds. The stated aim is to reduce terrorism, but in fact the government will merely be siding with the terrorists in extorting money from businesses.
The article also mentioned that although prostitution is illegal in most circumstances, the UK Inland Revenue still collects taxation from any of its earnings that are declared. A case brought against the Inland Revenue for "living off immoral earnings" failed in the high court. (Legalese for running a business employing prostitutes for sale of their services to other people.) The Inland Revenue says that it has no qualms for accepting tax from shady enterprises, and says that it hopes it has not been aiding and abetting these activities by lending an air of respectability to them. However the tax authorities said that they were bound by law not to report any illegal businesses to the police.
Patent fees and Radio
An article in New Scientist 19 June reviews Lee de Forrest and the Fatherhood of Radio by James A. Hijiya, (LeHigh University Press). It seems that cryonics is not the only high technology subject to be raped by the legal profession.
The invention of the triode by de Forrest and FM radio by Edwin Armstrong might have lead to both earning a fortune. But continuous legal battles between the two over patents on regenerative feedback left both men paupers.
Armstrong committed suicide and de Forrest died penniless, without even a funeral. A narrowly avoided prison sentence when de Forrest's company North American Wireless Corporation went bankrupt was another award society heaped upon the hapless inventor.
Perhaps Intel and AMD (manufacturers of microprocessors and other components for PCs) should learn something! In Intel's first quarter report Mr F. Thomas Dunlap, Jr, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, said: "We have six different litigations going on with AMD, but they all follow basically the same pattern. Intel comes out with a successful product; AMD copies it and tries to overcome legal hurdles."
Airtight Coffins Preserve Indefinitely
Funeral Service Journal of June 1993 carried an article concerning the work of Mr Emil Degrezia of New Jersey in their section News from Around the World. He has developed an airtight casket made of "space-age polymers". It is claimed to be capable of preserving a body for an indefinite length of time.
Publicity and licensing agents International Product Design, of Fort Lee, New Jersey say that the container is "unique and beautiful" and signals "the beginning of a new era in funerals". [The article did not give the zip code or fax and phone numbers, so anyone wanting to contact them needs to do further research, I am afraid!]
Spoof Life Extension Article Gets Serious Response From Biotechnology Companies
According to New Scientist of 26 June, Nature published an article Dorian Gray Mice by Professor Robin Weiss, of Chester Beatty Laboratories of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, on 1 April. It claimed that Sigmund Obispo, of the Stoyte Institute of Life Sciences, California, had isolated a gene that confers immortality on carp and transplanted it into mice, who also lived indefinitely. The article suggested that what was true of mice today would be true of people tomorrow.
Professor Weiss was inundated with requests for references, invitations to speak at conferences, and lucrative offers from biotechnology companies.
New Scientist said that professor Weiss found the response puzzling. In fact the article came from the plot of Aldous Huxley's After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (see Longevity Report 25 page 7 for Bob Brakeman's analysis of this). The names Obispo and Stoyte were actually taken from the novel.
Other readers complained to Nature that they should not mix fact with fiction. [See The Immortalist June 1993, page 37.] Professor Weiss replied that people should read all articles in Nature with healthy scepticism.
Of course this April Fool joke worked so well because many people reading Nature couldn't remember everything else that they had read before. In fact Aldous Huxley's After Many a Summer Dies the Swan was the subject of a Bob Brakeman article in Longevity Report, and also broadcast as a radio play, but when reading the New Scientist article for the first time I didn't recall the names Obispo and Stoyte until I read where they came from.
But the same applies with real information. When you read an article in a scientific journal, maybe you have read something relevant before that the author hasn't. Then there is a connection in your brain that may be totally novel - if you remember the other fact! Just as Obispo (not a particularly forgettable name) was forgotten, so might many other things.
Definition of an inventor: someone who happens to read something and remember something at the same time which when put together create a new third thing. It is rather like a gambling "fruit machine" really!
H & Q Life Sciences Investors Arrange Seminar
Hambrecht and Quist Capital management are a company that manage a fund investing in companies concerned with life sciences. Their fund holders were invited to a seminar following their general meeting on 7 July at the Four Seasons Hotel, Boston, Mass. The preliminary list of invited companies included Alkermes, Creative Biomolecules, Mitek Surgical Products, Transkaryotic Therapies.
Their proxy statement form indicates that shareholders in the fund can offer proposals at the meeting. Therefore if any reader lives in the Boston area and fancies his chances at recommending the fund invest in immortalist orientated companies, then now is his chance.
The address is H & Q Life Sciences Investors 50, Rowes Warf Boston MA02110, tel (617)-0567. Shares in the fund can also be bought through stockbrokers.
Plant AIDS Cure?
An article in New Scientist 3 July details promising results in the fight against AIDS obtained from a plant found only in Western Australia.
The exact name of the plant wasn't given, presumably to stop the world's supply being stripped bare before there was a chance ever to do proper clinical trials. However they did say that it belongs to the genus Conospermum. Specimens were first collected in 1981 by Richard Spjut, a botanist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Spjut sent them to the US National Cancer Institute for screening for possible anticarcinogens, but as not result was obtained, they were shelved. Later they started screening natural material for anti-AIDS action.
One particular chemical, a naphthoquinone trimmer, found in the extract from the plant prevented HIV from replicating and from killing a type of human immune cell.
Dwight Kaufman, deputy director of the division of cancer treatment said the chemical, called conocurvone, is "extremely exciting".
Conocurvone can be synthesised from precursors found in the plant, and these precursors can be synthesised from ordinary materials. Therefore theoretically conocurvone can be synthesised without access to the plant. However the processes involved would make the end product very expensive.
Both Australian and American officials are concerned that people will strip Western Australia of Conospermum, endangering the supply. They warn that simply eating the plant would be dangerous as it contains many toxic substances. The active component is itself toxic and may not even be suitable as an AIDS cure for that reason, unless its side effects can be buffered by other pharmaceuticals. At best the other symptoms generated by the cure could be severe.
There are also legal issues. Australian lawyers are concerned that the county will receive a substantial financial contribution from fees earned if an anti-AIDS medicine is produced. Third World countries are looking at the case with interest, as other plants peculiar to various parts of the world may hold cures to diseases suffered in the developed nations.
However the Australians realise that it would not be in their own best interests to delay development of any useful pharmaceuticals.
A team of chemists from the National Cancer Institute led by Michael Boyd will describe the structure of the conocurvone molecule in The Journal of the American Chemical Society "shortly". Maybe by the time this appears the article will be published.
I would comment that once the structure of the molecule is known, the mechanism by which it attacks HIV may become clearer, leading to less toxic and expensive substitutes becoming available. The New Scientist article says that at present chemists who have studied it are not sure how it works, but its action is known to be different to AZT and relatives.
Amber no Good For Morphostasis
Also in 3 July's New Scientist was an article heralding the release of the film Jurassic Park to British cinemas. Relevant to us was the comment about the scientific accuracy of the idea of finding dinosaur DNA in blood sucking insects trapped in amber.
Whereas some DNA might survive, the article says, and the bodies of the insects look preserved, inside enzymes have destroyed body tissues and proteins.
Therefore preservation of humans in large blocks of amber is not an option anyone interested in preserving brain structure should consider. You'd be lucky to get more than a few molecules of DNA for a clone - that is, if you can find them amongst all the goo.
Gene Lab Loss Doubled by Accountants
Despite reporting sales up by approximately five times, audit procedures doubled the per share loss at Gene Labs, the AIDS test company, in the current quarter.
The reason for this loss is a professional requirement that "under the purchase method of accounting, is the portion of the purchase price allocated to in-process research and development", said the quarterly report.
Losses in research companies are not uncommon, and in fact this company has a very promising product line for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of life- threatening viral diseases.
On 19 March 1993 Science magazine reported on a new technique developed by the company for measuring accurately the amount of circulating HIV in patients' blood. This is useful for evaluating anti AIDS drugs, such as the company's GLQ223. It will also help research leading to a better understanding of the disease.
The company has acquired Diagnostic Biotechnology (Pte) Ltd to expand and commercialise its products. The acquisition will strengthen the company's aim to obtaining a strong share of the world's market in confirmatory diagnostic products.
Eye Surgery for Cataracts Surpassed by Electronic Spectacles
Instead of having his opaque lens cut out, Siegfried Klein, a French physicist, has invented a new form of spectacles to aid cataract sufferers, according to New Scientist of 17 July, 1993.
It is known that if a cataract sufferer wears a pinhole lens in his spectacles his vision is restored. However the field of vision is much less. Klein's solution is to use a device in the spectacle lens similar to an LCD display to scan the pinhole across the eye. The scan field rate is 50Hz, as is a UK television picture.
However the image is dimmer and night vision would be affected. The same principle can be used to make sunglasses which do not distort colour vision, which will be of special interest to pilots. The advantage of the spectacles over surgery for cataracts is that the patient retains the ability to focus, which is lost when the lens is surgically removed. Surgical patients had to rely on many different spectacles, one for each range of focus.
Mr Klein's former employers, France's state owned nuclear research institute, financed his research and hold the patents on the technology. A French company is developing LCD scanning sunglasses, for sale initially to pilots.
Cheating Would-be Lawyer
According to The Financial Times of 22 July, a law student was found by exam invigilators to have 32 sheets of closely written crib sheets stuffed up his jumper, and other cribs were found elsewhere on his person.
He was sitting an examination on the subject of mishandling of accounts. Mishandling of accounts is the reason why most solicitors are struck off the register.
UK Property Market Described as Dream House of Horrors
Writing in The Financial Times of 24 July, Mr Dominic Lawson blamed overpriced surveys, valuations and hidden commissions for turning house buyers into "scavenging predators". The system is designed to maximise conflict and to encourage dishonesty, he says. British people behave with the cynical savagery of a Wall Street junk bond salesman when they see the home they want. He calls for a more user friendly system of property conveyance, although this would not please lawyers and the new profession of licensed conveyancers.
Risks of Surgery by UK Dentists
A programme broadcast by the BBC in their prestigious Panorama current affairs series exposed that only 25% of UK dental surgeons took precautions that their "handpieces" were autoclaved against AIDS and other diseases.
It started with a screen shot of a funeral and a report on the Florida dentist David Acer, who killed five patients by contaminating them with AIDS. It also mentioned the law suit of Jim Sharpe who is not gay, promiscuous or a drug user, and who caught AIDS from a tooth extraction.
It looks at possible theories as to how the contamination was perpetrated, and even considered the possibility that this was deliberate. They interviewed a homosexual friend of Acer's, and used a discussion between the two gays as a possible motive for the murders.
Apparently Acer had put forward the theory that if the US Government found that normal people were also infected by AIDS they would make more effort to find a cure. The programme then suggested how Acer could have committed the crimes to make it look to the government that normal people could be infected at random. However even the program makers themselves considered this theory to be far fetched, and then they started a detailed investigation into other methods the disease could be transferred.
The actual drill bits that the dentists use are routinely autoclaved, but the handpiece isn't. Experiments were then performed to discover whether the handpiece could somehow collect infectious blood debris from patients mouths and transfer it. Acer had the same strain of AIDS as a number of gay friends, and he used to treat them out of hours.
Research discovered that blood products found their way into the delicate turbine mechanism in the handpiece, and could be ejected into subsequent patients' mouths. A studio demonstration made this quite obvious.
An image showed the turbine of a dental handpiece and the biological contamination.
The journalists then did a survey of UK dental surgeons, and found that only 25% of them regularly autoclaved their handpieces. Autoclaving a handpiece reduces its life, and in fact it costs £4 per patient to do this.
Some handpieces sent for repair were found to be so clogged up with blood and other debris that the engineers regularly autoclaved them before repairing them. An example was shown on the programme, and a doctor said that under no circumstance would he want that in his mouth.
Another picture shows some of the filth in a dental handpiece scraped off onto a researcher's finger (after Autoclaving, of course!)
Shown here is an electron micrograph of debris found in dental handpieces as used on patients.
The presenter said that the chances of getting AIDS at the dentist was low, but it is certainly not zero. Also, other diseases could be transferred, from E. coli to hepatitis, also fatal in some forms. A virus that can attack the heart is also found in people's mouths. This is also fatal.
My local paper, The West Briton carried a statement of reassurance from local dental surgeons after the broadcast. They claimed that the risk was minute and that many dentists used new type handpieces. They did not say that the new type handpieces were more easily autoclaved or that they were less prone to collecting oral debris. They also claimed that the costs of sterile procedure (gloves, mask and disposable needles and other measures) in dental surgeries was £10 per patient and that surgeons made a loss on National Health Service patients. Also the government run NHS is cutting back on dentistry at a time of rising costs due to the need for extra sterility.
This is just one of the problems associated with preventative dental surgery. I don't know many people but I do know of two people who say they know someone who has never had dental surgery in their lives and who have had no trouble and who have died with all their teeth. Couple this with the fact that half the population do not have regular treatment and this half have more teeth in old age, and there is something clearly very wrong with the way preventative dental surgery is practised.
One can't really blame dentists because they are only as good as their education makes them. The profession as a whole however stands to gain from people having as much surgery as possible. An earlier television programme, Independent Television's News at Ten accused dentists of "cutting into people in order to make money." A similar accusation emerges from maverick dental surgeon Dr R.O. Nara in Money by the Mouthful (available from Oramedics 200, E. Montezuma Av Houghton MI49931 USA). He was so outspoken that his profession tried to expel him, without success after a lengthy court battle.
What we really need is a very serious scientific study on the effects and advantages (if any) of preventative dental surgery. Would, in fact, the public be better off if teeth were only treated when they give trouble?
Should infected teeth be extracted as a matter of course, or should they be treated and allowed to heal? Dr Nara claims that damaged teeth can heal themselves if pampered. He says that root canal fillings are often inserted unnecessarily and if the tooth is filled normally the nerve can regenerate. Dentists are often too keen to perform this expensive procedure, sometimes involving oral bandages and repeat visits, on teeth whose lives are then limited.
Dr Nara also claims that expensive and painful gum surgery is of little value and cleaning gum pockets with a Water-Pik or similar appliance is cheaper and more effective.
The UK in particular has a poor record of autoclaving dental handpieces, says Panorama and only 25% of surgeons do it. The country also offers free dental care to people of low means and subsidised dental care to the rest. If this care is of a form that is ill advised, then think of the saving if such care was only subsidised on an "as of need" basis.
People that go to the dentist regularly still get toothache and have other problems, such as crowns, bridges and other "appliances" falling off.
Do people who go to the dentist regularly get as many or more incidents of toothache as people who don't? Toothache isn't terminal, it is self limiting in most cases, although if swelling is present then an antibiotic should be used, and if it does not subside then medical help should be sought. But even then, should the medical help include tooth extraction, or is an antibiotic followed by improved oral hygiene sufficient, at least in some cases? People will have their own views on this I know, but had the question been put to a full and rigorous scientific survey?
Another point that need rigorous research is, assuming that preventative surgery is a valid concept, why do so few people have it? Many would say "the cost", but I am sure that those who are eligible for free treatment don't always avail themselves of it. I would suggest that professional procedure may be the cause. However well meaning dental surgeons may be, their procedural habits are designed to save them time against patients' time. When patients' anxieties come into the equation, it may be that procedures, such as subjecting the patients to temporary fillings rather than doing permanent fillings when needed, making patients have separate appointments for inspections and surgery, and failing to discuss treatment options, are keeping people away.
I suspect that the news media will not leave the profession alone until some big changes are made. Many individual dental surgeons feel that they are not liked by their patients, and this shake-up could well lead to a better understanding between practitioner and patient.
Perhaps the dentist will cease to be someone you see out of a sense of duty when you feel well, and and someone you leave feeling ill. Instead, the dentist will come to be someone you only go to when ill and you leave the surgery being cured. Then everyone will like the dentist!
Select Information Exchange
This organisation specialises in newsletters and books on law, investment and small business, with a particular emphasis on what can be achieved by the individual. They advertise in investment newspapers, and offer a sample selection of newsletters together with their Customer Discount Manual for only $11.95. I wrote in following a recommendation from Eric Klein, and they said that they had processed my order without charging me because they weren't sure whether all the newsletters would send me samples as I was overseas! At the time of writing I don't know whether I'll get any newsletters, but the Customer Discount Manual has some very interesting articles as well as book mail order offers. [Select Information Exchange 244 West 54th Street New York NY10019]
One full page advertiser said in his advertisement "The biggest impediment to business is not the government any more. It is lawyers." He went on to advertise a $53 book on how to avoid using lawyers, how to defeat lawsuits and if you really have to use a lawyer how to reduce his bill. Immortalist organisations such as the Life Extension Foundation and Alcor may be interested in the wheeze he recommended for those attacked by a government agency. Find their busiest, most swamped office. Hire a lawyer in that town and have the case transferred there. If the case simply doesn't get lost in the shuffle, you will at least gain a huge delay and most likely get a much weaker and inexperienced attack on you or your business.
The book is called How to Outfox the Foxes, and costs $52.90 including post. Nevada residents have to add $3 sales tax. [CTI Publishing Co 4533, N. Carson Street, Carson City, NV89706]
Is Your Life Improbable?
This month's Periastron brings together a few articles in the science press about life, the universe and the Copernican Principle (we are common rather than unusual). We must live out lives now, when the numbers of humans living is at its maximum, for our lives to be most probable, according to an article in Nature by JR Gott III [363(1993) 315-319. This has some unusual and possibly sombre conclusions about immortalism and also any result of the SETI project.
Rather than risk getting the arguments wrong (again) I will leave it up to readers to get Periastron and read the article.
Other articles explained the importance of memory studies, and the professional cryobiologists' failure to publish work on neural cryopreservation. Gene Changing for Adults was in my view an important article. If we are to use some means other than cryonics to live longer than the present norm, genetic modification of existing people is likely to be the most probable mechanism.
Again the evident scholarship of Dr Donaldson's articles seems to have frightened off any other authors. Quite what this says about the immortalist movement I don't know, but it is slightly worrying.
The world famous word processor has had an upgrade, to version 6. However despite its excellent file and graphics managers, it runs very slow on even a 386. Also document conversions from version 5.1 are not straightforward when you have text boxes. If you have plenty of time and a fast computer, I can recommend the upgrade for the new features and ease of use. But if you have a slow machine you can out type it even with two fingers in the fastest (text) mode.
Reply to Dr Fasan
Dr Ernst Fasan kindly took some of his valuable time to reply to some of the events I have been reporting in this column concerning the bad image of the legal profession with the public.
Obviously I report these events because I agree with the disquiet the public has with this profession. In fact, the senior partner of a law firm here in Cornwall admitted to me that the Law Society Gazette is constantly warning its readers to do everything they can to improve public relations.
One reason why I have this problem with the profession is that I feel that my chances of being placed into cryonic suspension are seriously compromised by their money making systems. However it is not a simple matter of sour grapes because legal advice of any but the lowest complexity is beyond my means. After all, I would like to have my own aeroplane but I don't hate plane makers because aircraft are too expensive to own and run. And I don't have a hate against flying instructors because a course of instruction is compulsory (if you want to fly a 'plane) and also expensive. So why this problem with lawyers?
I think the answer is value or rather lack of it. They charge far more than anyone else per hour of their time, and the quality of service they give is actually less than that available from other trades and professions. They hide behind rule books and fail to tell clients what is happening, and subject them to long periods of delay and worry. People who visit lawyers do so in times of stress, such as bereavement, divorce etc., and they are most vulnerable to suggestion. They are unwilling to complain in such circumstances. Society forces them to go to lawyers at various points in their lives.
An example of compulsory purchase of professional services is as follows. The UK government and banks have a cosy little arrangement whereby the banks earn substantial interest on death taxes. The government forbids a deceased's assets to be sold before probate is granted, and they forbid probate to be granted until death tax is paid!
Therefore the only way for the stalemate to be broken is for the executors to take out personal loans to pay the death tax (40% of estates over £140,000, the price of a medium house.) Arrangement fees of thousands of pounds change hands for the loans. Then the system slowly grinds on whilst the executors are paying bank interest which is sometimes over 20% pa. Of course they claim this interest back from the estate after probate, so it is a further tax on the estate and goes to the benefit of the banks.
Banking, like the law, is one of the well established professions in most developed countries.
Of course, "kindly" lawyers tell their clients what a terrible system this is, and then collect vast fees and commissions in selling life insurance, written in trust for the executors, to pay death taxes. They suggest that they are very clever in suggesting this ruse to beat the system. In order to raise the money to pay the premiums, the hapless clients (if they fall for it) realise investments and pay capital gains tax. And as the sum assured is not linked to inflation, it is seldom sufficient to pay their death tax anyway, because (until the recent property slump) the money value of their homes goes up each year.
If the legal profession and its service was as marvellous as its practitioners tell us, why is it that with any group of middle class people one can easily whip up a load of anti-lawyer stories?
To the specifics of Dr Fasan's arguments: Suppose the motor industry had one product, the Rolls Royce, and offered nothing simpler and smaller. Therefore if you want personal mobility you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for your car. Also, if you want a job, you have to have a car to get from your home to your work. Therefore you are forced to be in debt for the whole of your life to buy this Rolls Royce.
In fact, this analogy is slightly faulty - Rolls Royce cars are made to a high standard of reliability, and if things go wrong they are repaired under guarantee. If you buy one you are treated with civility and respect by the vendors. Unfortunately it is only the cost that is comparable to the legal profession, not the quality! There is no guarantee with legal work.
A private individual, in reality, has the opportunity to chose from a vast range of cars for his mobility.
Yet society as a whole has one legal system only and that system, like the Rolls Royce, is expensive to run and maintain. In fact I suggest it is beyond the means of society to run and maintain it. This is because lawyer's fees are so much higher than the average wage. To be a fair system, lawyers' fees would have to be exactly equal to the average wage. The only way this could be achieved would be to have a legal system that is simple enough for the average person to afford.
I appreciate that lawyers will say that it would be impossible for them to do the work at the average wage, and give sound argument for this. However the answer should not be to offer legal aid for the very poor but to simplify the system so that lawyers can offer a good service for the average wage.
I have heard that Japanese lawyers are paid the average wage in that country, and the system works. And, surprise surprise, their economy is one of the world's most successful!
The UK's legal aid system is so ridiculous that in practise it means that only the very rich (millionaires up) or the very poor (personal assets under £3,000) can access anything but the most trivial litigation.
If society as a whole continues to run the existing system, then it has to cut back on spending elsewhere, for example on research and development. In addition, it loses people capable of doing this research and development to the higher paid positions within the legal system.
My point is that until we can get to a stage where research, development and manufacturing can be performed by computers and nanotechnology, we need humans to do it. If we use these humans elsewhere, whether it is in the law courts or on golf courts, then the research and development won't get done, or at least it won't get done as quickly. It may well be that computers and nanotechnology will never be able to implement any really original ideas and therefore we will always need human minds to make important order of magnitude steps of progress.
I was speaking to an industrialist recently, and was told that in the UK the number of people in manufacturing were roughly equal to the number of people unemployed. (3 million out of a total of 56 million). The rest, ie 50 million, are juveniles, pensioners, chronically sick, prisoners or ... lawyers, accountants etc.
If basic scientific research is not done as quickly as it might be in a simple-law society, then some people alive today who seek the immortalist option will either have to go into suspension or die.
Society as a whole has many problems. They are clearly not being solved by the panacea of the complex legal system. I would refer readers to the Libertarians for many papers written on systems of simple legal systems. In the UK, the address of the Libertarian Alliance is 25, Chapter Gardens Easterbrooke Street London SW1P 4NN.
There is an excellent book on the subject of economic parasitism. It is called The Economic Rape of America and costs $19.95 from Free America Institute 2430 E. Roosevelt, Suite 998 Phoenix Arizona 85008. If you are interested in debating the lawyer question, then this book will give you some interesting ideas, whichever side you are on. It doesn't just deal with lawyers - but considers matters of currency, inflation, taxation, welfare, education and so on.
Genetic Testing May End Life Insurance
An article in New Scientist of 14 August suggested that genetic testing may end life insurance as we know it. Only deaths not predictable by genetic testing would be valid events for insurance purposes. The article explained how insurance companies and others with a financial interest in suppressing genetic testing would never succeed in stopping it. Making such tests illegal for insurance purposes would fail as well.
The result would be that the most likely causes of death except accidents would be uninsurable, and people with an increased risk to common viruses would either pay higher premiums or not be able to get insurance at all.
At present, life insurance is by far the most common means by which cryonic suspensions are funded. Genetic testing will be commonplace long before nanotechnology and other anti-ageing technologies will appear, and therefore I feel that all cryonics organisations will need to develop other means of funding members' suspensions. This particularly applies to those like Alcor that use high technology expensive processes.
In addition, the Cryonics Institute should be ready for a large influx of membership when life policies start to get expensive or cease to be available, and people find that they can use other methods to fund its more reasonable financial requirements.
In the short term, if the availability of life insurance collapses, some insurance companies may also fail as they will be unable to write new business and will have to rely entirely on a reducing pool of investments.
Theoretically there should be no problem, as regulations around insurance require that sufficient funds are invested to pay off claims, ie claims are not paid out of premium income. But rules and regulations seldom achieve what they set out to.
An example of what happens if you run an insurance operation out of premium income is the British Government's National Insurance.
Here, they collect by force of law premiums from all working adults. These are supposed to be for their pensions, but are actually handed over to the present generation of old people as their pensions. However now the working population is shrinking and the pensioner population is growing, together with a fall in the value of money, payment is getting very problematical.
There are now fears that the government may default on the pension that would have been paid to people who also have private means, for example employers' pensions or private pension schemes. Many of these have been taken out not as an alternative to the Government scheme, but to increase the total income in old age.
Loss of the Government pension to people with private means would make the contributions these people have paid all their lives merely another tax, not a contribution to their old age at all. If an insurance company had done this, the directors would probably have been sent to prison for fraud!
Investment vs Donation
An item in Life Extension Report of May 1993 detailed a serious attempt to raise money for cryonics and life extension by seeking investors. A company 21st Century Medicine is being started to develop nine life extending products such as DHEA and Melatonin and perform deep hypothermia experiments.
There have been two previous attempts to float similar companies, and these companies still exist on the public market. These are Cryomedical Sciences (NASDQ symbol CMSI) and BioTime (BTIM). According to Prudential Bache Securities, BTIM has a stable share price in the range $8 to $9½, current (August) price $9 middle. CMSI's share price has been extremely volatile. In 1989 it ranged between $2 and $18. In 1992 the range was $5½ to $15. Now the price is around $5½. There has been staff migration between all these companies.
From a purely investment point of view, it seems better to leave these companies until a stable market price is attained, but obviously special interest may make an earlier investment worthwhile.
Unfortunately you can ask anyone for a donation, but lawyers insist that special rules are followed for asking for investments. This has resulted in special declarations having to be signed to purchase stocks not listed on the stock markets. A simple letter saying that you know you may lose your money is not enough. 21st Century Medicine will not be listed until 1995, and therefore investors have to give a lot of personal information before the sponsors are allowed to take their investment. Because of associated costs, the sponsors are also limiting investments to $10,000 or more. According to Venturist Monthly News Eric Klein is running syndicates of four so that people may invest $2,500.
However once 21st Century Medicine appears on the stock market, anyone can order 100 shares from their broker, and if the stock is as volatile as CMSI they may be able to buy at a discount to the offer price. On the other hand, if there are some important breakthroughs then maybe the public listing will never offer the stock anywhere as low as the private offering price.
But you have to be wealthy to qualify for the private offering! Kindly lawyers are protecting the gullible investing public from buying duff stocks. A pity they aren't so beneficent about the costs of the legal system.
SETI, the search for extra terrestrial intelligence, has a fascination for immortalists. In Periastron it was suggested that if we are not alone in the universe various arguments lead to the conclusion that we will never discover immortality. Others suggest that the first thing aliens will do is to give us the secret of immortality (not invulnerability) to curb our warlike attitude. (People with eternity to lose will be less likely to risk their lives.)
In Bioastronomy News 5,3 (Summer 1993) information is given about searching for messages transmitted at optical frequencies by laser. A block diagram is given for a basic observatory costing between $8,400 and $39,000 depending on what you have already and the level of sophistication. It is based on a Meade 254mm telescope driving a photo sensitive cell. The telescope is turned by a computer which also analyses the result. Additional apparatus could include a spectrum analyzer and video imaging and recording equipment.
Bioastronomy News appears four times a year and costs $8. The Planetary Society 65N Catalina Avenue Pasadena CA 91106.
I would comment on SETI that if searchers hope to eavesdrop on interstellar or intergalactic telecommunications, the chances of a signal appearing as anything other than noise are slight. The best bandwidth compression systems produce a signal that appears as random noise without a decoder.
Indeed, I suggest that the goodness or efficiency of a bandwidth compressor could be measured by comparing its undemodulated output to random noise. If the histogram is indistinguishable from noise, then no further compression is possible.
Thermodynamics tells us that the final state of a closed system is that state of maximum disorder. If an information channel is regarded as such a system, then its state of maximum disorder is its final or resting state. In order to decode the massage, a lot of processing needs to be performed, ie order added. A simple uncompressed signal requires very little processing to use.
Falling Death Rate Hits Funeral Directors
An article in The Daily Mail of 22 July said that the death rate, falling for demographic reasons, is posing problems for funeral directors, who they say have high fixed costs.
A 1% change in the death rate represent £240,000 on the operating costs of funeral conglomerate Great Southern Group PLC. Funeral businesses also face a rise in cremation costs, due to environmental protection legislation.
Inflation linked Securities Grow in Popularity as Investors Understand the Fixed Interest Scam
An article in The Financial Times of 5 August revealed that governments around the world have followed the lead of the UK's government in issuing inflation linked loans, known here as "gilts".
Over the long term governments do very well out of issuing fixed interest loans, because the buying power of the capital reduces with inflation, even if the rate is low, and also the interest payments reduce in value terms as time progresses. Often, in terms of buying power, fixed interest investments pay back a tiny fraction of the sum lent by the investor to the borrower.
However politicians as individuals have very short timespans in power, and over these timespans the picture looks very different. Interest rates in money terms are high when inflation is high, and the loan appears to cost a lot of money to service in the early years, which is precisely when the politicians who have raised it have to account for it to their superiors or even the voters. The value to the government as a whole only appears over the lifetime of the loan.
Therefore politicians welcome the inflation linked loan, as these offer a very small initial rate of interest, typically 3% over inflation rate instead of a gross rate of some 8 to 15% as with a conventional loan. The costs in the initial years, while the initiating politician has to account for it, are therefore low. Fortunately these conditions also favour the long term saver, as these savings are much safer than conventional securities. The return is less than with equities (stocks) but the risk are less and the return can never be negative.
The Financial Times says that Swedish treasury ministers have sent a delegation to London to study the UK index linked government security market, which has over a very short time grown to cover 10% of government borrowing. New Zealand and Australia have also started index linked markets on the British model, and other countries are interested. In many countries the inflation rate has been historically low, and they are very interested in raising funds this way.
I would comment that this shows how the capitalist system can evolve a fairer system, owing to the fact the pressures on politicians have coincided with the requirements of individual savers who require that their savings remain constant in terms of purchasing power.
Major Cooperative Deal for OTC Drugs Market
According to The Financial Times of 29 July four of the world's largest drugs companies have announced cooperative ventures to attempt to adapt to governments' reduced spending on pharmacological treatments for illnesses. The companies involved are Warner Lambert, Glaxo, Merk, and Wellcome.
The spearhead of the ventures will be to make a substantial increase in the number of products that are available on the open market, reducing the proportion that are constrained by the prescription system. Most successful OTC (over the counter) products have previously been POMs (prescription only medicines.)
The deals will increase pressure to give the public the freedom to buy the antiviral Zovirax and the anti- ulcer drug Zantac without the delays and uncertainties surrounding the prescription system.
Governments themselves are encouraged to switch drugs to the open market, as then the consumer pays the full price. Therefore cost cutting is expected to expand the OTC market rapidly.
At present citizens of the UK and Germany have the freedom to buy Zovirax cream for the treatment of herpes, without an embarrassing visit to the physician. Prior to the deal, there were no plans to apply for an OTC license in the USA, which is potentially huge market for this treatment. At the moment, it is only available on prescription for genital herpes. Mr John Robb (Wellcome) said that Zovirax's move to OTC in the USA would be sensitive because of the genital involvement, but the company's officials were in dialogue with the FDA.
Legal Technicality Prevents UK Legal Profession being Accountable to the British Public.
An article in The Financial Times of 29 August reports on a case brought against the Law Society, the governing body of the British legal profession, over its failure to deal with a complaint made by the client of a member solicitor.
The judge said that there was not a sufficiently "close relationship" between the client and the Law Society for there to be a "duty of care". If there had, he would have had no hesitation in finding that the Law Society had so mishandled the client's complaint that their work "fell so far below the standards expected of the Law Society as to have amounted to negligence."
The complaint concerned a firm of solicitors who ran a dubious loans business with conflict of interests that resulted, after a long story, in the client receiving £1,400 for a property valued at £200,000. The client maintained that had the Law Society dealt with her complaint quickly, she would not have lost her property (and life savings).
The judge said "However heart rending her story and however much I understand and sympathise with it, authority and principle are heavily weighted against her claim."
After the hearing, the client said that "Its a bleak day for all complainants. Its a lost opportunity for the courts to give protection against the mistakes and omissions of the regulatory authorities."
I cannot help but recall the theories of Professor Richard Dawkins that the "fat cat" professions evolve systems that run outside of the conscious minds of the individuals that comprise them. They work to maintain and indeed nourish the professions at the expense of the individual and other groupings.
Air Travel Exposes Passengers to Viral Attack
New Scientist of 7 August carried a report from its Washington correspondent that flight attendants has posted a complaint to the Congressional Subcommittee on Technology, Environment and Aviation. They said that the ventilation systems on aircraft harboured viruses and bacteria and other pathogens and recycled them amongst the passengers and crew.
A cartoon with the article showed an air stewardess asking a passenger whether he would like champagne, spirits ... or antibiotics.
Passengers are at risk from life threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, now evolving resistance to drug treatments. One flight in November 1992 is singled out as being a proven case when several people were contaminated with tuberculosis after a flight where a single infectious person was carried. Other cases undergoing investigation were also mentioned.
Of course the FAA's spokesperson described as their "chief surgeon" said that there was no risk, but how often have we heard that one before. The article concludes that as Members of Congress spend long hours shuttling to and from Washington by plane something will be done.
One answer would be to bring in fresh air from outside the hull rather than circulate the air inside which I was astonished to hear is the current practice. (Presumably some outside air is brought in, otherwise the passengers would be dead on arrival.)
The article said that airline operators were saving fuel by not bringing in fresh air as this has to be compressed and heated to an international standard. I would have though that fuel requirements for fresh air would be very small compared to that required to generate the forward thrust and lift required to fly the aeroplane. Waste heat would be available from the engines, or could even be obtained from air/fuselage friction.
Schulman Retires from Deprenyl Animal Health Inc.
In the company's second quarter report, Deprenyl Animal Health's chairman and founder Dr Morton Schulman announced his retirement. Without him the company would not have existed. Now it is on course in its mission to develop innovative products to benefit pets and their owners. Its objectives include establishing cognitive disfunction as a formally recognised syndrome in pets and establish "Anipryl" as a treatment.
When this is achieved and dogs are shown to live longer as a result, the public clamour for deprenyl should be unstoppable!
The company said that it was on course and should regain a slight overspend in the first quarter. They still complain that their stock is "thinly traded" and the share price fails to reflect the progress already achieved. ($1 as at 31 July - it has been $8 or more.) They plan to "remedy this through proactive communications with the investment community," and they "remain hopeful that all our efforts will ultimately lead to rewards for our shareholders."
Marion Merrell Dow Develops Gene Transplants
In its fourth quarter report of 1992, Marion Merrell announced that it has a strategic alliance with Oncogene Science Inc, "focusing on the application of gene transplantation technology to the treatment of cardiovascular disease."
If a new product is offered soon, it will do wonders for the present lack- lustre performance of the shares. It will also be more bad news for surgeons!
Feature on Barry Albin Includes Cryonics Institute Link
A report in Funeral Service Journal for July 1993 on the wide ranging services of F.A. Albin & Sons Ltd included the following:
Also available to other funeral directors is the company's three man team of trade contract embalmers and, as announced in the popular Cryonics feature in this journal, written by John de Rivaz, Albins were recently appointed UK and Europe agent for the US-based Cryonics Institute. At the time of writing they were scheduled to handle their first client.
Infectious Diseases not Beaten
An article in the Financial Times of 21 August pointed out that the war against death by infectious disease is not over. Medical journalism has concentrated on chronic degenerative disorders such as cancer and heart disease whilst changing human habits have given old enemies such as cholera and tuberculosis a new lease of death.
Changes in the environment, human behaviour and the microbes themselves are interacting to set the stage for new diseases to appear and old ones to re-emerge.
The main culprit is international travel, which exposes people to viruses and bacteria to which they have no immunity. These are then carried back to whole populations who then become a new breeding ground for the germs. Exotic locations such as South America and tropical Africa may harbour diseases in monkeys which are transmittable to humans and could devastate populations in developed areas. Examples that may have already arrived by this route are AIDS, Ebola fever and Marburg fever.
Development of forested areas is another source of disease. Lyme disease is an example that was given for this.
Intensive farming to feed increased populations can also be a source of disease. It was once though "natural" and therefore sound to have organic cycles in agriculture. For example, pig and duck farming go together in China. It is now believed that this type of farming acts as a genetic mixing vessel for viruses that can mutate and attack humans. The Chinese agricultural methods are now blamed for new strains of influenza.
The collapse of political system and resulting civil unrest, such as in Sudan and Russia, have given rise to the spread of disease. This is amplified by the use of tourism into some of these areas to raise much needed international currency. The civil war in Sudan has caused the death of 50,000 people by a disease known as Kala-Azar, a form of leishmaniasis. In Russia there is an outbreak of diphtheria, which the tourist industry plays down.
Hospital treatment is another area where disease is spread. Anti-biotic resistant diseases appear in hospitals. According to the article, thousands of people die in hospital every year from diseases that are totally unrelated to the complains which caused them to submit to hospital treatment.
Dr Robert Shope, professor of epidemiology at Yale University, is quoted as saying: "The most disastrous emerging event might be another pandemic of influenza, like the 1918-19 pandemic that killed 20m people worldwide. But we don't know what the next event is likely to be and we must prepare to be surprised."
Genetic Screening to Reduce Risks
Further to my report last time that genetic screening may make life insurance unworkable, there is also a positive side to the process, the British Association for Advancement of Science was told by Professor Mark Ferguson at its annual conference. Professor Ferguson works at the Department of Cell and Structural Biology at Manchester University.
He said that some people may smoke their lungs all their lives and live into their nineties with no signs of cancer, whereas others can be killed by a mere whiff of someone else's smoke. He says that Ecogenics would warn people particularly at risk of disease through lung smoking. Similarly people at risk of other cancers could have more thorough screening for signs of the disease.
If the main susceptibility of genes could be mapped for each individual, everyone could have a "health passport" and be given appropriate advice and screening.
It is possible that there are other links that could be avoided by susceptible individuals.
So maybe the demise of life insurance will herald the arrival of a longer lifespan through targeted behavioural modification.
Glaxo Nausea Drug Aids Memory
Also at the conference, Professor Brenda Costall said that the international pharmaceutical industry is carrying out trials on 33 drugs to improve memory in the elderly, including Glaxo's Zofran. Glaxo's shares rose sharply during the week. The article in The Financial Times stressed that the memory enhancing drugs will not do anything in the normal brain but they do help if the memory is impaired through age.
I can't help wonder whether anyone has bothered to test whether there is any improvement in the normal brain. Anyway what is normal?
Large City Hospitals Obsolescent
Sir Bernard Tomlinson, author of a government report on hospitals, told the British Association that more city centre hospitals should be considered for closure. Medical progress has made it possible for more people to be treated at home without the stress and risk of a hospital stay. Also, many hospital patients could be sent home if there was more community services to look after them either in purpose built homes or their own homes. High technology hospitals are not cost effective if they are being used to look after people whose only problem is that they have nowhere else to go.
However the political problems with closing hospitals are enormous. It was said that district hospitals could perform operations at a 40% saving compared to central hospitals. However if one tries to close even a small hospital there is a massive protest, and therefore closure of large city centre hospitals would be very difficult. London in particular has a large number of expensive hospitals and local people will defend them even if "it is more dangerous and the surgeons are more likely to kill you" one delegate said.
New AIDS Theory
There has been much speculation as to why people contaminated with HIV virus take such varying times to die of the disease.
It has now been suggested at the British Association conference that this is due to the fact that HIV is designed to mutate rapidly. After initial contamination, the body is able to contain the virus, but it mutates so often that the body is eventually overwhelmed with so many different strains.
Professor Robert May, of Oxford University, based his theory on computer modelling and clinical observations.
The theory suggests that HIV contaminated persons should take anti-HIV drugs as soon as possible to reduce the replication rate, hence the mutation rate, of the virus. However present anti-HIV drugs are too toxic for this course of action to be practicable.
The theory of rapid mutation also suggests that the risk of HIV becoming transmittable by a simpler method, such as by respiration, is greater than was originally supposed.
In a recent television programme on the demise of the dinosaurs, it was suggested that as land masses merged during the very long lifespan of the species dinosaurs roamed the entire world. Individuals who visited distant areas and then returned homewards could bring back diseases to which locals had no immunity. This process could then have caused the entire species to be exterminated by a rampant virus.
The international travel industry could be doing exactly the same thing for humans, unless we are able to advance research sufficiently to get a firm enough control over viruses and bacteria.
Maybe this is a better argument to use when trying to get society as a whole to put more effort into biomedical research instead of such activities as arguing the toss in courts of law. Species immortality may hit a nerve where individual immortality does not.
UK Company Directors Underpaid
An article in The Financial Times of 16 September said that the average company managing director earned just over £100,000 per year (£64,000 after tax), putting the country in tenth place across Europe. In contrast, leading lawyers get over a million pounds a year, although a judge gets about the same as the company director, albeit with much longer holidays. (See report a couple of months back about the UK's difficulty in recruiting judges.)
More Problems with Life Insurance
An article in The Financial Times Weekend dated 18 September detailed some of the problems facing people buying life insurance.
The article started by saying that many policies were sold as investment rather than for protection, although it didn't say that by introducing another tier of bureaucracy into the investment process returns were reduced. However it went on to say that people still need protection, and indeed the need for this has increased in some cases.
People need protection of income and living standards for themselves and their dependants if they fall victim to what the profession terms "critical illnesses". However arranging such cover is far from easy. Many companies are now wanting to spread the risk and will only insure part of a particular individual's requirements. This often required several medical examinations, including HIV tests and ECGs.
One freelance firm of insurance advisors are now trying to get companies to agree on a single medical form a Harley Street specialist. Clients are less likely to be kept waiting as long as at general practitioners' surgeries and a more sophisticated examination is available to the insurance companies.
Often ignorance is the cause of hold ups. For example, one individual applying for insurance was delayed because the underwriter was worried that she was undergoing hormone replacement therapy. The insurance agent had to explain what that was before the insurance was written!
Insurers are now asking what the cover is for. If payment of death tax is given as the reason they seem happy. But if it is shareholder protection, for example, they get worried. Then they ask all sorts of questions the clients are often unwilling to answer. The mind boggles at what they would say to cryonics!
There is even the risk that a company may withdraw cover if the insured's health deteriorates without him actually dying, as many policies are now written on a term basis. Clients are being advised to check "guarantee of insurability".
Permanent Health Insurance is used to top up income if a person becomes too ill to work. But if someone is already living off investment or royalty income but would need extra income of he fell sick, then PHI won't pay out. It can only be used to replace a salary. However an alternative "product" Critical Illness Insurance is available. It will provide a lump sum for a client diagnosed with a critical illness. These are defined in the policy, and are such things as strokes, heart disease or cancer. There seems to be no restrictions on what the lump sum is to be spent on. Depending on cost, this insurance may be of interest to some cryonicists, as the lump sum could be used to pay for remote standby or other additional expenses incurred relating to the cryonic process and its relationship with the critical illness.
Life Insurance Tests "False Positive" HIV
An article in New Scientist 18 September said that demand for speed in getting results for life insurance companies lead to two men being told they had AIDS when they are actually uncontaminated.
The life companies said that they issue 7 million policies per year and only test 2.5% of applicants for HIV. Usually they test people asking for a high cover or who they otherwise consider to be high risk.
No mention was made as to whether the men were compensated for distress caused, but the Public Health Laboratory Services expressed concern that guidelines for testing were not being followed. They suggest that positive results be followed by a second test before releasing them.
Lorenzo's Oil is a dietary supplement containing erucic and oleic acids. In a film of the above title it is portrayed as having stopped the progress of the degenerative disease adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) in a boy called Lorenzo Odone.
In a review of the film in Life Extension Report March 1993, it was said that Odone's parents were able to fight professional interests to achieve a cure for their boy.
However an article in New Scientist entitled Film Fantasy it was said that a French study published in The New England Journal of Medicine tested the oil on 24 adults and boys over three years, and none of them benefited.
Obviously truth is more important than either professional interests or film fantasies, and it is hoped that truth will ultimately be told. One assumes that no one disputes the condition of the boy depicted in the film. If it wasn't the oil that lead to his recovery then maybe at least the medical profession will admit that the disease doesn't inevitably lead to death within five years of diagnosis.
We do, of course, also know that experiments are often performed not in an atmosphere of enquiry but to prove a point. Researchers know what point their paymasters want to prove, and consciously or otherwise they get that result. Vitamin C is a case in point: early papers said it was no good often used it in guinea pig tests where it was put in drinking water where it oxidised during the day and became useless or even counter-productive.
[1997 note: It is my understanding that the treatment was not ultimately successfil and the person concerned is now either dead or severely disabled.]
Our Fractal image this month was an image produced by an eccentric fractals mathematician Roger L. Bagula, B.S. He publishes his own fractal newsletter containing all his own articles, because (he says) no one else will publish them. The newsletter is available on scruffy photocopied sheets and looks - well rubbish - but the programs and ideas in it are definitely original. Amongst the programs, (for the Amiga but easily translated) one also finds art, poetry, musical scores, fiction and political comment. One issue features a design competition for making a space ship from parts available through present day technology that can be ferried into orbit with the shuttle. Anyone interested in dredging for possible works of genius in unexplored places should check this out. He required donations of $20 US, $90 elsewhere, and "patrons" receive a years' issues. I approached him on cryonics, but he wrote back that he is a Christian and therefore doesn't need it. I send him a letter with my views on the religion, but he has corresponded since without referring back to it again. [Fractal Translight Newsletter 11759 Waterhill Road Lakeside California 92848 USA]
[1997 note: Mr Bagula now writes for the PC and Apple Mac, and his newsletter is better produced, with some pages in colour.]
Periastron Features Nanoelectronics
September's issue of Periastron contains a letter from Robert Ettinger re the Copernican Hypothesis, and I expect that the topic will be covered elsewhere in The Immortalist (probably last month's). Otherwise there was further news on the proposed scientific journal for cryonics, comments about learning, acidosis, imaging human brain activity, and the aforementioned nanoelectronics.
An article in Clinical Periodontology vol2 20 pp 457-464 The Use of Topical Flurbiprofen As An Adjunct to Non-surgical Management of Periodontal Disease suggests that the use of flurbiprofen in toothpaste would reduce bone loss. The reduction was not dramatic, but it was easily measurable. The topical application as opposed to oral application meant that possible adverse reactions to the drug was avoided.
This suggests that other topical applications of pharmaceuticals as yet undiscovered or unreported may produce even better results.
The surgical alternative is to cut away gum tissue and clean the roots of the teeth and insert an oral bandage until the gums grow back. This treatment offers a good financial income for the surgeon but considerable post-operation pain for the patient and it is said not to be particularly effective in the long run.
It is possible that eating is so painful that during the healing process no food debris is put into contact with the affected teeth, and this absence of food is what produces any beneficial effect observed. (Thanks to Douglas Skrecky for providing the photocopy, sent with his own article on teeth to appear in the December 1993 Longevity Report. He also included another unsourced photocopy which said that there is no relation between immunodefficiency and periodontal disease.)
Readers might like to know that the new address for Oramedics International is PO Box 426 1110 8th St Houghton Michigan 49931. They publish Money by the Mouthful and How to be Dentally Self Sufficient and offer products for dental health.
Letter to Comments
From Ib Marta Sandberg
You are right. There are far too many laws about. So let's look at a really radical alternative. Every law has a "sun-set clause".
In this scheme, once a law was proclaimed it would run normally for the first 30 years, then it would enter a 20 year "grace period"'. During this time it can be reaffirmed by parliament (by a process almost identical to the way laws are passed today) and it would then start a new 30 year normal/ 20 year grace cycle. But if nobody bothers to reaffirm the law during the 20 years grace, it will simply cease to exist. One useless law bites the dust!
It would obviously cause some problem with precedences and common law applications, but as laws change anyway (although very slowly) there are already procedures in place to deal with change. They would only have to be streamlined a bit.
Equally obviously, this must apply to both old and new laws, and just to ease the system in you would need to give our existing body of law artificially staggered starting dates.
OK, throw up your hands in horror. "Laws are supposed to be permanent. It will lead to confusion and anarchy. Imagine the chaos if our most basic laws - like those against murder - were allowed to lapse."
No laws are not supposed to last forever. If they did we would still be burning witches. They are only supposed to be conservative and last a long time. Fifty years is a pretty long time.
By giving us a chance to continually re-examine our law we will probably learn to smooth out the rough spots and keep them in line with current society.
It is also possible that we will drop some laws, because they no longer make sense. I don't think it will happen to murder, but it might happen to blasphemy. I have made the grace period very long so that a good law will have every opportunity to be reaffirmed.
"But think of all those laws - like abortion - that caused so much social angst and division. Do we really want to stir up those emotions again every time it has to be reaffirmed?"
Yes, those are exactly the sort of issues that must be faced again and again and again, until we have reached a true consensus.
"The parliament has too much to do already. If they have to re-pass old laws they won't have time to formulate new laws and run the country."
Yes, that's more or less the point. At the moment, if something needs adjusting the easiest thing to do is to pass a new law. And as long as we allow this soft option to continue, we will have an excess of not-very-good-laws. Only making things harder can we force our politicians to implement good solid laws, or to find a non-legal way of solving a problem.
I don't think we will ever see sun-set laws, but sometimes it is fun to speculate. I think it would work from a practical point of view, but it is politically impossible.
Oh well, let me leave you with a surrealist thought. If every law has to be reaffirmed every fifty years, does the law about sun-set clauses also have to be reaffirmed. If nobody votes for it, can it pull itself into the sunset? As it ceases to exist, so will its powers to make itself cease to exist.
I can see lawyers from both sides spending years in court arguing about that one.
Thank you for reading this and I apologise for spelling, grammar (that slipped past the editor's WordPerfect 6.0) and anything else that may have annoyed you.
Cryonics and the Poor
I also refer to Marta Sandberg's letter in the October 1993 issue of The Immortalist concerning cryonics and the "financially disadvantaged", (to coin a phrase).
Sometimes one gets a person full of enthusiasm for cryonics but who stands not the slightest chance of raising the money. At the moment they have zero hope, which is a very bad state to be in.
Is there any way one can raise that hope to a finite but small figure? One possibility is to say that if such people recruit a number, say ten, suspension members then they get a free ride. But unfortunately this runs the risk that such a person conspires to get ten of his friends to sign up, and when he is dead all his friends ask for their suspension fund money back, as they are entitled to do. Of course CI will have their joining fees, but this will be hollow compensation if it loses the chance of suspending them. I suppose that if one raises the number to 23 members, then the total of their join up fees would exceed the $28,000.
But one could then argue that maybe some or all of the (genuine) people recruited would have joined anyway at some time or other, and therefore CI would be giving away the free suspension for nothing. CI is not and should not be in the charity business.
Nevertheless, people with no money often have lots of time, and if they have the ability and the enthusiasm then this is a resource that should not be overlooked. Maybe a scheme can be devised that will see off all objections.
Legal Profession Eats Its Own Tail
Maybe I am not correct in regarding accountants as part of the legal profession, but they certainly charge very high fees to individuals and corporations for services which are largely unwanted by the people paying for them. However they are demanded by society as a whole. Also, an accountant has to have a wide knowledge of the law in order to advise his clients properly.
In The Financial Times of 23 September an article discussed the litigation crisis faced by the US accounting profession. It started out by claiming that transaction costs of litigation involving firms of accountants were so high that 95% of claims were settled out of court. Liability insurance premiums had risen by 300% since 1985, and 40% of firms are no longer able to afford them.
The company audit is the failure point for many firms, the paper says, because the public fail to understand the purpose of an audit and expect too much of it. Nevertheless, it continues, the profession has failed to meet the needs of the investing public. If the traditional audit is unsatisfactory, it should be modified.
The reason why accountancy firms often fail through audit litigation is that the profession is very wealthy as are the individual partners of firms. The infamous "deep pocket" rules of US law make them prime targets for disgruntled investors when a company fails. A convicted party can be responsible for 100% of the damages even if he was only 1% to blame.
The article goes on to say that the situation has given rise to a cottage industry of people charting stock quotations on computers looking for downward volatility in prices. There are a new breed of "professional plaintiffs" ready and waiting to file class action claims at a moment's notice. Sometimes these plaintiffs are friends or relatives of the "strike lawyer", or special corporations set up purely for the purpose of buying 100 shares of stock in the target company.
At accounting firms, some managers are refusing partnerships because of the personal liability risk. Individuals could lose all their personal assets just for being a partner in a failed firm, even if they had not personally worked on the accounts that had caused the failure!
The article concludes by calling for a shift in attitude throughout the whole of society. If someone suffers a legitimate injury resulting from a deliberate act of another that is one thing. Litigating just to find a scapegoat if something goes wrong for which no one is really to blame will eventually damage the legal profession way beyond the value of the fee income boom presently being experienced.
Glaxo's Research Programme
The following was scanned from the company's annual report, using Xerox TextBridge:
Sixteen novel compounds are at present in the exploratory phase of development to determine their potential as full development candidates. These include potential new drugs for the treatment of diabetes, cancer, asthma, stroke, influenza, hypertension and congestive heart failure. Of these, seven have entered this phase during the last year. Six compounds have been removed from the exploratory development programme during the year because they did not justify further work.
Two compounds have been transferred from the exploratory development programme during 1992/93. GR85548 is an orally active compound being developed for use in migraine. GR87442, a 5-HT3 antagonist, is now under development for the treatment of nausea and vomiting suffered by patients during cancer treatment or after submitting to surgical operations. The antiviral compound lamivudine, for the treatment of AIDS, has entered Phase II/Phase III surrogate marker studies. This compound is now also being evaluated in preliminary clinical studies in Europe, USA and Canada for its effect upon hepatitis B. Clinical studies of ondansetron in senile dementia of the Alzheimer type and anxiety are continuing according to plan. A further full development programme is concerned with the use of ranitidine bismuth citrate, either alone or in combination with antibiotics, for the treatment of gastric anti duodenal ulcers and for the prevention of ulcers associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The other three full development programmes: C187084, a short acting opioid analgesic; GR92132, a hypoglycaemic agent for diabetes mellitus; and fluparoxan, a selective adrenoceptor antagonist for male sexual dysfunction, continue to progress satisfactorily. GR68755, a 5-I HT3 antagonist, is undergoing pilot studies to assess its potential as a treatment for schizophrenia. During the year, development of GR114297, a long acting inhaled beta2-agonist for asthma, ceased due to insufficient clinical benefits.
In addition to the development programmes involving new compounds, programmes are also in progress to extend the value of our existing compounds to new areas or to produce new formulations for different uses.
Hanifen Imhoff Inc's Summary and Investment Conclusions for Alpha One Biomedicals
This is what they wrote:
We are initiating coverage of Alpha 1 Biomedicals with intermediate and long term stock ratings of 1:1, above average performance expected versus the S&P 500. Alpha I Biomedicals' pending new pharmaceutical product, Thymosin alpha 1, fills a gaping therapeutic need, a safe and effective treatment for chronic hepatitis B disease, a worldwide problem. The company's marketing arrangement with SciClone Pharmaceuticals should be rewarding for both companies.
Our one year price target for Alpha 1 Biomedicals stock is $32. [The price in September 1993 is about half this.]
Alpha 1 Biomedicals, Inc. is developing a compound, Thymosin alpha I, that has the potential to be a "blockbuster" medical and commercial success. The dream of every pharmaceutical company is to develop an effective therapeutic agent for a disease where little or no effective therapy exists and where the target patient population measures in the millions. We believe this is the situation with Alpha 1 Biomedicals. Thymosin alpha 1 is being investigated in a Phase III study for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, a very serious disease in the United States Over 300,000 cases of hepatitis B occur annually in the U.S. with approximately 10% of these patients developing chronic hepatitis B, which is a life threatening disease. Worldwide, there are approximately 300 million people infected with the highly contagious hepatitis B virus. The only product approved by the FDA for the treatment of chronic hepatitis is alpha interferon which is sold as Intron A by Schering-Plough and Roferon by Hoffmann-La Roche. Alpha interferon produces significant toxicity including nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, and fever. Thymosin alpha 1 has shown no evidence of toxicity in any of 20 clinical trials conducted to date. Alpha interferon treatment has yielded 33% to 45% remission in reported trials whereas Thymosin alpha 1 treatment yielded 75% remission in a small clinical trial of chronic hepatitis B patients with no adverse side effects.
The company was founded in 1982 by Dr. Allan Goldstein, presently Professor and Chairman, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Dr. Goldstein and his colleagues at the University of Texas extracted Thymosin fraction 5, an extract of the calf thymus gland, in the early 1970's, and showed that it was active in improving specific immune functions in experimental animals. He then isolated and sequenced Thymosin alpha 1, which is a pure 28 - amino acid peptide naturally produced by the thymus gland. A process was also developed for the production of Thymosin alpha 1 by conventional chemical synthesis. This synthetic form of Thymosin alpha 1 has been tested, in a variety of concentrations in more than 600 human subjects with no evidence of toxicity or other adverse side effects.
The company went public on December 23, 1986, at $6¼, and the stock, within a period of about three months briefly soared to the high $20s as an AIDS play, in a period when there were few of them around in which to invest.
As noted above, Thymosin alpha 1 was discovered about 20 years ago. Over 20 clinical trials have been or are being conducted in the U.S. for treatment of a range of disease indications, or as a vaccine adjuvant. The question must arise that if Thymosin alpha 1 possesses outstanding therapeutic potential, why wasn't this proven out before now?
We think there is an acceptable and logical answer to this question. In our opinion, until the last three years the company had existed almost as an academic "think tank", with little firm direction to pursue a clinical trial to its full conclusion that would determine if the product really possessed efficacy. The company also was underfunded to conduct the necessary clinical trials to establish efficacy. The company spent only $8.6 million on research and development from May 31, 1982 (inception) through December 31, 1992. At December 31,1992, the company's cash and investment position was only $1.5 million. In March 1993, the company s Class B Warrants were exercised, yielding gross proceeds to the company of almost $ 11 million.
We believe that the arrival of Dr. Vincent Simmon in March 1990 significantly changed this picture. Dr Simmon serves as President, Chief Executive Officer and Director and has brought what we consider to be much needed focus on commercialisation of the company.
[end of stockbroker's summary]
Regular readers may recall that this company was first promoted in Anti Aging News, now Life Extension Report. The above was written about a month ago from the date I write this (26 October). There has been a substantial rise in the share price over this period.
Pepsico Patent Suggests Route to an Eternal Lean Body
An article in New Scientist dated 23 October details a patent filed by the soft drinks manufacturer Pepsico by Opokua Kwapong and Valerie Fedun-Jackson.
Kwapong and Fedun-Jackson claim that a soft drink with a very high acid content will suppress appetite in a subsequent meal. This may have been the basis behind the well known grapefruit diet. Their patent, filed by Pepsico in January, 1992, gives the recipe for the concoction. Citric and Phosphoric acids are blended with still or carbonated water to give a very acid mix. Citrate and phosphate salts are added to buffer the solution, giving a pH of above 2.5. The taste is improved by glucono-delta lactone and a non fattening sweetener such as aspartame.
Pepsico tested the drink on a panel of volunteers 20 minutes before they sat down to a meal. They though the product tasted like a conventional soft drink, but ate 10%-20% less.
Scientists don't know how the drink achieves its effect, and the company has no plan to market it. It is unlikely, say New Scientist, that restauranteers would want to sell it. However I should I have though that they could actually profit by serving smaller portions of food especially with set menu meals at a fixed price.
Thatcher Comments Reflect Cryonics Struggle
"There are always two sorts of people in life - one who look at the difficulties, and who are swayed by those. There are others who look at and weigh up all the difficulties, and all of the opportunities and the courageous course of action for the larger freedom." - Margaret Thatcher on the liberation of the Falklands, but these sentiments also reflect the way various people look at cryonic suspension. The larger freedom is, of course, the freedom from death.
Kahn Attempts Conquest of ICN With Only $120,000
A circular was sent by Mr Rafi M. Kahn to shareholders of ICN, the pharmaceuticals company run by the self confessed anti-death businessman Mr Milan Panic. This circular by Mr Khan, a stockbroker, and a group of financial professionals, suggested to the shareholders that ICN was being inefficiently run and that they should vote the team that founded the company on $200 off the board to be replaced by themselves.
With it there was a graph showing that the share price performance of ICN was deficient compared to the performance between 1987 and 1993. Of course these graphs of comparative performance can be doctored to mean what you like. If the date range was 1990 to 1993, for example, shareholders would have seen a very substantial over performance in the shares. It just depends on the timing of your initial investment!
The final date for shareholders to vote is 19 December, 1993, and by the time this is published the result will be known.
What is astonishing with this is that Mr Kahn is attempting to take over ICN, and his own shareholding is valued at only $120,000 whereas Mr Panic's is nearly $500,000. The combined shareholdings of the whole board, which Mr Kahn plans to replace with his financial professional friends, is worth a little under a million dollars. The whole company, which Mr Panic started with $200, is now valued at about $20 million.
Of course Mr Kahn wouldn't get the $20m for himself, but he would get control of it. He could, for example use it to fund the development of drugs that control ageing. But as he is a legal professional, a stockbroker, it is more likely that he will use it to maximise the short term capital of the company.
In the short term, maybe the share price will perform better. However the company will no longer be run by a man who since the age of three has regarded death as a problem to be attacked by scientific means.
Mr Kahn and his followers may get rich, but what good will that do them when their remains are wafted through the chimneys of crematoria? There are plenty of companies with which they could play their games of financial chess. But this one should be left alone.
However if Mr Kahn succeeds, the whole affair raises some interesting possibilities. Mr Saul Kent, of the Life Extension Foundation, could probably raise sufficient support and funds to similarly take over a small or medium pharmaceuticals company. Once in control, he could redirect it to use its scientific staff to work on life extension research. If he were to find a company whose existing research portfolio needed only a slight change in direction, the work might reach a relatively swift conclusion, and thereby some advances in the share price that could never be attained by simple financial manipulations.
Although financial manipulation can produce paper profits, no real wealth is being created. Also such manipulation is to some extent predictable, which is the method by which people like Mr Kahn and his associates can persuade shareholders to vote them in. However this growth is never that spectacular.
The spectacular nature of real wealth creating growth is sometimes seen when a new product is announced by a company that takes the market by storm. Unfortunately regulatory controls make such spurts short lived, as shareholders begin to realise that many years even decades will pass before sales appear on the company's balance sheet. But real wealth is created by new discoveries, and long term investors in relevant companies will reap the rewards.
Mr Milan Panic writes:
[in a letter to stockholders dated 23 October 1993:] You should be aware that you may receive consent or proxy materials from a controversial stock broker calling himself "Rafi Khan," who has launched an attempt to take control of the Company with a hand-picked slate of directors. Before you even look at these materials, let alone think about signing anything, there are critical facts you should know about Khan and his troubling activities, some of which have put the interests of public stockholders in jeopardy, For instance:
In April, Judge John E. Sprizzo of the U.S. Federal Court found that Khan had wilfully lied under oath, had traded on inside information, and had failed to make material disclosures in previous filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC").
Several securities firms have sued Khan in connection with sales of shares in Future Communications, Inc., a Dallas company. The SEC is pursuing a suit against Future Communications and officers of the company accusing them of inflating the value of the company's stock.
Within the past year, Khan has resigned, without explanation, from his job as a stockbroker at Reynolds Kendrick Stratton Inc. in Beverly Hills, California, and resigned from his previous job as a broker for H.J. Meyers, Inc. Now he alleges to work for yet another firm, but who knows how long he will stay there?
We believe that Khan not only is completely unqualified to run a multinational pharmaceutical company like ICN, but has wilfully and repeatedly broken the law in his attempt to take over the Company. Accordingly, we have filed a suit against Khan in federal court charging him with violation of federal securities law, breaching his fiduciary responsibilities, and making illegal use of inside information. Our $75 million suit also charges Khan with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). (end)
Enclosed with the letter from which this was taken there was a reprint of a story from The Orange County Register which detailed how Mr Kahn "talked up" stocks and made clients who held short term positions in them a total of $40m. However some long term clients became angry as the stocks fell away and it became clear to the market in general that Mr Kahn's analysis of the stocks was of dubious value.
A later communication to shareholders revealed that if he is successful Mr Kahn proposes to appropriate from the company over a million dollars in "professional fees and disbursements" for his work in the "takeover" battle.
(The following is from an ICN report.)
Ribavirin is a broad spectrum antiviral agent manufactured by a subsidiary of ICN Pharmaceuticals, Inc., with demonstrated clinical utility against a variety of both DNA containing and RNA containing viruses. As of December 31, 1992, Ribavirin has been approved for commercial sale in over 40 countries in various formulations for various indications. Within the United States, Canada, and most of Europe, the approved form and use is presently limited to aerosol treatment of hospitalized infants and young children with severe lower respiratory tract infections due to respiratory syncytial virus ("RSV"). In other countries, Ribavirin has been approved for treatment of one or more of the following: herpes simplex virus, varicella zoster virus (which causes both chicken pox and shingles), exanthemas diseases (chicken pox, measles), influenza, hepatitis, human immuno-deficiency virus ("HIV"), and haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome.
The mechanism of action of Ribavirin appears to involve more than one process, the importance of which varies depending on the specific virus-host interaction involved. In general, the action of Ribavirin is virustatic, leading to interruption of viral replication, rather than virucidal in which the virus would be killed directly. Depending upon the virus involved, virustasis is accomplished through inhibition of proper mRNA capping, direct inhibition of certain virus-specific enzymes, or both.
Viral mRNA capping is required by many viruses for efficient binding of viral genomic "message" to host cell polysomes and therefore for efficient mRNA translation into proteins. Test results indicate that viral protein synthesis is significantly reduced in the presence of Ribavirin at therapeutic levels with no observed effect on normal host cell protein synthesis.
Certain viruses encode enzymes in their genome which are required for the virus to replicate. Direct inhibition of such enzymes without affecting host cell enzymes prevents or inhibits viral replication. Examples of viral enzymes inhibited by Ribavirin are influenza encoded RNA dependent RNA polymerase, and HIV encoded reverse transcriptase.
To date, ICN Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is aware of no reports of virus mutants that are resistant to inhibition by Ribavirin. The emergence of resistant strains of micro-organisms and viruses to widely used therapeutic drugs is a common problem and the Company believes that the apparent lack of this development is an important beneficial feature of Ribavirin, particularly when considering possible long-term therapy for diseases such as hepatitis C.
ICN management believes that the most commercial potential for Ribavirin in the near term is in the treatment of hepatitis C, RSV and influenza.
I have heard that Ribavirin is not a popular product amongst buyer's clubs and other organisations using legal loopholes to provide a free market in prescription only medicines.
Its retail price is high enough to deter most people - they would rather put up with flu than buy the drug. In the case of Buyers Clubs, they would have to buy in supplies and keep then on the offchance that they might get flu and need them. This is as interesting and rewarding as buying insurance - you are gambling that something will happen that you would prefer not to happen. Unless you are a real pessimist, you probably won't bother.
If the drug ever appears on the over the counter market the additional costs of regulatory approval will add substantially to the price. I do not know what the raw material to end product manufacturing costs are.
Obviously if it is as effective as various anecdotes tend to suggest, then it could well displace aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen etc as cold and flu remedies. After all, it stops the virus reproducing rather than suppress the symptoms whilst the body's immune system kills it off. The stories suggest that the disease is stopped after only one or two days.
However the traditional cold and flu products are low cost mass market products, and it would be a big gamble to produce Ribavirin in large quantities and hope to recoup development costs within the timespan required of investors. Long term, though, the product could be highly profitable in the later years of its patent life, if used in this way.
Single Electron Used as Memory Element
An announcement by Hitachi, the Japanese electronics company, has posed a possible threat to the use of molecules for memory storage as proposed by nanotechnology. [New Scientist 6 November]
Electrons are orders of magnitude smaller than molecules, and the company claims to have produced a device that uses single electronics to store bits of information. Earlier this year another version of the device was announced, but it worked at 0.03K, a temperature that is not easily produced in desk top computers! At the time researchers claimed that it would be ten years before it could be done at room temperature, and would require channels less than 5 nanometres across. But now it has been done.
The new device uses effects of crystal structure to work, so to that extent it could be said to be nanotechnological, and its mechanical channel width is 100 nanometres.
The single electron memory works by a principle known as Coulomb Blockade. Because the memory cell is so small, transferring just one electron into it changes the cell's voltage so that no more electrons can enter, and any electrons in it cannot leave. Thus the cell's two states can be considered as the 1s and 0s of digital information.
A power advantage of a million times is achieved over conventional memory, and a size advantage of 10,000 times by area.
Of course the nature of the cell makes it slightly unfair if it suggests that if you want to store ten bits you need ten electrons - you don't, you need ten cells. So maybe in the long term it will still be more efficient to store a bit by mechanically displacing an atom in a molecule of a nanotechnological machine.
Aluminium Pans and Brittle Bones
Also in New Scientist of 6 November is an item on the work of an epidemiologist at the University of Surrey, who points to a link between aluminium and bone disease. Robert Cumming says that his study of 416 hip fractures in men and women over 65 points to a link between this and the use of aluminium cooking pots and pans. He says one cannot be certain until larger studies are done, and modern aluminium pans may less readily shed molecules of the metal when used to boil food. His study concerned the use of such utensils over a period of 30 years.
However, the scare over aluminium and Alzheimer's disease, even if unfounded, may have had a serendipitous effect on bone disease.
British Government Recognises the Damage Caused by Regulations
According to The Financial Times of 18 November the British government plans to offer the Board of Trade sweeping powers to remove many restrictive regulations on economic progress without specific legislation in each case. Mr Neil Hamilton, Minister of Corporate Affairs, was scathing about the country's "mushrooming of regulations" which had become an intolerable burden on business. Also, when new legislation is proposed, the sponsors will have to produce an assessment of compliance costs before it can be passed into law.
End of Tax as We Know it?
An article in the Financial Times of 27 November suggested that the system of income tax common in English speaking countries may be destroyed by world events. Taxing people for political ends - "redistributing wealth" - is fast being seen to be a confidence trick on the electorate, the paper says.
The article refers to the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 that lead to the founding of the United States, and more recently Margaret Thatcher's obsession with Poll Tax and her subsequent fall from power. George Bush also lost over taxation, and some say the Labour was again defeated in the UK for this reason.
The article also makes the point I am fond of making - taxation makes the economy less efficient and redirects talent into tax avoidance - for fat fees. It is very likely that a low tax high growth economy would benefit even the poor more than an inefficient one.
Compare a poor person in work today with a middle ages monarch, for example. The monarch has to put up with mediocre players to entertain him in his drafty and probably smelly castle, whereas the simple working man today has CDs, television, central heating and an inside flush toilet.
The newspaper article discusses work of various philosophers and commentators who argue that taxation for social purposes is a massive fraud. The article calls for a barest minimum taxation for the services that only government can provide, and the abolition of income tax, to be replaced with expenditure tax.
Expenditure tax is the same as income tax except that all investments are tax deductible and all realisations of capital are taxable. There is no income and gains taxes, and no special treatment for things like mortgages and life insurance. Tax avoidance is simple - invest instead of spend. No expensive lawyers and accountants are needed.
UK Women Short Lived
An article in The Financial Times of 2 December said that UK women live less long than anywhere else in western Europe. Their life expectancy is 78.6 years, ninth lowest in the European Union. This was coupled with a lot more information about women's lower financial and employment opportunities in the country.
Current Arguments About the Existence of God
A recent series of programs on British television discussed this age old question. "If we find the answer," said Professor Stephen Hawking, "it would be the ultimate triumph of human reasons - for then we should know the mind of God."
The asked whether science is good evidence for God. The idea of a designer God can no longer apply, as science has shown that complexity can arise out of chaos without contravening laws of thermodynamics. Evolution theory can explain the construction of complex artifacts, and chaos theory can show how simple equations such as z z2+c can be used to create mathematical objects of infinite complexity, as is the Mandelbrot Set, reproduced below.
Science looks for the most simple description of the universe. A designer god is an object of the most utmost complexity.
Dr Richard Dawkins said the following:
The whole exercise of science is to explain - particularly Darwinian science which is mine - how we have got complex apparent design out of nothing, or at least out of extreme simplicity. If we are going to start with a god, then for that god to be anything other than extremely simple would be to evade the issue completely. Therefore it had better be a simple god! But if it's that simple a god, then it isn't doing any work at all, and more specifically it cannot possibly be the kind of god who cares about us, who forgives our sins, who transubstantiates when a priest holds up a chalice. That is the kind of nonsense we are getting from religious people nowadays who have essentially lost the argument and are falling back upon desperation.
They now are falling back upon modern physics - upon the idea of where the fundamental laws of physics come from instead. That is a reasonable question. But if you're going to answer that kind of very fundamental advanced sophisticated question in the way that a physicist would then for goodness sake don't be dishonest and confuse it with sort of naïve medieval god who cares about sins, who sends people to hell, who terrifies children with the thought of hell.
Let's not let the God side have a monopoly of personal explanations. Of course we have personal explanations. We are persons - of course we love and of course we have music and literature and art. Those things all came into the universe late. They are products of evolution. They are products of brains. They need an explanation they are going to get an explanation. The explanation will come from biology, the biology of brains. It will come from the interaction between highly complicated pieces of matter in brains. They come late in the universe. It is nothing to do with original cosmic explanations. You cannot drag persons into the origin of the universe because persons are complicated, they are complex.
UK Government Joins Crime Wave.
Car and house insurance premiums have roughly doubled over the past three or four years because of the rising crime rate in the UK.
Much of this crime can be attributed to the government's refusal to consider alternative legal arrangements about hallucinogenic drugs. By pursuing drug sellers, they make it even more profitable for those who are not caught, and the situation worsens. The real loser is the public who are at much greater risk of crime from drug crazed individuals who would stop at nothing to get money for an ever increasingly expensive "fix". Prohibition of alcoholic drink in the USA in the 1930s produced a similar result.
The government appears to care nothing about this, and indeed plans to exacerbate the situation by a new tax.
In their November budget the government proposes to penalise people who insure their property by a 3% ad valorem tax on insurance, to raise a total of £750 million. One can only hope that they will spend the money on reducing crime!
More Cryonics on Television
There has been a lot of coverage of cryonic suspension on British television recently. Paul Michaels, Michael Price, Garret Smyth and Andrew Blackall have all appeared on radio and television programmes.
Death apologist David Pegg also gets a fat fee for spouting his unresearched scepticism. He and various other professionals make the usual remarks about freezing raspberries resulting in mush. They miss completely the fact that it is future science they are pontificating on, and that professionals usually know as little about the future as anybody else.
A medical journalist appeared on one program and made a doctor and a surgeon look foolish by reciting the derision with which people like Lister and Pasteur were greeted by the professionals of their day.
The surgeon was in fact a heart surgeon, and it was put to him whether as a student he would have considered cutting the heart out of a dead person and putting it into a live person from whom he had removed the heart.
Peter James, author of Host, the cryonics novel, said that Rank Xerox ($81 per share on 1 December, annual range $70-$89) are putting millions of dollars into researching nanotechnology. The heart surgeon gave his professional opinion that nanotechnology was fantasy.
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