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 <email@example.com>
Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.
sent 5 Feb 1995
Insurance Companies and Lawyers At War
An article in The Financial Times of 15 January 1995 revealed a dispute between the insurance and legal profession.
Insurance agents can get cheap loans as a perk of their jobs, but recently a large number have been made redundant due to changes in the profession.
The companies have tried to call the loans in, but the agents are taking them to law saying that not only will they not repay their loans, but also require compensation for unfair dismissal. They have claimed legal aid. This is financial assistance given to litigants who are exceptionally poor. However the rules also cover people whose nett assets are low after loans, and can include people with substantial assets which are frozen be process of law.
The insurance companies are in dispute with the profession on the grounds that legal aid is not applicable to these cases. Of course, the costs of litigation are beyond the average person, never mind the really poor. So if the insurance companies win their claim, the sacked agents won't be able to litigate regardless of any merits of their claims.
Meanwhile, the troubled financier and businessman Robert Maxwell received four million pounds legal aid recently, but a baby who was found to have had a needle left in its spine by a hospital was refused legal aid to sue the hospital.
Personally I think that having legal aid to prop up a system that few people can afford is not a sensible solution. A better one would be to have a legal system that most people can afford!
An analogy to the legal system that few could afford would be to have the automobile industry only produce Rolls Royces and Cadillacs. Anyone else who needs a car has to buy one through government aid.
Such a system of transport is clearly ridiculous - instead we have cars of all sizes and you buy what you can afford. Of course the legal system isn't quite the same as everyone has to use the one system.
But if we had something much simpler there may be individual injustices, but overall the level of satisfaction would be higher, and the total number of injustices would be lower.
Genetic testing Ban Could Triple life Premiums - ins cos.
If insurance companies were required by law to give everyone, including high risk applicants, life insurance, premiums could double or treble the Association of British Insurers told MPs in January 1995.
There is a government enquiry into human genetic testing and the life insurance industry. MPs were concerned that the increased use of genetic testing would result in many people being unable to obtain life insurance at affordable premiums.
At present (according to The Financial Times of 19 January 1995) 95% of people are insured on a standard basis, while 4% more pay more for cover and 1% are refused.
The Association said it would oppose a proposed ban on seeking genetic information where the sum assured is below a certain level. It said that premiums would rise if it were possible for people to get life insurance at rates that were inappropriate to their condition.
I would comment that the profession has a duty to provide life insurance at the lowest possible rates to anyone who wants it, and this can only be achieved by detailed testing and probing. As far as I know genetic tests do not themselves carry any risk of doing physical harm to the person being tested.
I do feel that companies should provide premium rates for no-tests and then offer discounts for people who pass various tests. That way people would view being tested as a way of earning a discount rather than passing through a hoop to join. Of course these no-test premiums would be three times as high as present premiums, which may act as a marketing deterrent. However no one buys life insurance on impulse (smile) so as long as all the companyiesquote using the same criteria the scheme ought to work and satisfy all the parties at present in dispute.
Ulcer Wars - Medicine Fights Back
According to an article in The Financial Times 19 January, further tests published in The New England Journal of Medicine compound the evidence that antibiotics that exterminate the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori are more effective than ulcer drugs in eliminating the condition.
A BBC Television programme Horizon on the subject said that the bacteria, with which people frequently contaminate each other, can persist for years and cause heart disease and cancer as well as ulcers.
The Financial Times said that medical authorities will not yet accept that the day of profitable ulcer drugs such as Astra's Losec are over. They are already spreading fears that widespread use of antibiotics will lead to more resistant strains of dangerous bacteria. Bacteria are designed to evolve past specific antibiotics in a short time. They also point out that sometimes ulcers are caused as a side effect of arthritis drugs.
Having recently seen Horizon, I speculate whether the arthritis drugs make people more susceptible to contamination with the bacteria. It is possible that if a healthy person with a healthy immune system take in a small quantity of the bacteria it can throw them out without causing ulcers, cancer or heart disease. If this is not the case, I am surprised that we aren't all dead by 30, as there are a lot of these bacteria around.
In the programme, a doctor deliberately infected himself with H. Pylori and got symptoms similar to what is termed gastric 'flu, or more properly gastroenteritis. As he took a massive dose, the effects were severe and persisted for a fortnight, after which his wife and colleagues insisted that he take antibiotics. Needless to say, these eliminated the bacteria and symptoms. There was even a case mentioned where a man with a small cancerous lesion in his stomach was treated with antibiotics and the lesion healed up and the cancer went. Otherwise, he would have had his stomach removed, and he would have spent the rest of his life grazing on a spoonful of food every few minutes in order to stay alive.
I think it is highly likely that many of the infections we so freely give each other may have long term life shortening effects. How could you know whether a bout of flu or a cold or gastroenteritis you catch in your 20s, isn't responsible for your stomach being taken out as cancerous in your 70s? This mechanism must be properly understood, and then we stand a better chance of acting upon it, either by reorganising society not to spread diseases and/or by developing strategies to defeat the long term effects.
One piece of oft quoted investment advice is buy when everyone is selling and visa versa.
The swings in the real estate market are of very much longer period than in stocks and shares, and so this may be worth considering:
There are literally hundreds of thousands of foreclosed properties that are being offered for sale for a fraction of their real worth. This is because lenders are in the lending business and not the real estate business. When they take back a piece of residential or commercial real estate, it is a "non-performing loan." That means it cannot be carried on their books as an asset. Bank examiners demand that a bank have a fixed amount of assets for each dollar in deposits they have on the books. If they have less assets, they must discourage people from making deposits. Less deposits mean less profits and sometimes insolvency. Even if a bank is making money, the Federal government will shut down the financial institution if there are not enough assets.
This has happened hundreds of times in the last few years. I'm sure you know of banks in your area which have suffered this fate. In addition, each property costs as much, or more, to maintain than if someone was living in the house. The bank has a piece of property that is bringing in nothing and may cost thousands each year to pay taxes and maintenance. For this reason, and others, banks must get rid of non-performing loans. If they are in real estate, the must be sold at any price to put capital back into the bank.
This situation, coupled with the downturn in real estate prices creates great opportunities for those who want real estate either as a residence or for investment. Many of the great fortunes in America were built from the constant (though sometimes erratic) rise in real estate. Land is finite. There is just so much of it. But population increases geometrically. And all those people need a place to live. Real estate values will go up, then dip, then go up again. Houses that were bought for $7,500 after WW2 are now being sold for as much as $200,000. Large investors are buying at these crazy low prices.
Citibank just sold defaulted real estate loans at less than 50 cents on a dollar to large investors who bought portfolios of $500 million or more. The Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC) has disposed of billions of dollars of property at ridiculous prices and even given some residential property free.
Why do banks take such a beating on selling to large investors? Because people like you still like to buy in the way your parents did. You call up a real estate agent and let her take you to see properties. She gets to you decide on one and you buy it from a homeowner who usually has a sentimental interest in the home and holds out for as high a price as they can get.
To buy these properties you simply get a list of bank foreclosures available, Get in touch with the person listed as the contact and strike the best bargain you can. In most cases, in order to facilitate the sale, the bank will bend over backwards to approve credit and, if pressed, will offer interest below the normal rate and accept little or no down payment.
If you want to own your own home or start a real estate portfolio that will make you wealthy, now is the time to start. Call us at 1-800-872-0121 for the price of a list for the state in which you want to own real estate.
(I cannot vouch for these people, but I picked this up on the Internet and obtained permission to print it here. I guess if all you are doing is buying a list and are willing to pay what they ask for the list they can't you much harm if they are not on the level.)
Do-it-Tomorrow read by TV agent
A UK television agent has asked to read CI member Chrissie Loveday's humorous novel Do It Tomorrow. So those people who got first edition signed copies as offered in The Immortalist will have a collectors' item if the series is broadcast. (Sales of a book of a TV series always do very well.) There were only 300 copies in the first printing, and as it was promoted too near Christmas there are some left at the time of writing. I cannot guarantee that this will be so by the time this gets in print. If you apply and only want the first edition, please say so and if it is no longer available your check will be returned.
[1997: it was never broadcast]
Diet Therapy for Auto Immune diseases
An article in New Scientist 21 January 1995 page 36 suggests that eating specific proteins can stop the body's immune system attacking cartilage. Written by Kae Douglas and Cathryn Prince, it is entitled Eating away at disease.
A diet of ground cow's brain as a cure for multiple sclerosis,
Fibres from the sternums of baby chicks to relieve the crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis
scrapings from the retinas of farmyard animals to alleviate uveitis.
The article admits that all this smacks of medieval quackery, but claims each one is being tested by researchers looking for a dietary approach to treating autoimmune diseases. The approach aims to cure the disease by correcting the faulty immune systems by diet.
The article is 5 pages long and I invite anyone who may be interested in this subject to buy a copy of New Scientist (NY office tel 202 231 2080) and read it.
I didn't notice a caution about catching brain diseases such as BSE from eating animal brain and nerve fibre. There should be one, in my opinion, and animals used as sources for these products should be carefully screened for the purpose, ie don't use any old meat from the butchers.
Age and Employment
According to The Financial Times of 26 January 1995 the British government is advising older people to ignore age limits in job advertisements and apply anyway. It has launched a new leaflet aimed at helping older workers find employment, and also has aimed propaganda towards employers.
However the problem, as always, is regulation.
Old people get sick more often. When a worker is sick, the employer has to continue to pay him (at least in part) and at the same time employ someone else to take his place. In addition, when the worker recovers he has to be given his old job back and the replacement sacked. Of course the replacement may also have worked long enough to merit redundancy payment! (There may be special regulations to cover this, I am not sure.)
In addition, the sick person who knows how to work the system can come in for one day every six months in order to avoid the sick pay being reduced, and this also stops the employer closing the job through excessive absence.
The problem is, that introducing regulation always forces a dilemma. It IS unfair that sick people may lose their jobs and be impoverished as a result that they are sick, but you can't pass laws against viruses and bacteria and put them on trial. If you pass laws that help sick people at the expense of the employer, it is also at the expense indirectly of his other employees. It also influences his choice of the employees.
"We can solve that" chant the lawyers under oath. They will introduce laws forcing employers to employ people they so callously refuse, just in order to avoid their legal obligations to sick people.
But employers are crafty people - if they weren't they wouldn't be able to add value to their employees' labour. They find ways around laws, especially ones they feel to be unreasonable. In fact, they usually employ lawyers themselves, and the wage paid to such a person can be ten times that paid to people who actually provide the goods and services the company is there to provide.
The point of this is not particularly lawyer bashing, but to state what ought to be obvious - you can't, by government, get rid of suffering in the world. The best job that government should do is to provide a substrate upon which people can engage in peaceful cooperation to better the lot of humanity. Although Libertarians may disagree, I would suggest that enforcement of laws against theft is a good job for government, for example.
Surprise surprise! It is the law against theft that is badly supported by government! In the UK anyway if someone breaks into your house and you defend yourself, it is likely to be you in the dock not the burglar. Yet this country is a democracy, and I would doubt if even than 5% of the population would want this state of affairs.
Harry Browne for President?
Following on with this, I was pleased to learn that Harry Browne, the Libertarian presidential candidate and third in the popularity polls, spoke at the Atlanta Terra Libra conference.
I think that it is a very important indication as to the substance of Terra Libra that such a person as the third most popular candidate to the US Presidency should be willing to give his name and his time to Terra Libra. I am sure that he would not want to tarnish his reputation by supporting anything that could be considered a scam!
Not that the readership of The Immortalist is going to make a lot of difference, but I think that Mr Browne's minimalist government is the policy most likely to benefit cryonicists and immortalists.
He is not likely to get in this time, but as more and more people become aware of the scientific truth behind chaos theory and the futility of authoritarian government, in a few presidential terms time it is likely that someone similar will get elected.
[1997: in fact his campaign barely caused a ripple.]
Hypertext Life Extension
Dennis Fink, biochemist (M.S., U.C. Riverside) is the author of hyplrnxx, an electronic text on health, longevity, IQ & toxins. It is available from CompuServe (lite version, about 300 of 600 pages, EDFORUM) or from Health & Learning Foundation, 3605 S. Braeswood Blvd. Houston, TX 77025. Current 600 page (I think he means a screen full of information, rather than a paper page) edition (Jan 1995) is only $6, or a 6 month subscription provides the basic text plus two quarterly updates for $14.
A lite (Nov 94) version is also available at all Simtel sites on the Internet like OAK.oakland.edu Simtel/MSDOS/hypertext/hyplrn14.zip. There are numerous unscientifically proven therapies/cures "hiding" in the literature, but it has taken Mr Fink the better part of a year of full time work to find some of them. Anyone knowing of a foundation that can help fund his foundation to continue this non-profit work, is asked to please let him know at any of the above addresses).
Therapies/cures for MS, Epilepsy, Heart Disease/Atherosclerosis, Diabetes, AIDS, Alzheimers, etc., are all included.
As I only learned of this package on the day I should be finishing this column I haven't looked at it in any detail, but from what I have seen of the Simtel download it could be very useful. It runs in DOS, although a Windows version is planned. The DOS version produces a Windows lookalike screen and can be controlled by the mouse.
If you can spare $6 and you have a PC I recommend that you send off for a copy yourself. As I have said years go in this column, hypertext is the next best thing to having an expert at your side with encyclopedic knowledge of a professional subject and the patience to answer every uninformed question you can think of, until you become an expert in the area of interest.
This program could be a valuable contribution to the cause of life extension.
Internet Law Newsgroup Threatens UK Solicitors
At the cost of having no redress if anything goes wrong, the UK.LAW newsgroup is a valuable source of advice on all legal matters. Just post a question and someone answers it, at your risk, of course.
At the very least it enables you to enter the law office knowing sufficient about the case to reduce the work required by the professional, who is probably charging ten times what you earn.
I have no doubt that similar groups exist for other countries.
Sent end February 1995
More Vitamin Bashing
The Financial Times of 4 February carried an article by a professor of psychology at the University of Nottingham called Food for the Brain.
In it, Andrew Derrington stated that all claims that vitamins and smart nutrients are beneficial are flawed. He quoted a professor of biology at the Open University (Milton Keynes, Bucks) Stephen Rose, a world leader in the research on the biochemistry of memory: "There is absolutely no evidence that, for people in normal health, any food acts as a cognitive enhancer. It is distressing that, amongst the other good things they do, health food shops participate in this con."
Derrington goes on to speculate why the claims persist. He suggests a placebo effect, and then goes on to demolish many studies that purported to show a positive result.
He also slated nutritional claims made for treating Downs Syndrome patients, and went into a tirade against a product I know nothing about called "Hap Caps". He also condemned a report in Smart Drug News which said that the result with Hap Caps were so striking that the double blind study was discontinued on ethical grounds. He said that until double blind trials are carried out, the product should "be given no more weight than the views of Bertie Wooster".
Comment: It is becoming increasingly clear that the authorities are realising that force is not going to work against the massive consumption of vitamins and nutrients by the general public, and they are reverting to the methods originally used to promote these products. This is clearly a move in the direction of reason.
However it does mean that the public are going to have to educate themselves even more to adjudicate between the two points of view. It probably also means that we are going to have to rely on self-experiment to get at the truth, and the truth will be a personal thing - what works for one person may not work for another.
Where we do need guidance is whether something will positively do us harm, and when these cases exist make sure that they are not over exaggerated. Derrington hints that all vitamins cause liver damage, which is clearly ridiculous. However we do know that vitamins A and D taken to excess can do just that.
I am all in favour of discussion, but we should at least try to be accurate!
Host Gets Bad Press
The electronic version of Peter James' cryonics novel Host got a drubbing in IBM Today January 1995. A picture of Alcor dewars was described as looking like a distillery. A CI picture was described as a bald headed man pumping fluid into Mr Blobby. An Alcor picture of neurosuspension showed what the unnamed reviewer thought was a garden shed.
The text itself was condemned as having unconvincing characterisation, frozen dialogue, and indifferent pseudoscientific concepts.
I must say that I do not agree with the reviewer's feelings about the text, and the quality of the pictures may well depend on the quality of the equipment used to view them. They almost certainly have a compression system incorporated, and this will expand the pictures according to the video system found on the reader's machine.
I would suspect that the reviewer had a built in prejudice against the topics covered by the book, and judging from his remarks about virtual sex he may be happier reviewing the alt.sex.death group on the Internet (if there is one - I made it up!).
Dilgo Against Cryonics
Karen Griffin wrote this out - I don't know where she got it from, possibly radio or tv:
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the foremost teacher to the Dali Lama called cryonics utterly meaningless. Once's consciousness cannot enter one's body again after one is actually dead. The belief that one's corpse is being kept for future revival can obviously trap the person's consciousness in a tragically increased attachment to the body, and so aggravate its suffering immensely and block the process of rebirth. One master compares cryonics to going directly to a cold hell, without even passing through a bardo state. (Intermediate state between death and rebirth.)
Of course we must ask for evidence of these assertions before acting on them - I don't expect any to be forthcoming! However it is interesting to keep aware of what the rest of the world is saying.
Dinosaurs Exterminated by Coincidence
Writing in The Daily Telegraph of 8 January, 1995 Adrian Berry said that a paper in Earth Science and Planetary Letters has suggested that if the dinosaur killing asteroid had landed anywhere except in a place called Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico which is rich in sulphur, it would have been ineffective.
The resulting explosion vented a large quantity of sulphur into the atmosphere which was responsible for the long "winter" which exterminated the dinosaurs.
Had the asteroid landed anywhere else, the winter would have been less long and the species would not have been eliminated from the evolutionary chain. As it has remained for such a long time beforehand, it could equally have been the dominant species throughout the life of the planet, and never evolved into intelligent life as did the animals that followed.
To be intelligent, animals must reach a certain size, and apes would have been eaten by dinosaurs first. The odds that the impact was in the right place are calculated as being 1 in 2 billion against.
The article concludes that this may indicate why there is so little intelligent life in the universe.
The evolutionary limit reached by the saurians may have a parallel in humanity though. If humans settle down into a regulated bureaucratic existence they may never progress much further beyond the level reached today, and may never discover how to reach the stars or gain individual immortality. It is not the humans that have reached the limit, but the "beings" (states, professions, churches etc) that exist using individual humans as elements of their bodies. These entities will reach limits pretty quickly just like the dinosaurs, and keep humans within those limits. [eg the FDA bounding pharmaceutical research]
The New Galileo
An article in The Financial Times of 12 February commented that Galileo had little idea of the great discoveries that would follow his introduction of the telescope into astronomy.
Similarly, the recent plans for the construction of three gravity wave detectors and many more in the future will open a new window on the universe. Light and other electromagnetic radiation only permits observations back to 300,000 years after the creation of the universe. There is no such barrier known to gravity waves.
Ten More Years for Alzheimer's Patients
Heralding a breakthrough in Alzheimer's research, an article in The Financial Times of 12 February 1995 said that it would be ten years before any results filtered through to patients.
The breakthrough is the production of a strain of genetically engineered mice whose brains show a type of degradation similar to human Alzheimer's disease. The mice contain a human gene designed to give rise to the disease. St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London holds the patent to the mice, which is licensed to Athena Neurosciences and Eli Lilley.
Alzheimer's disease is the fourth leading cause of annihilation in the developed world, after heart disease, cancer, and strokes. It probably has no equal in the toll it puts on victims and their carers.
Tacrine, which public pressure forced through the FDA, is manufactured by Warner Lambert and may relieve some of the symptoms. However the pharmaceutical industry has nothing in development which will prevent the processes designed to cause the onset of the disease. A big handicap has been the absence of an animal model for investigating the progression of the disease and testing potential drugs.
Commercial pressure may prevent the mice being available to rival companies, and the potential market for an Alzheimer's preventative is said to be worth one billion pounds a year in present day money terms. However university labs will get the mice, says the report. However Eli Lilley is a large company can will probably make good use of the opportunity.
Review: Terra Libra Personal Power Seminar, Orange County October 1994 (Cassettes)
As with their previous cassette set, these came well presented in a library case, holding 14 cassettes.
As before, there was a piece of music, less fanfare like and more bland than the first set, and voice over about the cassette being issued under the right of free speech, advising all members to obey known laws, and not giving professional advice.
The cassettes themselves were less professionally put together. Although the recording quality was good, there were large blank bits at the end of some lectures for no apparent reason other than the lecture not fitting on the cassette. The previous firm they used somehow managed to get around this.
The cassettes came with a well produced bound manual and sample of other Terra Libra products, such as Terra Libra News.
More of the lectures were relevant to Immortalists this time.
Tape one included the obligatory introduction by Frederick Mann and a lecture by Don Winfield on Neuro-Linguistic programming. This had a lot to do with the way people jump to conclusions about things, and has some relevance to people's attitude to cryonics.
Durk Pearson and Sandie Shaw did a nice double act on the subject of Learned Helplessness followed by Dr I. William Lane on Shark Cartilage. Dr Lane sounded very convincing about shark cartilage's effect in cancer cases, but I understand that there are equally convincing accounts of how it is of no value. Interestingly in conjunction with this is the idea of how neuro-linguistic programming can cure disease. A test on cancer patients had the entire control group dead whilst 60% of the group who visualised the treatment curing their cancer survived. Of course the nay sayers may be part of a conspiracy, but equally one can say the same thing about the promoters of any special cure.
Pearson and Shaw mentioned how their brain food products were selling on the black market in East Germany before the fall of Communism. They said that the products made people more critical of the world around them ... but they didn't claim responsibility to the fall of Communism.
Maybe that responsibility lies with the fact that Chaos Theory has proved that the concept of an ideal government is as sensible as that of perpetual motion.
Help one minority group, and you'll merely hinder another. See The Collapse of Government by Harry Browne after this column (if Mae deems it suitable for publication!)
However Butler Shaffer's lecture on Chaos Theory and Human Liberty would have put many people off because of poor delivery. I am sure that he is a brilliant man, but not everyone can lecture! If you do get the cassettes, though, please persevere with this lecture. It is important!
There were a couple of lectures about the Fully Informed Jury Association. These people have discovered that US juries are allowed to judge both the law and the facts of cases, although judges often don't tell them or even mis-direct them. In the UK this no longer applies, but jury deliberations are secret so in practise they can arrive at their decision by any means they like. In the USA, it is legal to promote the FIJA to jurors on a specific case as the FIJA does, but in the UK this would be illegal. However one could attempt to educate the public in general.
Frederick Mann spoke on How to Live Free Almost Anywhere. This included ideas for getting officials to do what you want them to do. This could be of use to people arranging cryonic suspension. There has always been difficulty in dealing with sceptical professionals.
John Pugsley gave a lecture on why people should not vote. Although his arguments were logical, I personally feel that the cause of liberty could be better served by getting particular candidates elected.
I don't want to tell cryonicists that they must vote in a specific way if the want to get frozen and revived. Personally I think that neither the Democrats or Republicans have much to offer. Of the two I would chose the latter as they appear to be very slightly less authoritarian. However you do have a third candidate in Harry Browne who is standing for the Libertarian party. He would strip away as many laws as he can whilst in office (and subject to what he can get through the two houses). I would suggest that his policies may benefit Immortalism more than the other two. Apart from the obvious values of not been penalised for taking vitamins or arranging cryonics, the effects on the growth of the economy would be electrifying, and the rest of the world would be forced to adopt similar law-repealing policies or get left behind.
However there are no doubt many readers of The Immortalist who may think that one or other of the main parties is so much better than the other it would be dangerous to risk the opposition getting in by "wasting" their vote on Harry Browne. However I seem to recall that the USA has elected a President who is not of the two main parties before. Anyway, if it is printed here, read Harry Browne's article and see what you think.
Terry Coxon lectured on Inexpensive Offshore Investment for Safety and Profit. He discussed methods to avoid using lawyers for financial privacy and safety from litigation and governments. Another lecture said that litigation was really the state producing a custom made tax for the victim.
Mr Coxon said that the best way to get funds overseas is to open a bank account by mail. It is simple, and requires no lawyers.
To start with, keep it simple. Send them a check and say you want to open an account.
Later, you can buy stocks etc through the bank. Many non-US banks offer these services, he says.
As fees are also higher than in the USA, he advises foreign accounts for money you want to put away and leave, for long term investment of stocks etc. For high activity, keep your account in the USA as an addition to your foreign account.
Also you can get credit cards from an overseas bank. This provides privacy not present in the USA. The only condition is that you deposit a lot of money with the bank to cover any possible use of the card. But you will earn interest on this deposit. There is no credit check. As far as using the card in a store, there is no difference. Again, charges may be higher. But use it only when you want to perform a private transaction, or draw cash privately.
You can avoid reporting requirements by creating a custodial account and depositing an item that does not create a taxable income. A suitable item may be a bar of gold. The bank acts as custodian for that particular bar of gold. Therefore there are no reporting requirements.
Mr Coxon also looked at how to move money around without reporting, and also how such operations could make the perpetrator guilty of an offence known as structuring. However agreements can be worded so as to get around this. If you owe someone $17,000 and draw cash of $8,000 from one bank and $7,000 from another, put it in one envelope and pay it and a lawyer finds out, he can prosecute for structuring (either as a legal adventure(?), or as a government official). However if the payment agreement said that $8,000 was to be repaid in February and $7,000 in March, then the two transactions are separate and the hypothetical lawyer would lose his case (and maybe pay your costs as well).
Terry Coxon also spoke on foreign corporations. He explained the legal process known as deeming. If a lawyer deems something to be black when it is white, and he is allowed to do so by law, then as far as the law is concerned it is black. If you set up a foreign corporation to receive dividends, then lawyers working for the IRS deem it to be yours and tax it accordingly. You cannot say that it is not yours until the foreign corporation pays you a dividend.
However a foreign asset protection trust may be of more use. He also looks at how to protect assets against litigation with a foreign trust, together with methods of protecting immovable assets using a limited partnership coupled to a trust.
Jim Bennett proposed the hypothesis that nation states are on the decline, and the coming age is one of the sovereign individual. He said that the fall of authoritarian countries like the USSR and South Africa are a symptom of the end of the age of the nation state. His lecture examines what will follow.
He stated by examining the history of the idea of the nation state. Originally people in a nation state had something in common. This no longer applies, for example people in Canada do not have much in common except that they don't want to be part of the United States! In the "United" Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and even Cornwall have devolutionist movements.
Mass emigration has lead to racial and nationality movements across borders which given populations in geographic areas little of common heritage.
For most of history people lived in Empires with loyalty to the Emperor and religious concepts uniting people. The USSR was the last of the Empires.
He drew comparisons between the way gorilla males present themselves homosexually to the "alpha male" in order to demonstrate submission and in return get protection, to the structure of human nation states. A titter was obtained from the audience when he likened this to strip searches by the police.
He discussed how nation states that are not natural in terms of the occupants, such as Bosnia, cause bloodshed when people try to impose them.
Phil Zimmerman released a program called Pretty Good Privacy 2.0 onto the Internet. It enables two people to communicate and carry out meaningful commercial transactions without being monitored by governments. This could be the single event that heralds the end of nation states and the dawn of the sovereign individual.
Don Sovereign spoke on the reliance defence for those who don't file tax returns. It relies on the 4th and 5th Amendments, and many people inside and outside Terra Libra have claimed success with this method. Presumably if it gets too popular Congress will close this avenue. It is reasonably complicated and requires a quick mind, but apparently there are lawyers who will help you.
Chuck Estes spoke on alternative money systems. He showed that a government monopoly of providing a money system is bad, and that many people get rich by gambling on currency variations. He says that many alternative systems will emerge, and then the best ones will win out if free competition is not stifled by governments' own self interests.
He said that banks produce nothing, yet their buildings in any major city are only bettered in size by government buildings. An alternative currency system could be envisioned that does not require banks. A successful alternative system would be possible because of the development of encryption and computer technology.
A private, alternative system could evolve slowly alongside the existing system.
He explained how credit cards enable individuals to (temporally) create money using their monthly interest free allowance. The proposed private money system will use similar principles with Account Units - Account Credits and Account Debits.
Terra Libra Passports (!) was the subject of Harold Porter's lecture. The concept didn't sound quite so silly when he had finished, and in fact a lot of it concerned personal and financial privacy.
Sent 3 April 1995:
Dennis Fink is writing and publishing an electronic text on Health, Longevity, Intelligence and Toxins. His long sig. block on his email has locations of his e-text if you want to see what he has to say about Longevity.
There are numerous unscientifically proven therapies/cures "hiding" in the literature, but it has taken him the better part of a year of full time work to find some of them. Anyone knowing of a foundation that can help fund his foundation to continue this non-profit work, please let him know at any of the addresses below. Therapies/cures for MS, Epilepsy, Heart
Disease/Athersclerosis, Diabetes, AIDS, Alzheimers, etc.
Dennis Fink, biochemist (M.S., U.C. Riverside) author hyplrnxx, an electronic text on health, longevity, IQ & toxins. Available from Compuserve (lite version, about 300 of 600 pages, EDFORUM) or from Health & Learning Foundation, 3605 S. Braeswood Blvd. Houston, TX 77025. Current 600 page edition (Jan 1995) $6, or a 6 month subscription provides the basic text plus two quarterly updates for $14. A lite (Nov 94) version is also available at all Simtel sites on the Inet like OAK.oakland.edu (directory Simtel/MSDOS/hypertext/hyplrn14.zip.
UK authorities spend £75,000 on lawyers instead of doctors.
The UK's national Health Service decided that someone suffering from leukaemia would not benefit from any further treatment. The chance of surviving the treatment was said to be 5%. It would have been chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant costing £75,000. Relatives sued in the courts, and to give them their due, the lawyers took the case all the way to appeal within a couple of days. However the costs amounted to £75,000 - just the sum the NHS would not provide. I do not know for certain whether the people had legal aid, but they probably did. The case was initially lost by the NHS, but they appealed and won the appeal. Then an anonymous benefactor stepped in with the money.
Of course there are a number of issues here:
1 People will do anything to save life (except, apparently, cryonic suspension).
2 Would a nearly futile attempt to save life be justified here on humanitarian grounds?
3 How does one ration health care? In practise what ever one does, he who shouts loudest or who has the deepest pocket wins.
4 A solution to the UK's health care crisis would be to introduce cryonic suspension as a voluntary option for incurable cases. £25,000 and no suffering instead of £75,000 and a lot of suffering looks like a very good deal to me. However most people would think I am potty to even suggest it. Also, the Cryonics Institute's prices are unlikely to be maintained once cryonics becomes professionalised.
(ref - Longevity Report 50, Keith F. Lynch What Would Happen if Cryonics Became a Profession. page 30)
The following article was mailed to be by Brenda Goodwin, a member of Terra Libra.:
from Expat World (Singapore) 15 January, 1995
From a brochure distributed by Geneti-Pet, a Fort Townsend, Washington laboratory that stores blood samples from household pets in cryogenic suspension at a temperature of -320 degrees Fahrenheit. Geneti-Pet charges $75 to process a blood sample and an additional $100 a year for storage.
All household pets bring us the gift of love every day of their lives. The sad truth, however, is that our beloved dogs, cats, and other pets are with us for only a few years before death takes them away and we are left helpless and heart-broken.
The Geneti-Pet laboratory stores blood samples from pet animals in cryogenic cylinders; this freezing keeps the blood alive indefinitely. Once technology reaches the point where DNA from blood cells can be used to replicate high-level animals, your pet's blood can go through the same process, enabling you to raise an animal that is identical in every way to your current or previous pet.
For obvious reasons, Geneti-Pet cannot guarantee success; science has not yet found the key to replication. But if we have your pet's live blood sample in storage, we can offer you strong hope. If you love your pets as much as most people do, wouldn't it be wonderful to have them with you for generations?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long will we have to wait before we could clone an animal from raw DNA?
A: Scientists around the world are working on this question. Every day they are finding .new pieces of the puzzle.
Q: How much will it cost to clone our pet once the technology comes along?
A: We have no way of knowing at this time. We believe that it will be affordable.
Q: If we don't know when replication will happen, why should we store the samples now?
A: This is a decision only you can make. If you do it now, when the time comes you will have your sample secured and ready to go. If you choose not to act now and your pet passes away or disappears, it will be impossible to obtain its DNA. Without the DNA, you can never replicate your pet. Once the animal is gone, it will be too late to change your
I comment as follows:
1. The claims made by this organisation are open to criticism on the grounds that it is highly unlikely that a genetic clone would be that similar to your original pet unless reared under identical circumstances.
2. The time scales involved would suggests that clients would be well advised to have themsleves placed into cryonuic suspension when medicine gives up on them. Otherwise they will never live to see their pet's clones. (Unless possibly they are young children today, when they would be unliekly be in a position to order such services>)
Now its Femtotechnology
An article in New Scientist of 18 March 1995 described a new method of manipulating matter. It calls it femtotechnology because it involves pulsing chemical reactions with laser light with durations in the femtosecond range (ten to the minus 15 of a second).
It is analogous to pulsing objects like moving bullets with a strobe light so as to freeze the action for photography. In this case, not only can the pulses observe the reactants present (by spectroscopy), but a series of pulses can be used to direct the reaction in ways that nature never intended, to create more of a wanted compound, or even entirely new compounds.
The special lasers needed cost $100,000 each, but plans are afoot to make versions available for $10,000 or less. Roy Talor, who heads the Femtosecond Optics Group at London's Imperial College says "We believe really believe that the widespread availability of low cost lasers will revolutionise femtosecond research by giving more scientists the chance to enter the field."
How to Avoid Tax and Recycle Unwanted Items
If the government has a vigourous immortalist program no doubt we wouldn't object to paying taxes. However this is unlikely to happen, at least in our lifetimes. Therefore any means of avoiding taxation seems a logical thing to do.
For many people, some of the simplest tax deductions might be hidden under their own roofs. Discarded clothing, books or appliances -- gathering dust in basements, attics and closets -- could be worth hundreds of dollars on the next tax return if donated to qualified charities before the end of a tax year.
The key to making these claims is to keep good records. That means obtaining authorized receipts and maintaining lists of donated items, noting original purchase price and approximate purchase dates, current market value and condition. Photos or videos might be used as additional proof. Individual contributions exceeding $250 must be substantiated with written proof from the charity as of the tax year 1995 in case the Internal Revenue Service decides to audit your return; previously, the threshold was $500 or more. If the value of the donated goods tops $500, Form 8283 must be sent with the return, and if it tops $5,000, an outside appraisal is required. But assigning a value to these gifts can be tricky for the average person. While the IRS lets taxpayers claim the "fair market value" of non-cash donations on their itemized returns, it puts the burden on the donor, not the charity in coming up with a reasonable figure. (IRS Publication No. 561, "Determining the Value of Donated Property," offers some guidelines.)
The rule of thumb, some accountants say, is to claim at least 10 percent of the original cost of the items being donated, provided they're in usable condition. By charities' standards that means clean and intact; many groups won't accept torn clothing. (extracted from an article on CompuServe)
Tacrine Prohibited in UK
The United Kingdom government decided to make the anti-Alzheimer's Disease drug Tacrine illegal in the UK. (21 March 1995) Officials said that the risk/benefit ratio was inadequate. Doctors who appeared on television were against the ban, saying the people will bring it in from France and the USA and then take it unsupervised. Supervision, the say, is particularly important as it can cause live damage and other drugs need to be carefully prescribed if this is seen to be occurring. It is not really practicable to have people doing this for themselves.
Although Tacrine won't help every Alzheimer's disease patient, and it is not a cure it does help an appreciable number of them live happier lives for a while longer. Unfortunately it looks as though the ban is a usual case of officials reaching a decision without having the time and energy to consider the overall effects of their actions.
New Protection Against Flu
According to New Scientist 11 March 1995, Dutch researchers have found an alternative method of flu vaccination. Many people object to needles, and AIDS fears (despite well applied safety regulations) haven't helped.
In addition, injected vaccination doesn't work in the nasal passages, which is often the initial site of viral contamination from another person. Therefore the vaccinated victim often suffers cold symptoms even if the virus is prevented from causing any more damage by the effects of the vaccination.
Jan Wilschut and colleagues at the University of Groningen working for the Solvay Duphar company are working on an inhalable vaccine that is easier to take and has effect directly on the required area. Their trick, according to New Scientist, is to attach mix a new vaccine with microscopic fatty droplets called liposomes to make up an inhalable aerosol.
Chemical Mimics Bones
A chemical compound that looks like toothpaste but hardens into artificial bone within hours is streamlining the treatment of fractured limbs and offers new hope for aged, fragile bones.
The compound, now in experimental trials at 12 American hospitals, is used to hold splintered bones in place, to fill voids caused by osteoporosis and to replace some of the metal plates and screws that have been used to repair shattered hips, wrists and ankles.
"The material acts as an internal cement by holding the fragments in place,'' said Dr. Jesse B. Jupiter, a hand surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The compound is virtually identical to natural bone crystals. Once it is placed in the body, the material hardens within 10 minutes and reaches the compression strength of natural bone within 12 hours.
Within weeks, the study showed, the cement is replaced by real bone. Because it so closely resembles bone, researchers said, the body does not reject the cement and react as it does to most foreign substances.
Brent R. Constantz, co-author of the study and president of Norian Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., which developed the material, said orthopaedic surgeons in Holland now use the cement to repair fractures of the wrist, hip, and leg and for total joint replacement. The cement also has been used to fill spinal voids caused by osteoporosis, a disorder that embrittles natural bone.
Traditional treatment often requires surgery and a long period of pain and rehabilitation.
In clinical studies using the cement, Jupiter said, he has been able to treat such fractures without an incision. Guided by X-ray, the bones are fitted together and then cement is injected through the skin and into the fracture area. The material hardens within 10 minutes, holding the bones together. Broken hips that were almost impossible to correct among some older patients in the past are now yielding to the use of the cement. The cement can make the use of screws unnecessary.
Food and Drug Administration approval to sell the cement, which costs between $750 and $1000 per application, is expected in late 1997. The FDA has already approved experimental use of the cement, based, in part, on studies in Holland. It reduces hospital stays by half, thus saving millions of dollars in medical care costs.
Science, which published the study, is the peer-reviewed journal
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (adapted from article posted anonymously on the Internet.)
The Death Gene - New Possibilities for a Candidate
An Article in New Scientist of 25 March 1995 described a process which may explain the reason why people think there could be a gene that programs mortality. This process is not itself a gene, but it is genetic.
As regular readers will know, I discount the theory that there is an ageing clock that can be turned off genetically. This is because if this were so, random accident would turn it off in a few individuals, just as random accident causes other deviations from the normal human appearance and function of individuals. This has never been observed.
However the New Scientist article suggests that something described as unstable DNA can be the cause of genetic diseases. The article doesn't specifically mention ageing as such a disease, that is my extrapolation.
Unstable DNA is a simple repetitive sequence of genes that can increase in length as it multiplies. The phenomenon is very similar to some computer viruses. This increase in length can occur across generations as well as
with a particular individual.
Because evolution is not on a peak that contains individual immortality, it has failed to equip us with mechanisms that could protect our genes from unstable DNA.
This is a gross simplification of an overall very important article. If you are an expert in the subject, then I advise that you obtain a copy of New Scientist 25 March 1995 and read it. It is on page 28. The magazine is available in all countries.
UK to Introduce DNA Profiling
The United Kingdom is to require all persons convicted of serious assaults and sexual offences to provide a blood sample for DNA profiling from April 1995 onwards. Initially the database will be of little value as it will have few samples, but as it builds up it could become more important than fingerprinting.
I am aware that many libertarians, Terra Librans etc will not be overjoyed at this prospect. However it should enable the police to catch burglars more easily, and the freedom to own property is high on the agenda of libertarian groups. People are less likely to carry out crimes if the chances of getting caught are greater. The chances of getting caught are much more important that the punishment when you are caught.
At present, the attitude of those in authority is not to directly condone theft, but they do support robbers at the expense of law abiding individuals. The latter can only use minimum force to protect themselves, even though it requires skill most people don't have in order to restrain someone without harming them.
Anyone in cryonic suspension is going to be far more vulnerable in a society where robbery is supported by the state, (as the facility could be damaged) so any move to make robbery more difficult should be appreciated by immortalists. I think that DNA profiling is one such move.
Travellers to Russia May Risk Catching or Spreading Diphtheria
An epidemic of diphtheria is spreading from Russia to the rest of the world. It is caused by overcrowding in cities, and has already spread to border countries such as Germany. Americans travelling in Russia have been contaminated with the disease. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta said that mass travel within the old Soviet Union is spreading the disease. (NSc 25.3.95)
Patent Lawyers Threaten Lives of Patients
According to an article in New Scientist dated 1 April, the action of patent lawyers is no joke to gene therapists. They say that because the legal system has granted a sweeping patent to the National Institutes of Health covering the removal of cells from a patient, altering their genetic make-up, and returning them to the patient, lives will certainly be put at risk. Almost all gene therapy trials that have been approved rely on this technique, and the delays and uncertainties involved with getting permission to use patented processes will put a stop to a lot of potential life saving work.
Sent 1 May 1995
Big Government Rules, OK?
It always amazes me how if one does not record the reference immediately one sees an article, one can never find it again. Recently I read an article in The Financial Times that falls into this category, but I am still reporting what I read as I feel it is relevant to the debate as to whether Libertarian type politics are beneficial to growth and hence to advances in curing ageing.
The report said that during the second world war, in the UK the economy actually grew under tight government control, and people became better off. I wish I could find the report, because I seem to recall it saying that 390,000 UK nationals died in the war, which figure seems surprisingly low.
However the report ended with the comment that it is unlikely that this growth could have been maintained if such tight control remained over more than the four years.
This latter comment ties in with Chaos Theory and its result that government control can't possibly work. It has been shown that chaotic systems can only be predicted or controlled for a short period. This is why long range weather forecasting is so difficult.
Can Flu lead to Multiple Sclerosis?
People seem not to worry much about passing viruses and bacteria between each other - they will often soldier on when afflicted with non-life threatening diseases such as colds and flu. But an article in New Scientist dated 1 April 1995 said that Harvard University researchers Kai Wucherpfennig and Jack Strominger found several viruses and a bacterium produce protein fragments resembling those on the surface of human cells. These are designed to make the body's defences attack its own tissues, and this strategy works with individuals with genetic susceptibility. Many pathogens are thought to use this method, which is known as molecular mimicry.
After painstaking research, they discovered that viruses that could trigger MS in individuals with certain genetic defects were very common, ie colds, flu and herpes.
In addition, they found a similar process linked to some forms of cancer.
The reason why not everyone who gets a cold etc gets these fatal diseases as well is that many people do possess a genetic armoury that defeats this particular function of those viruses. Also, there may be a very long time delay between infection and appearance of the secondary symptoms.
As usual in these stories, Strominger calls for more work, but he believes that his work may lead to strategies for preventing MS. He suggests preventative vaccinations will be indicated for families whose genes are shown by tests to be deficient.
An Orthodox Medical View
The following is the first paragraph of an article to be published in the June issue of Longevity Report, written by a doctor from New Zealand.
Life extension can be considered from three aspects. Firstly there is cryonic suspension in which the body of a deceased person is frozen and stored in the hope that at some time in the future that person can be restored to life. Cryonic suspension is future technology in so far as there is at present no hard data to show this is possible. Persons who elect to undergo cryonic suspension do so in the hope that future scientists will have the technology to resurrect them, complete with their thought patterns, memories and personalities. At present we have no knowledge as to whether this is possible or will be possible in the future. We do not know whether our present methods of suspension are those required for successful future restoration. However, unless people are prepared to experiment, knowledge on this subject cannot progress. Those undergoing cryonic suspension have nothing to lose as the alternative is death and decomposition or cremation. I am presently undecided on the subject as regards myself. Hopefully I have another 30 to 40 years of life ahead during which time progress will be made. (end of quote)
Of course, once it is proved revivals are possible, it should also, by benefit of the same technology, be possible to prevent ageing and consequent death by old age. Therefore all those who will benefit from cryonics will have to be suspended before it is known for certain that they can be revived.
The doctor discusses life extension ideas in the rest of the article. He is not a present a member of Terra Libra but has ideas similar their views, and mentions a point that is also made by Pearson and Shaw in their lecture to a Terra Libra conference. This is that those who are not in control of their lives are more likely to get sick.
Micropump Delivers 50 Nanolitres
According to an article in The Financial Times of 13 April, a German organisation, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solid State Technology, Munich have produced an integrated circuit 7mm square that delivers just 50 nanolitres of liquid. (no full address given, but fax 895 4759 100, voice 895 4759 230, you may need an intercontinental number in front of these digits). Uses for the device include a component for an artificial pancreas and the controlled delivery of medication.
The same issue of The Financial Times also mentioned work done by Italian scientists at the Institute of General Pathology, Verona. They say that the disease is designed to produce deposits of amyloid proteins that react with the immune system cells called microglia in the presence of certain immune system hormones to produce substances that are highly toxic to neurons.
Cost of Private Welfare
Another in the same paper, this time their Weekend Money supplement, detailed the cost a mid-income earner needs to find every year in order to be completely independent of the failing state welfare system.
For pension, life, permanent health, and long term care insurance, he would have to pay $16,000 per year He would get income tax relief on $12,800 of this for his pension, the rest would come out of taxed income. If he also wished critical illness and private medical insurance, then and additional $2,560 would have to be found out of taxed income. (Rate= $1.6 per pound)
(Note: permanent health insurance is not medical insurance - it replaces earned income if you are ill for long periods.)
These costs represent over a third of his disposable income.
Pathologists Throw Brains in Trash
An article in Funeral Service Journal dated April 1995 revealed that brains were being ripped out of every corpse passing through the city morgue at Sydney (Australia), used for experiments, and then chucked in with the industrial waste. They were burned at an industrial incinerator. After an article in the E.P. Herald public outrage forced the New South Wales Health Department to order a review of the practice. 3,500 people were subjected to this since 1990, although relatives never knew about it until the newspaper exposure.
Designer Virus Used to Destroy Tumours
Ten women with breast cancer are to be deliberately infected with a virus as a medical experiment. But this is not as horrific as it sounds, because the virus is not of the natural variety, all of which are designed to do harm. This virus is the product of genetic engineers, who have designed it to switch off the production of a protein called c-fos which is essential to the well being of the tumour. Tumours in mice have already been eradicated or reduced by blocking of c-fos production.
Each patient will receive over one billion viruses over a four day period, injected into their chest cavity. The virus' anti-c-fos gene will only be activated in breast cells, to reduce the risk of danger to the rest of the body. It also designed to deteriorate and be destroyed by the blood stream, so as to prevent its uncontrolled growth in the rest of the body or indeed transfer accidentally to another person. Unfortunately this also has the effect of making any secondary tumours safe from its predations, so if secondary tumours are present the patient will still die. However as work progresses on this subject, these difficulties could be circumvented.
No mention was made as to when this treatment will be available to the general public. [NSc 22.04.95]
Computer Program Highlights Vitamin Deficiencies for Old Folk
A book and computer programme are to be published by the UK's Distressed Gentlefolk's Aid Association Homelife Trust to improve the diet of old people.
Because of special needs and special tastes, old peoples tend to eat peculiar diets. Often this results in unbalanced consumption of vitamins and minerals. When residents of old people's homes have selected their meals for the next week or month, all the staff have to do is to feed these into the program and it will then suggest alterations to balance their diets.[NSc 22.04.94]
This sounds fine, except that it is likely that the authors know nothing the many reported benefits of extra large doses of vitamins and minerals. Anything that can be achieved by messing about with diets is unlikely to have as much beneficial effect.
Will We Live Long Enough?
I return again to the vexed question as to whether all the progress that cryonics relies on will really happen. Mark Plus has sent me an audio cassette and a cutting from For the People on the debate on this subject. The cassette was of a radio show as part of a series called Background Briefing, this episode being The End of Work.
It was based on a book by Jeremy Rifkind The End of Work suggesting that economic problems could be solved by getting everyone to work a 30hr week for 40hr wages. The expense would be met by the government taking less in taxes. This would be balanced by having to pay out less welfare to the unemployed.
This seems to be an excellent idea, but they did miss out on a few points (or I missed them - I usually listen to things like this whilst mowing the lawn or something equally mindless).
1. People working 30hr weeks should be discouraged from taking a second paid job. (They could work for themselves, but they shouldn't get additional employment. Rather than a blanket ban, the tax system could be used to penalise overtime or a second employment.)
2. The standing tax and regulatory charges on employing people should be dropped, ie it should cost the same amount to employ 8 people for one hour as it does to employ 1 person for 8 hours. I am not opposed to regulations making the workplace safer, what I am opposed to is compliance costs, ie the owner has to pay someone an extortionate amount to inspect it. This racket is widespread in the UK at the moment.
3. People working for only 30hr a week are likely to be less stressed and will perform better per hour. ie, the actual output would be equivalent to (guess) 35 of the 40hr/wk man's work. This would only apply if the employee was relaxing during the rest of his time. If he was stressed during the rest of his time, then this would not apply.
The economic ills this is supposed to solve is
a relentless fall in simple jobs, eg farm labourer,
GNP doubling with average income falling,
a top tier "knowledge sector" only trading with itself, not the rest of the world,
the middle class becoming a new underclass.
Although I think the 30hr week is an excellent idea, I am not convinced that it will solve any of these problems. The real problem is that wealth production (scientific research, design, manufacture) is secondary to circular movements of money around the knowledge sector. The problem is that most of the knowledge that is being traded is not scientific knowledge, but regulatory knowledge.
If the GNP is going up I suppose that this need not worry us unduly if this relates to real items. But if there is no money left for people to buy manufactured goods, then manufacturing will cease. It is this problem that is worrying economists and many people on the radio show.
The show didn't make a particular reference to government regulations but if everyone is spending their money on compliance costs, then stagnation will result. (Of course money spent on compliance costs is not necessarily given to the government, it can be to lawyers, inspectors, accountants, assessors etc.)
The article in For the People by Franklin R. Kegan addressed more directly the points that worry me about economics. Kegan writes of an all powerful sector "General Overheads and Administration" where huge salaries and fees are earned for very little "heavy lifting" as he puts it, without being connected to any direct requirements for sales or goods manufactured.
He sees a division in society between those who like the first of the month because that is when they get their fees, and those who dread the first of the month because that is when they have to pay fees to someone else. He sees little linkage between the information economy and the production economy. He says that the information economy will subcontract all actual work to an underclass. Companies will consist solely of administrative staff to manage these contracts, and it will be these staff (and their fee earning consultants) who will be the high earners in luxurious surroundings. Fortunes will be made by knowing the right people at the right time to do deals, either purchases of stock or brokerage of commodities.
From a narrow immortalist viewpoint we need to ask how much this matters. Any economic debate usually takes a position and then extrapolates it to an extreme. The extremes mentioned here probably won't happen, because the system would fail in other ways before they were actually achieved. I suggest that from the point of view of the human race as a whole, these economic arguments won't make a lot of difference. We will discover immortality one day. But from the point of view of any specific individual, these considerations make a lot of difference, particularly for people alive today. The reason is that the more money is spent chasing information about obeying regulations, the less money is spent on fundamental research. Therefore the fundamental research takes longer. Therefore the specified individuals die before a cure for whatever kills them is found.
Some people may say that you shouldn't worry, just sign up for cryonics. Well, sign up by all means, but cryonics is only the second worse thing that can happen. Being burned or rotted is the worse thing. Cryonics is worth it because it is the only option available for those who love life. But it is not a particularly good option or a particularly reliable one - just the only one. Serious expansion of the human lifespan by controlling ageing with the resulting reduction in "dread diseases" such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease could make people alive today live forever (or at least until their personal accident) without cryonics.
That is if the regulators and lawyers leave us the resources to do the research in time.
Patient to Sue Government Health Authorities over Disease Risk
According to The West Briton dated 27 April 1995, a man living in Falmouth, Cornwall is to sue the Department of Health because he has been put at risk of getting Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease following treatment with natural human growth hormone. The disease is related to Mad Cow Disease, and is also associated with zombie legends. It attacks the brain and renders the victim mindless. It was passed between victims in Africa by cannibalism. The litigant also alleges that the hormone was extracted from glands removed from cadavers without relative's consent and was therefore illegally obtained.
A legal expert has estimated that he may receive 50,000 pounds in compensation.
I would comment that this is hardly enough to arrange for a pre-mortem suspension on first sign of symptoms, which is about the only thing that could rectify the damage! I am not talking about the actual costs of suspension, but the legal wranglings necessary to perform it.
Crisis Brewing Over Terminal Care
A series of articles in The Financial Times in April 1995 highlight a crisis growing in the UK over terminal care. The government are panicking over the likely cost to the National Health Service of providing for people with Alzheimer's disease and other delights of God's creation. In response, they are considering measures such as making children responsible for their parent's financial upkeep, possibly bankrupting not one but two generations. Already hospitals are discharging patients who can't be cured following harsh new rules introduced in February. Under present law, people who give their assets away in the hope that the state will provide for their care are penalised if they make the gift within six months of entering care (ie the gift is clawed back). Where the gap is longer, court action still follows. I don't know what happens if the money is passed overseas.
According to a 1985 census, one in eight of the over sixties needed regular or continuous care, while a further one in four needed some care. Today the situation is worsening.
Nursing homes cost UKP17,000 (£27,000) per year, paid out of income that has been produced following deduction of income and often capital taxes. Rearrangement of finances is often being offered as a part solution, but this can cause severe penalties in capital taxation, often similar to fines levied for major crimes.
Some countries, such as Germany, are introducing compulsory long term care insurance. Some US states are offering tax deals to those who fund their own long term care. This later approach, said the newspaper, seemed the most innovative and likely to succeed. In the UK, your wealth is quickly exhausted by costs and resulting taxation, until you are nearly bankrupt, when the state takes over. The journalist discovered that local health authorities didn't understand the rules and they were applied with varying degrees from area to area.
My comment to all this is, that the press ought to investigate what the breakdown in costs of this UKP17,000 actually is. How much is real service, and how much is taxation and regulatory compliance costs? At one time old folks' homes were exempt from local taxation for example... does this still apply? The service is labour intensive, and staff have to be paid enough to live off after deduction of tax. I don't object to standards, eg one old person per room. But I do object to enterprises having to pay someone to inspect that these regulations are being obeyed. Maybe, I am not saying it is, these costs could be slashed if all governmental overheads were taken out of the industry. Tax relief should be available on all movements of capital and income used to finance terminal care. Then many more people could afford their own care.
Bank of America offer Trusts for All
The Bank of America are to offer, from June 1995, a financial product known as TrustAmerica. It is described as a trust that is not just for the privileged few, and aims to protect your wealth whether you are in the process of building it or whether you are concerned about preserving it. Probate was the only thing they mentioned as a possible predator, and a picture showed a contented family, so maybe divorce isn't in their message, but presumably other litigation was.
The advertisement offered the trust to anyone with $50,000 or more and invited them to call 1-800-721-6403 for details of fees and costs. The professionals who would manage your investments are said not to receive commissions on trading, so they will deal in your best interests. Presumably this means that you can't manage your own!
If any CI member living in the USA is interested, the phone call costs nothing. Maybe anyone doing this could write a follow up article in The Immortalist commenting on what they learn.
Where The Money Goes
Many people who decry cryonics think that the conventional method of "wealth trickling down the generations" would suffer. An article in The Financial Times of 20 May suggested the direction in which this trickle flows, as least in the United States:
.. in the US perhaps nine tenths made by the mysterious individual called "dad" is frittered away. The greatest share of it goes to lawyers as the children fight for shares of the estate. Another chunk disappears as the family business is mismanaged by the second and third generations. The final tenth is taken in taxation.
This is quoted from a book by Roy O'Williams, an American investment consultant to the wealthy, entitled Preparing Your Family to Manage Wealth. Mr O'Williams suggests the best way for seriously rich people to protect their assets after the death is to set up a charitable trust and manage it in a team with their adult children. Apparently this causes less fights and teaches them to manage money wisely. They learn skills such as how to hire and fire lawyers and accountants and how to work together amicably. Establishing such a trust also saves the funds from the depredations of tax.
This argument is repeated in a British book The Millionaire Givers by Howard Hurd and Mark Lattimer.
What amuses me about all this is that if an individual sets up a cryonics fund for himself then this almost exactly fits the description of what these authors suggest. The nay-sayers often say that cryonics is a waste of money, so it would indeed be the last laugh if families who incorporate cryonics into their lives eventually end up better off than those who behave conventionally.
Life Extension in "Presidential" Address
Speaking at the Terra Libra Atlanta conference, held on 20-22 January 1995, Harry Browne mentioned the possibility of life extension in his address. The Libertarian presidential candidate said that his reason for standing was that he wished to return the impact of government on the individual back to the level that it was in the 1950s. He would like to see freedom advance further, but he felt that this was realistic and if achieved would enable him to live the thirty years remaining to him without being in servitude to the government. Then he added the provision that life extension may make the deal even better.
Review of Life Extension Sections of Terra Libra Atlanta Conference.
The conference cassettes were more in number than previous offerings, but many of the reverse sides seemed to be mainly blank. I felt this was irritating and although the costs wouldn't have been very different if they had been cut to length it would have made them more convenient to use. Having said that, the presentation was otherwise good, the cassettes being in the usual library folder with well presented notes in printed form. Also, question and answer sessions were recorded, a first for these recordings.
Nancy Lord, the attorney at the Sless trial (for selling GH-3), spoke of her victory over the FDA Todtpolizei's attempt to deprive Americans of the freedom to chose alternative therapies. (Another lecture on the Fully Informed Jury Association relates.)
Dr Ward Dean was introduced with his CV. He spoke on the health care plan and Life Extension. He said that the Democrats' health care plan was Socialist, the Republicans' less Socialist, and the Libertarians' worthless.
He said that the obscene costs of healthcare is due to the fact that it is over-regulated. He proposed these steps:
1. Make medical education available to everyone suitable who wants it. He said that the number of chiropractors was controlled entirely by the market and ran efficiently, and should be an example to other medical specialities.
2. Remove government restrictions against importation of foreign drugs. Abolish the prescription system so that physicians can get back to caring for patients instead of running "prescription mills".
3. Give FDA access to half the label on each product, and state its case to the consumer who has the freedom to decide. Abolish their Gestapo powers.
4. Abolish malpractice insurance, replace with better behaved doctors. (ie listen to patients, don't play God) Patients can buy insurance if they want to, in the same way airline passengers buy flight insurance.
5. Reduce hospital costs by reducing overheads.
6. Remove health insurance, because it removes any reason for caution in charging fees. Fees were charged to nameless institutions who was regarded a bottomless pit of money.
7. Indigents: physicians etc should contribute time free, but take fees off their income tax bill.
Turning to life extension, he said the medical profession have never made any difference to the maximum lifespan throughout human history. The average lifespan has increased substantially. He then reviewed some life extension books, and said that with the publication of Pearson and Shaw's book, scientists started to look at maximum lifespan.
He asked when we start to age, Birth?, Middle Age? Is ageing a disease? He showed some slides (not visible on audio cassettes) and argued that ageing is a universal disease and differentiated it from development. It starts at 25-30 years.
There are several theories of ageing, such as the free radical theory. Homeostasis in cells of anti-oxidants limits the benefits of taking supplements to extend maximum lifespan.
The crosslinking theory of ageing suggests an enzyme to break down crosslinks could help with the disease of ageing, but regretfully research ended without achieving a result.
Homeostasis is the feedback process by which the body's operating parameters are kept at the right level, for example temperature. Some of these systems change during development, but they should then maintain a stasis. A failure of this process could be another cause of ageing, due to loss of sensitivity by the hypothalamus.
He then discussed the various methods of life extension attempted today.
He advised against all lipid lowering drugs except Niacin except for people whose glucose levels rise with it. Niacin is the only lipid lowering agent that increases survival.
CoQ10 in the range of 100 mg/day is being used by life extensionists. 300mg/day has anecdotal evidence of eliminating breast tumours. It is used in Japan for many diseases.
The use of drugs such as dilantin (phenytoin) DHEA, deprenyl, melatonin, etc were discussed next.
He concluded that there is no magic bullet we can use to stop the ageing process, but maybe one day we will be able to, and even eventually reverse it.
Will Block (Life Enhancement Products, based on Pearson and Shaw's products) joined Dr Dean to talk about boosting mental performance. He started by running through the mental benefits of pharmaceuticals like hydergine, deprenyl, acetyl-l-carnitine, piracetam, etc.
Dr Dean said that the FDA's Hitlerian book burning attitude attacking books on smart drugs hit the US newsmedia and ensured a massive success for his title whereas he only expected to sell 5,000 copies. Professional studies of the use of hydergine in Alzheimer's disease were flawed in that the dose chosen was incorrect and the period of the test was too short.
Internet Newsgroup forTravel Spread Diseases
Writing on Cryonet Mike Darwin said that it was amazing how flights in and out of Ebola Virus regions were still permitted, and he also mentioned a new Internet newsgroup that is studying the spread of disease around the world.
Personally, I think that a major virus caused global catastrophe is a serious threat to cryonics. Although the immediate effects may not damage installations, the resultant economic effects and the probable rise in political authoritarianism would eventually make centres either illegal or uneconomic. (Assuming also, of course, the human species isn't totally exterminated by the virus.)
Here is some information on the newsgroup:
ProMED - the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases
Numerous recent episodes of emerging and re-emerging infections, including the global AIDS pandemic, the continuing spread of dengue viruses, the now frequent appearance of hitherto unrecognized diseases such as the haemorrhagic fevers, the resurgence of old scourges like tuberculosis and cholera in new, more severe forms, and the economic and environmental dangers of similar occurrences in animals and plants, attest our continuing vulnerability to infectious diseases throughout the world. Many experts, both within and outside government, have warned of the need to improve capabilities for dealing with emerging infectious diseases, and the development of an effective global infectious disease surveillance system has been the primary recommendation of expert analyses.
A program to identify and quickly respond to unusual outbreaks of infectious diseases in order to provide help to affected areas and to prevent spread is essential, not only to the region of origin but to the entire world. Unfortunately, existing international structures to do this are understaffed and lack coordination. The same is true for animal and plant diseases that could threaten food supplies and, in some cases, infect humans - some of the outbreaks that have attracted attention recently, such as Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, are zoonoses.
ProMED, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, was set up specifically to fill this void. It was inaugurated in September 1993 at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Federation of American Scientists. At that conference 60 prominent experts in human, animal and plant health called for a coordinated global program to identify and respond to emerging infectious diseases, and to provide a forum for coordinating plans, with the participation of interested parties at all levels. Members of the Steering Committee of ProMED come from all over the world and include representatives of WHO, CDC, NIH and OIE (the International Office of Epizootics, based in Paris, France), as well as other organizations and academic institutions.
ProMED electronic conference
A central goal of ProMED is to establish a direct partnership among scientists concerned with infectious diseases in all parts of the world; building the appropriate networks to encourage communicating and sharing information is a key objective. In cooperation with SatelLife and HealthNet, ProMED has inaugurated an e-mail conference system on the Internet, to encourage timely information sharing and discussion on emerging disease problems worldwide. Through HealthNet, this low cost system reaches participants in developing countries and remote areas.
ProMED invites and welcomes the participation of all interested colleagues.
Dr. Stephen S. Morse, Chair, ProMED, The Rockefeller University, New York NY e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jack Woodall, ProMED List Moderator
NYS Dept. of Health, Albany NY
What is the ProMED Mailing List?
This is the mailing list for ProMED related mail which is open to the public. ProMED is an ongoing effort to develop a global program which will monitor new diseases as they emerge.
To subscribe by email, send
in the body of a message to
How to Post Messages to ProMED
Please post ProMED related messages, articles, questions or other materials of interest to the ProMED medical community by sending EMAIL to:
The moderator will review your posting, and quickly repost for all list participants.
How to Reply to Posted Messages
Using the reply feature of your mailer program, a reply address will be generated to the ProMED moderator. If you wish to reply to the original poster of the message in question it will be necessary to scan the message for the e-mail address (if it is listed) and manually address your reply.
If you are still having difficulty responding to the originator of a post, you can also send a note to: ProMEDemail@example.com.
How to Leave the List
If you would like to be removed please send the message "unsubscribe ProMED" in the text of a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This list is moderated, which means that it will not be filled with anything that doesn't reach a standard of academic excellence.
Are the Lungs of Smokers Viral Breeding Grounds
This is based on email correspondence with Yvan Bozzonetti:
I asked him if people can get contaminated with virus and bacteria at the same time. His reply was that viral particles don't survive in dry air. They are transmitted in small liquid drops produced by sneezing. Bacteria take the same road. In summer, dry air evaporates quickly any liquid drop and so kills all air transmitted virus.
Yvan Bozzonetti read in New Scientist some days ago (from 29.5.95) about a lack of selenium and vitamin E as a cause for fast replicating viruses. This fast replication generates many mutant forms and more aggressive strains. He mused about the effect of tobacco:
Tobacco reduces natural body reactions to pathogens and destroys vitamin E with its free radicals. Could smokers be living factories for deadly invaders?
I have received reports from around the world of people suffering from Labyrinthine Disorders. These can vary from migraine attacks in people susceptible, to conditions where any movement causes vomiting. Onset is sometimes quite sudden.
This suggests that people are spreading an infective agent amongst each other. Treatment offered to those who consult physicians is often the use of non-prescription motion sickness pills to control the symptoms until the body's defences repel the invading organism. The disease is probably self limiting, and I know of no deaths, although people struck suddenly whilst driving could have died in accidents that were not attributed to this cause.
Heavy Metal Profits
Someone posting on an Internet group complained of various symptoms, and had two dogs die at home. A heavy metal test revealed that the level of Lead in the home was approximately 40 times greater than so called permissible levels, Cadmium about 5 times, and Vanadium about 20 times. After moving out, the person concerned felt a lot better. The testing cost close to $1000.00. Since then (s)he heard about a organization that is really interested in helping people identify this problem. They will send you a test kit in the mail for $10.00. If you want to contact them write to AIESHA, 6400 Baltimore National Pike, #183, Baltimore, Md. 21228. Lots of other environmental companies are beginning to offer similar products so check with your local EPA for a recommendation.
Once again this shows that high professional fees for this sort of service are not a basic law of the universe!
Lawyers Start New Gravy Train at the Expense of British Pets
A notice at our local vetinary surgeon described a new money-for-nothing venture introduced recently by European Community lawyers. Previously medicines that had been tested on animals and found to be suitable for human use could be used by vetinarians to treat animals. Now EC lawyers have started a wonderful racket whereby all medicines used on animals have to undergo a second set of trials on animals to see if they are safe for animal use. Remember they have already been tested on animals for human use!
The notice deprecated the racket, and stated as examples cases where people had to use more expensive medicines on their pets which were less suitable. In some case the less suitable medicines shortened the lives of pets and caused them unnecessary suffering.
I cannot believe that when the new laws were proposed someone did not point out this possible consequence to the lawyers and politicians involved. People who get into office can't be that stupid. Therefore they must be culpable.
The relevance of this to immortalism is that such deliberate action to create a non wealth producing flow of money could also be used against people. The FDA is a good example. Politicians are keen to produce employment. The trouble is, that they don't produce wealth creating employment.
Sent 3 July 1995
Savings on Life Insurance
An article in The Financial Times of 10 June said that life insurance premiums have dropped by a fifth over the past three years. But premiums were not reduced on existing policies. People taking out life insurance to cover a mortgage can save £15 ($25) per month on premiums by cancelling their policy and starting another.
However the article warns people not to cancel the old policy before starting the new one. The dreaded medical examination for the new policy could "reveal problems of uninsurability" which would still be covered by the old policy.
Many mortgage policies are of similar size to cryonics policies, therefore those using life insurance to fund cryonics could either save $25 per month by going down this route, or alternatively increase their cover.
The article did not mention whether there would be any costs to pay on making the change. I would advise people looking into this further to investigate this aspect.
I also suspect that this relates to term insurance only. Endowment insurance contains the most brutal start up costs and early cancellation costs in the investment industry, and switching insurers is unlikely to be profitable. However $25 per month is $300 per year which is equivalent to the interest on $6000 at 5%. Therefore if the switch costs substantially less than $6000 in costs it may be worth considering.
The Third Millennium Research Inc., of 5739 33rd Avenue N.E., Seattle, Washington, (zip code not given in Ben Best's email posting) will preserve a person's complete gene set in a glass capsule, complete with engraved storage. Customers must rub a finger on a piece of gauze and mail it in, along with a cheque for $47. Enough skin cells apparently flake off to provide a usable DNA sample. Guaranteed to last between 10,000 and 500,000 years.
Fine as long as they don't get people to think that they will be reborn in the future and take up where they left off. If it worked, it would only produce a clone.
The Immortalist in the Information Age
(This was actually written before I read page 5 of the July issue, but it still raises some pertinent points.)
Those of you who have been subscribing to The Immortalist for several years will have acquired a veritable pile of magazines. It is unlikely that any subscriber has actually thrown their copies away after reading.
However once the pile has got several feet tall, (or long) how can you get at any article you suddenly remember and want to read again, or possibly photocopy to give to a friend to make a point about saving their life?
There are several options to solve this problem. One is to scan in all the contents lists from the front page so you can search them by computer. But this is only a partial solution, as these contents lists are of necessity quite brief.
Another is to index all the issues you have. This is a major undertaking and can take several hours per issue. Of course you can do it as you read each issue, but that makes it more of a chore and in any case this does not solve the problems of past issues. Maybe the Immortalist Society could organise volunteers to do a few issues each, but this would mean that there would be a very varied style of indexing.
Someone paid to do the job would be fairly expensive, but if say 100 members thought it worthwhile to pay say $20 each to receive the index when completed this needn't be an impossible option. However it could sensibly be argued that sums of money like this would better be spent on funding the Russian research.
The most exciting option would be for all the issues to be put onto a CDROM as text which could be searched for topics. But even with a scanner such as Xerox's TextBridge this would be a monumental task. No doubt some of the later issues were originated at least in part in electronic form and may have been saved that way, which would indeed help. [This column is sent by electronic mail.]
I would imagine that one of the major cryonics organisations will put their magazine into electronic format, and searches by journalists and authors would therefore tend to use this in preference to any others, giving that organisation a commercial advantage.
In the meantime, a lot of text about cryonics is generated by the Internet as the newsgroup sci.cryonics and the mailing list Cryonet. The latter can be searched through the Internet, although whether the costs of keeping it available to public access can be maintained forever is a matter for debate.
As the Immortalist Society and the Cryonics Institute generate a greater public image with their new site and the Russian research, there may eventually be a specialist Internet mailing list for these groups. Such a mailing list would be a useful source of written material for The Immortalist, which will still be of value to those who prefer not to be connected to the Internet.
Terra Libra operates such a specialist mailing list, to which access is free. However one often sees articles from it appearing in their printed mewsletter Terra Libra News.
Longevity Report often prints articles from the Internet. If I see an article I like I send an email to the author asking permission. Most are delighted that it will appear in print. Some want to refer it to a lawyer or their legal department, and these I take no further as I am well aware from experience as to what the answer will be after lot of time has been wasted. (Not to mention the author's money, as he would probably be charged by the minute for the time the lawyer corresponds with me telling me that it can't be allowed.)
I believe that there will always be people who prefer the word printed on paper as opposed to a computer screen. However it is likely that this word will get onto paper from the Internet rather than any other means, and post newsletter publishers will get material from that source.
Funerals for Amputated Limbs
Funeral Service Journal dated June 1995 detailed that US funeral directors are selling miniature coffins and grave sites for amputated limbs. Even fingers and toes can be ceremonially rotted. Gerald Musser, of Evansville, Indiana, is quoted to have said "It puts an end to the painful experience of losing a limb and forces people to face the fact that they have to go on with their lives."
Although this may be an anathema to neuropreservation enthusiasts, I can see an opening for cryonics organisations ...
Your surgeon says that you must have your *** off otherwise the cancer in it will kill you. Instead of giving it up for ever, you have it put into suspension in the hope that one day the cancer in it can be cured and it can be grafted on again. I would imagine that the legal and financial problems with this would be a lot less than with real cryonic suspension so someone may do it.
I am concerned that such a service could trivialise cryonics, but I have no strong feelings. Therefore it is a subject that should be debated.
Also in the June Funeral Service Journal there was a long report on continued concern about pre-paid funerals. Some organisations offer restricted plans, ie the client can only have a funeral from one particular company. If that company ceases trading, then clients lose their money.
Barry Albin, who is the Cryonics Institute's representative in the UK and Europe, is also the press officer of the Society for Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. (SAIF) He said that his society would welcome statutory legislation that ensures transparency with relation to choice of funeral director. This is something which Golden Charter, SAIF's recommended pre-payment scheme, ensures. Another problem with prepayment is that disbursements (costs which fall outside the funeral directors' own business) have risen faster than general inflation, ie these peripheral businesses are actually taking in a real increase in profits.
Of course this can be met by the prepayment scheme investing its funds aggressively, with the intention of making an overall profit over and above general inflation. "Creative accounting", ie using international law and offshore investments to minimise taxation can also help here. However such schemes usually have investment policies that are ultra cautious to the point of making a loss when inflation is taken into consideration.
STM on a Chip
According to New Scientist of 20 May 1995 scientists at Cornell University have built an scanning tunnelling microscope on a chip. It is 200 micrometres wide, and they plan to use it to store computer programs and data by the simple expedient of moving atoms around. Little piles of atoms would be used to represent bits, suggested the article. In the next 10 years they plan to put thousands of the STMs on a single chip and use it to replace "a hundred or a thousand" normal computer disks.
Still a long way from the self replicating assembler, but we can see the future taking shape in the way we need it to in order to survive.
Keeping Cancer in Check
Until now the treatment for cancer has been a damage limitation exercise - hack off the bit affected and hope that it hasn't spread. But British Biotech of Oxford are looking at an alternative approach, an enzyme neutraliser.
Give the patient a couple of tablets per day for the rest of his life and just keep the tumour in check. "It will transform people's expectations of cancer", said Keith McCullagh the chief executive, according to a New Scientist article on 20 May 1995. Trials have started of the tablets in the UK and the USA, but as ever the surgeons need not get worried for a while as acceptance of such a radical change will take some decades. David Secher, director of drug development at the Cancer Research Campaign said that "Lots of things can go wrong at these early trials."
All this will be good news for Australians, because in New Scientist of 10 June it says that hospital errors are the third highest cause of death there. The magazine caused for similar studies to be performed in other countries.
Lack of communication was said to be the cause of many of the errors.
Another article in that issue mentioned designer DNA with anti-sense sequences being used for the same purpose. In trials, the effect lasted longer than anticipated by Yoon Cho-Chung and researchers at the US National Cancer Institute, Bethesda.
Gum Disease Treatment
A combined surgical and pharmaceutical treatment for gum disease is proposed by a Swedish biotechnology company, as detailed in New Scientist of 10 June 1995.
Biora of Malmö are extracting a protein from pigs that is identical to one that make human children's teeth grow. The protein is made into a gel which is painted onto the roots of teeth that have been surgically exposed. This regenerates the periodontal ligament.
The company has recently "won" approval to sell the gel, under the name Emdogain, throughout Europe. They have also applied to the governments of the USA and Japan for approval to sell it there.
In a trial of 130 people, 66% improvement was reported in those who received surgery with Emdogain, as opposed to no improvement amongst those who received surgery only.
I would speculate here as to whether it would be possible to apply the gel by injection into periodontal pockets or even by toothpaste instead of after surgery.
Global travel and climate changes are spreading the disease malaria around the world, and finding new treatments are becoming a matter of urgency.
An article in New Scientist of 24 Jube 1995 described a process based on a herbal remedy, Artemisia annua.
Gary Power of John Hopkins University in Baltimore has discovered how to extract the active parts, and has also discovered the mechanism by which it works. This could lead to improved treatments that both attack the malaria parasite and also stop its reproduction cycle.
More People Killed by Smokers than Drunken Drivers
According to an article in J Am Coll Cardiol 24, pp546-554 (Wells, A.J. Passive Smoking as a Cause of Heart Disease) 62,000 Americans die every year through heart disease caused by forced involuntary passive smoking. Using his method of calculation, a UK group cam up with a figure of 14,350 death/year from this cause in Britain.
In just two months and two days, more people are killed in Britain by heart disease put down to passive smoking than the 600 or so who are killed every year in road accidents associated with alcohol. However event his comparison is misleading, because many of those who die in road accidents are the people responsible, whereas none of the passive lung smokers are responsible.
Yet the government is mounting a campaign of television advertisements against the drink-drivers, but none against lungsmokers forcing people to smoke their sidestream. Some countries have a "nil alcohol level" driving law, and there is a movement to introduce lower limits in the UK.
Whereas lung cancer from passive smoking may require a long exposure, says Wells, this is not so in the case of heart disease. There are also many non-fatal heart attacks from this cause.
Certainly I would urge all immortalists to stay away from areas where they may be forced to smoke "passively" and to support any movement towards making lung smoking an activity only to be performed amongst consenting adults in private residential premises.
The Politics of Breathing
an open letter by John de Rivaz to Chris Thame, Director, Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Tobacco.
Thank you for your mailings on Libertarian issues which you have been sending in exchange for Longevity Report.
I would like to make a comment about FOREST, the smokers rights group. I do appreciate the point that financial contributions from tobacco companies enable you to campaign on freedom issues, but you have certainly failed to convince me that people should have a freedom to do something that can harm others. Personally, I think that lung smoking, whether with tobacco or other addictive drugs presently considered illegal, should be done only by consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. I wouldn't do it, but I respect others' right to do it if they want, provided they don't limit my freedoms, for example to breathe.
Farting is more natural than smoking, but I do not think that someone who had severe flatulence would be welcome in most public places (or for that matter in many private homes!)
I also appreciate that you express doubts about the evidence that most people accept that lung smoking is not only damaging to the perpetrator's lungs, heart etc but also those of bystanders. But surely you cannot say that this evidence is zero? After all, if I were to drive at 100 mi/hr the chances of having an accident are quite small, but the majority believe that they are high enough for this activity to be anti-social.
You may not have come across a recent paper Wells AJ, (1994) Passive smoking as a cause of heart disease 24 546-554 J Am Coll Cardiol. I have not seen the paper itself, but a review article I have read suggests that 3,000 Americans are dying a year through passive smoking related heart disease. It also says that unpleasant symptoms can develop quickly during a brief exposure to smoke.
If you were to campaign for the right to be maintained for people to smoke their lungs in their own homes, then I would agree. But no one has suggested, as far as I know, that this should be curtailed.
Incidentally, you rightly mention the issue of people owning their own bodies.
1. If people own their own bodies, then they have the right not to have them damaged by other people's recreations.
2. You may like to look at issues surrounding autopsy - many people object to this on religious or other grounds, but they are not permitted in the UK to make arrangements to uphold this objection.
I know that you have not made arrangements for your cryonic suspension, but I would be astonished if you were to agree that no-one should be allowed to do this if they wanted to. Yet autopsy, probate, death taxes and no doubt other state sponsored money making rackets impinge on this freedom. These rackets mean that we do not own our own bodies. If you can change this, I am sure far more people would be grateful than if you encourage people to have the right to harm others.
On page 24 of The Immortalist dated July 1995, Mr Fresco of Venus, Florida, is quoted as saying that advancing technology puts people out of work to the extent that they can't buy products, suggesting that eventually it must all stop. This sort of reasoning has been worrying many of the Venturists, and Mark Plus sends me various newspaper clippings for comment from time to time.
I would suggest that a more serious effect is advancing regulation. Advancing technology makes people more productive. Sure, people may not be able to seek the security of employment, but advancing technology gives more opportunity for self employment in ways that would have been inconceivable without it. If one man and a machine can provide a services that previously took several men, then that one man and machine can be organised much more easily and is therefore cheaper for the customer. This is true even if the machine's purchase cost (expressed as monthly loan repayments) is as expensive as the loaded wages of the others that have been displaced. (It is usually far less.)
The problems that individuals in today's society face are these.
1. If you work hard, then it is not quite hard enough.
2. If you are salaried, you are not paid quite enough.
3. If you donate a dollar to a cause or a friend they demand twenty within a week.
4. If you are working on a project you never have quite enough time, money or other requirement.
The oft promised "leisure age" has never come -- except to the unemployed, who have too much leisure. Unless they are intelligent they cannot amuse themselves without money of some sort. If they were intelligent enough for that not to apply, then they probably wouldn't be unemployed.
I think that the problems that Mr Fresco and others attempt to solve by economic means would be met if we could solve these problems of never having quite enough money/time or whatever.
The main problem is that the regulators of our society have made it impossible for someone to work for say three days a week and be contented doing it. An employer would have to pay a greater tax loading if he employed two people for three days as opposed to one for six days.
To return to the original thesis: improved productivity leads to less wages which leads to less purchasing power, which runs down the need for productivity.
There is another factor: time. If items being produced are for retail sale, and if retail buyers had an infinite supply of money, then they still could not buy every product because they would not have the time to benefit from them. In an ridiculous extreme, they would spend 100% of their time buying and none using, thus rendering their entire time idiotic.
Although the Internet is supposed to be the new market frontier, in practise so much of the main commodity - information - is free, it is virtually impossible to sell information there. However an individual user is limited by time as to how many newsgroups he can "subscribe" (ie log on) to, even though no money is involved (except for telephone and connection charges, but these do not go to the providers of the information).
Whereas both those scenarios are valid thought experiments, an economy is a very complicated chaotic system. It may be possible to predict what happens over a short term, and even to control it for a short time. I have previously reported how the UK government were successful in controlling the UK economy for a four year period during the second world war. However as with all chaotic systems, control or prediction is not possible over an extended period.
This is a title for a newsletter about what interests its editor. It was sent to me recently in the hope of an exchange subscription. Unfortunately it takes time to read newsletters, and one has to avoid becoming a newsletter junkie. However this one contained a couple of items of interest.
Don't wear watches that glow in the dark if they have a plastic back - your urine will have a higher than average level of tritium. It may be harmless, but why take the risk?
Of course the best way to avoid car accidents is never to go out - advice which is impractical these days. But these makes of cars were listed by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as being the safest in their class, according to Interesting:
Ford Escort, Mercury Tracer
Dodge Daytona, Chevy Beretta, Ford Mustang, Nissan 240x
Volvo 240 station wagon, Saab 9000, Ford Taurus wagon, Mercury Sable wagon
Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar
Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, Chrysler Town and Country.
Others highly rated:
Suzuki Samarai, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan pickup.
The magazine is produced by Dr Richard J. Sagall, M.D. PO Box 1069, Bangor, ME04402-1069, USA. Maybe he would find cryonics Interesting?
Oh yes, he doesn't like lawyers. In fact he mentions these advertisements that invite people to pop in to a law office and see if there is anyone they can sue for "big bucks". They are making him so nervous he may get sued for something he is totally unconscious of having done, that he is considering a class action against the legal profession for tuning him into a bag of nerves!
Optimistic View of the Future
The Financial Times of 8 July 1995 had a review of the book The World After Communism by Robert Skidelsky. (Macmillan, £16.99)
This book has a very optimistic view of the future, in contrast with the pessimism at the end of the last century. (Which was not unfounded, since the following century saw the rise of Communism and two world wars. As we retreat away from this time into the future, all governments will begin to appear equally culpable, the differences being lost in the mists of time.)
At the end of the 19th century, people feared that the old Victorian family firms would be replaced by faceless corporations. In the 1980s, people were insecure, says Skidelsky, because the microprocessor revolution lead to downsizing. When the Cold War ended, people felt history was over and we are drifting. We are in an environment that is less inherently controllable than we thought before chaos theory was discovered.
However Skidelsky sees a general optimism now, because of the move away from collectivism to a true market. A true market needs little control and large scale forecasting (now known to be impossible).
He has spent time as a Socialist politician, so he knows the arguments from both sides.
I would take this further. The fact that people in general have less faith in their governments suggests that it would be lot less easy to organise anything like the two world wars. The counter argument to this is that it is a lot more easy to organise terrorist groups. But unless they get large weapons of mass destruction, they will do a lot less damage than whole governments killing their own citizens as in practice happens in a war. (By conscripting them to "defend" their country by attacking another.)
Have Lawyers Destroyed the Market in Prosthetic Materials?
An Article in Omni Longevity dated July 1995 suggests that it may soon become impossible to get a prosthesis installed or repaired in the United States. This is not because surgeons can't operate, but they can no longer get the materials of their profession.
Implants need biomaterials, usually chemical polymers. The article says that chemical companies are refusing to supply the medical profession through fear of lawsuits if operations fail and lawyers can create a good enough case that the materials were unsuitable for the patient concerned. They can remain in business supplying their materials for other uses, but not to surgeons.
They predict that a similar fate awaits those who rely on electronic prostheses, such as heart pacemakers and neural bridges (the latest wonder microchip prosthesis that enables the paralysed to move again). These devices are often made by specialist firms who are aware of the legal risks of supplying the biomedical market, and have included it in the price. But the integrated circuits and other parts used have to be bought from the usual electronic supply companies, and many of these are refusing to supply because of the risk of legal liability. The deep pocket rule, so beloved of the US legal profession, could close an electronic giant which does not have a pricing structure to take possible claims into consideration.
The Pentium floating point error problem faced by Intel hardly dented that company's explosive growth. Most computer equipment is sold with a consequential damage limitation condition that would not apply in medical cases. Intel replaced faulty chips, but they did not have to pay or any problems caused by them, or for problems that just might have been caused by them. But the story could have been very different if a Pentium chip had been surgically implanted in anyone.
My comment to all this is that surely the industry could create a firewall using offshore companies, hidden accounts, Terra Libra type trusts and the suchlike to make these materials available to those who could use them with the risk accounted for in the product cost. I suppose the market is so small in relation to the global materials and electronics markets it isn't worth bothering about.
But a solution will be found, even if only when a few prominent politicians or lawyers have problems getting prostheses. However it would be better if it could be found before too many Americans die through lack of treatment. (Imagine the fuss if during a war medical supplies were blockaded, for example.)
Terra Libra Leader Announces Support for Cryonic Suspension.
Mr Frederick Mann, the leader of the Terra Libra freedom movement propagated by multi level marketing, announced in the July 1995 issue of Terra Libra News that supporting cryonics organisations and making his own arrangements for cryonic suspension is an important part of his personal immortalist and freedom programme.
He also plans an ambitious programme to link all similar freedom organisations, such as the Fully Informed Jury Association (famous in immortalist circles for the Sless GH3 victory). I must say that if he pulls this off it will definitely be a first in Libertarian politics. One reason why freedom movements always remain in the sidelines is that Libertarians are usually highly critical of each other and the movement can never gain a substantial membership with a single mind.
But if he pulls it off, it will mean that all the Libertarian organisations, and there are a lot of them, will be influenced by a man who understands and practises cryonics. I have noticed that the Life Extension Foundation is already promoting Terra Libra products, with a full page advertisement in Life Extension News. Maybe this means that Mr Mann is already with Cryocare or Alcor. But if not, then we need him in the Cryonics Institute.
[1997: as far as I know Mr Mann never joined any cryonics organisation.]
Australian film archivists are considering storing rare film in shipping containers in Antarctica, according to an article in New Scientist dated 15 July 1995.
The idea was launched because such film needs to be kept refrigerated and desiccated if it is not to deteriorate. One shipped to Antarctica, there is no longer any need to power and maintain refrigeration equipment.
Attacking Cancer at the Cellular Level
Attempting to cure cancers by cutting off limbs or cutting out organs, or administering toxic drugs that stress the heart and lead to extensive vomiting has always been an act of desperation. It is like trying to solder parts in a computer with a blowtorch - a totally unsuitable technology.
The body is a system that has the ability to repair itself on an atomic level, by individual manipulation of atoms and molecules, by cells, enzymes, DNA RNA etc etc.
Scientists at the UK's universities of Southampton and Cambridge are now taking this route in the search for cancer treatments.
An article in New Scientist of 15 July describes how two patients are the first people to have received designer DNA vaccines to treat their cancers.
Cancer cells have unique proteins on their surface, and the method uses the body's immune system to recognise these proteins and attack the cells.
The treatment involves concentrating DNA from the patient's tumour and making it into loops of DNA called plasmoids. These are injected intramuscularly, where the antibodies are produced and from where they spread throughout the whole body. The whole process takes about a week.
Tests with mice proved highly satisfactory, hence the approval for a human experiment.
One of the researchers, Freda Stevenson, of Southampton University Hospital, is quoted as saying that there are two potential problems. One is that the plasmoid DNA could become incorporated into the patient's own chromosomes, giving rise to further cancers, and the other is that a general anti-DNA immune response could develop, ie an autoimmune disease. There has also been no evidence that either of these problems has occurred, but the researchers are keeping a careful lookout for them.
Similar experiments are being performed at the USA's Stanford University Medical School in California. Here the vaccines are made from the proteins themselves, rather than just the DNA. The problem with this is that each patient's treatment will take six months to prepare. Two thirds of people treated in tests have responded favourably.
Government to List "Acceptable" Medical Procedures.
According to The Financial Times of 23 July the British government is to draw up a list of approved medical procedures. Even when studies have shown that certain procedures work, it can be years before the medical profession take them up. For example, clot dissolving drugs took three years to get into every doctor's surgery. The UK's National Health will now have a data base of approved procedures, at a cost of some 437 million pounds.
The article says that the system is being monitored carefully by authorities in the US and the rest of Europe.
Ulcer Disease to be Eradicated
Helicobacter Pylori, until recently a controversial subject, is now generally believed to be the cause of stomach ulcers and some cancers. The disease caused by this bacterium is easily passed between people, and therefore if a vaccine can be found its eradication can be achieved. This could have a substantial effect on the mean lifespan as complications of ulcers, mainly stomach cancer, is only just below the most common forms of death.
The Financial Times of 27 July carried an article stating that the Boston based biotechnology group OraVax, and Pasteur Merieux Serums and Vaccines of France, have obtained FDA approval for a series of trials of a Helicobacter pylori vaccine. This will start in a couple of months.
Found on the Internet in mailing list Terra-Libra:
"People in a very good structure spend 85% of their time and energy maintaining the structure and only about 15% working towards its stated goals."
Corollary to Steiger's Law
"People within a structure divorced from market forces will expend more time and energy defending it than can economically be spent by people outside the structure attempting to modify or eliminate it."
The corollary applies to taxpayer funded or other handsomely funded organizations like the AMA along with a whole host of other professional organizations.
The power of the consumer, in this case, to just say "No" is not a factor. This acts as a great lead weight on the evolutionary process.
"Cut the umbilical cord feeding the Dependency Trip." Anon
Source: Richard Stone, Analysis of a toxic death, Discover magazine, April 1995 (URL: www.enews.com under magazines, Discover 4/95)
Gloria Ramirez, age 31, was brought by ambulance to the emergency room of Riverside General Hospital in Riverside, California at 8:15 pm on Feb. 19, 1994. She was suffering from cervical cancer, and had collapsed at home.
By the time the patient died at 8:50 pm, 23 of the 37 emergency room staff members had suffered unusual symptoms, 5 were hospitalized overnight, and the medical resident spent 2 weeks in intensive care before recovering from a combination of apnea (breathing irregularity), hepatitis, pancreatitis and avascular necrosis (tissue death).
The Riverside County hazmat (hazardous materials) team arrived at the scene at 11 pm. No hazardous chemicals were detected. The autopsy found no evidence of toxic chemicals.
The coroner's report found that the emergency room staff had suffered an attack of mass hysteria, triggered by an odour.
Subsequently, the Forensic Science Centre at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, near San Francisco found an amine (which could have contributed to the smell of ammonia), nicotinamide and dimethyl sulfone. The last is an oxygenated form of DMSO, a non-prescription chemical used by athletes and many cancer patients to relieve muscle pain; it also a drug prescribed for treating interstitial cystitis.
Dimethyl sulfone converts to dimethyl sulfate, a toxic chemical. With the exception of nausea and vomiting, all the symptoms reported by the emergency room staff can be caused by this chemical. The problem is, no mechanism is known by which the human body can convert DMSO (which the patient's family deny she used) into dimethyl sulfone and then sulfate.
The coroner's office released the report in November 1994, citing it as the probable explanation of the episode.
The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nygeter reports:
The Swedish authorities have taken action to prevent spreading of diphtheria from the former USSR to Sweden. All residents of Stockholm have been offered the opportunity to be (re)vaccinated against the disease, especially those people aged 40 years and older.
Up to now no one has been infected. However, there is a potential threat as many people travel between Russia, the Baltic States and Stockholm.
Transplant Company Uses Cryogenic Storage
CRYL was mentioned early in July in Dick Davis Digest. It really took off. On 6 July 1995 it set another all time high (17) for the third day in a row.
Investor's Business Daily interviewed Robinson-Humphrey Co. analyst John R. Runningen, who said the company has "carved out a very unique market niche with extraordinary barriers to entry." CryoLife is an Atlanta provider of ultracold storage of human tissues for use in transplants. CryoLife Chief Financial Officer Edwin Cordell said the June 26 issue of the Dick Davis Digest, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., publication, carried a report by Robert Jubb of Tomorrow's Stocks, a Scottsdale, Ariz., newsletter. In the Dick Davis Digest, Jubb said that CryoLife "is very attractive". Since the company's May presentation at the New York Society of Security Analysts, "More people are talking about CryoLife," Cordell said. Runningen told Dow Jones that the company's May presentation during which officials explained their business strategy and highlighted products in the research and development pipeline brought the stock to the attention of people on Wall Street. "I think the market may attribute higher value to the stock," Runningen said. Cordell said the company is developing two projects:
a blood-based bioadhesive used as an alternative to sutures and surgical staples, and
a stronger version of the bioadhesive.
"I think U.S. demand will be very substantial," said Morgan Keegan & Co. analyst Joseph Millsap. He said he sees potential revenue from CryoLife's wound sealant of about $250 million to potentially $400 million in the United States and about $650 million or greater overseas. Millsap said that the company is getting a more "meaningful valuation" and is attracting more institutional investors. "The company is terribly underowned," Millsap said. Cordell estimated that the company had less than 5% institutional ownership.
Terra Libran Exchange
I received the following letter from Mr Hunter Putnam recently, in respect of my column in Terra Libra News. I have added comments:
>Dear Mr. de Rivaz:
> I've very much enjoyed reading your articles on cryonic suspension in Terra Libra News over the past few months. However, I'll get right to the point and say that I do disagree with you on the plausibility of biological immortality and I would like to share a few ideas with you.
> I am skeptical about biological immortality because, in my opinion, I think that the nature of evolution will not allow for any "disruptions" of this magnitude.<
reply: If we only did what evolution expected of us by your criterion, then we would be still living in caves. Who is to say that a species where individuals are immortal, as a result of their own brain power, is not a valid step in the evolutionary struggle between species? There are already animals (turtles) that live a lot longer than humans, and plants (redwood trees) that live for thousands of years. There has been some speculation that certain sea creatures, lobsters for example, do not age but only die as a result of being caught and eaten.
> If the theory of evolution is correct, then it is obvious that human beings have changed a great deal over the past few thousand centuries. A few million years ago we were Australopithecines, beings quite different from Homo sapiens. And a few million years from now the human species will be vastly different from our contemporary selves. Futurists have speculated that we will possess larger brains with a significant reduction in musculature. And it's not out of the question that we could develop telepathic or telekinetic abilities.<
reply: Telepathy and telekinesis by magic are out of the question. What is possible that advanced technologies may appear to earlier civilisations as magic simply because they don't understand them.
> Imagine "waking up" from cryonic suspension two million years from now to be viewed by the individuals of their society as we would view an Australopithecine. Certainly, our species would probably be more "peace oriented" after another two million years of evolution, but it's hard not to imagine oneself as some sort of lab rat in that situation. Our only referent would be a comparison of the type of existence Lucy could expect in the twentieth century. Not a pleasant thought. Could she "live free in the unfree world" of our time? I doubt it. Also, ask yourself what kind of results an Australopithecine could produce when compared to a Homo sapiens? This will be representative of our current ability to produce results when held up to the standard of our future selves in the year 2,001,995 A.D.<
reply: Cryonics societies will consist of people who have been suspended at different periods in history. The chances that they could survive for a few million years are remote, however. Most people speculate between 60 and 300 years as being a reasonable time period within which a cure for ageing and freezing damage to be obtained. Even if it did take substantially longer, those suspended last would be revived first, because their physical condition would be better. As the wave of revivals moved back down the time line, each person suspended would find themselves in the company of contemporaries or near contemporaries, and could gradually be rehabilitated into the civilisation of the time by those whose rehabilitation had just ended.
> Additionally, I'd like to know what specific referents lead you to believe that biological immortality is possible? I'm aware of experiments in which certain animal cells were kept from ageing in oxygen-rich lab environments - but in these cases the organism as a whole did not live. I'm going to assume that your answer will deal with our primitive state of technology, but if so, what referents lead you to believe that death and evolution are not necessary, essential dynamics of the universal structure?<
reply: I don't know whether biological immortality is possible. I do know, however, that the most sensible thing to do is to extend healthy life for as long as possible. Maybe along this route I will find out the answer to the question of biological immortality.
Thank you for the trouble taken to write.
Sent 1 Sept 1995
It has been some while since my ex-companion Karen Griffin has sent me some of her clippings from the popular press. However she has been saving them, so here are some of them. They are often interesting from the comment point of view, even if the news is out of date.
That Ageing gene Again!
The Daily Express of 19 June 1995 described the discovery of an ageing gene in worms as a "breakthrough" and enthused about cures for Alzheimer's disease etc. However experts were quoted on subjects such as "moral and social implications with a soaring ageing population".
British scientist Gordon Lithgow was quoted as being confident that he discovery will lengthen lives, using the Walford argument that the cost of elderly care will be cut. John Grimley Evans, professor of clinical gerontology at Oxford also welcomed the news, and said that if elderly people are fit enough to work there should be no cause for worry. Society can change things like pensions.
I would comment also that evidence of poor health may be a qualifying factor for old age pensions in the future. Also or as well, people could find their pensions "capped", ie there would be a limit as to the total sum paid out to any one individual. This would prevent people starting a high pension, then taking an elixir so that they could go on receiving it for hundreds of years.
Of course all this pre-supposes that there is really an ageing gene that can be deactivated. As regular readers know, I would doubt this from the simple observation that if there was, it could be turned off by accident, and yet we do not observe any such occurrences.
Dawkins Doubts Survival
The Daily Telegraph of 18 June 1995 reports on Richard Dawkins' promotion of his latest book River out of Eden. He describes religion as a "computer" virus of the mind, and he said that classical music with religion as a theme could have been greater if it has evolution as its theme. He said it was a myth that Charles Darwin made a death bed recantation and was "received" into the church.
However although he does not believe in any supernatural post mortem survival, I have not heard a single word from him on the subject of life extension or cryonics. In The Daily Telegraph he said that he would not be making a death bed conversion to religion.
Benefits of Garlic
The Daily Mail of 25 April 1995 carried an article on the benefits of garlic, and not one mention of a certain series of films!
Professor John Milner, of Penn State University, is interested in possibilities of cancer curing or preventing chemicals being present in the plant. A compound called Daillyl disulphide, (DADS), present in garlic oil can reduce tumours, and another S-allylcysteine (SAC) can stop carcinogens binding to breast cells.
Garlic generally has been known to exterminate salmonella, listeria and other bacterial infestations. Another (unnamed) group of US researchers suggested that it may be effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria. In Germany, it was discovered that 900mg/day of powdered garlic significantly reduced blood pressure and improves circulation.
Various preparations are available that reduce the taste and smell which many people don't like.
Screening for Cancer Causes the Disease
A report in The Sunday Telegraph of 14 May 1995 highlighted work by John Gofman of the University of California on the once fashionable wide spread use of X-rays. He has shown that many cases of breast cancer have been caused by examinations ordered by doctors between 1920 and 1970. Today much smaller doses can be used. The disease kills 300 women/wk in Britain, and the rate has risen by 25% since 1970. Professor Gofman says that most of those cases would have been prevented had the risk from x-rays been recognised earlier. If there had been widespread screening programs in the mid 60s, the carnage would have been appalling, he says. Throughout the 1940s, x-ray doses were up to 100 times what they are now.
The problem was that it can be 60 years between x-ray and death caused thereby, which has prevented doctors recognising the dangers. Professor Gofman concluded that at least two thirds, and possibly three quarters of breast cancer cases in America are the result of x-rays given between 20 and 60 years ago.
Karol Sikora, a cancer specialist at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, attacked Prof Gofman's findings as being too simplistic. He said that over the past 30 years there was an awareness of the risk and the radiation dose had been gradually reduced. He asks why therefore the number of cancer cases is increasing. As many things have changed around the world, there could be other causes.
I would comment that given that the 60 year time lag is correct, Mr Sikora's reasoning is arithmetically incorrect.
Professor Gofman calls upon the public to take care when accepting x-ray treatment or diagnosis.
Any Risk is Worth it If Death is the Alternative
Dr Mark Neal, of Reading University, said that terminally ill people should be allowed to try anything to save their lives. At present government regulations (in most countries) require wide-ranging human and animal tests before drugs can be admitted to the market.
Dr Neal, who wrote the report for a political think tank, The Social Affairs Unit, said "the earlier drugs can be tested on humans, the earlier they can be brought to the market." Doctors should be allowed to prescribe these drugs to consenting patients.
Porcelain Filling System Does Away with Anxiety Provoking Delays
The Daily Mail of 23 May 1995 reviewed a new dental filling process that does away with the multiple appointments required for dental crowns and porcelain fillings.
It can also be used to replace amalgam fillings, and also the white fillings which apparently have a very limited life. Amalgam fillings are increasingly being blamed for toxic reactions due to mercury leaching from them.
The new system involved equipment costing £33,000 called CEREC, made by the German company Siemens, a major dental equipment manufacturer established at the turn of the century.
After reaming out the decayed tooth, the surgeon uses a special camera to take a 3D image of the cavity. The machine's computer then designs a porcelain chunk to fit the cavity which it makes using a milling machine peripheral. The surgeon then bonds the chunk to the tooth with a special glue. The newspaper said that the whole process takes only slightly longer than a standard amalgam filling.
The system is a great advance on existing porcelain filling methods because it cuts the shape on the spot, rather than sending details to a dental appliance maker to be made up at the surgeon's convenience.
Liverpool University Dentistry School offers dental surgeons two days training in the use of the equipment, and the lecturers say that patients are delighted with it.
Riddle of the Longevity Town
The Sunday Telegraph of 21 May 1995 carried a feature article on the town of Pershore in the English country of Worcestershire. It appears to be the capital of longevity, as it has the highest concentration of people over 100, and many in their 90s. Many theories were proposed, from strong social support in Victorian times when these centenarians were growing up, through lack of stress to the high infant mortality evolving strong genes.
My comment is that just by random chance there has to be somewhere in the UK that has the highest concentration of centenarians, and this happens to be it.
Doctors in Distress
The Daily Express of 11 May 1995 details a further survey showing discontent with work conditions in Britain's National Health Service.
Traditionally doctors were never supposed to be ill and they worked on whatever was wrong with them, passing their disease to all and sundry. However now 40% have reported sick in recent months, according to one study. The illnesses are often stress related, and some say that each year the work-load increases one more notch. 68% of general practitioners and 50% of hospital practitioners said they would leave the National Health Service if they had the opportunity. however marriage, housing, children, hire-purchase and last years tax bill all ensure that they stay on the treadmill.
The main causes of complaints are unreasonable demands by patients, too much paperwork, and the unacceptable overtime requirements of the job.
81% said that their main concern with the out of hours commitments, especially night visits. 66% of those over 55 were unhappy with their choice of career.
Mr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs Committee is reported to have said "The survey reinforces all the facts I have put across to the Government over the past five years. If they do not listen soon, the traditional caring family doctor service will be destroyed for ever."
I suppose that means that everyone with a fever will be required to attend at surgery and share their fever with everyone else's.
I wonder how long it will be until people will have to get themselves to the mortuary when they have died! Perhaps we will be told that when we feel that we might die we ought to get on the bus and go to the crematorium and sit quietly there until we do die and can be burned.
Alright, a tasteless joke maybe. But some solution needs to be found. I think in America most physicians don't make house calls now, but maybe the editors will correct me on this one.
More on Unnecessary Surgery
Writing on the world wide web and in other places Ralph Merkle said that "Today's surgical tools, gross and imprecise at the cellular and molecular level, can no more aid in this process than a wrecking ball could be used to repair a Swiss watch." This sentiment, while not actually being expressed in an article in The Telegraph Magazine of 17 June 1995, is said to be very much to the forefront of thinking in the UK government's cash starved National Health Service.
Several examples of unnecessary and ineffective operations were cited. The UK government spends £40,000,000 on dilation and curettage (womb scraping), yet studies have shown that the procedure carries some risk and gives poor results. Medical conservatism and inertia of the Health Service are given as the reasons for its continued use.
As previously reported in this column, excessive use of x-rays were also mentioned, as was glue ear grommets and tonsillectomies. Some case histories were given of how these operations were postponed only to find the child had recovered spontaneously. Another mother had her child treated successfully by a homoeopathic doctor.
Because of time constraints, and because many patients have expectations of surgery, operations are prescribed unnecessarily. Often patients are not told of the risks they are running.
The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (no address given) has made an interactive video explaining the risks and rewards of various procedures. The video is interactive, so patients can watch the bits they need. It is also unbiased unlike a person who may wish to fill his list, or possibly not over-fill it. This video has been shown on an experimental basis by 1,000 patients in the US and also tried in two British hospitals. The number of operations has been reduced for those patients using the video.
Life Extension Survey
The Daily Express did a life extension survey which is published on 19 June 1995. Stirling Moss, the racing driver, said that he would take a drug to give him 40 more years of life as long as it was healthy life. Out of five people interviewed, four held this view.
Only one, a 24 year old female described as a "project worker" said that she would not take it because she didn't want to risk going against nature. Presumably she is planning to die at about 30 as this is the age that humans usually died when in the wild!
Daffodil Alzheimer's Treatment Years Off
Dr John Kellett, a geriatric specialist based in Tooting, London warned people hoping for a cure to Alzheimer's disease that they would have to wait year for the drug Galanthamine. It is obtained from daffodils and is touted as a solution to the problem of the disease.
The Sunday Express dated 19 March said that hopes had been raised that Galanthamine would restore supplies of a brain chemical usually severely depleted in sufferers. A daffodil farm in Lincolnshire has been contracted to grow 7,000 acres to yield 20,000 tons of bulbs for research into this project.
Castro Interested in Longevity
Fidel Castro, the Communist dictator of Cuba, was said in The Sunday Telegraph of 26 March 1995 to be interested in longevity. He has also given up smoking his lungs.
An article on the subject of Echinacea appeared in The Daily Mail of 20 May 1995. It only appears naturally in the American plains. It has been used for centuries by native Americans as a cure for toothache and gum and mouth infections.
A recent study by Utrecht University in Holland found that the herb can also benefit the firmness of skin when applied topically. Dr Jan Tan said that the active ingredient attracts fibroblasts and collagen to create extra structure.
The herb is now cultivated in Europe and is on sale in many forms, the paper said.
Pectin Cancer Treatment not for DIY
The Sunday Express of 2 April 1995 said that reports of the use of pectin to prevent cancer spreading should not encourage people to eat orange peel.
Dr Kenneth Pienta, of the University of Michigan School of Medicine, has been working on the use of pectin to prevent the spread of cancer. It is not a cure, but it just stops it spreading. Animal tests were highly encouraging.
However the pectin has to be taken in a modified form, otherwise it passes straight through. The form used by the researchers is modified to give it special properties, which the newspaper called "cellular teflon".
I put this to members of the Internet newsgroup sci.life-extension and got the following comments:
Lou Pagnucco said: "no, it is not the form of pectin sold in the health food stores. I vaguely recollect that the pectin is broken into its constituent polymer chains (probably by acid) and I believe that it was administered with cortisone. Check this out though, I have not read Pienta's papers recently. Look at the "Methods and Materials" sections of his papers.
"There are other anti-angiogenesis therapies also. One of the most accessible might be through low doses of doxicycline (part of the tetracycline family). But I certainly would not experiment on myself. Talk to someone open-minded but also professional and responsible before trying any of this."
Ian H. wrote "look at the "Methods and Materials" sections of Pienta's papers.
I was interested in this too, and asked the people in sci.cancer.research about whether ordinary pectin would have any beneficial effect. I got back an alarming reply that ordinary pectin is a very bad thing to take if you have some kind of cancer condition. It has an effect on the binding of cells to each other - makes them more `slippery' (hence the cellular teflon label). Ordinary pectin can unbind cancer cells from the primary site and thus increase the likelihood of metastasis. In the modified form they exploit this characteristic to make cancer cells very slippery indeed, so that even if they unbind from the primary cancer, they will not be able to `stick' to anything else and start secondary tumours. It sounds like a dangerous thing to play around with though."
Chilli Pepper for Mouth Ulcers
Chilli Pepper lozenges have been found excellent treatment for ulcers and inflammation in the mouth.
Researchers at the Department of Surgery at Yale were interested in alleviating the side effects of cancer chemotherapy, which include mouth ulcers. They discovered that a sweet containing five to ten parts per million of capsicum, equivalent to that in standard taco sauce, ulcers virtually disappeared for up to two hours.
For those who didn't like the "burn" of the sweet, they used a cunning scheme for low levels to protect against higher levels of capsicum. [Sunday Telegraph 19.3.95]
I also put this to the sci-life-extension newsgroup:
Richard Kaufman wrote: "I have been using chili oils sold in food stores to cure canker sores in mouth for about two years now. Brands I've used are Red Devil, Tabasco Sauce, and Goya.
"Use suggested by my brother (a vet) when he noted a hot pepper extract is used to treat shingles. Both canker sores and shingles are cause by herpes virus. Tried it. Put a drop of pepper sauce on a cotton swab, "painted" the canker sore. Hurt like hell for a few seconds, burned for a minute, then felt OK. Next day the sore was gone. Usually they take 6 to 10 days to heal. (Treatment with peroxide reduced healing time to 3 days.) So this is what I use, or used to. Haven't been having any canker sores for a while. Coincidence, or does pepper sauce prevent recurrence??? Beats me.
"Just my experience. I suspect these condiments will be as effective as the lozenge, if not as tasty."
New Treatment for Gum Disease
This is an important market for the pharmaceutical companies, judging by the number of products being reported. In The Daily Mail of 6 April 1995 the problems of using antibiotics were outlined, followed by mention of Actisite.
Antibiotic toothpaste can be used against gum disease. However saliva soon washes it away. Other alternatives involve cutting the gums and inserting gels and pads etc.
Actisite is antibiotic impregnated into a thread like dental floss. It is inserted into the pocket of the gum and wrapped around the tooth and sealed in place with an adhesive. It is removed after ten days, by which time the gums will look firmer.
Peter Geiger, of London's Eastman Dental Institute, is quoted as saying "Gum disease used to be seen as an inevitable part of old age. Actinite is the best way of reducing its effect.
Low Cholesterol Leads to Mental Problems
Doctors had been puzzled by the fact that the diet programmes to cut the heart attack death toll have produced little overall increase in average lifespan. Research at St Anna Hospital in Ferrara, Italy, has suggested a reason for this, according to The Daily Mail on 26 June 1995.
The new findings reinforce an earlier US study that discovered a connection between low cholesterol and depression in elderly men. There is now growing evidence, the paper said, that low cholesterol is also linked to suicide, accidental deaths and increased aggression.
It is suggested that low cholesterol reduces the capacity of the brain cells to absorb serotonin, a chemical that affects mood.
I would comment that this is a problem that will always have to be faced by those who use life extension regimes: cure one problem and cause another. However eventually it should be possible to cure a whole line-up of problems and get a beneficial result. In this case, I seem to recall that melatonin may well solve the low cholesterol brain problem.
(end of clippings)
Evening Primrose Oil Company Defies Convention
According to an article in The Financial Times of 31 August 1995 Scotia Holdings PLC started life as a company selling nutritional supplements based on evening primrose oil. They used the revenues generated to develop lipid based drugs for specific medical conditions. At the moment they have three such drugs on the market, for eczema and breast pain. However the newspaper says these are minor products compared to what is coming. Scotia controls 1,500 patents on lipid based drugs, the rest of the world has only 500 on this subject. These are mainly held by Martek Biosciences, a US company, and two small Japanese companies.
Dr Horrobin, Scotia's founder and chief executive, is quoted as saying that the state of lipid research today is like gene technology before the foundation of Genentech and the biology (sic) industry. [Maybe he said "biotechnology"?]
He believes in small R&D units in out of the way places with a good source of trained scientists and little alternative employment opportunities for them. There are facilities in Writtle in Essex, Carlisle in Cumbria, Dundee on Tayside, and Callanish in the Outer Hebrides.
"We are fully aware that our policy is total heresy as far as the industry is concerned," Dr Horrobin is quoted as saying." Many companies are consolidating their research on a single site. We think that destroys individual creativity because people become involved in the organisation rather than the research."
This brings to mind something I found on the Internet's Terra-Libra mailing list recently:
Steiger's Law: People in a very good structure spend 85% of their time and energy maintaining the structure and only about 15% working towards its stated goals.
Scotia has three years cash reserve for its research, but stock market expectations have pushed the share price to more than twice what it was in January. Even now, The Financial Times says that the company is "ridiculously cheap in relation to its pipeline of drugs in research and development." The rise in share price has been fuelled by the steady progress of the portfolio of drugs through the long process of clinical trials. This contrasts with upsets reported by biotechnology companies.
Waiting for approval are treatments for pancreatic cancer, and diabetic neuropathy. However whilst Scotia is waiting for approval, it is controversial amongst drug investment analysts. Some feel that because its foundations are in the health food industry, which is still regarded as valueless by many financial, legal/political and medical professionals, and because of its refusal to concentrate all its scientists in one facility, the company is still highly speculative.
One unnamed biotechnology chief executive is quoted as saying the company is "a load of rubbish. They'll get nowhere." Another said that their EF13 is not a very good drug but it will get approval and it is good enough to get sales.
Yet others are enthusiastic, and say that the detractors will be forced by event to change their opinions. A Swiss drug company's spokesman said that Dr Horrobin is highly intelligent and well qualified. If he is wrong, then it will require expert knowledge to prove it.
If he is right, the article concludes, he will go down as one of this century's great pharmaceutical entrepreneurs.
Advanced clinical trials to treat the following are in progress:
Diabetic neuropathy, Pancreatic Cancer, Radio therapy side effects, Rheumatoid Arthritis, angioplasty side effects, Head and neck cancers.
Scotia's Early stage development portfolio includes:
Late stage cancers, early stage cancers, diabetic complications, radiotherapy side effects, osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Mild arthritis and other pain, Cardiovascular disease, Asthma, Alzheimer's disease, Schizophrenia, Prostatic hypertrophy/impotence, Transplantation/autoimmune disorders, Viral diseases, Osteoporosis
Scotia Annoys Medical Establishment by Unconventional Announcement
Scotia Holdings PLC, the public pharmaceutical company whose products are based on Evening Primrose Oil, announced in its interim report that it has discovered an important treatment for schizophrenia using fatty acids. This caused uproar amongst the medical profession who prefer such announcements through their professional journals.
In an article on 23 September the Financial Times said that the discovery has huge implications for basic science and clinical practice, if confirmed. The company claims to have found the genetic basis for the disease. In terms of costs, schizophrenia is arguably one of the most important diseases of the western world. One percent of the population has the illness, and if one considers family and friends who are affected, then 10% of the population are involved.
Before the recent "care in the community" programme, half of UK mental hospital places were taken by people with schizophrenia. Now most such people are simply homeless.
According Scotia, the cause of all this suffering is the gene that affects the lipid balance in cell membranes.
Scotia made the announcement because rumours were spreading around Canadian professional financial circles leading to insider buying of its shares at the expense of its long term shareholders who may not get a fair price.
A Replacement for the Wrecking Ball
Ralph Merkel (Xerox Inc) wrote in Longevity Report 53:
Today's surgical tools, gross and imprecise at the cellular and molecular level, can no more aid in this process than a wrecking ball could be used to repair a Swiss watch.
He was referring to cryonic revival, of course, but The Financial Times of 31 August expressed a similar sentiment over more general surgery in an article about therapeutic vaccines.
The article said that the medical profession "is growing increasingly convinced of the body's self repairing ability." Malcolm Mitchell, of the University of California, San Diego, is quoted as saying "There's a new interest, spurred on by the general public, in using the body's own immune system to fight disease."
"Even with chemotherapy and surgery, for instance, it's unlikely that you're going to get rid of every cancer cell in the body," he is quoted as saying.
A lot of treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and even antibiotics actually suppress the immune system. Therapeutic vaccines are given to people already with a disease in order to stimulate the immune system. Many diseases, particularly cancers, suppress it in some form or another. At present therapeutic vaccines are used for amelioration rather than a complete cure, but complete cures could appear once the mechanism is more fully understood. Researchers are interested in stories of people who are diagnosed as being about to die yet who live on for some months even years. There may be something special in the way their immune systems are working.
The following companies are involved:
Hepatitis B (phase II), stomach ulcers, aids.
breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers
Aids, melanoma, haemophilia.
Dutch Elm Disease Fight Arthritis
Finally from the 31 August issue of The Financial Times an item about an enzyme cloned from the fungus that causes Dutch Elm Disease. The right handed form of the drug was found by Chiroscience UK to reduce the inflammation and pain that the disease of arthritis is designed to cause. As far as I can gather from the short item the drug does just that, it isn't a cure for the underlying cause. Chiroscience used genetic engineering to produce the enzyme in quantity.
Scandinavian Frankness About Death
Whereas British people tend not to talk or even think about things that are "not nice", a Swedish television channel is running a series called Death is Vitally Important. Amongst other consumer information, it advises viewers on how to make their own coffin so as to avoid their survivors the costs and taxes associated with buying one. The Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kalmar, southern Sweden, is using the heat from its crematorium to heat the church. [FT, 7 Sept 95]
John Horbury Retires from Funeral Service Journal
John Horbury has been editor and publisher of Funeral Service Journal for the past eight years. It was near the beginning of his tenure that he requested my column on cryonics, which has been a feature of nearly every issue of the magazine from then on.
This was a lucky break for cryonics in the UK, and it has been said that it has enabled Alcor UK to get a more professional response when dealing with funeral directors. Later when the Cryonics Institute obtained suspension members in the UK it also interested Barry Albin in setting up as UK agent for the institute. In the last two issues Barry Albin has independently taken a half page advertisement offering to assist any funeral director approached about cryonics.
John Horbury is not personally interested in cryonics, but his open mindedness and foresight in allowing the column has indebted the UK cryonics movement to him.
He decided to retire when an offer to purchase the title came up. He felt that if he left it until he was ready, it may be impossible to find a buyer. But he did not take the decision lightly, as he enjoyed working with the funeral trade and made some good friends. Under the direction of John and his wife Jacqui Funeral Service Journal has more than doubled in contents and circulation, and is now described as the leading funeral trade journal.
The new owners, David and Valerie Kaye, have told John Horbury that they will continue with the cryonics column. Mr Kaye was a third generation funeral director until he sold his business in 1988. In 1989 he became honorary editor of The Embalmer the official newsletter of the British Institute of Embalmers. He has also served on the board of funeral trade bodies.
[1997: in fact the Kayes soon went back on their word and banned the column. However they did allow a final article to appear to say goodbye.]
Government Agency Threatens Chapel of Rest
In the United Kingdom, the government owned BBC carries no advertisements and is financed by a tax levied on everyone who owns one or more television set in any one building. [ie if you have two homes each has to have a licence, but you may have as many sets as you like in each building.] The license fee, which is approximately half the cost of a small television, is collected by a government agency.
A "chapel of rest" owned by a Kent firm of funeral directors received a letter from this agency addressed to the occupier saying "We have no record of a TV license for this address. You may not realise that watching television without a license is against the law and can attract a fine of up to £1,000."
The funeral director replied to the agency that the present occupiers of the chapel of rest were in no condition to appreciate television.
Japanese Controls on Religion
Following the Tokyo tube bombing by a religious group, the Japanese government is planning a series of controls on religious organisations, according to The Financial Times of 23 September 1995.
Financial and police scrutiny will be allowed, and there will be rules of separation between religion and politics.
Naturally the established religions are displeased.
I would comment that this is another case of how terrorism is used by government as an excuse to increase control of ordinary activities. Of course I am not sorry that the powers of religions are being controlled, but as always a balance is needed. Religions with their self-supporting memes (eg unquestioning faith is the greatest virtue) are a dangerous force to let run unchecked.
Haines Castigates Hospitals
London lawyer Brian W Haines, writing in Longevity Report of December, 1995 draws an unwelcome comparison between hospital treatment and a term of imprisonment. He said that food is better in prison, and you are not tortured there any more. Yet some surgical treatments in the name of healing reminded him of "the medieval notion that you must drive out evil spirits".
He wrote: This difference between prison and hospital is not so fanciful as may it sound. One deals, theoretically, with curing the mind while the other deals with curing the physical ailment. In some ways this brings the two strands of life experience together. The conscious body and the awareness of the conscious mind. If one dies can the other exist without it is the big question.
He went on to speculate about the program and data in the brain, how it is destroyed by burning or rotting, and how spiritualists claim it lives on, and how cryonicists claim it may be recoverable by future technology.
He expressed concern that he may have been party to the annihilation of his dead relatives by cremation when at that point there was still some recoverable essence of life. Unfortunately he backed away from accepting cryonics and suggested that there is a "third way" which he admitted he had yet to find. In the meantime he is still trying to live as long as possible, although he had a very critical viewpoint of the vitamin and life extension industry as well.
In another article, he said that the problem with the medical profession is that they have great difficulty in separating the process of healing with business activity. Of course selling vitamins (and cryonics) is also a business activity. Even if some organisations are not for profit they still live in a world where you have to pay for what you want.
I would comment that a pure market system is the most efficient system we know of that gets things done. If someone can invent a better system, I am sure it would be used.
I would also comment that a lot of what are supposed to be market system, organised by bureaucrats, are nothing of the sort. In these psuedo markets a department gets an annual budget and anything it hasn't spent at the end of the year is taken from it, and it starts with a new budget at the starts of the next financial year.
This encourages the following problems which do not occur in a true market system:
At the end of they year products that are not really needed are purchased "to use up the budget".
Departments that are thrifty and save money are penalised in favour of those that end the year with a deficit.
There is no incentive to save resources.
patients, clients or whatever get less attention as the service providers are always balancing accounts.
Ultimately the system will collapse with the comment that "the market system has failed - back to central control and big government."
The fact is that no true market system has been tried in agencies that deliver health care and similar services on behalf of governments. In such a system departments would be given a budget and some mechanism for collecting fees from clients (or fees from government in respect of clients handled in case of a National Health or other welfare system). The budget would be in the form of starting capital and profits could pass from year to year. Should the department go bust, there would be an enquiry and if the management was found to be lacking it would be dismissed. (Or it may be decided that the fees per treatment per client paid by the government were inadequate.)
Several similar departments acting in competition would result in an increase in efficiency and excellence.
Unfortunately this idea proposed by financial researcher Brian Reading in The Financial Times of 24 September is unlikely to be implemented.
He points out how many old laws are still on the statute book, and these give rise to much of the staggering complexity of the British legal system.
For example, London taxi drivers are still legally required to carry a bale of straw in their cabs. It is unlawful to sell a second hand anchor before 8 o'clock in the morning. The Official Secrecy Act started at the beginning of the war with the Nazis is still being used by the government of the day to keep things from the public it would rather the public not know.
Mr Reading proposes that all new laws from now on and laws less than 10 years old, should be given a "shelf life" of 10 years, after which they lapse unless re-enacted. Each year, the final business of Parliament is to decide which 10 year old laws they want to re-enact. If all seemed worth renewing, there would be no time for any new laws!
In addition, all laws over 800 years old would be lapsed, and a 50 year programme put into operation to decide what old laws should be renewed.
All this would be worthwhile in that it gets rid of old rubbish at the expense of creating new rubbish! [Acknowledgement to Paul Michaels for drawing this item to my attention.]
The Daily Telegraph of 15 August 1995 didn't give the http address of a website where Dr Lindsay Marshall of Newcastle University has set up an electronic memorial garden. Names of the dead and messages about them can be stored there. A similar service exists for pets.
One wonders whether if the "downloaders" ever get their way, people's "program and data" will be available on the Internet...
Martial Arts Reduce Risks for the Elderly?
An article on 24 August 1995 in The Daily Mail suggested that one of the greatest risks to our health as we grow older is falling over. An American study, sponsored by the National Institute of Ageing, has shown that practising ancient martial arts such as Tai Chi reduces the risk of falls in the elderly by 37%.
Sifu Ding, chief instructor at the London Tai Chi Chuan Centre, said that you do not need to be fit, flexible or even healthy to start Tai Chi. It improves balance, keeps joints supple and muscles strong.
The movements may look simple, the article says, but they take 16 minutes to complete and should be performed daily. It is a moving meditation, say Ding, not jumping and kicking. A couple of London telephone numbers were given for further information: 0181-502 9307 and 0181 679 1899. No doubt similar groups exist in the United States.
I seem to recall in the first year of Longevity Report there was quite a lot of correspondence and articles on this subject.
The Popular Press Discovers Melatonin
The Daily Express of 3 August 1995 carried a two page spread on melatonin. Nowhere did it suggest taking supplemental melatonin, but it did advise on natural ways to increase it within the body. In particular they said
Eat at regular times
Eat Outdoors: Sunshine increases melatonin production.
Avoid stimulants, coffee, chocolate, colas and tea, which interfere with sleep patterns.
Avoid eating at night. If you eat a big meal just before you go to bed, your body won't process it efficiently as during the day. You will feel bloated and your sleep will be disturbed.
In order to understand how the body works, scientists at Cambridge University in the department of Zoology are attempting to make computers using biological molecules. Denis Bray, in an article published "recently" in Nature, said that many proteins have as their primary function transfer and processing of information.
Dr Leonard Adelman, of the University of Southern California, has actually run a problem using DNA and extracted the answer from a test tube using a standard molecular biology process. This will hardly replace the PC, but it is a step on the way to understanding how biological computational processes may work.[Telegraph, 23 August 1995]
sent 27 Oct 1995
Another Blow for UK Legal Profession
The Financial Times carried a report on the Consumers' Association investigation of the British legal profession. The report said that many clients were given misleading and inaccurate advice. They tested 80 firms of solicitors with straightforward legal problems. They found that recommendations of many solicitors would waste clients' time and money. Few firms gave clear information about their charges until the final bill was presented. One firm charged £221 for a meeting, but the average charge was £65.
In a separate project, Which? asked 400 firms to quote for a service over the phone. The price for a standard lease ranged form £20 to £350. The conveyance of a house ranged from £117 to £750.
The association called on the Law Society to monitor firms more closely, but the Law Society has always maintained that it is impossible to test the quality of legal advice.
My comment is that as immortalists we are reliant on the law to get suspended and remain in suspension until such time as reanimation is possible. We are not dependent in any absolute sense, but dependent because our capsules will be on the Earth and therefore subject to law.
We are not only going to need technological advance in Nanotechnology, but advances in the production and application of law.
Ownership of Your Body
One important area of law that needs researching and bringing up to date is the vexed question of who owns human bodies. Does the individual who resides in that body own it? Or does the state?
A discussion on the Internet a week or so back said that as the legal entity of an individual person ceases to be when death is declared, then that individual cannot have ownership of the "remains". Corporations etc, have no such limitations.
However there are various legal rights produced by wills that are unclearly defined therefore open to litigation and debate, which is why cryonics organisations will not fund via wills. Unfortunately these post mortem rights are also conflicting with other rights over property. There are a great many conflicts of interest between the advantages to the profession of the present system and a possible alternative system where the only point of conflict may be interpretation of what an individual actually wanted when the will was written. Conflicting rights is the very essence of debate and uncertainty. Therefore most rights should be abolished, except the most fundamental ones such as the right of an individual to preserve his life and property.
Inside The Mind of a Cryo-doubter
This article was sent to Longevity Report recently. Its author has been a long term subscriber yet he has been extremely critical of cryonics, life extension and even the American way of life itself.
Several readers of Longevity Report have joined the Cryonics Institute as suspension members, and it is clear that this man, a London barrister (lawyer who is allowed to speak in the high court), has given it some thought even if his conclusions are a little off what most of the readers of this magazine consider sensible.
It is clear from this article that he is pondering his ultimate destination, and it is unlikely, in view of his occupation, that cost is a prime reason for rejection even though he seems to discuss it at some length both here and elsewhere.
There may well be many people around the world who are in a similar position, so it may behove us to study this in detail. Click here to read The Re-Creationists
Vitamin A Birth Defect Scare
The Financial Times of 12 October 1995 reported a New England Journal of Medicine article to the effect that babies born to women who take vitamin A supplements may have defects of the neural tube.
The study, authored by Kenneth Rothman of the Boston University Medical Centre, suggested that only 200% of the recommended daily allowance was sufficient to cause the effect. However beta-carotene was not implicated. Beta-carotene is the main vitamin A constituent of many mixtures such as Life Extension Mix.
The FDA issued a warning to pregnant women, but did not advise total abstinence from Vitamin A, as too little could introduce as much risk as too much.
I can only hope that this is not used as a reason for denying people who are not producing children the freedom to chose to consume vitamin supplements.
Your Personal Accident
If old age becomes curable, then people could still die from personal accidents. Travel accidents are probably the most common, particularly private motoring.
Here in the South West a new initiative is being tried to deal with the UK's carnage on the roads - half a million people are killed every year (approx 1% of the population), according to The West Briton dated 12 October 1995. [This seems a lot - I wonder if it is correct. JdeR]
People driving at a speed beyond that permitted by law are routinely stopped by the police and face a fine or possible disqualification. Now those that aren't going that much more than the prescribed limit have an alternative to the fine of watching a video on the subject of safe driving and observing speed limits. After watching the video (usually at a village hall near the speed trap) they are sent on their way.
I would comment that this seems far more constructive than the simple fine and it will be interesting to see if it helps.
UK Government Agency Outlaws Melatonin
The UK government is spawning "Agencies" at an alarming rate. These agencies have alarming powers, sometimes even in excess of those of the traditional police, judiciary or legislature.
The latest story to emerge in Saturday's Financial Times is that the Medicines Control Agency has issued a fiat to all retailers that they must cease selling Melatonin within 14 days.
Even the USA's draconican FDA has not taken such a step, the paper says.
The agency admits that it has no evidence that Melatonin is unsafe, but has simply declared it to be a medicine and that it requires the usual run of expensive and time consuming tests before it can be offered to the public for consumption. Most suppliers are expected to withdraw the product as they can't risk entanglement with such dangerous people as the MCA. No suppliers will submit the hormone to be tested as the high cost cannot be recovered from sales as it is unpatentable.
Earthforce, of Belfast, told the FT that it will sell it my mail from the United States.
It would be difficult to enforce a ban on using Melatonin, as this hormone is naturally present in every human body. Declare it illegal, and the entire population would have to be imprisoned, including the MCA staff and the entire legal and medical professions.
The FT said that the MCA were concerned at suggestions that Melatonin may be extending maximum lifespan. Consumption has increased substantially following the publication of books and magazine articles. I suggest it is possible that the UK government are concerned as to the pension and elderly care implications if maximum lifespan is extended without any comparable extension of good health. (But of course proponents of melatonin suggest that it also extends good health.)
More Government Aggression Against life-Extension
There is a proposal to GATT made by the German government that it should be made illegal in all GATT signatory countries to sell vitamins and other products to extend lifespan, ie RDAs only will be the rule of law.
Humans as individuals get worried when some of their cells become immortal and fail to maintain the organs of their bodies. They get surgeons to cut these immortal cells away as they fear that they will take over their bodes and render them unviable (ie dead). So serious is the risk to life of cancer, that such action is still performed if it results in severe disfigurement or loss of faculties, eg sight, a limb, or ability to control bowel motions, to speak etc.
Humans co-exist on this planet with entities made up of humans as their cells etc, these entities being called governments. It seems entirely rational for these entities to wish to surgically remove diseased "tissue" (ie individual human beings), and even "tissue" they consider to be diseased (eg of an "impure racial origin").
It may be very difficult for individual humans to be aware of the thought processes of governments, as these "policies" can have effects very different from what the words that make them up suggest. Sometimes awareness does surface, such as when the rest of the world formed alliances to eradicate a government that did a lot of extermination. These alliances even suspended existing governmental disputes, eg communism vs capitalism.
The latest anti-vitamin idea has come from an area where (under a totally different regime) it was suggested that the incurably ill should be exterminated.
This time there is no obvious conspiracy, no führer, no heiling, but nevertheless a direct attack by a government on individuals and an attempt to acquire the cooperation rather than the opposition of other governments around the world.
We cannot counter this attack by making racialist or patriotic or nationalist attacks on the German people. Maybe we should not even attempt a conventional confrontation at all.
I think the best approach may be to try and communicate with the government involved and get the idea across that individual life extension is not the same as cancer-of-the-government, and could actually be beneficial to government. In Maximum Lifespan Dr Roy Walford spells this out.
Governments "farm" individuals for their productivity. Initially they provide child welfare and education, and in order to keep the workers happy they offer elderly care rather than extermination. There is a payload of so many years productivity in relation to years of dependency. If ageing was abolished, then people would on average die after 600 years of life from a personal accident. This for 15 to 30 years education (depending on skills required) governments get 570 to 585 years of production. If people are dying from accidents only, then many deaths will be sudden and therefore cheap to administer. There may still be some disabled people to care for (to encourage the others) but the number would be far lower once disease and ageing are no longer players in the field.
Communicating with a government is not easy at all. You can communicate with individuals who make up its cells, but this is not always effective. Probably the best way of achieving this is for people with access to television and the quality newspapers to keep on producing articles portraying the economic advantages of the abolition of ageing and disease. Governments communicate in terms of economics, and one needs to communicate the ideas in economic terms to as many departments as possible.
Breathe deeply - Good for the Lungs - and now Everything Else
An article in The Financial Times of 26 October revealed that a UK company Andaris is specialising in inhaled drug technology.
It has been known that harmful drugs, such as a re produced by breathing one's own or other people's smoke, can enter the system through the lungs. The company hoped to introduce beneficial products that can be taken by inhaler.
This will enable drugs to be introduced to the body that cannot be introduced by swallowing, as digestive processes destroy them.
There is also a powerful commercial incentive - an inhaler plus an old drug is a combination that can be patented. The new products use no propellant, which eliminates the unwanted ingestion products of earlier nebulisers.
The development of insulin inhalers - a big market - will as a spin off enable many other products to be delivered this way. However there is still to be work done to enable the process to be used where very precise dose levels are required.
This is likely to be of interest to life-extenders because there are some life extension products that are better taken by injection and indeed some that cannot be taken any other way.
Arms Race: Humans and Bacteria
An article in The Financial Times of 28 October suggested that there is a new arms race: this time it is between bacteria and humans. Japanese scientist Dr Kunuitaro Ochi has discovered that bacteria don't just rely on random mutations to evolve resistance to drugs. He discovered that a form of DNA called a plasmid can transmit immunity between species of bacteria. No other life-form is known to be able to transmit information between species like this.
In what the paper described as a classic experiment. Dr Ochi cultured strains of the bacterium E. Coli, which were resistant to the antibiotics sulphanilamide streptomycin, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline, with strains of Shigella Dysenteria which could be exterminated by the four drugs. The result was Shigella Dysenteria that were resistant to the drugs.
This is an amazing result. It is like breeding some pigs in the same enclosure as geese and ending up with pigs that can fly and geese that can rummage woodlands.
In addition to this, there is now evidence that bacteria can actually modify themselves to become resistant to drugs.
This is not dissimilar to the idea of immortalism, where humans use their brains to stay alive against the evolutionary disregard for their existence one they have had a chance at reproduction.
The newspaper article goes on to say that bacteria are essential to life on Earth, because of their action in clearing away waste products of higher life forms. Their malevolence towards humans is almost a side effect of this efficiency.
The paper concludes that at present the risk to life from super-resistance bacteria is limited to hospitals. However it foresees a future when some of these bacteria may escape from hospitals into say an overcrowded third world city and then a large part if not all of the human race could be exterminated by a highly infectious "flesh eating" disease.
Condemnation of Conventional Medicine in Conservative-Christian-Free Market Newsletter.
Paul Michaels sent me a copy of The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor, concerning the state of medicine in the USA today. It is edited by David S. McAlvany and is a monthly analysis of global economic, monetary, and geo-political trends which impact the gold and precious metals markets. It is explicitly Christian, conservative and free market in perspective. ($115 for 12 months, POB 84904, Phoenix (where else?) AZ 85071.)
The magazine is either written by its editor or does not include authors' names. The article on medicine made up the bulk of the August issue, and made the point early on that surgery should always be you last option and only after several opinions from both conventional and alternative medicine.
Not all alternative medicine was welcomed. New Age medicine such as Yoga, mind control, guided imagery, Ayurvedics, hypnotherapy, psychic surgery and meditation was given the description of "Weirdness" and readers were advised to avoid it.
However several therapies were described in detail: Detoxification, Herbal, Oxygen, Bio-Magnetic, Homoeopathy, Chelation, Nutritional, Physical (Chiropractic etc), Orthopaedic.
Under oxygen therapy the word "hyperbolic" instead of "hyperbaric" was used extensively (which indicates a fundamental misunderstanding) and homoeopathic was spelt without the first "o". (This mistake is so common as to almost be an evolution of language.)
The writer pointed out that there are no magic bullets - several therapies may be needed. The article was full of anecdotal evidence of alternative medicine's success.
I found the article a difficult one. Certainly the things which were said about surgery, and allusion made to how the flow of money can influence which treatments become accepted by professions fit in with my current thought. But I am not sure about chelation therapy - I seem to recall reading some fairly convincing arguments against it. Oxygen therapy seems to be in contradiction to all the antioxidants we are recommended to take.
The author(s) also hinted at X-files type conspiracies to dominate the world by population culling, and suggested that during the Gulf War biological agents were deliberately given to American troops by the US government as an experiment, dressed up as inoculations. It was claimed that these agents are now rife within the US population giving rise to a greater incidence of strange and highly infectious diseases.
There were many stories about suppressed inventions, ranging from an 80 miles per gallon car in the 1930s to solutions to world hunger. There are too many businesses (charities) with well paid officers in the "hunger business" to allow some simple invention to solve the problem, say the authors. They cite financial conspiracies to prevent simple treatments for diseases that would otherwise be cured by expensive surgery, which is often life quality reducing and often unsatisfactory as a cure.
Personally, I believe that such mechanisms exist, but I don't believe that they are deliberate conspiracies by individual human beings. For example: You won't find a group of men in a smoky cellar who decide to suppress cheap and easily made vitamin X, invented by unqualified Joe Bloggs in a disused garage, because it will render the surgical procedure of the colostomy obsolete.
What you will find is that the legal and medical professions will act in a manner indistinguishable from how they may behave if such a smoky cellar meeting did take place. This is because the rules of these professions make them behave in this way given this situation.
Experiments with computer simulations of ants show that they don't communicate in any special way to give the apparent "conspiracy" to create an ant highway. They are all doing their own thing, but their "rules" ie instincts, make it appear that they are cooperating.
Also I think that people are more comfortable if they believe that other people are to blame for their ills, especially if it is for "ungodly" activities such as making money out of other people's suffering. This suppresses the awful thought that God or the Universe may really be responsible. The most logical thing to find responsible is the "uncaring universe" of Arthur C Clarke's science fiction novels.
What human beings can do is to attempt to modify the rules of the professions so that such "virtual conspiracies" are less likely to occur.
There are a few voices that are crying that "government won't work". If you want schools, hospitals, roads etc fine, then get them, but don't think that government is the best provider. Similarly rule bound professional cartels are not delivering the services that people want. The professions must lighten up.
The article suggests that people learn herbal medicine so that they can dissociate themselves from a dangerous and dying profession. Already huge "concentration" hospitals are becoming festering centres of horrific infectious diseases such as the flesh eating bacteria. (Incorrectly identified as viruses in the article.) The previous item on The Financial Times article voiced similar worries about hospitals. Already some people who work in hospitals tell their friends to avoid them if at all possible.
There are parallels here with the Fully Informed Jury Association. They are looking at alternatives to professional ideals, in their case through "informing" juries of their right to judge the law as well as the facts.
The MIA article in its conclusion deprecates religious "advisors" who say that only they can read and understand The Bible and everyone else must accept their interpretation. It says that many people stand in almost religious awe of the two major professions - medicine and law - and just do what their advisor says without any understanding. It describes as "nonsense" this concept of having people interpret books for you. They call upon all Americans to acquire greater understanding of how their bodies work and how they can look after them.
Life Insurance is Up the Creek with a Leaky Boat
This is the headline of an article in The Financial Times of 28 October 1995.
It started by saying that the industry is mistrusted by the public as never before. Their salesmen rank with politicians in unpopularity. The policies are usually sold with mortgages, the idea being that the capital built in the policy pays off the capital of an interest only mortgage. However the fact that people move house every five years or so and the first few years' premiums actually are paid to the salesman as a commission, make this practice bad for customers. Some people manage to keep the same endowment policy on when moving house, but often this is not possible because particular mortgages are linked to particular insurance companies. The mortgage always changes.
Otherwise life insurance is always sold, never bought. The article suggests that the industry will only be popular if it can produce "products" that people want to buy rather than have to be persuaded to buy. It says that life companies should be expanding because of demographic pressures and demands that people pay for their own care in old age. Yet they are in decline, and held a private conference in Geleneagles in Scotland to discuss the matter.
The delegates pleaded for more tax incentives, but the government are going the other way - trying to persuade people to invest in stocks directly. They think this will make them more responsive to market forces and therefore less likely to go on strike.
In my view, the real way forward for the life insurance profession would be to extract the charges at the end not the beginning of a policy. This would give every policy a much better growth figure, and allow people the same level of flexibility as other activities in their lives. Of course this would be a major upheaval and difficult to finance. But if the alternative is an end to all forms of life insurance except term insurance, which is a real possibility the way things are going, the industry has no choice but to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to effect the change.
Science and TV
Writing in The Financial Times of 18 November, Robert M May said that television gives a very peculiar view of the world. Most of life, according to TV, takes place in police stations and hospitals, seldom in scientific laboratories.
People regard science with a sort of mysticism, not as the provider of electricity and most of what we take for granted. Historian often regard technological progress as a sort of backdrop to history, not its driving force.
The second law of thermodynamics is known for its prediction of the "heat death of the universe" with everything at uniform temperature. Professor May says this is a mystical concept, and most people are unaware of the law's relevance to everyday life, such as the maximum possible efficiency of cars using different forms of propulsion.
He calls for a greater awareness of the value of fundamental scientific research. He is disappointed that it is only the pharmaceutical industry that has managed to reap the financial rewards brought by such research.
National Health Service Cuts Down Surgery
I have covered previously the arguments about the merits and demerits of screening and certain common operations.
The UK's government owned National Health Service has sparked a political row by reducing the number of operations now believed to be of marginal value by the medical profession, glue ear grommets being an example. Although doctors and surgeons have discovered that some operations have dubious merit, Labour Party politicians and their supporters are claiming that they are being reduced to cut costs at the expense of the sick.
The National Health Service is also reducing its screening programs in areas where the results are not proving effective, and meeting with similar criticism.
Further Haines Debates
For the benefit of new readers, Brian Haines is a lawyer based in London's prestigious Regents Park area. He has been a long term subscriber to Longevity Report and has written several essays critical of cryonics, immortalism and even the American way of life.
Some of these have been reprinted in Venturist Monthly News and Dr Mike Perry and Yvan Bozzonetti have both commented. These exchanges are of value to all cryonicists because most people who reject us just turn away and don't say why. Mr Haines is obviously articulate, and indeed he writes in many other newsletters.
Whether these exchanges will change his mind and save his life I don't know. I do know that they will be of value to all cryonicists and potential cryonicists in the debate that surrounds this subject. Click here to read The Re-Creationists. The exchanges follow.
November was another good month for high technology stocks, although the leaders Microsoft and Intel have ended their hyperbolic rise. (List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
Payment by Results
The Financial Times of 3 December 1995 reports a major paradigm shift in the professional treatment of disease. In fact it is the number three story on the front page.
Rôhne-Poulenc Rohrer is to allow sales of one of its drugs, based on the Taxol cancer treatment, to be sold on a pay by results basis. Their drug, called Taxotere, will require two courses before it starts to work, and each course costs $1500.
Clinical trials have shown that it is likely to be effective in about half the patients who try it. This figure is actually very good for a medicine, but the company feared that cost-conscious medical providers would refuse treatment on grounds of cost.
In the case of physical products (cars, televisions etc) if the product doesn't work you get your money back, and sometimes damages. Yet in the service professions this has never happened until now. You can pay out any sum of money for a service and if it doesn't work, then it is "an act of God" ( as long as it has been delivered to accepted professional standards, of course).
Medicine with payment on results is a major change, and personally I think it is a change for the better.
Free Enterprise Health Care Offers Cancer Patients a Choice
All services in-house - no waiting!
According to The Financial Times of 21 December a British company, Zeneca, has taken a 20 year lease of part of Mount Sinai Hospital, Miami Beach for a novel centre for cancer.
The idea was rejected by European health authorities, so the company turned to the USA for the chance to try out its ideas. However European health authorities will be looking at the economics of the project, and scrutinising the company's claim that care costs will be substantially reduced.
The revolutionary features of the new hospital wing include
patient choice from surgery through chemotherapy to alternative treatments such as Homoeopathy.
open day and night, evenings and weekends
all services provided in-house - no trips around the neighbourhood for ancillary services
test results returned within minutes - no anxiety and illness causing waiting
Critics say that the company will concentrate on supplying its own drugs at the exclusion of others, but a company spokesman said that they could not put their huge investment in the project at risk over such an attitude. Doctors have complete freedom to prescribe what they feel is best for their patients. In order to provide a basis for the project, Zeneca actually bought a medium sized US health care company in order to provide local knowledge.
The article concludes by saying that if the idea is a success it will revolutionise the treatment of cancer and cause a substantial growth in the company over the coming decades.
Of course this will be at the expense of the existing institutions and professional etiquettes and procedures, but it is interesting to see such a change being brought about not through science or humane considerations, but by market forces. (ie best is also cheapest.) The reduction in anxiety as an economic benefit to government health care systems is something I have been writing about for years, and it will be interesting to see if it actually works now someone is trying it.
News from the Markets
As readers know I favour direct equity investment as being the most efficient means of estate building for the purposes of cryonics. The computer sector has had a good rise recently - I expect a pause for a year or so before we see another such increase. However the pharmaceutical and health care sector had only just started to break new ground in the autumn of 1995. Remember that if technology investment does not work, then it will be because technology does not work (whether for basic scientific reasons or political/legal considerations). If technology fails, so will cryonics and none of us will know anything about it. If I am correct, then when you are all revived you will know it. If I am wrong, none of us will know it! So I am being very safe making these predictions and comments.
(List of individual company news deleted as it is now of historic interest only)
BSE - Internet Comments
BSE, the disease where a virionor prion evolved that attacks the brain directly, has been in the news recently, and I posed a question on the Internet as follows:
I would be interested in comments concerning the eating of beef and other products - sausages etc - in connection with the BSE "scare" in the UK and Europe.
The counter argument often raised in these cases is that "Oh well, there is often a scare about something or other - remember salmonella in eggs - if we took notice of all these scares, what can we eat?"
The thought occurs to be that the incubation period of BSE is so long that it could be many years before there are lots of cases, and by then it will be too late for anyone to do anything about it.
John de Rivaz, Publisher of Longevity Report and Fractal Report
(The replies are separated by dashes)
Well, as usual, we in the US have not been paying as much attention to European matters as we should. News about Mad Cow Disease has been mostly on the back page. Over here we just think about the Ebola virus, Dengue fever, Hanta virus, African bees, Tiger mosquitoes, and so on. But anyway..
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy has killed over 100,000 cows in the UK over the last decade. As far as we know, it can't be transmitted to other cows or to humans except by direct consumption of flesh or byproducts. The disease spread to cattle via feed made from sheep parts, and said sheep were infected with scrapie.
I think that there should be real concern about transmission to humans, especially considering the large number of cases in cattle. And you're probably right about the long incubation period, which could be decades.
On the other hand, despite the fact that the disease is relatively new in cattle, it has existed in sheep long before this, and one might wonder why people who had inadvertently consumed tainted mutton did not contract the disease. Perhaps cooking the meat (or pasteurizing milk) destroys the infectious agent.
I also asked on the Promed mailing list and got:
I have conversed with a neuropathologist in the UK who was very interested in learning how to diagnose C-J disease earlier (perhaps using pattern recognition to detect signs and symptoms unique to early onset). You are going to run into a couple of problems when trying to link BSE to increased risk of C-J:
1) increased awareness of C-J is going to result in a increase in reporting of the disease (probably with special emphasis on anyone with exposure to BSE)
2) C-J cannot be distinguished from other forms of dementia based on presentation - a brain biopsy (ouch!) is required.
So unless a formal, unbiased study is undertaken, it will be very hard to establish if BSE (and hence scrapie) can be transmitted to people. Remember, case reports and case series are the weakest forms of evidence. - Gord
I have just read the posting by Dr. Gordon Doig who is quoting some neuropathologist in the UK concerning BSE and CJD association. As always I am quite amazed at the misinformation that circulates on the internet concerning CJD-BSE.
First and foremost every effort is being made to determine the origins of new cases of CJD throughout the European Community and whether or not there is any relationship to BSE, and this is being done with the utmost care.
Secondly, we at the NIH are now able to support a clinical diagnosis of CJD and certainly separate this from Alzheimers disease by use of a laboratory test on cerebrospinal fluid. Should someone want this test preformed they need only send frozen CSF to me at the NIH. Thirdly, for cases that may be associated with familial forms of CJD/GSS we can provide DNS testing to elucidate point mutations in the PrP gene. Moreover, Professor Collinge in London is using transgenic mice to diagnose CJD/GSS. Please let us keep the facts straight!
Clarence J. Gibbs, Ph.D. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
In some British newspapers there have been claims of people dying from BSE. Symptoms are much like dementia. Also claims in Germany where a man died who used to boil cattle bones for a lot of years to cure his back aches. Other deaths concerned farmers. No consensus of opinion. A researcher I know is in contact with a researcher who is actually doing research on BSE. He informed me that the BSE factor is not a virus or a bacteria but some other agent. It can be transferred to a lot of animals, but not all (I think cats form such an exception) If the agent is transmitted to an animal, the word is that it usually develops BSE. The researcher stopped consuming beef recently...
Just my $ 0,02, Harrie
The infectious agent in Mad Cow Disease, Scrapie, Kuru, and some forms of CJ is thought to be a prion, which is a sub-viral particle. I had an interesting article about Prion diseases which is in a file cabinet somewhere, I'll see if I can dig it up. Anyway, I believe the general ideas outlines were:
A) Don't eat brain, EVER, especially raw
B) Don't eat raw meat.
C) Increased detection and destruction of BSE, and Scrapie infected animals would be a major benefit to the population at large.
I realize these are pretty general conclusions, but that's all I remember for now. Prions are scary, so scary there is an X-Files episode about CJ!
Is it possible that the BSE agent is transmitted animal-animal or animal-human through the consumption of gelatin? What temperatures is gelatin exposed to during production? Thanks !
The familial transmission of prion diseases are interesting. Apparently, a prion can arise spontaneously as well as by transmission. If prions live, this violates the good old law of biogenesis!
Is it a matter of probability? My partner heard on the radio that some people say "If I eat beef every day I'd worry, but as I only have it once a fortnight I'm not going to bother cutting it out"
Presumably it is a lottery. I assume that virions don't accumulate until a critical mass is achieved, eat just one that is capable of reproduction and you're dead. If that assumption is wrong, I'd be interested to know.
Also I hear "If I follow every food scare I'd have very little to eat! Think of how the salmonella in eggs scare came and went."
A prion is basically a single protein molecule, the smallest infectious agent known. Many of the above diseases have been shown to be caused by the same kind of prion. The prion works by converting a common brain protein into another copy of itself. I believe that most mammals have the precursor to the prion. Don't eat raw brain!
A recent television programme suggested that also the spinal cord, intestines and possibly the liver are also infected. It also said that the UK's system of "protecting" the public is seriously flawed.
Because farmers face financial ruin if one of their herd has BSE, they usually keep quiet and exterminate any that look as though they hay have the disease. Many even make it to market and the government inspectors miss most of them. The journalists bought several that got past the inspectors. These cows were given a vet examination and were found to have the disease. The journos bought them posing as members of the food industry.
Of course there is no proof that the disease is designed to pass the bovine/human species barrier, but we don't know that for sure. If it will pass this barrier, then the Earth is due for a massive population loss of humans. Will enough be left to carry on civilisation? Will the infrastructure be still able to support those in cryonic suspension? Only time will tell.
I have the program on video cassette and I have a TV standards convertor.
The scrapie agent is also present, albeit in much lower titers, elsewhere in the body. Spleens are sometimes used for experimental transmission. Other parts might also transmit it too.
Catching scrapie/BSE is basically a matter of risk plus bad luck. It appears that it's possible to catch it from any tissue, just very unlikely from non-brain tissue. Likewise it jumps wide species barriers, but again, only on very rare occasions.
Curt Adam (email@example.com)
Hrm. So no supplements with gelatin (All betacarotene supplements) anymore. And what about milk. And Cheese ?
Woman, 108, Burned After Deanimation
A Truro woman who lived to be 108 years of age was burned after Deanimation at Kenwyn Nursing Home, Truro. Her funeral was held at Trelawney Chapel, Penmount Crematorium, a grim building set amidst the countryside on the outskirts of Truro.
Mabel Coulam was born in 1887 when Queen Victoria was on the English throne. She served in three wars in the Red Cross, and remained single following the death in action of her fiancé in the First World War.
In 1959 she broke her hip, and remained in care homes ever since. The report in The West Briton said "She had seen so much of the world, and gone through so many genres in her time that Mabel was a fascinating and wise old lady."
Peter Pan/Capt. HookChrissie decided she wanted to watch the Peter Pan sequel film flop Captain Hook on Christmas afternoon, and I dozed whilst she watched it. The bits of it I did see made me wonder whether J.M Barrie did have some thoughts about immortalism - eg "I don't want to grow up because grown-ups always die". Possibly he felt that he could express these thoughts no other way than through a children's fable, as the people around him felt that talking about their mortality was "not nice".
Even today people old in mind think that if they don't talk about things that are not nice, they will go away. In Barrie's age this ostrich-like mentality may have been more pronounced.
More to my liking as entertainment was Stargate which was reviewed in The Immortalist in December 1994. I agree with what most of your reviewer said, particularly about worshipping gods.
However maybe we ought to take a lesson from the character representing God ("Ra"). He had immortality and very near omnipotent power. Yet he was behaving in a very unwise manner and was relatively easily exterminated by the intrepid explorers. [Just as "God" in The Bible often seems to us now as a somewhat unwise and dictatorial, even genocidal, character.]
We are all seeking immortality, and as a byproduct of the technology that will give it to us, we will probably get a similar ability to manipulate matter as the god Ra in the film. Will brash madness be the result of attaining such power? I am not suggesting that anyone step down because of this risk, but nevertheless we ought to be aware of it.
Nanotechnology in Financial Times
The December 28 issue of The Financial Times contained an article by Clive Cookson on the subject of Nanotechnology.
Mr Cookson described the meaning of the word and progress so far. He quoted Drexler and Merkle at some length, and mentioned medical advantages, although not cryonics.
He concluded that even if a small fraction of that predicted comes true, Nanotechnology will be the dominant technical theme for the next century.
An item on the BBC's Tomorrow's World featured a process that claimed to reverse tooth decay by bombardment with negative ions. I queried this on the Internet and got the following message:
It turns out that one of the dentists on CIX knows the researcher (Dr Lynch) interviewed in the program (they trained together), and is meeting him in February (on another matter), and has promised to report back with the latest news on the tests.
But the opinion so far is that while it might be useful in a few cases where access and sterilisation by normal means is difficult (such as the root work in the elderly mentioned in the program), it is likely to be of little use in normal dentistry.
A dentist on CIS said that biggest problem with this approach is the nature of tooth decay. The active front of a decaying lesion is actually under the surface and not open to purely surface treatment. It may be possible to discourage bacterial growth and arrest the disease. But that can be done already with other measures.
He said that once the surface integrity is broken, then access becomes more difficult, and there is also then a restorative need.
On a related note, the mercury debate has happened on CIX as well, and the consensus is that mercury is probably not a good idea anymore, but that the mercury free restoratives are much harder to use, and significantly more prone to breakages and renewed decay. The latest formulations are getting better, but there is still a way to go. Mercury is still used in difficult fillings, or where non-mercury ones have failed more than once.
Removal of mercury based fillings (for the sake of going for a mercury free mouth) is not thought to be a good idea, due to the lack of effectiveness of dams/suction in stopping particles from being ingested and inhaled by the patient.
(Information supplied by Bob Grahame, <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
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