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The San Juan Weeekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
The San Juan Weekly Star
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U.S. Issues New Deportation Policy’s First Reprieves
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The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Relief for Student Debtors S
ince the start of the recession, record numbers of Americans have enrolled in college in search of new skills that would improve their employment prospects. Unfortunately, far too many students enrolled in expensive forproﬁt schools end up dogged by ruinous debts, with little in the way of skills or credentials to show for their efforts. The schools sometimes push these students into high-cost private loans that they can never hope to repay, even when they are eligible for affordable federal loans. Because the private loans have fewer consumer accommodations like hardship deferments, the borrowers often have little choice but to default. Worse yet, these loans and the bad credit history follow the debtors for the rest of their lives. Even ﬁling for bankruptcy doesn’t clean the slate. Legislation is pending in both houses of Congress that would make private school loans dischargeable through bankruptcy, as most of them were before Congress changed the law in 2005. It had long been the case that federally backed student loans were protected during bankruptcy proceedings. That is reasonable, since those loans were backed by taxpayer dollars and ﬂexibly structured so that borrowers could receive deferment in tough times and resume payments when their ﬁnances improved. The country has a compelling interest in making it as difﬁcult as possible for student borrowers to elude payment
for federal loans. There was no reason for extending that protection to private lenders of student loans. For starters, that gives these lenders, who often turn a huge proﬁt, an undeserved advantage over credit card issuers, gambling casinos and other issuers of unsecured credit whose debts are still subject to discharge in bankruptcy. The change also encouraged reckless underwriting by lenders, who no longer felt compelled to determine the borrower’s ability to pay. And it led to ﬁnancial catastrophe for students who were duped into signing up for pricey private loans. Bills sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, would eliminate the unfair protections for private student lenders and give struggling borrowers a chance at a fresh start.
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The San Juan Weekly Star Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Puerto Rico Senator Resigns in Photo Controversy
Puerto Rico lawmaker has resigned following reports that explicit photos of him surfaced on an iPhone application for gays and bisexuals, the head of the U.S. territory’s Senate announced Sunday. Sen. Roberto Arango, a Republican who represents the capital of San Juan for the island’s governing party, presented his letter of resignation after a weekend meeting, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said. Schatz did not release the lawmaker’s letter, but said the circumstances that led to the resignation “are very lamentable.” Local news media published photos from the application showing a man’s nude upper body with a cell phone obscuring his face. Another photo showed a rear view of a nude man on his hands and knees. Another showed a fuzzy image of a face that seemed to match Arango’s. Arango has neither conﬁrmed nor denied suggestions by local media that the photos might be of him and apparently was not asked if he had posted them. During a recent interview with WAPA TV in Puerto Rico, the senator said he has taken pictures of himself with a cell phone to document his recent weight loss. “I really don’t remember having taken those pictures of myself, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t take them,” he told the station. “I really don’t remember.” Arango did not return calls Sunday. A graduate of Louisiana State University and a food importer before turning to politics, he was chairman of a business council for the national Republican Party and municipal director of the Republi-
can Party in Puerto Rico, according to his Web page for Puerto Rico’s Senate. Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of the gay rights group Puerto Rico for Everyone, said Arango voted in favor of Resolution 99, a proposal that would block any attempt to permit same-sex marriages in the U.S. territory. He also helped block a measure to ban sexual discrimination in the workplace and opposed adoption rights for gays. “This isn’t a moment to kick someone when he’s down, but I have to denounce Sen. Roberto Arango’s complicity with a fundamentalist agenda that promotes the exclusion and marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Serrano said Sunday. Local news media said that the pictures ﬁrst appeared on an iPhone application for gays and bisexuals and that they themselves later received copies from unidentiﬁed sources. In recent days, Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno had said that if the man was indeed a legislator, he should resign. That echoed the sentiments of other lawmakers, including local House Speaker Jenniffer Gonzalez.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
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The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal By MICHAEL WINERIP
hy won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today? Ms. Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington public schools from 2007 to 2010, is the national symbol of the datadriven, take-no-prisoners education reform movement. It’s hard to ﬁnd a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions. Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow. At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her ﬁre a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said. She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire ﬁring. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.” And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today. At the end of March, three of the paper’s reporters — Marisol Bello, Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo — broke a story about the high rate of erasures and suspiciously high testscore gains at 41 Washington schools while Ms. Rhee was chancellor. They found the odds so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion. In a fourth-grade class at Stanton Elementary, 97 percent of the erasures were from wrong to right. Districtwide, the average number of erasures for seventh graders was fewer than one per child, but for a seventh-grade class at Noyes Elementary, it was 12.7 per student. At Noyes Elementary in 2008, 84 percent of fourth graders were proﬁcient in math, up from 22 in 2007. Ms. Rhee’s reputation has rested on her schools’ test scores a USA Today headline asking, “were the gains real?” In this era of high-pressure testing, Washington has become another in a growing list of cheating scandals that has included Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas. A spokesman for Ms. Rhee, said the reporters were “provided unprecedented time
and access to report out their story,” including many meetings with senior staff members and the chief of data accountability. On March 29, the day after the story came out, Ms. Rhee appeared on the PBS program “Tavis Smiley” and attacked USA Today. “Are you suggesting this story is much ado about nothing, lacking integrity, this story in USA Today?” Mr. Smiley asked. “Absolutely,” Ms. Rhee said. “It absolutely lacks credibility.” Mr. Smiley asked if she was concerned that she had put too much pressure on teachers and principals to raise scores. “We want educators to feel that pressure”. Ms. Rhee emphasized the district had hired a top security company, Caveon, to investigate in 2009, and was given a clean bill of health. The district released a statement from John Fremer, Caveon’s owner, saying, “The company did not ﬁnd evidence of cheating at any of the schools.” However, in subsequent interviews with USA Today and this reporter, Mr. Fremer made it clear that the scope of his inquiry was limited, and that the district had not requested that he do more. Indeed, Caveon’s report, posted on USA Today’s Web site, was full of sentences like, “Redacted was interviewed at redacted.” Teachers described security as “excellent” and “very vigilant,” and investigators, for the most part, took their comments at face value. It did not take Ms. Rhee long to realize she had miscalculated. Three days later, she told Bloomberg Radio she was “100 percent supportive” of a broader inquiry. Still, she would not talk to USA Today. Mr. Sevugan gave no explanation, but pointed out that she had spoken with several other news outlets. The reporters did not give up. On April
26, Emily Lenzner, a spokeswoman, wrote Mr. Gillum, “Michelle is willing to do an interview, but we’d like to do this in person.” She asked if they could hold their story, and arranged for a meeting on May 3 at the StudentsFirst ofﬁce in Washington. On May 2, another Rhee spokeswoman e-mailed to say the reporters were too interested in cheating and not enough in StudentsFirst. She said they could submit a list of questions. There were 21 questions; Ms. Rhee did not answer 10 of the 11 about cheating. Mr. Gillum, who recently took a job at The Associated Press, said he was surprised by how unresponsive Ms. Rhee has been. “She talks about how important data is, and our story is data driven,” he said. So that people could make their own judgments, Linda Mathews, the project editor, posted the relevant public documents on the USA Today Web site. Shortly after the follow-up story appeared, the district’s inspector general began what was supposed to be an inquiry, but in July The Washington Post reported that just one investigator had been assigned. “Basica-
lly it was one guy in a room who made 10 phone calls,” Mr. Toppo said. Ofﬁcials with the federal Department of Education have indicated that they are assisting with the investigation. In Washington, two investigators spent ﬁve days at eight schools. In Atlanta, the state deployed 60 investigators who worked for 10 months at 56 schools. They produced a report that named all 178 people found cheating, including 82 who confessed. There was not a single case of “redacted and redacted doctoring redacted grade answer sheets at redacted.” People in Atlanta could go to prison. Last week, a grand jury issued subpoenas seeking the names of school employees who had received bonuses for test scores. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that there were subpoenas for “signed copies” of “any and all oaths of ofﬁce” taken by Beverly Hall, the former superintendent. The three reporters still hope to interview Ms. Rhee. “Absolutely,” said Mr. Toppo. Which brings things full circle: Why won’t Ms. Rhee talk to USA Today?
Florida Psychic and Her Family Cheated Clients of $40 Million By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
he promise of good karma did not come cheaply for devotees of a South Florida psychic whom federal prosecutors have portrayed as the matriarch of a fortunetelling family with a lust for luxury. The government has charged the psychic, Rose Marks, 60, and nine others with cheating customers, including a best-selling author, of $40 million in cash, goods and property since 1991 by preying on them at vulnerable moments. Operating four shops in well-heeled Broward County neighborhoods, the family told clients that they should hand over their cash and goods to help wash away curses, cure health problems and change their fortunes. First the money and valuables had to be freed from evil spirits. If the clients didn’t pay up they were told terrible things would befall them. The Marks family then assured clients that all money and goods would be returned, a promise that was seldom, if ever, kept. Instead, jewels were stashed away and millions of dollars were used to create a lavish lifestyle. When federal agents searched the Marks family’s main house, they discovered hundreds of fancy rings (some with
diamonds), watches and necklaces bearing brand names like Tiffany and Cartier. They found a trove of gold coins and seized about a dozen expensive cars, including a Bentley. Ms. Marks and seven other suspects are in custody in Florida and New York, and face charges that include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. A ninth suspect was scheduled to be in court in West Palm Beach this week, and the 10th was still at large. Their lawyer argued in court they were running a legitimate business and they provided counseling for distraught people. One victim of Ms. Marks was a bestselling author who gave $20 million to the family. The woman was despondent over the death of her 8-year-old son in a motorcycle accident. Prosecutors did not name any of the victims, The Sun-Sentinel identiﬁed the author as Jude Deveraux, who has written dozens of best-selling romance novels. Among other victims listed by the government was a woman with a brain tumor who was promised “positive energy” but is now broke and someone from Japan who gave the family nearly $500,000. The victims were told a sacriﬁce was required money the “root of all evil,” was the ideal sacriﬁce. Clients handed over cash and, in one case, 32 gold coins worth $400,000.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
U.S. Issues New Deportation Policy’s First Reprieves By JULIA PRESTON
he call came in the morning to the lawyer representing Manuel Guerra, an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in Florida who had been caught in a tortuous and seemingly failing ﬁve-year court ﬁght. With the news federal immigration authorities had canceled his deportation, Mr. Guerra became one of the ﬁrst illegal immi-
grants to see results from a policy the Obama administration unveiled that day. It could lead to the suspension in coming months of deportation proceedings against tens of thousands of immigrants. Immigrant advocates said the plan offered the ﬁrst real possibility since President Obama took ofﬁce — promising immigrants and Latinos he would overhaul the law — for large numbers of those immigrants to be spa-
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red from detention and deportation. For Mr. Guerra, who said he wants to remain in the United States to study to become a Roman Catholic priest, the news “was like something from above, from heaven. I don’t want to go back to Mexico,” he said, “and I’ve been ﬁghting this for ﬁve years.” The Homeland Security and Justice Departments met to initiate a review of about 300,000 deportation cases currently before the immigration courts. Under the policy, immigration authorities will use powers of prosecutorial discretion in existing law to suspend the deportations of most immigrants who, although they have committed immigration violations, have not been convicted of crimes. In particular, ofﬁcials will look to halt deportations of longtime residents with clean police records who came here illegally when they were children, or are close family of military service members, or are parents or spouses of American citizens. “This is a great ﬁrst step,” said Hector E. Sanchez, a Hispanic labor leader who oversees immigration policy for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of the country’s major Latino groups. “We really need to see action on a common-sense approach to immigration and not just promises.” Obama facing protests from Latino and immigrant groups after he made no progress in Congress on his immigration overhaul agenda, and enforcement authorities set a record for deportations, with nearly 800,000 foreigners removed in the past two years. Homeland Security ofﬁcials said Monday that their goal is to quickly identify noncriminals on swollen immigration court dockets and close those cases, clearing the way for speedier removals of gang members, drug trafﬁckers or foreigners who repeatedly return after being deported. Wait times for a hearing in immigration courts can now be as long as 18 months. A senior Homeland Security ofﬁcial said that deportations would be canceled case by case. While many immigrants in those cases will be eligible for work permits, he said, employment authorization will come only after a separate process. The immigrants will remain in a sort of legal limbo, not vulnerable to deportation but with no positive immigration status, which can be conferred only by Congress. But White House ofﬁcials and Congressional Democrats said they expected the measures would lead to relief during the coming year for virtually all young illegal immigrants facing deportation who might have won legal status under a bill called the Dream Act. A proposal to beneﬁt illegal immigrant high school graduates who came to the country before they were 16, it failed in
the Senate last year. Mr. Guerra, now 27 and living in Indiantown, Fla., is one of those immigrants. He said he came to this country to escape a violent gang in Mexico. His lawyer, Richard A. Hujber, said Mr. Guerra’s efforts to straighten out his legal status went wrong because they were originally mishandled by an accountant claiming falsely to be a lawyer. In recent years, even though he was undocumented, Mr. Guerra has been a Florida leader of the illegal immigrant student movement, helping to organize a protest walk by four students to Washington and a mock university held by students wearing mortarboards on Capitol Hill. “That was so big to me, all these students organizing a school so we could go without our papers,” Mr. Guerra said. If he can obtain a work permit, he and Mr. Hujber said, he could be legally eligible for the ﬁrst time to apply for ﬁnancial aid that would allow him to continue his religious studies. The administration’s announcement also had an immediate impact on a case in Denver, where an immigration judge on Friday postponed the deportation of Sujey Pando, a lesbian from Mexico legally married in Iowa to an American from Colorado, Violeta Pando. Although federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages, administration ofﬁcials said they would consider same-sex spouses as “family” in their review of deportation cases. The judge, Mimi Tsankov, cited the ﬂux in laws and policies affecting same-sex cases in delaying a decision on Sujey Pando’s deportation at least until January, said Lavi Soloway, a lawyer for the couple. Some Latino Democrats who have been deeply critical of Mr. Obama on immigration issues praised the policy shift. “This is the Barack Obama I have been waiting for, that Latino and immigrant voters helped put in ofﬁce to ﬁght for sensible immigration policies,” said Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, a Latino leader on immigration issues who has been arrested twice in protests in front of the White House. However, the announcement appeared to signal an end to efforts by the White House to court some of its Republican opponents, with administration ofﬁcials acknowledging those efforts have failed and there is little chance for broad immigration legislation to pass before elections next year. Republican leaders reacted to Mr. Obama’s new policy by stepping up their rejection of his approach. Representative Peter T. King of New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House, said the president was making “a blatant attempt to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal aliens in this country,” which he called “totally unacceptable.”
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
LETTERS Monkeys on Our Backs In Puerto Rico you can’t count on water every time you open the faucet. Nor on getting it clean. No, you must have a cistern on the roof and water puriﬁers or buy the drinking water bottled. In Puerto Rico you can’t count on the electrical power. And the brownouts, spikes and ﬂickering are worse than the blackouts because they bring down the life expectancy of your electronics and compressors even ﬂourescent lights. No, you must have a generator and voltage regulators. In Puerto Rico you can’t count on the police to protect you. Cops’ bullying the lawabiding nothwithstanding. Thus all the private security gorillas, who are mostly ex-cops and therefore inept thugs as well. In Puerto Rico you can’t send your kids to public school, where all they learn is drugs and ﬁghting. If you feel I’m exaggerating, drop by a bus stop near a public school and eavesdrop on students’ conversations, if you can make out their dense ungrammatical Spanglish. No, you must send yours to private school, if you can afford it, or to Catholic school, where they’ll get brainwashed silly. In Puerto Rico we’ll never get usable public transportation. The car lobby won’t stand for it. You must own an automobile. In Puerto Rico you can’t count on public health nor on decent health insurance, no matter how much you pay for it. You must accept that if you really get sick, you’ll lose everything you’ve worked for all your life. And if you’re poor you’ll simply croak in the gutter. Yet in Puerto Rico you can count on oppressive taxation. To afford our alienated pols, the marionets of our socioeconomic oligachy, chauffeured gas-guzzling Cadillac SUVs, the weekday-night parties they enjoy so much, abundant ego nuturing, travel galore, a penthouse in Montehiedra or Condado and assured continuance of their sybartic lifestyle long after their incumbency. Ana Badillo, Hato Rey
Subtract and Win You have to give the GOP some credit, of sorts. They don’t want the gay vote, the Hispanic’s, the African American’s, the Muslim’s, the abortionist’s (baby killers) the Medicare population’s, not even the vote of those who feel we must end the war soon. They say that the reason we shouldn’t tax the “ﬁlthy rich” is that they’re the chickens who lay the golden egg of capitalism, who will create the jobs to get us out of recession. Yet they have never shown us the statistics to prove that it’s been so in past recessions. I do remember reading, however, about a billionaire paying over $100 million for a Picasso and a famous politician with a million dollar debt at Tiffany’s. The majority is appalled when inﬂuential Tea Party leaders express how our policy in the
Palestinian question would have us doing God’s will according to the Old Testament. So why give them any credit? In their minds, I suppose, they’re right. So even at the expense of losing an election they’re not about to lose their “integrity”. All they need now is a Pied Piper, like Bob Taft or Governor Dewey, to show the world that elections need not be inclusionary; that the win will be far more gratifying if won by a minority.
My parents had the means and the foresight to bankroll me through med school and I crammed my rear end off a stack of years, count high school at San Ignacio. I could’ve spent the time partying, I did some anyway. I’m entitled to contrive as much dividend as I can out of my handiwork now. This is free enterprise. And how much is your life worth?
that the country was best served by “better men than yourself [himself].” Stopped short of calling the man a coward. Historians of all sides within the US and without agree the Vietnam War was wrong. 2M Vietnamese and 59K Yanks were slaughtered over Cold War nonsense. The Vietnamese were struggling for their long-lost independence. What right did the two sanctimonious superpowers have to split that nation like that? “South Vietnam” was as far a cry from democracy as Fulgencio Batista’s Cuba, America’s discredited “our SOB” policy. Even Robert McNamara, the architect of the conﬂict, admits in his book it was a war of aggression, and a stupid one at that. Olof Palme of Sweden likened the US to Nazi Germany, which freaked out Nixon who replied, “Let’s face it, we’re dealing with an unfriendly country here.” The Nixon terror bombing of the north and of Laos and Cambodia was illegal and genocidal. And I’ll snap back at you if you rant that we should’ve simply nuked Hanoi or that a Democrat Congress stabbed the nation in the back or that a hippy youth undermined American wholesomeness. If I haven’t convinced you, watch Hearts and Minds, Academy Award winner for best Documentary ﬁlm for 1975. Pereira might Netﬂix it too. The heroes of that war on our side of the world were in fact the draft dodgers. It was wrong to blame those who went, as many of us did at the time, they were as much victims as anybody else, watch The Deerhunter, with Robert DeNiro. For one brief shining moment WOSO Radio did investigative reporting. Mariano Calderón showed up at OSO Blanco Penitentiary, where he found inmates were denied basic necessities, medical attention and when convicts had toothaches they howled into the night and nobody could sleep. I’m pretty sure Pereira was the Corrections man at the time. You might say most of those criminals did much worse than that to somebody else and they’re getting off lightly. And I tell you---and Pereira---that when a sentence says conﬁnement it means just that and that that’s torture, what the US Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote “Cruel & Unusual Punishment” into the Constitution, banning it. You write typically to pat pols and bureaucrats here on the head, and while that may feel amusing, it’s hardly right to not recognize---and challenge---evil as such when it stares you in the eye, save your “decorum” for church.
Dr. Iván Carmona Grajales, Caparra Hts.
Bob Harris, Condado
Ed Martinez, San Juan
Undoing of Hippocrates The apple Adam and Eve munched on must’ve been scrumptious, we’ve pained so much because of it ever since. A propensity toward evil, we got out of it. Or that’s what the nuns said in Catholic school. That and absolute power corrupts. Enter doctors. Abosolute power corrupts absolutely more and what power is more absolute that sovereignty over life and death? They’re little gods marauding among us. In civilized jurisdictions they’re kept on a short leash, but here they’ve got the pols in their back pockets. As do the car lobby and big business and the narcotrafﬁckers. Particularly the penepeístas. The week a couple of them ﬂew to Haiti to succor the stricken, one evening, after what must’ve been a grueling day, they clowned with some locals and got their picture taken. Doctors here, between glasses of Dom Perignon with legislator and banker cohorts, hollered that such a spectacle was undigniﬁed and demanded they be chastised, stripped of their licenses even. What has Satan become when he thinks he’s become God? Agustín Manzano, San Juan
Medmarketplace & Liberty
Nature of the Beast To William Lefﬁngwell: Atty. Miguel Pereira may be a nominal popular, but he’s a consummate reactionary. No, I’m not calling him names, just describing his politics, the mind needs labels. What I know is what I hear off him over WOSO Speak Out. Once a fellow called in, on an issue of constitutionality, an inquiry. He mentioned he’d dodged the Vietnam War, which drove Pereira into a fury, hissing
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The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
LETTERS A Matter of Law A court of law isn’t where wrongs are righted. It’s not a judge’s job to do such a thing. A trial is perversely little more than an arena for wily lawyers vying for a thumbs up from the judge or jury. A judge is not even supposed to keep lawyers from cheating. If it’s you against a lawyer and the lawyer violates your rights, expect no redress from the judges unless you can object citing the Rules of Evidence, of Criminal/Civil Procedure, the US/PR Constitution, and everything as interpreted by case history. Even if you know some law, there’s where they can get you. The O.J. Simpson trial, televised worldwide, in France and Japan with simultaneous interpreting, deservedly rubbed the nose of the American justice system in the mud. Nevertheless, everything the Americans do is sacrosanct in Puerto Rico. In the exuberant days of my youth I took on a lawyer and won. And I did it the lawyerly way, through wordplay and trickery. Every time it rained my apartment was lea-
king like Niagara Falls and the owner turned a deaf ear. When I stopped rent he sicked his lawyer on me. He described my complaint as “picayune” and attempted to intimidate me in various ways and said I was “a squatter.” When the paperwork started I did all the ﬁling and responding as required but in such a manner as to delay the proceedings. I handed in submissions on the very last day to do so. My answer to the suit was tenfold, it had “every argument you can make without laughing,” as an attorney friend instructed me to do it, I even invoked Constitutional law. I knew the judge would have to answer each one citing the Civil Code and case law for each. The sort of thing a lawyer gets sanctioned for, even disbarred if he does it regularly, and that non-lawyers simply don’t know how to do. I had a year of law school and some help. The night before the eviction hearing the lawyer phoned me. He wondered if we could compromise and got me talking. I suspected that’s what he had in mind because he offered zilch and in any case all that had to be done was ﬁx the roof. I happened to know however that
according to the Rules of Evidence any communication between the parties toward a compromise was inadmissible in court, so I led him on. I’d attempted to have the repairs done with the rent money, but building security didn’t allow even an inspection. Sure enough, the next day in court the lawyer came on, “Is it not true that last night over the phone you said to me...?” I barked back, “Objection your honor. Oferta de transacción es inadmisible en evidencia.” In Spanish there’s a kind of ring to it. The attorney was surprised and the judge more so. Anyway, that took the wind out of the lawyer. Yes, I had to move out and I did like the apartment, I would’ve rather paid the rent and stayed. But I lived the place for free all of nine months, despite the pots I had to keep all over to collect the leaks, the money I used to pay off my student loan and send for pricey stereo components, subwoofer and all. David beat Goliath and you can whip a lawyer! It ain’t easy though. Agustín Manzano , Santurce
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
The San Juan Weekly Star
After Uprising, Rebels Face a Struggle for Unity By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEVEN LEE MYERS
ith rebels on the verge of ending Col. Muammar el-Qaddaﬁ’s long reign, the character of their movement is facing its ﬁrst real test: Can they build a new government of unity and reconciliation, or will their own internal rivalries mean divisions in the new Libya? Six months after their revolt broke out, the dayto-day leadership of the anti-Qaddaﬁ movement remains an unanswered question, with no ﬁgure emerging as the rebellion’s undisputed leader. Even the common struggle against Colonel Qaddaﬁ never masked latent divisions between east and west, between political leaders and fractious militias, and, some say, between liberal public faces and Islamists in the rebel ranks. The rebels from the western mountains who stormed into Tripoli on Sunday night often roll their eyes at their ostensible political leadership, the Transitional National Council, which is based in the eastern city of Benghazi. Many complained that their national leaders did not give them enough support, even after Western governments began allowing them access to the frozen assets of the Qaddaﬁ government. “The N.T.C. did not work so hard to bridge the gap” between what western rebels forces had and what they needed to subdue Tripoli, said Youssef Mohamed, a management consultant working as an adviser to one of the rebel units charged with securing the capital. American and European ofﬁcials said on Monday that they have been working for weeks to foster cohesion in the rebel ranks and to avoid a repeat of the sectarian strife that gripped Iraq in 2003 after the American invasion. Ofﬁcials said they thought that one reason Tripoli fell as quickly as it did was that important rebel groups closed ranks and came up with a coherent strategy to invade Colonel Qaddaﬁ’s last stronghold. Even so, rivalries began emerging on Monday well before Tripoli was fully subdued, along with questions about the rebels’ credibility. Ofﬁcials of the Transitional National Council in Benghazi said Sunday that their forces had captured Colonel Qaddaﬁ’s son and would-be successor, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddaﬁ. But then on Tuesday he appeared at a Tripoli hotel housing foreign journalists — moving freely around the city — and even before then some in Tripoli appeared not to trust their Benghazi leadership to handle him. Emhemmed Ghula, a leader of the Tripoli rebel underground stationed at a newly established military headquarters on Monday, said he worried that the Benghazi leadership had wrongly agreed to turn Seif al-Islam el-Qaddaﬁ over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he is wanted
on war crimes charges. “It was not us,” Mr. Ghula said, referring to the Tripoli rebels. “If we caught him, we are not going to give him to anyone. We would just take him to trial — a fair trial — under Libyan laws.” Pressed on his relationship with the movement’s national leadership, he acknowledged: “We belong to them, politically. They did help us with the plan for this revolution.” But he added: “The general plan, I should say. Not with the local plan.” Tensions were also on display Monday after the rebels captured a prominent broadcaster from Libyan state television, Hala Misrati. She was spotted driving in the city and was arrested, several rebels said, in connection with her role as Qaddaﬁ propagandist. She was taken to a local ofﬁce building for questioning, and through a cracked door a heavyset man could be seen leaning over her seat as she screamed, “I am innocent!” A mob of rebels, many armed, tried to storm the ofﬁce. They were pushed back when a rebel ofﬁcer emerged from the interrogation room and ﬁred his gun through the ceiling. He ﬁred another shot to scare off the press. Ultimately, however, order appeared to win out: an older ofﬁcer made his way through the mob counseling patience, and the crowd dissipated. Ms. Misrati was quietly whisked away. Rebel leaders say they have worked for months to try to pave the road to a national unity, including within their own ranks. At the start of Ramadan, for example, the chairman of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, ﬂew to the western mountains — after getting NATO’s permission to breach its no-ﬂy zone — so he could pass out ﬁnancial aid to needy families for the holiday season. By design, the council includes representatives from across the country. They pledged from the start to keep Libya’s capital in Tripoli, in western Libya, not in Benghazi in the east, a rival center of power in during Colonel Qaddaﬁ’s rule. On Monday, the council announced that it was beginning to relocate its operations. And despite the grumblings of some on the ground, local and national rebel leaders have sometimes coordinated closely. When rebels in Tripoli began to rise up Sunday, two senior ofﬁcials from Benghazi were huddled in Tunis with a leader from the western mountains to monitor the movements together. On Monday, Jeffrey D. Feltman, under secretary of state for Near East affairs, said in an interview with CNN’s Web site that he was surprised by the closeness of the communication among rebels across the country. “Saturday night we were seeing high-level ofﬁcials in Benghazi who basically said: ‘O.K., in an hour Tripoli’s going to rise up and this is what’s going to happen. It’s going to start in this neighborhood, they’re going to go out to the mosques and
start doing the call to prayer,’ ” he said. “So it was clear from that description that there’s a lot more communication than what was apparent publicly between the N.T.C. in Benghazi and Tripoli.” Ofﬁcials in Washington said that for the last several weeks, representatives of the rebel council had met quietly with American, European and other
The San Juan Weekly Star diplomats in Qatar and laid the groundwork for building a democratic government in a country that has never known one. With the lessons of postwar Iraq very much in mind, the Obama administration and its allies oversaw the drafting of “a transition road map” that creates an interim governing authority to ﬁll the vacuum created by the monolithic Qaddaﬁ regime until elections are held. The road map did not specify dates or a timetable for the election. But the ofﬁcials said the rebel leaders had consistently pledged to have an open, inclusive government. They have also pledged not to pursue vendettas or a “de-Baathiﬁcation-style” purge of the political and security bureaucracy, something that fueled the insurgency in Iraq. “We try to learn lessons,” a senior administration ofﬁcial said. “That’s why there was such as emphasis on post-Qaddaﬁ planning. It wasn’t strictly because of April 2003, but that deﬁnitely was on people’s minds.” In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke by phone with Mr. Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the Transitional National Council, to discuss the arrangements. “He’s not perfect, but we’ve been very impressed,” a senior administration ofﬁcial said. “They’re focused, and we’re focused now, on not having a bloodbath.”
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
France, Britain, the United States and other powers involved in the Libyan struggle will meet with rebel leaders in Istanbul on Thursday to discuss the transition. Mrs. Clinton and other foreign ministers are considering meeting next week. The United Nations Security Council is also expected to meet to continue negotiations over a resolution that would allow countries to give the rebels the assets frozen under the council’s resolutions. Still, American ofﬁcials have also acknowledged
that they do not yet know how well that leadership speaks for the military leaders or, for that matter, the many novice ﬁghters in their loosely organized brigades. Those questions were brought to the fore by the killing three weeks ago of a rebel military chief, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, by other rebels, apparently in revenge for his role in the Qaddaﬁ government, which tortured and imprisoned many Islamists. The council has not yet identiﬁed the killer, but his assassination follows the murder of at least four lower-level security ofﬁcials by an armed band who roamed Benghazi hunting them down. None of their killers have been found. In the aftermath of General Younes’s killing, many in Benghazi blamed the Islamists in their ranks. And, although no evidence has linked Islamists with the killing, at least two liberals close to the rebel leadership said they appreciated the rumors, because they called attention to the Islamists’ threat. Also after the killing, the Transitional National Council tried to organize its many quasi-independent militias into a national army. But that effort has faltered as the militias have insisted on forming their own independent coalition.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
This Wine Goes Well With Fish
By ALAN TARDI
RILLIANT ideas sometimes arise out of pure necessity. Consider Piero Lugano, 63, the sun-tanned artist-turnedwine-merchant who opened a shop called Bisson in this town on the Italian Riviera in 1978. Not content merely to sell wine, he soon began making it. Ten years ago he decided to try producing sparkling wine from indigenous varieties grown in vineyards overlooking the Golfo Paradiso on the Mediterranean. But he immediately encountered a problem: there was simply no space in his already cramped shop and winery to carry out the aging required to make a bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the classic method of Champagne. Then, as he recalled recently, “a light bulb went on in my head: I thought, why not put the wine under the sea?” This might seem logical to someone like Mr. Lugano who has long struggled to reconcile his twin passions for vine and sea. To most everyone else, the idea of making wine underwater might seem a bit unusual. But Mr. Lugano makes an interesting argument: “It’s better than even the best underground cellar, especially for sparkling wine. The temperature is perfect, there’s no light, the water prevents even the slightest bit of air from getting in, and the constant counterpressure keeps the bubbles bubbly.
Moreover, the underwater currents act like a crib, gently rocking the bottles and keeping the lees moving through the wine.” (The lees refer to yeast particles.) It’s quite a creative solution to a space problem. But Italy is infamous for its labyrinthine bureaucracy. And the place he wanted to put the wine happened to be in the tightly controlled waters of a national marine preserve, the Area Marina Protetta di Portoﬁno. So the odds would seem overwhelmingly against such a project. Undaunted, Mr. Lugano ran the idea by a friend-with-a-friend at the agriculture ministry in Rome. Much to his surprise, his friend called back a week later; not only was it possible, the ministry thought it was a very cool idea. The next and most crucial step was to approach the local authorities. In the winter of 2008, Mr. Lugano pitched his idea to a group at the Area Marina Protetta di Portoﬁno that included the director, Giorgio Fanciulli, and a number of scientiﬁc advisers from the University of Genoa. “My ﬁrst reaction,” Dr. Fanciulli said recently, “was ‘No way! Our job is to prevent people from putting things in these waters, not help them.’ “But when we discussed it in private, the young scientists were very excited. It would have zero impact on the fragile ecosystem and demonstrate our philosophy of a positive synergy between man and nature. We also thought it might promote our park and raise awareness of the need to protect our marine resources. I was convinced.” The scientists did research to ensure no environmental impact and determine the ideal site to place the wine. On May 20, 2009, 6,500 bottles of wine from the 2008 vintage of Bianchetta and Vermentino grapes, made without adding sugar, in the traditional method known as pas dosè, were put in noncorrosive stainless-steel cages and lowered about 200 feet below the sea at a spot called Cala degli Inglesi. That the project had come this far was an amazing accomplishment, but would it be successful? “It was a big risk,” Mr. Lugano said. “No one had
done this before, so we really didn’t know what would happen.” When they went to retrieve the wine 13 months later, they found the bottles intact but transformed. Far from having a negative impact on the underwater environment, it was the sea that had had an impact on the bottles. “When we began to lift the cages,” Mr. Lugano said, “all kinds of sea creatures came rushing out. Some remained.” The bottles were covered with algae, seaweed and barnacles, all of it carefully cleaned, dried and preserved on the bottle in a plastic sheath. (Some even had oysters, shrimp and starﬁsh attached to them.) More important, when the ﬁrst bottle of the wine (christened Abissi, meaning depths in Italian) was opened for a celebratory toast, Mr. Lugano was, as he put it, “quite pleased.” It’s easy to see why. When ﬁrst poured, the bubbles come rushing up to the surface of the glass like sea foam at high tide, but then quickly relax into a ﬁne perlage. The color is pale golden-yellow with greenish reﬂections,
while the aroma suggests caramelized lemon peel and dried ﬂower petals with hints of baked apple and allspice. On the palate it is surprisingly soft, leading into ripe, almost sweet, white peach followed by bracing acidity and a dry mineral ﬁnish. This winter, the second edition of Abissi, made from the 2009 vintage and brought up from the sea on July 2, 2011, will be available in America for the ﬁrst time through Bisson’s importer, Neil Rosenthal. (It has not been determined how many bottles will come to the United States or what the price will be.) Though bottle-fermented in the classic manner, Abissi should not be compared to Champagne. This is a typical Ligurian wine — lean, crisply acidic, minerally, almost salty — made of local varieties from vineyards conditioned by their proximity to the sea. In fact, the earth where the vines grow was once under the sea. That this wine undergoes its crucial maturation under water brings the process full circle, giving the concept of terroir an even deeper, aqueous dimension.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
The Ungarnished Truth By MARK BITTMAN
efore pesto reached the shores of America, every “fancy” dish in this country carried a sprig of parsley, and for all but a very few of us, that was the extent of our acquaintance with herbs. It was Paula Peck, author of the onceinvaluable and now-quaint “The Art of Good Cooking,” who brought to my attention the notion that parsley could play a better, more varied role in cooking if you used it by the handful. Several years later, pesto ﬁled its immigration papers, gardening became a little more popular and cooking evolved to a more interesting state. But herbs remain underrated. We add some thyme to stews, we’ve learned that there’s no such thing as too much basil, parsley is recognized for its ﬂavor and all but the genetically twisted appreciate cilantro. (A joke; some of my best friends think it tastes like soap.) But for the most part we are rather restrained in our use of the potent green things. This is not a proposal to make rosemary salad or tarragon pesto; with some herbs, discretion is necessary. But other herbs can be thought of more like teeny vegetables. Since I recognized this, my repertory of recipes relying on herbs — relying on them, you see, not using them in supporting roles — has become about 10 times more exciting. Herbs may not be hefty in texture, and they may be stronger-tasting than your average vegetable, but many make terriﬁc main ingredients. Look no further than tabbouleh, possibly the only herb-centric dish mainstream enough to have been tried by many people in this country. (Pesto is not a dish.) The best tabbouleh is more parsley and mint than bulgur and tomato, and the herbs are what keep it light in texture and refreshing in ﬂavor. Is it a curious sensation to chew on a mouthful consisting mainly of chopped herbs? Yes,
but real tabbouleh — that’s what I’m talking about — is a revelation. (It’s not a revolution, though, so no recipe for it here; you can easily ﬁnd one, I’m sure.) Beyond that — and before you use herbs as a main ingredient — it helps to know which ones work on a grand scale and which ones don’t. Parsley, obviously, works in abundance: it’s clean-tasting, pleasantly grassy and almost never overwhelming. You can add literally a bunch (bunches!) of it to salad, soup, eggs, pasta, grains or beans. The same is largely true of basil, and you can use other mild herbs — chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, shiso — by at least the handful. (Mint is also useful but will easily take over a dish if you add too much of it. But all of these are great for making herb pastes, or pestos, alone or in combination. Use the same technique you use for basil pesto.) I put most other herbs — epazote, lavender, marjoram and oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme — in the category of strong herbs, which must be used more sparingly than mild herbs. You usually don’t want to use more than a tablespoon or so of strong herbs in a dish (though marjoram, oregano and sage can be used in fairly large quantities in speciﬁc instances), and sometimes you’ll want to use an herb even more sparingly. (Tarragon’s anise ﬂavor is both wonderful and intense enough to throw off a dish’s balance — a teaspoon is usually plenty and, if it’s dried, less than that.) Strong herbs cannot serve as a main ingredient, but they can provide good backup for mild herbs. That’s the windup; here’s the pitch: four recipes that contain copious amounts of herbs. (I didn’t include a recipe for herb salad: toss mild herbs with tender greens, olive oil and lemon juice, the end.) In each case — frittata, pasta, pilaf and soup — the herbs take center stage, with eggs, meat, dairy and grains playing supporting roles. For a change.
Herb-and-Olive Frittata Time: 20 to 25 minutes 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1/2 cup chopped black olives, preferably oil-cured 1 cup chopped fresh parsley 1 cup chopped fresh basil 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme 8 eggs, lightly beaten 1/2 cup milk 1 tablespoon all-purpose ﬂour Salt and black pepper.
Green Rice Pilaf Time: 30 to 40 minutes 2 tablespoons neutral oil (like grapeseed or corn) 1 medium onion, chopped 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 1/2 cups rice, preferably basmati 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water, or more as needed Salt and black pepper 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro 3/4 cup chopped fresh chives 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint Zest of 1 lemon Soy sauce for serving. 1. Put the oil in a deep skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat.
1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. 2. Add the olives and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and become dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, milk, ﬂour and some salt and pepper. 3. Turn heat to low and pour the egg mixture into the skillet, using a spoon if necessary to evenly distribute the herbs and olives. Cook, undisturbed, until the eggs are just set, 5 to 10 minutes. (You can set the top further by putting the pan in an oven at 350 for a few minutes or by running it under the broiler for a minute or two.) Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Yield: 4 to 6 servings. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. 2. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until glossy, about 1 minute. Add the stock or water and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. 3. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is almost entirely absorbed, about 15 minutes. Uncover, remove from the heat and stir in the herbs. Replace the lid and let rest off the heat for at least 10 minutes or up to 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in the lemon zest; taste and adjust the seasoning. Fluff the pilaf with a fork, and serve warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of soy sauce. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
The San Juan Weekly Star
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
FASHION & BEAUTY
hen Joan Smalls walks down a runway, she sometimes says to herself, “Get outta my way, I’m coming through!” And it’s a mantra that has served her well. Last year, the 22-year-old model became the ﬁrst Hispanic woman to represent Estée Lauder in its ads for cosmetics and skin care. Aerin Lauder may have touted Smalls as a “global beauty,” but it took a while for anyone to take notice. Smalls, who grew up in the Puerto Rican countryside, had been ﬂoating around the fashion industry since 2007, doing small-time runway shows for the likes of Benjamin Cho or Heatherette, or the occasional departmentstore catalog shoot, and she once appeared in a Ricky Martin video — but her look hadn’t really caught on. Current trends notwithstanding, the fashion world is a pretty matchymatchy place. An Asian model here. A black model there. Rare and often ﬂeeting points of color on the vast, blond landscape. Then, in a break Smalls describes as nothing short of a rebirth, Riccardo Tisci booked her exclusively for his 2010 fall/winter couture collection. A succession of Gucci campaig-
ns followed. And stories in all of the requisite Vogues — British, Italian, French, American. And now she regularly walks for designers like Marc Jacobs, Rodarte and Alexander Wang. But despite her meteoric rise, she remains very down-to-earth. When the money started to come in, her ﬁrst splurge was a pickup truck for her dad. “I would love to see ethnic barriers abolished and an equal opportunity available to all,” she says of her ambitions. “On a personal level, I would also like to achieve things professionally that no model has ever done before.” (Top on her list for now: an American Vogue cover.) All that may sound like an extremely tall order, even for a girl with the stamina of a ﬁghter (she used to box for exercise back home in Puerto Rico) and legs that don’t quit. When asked whom in the industry she most identiﬁes with, she doesn’t toss out the expected Iman or Beverly Johnson, and says, more generally, “models who have worked their way to an admirable career and have taken their time to get there.” Which is perfectly in line with her personal deﬁnition of beauty: conﬁdence.
FASHION & BEAUTY
Wipe on, Wipe Off: March of the Towelettes
The Wedge Flirts With the Catwalk By JESSICA MICHAULT
f it’s summer, women are walking in wedges. “The wedge is not too serious,” says the shoe designer Christian Louboutin, whose redsoled creations are synonymous with sexy footwear. “There is a playful mood to the wedge. You get the height but also have great balance so they are both easy to walk and stand in.” The wedge’s popularity can be traced to the mid-1960s, when Yves Saint Laurent teamed up with Lorenzo and Isabel Castaner of the family-owned Catalan shoe manufacturer Castaner to recreate their renowned espadrilles with a wedge heel. It wasn’t long before stars like Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly were spotted in the new style. Wedge shoes are typically designed with heels of chunky cork, a light weight-wood or the rope espadrille approach. Variations of each showed up on catwalks this season. At D&G they were festive, with girly details like ﬂower embellishments on shoe straps, colorful ribbons woven into the heels or a gingham check design. Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte gave their wedges the look of gilded rococo woodwork. Ennio Capasa, the designer behind the brand Costume National, combined wood and cork for his sandals and topped them off with Mod-looking patent leather in bold hues.
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
The wedge appeals to designers because there is so much surface to play with. They can be outﬁtted with interesting fabrics, stacked using different materials or embellished with everything from studs to Swarovski crystals. New technology has made it possible to try out myriad widths, cut-away angles and heel-less wedges. Even the more difﬁcult Zori wedge (think Geisha) seen on the Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Kenzo catwalks, which are decidedly more cumbersome, got a colorful update. Wedges also have started to gain a foothold in the winter shoe season, popping up on boots and even wrapping around heels. “I believe a wedge adds the height wanted in a shoe, but is somewhat less formal than a high-heel stiletto,” says Charlotte Dellal, the designer behind the shoe brand Charlotte Olympia. Ms. Dellal, whose shoe style leans toward a retro glamour, is offering up wedge options this winter like the closetoed, ankle strap “Tessa” shoes or the lace-up, striped-heeled “Matha” design. As well suited as wedge shoes are for ﬂowing summer dresses and mini skirts, they are now quickly adapting to the demands of the more covered up winter wardrobe. “Remember,” Mr. Louboutin says, “when you wear pants you don’t always see the wedge, so it gives the impression of having extra long legs. I don’t think I have ever met a woman who wished she had shorter legs.”
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
ANT to simplify your beauty routine? Wish you could zoom through airport security without a Ziploc bag of little bottles? Perhaps it’s time to revisit the wipe. No, not the moist, lemony towelette you use to degrease your ﬁngers after gnawing on hot wings. That’s the old wipe. The new wipe is bigger, softer and engineered to do the work of nearly any bottled beauty product. These upscale wipes are infused with sunscreen, self-tanner, hair serum, deodorant. They remove nail polish, dirt, maybe even wrinkles. And they are becoming ubiquitous as brands scramble to satisfy consumer demand. “A year ago they weren’t as mainstream and available for multiple purposes,” said Tracy Ogden, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com’s Health and Personal Care, and Beauty divisions, where a search for beauty wipes turns up about 800 results. “Now customers can buy wipes for anything.” Are these towelettes a minimalist’s dream, or expensive Wet Naps? Your intrepid reporter tested an all-wipe beauty routine to ﬁnd out. Given the season, I had to try sunscreen. Keeping a few wipes in my tote bag might prevent burns during alfresco brunches and impromptu strolls. And packing for vacations would be much simpler: no more playing chemist in the bathroom, siphoning lotion into teeny travel bottles that inevitably begin leaking somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. “This is a game changer,” my brother declared from a beach chair as he rubbed an arm with a Doctor T’s Supergoop! SPF 30+ Sunscreen Swipe. Goodbye, messy lotions that turn his olive skin Kabuki white. I liked Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s
Pow Powerful Sun Protection SPF 30 tow towelettes because they felt dampe After all, another advantage per. tha sunscreen wipes have over lothat tio is that they’re refreshing. One tion me member of our sunbathing party eve used a Shady Wipes Daily even Sun Protection wipe with SPF 30 to whisk away sweat as we departed the beach. If you prefer, you can get your tan from a wipe instead of the sun. But ﬁrst, some advice on use: I found that unfolding the wipe, slowly dragging it up your leg (think “paint the fence” from “The Karate Kid”) and then going over it again in a circular motion (“wax on, wax off”) works best. Also: squeeze a dollop of body lotion on your hands ﬁrst to prevent tanning your ﬁngertips. The best brand will depend on your skin color. I’m fair, and Sonia Kashuk’s Sunless Tan Body towelettes in golden for Target gave my legs a pretty glow without turning them the color of Tang. There are four wipes in a pack (for $9.99), and I used one for each leg. (That adds up, Ms. Kashuk: please put more in the box.) L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes for Body in medium dried darker. Being pale, I anticipated a “catanstrophe.” Yet after a shower the color was lovely: slightly browner than the Kashuk and, at $7.99 for six wipes at Drugstore.com and Amazon, cheaper, too. Facial wipes, intended to remove makeup, have also become common, offered by brands like Philosophy, MAC, the Body Shop and Ole Henriksen. Be cautious if you have sensitive skin, though. Even wipes claiming to be gentle stung my eyes. And my nose. Towelettes meant to smell of fruit often smell like candy or dessert liqueur. One night I emerged from the bathroom smelling like SweeTarts. Another night I climbed into bed smelling like a Creamsicle. A third evening, I was indistinguishable from limoncello. Comodynes Make-Up Remover for all skin types was an exception. Made in Barcelona, it smells fresh and didn’t irritate my skin. Inspired, I also tried Comodynes Easy Peeling New Face Effect wipes, to exfoliate. Never mind whether that accomplished anything. Tiny
rough bumps all over the wipe felt invigorating, like a massage. The company also makes wipes to apply self-tanner. Other wipes that didn’t chafe my skin include Neutrogena’s Night Calming Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes and Biore’s Makeup Removing Towelettes. Body wipes also tend to smell strange and can be reminiscent of the ones used on babies. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the futuristic-sounding Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories Power Shower Refreshing Wipes. The package says the wipes are for people — and gym equipment. I was unenthused about cleaning myself with a product also meant for a StairMaster, but I can’t argue with the results. One Saturday, I slicked on a Ms. & Mrs. Deodorant Towelette, a reﬁll for the brand’s diminutive emergency kits. I’m giving the wipe a passing grade considering it was 88 degrees and no one recoiled from me. Was it as effective as a rollon, stick or spray? No. In a pinch, though, it beats the alternative. The Ms. & Mrs. brand makes other wipes, all of which come in shiny silver packets so you won’t mistake them for the no-frills wipes of yesteryear (though you might mistake them for condoms). I also tried the brand’s nail polish remover. A thick wipe slightly bigger than a stick of gum easily erased several coats of polish, making it ideal for tropical getaways and on-the-go touch-ups. When shopping for wipes, check the labels if you want to avoid brands that were tested on animals or contain paraben preservatives. Also, many wipes are not biodegradable; some that are include Josie Maran and Yes to Carrots. Wipe packs cost anywhere from $3 to $34. Whether they’re a smart buy depends on how many you use and how often (you’d need scores of sunscreen wipes to protect every inch of yourself all summer). You’ll typically get more for your buck with a bottle. Will I be packing wipes when I travel? You bet. Will I suddenly begin keeping a supply on hand to wipe away life’s messier moments? Nah. Sometimes it’s good to get a little sand in your hair.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1- 7, 2011
Doctors Hone Message on Kidney Disease By JANE E. BRODY
patient with early-stage kidney disease provided a recent wake-up call for Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, a leading kidney specialist. After explaining the diagnosis in great detail, the doctor asked his patient to repeat what he had heard in his own words. With a rather bored look on his face, the man said, “Kidney disease, yada yada yada yada.” Dr. Vassalotti, a nephrologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and chief medical ofﬁcer of the National Kidney Foundation, was stunned. It was hardly the ﬁrst time he had explained kidney disease to one of his patients, and he thought he knew how to help them recognize its seriousness and to motivate them to do what they could to forestall the day when their kidneys failed and dialysis or a transplant would be the only option for survival. “I learned a lot from this patient,” Dr. Vassalotti told me. “Clearly my explanation was not pitched correctly to ﬁt his level of understanding and his attitude toward his health.” Twenty-six million Americans have chronic kidney disease, which has a number of causes — most often diabetes and high blood pressure. As the kidneys begin to fail, the body’s waste products build up in the bloodstream, leading to anemia, nerve damage, heart disease and other ailments. As with heart disease and diabetes, avoiding these complications depends heavily on how well patients care for themselves. But the disease is symptomless, at least in the early stages, and many patients fail to appreciate that they are gradually heading toward a precipice.
The medical profession has been trying harder in recent years to communicate better with patients, but clearly there are serious impediments. Doctors are grappling with shortage of time and lack of training on how best to get needed information and advice across in terms that patients can hear and understand. Too often, doctors speak in medicalese, a foreign language to their patients. Or they may be reluctant to place all the cards on the table, concerned that patients may become so fearful they fail to hear important information. Unlike Dr. Vassalotti, some doctors never ask patients what they understood. Medicare now reimburses for educating patients with relatively advanced kidney disease, but not for those in the early stages. Many Careless Patients Communication is a two-way street, however, and patients with chronic kidney disease also are contributing to its failure in several ways. Many lack health literacy. Unable to understand even simpliﬁed medical terms, they may misinterpret what a doctor tells them or forget it entirely. They may be too intimidated to ask questions or request a clariﬁcation. They may regard all medical matters to be the doctor’s purview. Or they may be fatalists who assume whatever will be, will be. What kidney patients do, and don’t do, can make a huge difference in the quality and length of their lives. Whether they follow through on medical advice depends heavily on what they know about their disease and what can make matters better or worse, Dr. Vassalotti said in an interview. In a study published in March in The American Journal of Kidney Disease, a research team at Vanderbilt University
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Medical Center in Nashville uncovered serious knowledge gaps among 401 patients with various stages of the disease. The team, headed by Dr. Kerri L. Cavanaugh, a nephrologist, pointed out that within the general population, most people with kidney disease don’t know they have it. And among those who do know, a previous study of 676 patients with moderate to advanced kidney disease had found that more than a third knew little or nothing about it and nearly half knew nothing about treatment options should their kidneys fail completely. Participants in the Vanderbilt study were being treated at the university’s nephrology clinic for chronic kidney disease. They ranged in age from 46 to 68; 53 percent were men, 83 percent were white and 94 percent had completed high school or higher. More than half had seen a nephrologist at least three times in the past year, and 17 percent had attended a kidney education session. When asked whether they had chronic kidney disease, however, more than a third answered “no.” The 28-question survey revealed that only about one in ﬁve knew that protein in the urine was a sign of poor kidney function and that kidney disease often progresses without causing any symptoms. Only two in ﬁve knew that controlling blood sugar is important in kidney disease, although more than 90 percent knew it is important to control blood pressure. The usual lack of symptoms as kidney disease progresses is especially critical
for patients to understand, because many fail to seek medical care or follow medical recommendations when they feel well. Dr. Julie Anne Wright, an author of the Vanderbilt study, said that it “highlights the need for providers to ensure that communication is not only delivered but understood by all parties involved.” What to Remember Here is what everyone with chronic kidney disease and those at increased risk of developing it should know. ¶ There are four main risk factors for kidney disease: diabetes, high blood pressure, age over 60, and a family history of the disease. Anyone with these risk factors should have a test of kidney function at least once a year, Dr. Vassalotti said. Members of certain ethnic groups are also at higher than average risk: African-Americans, Hispanics, Paciﬁc Islanders and Native Americans. ¶ Two simple, relatively inexpensive tests, easily done during a routine doctor visit, can detect declining kidney function: a blood test called eGFR (for estimated glomerular ﬁltration rate, a measure of kidney function) and urine albumin, which shows whether the kidneys are spilling protein. ¶ Early detection can delay progression to kidney failure, when dialysis or transplant is the only option. Good control of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body weight can delay the loss of kidney function. Not smoking and getting regular physical activity and sleep are also important. ¶ Certain drugs and dyes are toxic to the kidneys and should be avoided by people with kidney disease. The drugs include painkillers like acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen; laxatives and antacids that contain magnesium and aluminum (Mylanta and Milk of Magnesia); ulcer drugs like Tagamet and Zantac; decongestants like Sudafed; enemas that contain phosphorus (Fleet); and Alka-Seltzer, which is high in salt. Contrast dyes used for certain tests, like angiograms and some M.R.I.’s, can also be harmful to kidney patients. ¶ When kidney disease progresses, patients can develop symptoms like changes in urination; swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, hands or face; fatigue; skin rashes and itching; a metallic taste in the mouth; nausea and vomiting; shortness of breath; feeling cold even when it is warm; dizziness and trouble concentrating; and back or leg pain. If any of these occur, they should be brought to a doctor’s attention without delay.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Circumcise or Don’t? Quandary for Parents By RONI CARYN RABIN
efore giving birth to her ﬁrst son three years ago, Allison Manley, now 40, gave a lot of thought to childbirth (she wanted a drug-free delivery), diapers (cloth), vaccines (spaced out) and breast-feeding (absolutely). But she did not think much about circumcision, and she went along with her obstetrician’s recommendation to have her son circumcised. In recent years, however, the routine, nontherapeutic circumcision of infant boys has become the subject of proposed legislation, public debate and considerable controversy. Opponents say circumcision is an unnecessary operation to remove a healthy body part and often call it “genital mutilation.” At the same time, new medical evidence, mostly from Africa, suggests that circumcision may reduce a man’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including H.I.V., from a female partner. So what’s a parent to do? Three weeks ago, after Ms. Manley gave birth to her second boy, she and her husband were in a quandary. “We really grappled with the decision,” said Ms. Manley, who owns a design ﬁrm with her husband in Chicago. The couple ultimately decided to circumcise their second boy, as they had the ﬁrst. But doubts persist. “If we had to do it all over again, we probably would have left them both uncircumcised,” she said. “We tend toward thinking that less is more — the fewer medical interventions, the better.” More and more parents are starting to think seriously about whether to circumcise their newborn boys. And many of them are ﬁnding that it’s a question without easy answers, not least because guidance from many leading medical organizations has been equivocal. Although rates have declined in recent years, well over half of all boys born in American hospitals undergo the pro-
cedure. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine neonatal circumcision, saying its medical beneﬁts — including a slightly lower risk of urinary tract infections early in life, a lower risk of rare penile cancer and a lower risk of sexually transmitted infections later — are meager. “There’s no compelling medical reason to do it,” said Dr. Douglas S. Diekema, a member of the academy’s task force on circumcision. “There’s also no compelling reason that it’s not a valid choice for families to make.” “There are some small beneﬁts,” he added, “and these need to be weighed against the risks.” The academy has been in the process of updating its recommendation on the subject for several years. Meanwhile, the debate has moved into high gear. Opponents say parents should be informed that even though the surgery is considered very safe, any medical procedure carries potential risks. Botched operations can result in permanent damage to, or even amputation of, parts of the penis. Anesthesia is not always used, and in very rare cases, babies die following circumcision — some 117 boys each year, by one estimate. Circumcision “is not necessary, it’s invasive and it’s risky,” said Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, an advocacy group based in Tarrytown, N.Y., that opposes routine circumcision. She notes that the sensitive foreskin is laced with nerves and blood vessels and protects the head of the penis. Yet public health ofﬁcials are mulling whether to actively encourage neonatal circumcision as part of a long-term strategy to curb the spread of AIDS in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be releasing new recommendations on routine circumcision in the “near future,” a spokesman said. The new recommendations will take into account data from clinical trials in South
Africa, Kenya and Uganda, which found that adult men who were circumcised were less likely than those who were not to have been infected by an H.I.V.-positive female sex partner. Circumcision reduced their risk of infection between 55 percent and 76 percent over a two-year period. Researchers also have found that circumcised men are less likely to infect their female partners with the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is linked to cervical cancer in women. “What we’ve found is that male circumcision is protective against a wider range of infections than we previously thought, including reducing the risk of acquiring herpes, though it’s not 100 percent protective,” said Maria Wawer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The mucosal layers under the foreskin are a prime target for the entry of viruses, particularly H.I.V.” But critics say the AIDS epidemic in Africa is very different from the one in the United States. A majority of American men with H.I.V. or AIDS were infected through sexual contact with other men, not women, and circumcision does not appear to reduce infection risk for men who have sex with men. “Heterosexual transmission is a small piece of the pie” in the United States, said Dr. Robert Van Howe, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Michigan State University. In any case, he noted, adult men in this country already have “one of the highest rates of circumcision of Western countries.” Then there is the question of cost. While circumcision is usually covered by private insurance, nearly 20 state Medicaid programs have dropped coverage of the procedure in their efforts to trim their budgets. Medicaid covers nearly half of all births in the United States. The cost of newborn circumcision while the baby is in the hospital is relatively low, between $200 and $400, but even that may be a burden for young or low-income parents.
“This is a time in the life cycle when people don’t have a lot of money, so having the procedure paid for makes a big difference in their decision making,” said Arleen A. Leibowitz, professor emeritus of public affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles. For parents who may be making a decision on circumcision, here is some advice: PLAN AHEAD A decision about circumcision should be part of your birthing plan. Take time to research the pros and cons so you can make a dispassionate decision, and make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Think carefully before announcing the decision to family and friends; opinions on the subject can be surprisingly strong. FORGOING CIRCUMCISION If you are breaking with family tradition, seek out a supportive pediatrician who can provide guidance on hygiene, knows about normal development of the foreskin, and has experience dealing with infections and inﬂammations (and will not immediately suggest circumcision if these problems occur). It is normal for a boy’s foreskin not to retract fully until he is older, and a small percentage of children will develop an inﬂammation of the foreskin called balanitis, said Dr. Edmond T. Gonzales Jr., chief of the pediatric urology service at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. The foreskin may also produce oily secretions that make parents nervous but are not abnormal, he said. CHOOSING THE PROCEDURE Approach the surgery as you would any other operation. Inquire about the surgeon’s experience with newborn circumcisions, and ask whether anesthesia will be used and how to treat postoperative pain. Circumcision can be delayed for a medically frail or premature infant. Follow postoperative care instructions carefully and seek medical attention for excessive bleeding or other complications.
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The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
21 SCIENCE / TECH
Team Claims It Has Found Oldest Fossils By NICHOLAS WADE
team of Australian and British geologists have discovered fossilized, single-cell organisms that are 3.4 billion years old and that the scientists say are the oldest known fossils on earth. Their assertion, if sustained, conﬁrms the view that life evolved on earth surprisingly soon after the Late Heavy Bombardment, a reign of destruction in which waves of asteroids slammed into the primitive planet, heating the surface to molten rock and boiling the oceans into an incandescent mist. The bombardment, which ended around 3.85 billion years ago, would have sterilized the earth’s surface of any incipient life. The claim is also a new volley in a long-running conﬂict over who has found the oldest fossil. The new microfossils are described in Sunday’s issue of Nature Geoscience by a team led by David Wacey of the University of Western Australia and Martin D. Brasier of the University of Oxford. The fossils were found in sandstone at the base of the Strelley Pool rock formation in Western Australia. The sandstone, 3.4 billion years ago, was a beach on one of the few islands that had started to appear above the ocean’s surface. Conditions were very different from those of today. The moon orbited far closer to earth, raising huge tides. The atmosphere was full of methane, since plants had not yet evolved to provide oxygen, and greenhouse warming from the methane had heated the oceans to the temperature of a hot bath. It was in these conditions, the geologists believe, that organisms resembling today’s bacteria lived in the crevices between the pebbles on the beach. Examining thin slices of rock under the microscope, they have found structures that look like living cells, some in clusters that seem to show cell division. Cell-like structures in ancient rocks can be deceiving — many have turned out to be artifacts formed by nonbiological processes. In this case, the geologists have gathered considerable circumstantial evidence that the structures they see are biological. With an advanced new technique, they have analyzed the composition of very small spots within the cell-like structures. “We can see carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus, all within the cell walls,”
Dr. Brasier said. Crystals of fool’s gold, an iron-sulfur mineral, lie next to the microfossils and indicate that the organisms, in the absence of oxygen, fed off sulfur compounds, Dr. Brasier and his colleagues say. Microfossils — the cell-like structures found in ancient rocks — have become a highly contentious ﬁeld, both because of the pitfalls in proving that they are truly biological and because the scientiﬁc glory of having found the oldest known fossil has led to pitched battles between rival claimants. The honor of having found the most ancient microfossil has been long been held by J. W. Schopf, a paleobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1993, Dr. Schopf reported his discovery of fossils 3.465 billion years old in the Apex chert of the Warrawoona Group in Western Australia, about 20 miles from where the new fossils have been found. Those would be some 65 million years older than the new ﬁnd, but Dr. Schopf’s claim was thrown in doubt in 2002 when Dr. Brasier attacked his ﬁnding, saying the fossils were not biological but just mineral artifacts. With the new discovery, Dr. Brasier has dropped the second shoe, claiming to ﬁnd microfossils that are or may be the oldest known, if and when Dr. Schopf’s are knocked out of the running. The Nature Geoscience article published on Sunday does not claim discovery of the earth’s oldest microfossils. That assertion was made in a press release issued by the University of Oxford, where Dr. Brasier is a professor in the department of earth sciences. Dr. Brasier said the article submitted to Nature Geoscience had made such a claim, but the reviewers questioned the advisability of doing so, and the senior author, Dr. Wacey, “decided to acquiesce on
this particular point.” Dr. Schopf did not respond to an e-mail seeking his comments. “Bill Schopf still very strongly defends his original claim, and is working to validate it,” said Roger Buick, an earth scientist at the University of Washington. Dr. Buick said there was no consensus on Dr. Schopf’s microfossils, but that “the majority opinion is that they are probably not biological and probably not as old as claimed.” The team led by Dr. Wacey and Dr. Brasier has made a “pretty good case,” Dr. Buick said, because the many different analytic techniques they have used “lend credence to the argument in a way that many other previously reported discoveries of particularly ancient microfossils have not.” Does that mean the new microfossils are the oldest known? “If these are valid, and if we discount the Schopf microfossils, these would be the oldest known, though not by much,” Dr. Buick said. Rocks older than 3.5 billion years
have been so thoroughly cooked as to destroy all cellular structures, but chemical traces of life can still be detected. Chemicals indicative of life have been reported in rocks 3.5 billion years old in the Dresser Formation of Western Australia and, with less certainty, in rocks 3.8 billion years old in Greenland. “This struggle to be the owner of the world’s oldest microfossils is really not the crux of the battle for understanding the early development of life anymore,” Dr. Buick said. Andrew H. Knoll, an earth scientist at Harvard, said in a brief e-mail from a Moscow airport that the researchers had not proved their point that the fossils, when alive, fed on sulfur compounds. But he did not take sides on the dispute between Dr. Brasier and Dr. Schopf. Dr. Buick said: “You’ve got to realize how divisive this microfossil war has been over the last decade. Most people just want it to be over. If claim and counterclaim go back and forth for a decade, it sounds like we don’t know what we’re doing.”
Tracking the Movement of Ice Across Antarctica By SINDYA N. BHANOO
new map of Antarctica illustrates for the ﬁrst time how ice moves across the continent. The map’s creators believe it may be a crucial tool in helping researchers understand how a warming climate is changing the continent. The creation of the digital map was supported by NASA and combines data gathered from 2007 to 2009 by satellites belonging to the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. “It’s a unique collaboration with each satellite contributing different skills and mapping different parts of the continent,” said Eric Rignot, an Earth system scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study’s lead author.
The Japanese satellite, for instance, was useful in mapping fast ice motion over coastal Antarctica, he said. Dr. Rignot, along with his colleagues Jeremie Mouginot and Bernd Scheuchl, also of U.C. Irvine, describe the map in the current issue of the journal Science. Before their effort, vast portions of East Antarctica, which accounts for 77 percent of the continent, remained unmapped, Dr. Rignot said. According to the ﬁndings, an intricate pattern of organized ice ﬂow connects the interior regions of the continent with its coast. This ﬂow is largely caused by sheets of ice sliding on rocky beds, the researchers report. “It’s really the ﬁrst time we get to see what ice motion looks like over the whole continent,” Dr. Rignot said. ”Before, we just had models of what we thought it looked like.”
Sept. 1 - 7 2011
The San Juan Weekly Star
My Husband Is Now My Wife By DIANE DANIEL
HE alarm sounded at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday last November. My husband and I had been told to arrive two hours early, as if for a ﬂight. My eyelids were puffy from the night before, when he had held me and said he was sorry, so very sorry. I’d wept without warning after dinner because I would not see his face again, his perfectly average face with a sizable nose and weak chin, the face I’d held and kissed and been happy to greet for eight years. “Do you still have your wedding ring on?” I asked. “They said to take it off.” We’d married in our 40s, both for the ﬁrst time, our independent lives blending seamlessly. “Oops, yes.” He twisted the ring off his slender ﬁnger, and I placed it in a beaded box on my dresser. We’d bought the box on Bali, one of our many adventures. On that trip we shared crazy-hot meals, hiked up volcanic mountains and stayed in a grungy room that housed a large lizard, a fact my considerate mate did not reveal until we checked out. My protector, my pal, my prince. Here we were again, exploring new territory, headed to a place where we knew a few customs and words but were not ﬂuent. As he backed out of the driveway, I thought of the checklist and asked, “You didn’t drink water, did you?” “What do you mean?” “The pre-op instructions. How much did you drink?” “About half a cup,” he confessed. “Unbelievable,” I huffed. We rode in silence, anger masking my fear. I focused on my breathing, on letting my affection return like a ripple moving toward the shore. “What are you feeling, hon?” I put a hand on his leg, returned to the person I usually am with him. “Stupid for not reading the directions.” “Better than feeling afraid.” We were told the operation could last seven hours and recovery several more, so I came prepared, as on a trip, packing my laptop, phone, magazines, a blanket and a pillow. He checked in, and a nurse led us to a room where she checked his vitals, all excellent. His water transgression was deemed acceptable. “He” checked in. “His” transgression. Still, on this day, when my husband would take his ﬁrst surgical step into womanhood, I continued to say “him,” “his” and “he,” even though our therapist had suggested for months that I use female pronouns at home. “I will when I need to,” I’d told her on our last visit. “But for now he’s still a man to me.” I’d turned to my husband, dressed in jeans and a black button-down shirt. “When I look at you, hon, I see a man.” “But she’s a woman,” our therapist countered, her words slicing through my denial. “Not to me,” I said with wet eyes. I crossed my arms like a willful child. “I can accept that he’ll become a woman, but he’s still a man now. How do you feel, hon? Do you really feel like you’re a woman now?” “I’ve told you before, yes, I feel like a woman,” he said with an apologetic look.
And so the time when I “need to” had arrived. We were at the hospital for facial feminization surgery, a not uncommon procedure in male-to-female transitions, in which a surgeon carves out a more femininely proportioned version of a male face. In my husband’s case, this meant higher eyebrows, a smaller nose and a more pronounced chin. A few months later, his Adam’s apple would be shaved down and he would receive breast implants. Genital surgery would follow. Already, estrogen had narrowed and softened his face, and the alterations would be slight, the surgeon said. His wide blue eyes would not change, nor would his highenough cheekbones or soft lips. Our history of openness, affection and trust had kept me believing that our relationship would survive, even thrive. I never felt my husband had deceived me, as some friends suggested. He had told me early on that he was ambivalent about his maleness but had made peace with it. Having conﬂicted feelings about men myself, the macho sort, I hadn’t realized the depth of his confusion. It wasn’t until we were married that my husband, ﬁnally feeling loved, admitted to himself that he was transsexual. That he was, inside, a woman. That he did not want to be the man I married. Stunned and wounded, I located a therapist, read transgender books, found support online and conﬁded in the lone friend I entrusted with my secret. My husband and I continued to talk, to love. Over time I came to believe that my husband, as my wife, would be in most ways the same person: intelligent, compassionate, mature, with the same slim build. I’d had a relationship with a woman in my early 20s, so living as a lesbian was agreeable enough, though I mourned the societal ease we would lose. In the pre-op room, I pulled my chair toward my husband’s gurney. He was sitting up, shoulders stooped, feet hanging over the side. I buried my head in his chest. The curtain moved and his surgeon appeared. “Good morning,” she said cheerily. Seeing her outside her ofﬁce jarred me. Surgery was no longer a plan, but an event. I started to cry — softly, politely — though I wanted to wail and sob. How do you grieve for someone you’ve lost but who is still there? She took a surgical marker from her pocket and sat opposite my husband to draw black dots on his chin, nose and forehead. When she was ﬁnished, he looked like a warrior. She left us alone, and I took his hand in mine, my eyes now dry while his ﬁlled with tears. “What’s going on, hon?” I asked. “I’m sorry for all the pain I’m causing you.” Tears smudged the dots under his nose and rolled down his face. “I know why I’m doing all this, but it’s just crazy, isn’t it?” he said. “And I regret all the years I felt so isolated. I wonder what I missed.” “Try to focus on the courage you’re showing by doing this at all.” The nurse returned. “It’s time to go. Your husband will be ﬁne,” she added with a smile. The outpatient waiting room was crowded with people
anxious to hear about their families, friends, lovers. As I do on airplanes, I took a window seat. I saw that the day had dawned gray and rainy, with gusts of wind. I overheard conversations about heart attacks, cancer, hip replacements, but nothing about gender transitions. Starting today, I would be a minority, an oddity: the wife of a transsexual woman. The notion exhausted me. I passed the hours reading and e-mailing updates to the small circle of family and friends who knew about the operation. Our ofﬁcial “coming out” e-mail would be sent the following week. The surgeon, all smiles, stopped by to let me know everything had gone smoothly. A few hours later, a nurse took me to my wife, to her — those terms I must start saying. Her bruised face was compressed with bandages while another strip of gauze was taped under her nose. She was groggy and hurting. “After he eats a little something, we’ll give him pain pills,” a nurse said. “Could you say ‘she’?” I asked gently. Two hours later, as the sun set, we headed home. I’d reclined her seat, propped my pillow under her head, and laid my blanket over her. I drove carefully, placing my hand on her knee whenever I could. WHEN we reached the house, I asked if she minded staying in the car while I tended to the pets, knowing our entrance would be chaotic otherwise. She nodded yes. The house was warm, but I turned the heat up to make it toasty. I imagined my life if the person in the car didn’t exist. Easier, but empty. I returned and roused my dozing partner, spouse, wife. We shufﬂed inside and into our bedroom, which I’d stocked with her medications, ice bags and gauze. I maneuvered her under the covers and ﬂuffed her pillows. I took her wedding band from the beaded box and slipped it over her ﬁnger. It was 7 p.m. and dark. The post-op instructions advised patients to sleep alone to protect their noses from thrashing arms, but we could not imagine being apart on this night. I placed a sleeping bag on my side of the bed and zipped myself in. Every few hours I’d get up to hand my ﬁtfully sleeping spouse more ice packs, pills, water. We’d been in bed almost 12 hours when a gray light ﬁlled the room. Still under our covers, we were warm and safe. Soon enough, we would face the world. I pulled my right arm from the sleeping bag and took my partner’s hand. We stayed like that, side by side, until the sun rose on our ﬁrst day in this foreign land.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Camuy River Cavern
amuy is known as “La Ciudad Romántica” (romantic city) and “La Ciudad del Sol Taíno” (city of the Taino sun). The town was founded in 1807, when it was disassociated from Arecibo by Petrolina Matos. It is said that Camuy derives its name from a word used by the Indians “camuy”, which means sun, at the same time others think that it was the name that the Indians gave to the river that crossed this region. If you take only one sightseeing trip from San Juan, this should be it. From Arecibo, on the north shore, go southwest along Route 129 to the Río Camuy Cave Park. This
incredible 268-acre park is the site of the great subterranean caverns carved out by the Camuy River over one million years ago. The impeccably maintained trails gently descend 200 feet through a fern ﬁlled ravine to the yawning, cathedral-like caverns. The caves are home to a unique species of ﬁsh that is totally
blind. To visit this pristine site is to be transported to another, hidden world. Rio Camuy Cave Park is the third-largest cave system in the world. Sixteen entranced have been found and 11 kilometers (7 miles) of passages explored so far. One special attraction is the Cueva Clara, which measures 695 feet (210m) in length. The park is equipped with picnic areas, walking trails, food facilities, and exhibition hall and a souvenir shop, making it the perfect place to spend a day. Reservations are essential, as this place is understandably popular. Open Wednesdays through Sundays and holidays; 8am to 4pm. For infor-
mation call: (787) 898-3100 or (787) 763-0568. Camuy territory is mostly ﬂat because the city it is located on the Valley of Quebradillas, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, north of Lares; east of Quebradillas; and west of Hatillo. Its rivers are: Cibao and Camuy.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 -7, 2011
36 Hours in Downtown Manhattan By SETH KUGEL
NE WORLD TRADE CENTER is rising, and the 9/11 Memorial will open right below it next month on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Although progress on the World Trade Center site has been slow, the surrounding neighborhoods did not wait to revive (and in some cases reinvent themselves) after all the emotional and economic devastation. The ﬁnancial district is bustling, Chinatown is as quirky and enticing as ever, and TriBeCa is bursting with new restaurants, bars and hotels. With the exception of those seeking a night of relentless club-hopping, travelers hardly need venture north of Canal Street for a complete New York weekend. Friday 2 p.m. 1) CRUISING THE HARBOR Been there (Liberty and Governors Islands) and done that (taken the free Staten Island Ferry)? There are other options for harbor cruises, and what better way to get an overview of Lower Manhattan? One possibility is a 90-minute sail on the Clipper City tall ship, a replica of a 19th-century lumber-hauling schooner (Manhattan by Sail; 800-544-1224; manhattanbysail.com), which departs from the South Street Seaport. Another is a one-hour harbor cruise with Statue Crui-
ses (201-604-2800; statuecruises.com). The company will soon launch its Hornblower Hybrid, which relies on several power sources, including hydrogen fuel cells, solar panels and wind turbines. 4 p.m. 2) SUGAR AND SOAP Venture to TriBeCa for a treat at Duane Park Patisserie (179 Duane Street; 212-274-8447; duaneparkpatisserie.com, lemon tarts, $5; “magic cupcakes,” $4) on the shady pocket park it’s named after. Then wander into the nearby shops, ranging from the cute to the serious. At Lucca Antiques (182 Duane Street; 212-343-9005; luccaantiques.com) the owners salvage old wood and metal objects from Europe and brilliantly reformulate them into modern furniture, lamps and wall décor. Torly Kid (51 Hudson Street; 212-406-7440; torlykid. com) has funkily functional clothes for babies to tweens. At the Working Class Emporium (168 Duane Street; 212-941-1199; workingclassinc.com),
a shop, you can buy quirky gifts like three-dimensional puzzles and soap shaped like dogs. 6:30 p.m. 3) BANKERS’ HAPPY HOUR If you resent investment bankers’ salaries and bonuses, then here’s something else to be envious of: the cobblestone stretch of Stone Street. What might be New York’s greatest outdoor drinking spot happens to be right next to Goldman Sachs’s former headquarters. When it’s warm, this quaint block, lined with 19th-century Greek Revival buildings, is practically blocked by tables occupied by ﬁnancial types, a few sundry locals and knowledgeable tourists. Choose a table outside Adrienne’s Pizzabar (212-248-3838; 54 Stone Street; adriennespizzabar.com) and order a meatball and broccoli rabe pizza ($28.50), enough for three people; a bottle of wine starts at a few dollars more. 10 p.m. 4) THE ANTI-COPA Midtown’s Copacabana recently reopened, bringing some throwback
ﬂash to New York’s music scene. But for throwback grit, try the Friday night party at 2020 (20 Warren Street; 212-962-9759; 2020latinclub.com), where Latinos working in every kind of downtown job come to dance to the D.J.-supplied rhythms of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Saturday 10:30 a.m. 5) BUENOS AIRES BRUNCH Under one form or another, the restaurateur Stacey Sosa has run an Argentine restaurant in this cool space in TriBeCa since 1997. And though brunch at Estancia 460 (212-431-5093; 460 Greenwich Street; estancia460. wordpress.com) is very New York, with frittatas, granola and some innovative egg dishes, there are ﬂashes of Buenos Aires, like French toast with dulce de leche. (Brunch for two about $30.) Noon 6) MANAHATTA Most people don’t put the Smithsonian on their New York must-do list. But the National Museum of the American Indian (212-514-3700; nmai. si.edu), in the Beaux Arts splendor of the old Customs House near Battery Park, is a reminder that Manhattan and the rest of the Western Hemisphere has a long and vibrant cultural history. The Inﬁnity of Nations exhibition has everything from a macaw and heron feather headdress from Brazil to a hunting hat with ivory carvings from
The San Juan Weekly Star the Arctic. To get an up-close view of a wampum belt and corn pounder used by the Lenape Indians, who called the island Manahatta, head to the museum’s resource center and ask. The museum is free — not far from the price for which the Lenapes famously sold Manhattan to the Dutch. 2 p.m. 7) DOCTORAL DOWNTOWN Continue your historical education with a Big Onion tour. Downtown’s a complicated place, with layers upon layers of history: Dutch, African-American, Revolutionary and ﬁnancial, among others. It takes a doctoral candidate to decode it, and that is who will lead you on a two-hour $18 tour that might include “Historic TriBeCa,” “Revolutionary New York” or “The Financial District.” Times vary; see bigonion.com. 7 p.m. 8) WINE BY THE T-SHIRT At the wine bar Terroir Tribeca (24 Harrison Street; 212-625-9463; wineisterroir.com), the young servers dressed in wine-themed T-shirts don’t look as though they could know what they are talking about, but don’t get them started. (Actually, do get them started.) A glass of wine begins at $8.75, and the menu is full of temptations so nonstandard you can justify it: fried balls of risotto, wine and oxtail ($8), for example, is a perfect way to spend your allotment of deep-fried calories. 9 p.m. 9) SALVAGE AND BRUSCHETTA Who knows how many diners have walked out of Robert DeNiro and company’s Locanda Verde, the big northern Italian spot, and wondered
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
what was going on in the tiny, bustling restaurant across the street? Decked out with salvaged materials that evoke an old factory or warehouse, Smith and Mills (71 North Moore Street; 212-226-2515; smithandmills. com) seats 22 at tables shoehorned between the standing, drinking crowds. The menu includes tomato bruschetta, oysters with horseradish, burgers and brioche bread pudding; dinner for two
about $70, with drinks. One must-see: the bathroom, in a turn-of-the-century iron elevator. 11 p.m. 10) DRINKS ON DOYERS Head east to Chinatown, where Apotheke (9 Doyers Street; 212-406-0400; apothekenyc.com) is a non-Chinese intruder sitting on the
elbow of L-shaped Doyers Street, the spot known as the Bloody Angle for the gang-related killings there in the early 20th century. Here you’ll ﬁnd one of the city’s top cocktail bars, with throwback décor and dim lighting. Try the Deal Closer, made with cucumber, vodka, mint, lime and vanilla, along with “Chinatown aphrodisiacs” ($15). Sunday 8 a.m. 11) BROOKLYN BRIDGE CROSSING With the arrival of the dog days, you have to get up pretty early to walk across this beloved landmark in comfort. As romantic as ever, a walk along the elevated pedestrian walkway provides a photo opportunity a minute. On your way back, stop by City Hall Park to see four decades of Sol LeWitt’s sculptures, on display until Dec. 3. Then head west across Chambers Street to pick up bagels and smoked salmon from Zucker’s (146 Chambers Street; 212-608-5844; zuckersbagels.com). 12: 30 p.m. 12) IN MEMORIAM
On Sept. 12, the National September 11 Memorial opens, with its pair of one-acre reﬂecting pools in the footprints of the fallen towers, names of victims inscribed in bronze panels, and rustling swamp white oak trees overhead. An onsite museum, which opens in September 2012, will have exhibitions on the original World Trade Center and the day of the attacks. Visitors can reserve free passes at 911memorial.org. No pass is needed to visit the “Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero” exhibition at St. Paul’s Chapel nearby (209 Broadway; trinitywallstreet.org). St. Paul’s became a refuge for rescue workers in the days after the attacks. Now it houses photographs, testimonials and artifacts from those weeks after the city changed irrevocably. IF YOU GO The Greenwich Hotel (212-941-8900; 377 Greenwich Street; thegreenwichhotel.com), Robert DeNiro’s 2008 creation, has 88 individually designed rooms in the heart of TriBeCa. Free Internet and local phone calls, and for rooms starting at $495 a night, you actually get your choice of local newspaper. To keep it boutique but lower the rate, try Gild Hall (15 Gold Street; 212-232-7700; thompsonhotels.com), a member of the Thompson Hotels, where 12-foot ceilings and marble bathroom ﬂoors go for as little as $179 a night on weekends.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Surveys Indicate Slower Growth in China and Germany By JACK EWING and BETTINA WASSENER
urveys of industrial managers released Tuesday showed that growth could be slowing in China and Germany, raising questions about whether two of the world’s most dynamic economies could continue to underpin global output and compensate for weakness in the United States and the rest of Europe. The data do not yet point to a recession in the fragile euro zone, economists said, and indicate only a moderate cooling of torrid Chinese growth. And several analysts noted that the economic indicators were actually less negative than many had expected. Nonetheless, it has become increasingly clear that Europe cannot expect to grow its way out of the sovereign debt crisis, which has become a weight on the world economy. “A return to recession is possible,” Marie Diron, an economist who advises the consulting ﬁrm Ernst & Young, wrote in a note, referring to the European data. “This is bad news for governments’ ability to rein in public deﬁcits.” Germany has Europe’s most powerful economy, and has been helping the euro zone to grow despite the burden caused by excessive debt in countries like Greece and Italy. China is a crucial market for German machinery and cars, so a slowdown there will also be felt in Europe. While not expecting a recession, Violante Di Canossa, an analyst at Credit Suisse, wrote in a note that the data “remains consistent with sluggish growth.” She said that the industrial survey for Europe pointed to a slowdown similar to the one in 2003, when there were several quarters of
minimal economic improvement, rather than a sharp downturn. A survey of manufacturers in China showed Tuesday that factory activity had probably contracted slightly in August, as concerns mounted that the country’s exports might decline because of high debts and slowing economies in Europe and the United States. The ﬁndings underpin the widely held perception that the giant Chinese economy is growing at a more moderate, yet still robust, pace. The ﬁndings of the poll of Chinese purchasing managers, published by HSBC and with a ﬁnal ﬁgure due next week, showed a reading of 49.8 for August, a touch below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, as Beijing’s efforts to cool down the pace of growth began to bear fruit. For the past year and a half, Chinese policy makers have been working to rein in booming growth and the sharp price rises that have accompanied it. Formerly free-ﬂowing bank credit has become harder to obtain, for example, as banks have been instructed to lend less. Despite being below 50 for the second consecutive month, the HSBC index indicated that China’s economy remained on a ﬁrm footing. The August reading was an improvement from the 49.3 recorded in July, while a subindex measuring new export orders rose to a three-month high. The data suggest that China will not suffer a hard landing akin to the sharp slowdown seen in late 2008, Qu Hongbin, a China economist at HSBC, wrote in a note Tuesday. Meanwhile, a survey of purchasing managers’ expectations for output in the euro zone was unchanged at a nearly two-
year low, according to preliminary estimates, but was not as bad as analysts had expected. A separate poll of economists also showed a sharp deterioration in expectations for the euro zone and Germany. Ofﬁcial statistics last week showed that growth in the second quarter came nearly to a standstill in the euro zone as well as in Germany and France, the region’s two largest economies. Fear that Europe is headed for another slowdown, which would compound the sovereign debt crisis, was responsible for driving down stock markets last week. On Tuesday, by contrast, many of Europe’s main stock indexes gained for a second straight day. A preliminary reading of the euro zone P.M.I. composite output index, compiled by Markit, an information provider in London, was unchanged from July at 51.1. The euro zone manufacturing P.M.I., a gauge of the mood among manufacturers, fell to 49.7 from 50.4 in July, a 23-month low. A reading below 50 suggests that the economy is stalling. “This drop does not compare with the collapse seen in late 2008 after the failure of Lehman Brothers,” Christoph Weil, an economist at Commerzbank, wrote in a note. ���Nevertheless, the purchasing managers’ index does conﬁrm that the euro zone economy is hardly growing now.” Ms. Diron of Ernst & Young said the slowing growth exposed how vulnerable Europe and especially Germany were to foreign markets. The survey “suggests that core Eurozone countries are still very dependent on demand from the rest of the world,” Ms. Diron wrote. “At a time when the outlook for the U.S. economy is darkening and emerging markets are slowing, such a dependence on the external environment is a source of weakness.” Concerns about slowing growth in the United States and Europe, both important markets for goods made in China, have clouded the outlook for Chinese exporters. Rising wages across the country have also added to manufacturing costs, eroding some of the competitive advantage that China has long had over manufacturers in other parts of the world. “Debt crises in developed countries are bringing rising pressure and challenges to the vast emerging market countries, including China,” Jiang Yaoping, the Chinese deputy commerce minister, said in a
statement Tuesday. Mr. Qu of HSBC, however, emphasized that the drag on overall growth would probably be limited, given that China’s growth was increasingly driven by domestic demand. “We are still expecting the economy to grow by around 9 percent for the year as a whole, despite Beijing’s ongoing credit tightening at home and turmoil in markets overseas,” Mr. Qu wrote Tuesday. One consolation from the data is that they point to easing inﬂationary pressure at the same time that oil prices are declining. If inﬂation is less of a worry, the European Central Bank will not feel as compelled to continue raising ofﬁcial interest rates. In addition, the E.C.B. may ﬁnd it easier to sustain measures intended to support weaker banks and hold down borrowing costs for countries like Spain and Italy. Separately, the ZEW indicator of economic sentiment, a survey of analysts by the Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany, also showed a sharp drop in expectations for growth in the euro zone and Germany. “The fear of a recession in the United States together with the downgrade of the credit rating of U.S. bonds has further increased macroeconomic uncertainty,” the center said in a statement. The German central bank argued Monday that much of the recent deceleration in Germany and Europe was due to exceptional factors, like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that temporarily disrupted supplies of auto parts. The central bank said in its monthly bulletin that, although growth is clearly slowing, there was no evidence of a recession ahead. “All in all there are still many signs that the global recovery is intact and that growth in the coming year will be robust,” the central bank said. The data were released as investors remained skeptical whether European government leaders had a handle on the debt crisis. The ﬁnance ministers from France and Germany, François Baroin and Wolfgang Schäuble, met Tuesday in Paris to work out details of a European tax on ﬁnancial transactions. The tax reﬂects the leaders’ determination to make banks share the cost of the debt crisis, but may be ill timed given that investors worry another ﬁnancial crisis is in the making. Money market indicators show that banks are reluctant to lend to each other, because they fear for each others’ solvency.
The San Juan Weekly Star
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Laser Advances in Nuclear Fuel Stir Terror Fear By WILLIAM J. BROAD
cientists have long sought easier ways to make the costly material known as enriched uranium — the fuel of nuclear reactors and bombs, now produced only in giant industrial plants. One idea, a half-century old, has been to do it with nothing more substantial than lasers and their rays of concentrated light. This futuristic approach has always proved too expensive and difﬁcult for anything but laboratory experimentation. Until now. In a little-known effort, General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton. That might be good news for the nuclear industry. But critics fear that if the work succeeds and the secret gets out, rogue states and terrorists could make bomb fuel in much smaller plants that are difﬁcult to detect. Iran has already succeeded with laser enrichment in the lab, and nuclear experts worry that G.E.’s accomplishment might inspire Tehran to build a plant easily hidden from the world’s eyes. Backers of the laser plan call those fears unwarranted and praise the technology as a windfall for a world increasingly leery of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. But critics want a detailed risk assessment. Recently, they petitioned Washington for a formal evaluation of whether the laser initiative could backﬁre and speed the global spread of nuclear arms. “We’re on the verge of a new route to the bomb,” said Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist who advised President Bill Clinton and now teaches at Princeton. “We should have learned enough by now to do an assessment before we let this kind of thing out.” New varieties of enrichment are considered potentially dangerous because they can simplify the hardest part of building a bomb — obtaining the fuel. General Electric, an atomic pioneer and one of the world’s largest companies, says its initial success began in July 2009 at a facility just north of Wilmington, N.C., that is jointly owned with Hitachi. It is impossible to independently verify that claim because the federal government has classiﬁed the laser technology as top secret. But G.E. ofﬁcials say that the achievement is genuine and that they are accelerating plans for a larger complex at the Wilmington site. “We are currently optimizing the design,” Christopher J. Monetta, president of Global Laser Enrichment, a subsidiary of G.E. and Hitachi, said in an interview. The company foresees “substantial de-
mand for nuclear fuel,” he added, while conceding that global jitters from the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan “do create some uncertainty.” G.E. made those reactors. Donald M. Kerr, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons lab who was recently briefed on G.E.’s advance, said in an interview that it looked like a breakthrough after decades of exaggerated claims. Laser enrichment, he said, has gone from “an oversold, overpromised set of technologies” to what “appears to be close to a real industrial process.” For now, the big uncertainty centers on whether federal regulators will grant the planned complex a commercial license. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is weighing that issue and has promised G.E. to make a decision by next year. The Obama administration has taken no public stance on plans for the Wilmington plant. But President Obama has a record of supporting nuclear power as well as aggressive efforts to curtail the bomb’s spread. The question is whether those goals now conﬂict. The aim of enrichment is to extract the rare form of uranium from the ore that miners routinely dig out of the ground. The process is a little like picking through multicolored candies to ﬁnd the blue ones. The scarce isotope, known as uranium 235, amounts to just 0.7 percent of mined uranium. Yet it is treasured because it splits easily in two in bursts of atomic energy. If concentrations are raised (or enriched) to about 4 percent, the material can fuel nuclear reactors; to 90 percent, atom bombs. Enrichment is so difﬁcult that successful production is quite valuable. A pound of reactor fuel costs more than $1,000 — less
expensive than gold but more than silver. The Laser Race The ﬁrst laser ﬂashed to life in 1960. Soon after, scientists talked excitedly about using the innovation to shrink the size of enrichment plants, making them far cheaper to build and run. “It was in the air,” recalled Leonard R. Solon, a physicist who worked for a New York company that in early 1963 suggested the idea to the federal government. The plan was to exploit the extraordinary purity of laser light to selectively excite uranium’s rare form. In theory, the resulting agitation would ease identiﬁcation of the precious isotope and aid its extraction. At least 20 countries and many companies raced to investigate the idea. Scientists built hundreds of lasers. Ray E. Kidder, a laser pioneer at the Livermore nuclear arms lab, estimated that the overall number of scientists involved globally ran to several thousand. “It was a big deal,” he said in an interview. “If you could enrich with lasers, you could cut the cost by a factor of 10.” The fervor cooled by the 1990s as laser separation turned out to be extremely hard to make economically feasible. Not everyone gave up. Twenty miles southwest of Sydney, in a wooded region, Horst Struve and Michael Goldsworthy kept tinkering with the idea at a government institute. Finally, around 1994, the two men judged that they had a major advance. The inventors called their idea Silex, for separation of isotopes by laser excitation. “Our approach is completely different,” Dr. Goldsworthy, a physicist, told a Parliamentary hearing. An old black-and-white photograph of the sensitive technology — perhaps the only image of its kind in existence publicly — shows an array of pipes and low cabinets about the size of a small truck. ‘Game Changing’ Technique In May 2006, G.E. bought the rights to Silex. Andrew C. White, the president of the company’s nuclear business, hailed the technology as “game-changing.” Mr. Monetta of Global Laser Enrichment, the G.E.-Hitachi subsidiary, said the envisioned plant would enrich enough uranium annually to fuel up to 60 large reactors. In theory, that could power more than 42 million homes — about a third of all housing units in the United States. The laser advance, he added, will promote energy security “since it is a domestic source.” In late 2009, as G.E. experimented with its trial laser, supporters of arms control wrote Congress and the regulatory commission. The technology, they warned, posed a danger of quickening the spread of nuclear weapons
because of the likely difﬁculty of detecting clandestine plants. Experts called for a federal review of the risks. In early 2010, the commission resisted. Late last year, the American Physical Society — the nation’s largest group of physicists, with headquarters in Washington — submitted a formal petition to the commission for a rule change that would compel such risk assessments as a condition of licensing. “The issue is too big” to leave to the federal status quo, Francis Slakey, a physicist at Georgetown University and the society ofﬁcial who drafted the petition, said in an interview. He added that Mr. Obama or Congress might eventually have to get involved. This year, thousands of citizens, supporters of arms control, nuclear experts and members of Congress wrote the commission to back the society’s effort. Many of them cited well-known failures in safeguarding secrets and detecting atomic plants. But the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group in Washington, objected. It said new precautions were unnecessary because of voluntary plans for “additional measures” to safeguard secrets. A commission spokesman said the petition would be considered next year. In theory, the risk-assessment plan, if adopted, could slow or stop the granting of a commercial license for the proposed laser plant or could result in design improvements. A POSITIVE ASSESSMENT G.E., seizing the initiative, did an assessment of its own. It hired Dr. Kerr, the former director of Los Alamos and a former senior federal intelligence ofﬁcial, to lead the evaluation. He and two other former government ofﬁcials concluded that the laser secrets had a low chance of leaking and that a clandestine laser plant stood a high chance of being detected. “It’s a major industrial facility,” Dr. Kerr said of the planned Wilmington complex in an interview. “Our observation was this was not something that would sit in a garage or be easily hidden.” Global Laser Enrichment declined a request by The New York Times for a copy of the Kerr report. It said the document ran to seven pages. In the interview, Mr. Monetta, the company’s president, said the Kerr review had conﬁrmed that the laser complex would “not result in the proliferation of enrichment technology.” His position seemed to go beyond Dr. Kerr’s citing of likelihoods. Mr. Monetta added that the technical complexity and “signiﬁcant size” of the laser plant were major barriers to its covert adoption abroad.
Continues on page 28
28 Comes from page 27 Global Laser Enrichment plans to build its complex on more than 100 acres at the Wilmington industrial park, with the main building covering nearly 14 acres. That, like Iran’s main enrichment plant, is roughly half the size of the Pentagon. But critics say a clandestine bomb maker would need only a tiny fraction of that vast industrial ability — and thus could build a much smaller laser, perhaps like the modest apparatus in the old photograph. Each year, they note, the enrichment powers of the Wilming-
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Sept 1 - 7, 2011
ton plant would be great enough to produce fuel for more than 1,000 nuclear weapons. Iran began its laser program in the 1970s during the global rush. But it kept the results secret. The silence violated Iran’s agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, an arm of the United Nations that is based in Vienna and acts as the world’s nuclear police. The cover-up ended in early 2003. Soon, the I.A.E.A. learned of contracts, enrichment runs and even a prototype plant. Iran insisted that it dismantled the facility in May 2003 and dropped laser enrichment.
But then, out of the blue, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in February 2010 praised Iranian scientists for their “relentless efforts” to build lasers for uranium enrichment. Ever since, the I.A.E.A. has sought unsuccessfully to learn more. When experts cite possible harm from the commercialization of laser enrichment, they often point to Iran. The danger, they say, lies not only in pilfered secrets, but also in the public revelation that a half-century of laser failure seems to be ending. Their concern goes to the nature of invention. The demonstration of a new techno-
logy often begets a burst of emulation because the advance opens a new window on what is possible. Arms controllers fear that laser enrichment is now poised for that kind of activity. News of its feasibility could spur wide reinvestigation. Dr. Slakey of the American Physical Society noted that the State Department a dozen years ago warned that the success of Silex could “renew interest” in laser enrichment for good or ill — to light cities or destroy them. That moment, he said, now seems close at hand.
First Drop in Number of Problem U.S. Banks Since 2006 By ERIC DASH
he number of banks on the government’s list of institutions most at risk for failure fell in the second quarter, the ﬁrst drop since before the ﬁnancial crisis began. Twenty-three lenders came off the list of so-called problem banks during the second quarter, bringing the total to 865, according to data released Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Not all of the troubled lenders will inevitably fail, but the F.D.I.C. considers them most at risk, making the quarterly update one of the clearest measures of the banking industry’s health. It was the ﬁrst decrease in the number of problem banks since the third quarter of 2006. The report also contained other signs of improvement. There were 48 bank failures in the ﬁrst half of 2011, far fewer
than the 86 failures in the ﬁrst six months of 2010. Last year’s total of 157 collapsed banks was the highest level since the last severe recession in the early 1990s. And the F.D.I.C. insurance fund that protects the nation’s depositors showed a surplus for the ﬁrst time in two years. It stood at $3.9 billion, compared to a negative $1 billion balance at the end of the ﬁrst quarter. Still, the magnitude of problem banks — roughly one of every nine lenders — remains relatively high. And the number could rise again if the economy suffers another downturn — a prospect that seems increasingly likely amid all the grim data that has surfaced in the weeks since the list was compiled at the end of the June. Martin J. Gruenberg, the acting F.D.I.C. chairman, played down that risk in some of his ﬁrst public remarks since being nominated to run the agency in June. “Banks have continued to make gra-
dual but steady progress from the ﬁnancial turmoil and severe recession that unfolded from 2007 and 2009,” Mr. Gruenberg said in a statement. Beyond the drop in problem lenders, there were other signs that the industry is getting back on its feet. The nation’s 7,513 banks and savings institutions reported a total proﬁt of $28.8 billion in the second quarter, up nearly 38 percent from a year ago and the eighth straight quarter that earnings have increased. Bank losses are also easing and loan balances grew for the ﬁrst time since the second quarter of 2008. Bank losses continued to ease, while loan balances rose — albeit slightly — for the ﬁrst time since the second quarter of 2008. Much of the uptick in lending could be attributed to loans made to businesses as well as other ﬁnancial institutions. Real estate lending continued to be very weak. Total revenue fell for the second quarter in a row. Fee income declined as a re-
sult of more stringent regulations curbing overdraft charges and other penalty fees, while interest income was lower because of an increase of funds in low-yielding accounts at Federal Reserve banks. The pressure on revenue could get ratcheted up in the second half of the year if lending margins collapse in light of Fed’s recent pledge to keep interest rates near zero for the next two years. Meanwhile, the recent market turbulence stemming from the debt crises in Europe and the United States continues to weigh on the industry. Deposits increased by almost 3 percent during the second quarter, with the bulk of the cash ﬂooding accounts at the nation’s largest banks. “Recent events have reminded us that the U.S. economy and U.S. banks still face serious challenges ahead,” Mr. Gruenberg said in a statement. “The F.D.I.C. will remain alert to the challenges going forward.”
Sales of New Homes in U.S. Fell Again in July By CHRISTINE HAUSER
he housing market is showing little sign of recovery, with sales of new homes in the United States down again in July, according to the latest government data. Sales of new homes reached an annual rate of 298,000 in July, down from a rate in June that was revised to 300,000 from 312,000, the Census Bureau report said. The July ﬁgures fell short of analysts’ expectations for a rate of 310,000. The median sales price of a new home was $222,000 in July, also down from the previous month. The stock of new homes for sale at the end of July was 165,000, the lowest this year, and would last slightly more than six months at the current sales rate.
For months, most indicators of the housing market have suggested bleak conditions. The number of permits issued to builders of single-family houses has also declined. Patrick Newport, United States economist for IHS Global Insight, said that his company had forecast that sales of new homes would fall to a record low this year, 319,000, compared with 321,000 in 2010. “It has gotten worse for builders,” Mr. Newport said. “They are stuck in a market where they cannot sell new homes.” In addition, demand for new homes is stagnant despite record low mortgage interest rates, and competition from foreclosures continues to cloud the sector, said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR Inc.
“This suggests that prices will continue to edge lower at the bottom end of the market even as demand for these homes picks up a bit,” Mr. Shapiro said. The sales rate in July came close to the record low of 281,000 in February, and the level of inventories in recent months this year has been the lowest recorded since December 1967, he wrote in a research note. “We are just bouncing along the bottom,” Mr. Shapiro said in a telephone interview. “There is no indication out there that anything is improving. It is bouncing along at historic lows at this point.” Economists said it would take a turnaround in the American job market to return some vitality to the housing sector. “We need job growth but in conjunction
with that, housing prices have got to stop dropping,” Mr. Newport said. Still, one analyst said that the market was showing the potential to recover in the years ahead despite weakness in the monthly data. The analyst, Russell Price, a senior economist with Ameriprise Financial, noted that median and average prices were higher in July compared with a year ago. “Generally we are forming a base in the housing sector this year,” he said. “On aggregate, I think that conditions are solidifying at historically low levels. We are unlikely to go any further down.” Mr. Price said, “As the economy does recover, and you get less competition from foreclosure sales, the market is poised for a relatively solid rebound in the years ahead.”
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Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Sudoku How to Play: Fill in the empty ﬁelds with the numbers from 1 through 9 Click the “check sudoku” button to check your sudoku inputs Click the “new sudoku” button and select difﬁculty to play a new game
Sudoku Rules: Every row must contain the numbers from 1 through 9 Every column must contain the numbers from 1 through 9 Every 3x3 square must contain the numbers from 1 through 9
Answers on page 30
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Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
(Mar 21-April 20)
(Sep 24-Oct 23)
You are bound to be surprised at who takes your fancy. Trust your feelings, not people’s good advice and do not let anyone interfere with what you know to be true. Planetary alignments allow you to restructure your life. Patterns from the past, that held you back, can be ﬁnally binned and you will begin to feel that you have everything to live for.
Life is opening up all sorts of options for which you had not bargained. Do not dismiss your dreams and visions. You are guaranteed to get many accurate hunches and intuitions, so hone your skills and trust the information you are getting. Tune into you. It is time to sort out a lot of old nonsense, if you are brave enough. Talk things through and do not avoid tricky subjects.
(April 21-May 21)
You will be well able to integrate quite signiﬁcant lessons from the past. The circumstances of the present will serve up food for thought, that is for sure; but you will not go far wrong, if you take things easy and be sensible in your choices. Your future takes on a new shape, as you consider surprising options and ideas. Be prepared to take up offers that come out of the blue.
(May 22-June 21)
You are about to make a cute move that will bring you lots of glory in the long run. Go along with what is happening and act instinctively. Now is not the time to plan. Your best laid plans will surely bite the dust. You can expect lots of social surprises; great for networking and mixing business with pleasure. You should ﬁnd that lots of unexpected invitations will be winging their way towards you.
(June 22-July 23)
(Oct 24-Nov 22)
You will surprise a few people with your choices. Keep your secrets and don’t tell anyone who you have got your eye on. Ditch the time wasters amongst your acquaintances - those that you do not feel really comfortable with. Trust your judgement about whom you can trust and stay away from whoever you cannot. You will be able to fully access your luck and make cute choices. Flirtations and affairs divert attention.
Keep a sense of proportion and perspective in all things. Steer clear of controversial subjects, as you work to keep the peace. Be careful with ﬁnances; it will pay to be practical, not stupid. Access your common sense in all things and you won’t go far wrong. Keep it real and do not pretend that things are okay when they are not. Sort out your head and heart and you will never look back. Follow your intuition.
(July 24-Aug 23)
All you have to do is steer a steady course to your As always your charm will get you out of all sorts of trouble. In many ways you are off the hook and you need to be smart as you go about your business. Be patient with circumstances as the adjustments kick in. You have a lot to look forward to. Prepare to feel the fresh breeze of new love, life and energy enliven you before too long. Get your priorities right and the rest will follow. Love serves up food for thought.
(Aug 24-Sep 23)
Be careful with your energy levels and look after yourself. Saturn moving into Virgo will be an adjustment, but it will not serve up anything you cannot handle. In fact, it will be greatly beneﬁcial. Ditch regrets about what did or didn’t happen and concentrate on the future. Uranus in Pisces continues to bring out the rebel in you. Just do not push it in situations where you have to be on your best behaviour.
(Nov 23-Dec 21)
Keep appropriate boundaries in place or you might come unstuck. Protect your interests, even as you follow your heart. Love spices you up - big time. There is no need to go out and about looking for trouble or entertainment. Let it come to you. There will be distractions galore. Your health is good, too, so you will have more than enough energy to cope. Jupiter, your ruler, is ﬁghting your corner in all things. Pluto allows you to get to the bottom of what has been troubling you.
(Dec 22-Jan 20)
Stay as calm as possible when things get controversial, as they surely will. You are bound to be popular and interesting, possibly because you no longer really care. Look on the bright side. It’s important to stay positive and trust your feelings.
(Jan 21-Feb 19)
With a big decision forget the list of pros and cons you normally write and use the shortcut to ﬁnd out what makes sense. Your instincts hold the key to an unusual, new future. Embrace what you are unsure of or uneasy about deciding the right thing to do. Things will clarify for you, as soon as you accept the madness. Embrace it all with a good, clear heart. Be more daring and do not let love pass you by.!
(Feb 20-Mar 20)
Keep your feet on the ground. You can get a lot done; but make sure you have a game plan, one that you can actually follow. You will be able to ditch that ‘treading on egg shells’ feeling, at last. False friends and shallow acquaintances will fade away. The best way to clarify things is to give you a lot of personal space and freedom. There is no rush with anything, so please do not make decisions out of panic.
Answers to the Zudoku and Crossword on page 29
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Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
Frank & Ernest
Wizard of Id
Two Cows And A Chicken
Sept. 1 - 7, 2011
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