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The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Voting Rights for Puerto Rico

Now Open Sundays Lunch & Dinner

“One Small Step for Igartúa, One Giant Leap for Self-Determination” By Kenneth D. McClintock


ast Wednesday, as the courts were closing down for a long Thanksgiving weekend, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston issued an opinion denying Aguadilla statehood attorney Gregorio Igartúa’s request that the right to full Congressional representation be extended to the people of Puerto Rico. As in three previous similar cases since 1994, the Court dismissed Igartúa’s claim. This time around, in a case that will be known as “Igartúa IV”, it is a “pyrrhic defeat” for the plaintiff but potentially a de facto triumph in his judicial struggle for judicial recognition of democratic rights for United States citizens residing

in Puerto Rico. In this case, Igartúa, with the Fortuño administration making an appearance as amicus curiae, claims that a treaty signed by the United States and ratified by its Senate which states that “[e]very citizen shall have the right and the opportunity… [t]o vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage.”, Art. 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), requires the United States, without further ado, to extend to Puerto Ricans the right to full representation in the United States House of Representatives. While two of the three judges in the 3-member Circuit panel agreed to dismiss the case because the issue had


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Exquisite Cuisine in an Oppulent Setting already been decided in <span>Igartúa III</span>, Circuit Judge Lipez, as well as Circuit Judge Torruellas would have the full membership of the First Circuit reconsider this case and issue an en banc decision. As Judge Lipez explained: “…while I agree with Chief Judge Lynch that our panel must adhere to the precedent set five years ago [in Igartúa III] by the en banc [First Circuit] court on the constitutional and treaty interpretation issues addressed in the majority opinion, I cannot agree that the plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed without review by the full court. Given the magnitude of the issues and Judge Torruella’s forceful analysis, this is one of those rare occasions when reconsideration of an en banc ruling is warranted.” Judge Lipez explains that the full Circuit Court’s holding in the prior case that the Constitution prohibits extending voting rights to Puerto Ricans regarding the presidential vote ties his hands (a 3-member panel cannot stray from a precedent set by a full-membership court holding) but that he now has doubts that the prior case was well-decided. “I have doubts, however, about the correctness of the judgment that the Constitution allows only citizens who reside in states to vote… my view wasand remains-that the plaintiffs’ claims under the ICCPR are not justiciable if the Constitution itself prohibits equal voting rights for Puerto Rico residents… Everything changes, however, if the Constitution permits equal voting rights to be conferred on the residents of Puerto Rico under another source of law, such as legislation or a self-executing international treaty. If the Constitution does not prohibit extending the right to vote…an enforceable treaty could provide the governing domestic law on that issue… The Constitution itselfs makes treaties “the supreme Law of the Land” where they do not conflict with the Constitution’s own terms. This is not a view of the ICCPR that I contemplated in 2005, but it is one that I now consider worthy of serious examination.” “I do not mean to suggest that I already have concluded that the Constitu-

tion in fact permits giving the plaintiffs the right to vote…Rather, my point is that the question is important and complex, and it deserves re-examination by the full court with the benefit of the best advocacy we can enlist…” Lipez then goes on to explain that, in reconsideration by the full Circuit Court, should it “conclude that the Constitution permits Congress to give Puerto Rico voting rights… our inquiry would then need to focus on… [whether] the ICCPR is non-self-executing”. He goes on to state that “Having now accepted the possibility that the Constitution does not bar federal voting rights for Puerto Rico residents, I also must confront the ICCPR’s status”, meaning whether it is self-executing or not. He clarifies that “I do not want to suggest that I have reached an ultimate view on whether the ICCPR is self-executing.” “Even if we were to find that the treaty is self-executing, however, difficult questions would remain… The fact that the [remaining] questions are difficult, however, is not a reason to avoid them.” Lipez concludes his concurring opinion, stating that “at a minimum, givcen the importance of the issues and the evolving debate, fairness dictates that the plaintiffs’ claims receive considerably more deliberation than our panel is authorized to provide. The entire court should be engaged in considering and resolving these issues, with the best advocacy available in support of all parties… while I agree that the district court’s judgment must be affirmed by this panel, I urge the court to reconsider the constitutional and treaty issues in a new en banc proceeding.” Clearly, Judge Lipez’ concurring opinion sets the stage for a major rethinking of Igartúa’s claims and opens the door for judicial redress of the huge injustices that the absence of self-determination places on United States citizens living in Puerto Rico. The next step will begin when Igartúa, with the Fortuño administration as amicus curiae once again, files the motion to reconsider en banc that Judge Lipez invites him to file.


The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010

$4 Million in Emergency Aid Will Create 525 Temporary Jobs


he US Department of Labor announced the assignment of $4 million to Puerto Rico in aid for the disaster zone “Otto” floods. The Federal Department of Labor notified to the office of the Resident Commissioner Pedro

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Pierluisi that the funds will create about 525 temporary employments for people who are currently unemployed and who will help in the cleaning and reconstruction of public structures and communities. The disaster declaration includes the towns of Adjunta, Aibonito, Añasco, Guanica, Guayama, Jayuya, Lares, Las Marias, Maricao, Yabucoa y Yauco. Mayaquez, Morovis, Orocovis, PaThe funds are also available tillas, Ponce, Sabana Grande, Sali- for repairs at homes of the elderly, nas, San German, Utuado, Villalba, disadvantaged and handicapped.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


S&P Revises PR Government Debt Outlook to Positive From Stable By Michelle Kaske


tandard & Poor’s revised its outlook on Puerto Rico’s $9 billion of general obligation debt to positive from stable in response to austerity measures the commonwealth has undertaken to end its structural deficits by fiscal 2013. The measures include spending reductions and revenue enhancements. Since taking office in January 2009, Gov. Luis Fortuño has reduced central government payroll by 17%, implemented an additional property tax,increased corporate and individual taxes including a severe 4% revenue tax on foreign owned companies, reduced tax deductions and cut government spending in

order to to address its recurring budget deficit, Fortuño ha cut $1 Billion in costs and increased the tax burden by $1 billion leaving a $1 billion shortfall. Puerto Rico will use $1 billion of sales tax bond proceeds to balance its budget for fiscal 2011, which began July 1. That deficitborrowing is smaller than the $3 billion officials used in fiscal 2009to meet budget expenditures. “The outlook revision is based on our view of the commonwealth’s recent implementation of significant expenditure controls and revenue enhancement measures that we believe could help restore budget balance within the next two years,” Horacio Aldrete, ananalyst at Standard & Poor’s.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Conflicting Opinions on Doing Business in PR M

edtronic, which supplies about half of the world’s pacemakers, is investing $5 million for a second facility. Baxter employs 4,000 in plants across the island. Yet, Pfizer and Wyatt closed plants recently. Abbott cancelled a planned expansion reacting to Fortuños new foreign owned 4% revenue tax. Why are many of the world’s biggest medical companies investing millions in this island and others abandoning the identical business climate?

According to Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) more than $5 billion of medical devices are produced each year. The government recently enacted Law 73, which provides up to a 50 percent tax credit of qualified research and development expenses for developing new technologies. After last month’s Medtech Conference, I talked with Victor Merced, the PRIDCO’s business development officer for Life





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Sciences, to learn why the medical device industry accounts for 10 percent of Puerto Rico’s jobs and 5 percent of the island’s GDP. Puerto Rico manufactures devices including Ace bandages, pacemakers, defibrillators, surgical equipment, sutures, scalpels, implantable orthopedics and eyeglasses. “Thirteen of the top 15 medical device companies have plants in Puerto Rico,” he said. He told me there are five primary reasons these medical device companies want to set up shop on the island: 1. Tax Benefits: Puerto Rico is a U.S. jurisdiction that under the IRS code is treated as a foreign jurisdiction, so we don’t pay federal taxes. The only taxes are those negotiated between the company and the Puerto Rican government. We tell them they will be subject to the taxes of the country where they repatriated their money. 2. Legal framework: The legal framework in Puerto Rico is the same as in the U.S. We are covered by the same laws, so intellectual property that people are working so hard for is protected by federal law. So that [guarantees] that the technologies brought to Puerto Rico are safe in Puerto Rico. For example, we prosecute people who record movies in the theater; when you’re in the movies and you see these very nice black Chargers or black Explorers with black windshields, you know someone’s going to get arrested. Let me put it this way: Microsoft prints and develops all the CDs for Windows in Puerto Rico, so Microsoft trusts Puerto Rico. 3. Skilled Labor Availability: Puerto Rico has been in the life sciences market for about 40 years. We’ve done pharmaceuticals and had our footprint in medical devices. They tailor the courses here to what the industry needs. Puerto Rico graduates 30,000 degrees every year; of those, 10,000 are in a technical field—engineers and scientists. It’s just part of the culture. Your dad would tell you go to college, get a degree and get a good job. Here it’s encouraged to get a technical degree because of our large footprints of pharma and biotech and aero-

space. There’s a market for that here. Right now the pharma sector alone is more than 100,000. In job creation, 34 percent of the jobs created in Puerto Rico are in the life sciences market. It’s big. 4. Infrastructure: We have a solid infrastructure, just like any state in the U.S. Puerto Rico is surrounded by freeways. We have a port in San Juan, which is where we receive all the cargo, and one in Ponce, which is under construction and will be at full capacity this year. We have 11 airports in Puerto Rico. We have a life sciences hub for UPS in Puerto Rico. Say you make pacemakers. They’re delivered straight to the doctor. So instead of going to a distribution center, they go from the manufacturer to the UPS logistics center to the doctor. At the UPS center, they do all the logistics. Say you need XYZ chemicals. From your computer you can say you need two tons, and UPS ships two tons. So UPS is sending out the raw material and the finished goods. They have boxes and insert, and it’s all created there. 5. Geographic Location: We’re surrounded by water, but our geographic location puts us at a six-hour flight from Europe, two to three hours from the East Coast, a40 minute flight to the north of South America. Puerto Rico is the farthest eastern port of America coming from Europe. Of course anything that’s going to be shipped in is going to take time, and one of the challenges we have sometimes, when there’s bad weather, some shipments get delayed. But even though we are in the hurricane path our record in hurricanes has been three in the past 50 years. The building codes here are made to withstand hurricanes. We are grateful for these major corporate neighbors. Prying the grip of our loyal medical companies from our island may take more than Fortuños new 4% Revenue Tax. We need their jobs and taxes and we offer them a great deal as well. We pray they won’t leave as Fortuño’s critics forecast, that in 7 years the new tax disappears as planned and our medical sector remains larger than before.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Mainland 8

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers By ROBERT PEAR


hen Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs. Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare. Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve — by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses. “The new law is already encouraging a wave of mergers, joint ventures and alliances in the health care industry,” said Prof. Thomas L. Greaney, an expert on health and antitrust law at St. Louis University. “The risk that dominant providers and dominant insurers may exercise their market power, individually or jointly, has never been greater.” Lobbyists and industry groups are bearing down on the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, which enforce the antitrust laws, and the inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which ferrets out Medicare fraud. Those agencies are writing regulations to govern the new entities, known as accountable care organizations. They face a delicate task: balancing the potential benefits of clinical cooperation with the need to enforce fraud, abuse and antitrust laws. “If accountable care organizations end up stifling rather than unleashing competition,” said Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, “we will have let one of the great opportunities for health care reform slip away.” Congress’s purpose was to foster cooperation in a health care system that is notoriously fragmented. The hope was that the new law would push doctors, hospitals and other health care

providers to come together and jointly take responsibility for the cost and quality of care of patients, especially Medicare beneficiaries. Experts say patients can benefit from a network of care and greater coordination between doctors and hospitals. On Tuesday, the Obama administration established a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, to test new ways of coordinating and paying for services, in addition to the accountable care organizations. Hospitals have taken the lead in forming these new entities. Johns Hopkins Medicine, which operates a hospital in Baltimore and 25 clinics in Maryland, has just acquired Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, 16 months after acquiring Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. “This is being driven largely by health care reform, which demands an integrated regional network,” said Gary M. Stephenson, a Johns Hopkins spokesman. In Kentucky, three of the largest hospital networks are negotiating a merger, prompted in part by the new law. In upstate New York, three regional health care systems are seeking federal permission to merge their operations, which include hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Albany and surrounding counties. With potential efficiencies come incentives for doctors and hospitals to control costs, and a potential for abuse. Judith A. Stein, director of the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy, said she was concerned that some care organizations would try to hold down costs by “cherry-picking healthier patients and denying care when it’s needed.” Under the law, Medicare can penalize organizations that avoid high-risk, high-cost patients. Peter W. Thomas, a lawyer for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a national advocacy group, expressed concern about the impact on patients. “In an environment where health care providers are financially rewarded for keeping costs down,” he said, “anyone who has a disability or a chronic condition, anyone who requires specialized or complex care, needs to worry about getting access to appropriate technology, medical devices and rehabilitation. You don’t want to save money on the backs of people with disabilities and chronic conditions.” Nearly one-fourth of Medicare beneficiaries have five or more chronic

conditions. They account for two-thirds of the program’s spending. Elizabeth B. Gilbertson, chief strategist of a union health plan for hotel and restaurant employees, also worries that the consolidation of health care providers could lead to higher prices. “In some markets,” Ms. Gilbertson said, “the dominant hospital is like the sun at the center of the solar system. It owns physician groups, surgery centers, labs and pharmacies. Accountable care organizations bring more planets into the system and strengthen the bonds between them, making the whole entity more powerful, with a commensurate ability to raise prices.” She added, “That is a terrible threat.” Doctors and hospitals say the promise of these organizations cannot be fully realized unless they get broad waivers and exemptions from the government. The American Medical Association has urged federal officials to “provide explicit exceptions to the antitrust laws” for doctors who participate in the new entities. The F.T.C. has accused doctors in many parts of the country of trying to fix prices by collectively negotiating fees — even though the doctors do not share financial risk and are supposedly competing with one another. Hospitals and doctors have also asked the administration to waive laws intended to prevent fraud and abuse in Medicare. In a recent letter to federal officials, Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said, “To provide a fertile field to develop truly innovative, coordinatedcare models, the fraud and abuse laws should be waived altogether.” These laws are an impediment

and, in some cases, “a total barrier” to creation of accountable care organizations, Mr. Kahn said, making it difficult for hospitals to reward doctors for cutting costs or following best practices. Similar legal concerns arise when health care providers want to divide up a lump sum of money provided for an episode of care. The new law encourages such “bundled payments,” which may cover the services of hospitals and doctors, as well as nursing homes and home care agencies. One of the laws, intended to protect consumers, says that a hospital cannot knowingly make a payment to a doctor “as an inducement to reduce or limit services” to Medicare or Medicaid patients. Hospitals that do so, and doctors who accept them, are subject to civil fines up to $2,000 per patient and can be barred from Medicare and Medicaid. Other laws broadly restrict financial relationships between hospitals and doctors. With some exceptions, it is a crime to pay “any remuneration” intended to induce or reward the referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients to a particular care provider. A major purpose of accountable care organizations is to encourage doctors to work closely with selected hospitals, and the rewards paid to doctors — typically, a percentage of the money saved — could run afoul of this law, hospitals and doctors say. Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hails the benefits of “integrated care.” But, Dr. Berwick said, “we need to assure both patients and society at large that destructive, exploitative and costly forms of collusion and monopolistic behaviors do not emerge and thrive, disguised as cooperation.”

The San Juan Weekly

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December. 2 - 8, 2010

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The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha By FRANK RICH


HE perception I had, anyway, was that we were on top of the world,” Sarah Palin said at the climax of Sunday’s premiere of her new television series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” At that point our fearless heroine had just completed a perilous rock climb, and if she looked as if she’d just stepped out of a spa instead, don’t expect her fans to question the reality. For them, Palin’s perception is the only reality that counts. Palin is on the top of her worlds — both the Republican Party and the media universe. “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” set a ratings record for a premiere on TLC, attracting nearly five million viewers — twice the audience of last month’s season finale of the blue-state cable favorite, “Mad Men.” The next night Palin and her husband Todd were enshrined as proud parents in touchy-feely interviews on “Dancing With the Stars,” the network sensation (21 million viewers) where their daughter Bristol has miraculously escaped elimination all season despite being neither a star nor a dancer. This week Sarah Palin will most likely vanquish George W. Bush and Keith Richards on the bestseller list with her new book. If logic applied to Palin’s career trajectory, this month might have been judged dreadful for her. In an otherwise great year for Republicans she endorsed a “Star Wars” bar gaggle of anomalous and wacky losers — the former witch, Christine O’Donnell; the raging nativist, Tom Tancredo; and at least two candidates who called for armed insurrection against the government, Sharron Angle and a would-be Texas congressman, Stephen Broden, who lost by over 50 percentage points. Last week voters in Palin’s home state humiliatingly “refudiated” her protégé, Joe Miller, overturning his victory in the G.O.P. Senate primary with a write-in campaign. But logic doesn’t apply to Palin. What might bring down other politicians only seems to make her stronger: the malapropisms and gaffes, the cut-and-run half-term

governorship, family scandals, shameless lying and rapacious self-merchandising. In an angry time when America’s experts and elites all seem to have failed, her amateurism and liabilities are badges of honor. She has turned fallibility into a formula for success. Republican leaders who want to stop her, and they are legion, are utterly baffled about how to do so. Democrats, who gloat that she’s the Republicans’ problem, may be humoring themselves. When Palin told Barbara Walters last week that she believed she could beat Barack Obama in 2012, it wasn’t an idle boast. Should Michael Bloomberg decide to spend billions on a quixotic run as a third-party spoiler, all bets on Obama are off. Of course Palin hasn’t decided to run yet. Why rush? In the post-midterms Gallup poll she hit her all-time high unfavorable rating (52 percent), but in the G.O.P. her favorable rating is an awesome 80 percent, virtually unchanged from her standing at the end of 2008 (83 percent). She can keep floating above the pack indefinitely as the celebrity star of a full-time reality show where she gets to call all the shots. The Perils of Palin maintains its soap-operatic drive not just because of the tabloid antics of Bristol, Levi, et al., but because you are kept guessing about where the pop culture ends and the politics begins. The producer of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” Mark Burnett, has declared that the series is “completely nonpolitical.” It is in fact completely political — an eight-week infomercial that, miraculously enough, is paying the personality it promotes (a reported $250,000 a week) rather than charging her. The show’s sole political mission is to maintain the fervor and loyalty of the G.O.P. base, not to win over Palin’s detractors. In the debut episode, the breathtaking Alaskan landscapes were cannily intermixed with vignettes showcasing the star’s ostensibly model kids and husband, her charming dad. Palin fires a couple of Annie Oakleystyle shots before we’re even out of the ope-

ning credits. The whole package is a calculated paean to her down-home, self-reliant frontiersiness. She tells the audience that she doesn’t have “much of a staff” to tend to her sprawling family and career. “We do most everything ourselves,” she says. Thanks to the in-kind contribution of this “nonpolitical” series, Palin needn’t join standard-issue rivals like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty in groveling before donors and primary-state operatives to dutifully check all the boxes of a traditional Republican campaign. Palin not only has TLC in her camp but, better still, Murdoch. Other potential 2012 candidates are also on the Fox News payroll, but Palin is the only one, as Alessandra Stanley wrote in The Times, whose every appearance is “announced with the kind of advance teasing and clip montages that talk shows use to introduce major movie stars.” Pity poor Mike Huckabee, relegated to a graveyard time slot, with the ratings to match. The Fox spotlight is only part of Murdoch’s largess. As her publisher, he will foot the bill for the coming “book tour” whose itinerary disproportionately dotes on the primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. The editorial page of Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal is also on board, recently praising Palin for her transparently ghost-written critique of the Federal Reserve’s use of quantitative easing. “Mrs. Palin is way ahead of her potential presidential competitors on this policy point,” The Journal wrote, and “shows a talent for putting a technical subject in language that average Americans can understand.” With Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity on her side, Palin hardly needs the grandees of the so-called Republican establishment. They know it and flail at her constantly. Politico reported just before Election Day that unnamed “party elders” were nearly united in wanting to stop her, out of fear that she’d win the nomination and then be crushed by Obama. Their complaints are seconded daily by

Bush White House alumni like Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, and Mark McKinnon, who said recently that Palin’s “stock is falling and pretty rapidly now” and that “if she’s smart, she does not run.” This is either denial or wishful thinking. The same criticisms that the Bushies fling at Palin were those once aimed at Bush: a slender résumé, a lack of intellectual curiosity and foreign travel, a lazy inclination to favor from-the-gut improvisation over cracking the briefing books. These spitballs are no more likely to derail Palin within the G.O.P. than they did him. As Palin has refused to heed these patrician Republicans, some of them have gotten so testy they sound like Democrats. Peggy Noonan called her a “nincompoop” last month, and Susan Collins, the senator from Maine, dismissed her as a “celebrity commentator.” Rove tut-tutted Palin’s TLC show for undermining her aspirations to “gravitas.” These insults just play into Palin’s hands, burnishing her image as an exemplar of the “real America” battling the snooty powers-that-be. To serve as an Andrew Jackson or perhaps George Wallace for the 21st century, the last thing she wants or needs is gravitas. It’s anti-elitism that most defines angry populism in this moment, and, as David Frum, another Bush alumnus (and Palin critic), has pointed out, populist rage on the right is aimed at the educated, not the wealthy. The Bushies and Noonans and dwindling retro-moderate Republicans are no less loathed by Palinistas and their Tea Party fellow travelers than is Obama’s Ivy League White House. When Palin mocks her G.O.P. establishment critics as tortured, paranoid, sleazy and a “good-old-boys club,” she pays no penalty for doing so. The more condescending the attacks on her, the more she thrives. This same dynamic is also working for her daughter Bristol, who week after week has received low scores and patronizing dismissals from the professional judges on “Dancing with the Stars” only to be rescued by populist masses voting at home. Revealingly, Sarah Palin’s potential rivals for the 2012 nomination have not joined the party establishment in publicly criticizing her. They are afraid of crossing Palin and the 80 percent of the party that admires her. So how do they stop her? Not by feeding their contempt in blind quotes to the press — as a Romney aide did by telling Time’s Mark Halperin she isn’t “a serious human being.” Not by hoping against hope that Murdoch might turn off the media oxygen that feeds both Palin’s viability and News Corporation’s bottom line. Sooner or later Palin’s opponents will instead have to man up — as Palin might say — and actually summon the courage to take her on mano-amaverick in broad daylight. Short of that, there’s little reason to believe now that she cannot dance to the top of the Republican ticket when and if she wants to.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



December 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010


Mainland 14

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

School of the Americas Protest Dwindles, if Not Its Passion By KIM SEVERSON


he annual November protest here at the gates of Fort Benning used to really be something. At its peak a few years ago, more than 17,000 people streamed into town, united in their effort to shut down the School of the Americas, a United States Department of Defense center that they believe has trained Latin American military leaders to torture and murder. Hundreds of people would cross onto the base and get arrested in mass acts of civil disobedience. Catholic groups staged workshops. Old lefties treated it like a family reunion. Vendors sold bumper stickers and Guatemalan hacky sacks. So many people from so many leftleaning organizations began showing up that School of the Americas Watch, which runs the protest, rented the local convention center for seminars and concerts. Enterprising locals set up barbecue stands and charged $10 for parking in nearby lots. The convention bureau helped with hotel arrangements. The protest has brought the city as much as $2.2 million in business, more than twice what the annual Jehovah’s Witness convention did, said Peter Bowden, president of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It is, in essence, the equivalent of a fairly large convention for our town, and we tend to treat the attendees in that respect,” Mr. Bowden said. But the times, they are a changing. This year’s protest, the 20th, drew its smallest crowd ever over the weekend. Both the police and organizers agree that fewer than 5,000 people showed up. Signs of its decline were everywhere. At the Masonic lodge near the protest site, a local military family had hoped for

a lucrative weekend selling hot dogs and drinks. They packed in 15 cases of water, but by Saturday afternoon only a dozen bottles had sold. They did not even bother on Sunday. As a counterbalance to the protest, the school 10 years ago began offering tours over the same weekend and changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. A panel of school leaders volunteers to answer questions and explain that the education of Latin American military personnel now emphasizes democracy and human rights along with military intelligence and psychological operations. Last year, more than 500 signed up to attend, mostly students from Catholic high schools and colleges. This year, only 128 were bused on base for the 90-minute session. The small crowd at the gates of Fort Benning disappointed Sheri Hosek, 39, who traveled from Dubuque, Iowa. She had heard about the event through her work with Franciscan nuns. “There was a lot of hype about it, but it feels like a much smaller presentation than I had expected,” Ms. Hosek said. “It feels more like a summer festival, a very liberal one of course.” Maybe it was the economy, some said. Others said that rallying liberal activists after the election of President Obama had become more challenging because many thought the fight was over. And it did not help that a couple of thousand Jesuit students who usually attend did not come this year, choosing instead to hold their annual teach-in in Washington. Others wondered if Latin America politics just are not capturing the attention of American youths as they once did. “My generation is all over the pla-

ce,” said Ben Johnson, 28, of Athens, Ga., who was grabbing a coffee in a hotel lobby near the base. “They are completely apathetic, or they’ve completely devoted their entire life to change.” The protest began after six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were killed in El Salvador in November 1989 by a group that a Congressional task force connected to School of the Americas graduates. On the anniversary the following year, a small group led by the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic priest, held a wateronly fast at the gates. He has since become an internationally known peace advocate and still lives in a small apartment near the gate. “Most of the young people in the crowd don’t even know who he is,” said Liz Loescher, 68, an eight-time veteran of the protest who runs the Georgia Conflict Center in Athens. Stiffer federal penalties have hurt the effort, too. In the late 1990s, almost 3,000 people crossed onto the base and were briefly detained. After the Sept. 11 attacks, when a series of fences were built, that number dropped to 80. Then a federal judge began handing out six-month sentences. That sent the numbers even lower. Last year, only four people entered the base, the same number as this year. All were arrested and charged with federal trespassing. To try to revive things and to give people another, easier way to protest the school, organizers this year encouraged the willing to cross outside the permitted event parameters and take to the streets of Columbus as an act of civil disobedience. On Saturday, a dozen people walked onto the highway and held up a banner that read “Stop: This is the End of the Road for the S.O.A.” They were arrested. A few hours later, as a parade was ending, the police showed up in force,

riot helmets stacked on car hoods and plastic handcuffs looped onto uniforms. They funneled the crowd from the legal protest area through a narrow pathway to the street and told anyone who stopped to keep moving. Protesters, some yelling, “This is what Democracy looks like,” veered from the path. In a quick swirl of activity that took many by surprise, a dozen people were arrested, including news crews from Russian Television and two radio reporters. They were put in a city bus and taken to the Muscogee County Jail. Bail was set as high $5,500. Hendrik Voss, a spokesman for School of the Americas Watch, said the police had overreacted. Capt. J. D. Hawk of the Columbus Police Department disputed that. “The police weren’t very aggressive at all,” he said. The number of arrests, Captain Hawk said, was smaller than he had expected given information about the organizers’ plans gathered in the days leading up to the protest. On Sunday, legal teams scrambled to make bail, pleading from the stage for volunteers with cash and credit cards to come forward and using the arrests to rally the faithful. “It’s an awakening for U.S. activists,” Mr. Voss said. For the old-timers, the arrests were a distraction, and the smaller crowds beside the point. Lisa Porter, 45, had traveled from Berkeley, Calif., the seventh time she has done so. She spent much of her time sitting in quiet contemplation inches from the fence that separated her from the base. “I believe torture is wrong, and I won’t tolerate it,” she said. “If there were only four people here, I’d still be with them.”

The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010


Mired in Crises, Haiti Struggles to Focus on Election can States, says, “The big problem is to get out the vote.” “There are a lot of people who left town because of the earthquake,” he said in an interview. “There are people afraid of the cholera. There are people angry at the government. There are so many obstacles to getting people to vote.” A low turnout — below 40 percent, raised claims that the election was illegitimate. Many people lost their national identification cards, which are required to vote, in the quake, while others fled Port-auPrince and have not changed their registration. By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD and DAMIEN CAVE


rushed buildings from the January earthquake still spill out onto sidewalks here, people are collapsing from cholera at hospital doors and a wave of rioting last week reminded Haitians of political turmoil of the past. It may not be the best time to choose a president. “The nation is not in the mood for the election,” said one candidate, Leslie Voltaire, a former government minister, who, along with other candidates, has suggested that the vote be delayed. But the election may be Haiti’s most important in decades. Not only are competing crises demanding attention, but with the country poised to receive billions of dollars in international reconstruction money, the new president will have a historic ability to reshape the country, from its economy to its justice system to deciding where and how to house more than a million earthquake refugees. A colorful field of 19 candidates is seeking the highest office in the hemisphere’s poorest country, including a professorial former first lady who would be the first woman elected president, a popular entertainer best known for dropping his pants on stage and a taciturn government minister handpicked by the current, increasingly unpopular president. All but the last have offered forceful criticism of President René Préval’s response to the earthquake, promising careful, fraud-free management of the aid windfall, although providing few specifics. For the most part the campaigns have focused on ginning up excitement, plastering brightly colored posters across the devastated capital, blasting catchy Caribbean-beat jingles from trucks and staging large rallies with T-shirt — and sometimes, money — giveaways. It was unclear whether the crowds had as much enthusiasm for the candidates as the freebies. Emicile Bonhomme, 44, has a view from her refugee tent of the crumpled national palace, where hanging on a fence are black and white photos of the 19 contenders vying to occupy it. She will have none of them, choosing God instead. “Only God in the sky can do something for us,” she said. “Since Jan. 12 we have hoped, but nobody has come for us. Look at this home where we sleep on the ground.” Distracted and distraught, citizens like Ms. Bonhomme are a large part of why José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of Ameri-

The government authority that issues the ID cards said it had registered 30,000 more than the 400,000 it anticipated in the last quarter, the cutoff for the election. While some of that surge may be related to tighter banking rules, which also require the card for certain transactions, it may also reflect some electoral excitement. Widner Saint-Jean, 24, beamed — “My heart is pounding,” he said — as he was handed a replacement identification card for one he lost in 2005. “I hope my vote will help reconstruct the country, to change the lives of poor people,” he said. That would include himself. Like most young people here, Mr. Saint-Jean is unemployed. To combat the fraud that has marked past elections, several dozen international observers monitored the balloting. The United States provided $14 million in election-related aid to help pay for voting supplies, international observers and other needs. Most candidates and political analysts doubted a clear winner setting up a runoff for the two leading candidates on Jan. 16 and extending what has been a campaign of careful steps, as candidates have tried to balance a show of concern for the nation’s calamities while trying not to appear to be exploiting them. Charles Henri Baker, an unabashed member of the country’s business elite who is running again after losing in 2006, said he had visited cholera wards to deliver supplies and empathize with the sick, not for the cameras. Another candidate, Marlinde Manigat, the former first lady, recently insisted to an interviewer that a stop at a tent encampment for earthquake refugees was “just a visit,” not a campaign event. A campaign commercial for Mr. Voltaire shows long shots of the tent camps, unavoidable, he said, to make the point he would better manage relief. Getting the electorate to focus on the election and not the country’s troubles remains a challenge. The cholera outbreak in particular is reshaping the

race. It led to rioting last week, with crowds directing their anger at foreign troops blamed for bringing the disease, and several candidates are struggling to adapt. Jacques-Édouard Alexis, a former prime minister from Gonaïves, one of the areas hardest hit by the epidemic, said he had curtailed campaigning there on the advice of medical professionals (although generally, cholera is not transmitted by casual contact). “We have to be careful with big rallies,” he said. Ms. Manigat described a recent stop at a hospital with her entourage in which she decided not to enter the main treatment room for cholera patients. “I would not mind, but it is not appropriate to get 20 people in the room — for what?” she said. “I waved at the door. They were happy to see me.” Polling here is considered sketchy, but the local news media have focused their attention on a handful of candidates. They include Ms. Manigat; Jude Celestin, Mr. Préval’s preferred successor; and Michel Martelly, a kompa singer formerly known as Sweet Micky who draws large crowds and is banking on votes that might have gone to Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-American pop star who was barred from running by the country’s electoral commission. Mr. Martelly, though, has struggled to explain away his penchant for dropping his pants on stage and why he should be taken seriously. “I agree I am a novice in politics, not a politician,” he said in a late-night interview during an impromptu tour through a notorious slum, hoping to prove he was welcome there. “But I am proud I am not one.” Even the establishment candidates promote themselves as outsiders. Mr. Baker, the businessman, said he would bring order and discipline, even the return of the disbanded, once-feared army, to a country lacking one. “I am part of the elite but I am also someone who creates jobs,” he said. Several candidates said privately that they believed the international community was awaiting the new outcome of the election before committing to more aid. American aid to the reconstruction effort was hung up in Congress for months until the delivery of $120 million this month, about a tenth of what was pledged to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, and several other countries were also slow in delivering aid. The candidates have not criticized those countries, focusing instead on Mr. Préval, who is completing a second term and barred from running for another. They also promise to wean the country off the influence of the myriad nongovernmental organizations that function here as almost a shadow government. “Relative to presidents of the past, this president is going to have an enormous opportunity with significant resources,” said Mark L. Schneider, a Haiti expert at the International Crisis Group. “The challenges are mind boggling; you have to reconstruct the government. This isn’t just rebuilding infrastructure, it’s rebuilding whole institutions.” It remains to be seen how the election or a new one will be accepted by the masses of suffering families.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

North and South Korea Exchange Fire, Killing Two By MARK McDONALD


orth and South Korea exchanged artillery fire after dozens of shells fired from the North struck a South Korean island near the countries’ disputed maritime border, South Korean military officials said. Two South Korean soldiers were killed, 15 were wounded and three civilians were injured, said Kiyheon Kwon, an official at the Defense Ministry. The South Korean military went to “crisis status,” and fighter planes were put on alert but did not take off. South Korean artillery units returned fire after the North’s shells struck South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island at 2:34 p.m., said Mr. Kwon, adding that the North also fired numerous rounds into the Yellow Sea. Television footage showed large plumes of black smoke spiraling from the island, and news reports said dozens of houses were on fire. The official North Korean news agency said in a brief statement that the South had started the fight when it “recklessly fired into our sea area.” The South Korean deputy minister of defense, Lee Yong-geul, acknowledged that artillery units had been firing test shots close to the North Korean coast, from a battery on the South Korean island of Paeknyeongdo. But he denied Pyongyang’s charge that the shots had crossed the sea border.While skirmishes between the two countries have not been uncommon in recent years, the clash appeared to have been the most serious in decades and came amid heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear program. An American nuclear scientist who recently visited the North said he had been shown a secret and modern enrichment facility. A spokesman for President Lee Myung-bak said Mr. Lee gathered his security-related ministers and senior aides at a crisis meeting in the underground situation room at the Blue House, the presidential office and residence. “We will not in any way tolerate this,” Mr. Lee’s chief spokesman, Hong Sang-pyo, said after the meeting. “Any further provocation will get an immediate and strong response and the South Korean military will strongly retaliate if there is anything further.” The United States condemned the

attack and called on North Korea to “halt its belligerent action,” the White House said in a statement. The attack on the island came as 70,000 South Korean troops were beginning an annual nationwide military drill called Safeguarding the Nation. The exercise has been sharply criticized by Pyongyang as “simulating an invasion of the North” and “a means to provoke a war.” The drill includes some United States forces, but a defense official said no American military personnel were on the island when it was hit. A spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul said that the South Korean Red Cross had indefinitely postponed a Thursday meeting with North Korean officials on further reunions between family members separated since the Korean War. She also said the ministry was “reviewing the security situation” for several hundred South Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Park, a jointly operated facility in North Korea. The shelling also followed revelations of two new nuclear facilities in the North — a light water reactor under construction and a modern plant for enriching uranium that Pyongyang says is operational. Yeonpyeong Island sits just two miles from the Northern Limit Line, the disputed sea border which the North does not recognize, and only eight miles from the North Korean coast. The island houses a garrison of about 1,000 South Korean marines, and the navy has deployed its newest class of “patrol killer” guided-missile ships in the Western Sea, as the Yellow Sea is also known. About 1,600 civilians also live on the island, mostly fishermen, and local news reports said by late afternoon that some residents had fled the island on fishing boats. In March, a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, was sunk in the area and 46 sailors died. The incident badly frayed inter-Korean relations and Seoul blamed the sinking on a North Korean torpedo attack. The North has denied any role in incident. In August, North Korea fired 110 artillery rounds near Yeonpyeong and another South Korean island, the Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said at the time. Three weeks ago, the South Korean Navy fired warning shots at a North Korean fishing boat after the vessel strayed across the Northern Limit Line. The North Korean boat then reportedly retreated. Previous naval skirmishes occurred in the western sea in 1999 and 2002. Reaction from governments involved in the six-party talks on disarmament was swift. The Russian Foreign Ministry urged restraint and a non-military resolution, while the British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the “unprovoked attack” and urged Pyongyang to refrain from hostilities. Chinese officials said they were “concerned” and called on both sides to resume

six-party talks that have focused on persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. “We hope the relevant the parties will do more to contribute to the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said at a regular briefing in Beijing. Officials gave the impression, however, that China was in the dark about the attacks. “The situation needs to be verified,” Mr. Hong said, adding that “China is willing to stay close communication with the relevant parties concerning the Korean nuclear issue.” The Japanese government called North Korea’s actions “unforgivable,” Reuters reported.The shelling came just days after an American nuclear scientist who visited North Korea earlier this month said he had been shown a vast new facility built secretly and rapidly to enrich uranium. The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that he had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building and operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.” The North Koreans claimed 2,000 centrifuges were already installed and running, he said. The development confronted the Obama administration with the prospect that North Korea country is preparing to expand its nuclear arsenal or build a far more powerful type of atomic bomb. Whether the calculated revelation is a negotiating ploy by North Korea or a signal that it plans to accelerate its weapons program even as it goes through a perilous leadership change, it creates a new challenge for President Obama at a moment when his program for gradual, global nuclear disarmament appears imperiled at home and abroad. Analysts were quick to see the shelling as a deliberate North Korean provocation. “Deliberate, yes, and it’s a sign of North Korea’s increasing frustration,” said Choi Jin-wook, a North Korea expert at the

Korea Institute for National Unification, a research institute in Seoul. “Washington has turned a deaf ear to Pyongyang and North Korea is saying, “Look here. We’re still alive. We can cause trouble. You can’t ignore us.” Mr. Choi said North Korea had become frustrated over the Obama administration’s refusal to remove a broad range of sanctions against the regime for its continuing nuclear efforts. “They see that they can’t pressure Washington,” he said, “so they’ve taken South Korea hostage again.” Mr. Choi said North Korea’s first and most urgent priority is for food aid, which has been largely denied by South Korea and strangled by international and United States sanctions. “They’re in a desperate situation and they want food immediately, not next year,” he said. “I can’t think of recent event in the past five or 10 years that approaches this magnitude,” said John Swenson-Wright, an expert with the Royal Institute for International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, a private policy organization in London. “Symbolically and practically, this is a serious escalation in provocation,” he said in a telephone interview. The exchange is the sharpest clash since the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, in September positioned his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor to lead the secretive nation. The younger Mr. Kim was promoted on Sept. 28 to the rank of four-star general, a prerequisite for his ascendancy to power. The elder Mr. Kim, who is said to be in poor health after apparently suffering a stroke in 2008, has hurried the succession of Kim Jong-un in recent weeks. But he Mr. Choi did not see Kim Jongun’s hand in the attack. “He is probably not part of this,” he said. “This is not a game for young boys.” Other members of the Kim family and the leader’s inner circle also received new posts and promotions as the leadership hierarchy was reshuffled to provide Kim Jongun with mentors and supporters as he solidifies his power.

The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010


Growing a Forest, and Harvesting Jobs, in Mexico



s an unforgiving midday sun bore down on the pine-forested mountains here, a half-dozen men perched across a steep hillside wrestled back mounds of weeds to uncover wisps of knee-high seedlings. Freeing the tiny pines that were planted last year is only one step of many the town takes to nurture the trees until they grow tall, ready for harvesting in half a century. But the people of Ixtlán take the long view. “We’re the owners of this land and we have tried to conserve this forest for our children, for our descendants,” Alejandro Vargas said, leaning on his machete as he took a break. “Because we have lived from this for many years.” Three decades ago the Zapotec Indians here in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico fought for and won the right to communally manage the forest. Before that, state-owned companies had exploited it as they pleased under federal government concessions. They slowly built their own lumber business and, at the same time, began studying how to protect the forest. Now, the town’s enterprises employ 300 people who harvest timber, produce wooden furniture and care for the woodlands, and Ixtlán has grown to become the gold standard of community forest ownership and management, international forestry experts say. Mexico’s community forest enterprises now range from the mahogany forests of the Yucatán Peninsula to the pine-oak forests of the western Sierra Madre. About 60 businesses, including Ixtlán, are certified by the Fo-

rest Stewardship Council in Germany, which evaluates sustainable forestry practices. Between 60 and 80 percent of Mexico’s remaining forests are under community control, according to Sergio Madrid of the Mexican Civic Council for Sustainable Forestry. “It’s astounding what’s going on in Mexico,” said David Barton Bray, an expert on community forestry at Florida International University who has studied Ixtlán. The Mexican government plans to showcase its success in community forestry at the global climate talks in Cancún next week. Despite fractious negotiations over reducing carbon emissions, talks on paying developing countries to protect their forests have moved further ahead than most other issues. In developing countries, where the rule of law is weak and enforcement spotty, simply declaring a forest off-limits does little to prevent illegal logging or clearing land for agriculture or development. “Unless local communities are committed to conserving and protecting forests it’s not going to happen,” said David Kaimowitz, a former director of the Center for International Forestry Research, or Cifor, who is now at the Ford Foundation. “Government can’t do it for them.” A recent Cifor study reported that more than a quarter of the forests in developing countries are now being managed by local communities. The trend is worldwide — from China to Brazil. In Ixtlán, under Zapotec traditions, all decisions about the forest and its related businesses are made by a (mostly male) general assembly of 390 townspeople. These “comuneros” are required to contribute their labor

as needed to the forest and its enterprises. “You can see the harmony,” said Francisco Luna, the secretary of the committee in charge of the forest and its businesses. “For us to live in peace, we have to respect all the rules.” Many of the problems that beset other forests in Mexico, like illegal logging and deforestation, rate barely a shrug here. Pedro Vidal García, a longtime forester in Ixtlán who now works for the Rainforest Alliance, laughed when he was asked about illegal logging in the 48,000 acres of forest the community owns. “Anybody who tries their own illegal business is harshly judged,” he said. “The assembly is very tough.” A comunero who dares to work as a guide to illegal loggers or hunters is branded a traitor and could lose all property rights. Rule by an assembly of equals based on ancestral customs can make running a business unwieldy. “It takes a long time to agree,” said Mr. García, whose father was one of the generation that sold their livestock to set up the community’s first sawmill. “The assembly can turn emotional, or technical.” Last year, the community’s businesses made a profit of about $230,000. Of that, 30 percent went back into the business, another 30 percent went into forest preservation and the final 40 percent went back to the workers and the community where it pays for things like pensions, a low-interest credit union and housing for students studying in the state capital. Most of the enterprise’s foresters and managers are the university-educated sons and daughters of the older comuneros. It is an odd business mixture, ac-

knowledged Alberto Belmonte, who is in charge of finding new markets for the furniture and lumber that Ixtlán and two neighboring towns produce. “Pure simple socialism, which is what the communities have, and an idea of capitalism, where we say, ‘You know what? We have to be profitable.’” Many of Ixtlán{minute}s plain pine pieces are sold to the state government, and the factory is busy filling an order to furnish a children’s home with bunk beds and lockers. Mr. Belmonte has plans to jazz up design and crack the Mexico City market. Julio García Gómez, 31, a sawmill worker, came back to Ixtlán five years ago from New Jersey, where he was working illegally, to raise his young family. The pay here has gone up since he returned, he said, “because of the equipment, because of the training.” While a self-sustaining business, Ixtlán is still a work in progress. Nongovernment organizations, as well as the Mexican government, all provide financing and advice. And even the strongest advocates of community forestry acknowledge that it is not the answer to protecting forests everywhere. It works best in areas that produce quality timber, Mr. Bray said. But it is a huge improvement on what came before. “Things are working,” said Francisco Chapela, an agronomist who first came to Oaxaca 30 years ago and now works for the Rainforest Alliance in Mexico. “Forest management is a big success,” he continued. “If you look at old aerial photographs and compare it with what is now, the forest is increasing here. “A lot of jobs have been created and a lot of money has come to the communities.”


December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Nations That Debate Coal Use Export It to Feed China’s Need



ven as developed countries close or limit the construction of coal-fired power plants out of concern over pollution and climate-warming emissions, coal has found a rapidly expanding market elsewhere: China. At ports in Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Colombia and South Africa, ships are lining up to load coal for furnaces in China, which has evolved virtually overnight from a coal exporter to one of the world’s leading purchasers. The United States now ships coal to China via Canada, but coal companies are scouting for new loading ports in Washington State. New mines are being planned for the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, some of the world’s more environmentally progressive regions are nascent epicenters of the new coal export trade, creating political tensions between business and environmental goals. Traditionally, coal is burned near where it is mined — particularly so-called thermal or steaming coal, used for heat and electricity. But in the last few years, long-distance international coal exports have been surging because of China’s galloping economy, which now burns half of the six billion tons of coal used globally each year. As a result, not only are the pollutants that developed countries have tried to reduce finding their way into the atmosphere anyway, but ships chugging halfway around the globe are spewing still more. And the rush to feed this new Asian market has helped double the price of coal over the past five years, leading to a renaissance of mining and exploration in many parts of the world. In Australia, environmental groups have repeatedly halted trainloads of coal headed to the export docks at Newcastle this fall, and flotillas of kayaking protesters have delayed cargo pickups by Asia-bound coal ships. Julia Gillard, Australia’s newly elected prime minister, promised during her campaign to “put a price on carbon” — in other words, make companies pay in some way for excessive carbon dioxide emissions. Environmentalists say such laws will be meaningless if the country continues its nascent coal rush and exports global warming. This summer an Australian company signed a $60 billion contract with a state enterprise, China Power International Development, to supply coal to Chinese power stations beginning in 2013 from a vast complex of mines, called China First, to be built in the Australian outback. It was Australia’s largest export contract ever. The deal points to the love-hate relationship many wealthier countries have with coal: while environmental laws have made it progressively harder to build new coalfired power plants, they do not restrict coal mining to the same extent. That is partly because emissions accounting standards focus on where a fuel is burned, not where it is dug up; because the coal trade is a lucrative business; and because the labor-intensive mining industry creates jobs. Such benefits are particularly hard to forgo in the

midst of a recession. In the last two years, “There has been an awful lot of mining development, and much of it is based on the potential of these new markets,” said David Price, director of the global steam coal advisory service at IHS-Cera, a global energy consultancy. Vic Svec, senior vice president of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, said it was “planning to send larger and larger amounts of coal” to China. “Coal is the fastest-growing fuel in the world and will continue to be largely driven by the enormous appetite for energy in Asia,” he said. The conflict between environmental and trade concerns is gaining momentum in the United States and Canada as well as Australia. Last year, the United States exported only 2,714 tons of coal to China, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Yet that figure soared to 2.9 million tons in the first six months of this year alone — huge growth, though still a minuscule fraction of China’s coal imports. New mines are planned to expand the market further. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, is suing to block the lease of state-owned land in Otter Creek, Mont., to Arch Coal for mining to serve demand in Asia and elsewhere. Likewise, Peabody Energy and Australia’s Ambre Energy have been separately expanding mines and exploring the idea of opening loading ports in the Pacific Northwest. In Washington State, the city of Tacoma decided Friday that it would not host a proposed coal loading plant, citing “a multitude of business and community factors.” This week officials in Cowlitz County are expected to decide whether to grant a permit for a proposed coal port in Longview, on the border with Oregon. Environmental groups will be there to oppose the port, noting that policies in both states effectively block new coal-fired plants and that both have plans to close the few that remain. “It’s one step forward, 10 steps back if we allow coal export in our region,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper. Likewise, environmentalists in British Columbia, which enacted the first tax on carbon dioxide emissions in North America two years ago, are incensed that Vancouver has blossomed into a major coal loading location. “It’s just hypocritical,” said Ben West, a spokesman for the

Wilderness Committee, a Canadian conservation group. This summer, Jim Prentice, who was then Canada’s environment minister, announced a national phase-out of dirty coal-fired plants. But mines are primarily regulated by the provinces, said Henry Lau, a spokesman for the ministry. The Canadian government adds that while it is committed to its target of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, it has to balance “environmental and economic benefits for its citizens.” The growth and shifts in coal exports to China are impressive, flowering even during the recession. Seaborne trade in thermal coal rose to about 690 million tons this year, up from 385 million in 2001. The price rose to $60 from $40 a ton five years ago to a high of $200 in 2008. Coal delivered to southern China currently sells for $114 per ton. China, which was a perennial coal exporter until 2009, the first year that it imported more than it sent out, is expected to import up to 150 million tons this year. The lucrative export trade with China is expected to continue, said Ian Cronshaw, head of the energy diversification division at the International Energy Agency. Although it has plentiful domestic supplies, China imports coal because much of its own is low grade and contains impurities. Coal from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming tends to be low in sulfur, for example, allowing power plants to burn more without exceeding local pollution limits. Additionally, much of China’s coal is inland while the factories are on the coast; it is often easier to ship coal from North America, Australia or even South America. Another emerging customer is India, whose coal imports rose from 36 million tons in 2008 to 60 million tons in 2009, the last full year for which data is available. In Europe and the United States, coal seems past its prime, with consumption generally down from five years ago because of the recession, environmental laws and a greater reliance on natural gas and renewable energy. For some economies, China has been a lifesaver. Although Colombia’s coal exports collapsed in 2008 when demand in America and Europe plummeted, they revived this year, with 10 million tons going to Asia. For Australia, coal exports to China grew to $5.6 billion from $508 million between 2008 and 2009, government statistics show. While it still sends more coal to its longtime customers Japan and Korea, that balance could shift as Australian coal giants sink billions into new projects.

The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010


Meeting Aims to Turn Tiger Fascination Into Conservation By LESLIE KAUFMAN


inisters from several countries gathered Sunday in St. Petersburg at the invitation of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to begin a five-day meeting with the goal of protecting tigers. Only a little more than 3,000 are estimated to be living outside captivity. Mr. Putin is so fond of the animals that he was given a cub for his 56th birthday. It is perhaps no accident that Mr. Putin has chosen to make an endangered feline the subject of the conference rather than a threatened canine — wolf, or wild dog. Throughout history, prominent men have identified with the majesty, power and machismo of large cats. The heads of the military junta in Myanmar, a country not known for its concern about human rights, recently created the largest tiger preserve in the world. In Africa, some Maasai warriors who once killed lions as a rite of manhood work in lion guardian programs. In contrast, predators in the dog family often not only lack admirers, but are despised. Wolves in Russia, are commonly hunted with the state’s blessing. Wild dogs in Africa are snared and killed by ranchers, despite being

critically endangered. In the United States, coyotes are pursued as pests. “It is really apparent that wild dogs engender a real visceral hatred,” said Luke Hunter, executive vice president of Panthera that works to save large cats. Ranchers, shepherds and other livestock owners, he said, “are venomous toward wild dogs in a way that they are not to big cats.” Dr. Hunter noted that he saw quite the opposite reaction to mountain lions, jaguars and other large felines. The same men, he said, hold the animals “in great esteem.” “They are elusive and secretive,” Dr. Hunter said of the cats. “Even a cattle rancher, who doesn’t much want them around, respects them.” The connection between leaders and large cats in particular has a long history. In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was often represented as a sphinx — part lion, part human. In Europe and the Middle East, lions came to be associated with royalty — partly due to their fierceness and partly because the mane made them look the part — and they appear on official symbols for more than a dozen countries, from the coat of arms of England to the Lion of Judah in Jerusalem. In Asia, tigers have similarly been alig-

ned with royalty, so much so that the Chinese character for king is thought to resemble the markings on the tiger’s forehead. “We like to think we are like tigers: independent, self-sufficient and predatory.” Most big cats, experts noted, hunt alone, while canids hunt in packs. That dynamic certainly seems to describe Mr. Putin’s relationship to tigers. His official Web site includes a link to a video of a trip Mr. Putin took to track tigers in the Ussuri nature preserve in the summer of 2008; in it, the prime minister is shown squatting over a sedated tigress. A press release said that he shot the cat with a sedative after she escaped from a trap. Even though big cats might have the edge, species from both families of predators remain endangered worldwide, according to animal conservation experts. “Both big cats and big canids have been pretty much wiped out,” said Steve E. Sanderson, the president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is supporting Mr. Putin’s conference in Russia. He says he believes that the tiger meeting might finally make a difference. The cats’ numbers are still being severely depleted despite hunting bans because poachers can make

a fortune selling their body parts on the black market. The parts are believed to have medicinal and sexual value in Asian cultures. In the first day of the St. Petersburg meeting, officials agreed on a goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022 through programs to protect habitat and eradicate poaching. However, the World Bank estimated that the 13 countries that still have tiger populations — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia — will need about $350 million in outside financing for just the first five years of the plan, in part to give incentives to local communities to help with conservation. About a third of the money would go to antipoaching efforts. Still, some wildlife experts questioned whether the measures being proposed were robust enough to halt the tiger’s slide toward extinction. Most of the money to combat poaching, they point out, has yet to be secured, and hard targets and punishments for poachers need to be strengthened beyond what has been proposed so far. “A lot more needs to be done to provide resources to the authorities,” he said.

Unlikely Person at the Heart of India’s Scandal By LYDIA POLGREEN


e was a small-town lawyer from a regional political party in a southern Indian state. By almost any measure, Andimuthu Raja, who had no background in telecommunications or in business, seemed an unlikely candidate to be the government minister presiding over the fastestgrowing cellphone market in the world. But he had the only qualification that mattered: the ironclad backing of the political chieftain of his party, a crucial ally of the governing Congress Party. Without his party’s 16 members of the lower house of Parliament, the government cobbled together from squabbling allies would collapse. Mr. Raja is now at the center of what may turn out to be the biggest political corruption scandal in Indian history. He is accused of using his post to sell off valuable mobile telephone spectrum licenses in 2008 at rockbottom prices. His decisions may have cost the Indian treasury as much as $40 billion. The widening scandal, coming on the heels of two major political scandals involving senior Congress Party officials, has eroded faith in India’s government. The scandal also threatens to undermine one of the cornerstones of India’s rapidly growing, technology-driven economy. The story of how Mr. Raja rose from small-time regional politician to telecommunications minister is emblematic of how politics in India, the world’s largest democracy,

really work. Small, regional parties, often formed along family or caste lines, hold outsize sway here, taking command of crucial and potentially lucrative parts of the government to fill their pockets and party coffers. Since 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi’s government went down in defeat in the wake of a corruption scandal involving military contracts, no party has won an outright majority in Parliament. As a result, forming a government has required complicated and often messy coalitions with smaller regional parties. The Congress Party has had no shortage of corruption scandals of its own. But it currently controls the most crucial government functions — internal security, foreign policy, defense and finance — and has entrusted them to seasoned leaders with unassailable credentials. But the realities of coalition politics, in which crucial allies must be given important posts, have left some large ministries in the hands of smaller parties, which have in turn put questionable politicians in important jobs. This has led to embarrassing scandals and mismanagement in the past. In 2006, the coal minister, Shibu Soren, a politician from the eastern state of Jharkhand and an important ally of the Congress Party, was forced to resign after he was convicted on murder charges. India’s railways, the country’s largest employer, are in the hands of Mamata Banerjee, a populist leader whose sole aim appears to be defeating the Communist Par-

ty of India in West Bengal and putting her party, the Trinamool Congress, in power. Mr. Raja’s party, the Tamil Nadubased Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or D.M.K., was once a liberation movement built on Tamil nationalism. But the party has largely jettisoned ideology. An octogenarian, wheelchair-dependent patriarch named M. Karunanidhi and his plentiful and perpetually feuding progeny run it, and it more closely resembles a sprawling family business empire than a political party. When the Congress Party returned to power in 2004, it won narrow advantage over the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party, whose former ally, the D.M.K., linked up instead with Congress. The D.M.K.’s reward was the telecommunications ministry and several other posts. Mr. Karunanidhi sent his grandnephew, a local media tycoon named Dyanidhi Maran, to Delhi to become telecommunications minister. But Mr. Maran fell afoul of Mr. Karunanidhi’s eldest son. In an effort to quiet the burgeoning family feud, Mr. Karunanidhi replaced Mr. Maran, a powerful political player in Tamil Nadu, with Mr. Raja, who was much less well known but who had a close relationship with Mr. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, who is also a powerful party figure. Mr. Raja had a history of party activism dating to his college days. He had been a minister in a previous government. He was the most important politician in the

state from the Dalit, or formerly untouchable, community, and giving him a big job would secure Dalit votes. Mr. Raja may not have been a threat to Mr. Karunanidhi’s children, who jealously guard control of the party as their birthright. But his handling of the spectrum sale has undermined confidence in what initially appeared to be India’s most stable and competent government in years. Even Mr. Singh, widely seen as one of the most upstanding politicians in India, has been tarred in the scandal. While no one has suggested he was involved in corruption, India’s Supreme Court criticized him last week for failing to respond to a call for an investigation into Mr. Raja’s handling of the spectrum sale. Mr. Raja resigned under pressure India’s Central Bureau of Investigation is carrying out a criminal inquiry. The Congress Party has faced its own corruption scandals in recent weeks. The senior politician who was in charge of the disastrous preparations for the Commonwealth Games last month had to resign amid multiple inquiries into fraud and graft. The chief minister of Maharashtra, the state that includes Mumbai, was forced to step down after it was discovered that members of his family had improperly received valuable apartments meant for war widows. Scandals could undermine efforts by Congress Party’s chief, Sonia Gandhi to win majority in 2014.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

For Russia’s Poor, Blond Hair Is Snippet of Gold



he road into town is a potholed track, passing villages of log cabins and fallow fields that speak to the poverty that has gripped this part of central Russia for as long as anyone can remember. But on a lane where geese waddle through muddy puddles, a brick building holds crate upon crate of this region’s one precious harvestable commodity: human hair, much of it naturally blond. For the global beauty industry, this is golden treasure. “Nobody else has this, nobody in the world,” said Aleksei N. Kuznetsov, the building’s owner. “Russian hair is the best in the world.” Buyers of human hair, most of them small-scale Russian and Ukrainian itinerant operators who sell to hair processors like Mr. Kuznetsov, flock to poor regions like this. Cash in hand, they pay small sums for a head’s worth of tresses sheared from women who often have few economic alternatives. Long sought for wigs and toupees, human hair is now in particularly high demand for hair extension procedures in more affluent countries. Dark hair from India and China is more plentiful, but blond and other light shades are valued for their relative scarcity and because they are easier to dye to match almost any woman’s natural color. The largest market is the United States, where tens of thousands of beauty salons offer hair extensions. AfricanAmerican women have long worn hair extensions, but the trend among women with lighter hair has been popularized

by celebrity endorsements from the likes of Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton. Great Lengths, an Italian company and major supplier to the United States, has estimated the American retail market for hair extensions at $250 million annually, or about 3 percent of the entire hair care products market. The average price for extensions is $439, according to a 2009 survey by American Salon Magazine, although the procedure can cost several thousand dollars at elite salons. The extension business is also growing in Europe. An estimated 20 percent of Russian hair is used domestically, by the well coiffed of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The blond harvest is not necessarily new, having followed an economic development path in recent decades, moving from Western Europe in the 1960s and ’70s, through Poland in the ’80s and to Ukraine and Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. But as more of the world’s light-haired woman have climbed the economic ladder, the search for poor blondes willing to part with their locks has become ever more difficult. “It’s not hard to understand why people in Ukraine sell their hair a hundred times more often than people in Sweden,” David Elman, a co-owner of Raw Virgin Hair Company, an importer based in Kiev, Ukraine, said in a telephone interview. “They are not doing it for fun. Usually, only people who have temporary financial difficulties in depressed regions sell their hair.” Here in Mosalsk, a 16-inch braid, the shortest length a buyer will consider, fetches about $50. Natalya N. Vinokurova, 26, grew up

nearby in Yukhnov, a town where half the homes lack indoor plumbing and the average monthly wage is about $300. What little cash-crop agriculture there once was collapsed with the Soviet Union. But Ms. Vinokurova cultivated something with market value: strawberry blond hair that hung to her waist before she sold it. “I wore it in a braid, a ponytail, different ways,” she said. “But I got sick of it, and all the other girls have short hair, so I cut it,” and then sold it, she said with a shrug. She now wears a bob and has no immediate plans to grow it to a marketable length, which she said would take years. Mr. Kuznetsov’s company here, Belli Capelli, which processes human hair into extension kits, is the largest business of its type in Russia, with annual revenue of about $16 million. Kicking mud from his boots, he clambered into a Land Rover to tour the buildings here and in a neighboring town where a few dozen employees wash, dye and comb hair, then sort it by hue and length. At one sorting table, where about 500 braids were laid out, he stopped to extol the quality of his product. The best hair, he said, is honeyhued, changes color in the light and is soft to the touch. “This is capitalism,” he said. “The people with money want to distinguish themselves from the people with no money. Why does one woman sell her hair to another? The person with money wants to look better than the person without money.” American customers are typically unconcerned about the origins of extensions, other than to ask if they are hy-

gienic, said Ron Landzaat, founder of Hair Extensions Guide, a trade group in Santa Rosa, Calif., who said the hair was sterilized by boiling it. “They are concerned about their looks more than anything else,” Mr. Landzaat said by telephone. Obtaining adequate supplies is the industry’s biggest challenge. Great Lengths, the Italian supplier to the American market, obtains hair that women have ritualistically donated to temples in India, and says it can be dyed to match most hair types. Others in the business, including Mr. Kuznetsov, say European hair is a better option for women with light hair, and so is prized. Russian factory towns in the Ural Mountains, about 900 miles east of Mosalsk, became such contested territory among hair buyers that in 2006 one was shot in a dispute with another, suggesting Russian organized crime involvement, the newspaper Kommersant reported. Although Mr. Kuznetsov has no local rivals that he knows of, he keeps a security guard posted at the entrance to his storeroom. The milk crates, filled with the hair of thousands of women and sorted by categories including “Southern Russian” and “Russian Gold,” might make an alluring target for a heist. Most hair comes from buyers who roam the rougher parts of Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states, posting fliers on utility poles offering money for hair. In Belarus, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, a staunch nationalist, has placed such tight controls on small entrepreneurs that the trade is all but impossible, to the regret of those in the business, because the country is poor and has an abundance of blond women. Generally, about 70 percent of the hair bought in Russia comes from locks kept at home from previous haircuts. Some Ukrainian and Russian women, for example, traditionally cut their hair after the birth of their first child, and may decide only years later to sell it. In areas of dire poverty, it is a final resource to tap in times of desperation. The rest is bought, often after some haggling, directly from the head of the seller, who then gets a haircut on the spot. As a courtesy, in Russia, the deal is nearly always done in a salon so a hairdresser can cut carefully. “Some women cut their hair to change their style, others need the money,” said Sergei V. Kotlubi, a buyer who plies the blighted industrial regions near the city of Novosibirsk in Siberia. “It’s like fishing. You never know what you will catch.”

The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010


South Korea Digests News of North’s Nuclear Site



evelations of a uranium enrichment facility that recently went operational in North Korea apparently caught the South Korean government and nuclear experts here by surprise. “If this information is true, then this is a serious problem,” an official with the Defense Ministry said, referring to the enrichment facility that was seen this month by an American nuclear scientist on a visit to North Korea. The defense official and other government officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue and because the South Korean government was still formulating a response. “Our ministry is watching and monitoring North Korea’s nuclear activity,” said the defense official, adding that he was not permitted to say whether the military had known if the facility existed before the scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, revealed the information. Mr. Hecker’s findings were first reported Sunday in The New York Times. Several other senior government officials said privately on Monday that they were surprised by the news of the highly sophisticated plant, which Mr. Hecker described in a report as an “industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility with 2,000 centrifuges.” He said the interior of the plant was “stunning” in its sophistication. One senior official in Seoul said the government has long had “suspicions” of the North’s continuing enrichment program. Although the new revelations were “a serious matter,” he characterized the mood in his ministry as “not that panicked.” Wi Sung-lac, Seoul’s chief negotiator on nuclear issues, met on Monday morning in Seoul with Stephen Bosworth, the United States special envoy for North Korea, and Mr. Bosworth called the North Korean enrichment effort “disappointing” and “not helpful.” On Monday afternoon, Mr. Wi traveled to Beijing to meet with his Chinese

counterparts. His trip to Beijing had been previously scheduled. “He is probably going to check with the Chinese government to see if they got stabbed in the back,” said an analyst close to the government who asked not to be named. China is North Korea’s principal benefactor and only major ally. On Monday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan downplayed the newly operational facility, saying, “It’s nothing new.” But some political analysts in Seoul were alarmed at an apparent lapse in intelligence gathering by United States and South Korean agencies. “These are supposedly the best and brightest guys and they’re making such stupid mistakes,” said Moon Chung-in, a professor of political science at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Washington and Seoul always fall into the pattern of looking at North Korea from their own negative perceptions. They are blinded by their own stereotypes, prejudices and inertia.” Mr. Moon said the North had publicly announced it would continue with its nuclear efforts if international sanctions against the regime remained in place. Indeed, on April 15, 2009, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said it would “proceed with our own LWR fuel cycle,” referring to the production of low-enriched uranium for use in a civilian light water reactor. North Korean atomic officials recently told Mr. Hecker and a former American diplomat, Jack Pritchard, that they had begun construction of such a reactor. “Intelligence agencies in South Korea and the U.S. haven’t even been paying attention to official announcements from North Korea,” said Mr. Moon. “There was no reaction from Washington and Seoul. They just said it was North Korea bluffing or for propaganda purposes. It’s weird. It’s surreal.” But now that the North has unveiled its new enrichment facility, Mr. Moon said, “North Korea has proved they can deliver.”

“The control room was astonishingly modern,” Mr. Hecker said, adding that it “would fit into any modern American processing facility.” Mr. Hecker, a professor at Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said North Korean officials told him their enrichment facility took 18 months to bring online. Several nuclear experts in Seoul were doubtful that North Korea had managed to build the plant so quickly — and without outside help or equipment. “Definitely they had help,” said a senior government official. “They could not do this alone,” said Kim Seoc-woo, a proliferation expert and director of the Institute for Peace and Cooperation, a research institute in Seoul. “They must have got their equipment from somewhere. That means, maybe, through China.” Mr. Kim was careful to say that the Chinese government was “not intentionally turning a blind eye to this.” “This is against their own interests,” he said. “But there are loopholes

everywhere.” Instead, Mr. Kim and other analysts suggested, North Korean traders using elaborate smuggling channels might have brought banned nuclear equipment into the North using an overland route — starting from Iran, then through Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan, then into China and on to North Korea. Nuclear experts in Seoul said Monday the construction of the light water reactor also was a significant worry, especially if the North was able to complete such a facility on its own. North Korean officials told Mr. Pritchard that the plant will be for electricity generation. Low enriched uranium is typically used for power plants and research reactors. Highly enriched uranium and plutonium, however, are used in nuclear weapons. “There’s no quantum leap in technology in going from low to high,” said Mr. Kim. “You use the same process, just repeated. Once you go into enrichment, there’s no limit. There’s no technological barrier. It’s just a matter of time.”

War Crimes Trial Begins for Congolese Politician By MARLISE SIMONS


he war crimes trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a leading politician from Congo, opened on Monday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where prosecutors hold him responsible for large-scale raping and killing committed by an armed force under his command. The case against Mr. Bemba, 48, who is a millionaire businessman and the scion of a prominent family, has already caused considerable commotion in Congo, where he was widely believed to be untouchable. A former vice president who went into exile after being defeated in a 2006 election, he remains the leader of a political party and still has a large following in the area around Kinshasa, the capital. At the time of his surprise arrest in 2008, when he was visiting Belgium, Mr. Bemba brandished a diplomatic passport and claimed immunity. In The Hague, he has put together a large defense team and has denied all charges against him. Mr. Bemba is the most senior government official to be tried before the first permanent international criminal court, which opened its doors in 2002 to deal with large-scale atrocities. Prosecutors say he put together a

force in Congo and sent it into a neighboring country, the Central African Republic, in late 2002 and early 2003 to help put down a coup attempt against AngeFelix Patasse, who was president of the republic at the time. “After Bemba’s troops conquered the area where the rebels were, they organized small groups to move from house to house, raping and pillaging, killing those who opposed them,” said Luis MorenoOcampo, the chief prosecutor. The case against Mr. Bemba rests on the question of command responsibility. “Normally the difficulty in such a case is to prove that the commander has real authority and control,” the prosecutor said on Monday before the trial opened. He said the evidence in the case was clear. “JeanPierre Bemba himself created the army to gain money and power,” he said, adding that Mr. Bemba personally managed the force, stayed in constant contact with it and was well informed about its activities. After the fighting, Mr. Bemba organized some “sham trials” to cover up his crimes, pretending that he was punishing the perpetrators, the prosecutor said. Mr. Bemba faces two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes, including murder, rape, pillaging and torture by troops under his command.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Hundreds Die in Stampede in Cambodia


housands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital, leaving more than 330 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country’s biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. Some in the panicky crowd — who were celebrating the end of the rainy season on a sliver of land in a river — tried to flee over a bridge and were crushed underfoot or fell over its sides into the water. A witness who arrived shortly after the stampede described “bodies stacked on bodies” on the bridge as rescuers swarmed the area.

Ambulances raced back and forth between the river and the hospitals for several hours after the stampede. Calmette Hospital, the capital’s main medical facility, was filled to capacity with bodies as well as patients, some of whom had to be treated in hallways. Many of the injured appeared to be badly hurt, raising the prospect that the death toll could rise as local hospitals became overwhelmed. Hours after the chaos, the dead and injured were still being taken away from the scene, while searchers looked for bodies of anyone who might have drowned. An Associated Press reporter saw one body floa-

ting in the river, and hundreds of shoes left behind on and around the bridge. Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his third post-midnight live television broadcast, said that 339 people had been killed and 329 injured. He described the chaos as the biggest tragedy to strike his country since the communist rule of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies are blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people during the 1970s. He ordered an investigation into the cause of the stampede and declared Thursday would be a national day of mourning. Government ministries were ordered to fly the flag at half-staff. Authorities had estimated that upward of 2 million people would descend on Phnom Penh for the three-day water festival, which marks the end of the rainy season and whose main attraction is traditional boat races along the river. The last race ended early Monday evening, the last night of the holiday, and the panic started later on Koh Pich — Diamond Island — a long spit of land wedged in a fork in the river where a concert was being held. It was unclear how many people were on the island to celebrate the holiday, though the area appeared to be packed with people, as were the banks. Soft drink vendor So Cheata said the trouble began when about 10 people fell unconscious in the press of the crowd. She

said that set off a panic, which then turned into a stampede, with many people caught underfoot. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith gave a similar account of the cause. Seeking to escape the island, part of the crowd pushed onto a bridge, which also jammed up, with people falling under others and into the water. So Cheata said hundreds of hurt people lay on the ground afterward. Many appeared to be unconscious. Philip Heijmans, a 27-year-old photographer from Brooklyn, N.Y., who arrived at the scene half-an-hour after the stampede, walked up the bridge to see hundreds of shoes and pieces of clothing, then a body, then more “bodies stacked on bodies.” He counted about 40 in all, with about 200 rescuers in the area. Some Australian firefighters were on the scene— it wasn’t clear why they were in town — who were checking pulses before loading bodies into vans. Cambodia is one of the region’s poorer countries, and has an underdeveloped health system, with hospitals barely able to cope with daily medical demands. Koh Pich used to host a slum community, but in recent years the poor have been evicted to make way for high-rise and commercial development, most yet to be realized.

Irish Leader to Dissolve Government After Budget I

rish Prime Minister Brian Cowen defied mounting pressure to quit, saying he would stay in office until parliament passed an austerity budget needed to secure an IMF/EU bailout, then call an early election. European partners and the International Monetary Fund agreed in principle on Sunday to rescue Ireland with an expected 80 to 90 billion euros in loans to tackle a banking and budget crisis that has aroused public fury. Ireland’s Greens, junior partners in Cowen’s coalition, called on Monday for an early election in January as soon as the international bailout was in place. Then two independent lawmakers on whom the government relies for support said they were unlikely to support the 2011 austerity budget, due to be unveiled on December 7. With the main opposition parties calling for an immediate election, this meant the budget was unlikely to pass, and the EU/IMF aid package that will be contingent on it was likely to be delayed. But Cowen appeared to be daring the opposition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, to block the budget -- and hold up the aid as well as the promised election -- when they could let it pass by abstaining. “I don’t think they should call an elec-

tion before the budget because the whole basis of the IMF coming in would be undermined,” said 39-year-old Dublin teacher Gerald Murphy. Geoffrey Yu, foreign exchange strategist at UBS in London, said Cowen had thrown down the gauntlet to the opposition. “But if you are a euro zone bond investor are you going to take that chance?” he said. “They won’t be very impressed, but will they see this as a reason to sell off aggressively? We are not so sure either.” A top euro zone official said the first loans to Ireland could flow in January, but financial markets turned negative as investors assessed the new political uncertainty and the risk of pressure spreading to other vulnerable EU countries. News of a bailout for Greece last May slashed the yield on Greek 10-year government bonds by 4.5 percentage points, halving the premium that investors required to hold Greek debt rather than low-risk German debt. But Irish government debt prices have barely reacted to news of the latest bailout. In late European trading, the latest Irish 10-year bond was yielding 8.34 percent, over 5.5 points more than the German equivalent. European shares fell and the euro,

which hit a one-week high near $1.38 overnight on news of the package, dipped to around $1.3620 at 5 p.m. EDT on fears that it would not prevent contagion reaching Portugal and possibly Spain. Irish stocks closed down 1.49 percent, while bank shares fell by about 20 percent on fears that equity holders will take the first losses. Even if the Irish loans flow, economists doubted whether the second euro zone rescue in six months, after Greece, would stop markets targeting fellow straggler Portugal, or prevent heavily indebted EU states defaulting in the longer run. Euro zone policymakers expressed greater optimism. “I don’t think any immediate contagion effect could be the case,” Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of euro zone finance ministers, told reporters. Portugal and Spain insisted their situation was different and they did not need help. Moody’s Investors Service said a “multi-notch” downgrade of Ireland’s credit rating, still leaving it in the investment grade category, was now the most likely outcome. While the rescue package is expected to be less than the 110 billion euros provided for Greece in May, it will be larger as a proportion of national wealth and in per

capita terms. European and IMF negotiators began thrashing out details of the rescue package as the Irish government put finishing touches to a drastic 15 billion euro ($20.5 billion) austerity plan. Cowen said the government’s fouryear economic plan, to be announced on Wednesday, would involve 10 billion euros in public spending cuts and 5 billion euros in tax rises, on top of two years of harsh austerity and recession already endured. It is expected to cut the minimum wage, slash social welfare spending, reduce the number of public employees and add a new property tax and higher income taxes. But ministers said it would not touch Ireland’s ultra-low 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, seen by some Irish as a symbol of national independence but as an irritant by many higher-tax EU countries. Trade unions have warned that the austerity plan could provoke civil unrest: a student demonstration over planned fee increases turned violent this month, and unions have organized a march to protest at the planned measures on November 27 in Dublin. A plan to restructure Ireland’s banks, which had to be rescued by the state after a property boom fueled by reckless lending collapsed.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Pill-Popping Pets By JAMES VLAHOS


ax retrieves Frisbees. He gobbles jelly beans. He chases deer. He is — and this should be remembered when discussions of cases like his blunder into the thickets of cognitive ethology, normative psychology and intraspecies solipsism — a good dog. A 3-year-old German shepherd, all rangy limbs and skittering paws, he patrols the hardwood floors and wall-to-wall carpets of a cul-de-sac home in Lafayette, Calif., living with Michelle Spring, a nurse, and her husband, Allan, a retired airline pilot. Max fields tennis balls with his dexterous forelegs and can stand on his hindquarters to open the front door. He loves car rides and will leap inside any available auto, even ones belonging to strangers. Housebroken, he did slip up once indoors, but everybody knows that the Turducken Incident simply wasn’t his fault. “He’s agile,” Allan says. “He’s healthy. He’s a good-looking animal.” Michelle adds, “We love him to death.” That is why they had no choice, she says. The dog simply had to go on psychoactive drugs. I arrived the night Max was to receive his first pill. He picked at the food in his chow bowl while the Springs sat at the kitchen table discussing his problems. For starters, there was his overpowering need to be near people, especially Allan. If they put Max outside, he quickly relieved himself and then rushed back indoors; he raced into rooms that Allan was about to occupy; he rested his head against the bathroom door during his master’s ablutions. “Watch this,” Allan said. He and Michelle stood up to hug. The moment they touched, Max unleashed a string of high-pitched barks. “He likes being close to us, but he doesn’t like us being close to each other,” Allan said. These behaviors, however, weren’t what prompted the psychiatric intervention. The Springs led me downstairs to the family room — Max, supper unfinished, bounded ahead. Downstairs, Allan pointed to Max, who was lying on the floor and staring at his tail. He looked angry at it, disturbed by it. “You can see the pressure building in his psyche until he’s ready to explode,” Michelle said. And then he did: Max jumped to his feet and lunged. His jaws snapped, catching only air, and he spun counterclockwise in place, an accelerating blur of fur and teeth and frustration. Tail-chasing is normal — except that Max did it daily, often for hours on end. “He’s like a junkie needing a fix,” Allan said. “At times he can’t not do it. He goes berserk.” Allan went upstairs and returned moments later with a bit of ground turkey and a pill. He hid the pill in the meat and extended his hand to Max, who had stopped spinning. The medicine was chemically identical to clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant used in human psychiatric care, but it came in a green-and-white Novartis

box brightened by the picture of a happy yellow lab. This wasn’t Anafranil, the brand name for the human version of the drug; it was Clomicalm, just for dogs. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating separation anxiety, a problem that can occur when dogs are left home alone, the medication is also commonly prescribed off-label for patients with Max’s diagnosis: compulsive disorder. He was the canine version of a person who washes his hands 20 times an hour. Max leaned forward and gulped the pill down. The practice of prescribing medications designed for humans to animals has grown substantially over the past decade and a half, and pharmaceutical companies have recently begun experimenting with a more direct strategy: marketing behaviormodification and “lifestyle” drugs specifically for pets. America’s animals, it seems, have very American health problems. More than 20 percent of our dogs are overweight; Pfizer’s Slentrol was approved by the F.D.A. last year as the country’s first canine antiobesity medication. Dogs live 13 years on average, considerably longer than they did in the past; Pfizer’s Anipryl treats cognitive dysfunction so that absent-minded pets can remember the location of the supper bowl or doggy door. For lonely dogs with separation anxiety, Eli Lilly brought to market its own drug Reconcile last year. The only difference between it and Prozac is that Reconcile is chewable and tastes like beef. Doggy diet pills may be plainly absurd, but scientists in an expanding field known as behavioral pharmacology say that the combination of new drug therapies and progressive training techniques can solve problems that in the past almost always resulted in euthanasia. The supposed effectiveness of psychiatric medicines in treating mood and behavior issues is prompting new questions in the centuries-old debate over what, exactly, separates mankind from the beasts. If the strict Cartesian view were true — that animals are essentially fleshand-blood automatons, lacking anything resembling human emotion, memory and consciousness — then why do animals develop mental illnesses that eerily resemble human ones and that respond to the same medications? What can behavioral pharmacology teach us about animal minds and, ultimately, our own? ON SEPT. 5, 1379, A TRIO OF French pigs, agitated by the squealing of a piglet, bowled over their keeper’s son, who died shortly thereafter of the injuries. As E. P. Evans recounts in his 1906 monograph, “The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals,” “the three sows, after due process of law, were condemned to death” along with several other pigs who had “hastened to the scene of the murder and by their cries and aggressive actions showed that they approved of the assault.” (The accom-

plices were later pardoned.) Fast-forward to December 2007 to witness a curious animal proceeding of the modern era: Mitzi-Bitzi, a lap dog, modeling a $118,000 diamond bracelet at the opening of Chateau Poochie, a pet hotel and spa near Miami. “She’s just so special,” her owner, Marilyn Belkin, told me later, as if that explained things. The sows and Mitzi got opposite treatment, but the beliefs of Belkin and the pig prosecutors weren’t so different. In medieval times and in the present, we often act as if animals had thoughts, feelings and desires that resemble those of people. How else could you justify the porcine death penalty; why splurge on a blueberry facial when a simple roll on the lawn would do? Marketers have a new name for the age-old tendency to view animals as furry versions of ourselves: “humanization,” a trend that is fueling the explosive growth of the pet industry and the rise of modern pet pharma. Americans forked over $49 billion for pet products and services last year, up $11.5 billion from 2003; other than consumer electronics, pet products are the fastest-growing retail segment. The market expansion is being driven both by more pets and by more spending per pet, especially by affluent baby boomers whose children have graduated from college. A third of the total spending, and the fastest-growing category, is health care, with treatments formerly reserved for people — root canals, chemotherapy, liposuction, mood pills — being administered to pets. “I get asked all the time, ‘What is it with this humanization — do we suddenly love our pets a whole lot more?’ ” says David Lummis, who analyzes the pet industry for the market research firm Packaged Facts.

“My theory is that it’s always been there, but it’s been sanctioned now. It’s not just the crazy cat lady. It’s marketers and all of this consumer advertising that have made it O.K. to spend tons of money on your pet.” Humanization has pharmaceutical companies salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. Surveys by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that 77 percent of dog owners and 52 percent of cat owners gave their animals some sort of medication in 2006, both up at least 25 percentage points from 2004. Sales of drugs for pets recently surpassed those for farm animals. Eli Lilly created its “companion animal” division at the beginning of 2007 and over the next three years hopes to release several other drugs. Pfizer, whose companion animal revenues have grown 57 percent since 2003 to nearly $1 billion, hopes to develop medications for pain, cancer and behavioral issues. Most consumer spending is still on traditional pet medications like antiparasitics, but Ipsos, a marketing research firm, estimates that at least $15 million was spent on behavior-modification drugs in the United States in 2005. “As people are seeing more complex and sophisticated drugs for themselves, they want that same quality for their pets,” Dr. Melanie Berson, a veterinarianat the F.D.A.’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, has said. People’s willingness to employ behavior-modifying medications stems in part from a growing desire for more convenient, obedient household animals. “Our expectations are really going up,” Lummis says. “Owners want their pets to be more like little well-behaved children.”

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24 December. 2 - 8, 2010 Comes from page 23 Potent as a marketing trend, humanization has long been scorned as scientific practice by researchers working in the behaviorist tradition of B. F. Skinner. In “Inside the Animal Mind,” George Page summarizes the reasons: “Since we cannot get inside the animal’s mind . . . and since the animal cannot report what’s going on — not in a ‘language’ we can readily understand — all we have left are guesses and speculation fatally tainted by anthropomorphism.” Strict behaviorists focus instead on observable stimulus-response conditioning: for example, a puppy learning to sit to receive a treat. Actions that cannot be explained this way are usually attributed to blind instinct. As such, hard-core Skinnerian philosophy amounts to a perversion of cogito ergo sum: I can’t prove that animals think, therefore they don’t. In dealing with problem pets, veterinarians with a behaviorist bent don’t concern themselves so much with what might be happening inside the brain of the animal or try to correct neurochemical imbalances with drugs. Instead, a compulsive or anxious animal is seen as one that just needs to be better-trained. The debate about animal minds is at least as old as Aristotle, who posited that men alone possess reason. The 17th-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche wrote that animals “desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing,” while Voltaire asked, “Answer me, mechanist, has Nature arranged all the springs of feeling in this animal to the end that he might not feel?” Darwin’s view was, Of course not. In “The Descent of Man” he wrote, “We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties . . . of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.” The staggering assertion of Darwin’s theory is that evolutionary continuity applies not just to bodies but to brains. “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind,” he wrote. The guiding belief is that while it is scientifically baseless to assume that animals think and feel just as we do, it is equally fool-

hardy to assume that they don’t think and feel at all. In laboratory experiments and field observations, practitioners have presented evidence of analogical reasoning by apes, counting by rats and the capacity of pigeons to distinguish the paintings of Picasso from those of Monet. Researchers have demonstrated that animals can grasp basic abstractions like “same” and “different” and use mental flexibility to solve novel problems in the laboratory for which hard-wired instinct couldn’t have prepared them. Research has shown that bumblebees can remember which flowers they have already visited and that two-inch-long cockroaches from Madagascar can tell the difference between a familiar person and a stranger. Cognitive ethologists have had more difficulty gathering evidence for animal emotion. To any pet owner who has stroked a purring cat or watched a dog cavort when his chow hits the bowl, it seems intuitively obvious that animals experience feelings. But intuition isn’t hard science — it’s just more humanization. Enter behavioral pharmacology, which has provided a tantalizing new window into the animal mind. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, who pioneered the field and founded the Tufts University Animal Behavior Clinic, says that skeptics of the premise that animals have emotional states used to ask him how he could say that a pacing, hyperventilating dog was actually feeling anxious. “Well, how about this?” Dodman would reply. “We’ll give him an antianxiety drug and see what happens.” THE GROUNDS OF THE CUMMINGS School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts sprawl over 640 acres of rolling greenery in central Massachusetts. When I arrived to visit in March, one of the first things Dodman told me was that the campus used to be the site of a state mental hospital. Like other facilities, it had been shuttered in the 1960s following the revolutionary discovery of drugs that treated schizophrenia and other disorders so effectively that many patients no longer required institutionalization. “Ironically, this paved the way for our school, our behavior program, and novel pharmacological treatments for animal behavior problems,” Dodman said. Dodman, an Englishman, began his

The San Juan Weekly career in the early 1970s as a roving country vet in the tradition of James Herriot; he went on to write a popular series of advice books for pet owners, the latest of which is “The Well-Adjusted Dog.” In 1981 he moved to the United States to become a professor of anesthesia at Cummings. Drugs interested him greatly but comatose patients, increasingly, did not, and he began to wonder: Could medications transform veterinary behavioral medicine just as radically as they had human psychiatric care? He says he quickly realized that the field was “completely wide open, like virgin snow.” At a veterinary conference in the late 1980s, he presented his vision of the psychoactive frontier and “saw jaws drop around the room. It was like, ‘Who is this strange masked man?’ ” Three decades later, “it’s almost mainstream for behaviorists to know something about pharmacology,” Dodman says. Inside his small office, Dodman, wearing a tie-and-tasseled-loafer ensemble topped by a white lab coat, received the day’s first patient. A muzzled dog on a short lead towed Joe and Mahala Richards, from Mendon, Mass., into the room. “So here we have Zoey, who’s a yellow black-mouthed cur, 5 years old, and you got her at 7 months,” Dodman said. “I’m already picking up that she’s fearful and anxious, and that usually stems from a disturbed childhood.” “We know she was abused,” Mahala said. “There you go,” Dodman replied. Joe said Zoey’s problem was that she sometimes attacked when food was around. The worst incident had happened a week ago when Mahala was watching television and reached for a piece of cheese. “She just came after me,” Mahala said. Joe added, “Zoey had her on the couch — she’s screaming at the top of her lungs— and Zoey just kept going at her hands.” Mahala held up a scarred wrist. “My God, that’s nasty,” Dodman said. He listened for 20 minutes and then issued a diagnosis: something called “conflict aggression,” which meant that occasionally Zoey forgot that she didn’t need to fight to get her share of food. Zoey was to be kept from hot dogs, peanut-butter bones and any other culinary provocations. High places like beds were forbidden (elevated positions can make dogs feel more confident), and exercise was essential. Outlining what he called the “nothing in life is free” program, Dodman said that Zoey should be made to sit before feeding and that affection was to be rationed. The overall goal was to get Zoey to respect the leadership of her owners, which would raise her inhibition to attack. These behavior modifications alone might be enough to cure Zoey, Dodman concluded. “We don’t want to have to put her down,” Mahala replied quietly. “No,” Dodman said. “A serious bite is a risk factor for euthanasia for the dog, which is why another component of the program might be some medicine. If we were to ask Zoey: ‘Look, if you slip up in the future, and you bite someone like that again, the chances are you’re not going to come out of it alive. But we can make you feel better if

we give you some medicine like, for example, Prozac. Would you like to have the medicine that might save your life?’ And she might go, ‘Grrr-rrr rrrup — yeah, yeah, I’ll take the medicine.’ It’s a lifesaving thing.” Joe and Mahala left a half-hour later with a scrip in hand. Aggression is the leading issue that brings animals into clinics; it and other behavior problems are the top reasons that pets are surrendered to shelters. Half of them are euthanized, roughly three to four million animals per year, and an equal number are believed to be put down in private practices. Treatment with psychoactive medications is then a very real alternative to lethal injection. Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (S.S.R.I.), prolongs the effects of that neurotransmitter to reduce impulsivity, stabilize moods and lower anxiety, Dodman says. He is friends with the noted Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, and they once compared the drugs they employ to treat violent people and animals. “You superimpose my portfolio on top of his, and it’s the same thing,” Dodman says. He has patented his S.S.R.I. approach and is working with a pharmaceutical company, Accura Animal Health, that plans to bring it to market as the first F.D.A.-approved treatment for canine aggression. (The current use of Prozac and similar drugs is prescribed off-label.) Aggression is a feline problem too. A few weeks after visiting Dodman, I went to the home of a man in West Los Angeles whose pet was on Prozac. The owner, Doug, asked me not to use his last name because he didn’t want business associates to know about what he called his “cougar psycho little miniature stalker” — Booboo the cat. The first incident took place four years years ago after Booboo ate some decorative dried flowers. Booboo scaled his cat tree and sat there with his eyes “a little dilated and cross-eyed,” Doug said. He started “growling like a banshee,” released “a high, shrill wail” and lunged. “He ripped my leg up and wouldn’t let go.” Doug fled, and Booboo pursued. Finally he was able to trap the cat in a bedroom. From then on Booboo was different. He would periodically ambush Doug. Over time, Doug noticed that attacks were more likely if he smelled at all abnormal — for instance, if he had been near a woman wearing perfume — so he would take a shower after coming home and then change into his designated catwrangling outfit. Doug consulted a behaviorist, Dr. Karen Sueda. One hypothesis was that Booboo suffered from a feline version of schizophrenia — there is evidence that animals experience auditory and visual hallucinations and can temporarily enter deluded states in which they attack. Sueda didn’t think that was likely with Booboo, nor did she think his attacks were motivated by fear, as is often the case with animal aggression. In Booboo she says she saw a dominant, confident cat who “wanted to control his personal territory.” One theory about such animals is that they suffer from a neurochemical imbalance. As Dodman explained in his book “The Cat Who Cried for Help,” “By enga-

The San Juan Weekly ging in and winning aggressive encounters, dominant animals drive up serotonin levels and gain in composure.” Sueda prescribed Prozac to boost the effects of the neurotransmitter. Doug led me up the stairs in his house to the second floor. He donned a pair of khakis that he had lined with heavy-gauge ballistic nylon and washed up because he had shaken hands with me. He crept toward the master bedroom, where Booboo was permanently quarantined behind a door that had been remounted to swing outward to facilitate quick escapes by Doug. “Just behind this door lurks the Tasmanian devil,” Doug said before slipping inside. I squatted at ground level and watched through a transparent doggy door. The 400-squarefoot room had a walk-in closet, a four-poster bed and a floor-to-ceiling view of Beverly Hills mansions dotting a scenic canyon. The suite belonged entirely to Booboo, though Doug said he was now able to sleep over a few nights a week. Booboo slinked past the window and gave me a steady gaze. He had a tuxedo coat, mostly black but with patches of white on his feet, underbelly and forehead. Doug scooped him up and they nuzzled face to face. “He’s just warm, soft and fuzzy, and he purrs, and he’s cuddly,” he murmured. Separation anxiety, bane of modern home-alone dogs and target of Lilly’s new Reconcile, is a problem millennia in the making. Archaeologists and geneticists estimate that the domestication of wolves (Canis lupus) into dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) began at least 15,000 years ago. One hypothesis about how this happened is that as humans settled down and established villages, piles of discarded food scraps and plant matter accumulated on the outskirts. Wolves that were genetically predisposed to be slightly less fearful of humans would feed off the free bounty, while the more skittish animals would steer clear. “At this point, natural selection would take over,” Jake Page explains in “Dogs: A Natural History.” “As the dump-loving wolves reproduced with each other, their tameness would probably become more and more pronounced.” The gentler animals were increasingly favored and brought into our lives to the point that many dogs (42 percent, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association) now sleep in the same beds as their owners. Extreme attachment to people is one of the defining traits of dogs. Extreme attachment, unfortunately, also causes some dogs extreme suffering when deprived of their owners’ company. Martha and Phil Bridges live in Sacramento with a 2-year-old lab mix named Rocco. The Bridges told me that when they left home and went to work each day from 8 a.m to 5 p.m., they would lock Rocco in a large cage in the dining room to keep the young dog from running amok. One day last fall they returned to find the dog loose with his nose bloodied from prying the cage door open. They locked him in it again. The next evening Rocco was still inside but had shredded his pillow bed and reared up so

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violently that the cage was destroyed. Next the Bridges used a baby gate to block off part of the house so that Rocco would have more room to roam. He stripped five feet of carpeting from the floor. They locked him in the bathroom. Shower curtain shredded, shampoo swallowed, door frame torn. Realizing they needed help, the Bridges took Rocco to see Dr. Rachel Malamed, a resident at the Behavior Service at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. She diagnosed separation anxiety, outlined a retraining program and wrote a scrip. The happy outcome: Rocco “has never had another problem since we put him on Reconcile,” Martha says. An estimated 14 percent or more of American dogs have separation anxiety. The problem signs include home and self-destruction; prolonged whining, barking or drooling; or simply standing by the front door all day in a lonely, panting vigil. (“Nannycam”-type video recorders have captured all of the above.) The terms for Reconcile’s F.D.A. approval were that the drug had to be prescribed with a course of behavior modification. In Rocco’s case, Malamed taught the Bridges to stage mock departures — jingling the car keys, opening the front door — while giving treats so that Rocco would associate their leaving with a yummy reward. When the Bridges left the house for real, they were to slip out with zero fuss; frantic barking and jumping were to be ignored. “We brought on this anxiety with him being so attached to us,” Martha says. “Now we have to break that bond — without breaking it to the point where he won’t know that we still love him.” When it comes to retraining, however, some people are slackers. Dodman estimates that 25 percent of the pet owners he sees don’t take his advice. At U.C. Davis I observed one couple impatiently shrugging off Malamed’s directives. I was watching the appointment via closed-circuit television with another vet, Dr. Jeannine Berger, and she sighed in exasperation. “They just want the magic pill,” she said. “People always want the magic pill.” The studies of Reconcile show why behavioral pharmacologists prefer not to rely on the medicine bottle — or for that matter, retraining — alone. Dr. Steve Connell, a veterinarian at Eli Lilly, told me that “behavior modification by itself works. There’s not any question about that. But if you use behavior modification in conjunction with Reconcile, it works quicker and it works better.” How do researchers know that? The patients, after all, can’t describe the subtleties of their moods to therapists. Efficacy studies instead rely upon people to record signs of animal distress, like barks per hour and household objects destroyed. The study Lilly submitted to the F.D.A. in support of Reconcile involved 242 dogs scattered around the United States and Canada; in the double-blind trial, neither the veterinarians nor the owners involved knew which dogs were receiving Reconcile and which ones got a placebo. All dogs received behavior retraining. The results were strong enough to demonstrate efficacy but hardly

earthshaking: 72 percent of the dogs on Reconcile showed improvement after eight weeks of treatment, while 50 percent of those receiving the placebo did. The study also found that more than half of the dogs on the drug experienced short-term side effects, including lethargy, depression and loss of appetite. One thought had haunted me as I listened to the Bridges’ story: If I were locked inside the bathroom all day, I’d swallow the shampoo, too. Although most animal-behavior problems are believed to have genetic roots, their expressions are typically triggered by the unnatural lives that people force their pets to lead. “A dog that lived on a farm and ran around chasing rabbits all day would be more prone to being stable than a dog living in an apartment in Manhattan,” Dodman says. Undomesticated canids, neither confined nor excessively attached to people, don’t suffer from separation anxiety. Some captive horses endlessly circle their stalls or corrals — a compulsive behavior similar to Max’s tail chasing — but such purposeless repetitions have never been observed in the wild. Pharmacological treatments, furthermore, are sometimes more for the convenience of owners than they are for the health of pets. When the dog bites, when the cat pees — “a lot of the ‘behavior problems’ we see are actually normal behaviors for the animal,” Dodman says. Cats aren’t mentally ill if they attack a new feline in the household or claw furniture to mark their domain. Food guarding and aggression toward strangers boost a dog’s survival rate in the wild but don’t cut it in the living room. And both cats and dogs demarcate territory with urine. “If a dog goes to the ba-


throom on a bush outside, you don’t mind as long as it’s not your bush,” Dodman says. “But when he comes back to the house and lifts his leg on your chair, it’s like, ‘Is the dog mentally sick?’ ” In many other situations, however, a medicated animal may be a better-off one — for his own sake and not just for his master’s peace of mind. Obsessive dogs like Max sometimes injure themselves by spinning right into furniture or chewing their legs or tails until they’re bloody. You could also argue that Max would be happier not spinning and chasing squirrels instead — an anthropomorphic judgment, perhaps, but one that is hard to dispute after seeing the panting, possessed animal on the whirl. Medicating dogs like Rocco, meanwhile, makes some people queasy because separation anxiety is so clearly related to the absentee lifestyles of owners. Dr. Jean Donaldson, director of the San Francisco S.P.C.A. Academy for Dog Trainers, told me that she has always insisted that people who don’t have enough free time shouldn’t own dogs. But she recognizes that many ill-equipped people will do so anyway and supports employing drugs. In her view, our complicity in the problem’s creation doesn’t absolve us of responsibility for finding solutions, even ones with mild side effects.` “Can you imagine having separation anxiety?” she asked. “We’re talking ‘Silence of the Lambs’ here, being in the pit so that you rip off your own fingernails and break your teeth because of the degree of panic attacks you’re having. Do we really think that the problem here is a dry mouth from Reconcile?” NOT EVERYBODY AGREES that

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26 December. 2 - 8, 2010 Comes from page 25 America’s pets are facing a major mentalhealth crisis — or that whatever their problems, that drugs are necessarily part of the solution. One of the most passionate voices in the just-say-no camp belongs to Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian who has his doctorate in animal behavior and is the founder of a highly regarded instructional empire called Sirius Dog Training. “I have never in my life had to resort to using drugs to resolve a behavior problem,” he says. The rush to the medicine bottle for easily resolved problems like canine obesity — “Just feed the dog less!” — shows a disturbing parallel to the human approach to health care, he says. “We lead an unhealthy lifestyle and then rely on drugs to correct it.” Dunbar lives down a winding lane high in the Berkeley Hills. When I arrived to visit, he led me into the living room, where we were joined by his three bounding dogs, Claude, Hugo and Dune. Claude had been a troubled S.P.C.A. shelter dog. He bit, was often anxious and had a problem known as pica, meaning he compulsively devoured nonfood items. When Dunbar rescued him a few years ago, Claude was recovering from an operation to remove a basketball from his intestines. “He would have been the ideal candidate for a drug treatment, but to me that was unnecessary if you know some of the simplest things about dog training,” Dunbar said. Pharmacological aids are helpful in extreme circumstances, Dunbar acknowledged, but for the vast majority of cases, behavior modification alone does the trick. For problem dogs like Claude, he employs the simple, unswerving strategy of a trainer: Ignore unwanted behaviors and reward desired ones. The magic pill in Dunbar’s arsenal is a rubber chew toy stuffed with food. As I took a seat on the couch, he tossed three of them on the floor. The dogs ignored me completely — there was none of the usual canine pouncing on the visitor — and set to work. Absorbed, they gnawed and shook the toys, which slowly released kibble. It would take 45 minutes before the supply was exhausted. Claude, his attention refocused with the help of chew toys, no longer bit people or gobbled indigestibles. He was calm and the best-behaved of the household’s three canines. “The dog is creating endorphins of his own, his own natural drug therapy, while enjoying a totally acceptable activity,” Dunbar said. To critics like Dunbar, separation anxiety is the attention-deficit disorder of the pet world, a problem that is overzealously pathologized, carelessly diagnosed and liberally medicated. His critique is unabashedly Skinnerian: “We’re confusing behavior problems, which are observable and quantifiable, with terms like ‘anxiety,’ which describe the dog’s internal mental state, for which we have absolutely zero proof,” he says. On a personal level, Dunbar suspects that animals do have thoughts and feelings and can become genuinely anxious when their owners are gone. But he is careful to not let assumptions cloud his professional

judgment, because not every situation that looks like separation anxiety is in fact that condition. Lilly’s Web site for Reconcile states that “separation anxiety is a clinical condition in your dog’s brain.” Dunbar offers possible alternate explanations: Some dogs that are physically punished have inadvertently learned that they can get away with whatever they want when the humans are gone. Others are just bored and having fun. “What do we expect dogs to do when we go to work — watch the telly, do the crosswords or read the paper?” he asks. Hiding stuffed chew toys around the house is a good way to keep dogs occupied. “In the wild, the dog’s major activity is looking for food,” he says. “What most owners do is they feed the dog in the bowl, and within two minutes you’ve stolen his raison d’être. So now the dog is looking for activity, which we label ‘trouble’ and diagnose as all sorts of things like compulsion and separation anxiety.” Dunbar is working with a pet-products manufacturer on an electronic dogsitter that combines the reward elements of a classic Skinner box with the unblinking surveillance of Bentham’s Panopticon. Employing a network of sensors, the device monitors when the dog barks, how many steps it takes during the day, how long it lies down in its bed and when it plays with chew toys. Acting as a sort of robo-Dunbar, the gizmo automatically dispenses small treats when the animal is calm and well behaved. “Rather than the very general deadening of an anxiolytic or tranquilizing drug, what I want is a very specific education effect to teach the dog how he should act,” Dunbar says. Modern owners are increasingly trying to “sterilize” pet ownership, he adds, trying to pharmacologically control dogs so that they don’t act like dogs. “What people want is a pet that is on par with a TiVo, that its activity, play and affection are on demand,” he says “Then, when they’re done, they want to turn it off.” Back in the living room, we watched Claude and his housemates work at the chew toys. “Training is basically about forming a relationship, but for some people, that interactive process is now giving the dog a pill.” TWO YEARS AGO, on the Fourth of July, a dog named Dixie was sitting in the backyard of her owners, Pat and Jen Morphy of Martinez, Calif. Around dusk, the sky above her exploded with the flashes and percussive booms of fireworks. Perhaps kids detonated firecrackers on the street nearby as well. Whatever happened, Dixie hasn’t been the same since. Earlier this year the Morphys brought Dixie to see Rachel Malamed at the U.C. Davis Behavior Service. The Morphys reported that they take Dixie for a walk every day after work and then put her in the backyard. As soon as the sun sets, Dixie bolts for the house and cannot be dragged from it for the rest of the evening. She paces, stares and scans the air overhead. “You can just tell she’s waiting for something to happen,” Pat said. Dixie is eager for bedtime and scootches under the couple’s bed to sleep. But in the middle of

The San Juan Weekly the night, Dixie often jumps up on the bed and walks on Jen’s head. When she turns the lights on, the dog looks terrible, shivering and blank-eyed. It takes anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours to calm her enough to go back to sleep. “I can’t live with this dog any more how she is,” Jen said. Malamed put a sound-effects CD into a boom box and set the volume to low. Dixie sat serenely through a trumpet fanfare, a toilet flush, a metal saw, ringing bells and raspy hinges. But at the sound of fireworks, during the long whistle and well before the climactic pop, Dixie tensed up; she tried to climb into Jen’s lap and began trembling. Malamed hit stop. “I’m sorry I had to do that,” she said. Noise phobias, especially those related to thunderstorms, are fairly common in dogs, and Malamed determined that Dixie had a phobia to fireworks. So how did Dixie’s curious phobia develop? A Skinnerian would explain her problems within the bounds of stimulusresponse conditioning, unthinking and automatic. On that first Fourth of July, Dixie correctly learned that fireworks are painfully loud but mistakenly linked the traumatic event with nightfall. Now every dark sky scares her. Her odd after-hours activity was very likely strengthened by more conditioned learning: every time she jumps on the bed in the middle of the night, Pat or Jen give her attention. Believing that they are soothing Dixie, they are actually rewarding and enforcing her troubled behavior. But is her problem more complex than that? Most scientists now accept that animals experience basic emotions like pleasure, excitement and fear. These primal feelings provide useful motivation: to mate, kill prey or avoid danger. But whether emotional states like anxiety, obsession and depression exist is more controversial. The difference between fear and anxiety, after all, is the difference between a gazelle spooking at the sight of a lion and a gazelle worrying that a lion might appear. If you believe that the latter is possible, consider that Dixie might have some memory, however dim, of the original fireworks and that when she sees the sun setting, she becomes tense at the thought that they might percuss her eardrums again. In other words, her cognition goes beyond in-the-moment processing of sensory information; to paraphrase Eric Saidel, a professor of philosophy at George Washington University, she is not responding to the world but instead to the way she pictures the world. She thinks and, critically, is aware of her own thoughts. By most any definition, this amounts to consciousness, the trait that people have traditionally been most loath to credit to animals. Many thinkers are hesitant to make definitive statements about any aspect of an animal’s internal life, much less to conclude that they are self-aware. In an influential essay published in 1974, the philosopher Thomas Nagel posed the question “What is it like to be a bat?” What is it like, really, to wheel blindly through the night sky hunting insects and navigating by echolocation? The sum of a being’s unique sensory and cognitive worlds constitute its Umwelt,

and Nagel concluded that it was impossible to know any Umwelt but that of our own species. The words we use to describe animal mental states are hazy approximations at best. Hank Davis, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Guelph in Canada who has studied cognition in rats, rabbits and the aforementioned hissing cockroaches, told me that “I am as big an animal lover as anybody I’ve ever met. I can go on and on about how sweet and smart and emotional my pet rat is. But we have to be careful about saying that when my rat appears anxious or obsessive that she is experiencing the identical set of neurological conditions that a human would.” Prescribing drugs under those circumstances, he says, is “questionable ‘Twilight Zone’-type medicine.” The skeptics are correct that there’s no smoking gun proving that human feelings and Dixie’s are similar, but on the flip side, there is a preponderance of circumstantial evidence. The limbic system, critical for human emotional responses, is structurally similar in all mammals. “People have a physiological response to the thing they fear,” says Steven Hamilton, a psychiatric geneticist at the University of California, San Francisco. “They get tremulous. Their heart rate goes up. They perspire. Their respiration will go up. Dogs do the exact same thing.” The clinical presentation of the problem is similar, too. Confronted by what they fear, phobic people and dogs try to get as far away as they can from the dreaded stimulus, be it spiders or fireworks. In both populations, susceptibility appears to be heritable. And finally, “humans respond to particular anxiolytic and antidepressant medications, and we find similar responses in dogs to the same drugs,” Hamilton says. Dodman made the same points to me and concluded, somewhat exasperatedly, “If it looks, waddles and quacks like a duck, then maybe it is a duck.” He bristled at the charge that behavioral pharmacologists practice “Twilight Zone” medicine. The primary source of outrage for most critics is the thought of veterinary kooks dosing helpless animals with human drugs. But that misstates the matter. Long before Prozac, Paxil and the like were taken by people, they were tested for safety and efficacy in legions of laboratory creatures. You can plausibly argue — and Dodman and others do — that humans are in fact using animal drugs. Dodman’s theory, essentially, is that the causes of mood disorders and obsessions in humans and our pets aren’t so different — faulty genetics, dreary environments. Whether cubicle- or cage-bound, we get too little exercise; we don’t hunt, run or play enough to produce naturally mood-elevating neurochemicals. Strangely enough, I had already heard this theory — from a pharmaceutical company executive who, for obvious business reasons, didn’t want to be named. “All of the behavioral issues that we have created in ourselves, we are now creating in our pets because they live in the same unhealthy environments that we do,” he said. “That’s why there is a market for these drugs.”

The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010


New York Times Editorial Energy and the Lame Duck


his Congress’s record on energy and environmental issues is shameful. The Senate, paralyzed by Republican opposition and indifferent Democratic leadership, could not muster the 60 votes to pass legislation to reduce carbon emissions. It even failed to respond to the gulf oil spill. The next Congress is sure to be worse. The Democratic majority in the Senate will be smaller. And the House — which has led the way in recent years — and its committees will be dominated by Republicans who are loudly skeptical about the science behind climate change and determined to cripple President Obama’s authority to use regulation to tackle the problem. There is little chance of a major breakthrough in Congress’s remaining weeks, but it is still possible to get some important legislation through.

One bill worth pressing is a creative measure with bipartisan support in both houses that would ramp up the use of natural gas in heavy-duty trucks and create a pilot program for building a network of recharging stations for electric vehicles. Converting trucks to natural gas could save 1.2 million barrels of oil by 2035; electric cars could eventually be a real game-changer. The bill would spend $5.5 billion over 10 years in tax credits and other incentives to encourage manufacturers to produce natural gas vehicles and companies and consumers to buy them. The bill would also encourage research and development on electric cars. It would be paid with a small increase in the per-barrel fee oil companies pay into the oil spill liability fund. Oil companies are screaming, even though it would mean a tiny, one-thirteenth-of-a-cent increase in the price of a gallon of gasoline. Big Oil

should not be allowed to kill off this bill. Both houses must also renew tax subsidies for renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Unless Congress acts, they will expire at year-end. Here, the big enemy is sloth, not any special interest. Renewable energy sources are not yet ready to compete with cheaper and dirtier fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. But there has been real progress in recent years, and past experience shows that when the tax credits are allowed to expire, investors disappear. Then there is the oil spill bill, languishing in the Senate. A series of reports in recent weeks have highlighted a host of failures by both industry and regulators. Like the House version, a Senate bill would require the oil industry to adopt new safety measures on deep-water rigs and would also upgrade training of rig workers

and government inspectors. It would mandate independent inspections of drilling operations and reorganize government agencies, with a goal of ending, at last, the conflicts of interest that led the Interior Department to fast-track drilling projects at the expense of safety. The department has issued rules that seek many of these same ends, but Congressional action would give the force of law to reforms that could be reversed by future administrations. This does not relieve the White House and the Democrats of the responsibility to press forward with broader legislation to combat climate change. The threat is too big to allow the ideologues and professional skeptics to stop the country from doing what it needs to do. Even so, there is time in the remaining weeks of the lame-duck session to take small but still important steps.

A Gift From Long Ago By BOB HERBERT


t was a half-century ago this month that John F. Kennedy won the presidency in a thrilling and heart-stoppingly close election against Richard Nixon. You’d probably be surprised at the number of Americans who are clueless about when Kennedy ran: “It was 1970, right?” “Wasn’t it in the ’40s, soon after the war?” Or whom he ran against: “Eisenhower?” I’ve been surprised by the lack of media attention given to the golden anniversary of that pivotal campaign, one of the most celebrated of the entire post-World War II period. With Kennedy, the door to the great 1960s era opened a crack, and it would continue opening little by little until the Beatles flung it wide in 1964. Kennedy’s great gift was his capacity to inspire. His message as he traveled the country was that Americans could do better, that great things were undeniably possible, that obstacles were challenges to

be overcome with hard work and sacrifice. I don’t think he would have known what to make of the America of today, where the messages coming from the smoldering ruins of public life are not just uninspiring, but demeaning: that we must hack away at the achievements of the past (Social Security, Medicare); that we cannot afford to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure or establish a first-class public school system for all children; that we cannot bring an end to debilitating warfare, or establish a new era of clean energy, or put millions of jobless and underemployed Americans back to work. Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Whatever one thinks of the tragically short Kennedy administration, we’d do well to pay renewed attention to the lofty ideals and broad themes that Kennedy

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brought to the national stage. We’ve become so used to aiming low that mediocrity is seen as a step up. We need to be reminded of what is possible. Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination in a speech that he delivered before 80,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 15, 1960. It became known as the New Frontier speech. The candidate spoke of an old era ending and said that “the old ways will not do.” He spoke of “a slippage in our intellectual and moral strength.” He said: “The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook. It holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.” What Kennedy hoped to foster was a renewed sense of national purpose in which shared values were reinforced in an atmosphere of heightened civic participation and mutual sacrifice. That was the way, he said, “to get this country moving again.” His voice was in sync with the spirit of the times. Americans were fired with the idea that they could improve their circumstances, right wrongs and do good. The Interstate Highway System, an Eisenhower initiative, was under way. The civil rights movement was in flower. And soon Kennedy would literally be reaching for the moon. Self-interest and the bottom line had not yet become the be-all and end-all. Kennedy the cold warrior was also the president who created the Peace

Corps, which Ted Sorensen, who died just last month (and whose daughter Juliet was a Peace Corps volunteer), described as the epitome of Kennedy’s call for service and sacrifice. The life of the young men and women who joined the Peace Corps would not be easy, Kennedy said, but it would be “rich and satisfying.” The volunteers would live and work among the indigenous people in developing countries, eating their food, speaking their language and helping them “meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower.” The response to this call for service was both robust and long-lasting. The Peace Corps was one of the great successes of Kennedy’s administration. While the myriad issues facing the U.S. have changed and changed again since Kennedy’s time, the importance of being guided by the highest principles and ideals has not. We are now in a period in which cynicism is running rampant, and selfishness and greed have virtually smothered all other values. Simple fairness is not a fit topic for political discussion and no one dares even mention the poor. The public seems fearful and cowed. People unworthy of high office are arrogantly on the march. You can say whatever you’d like about the Kennedy era and the ’60s in general, but there was great energy in the population then, and a willingness to reach beyond one’s self. Kennedy spoke in his acceptance speech of a choice “between national greatness and national decline.” That choice was never so stark as right now. There is still time to listen to a voice from half a century ago.


The San Juan Weeekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

New York Times Editorials What the Secret Donors Want


ccording to tax records unearthed by Bloomberg News, the health insurance lobby secretly gave $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2009 to try to prevent the health care bill from becoming law. The huge contribution — 40 percent of the chamber’s spending for that year — allowed the group to run ads against the bill without tainting the insurance industry, which was negotiating with Democrats on the bill at the same time. This year, the chamber raised nearly $33 million in secret donations for political ads in the midterm elections, almost all of which was used to elect Republicans who have vowed to repeal the health care law. Did some of that money come, once again, from health insurance companies that were unwilling to attach their names to their contributions? It’s a logical assumption, but only the donors and the chamber know for sure. And that’s the problem with secret

political donations, which played such a large role in the elections earlier this month. They cast a shadow of doubt and distrust over a huge field, raising questions about who is covertly pushing which bill and supporting which candidate, and for which self-serving purposes. Lobbying and political contributions can be perfectly legitimate practices, but only when the public can see who is pulling the strings. Secret donors spent at least $138 million on the midterm elections, according to the latest figures, and 80 percent of that secret money supported Republican candidates. What will those donors get for their money, and who will they get it from? Certainly the chamber, which lobbies Congress hard on behalf of big business, will make its demands known — health care repeal, no tax increases, reduced regulation and oversight. The other groups, including Crossroads GPS, founded by Karl Rove, may be

more subtle in pressing the interests of their backers — conversations at golf courses, at steakhouses, at cocktail parties; the usual Washington transactions, but cocooned in greater secrecy thanks to an inert Federal Election Commission and a determined Supreme Court. Several news reports, including one by NBC News, have asserted that a substantial portion of the $16 million in undisclosed donations to Crossroads GPS came from Wall Street, specifically a small and very wealthy group of hedge fund and private-equity fund operators. Those stock traders, along with many others in real estate partnerships, were furious in May when the House passed a bill that would tax their compensation at ordinary income levels as high as 39 percent, rather than the much lower capital gains rate. The Senate never voted on the matter, and the new crop of Republicans marching into the next Congress will not be inclined to raise taxes on

some of America’s richest people, no matter how much they talk about reducing the deficit. But the issue will probably come up again in some form when taxes are discussed, and in light of the tide of contributions, it will be interesting to see which lawmakers speak the loudest against it. Of course the public does not know for certain that hedge funds were among the secret donors, which is precisely why donors must take responsibility for their political actions. If it were clear who was giving to which lawmakers, we’d have a rough form of accountability. Those who set up and financed this secret system don’t want voters to know that information. And many of them are still blocking the legislation that could end it — the Disclose Act, which would prohibit secret political contributions. It will also be interesting to see which of the new lawmakers vote against that bill.

There Will Be Blood By PAUL KRUGMAN


ormer Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be — after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction. So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued. Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize. Some explanation: There’s a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into

policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they’ve done it before. Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America’s role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson “can’t wait.” And he’s what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican. The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming. Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.” My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the

G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment. And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love. Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore. And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at

the water’s edge — but that was then. These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it. How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern. My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country. It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.

The San Juan Weeekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


LETTERS Comment on article “end of life care” Your article- End of Life Care for Patients with Advanced Dementia- Paula Span, nov 11-17, 2010 raises some very important issues for medical care in Puerto Rico. We have to recognize this condition as a terminal illness and treat it as such in the same way terminal cancer should be treated. This involves caring for these individuals in a way that respects their dignity as human beings and most importantly recognize that most interventions in cases of advanced dementia should involve alleviation of suffering and measures that provide comfort. In hospitals in Puerto Rico, dementia patients are constantly being admitted and given invasive interventions such as ventilators, blood transfusions and dyalisis- most of which only prolong suffering for the patient and place a huge emotional tax on their loved ones. What is the solution ? I believe education should be the key, and it should begin with our doctors, health care professionals and the public in general. All of us at some point in time may have a family member with advanced dementia or may ourselves suffer in the future. So we must start to educate ourselves- through perhaps schools and churches on end of life care. In fact the major religious faiths have all issue statements on end of life issues so it would be a question of respecting peoples wishes according to their beliefs and values. This is one area that in which medical care needs and should improve, so thank you for bringing up this important topic. Ramon K Sotomayor, San Juan

Isle of Forever Tyranny Violence sanctioned by authority is a longstanding practice in Puerto Rico. As is soon forgetting it ever happened. One might start with the fiendish massacres of the Taínos, who priests unremittingly harassed for running around naked, but whose cruel enslavement on their own land they considered fitting. Then there was the Grito de Lares. Hurriedly after the rebels declared independence and hoisted the Lares flag, they sat down to do the paperwork and Spaniard troops showed up and just shot them all down, criollo scum that they were in peninsular eyes. The Ponce Massacre in the 1930s was a replay, only this time it was just a peaceful demonstration and the Puerto Rico Police now had Thompson machine guns, the ones you saw in The Untouchables. A 14-year-old girl was split vertically by a stream of bullets.

Then came the UPR unrest when Lyndon Johnson was getting the flower of youth here slaughtered in a war of aggression on the other side of the earth, and a cop casually murdered Antonia Martínez. And the Ferré Administration covered it up. And there was Cerro Maravilla, obvious assassination, as no reasonable mind can countenance that those two boys intended to destroy such a gargantuan communications complex with a can of gasoline. Gov. Romero, who surely knew better, said on TV that his police were heroes because those kids would’ve left Puerto Rico incommunicado from the rest of the planet, so killing them was the right thing to do. These days police here feel it’s their birthright to murder whomever they feel like. It’s what happens when you’re allowed to do something with impunity for a long time. Yes, notice the unapologetic stance of the Fortuño Administration at the police beating of the citizenry at the Capitol and the recent rash of police killings. Not to mention the indifference of everybody here as the US Secretary of Justice saw fit to fly down to announce during the purge that we’ve got the most corrupt police ever to shame the United States. Also held unremarkable were the defiant words of the two imprisoned Cerro Maravilla murderer cops, as reported by the media a few months ago. Lastly, Gov. Fortuño vehemently laments the lack of civil rights in Cuba. Governor, your shamelessness knows no limit. Agustín Manzano , San Juan

Commonwealth of Bloodshed Ed Martínez writes in to comment on my letter. Among other things, he mentions, “Today I hear about an obviously deranged man who was running around naked, arrested, tasered four times, the last while sitting at the police station. A day after, the man died and the cops are blaming it on drugs.” He’s noticed the Puerto Rico Police tortured and slaughtered an infirm and defenseless citizen. Yet he’s not outraged, not even surprised, merely amused, he buttresses his point with it. A cruel and brutal government is hardly a trivial matter. Up north, a couple of centuries ago thirteen farming British colonies wouldn’t kowtow to that sort of affair. And they defied the Empire where the sun never set. And won. And went on to bring forth the greatest nation humankind has ever countenanced, though not without our share of foolishness, shortcomings and transgressions. Puerto Rico hardly holds holy the values evinced by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence or those in our Bill of Rights. You have no business ever joining the American Republic. Bob Harris, Condado

Police at Play A Puerto Rican cop looks like a charging bull on TV, but they’ve a childish inside that makes them all the more dangerous. Their fascination with the flashing lights on patrol cars had surely escaped no one’s notice. Then came helicopters. Nowhere else are they used to patrol a city, appropriate police use is hot pursuit, lighting up an area or emergency transport. Doing a beat on a chopper disturbs people’s sleep and is dangerous---helicopters are the most unsafe of aircraft and a pilot inevitably gets dizzy going round and round like that. And what can you really spot from up there? Latest police toy is the taser. They tase the handcuffed to their hearts’ delight. And doing so can propitiate strokes, epileptic seizures, permanent neural/brain impairment, patches of blindness and suspected Parkinson’s and Lou Gehring. The devices were developed for use on attackers in lieu of shooting them. Technology viciously perverted. Frágola Serpieri, Santuce

The Unthinking of Zealotry There’s reasonable Creationism and there’s idiotic Creationism. The real laws of God are not the Ten Commandments, that are merely injunctive, you can break them. You find God’s will rather, written in the fabric of nature, and transliterated into science textbooks. And God doesn’t break His own laws---it would be an un-Godly contradiction. Genesis explains the Beginning as best minds at the time could grasp. Bible literalists in our day read Scripture like parrots and argue in the same manner. Would it have been wise to start the Hebrew Bible out with the exposition of Newtonian principles, general relativity and quantum mechanics that would’ve been indispensable to lead to an accurate account of the Creation? And realize that in our age we’re surely but scratching the skin of God’s handiwork. Agustín Manzano, Santurce

We the People... How is it that it’s the statehooders who manifest the deepest contempt for human rights and democracy here? Haven’t they heard of Jefferson and Madison? Aren’t they aware what 1776 was all about? Methinks the Caliphate would be more their cup of tea. Crisálida Martínez, San Juan

30 December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weeekly

LETTERS They Come for Your Blood An item over WOSO Radio caught my ear. According to tradition vampires cannot cross a threshold uninvited. That’s why the first thing Dracula does is socialize through the community till next thing you know some delectable damsel awakes one morning all tired and with two little red spots on the base of her neck. It’s important to remember this for the 2012 election campaign, when politicians ask to come into your condo/urbanization to give speeches, shake hands and kiss babies. Also legend has it, expect a few of the living along, inarticulate fellows, often deformed, devoid of any conscience, who for some reason slavishly serve the undead. Those would be the police. Juan Vega,Caparra Heights

Why Government?

Disgusting Checking things is no vice and spaced-outness is no virtue, as Barry Goldwater would’ve parsed it. I’d just bought a little box of raisins at the supermarket. I was correcting a stack of exams and I opened the box and took my time dropping raisins into my mouth straight from the box. The raisins tasted good enough. It wasn’t till the box was almost empty that by happenstance I looked into it. A clique of four worms were feasting on the remaining few raisins. I then went to the john to check myself. I was soon to meet with a young lady and worms crawling through my mustache wouldn’t have made a good impression. Juan Pérez, Altamira

Bully vs. Bully As I hear it, police are after student bullies at various public schools. Takes one to spot one. Guillaumette Tyler, Puerta de Tierra

No, business and profits should not be banned. But the public should not be abandoned to the sharks of the marketplace. When merchants cheat, exploit and oppress, as they’ve done conspicuously in medicine, education and legal services and lately as suppliers of “security,” a democratic state has the obligation to step in. “People are not angels,” as Madison and Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, and that’s why we have government. And while it doesn’t work for pols to tell an entrepreneur how to run his business, it does make sense for the state to perform a function that private enterprise won’t adequately.

The people of Puerto Rico are indebted to Painter Martorell. But he mustn’t be allowed to act alone. It’s the duty of all of us to delegitimize tyranny. Everybody’s waiting for the Americans to do it. Can’t you see that all they have to do is dump us? United States citizenship for Puerto Ricans is not a Constitutional right. It was granted by statute and what Congress giveth Congress taketh away.

Ana Badillo, Hato Rey

Ana Montes, Las Lomas

Cop Hatcheries The media are reporting this week that police are showing up at various grade schools and picking out “bullies.” A recruitment drive surely. Julián Acevedo, Ocean Park

Another Lawyer Joke Lawyers would make better research subjects than rats. Three reasons: 1. There are many more lawyers than rats. 2. Lawyers evoke less sympathy among the public than rats do. 3. There are things a rat just won’t do. Paula Benedict, Atlantic View

Un-American Undemocracy

Supreme Court Caseload Is Bull The composition of our highest Tribunal is an issue of power, not of work. Just hire a dozen law profs and it’ll be all cleared in a week. When separation of powers is emasculated, what you’re left with is dictatorship. Lisa Bay, Caparra Heights

Fortuño’s “enlightened tomorrow” Mid-term New Progressive Party accomplishments: 1. Denial of higher education to the middle class. 2. Institutionalization of police lawlessness/ brutality. 3. Government-mediated consolidation of monopolies in banking, real estate and targeting of college education. 4. Sabotaging independent judiciary. 5. Abandonment of public education. 6. Denial of compensation to victims of medical butchery. 7. Maxing unemployment to undermine wages. 8. Pandering to Car Lobby through dismantling of Urban Train set-up by splitting connecting bus routes. 9. Curtailing of Freedom of the press and intimidation and harassment of journalists. 10. Concurrent oppressive taxation and minimal public services. Carrutha Harris, Puerta de Tierra

It’s All About $ I keep telling you, if an animal is giving you a hard time---and that’ll always be a dog---kill the owner---the penalties are much lighter, dogs are sacrosanct in Puerto Rico, people are not, close to a thousand of us get wasted yearly and no one cares, certainly not our leaders. Now why would strict legal guarantees be afforded the precious darlings and not humans? Because though they drive everybody nuts with their barking and their filth, when they don’t bite you, llots of them belong to the frivolous wealthy, the folks who own the government. Carrutha Harris, Puerta de Tierra

Pat Me Down, Sweet Buns

What matters is appearances. Same-sex marriages are okay. Heavens, as long as you don’t call it that!

A simple problem with a simple solution. Have gorgeous babes pat down men and lesbians and Brad Pitt lookalikes do the ladies and the gays. Jealous mate? Then have it the old way, but it was the travelers choice. I realize this sounds tongue-in-cheek, but think of it, appropriate personnel are certainly available.

Carrutha Harris, Puerta de Tierra

Piero Andujar, San Juan


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Epilepsy’s Big, Fat Miracle By FRED VOGELSTEIN


nce every three or four months my son, Sam, grabs a cookie or a piece of candy and, wide-eyed, holds it inches from his mouth, ready to devour it. He knows he’s not allowed to eat these things, but like any 9-year-old, he hopes that somehow, this once, my wife, Evelyn, or I will make an exception. We never make exceptions when it comes to Sam and food, though, which means that when temptation takes hold of Sam and he is denied, things can get pretty hairy. Confronted with a gingerbread house at a friend’s party last December, he went scorched earth, grabbing parts of the structure and smashing it to bits. Reason rarely works. Usually one of us has to pry the food out of his hands. Sometimes he ends up in tears. It’s not just cookies and candy that we forbid Sam to eat. Cake, ice cream, pizza, tortilla chips and soda aren’t allowed, either. Macaroni and cheese used to be his favorite food, but he told Evelyn the other day that he couldn’t remember what it tastes like anymore. At Halloween we let him collect candy, but he trades it in for a present. At birthday parties and play dates, he brings a lunchbox to eat from. There is no crusade against unhealthful food in our house. Some might argue that unhealthful food is all we let Sam eat. His breakfast eggs are mixed with heavy cream and served with bacon. A typical lunch is full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with coconut oil. Dinner is hot dogs, bacon, macadamia nuts and cheese. We figure that in an average week, Sam consumes a quart and a third of heavy cream, nearly a stick and a half of butter, 13 teaspoons of coconut oil, 20 slices of bacon and 9 eggs. Sam’s diet is just shy of 90 percent fat. That is twice the fat content of a McDonald’s Happy Meal and about 25 percent more than the most fatladen phase of the Atkins diet. It puts Sam at risk of developing kidney stones if he doesn’t drink enough. It is constipating, so he has to take daily stool softeners. And it lacks so many essential nutrients that if Sam didn’t take a multivitamin and a calcium-magnesium supplement every day, his growth would be stunted, his hair and teeth would fall out and his bones would become as brittle as an 80-yearold’s. Evelyn, Sam’s twin sister Beatrice and I don’t eat this way. But Sam has epilepsy, and the food he eats is controlling most of his seizures (he used to have as many as 130 a day). The diet, which drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrates he takes in, tricks his body into a starvation state in which it burns fat, and not carbs, for fuel. Remarkably, and for reasons that are still unclear, this process — called ketosis — has an antiepileptic effect. He has been eating this way for almost two years. Curiosity bordering on alarm is the only way to describe how people receive this information. “In-teresting,” one acquaintance said. “Did you make this up yourself?” Another friend was more direct: “Is this a mainstreamscience thing or more of a fringe treatment?” We are not surprised by these reactions. What we are doing to Sam just seems wrong. The bad eating habits of Americans, especially those of children, are a national health crisis. Yet we are intentionally feeding our son fatty food and little else. But what we are doing is mainstream science. Elizabeth Thiele, the doctor who prescribed and oversees Sam’s diet, is the head of the pediatric epilepsy program at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. In fact, the regimen, known as the ketogenic diet, is now offered at more than 100 hospitals in the United States, Canada and other countries. We’re not opposed to drugs; we tried many. But Sam’s seizures

were drug-resistant, and keto, the universal shorthand, often provides seizure control when drugs do not. The idea of food as medicine has been a controversial topic in this country in recent years. For decades the fight that the late Robert Atkins and his low-carb acolytes had with mainstream medicine has been as vitriolic as a religious war. There are food cures for everything from cancer and heart disease to cataracts. Doctors talk about diet as a part of basic good health all the time. But talk to them about a diet instead of drugs to stop an infection or treat a tumor and most would be visibly alarmed, and in many cases, they would have good reason to be. A decade ago most doctors held the same contempt for keto. An Atkins-like diet that worked as well — and often better — than antiepileptic drugs? Common sense suggests that’s crazy. But when it comes to keto’s impact on pediatric seizures, there is wide acceptance. There are about two dozen backward-looking analyses of patient data suggesting keto works, and, more significant, two randomized, controlled studies published in 2008. One of the trials, by researchers at University College London, found that 38 percent of patients on the diet had their seizure frequency reduced more than 50 percent and that 7 percent had their seizure frequency reduced more than 90 percent. Those numbers may look low, but they’re not. These were patients for whom antiepileptic drugs had already failed. For children with certain kinds of drug-resistant seizures, Thiele’s clinical data show an even better response: 7 out of 10 were able to reduce their count more than 90 percent with the diet. Those statistics are as good as those for any antiepileptic drug ever made. Other pediatric neurologists get similar results. The diet has cut Sam’s seizures by 75 percent. That is a big deal. There are dozens of antiepileptic drugs on the market, many approved in the last 15 years. The newer ones work with fewer side effects, and that’s important. But the percentage of patients who take drugs and still have seizures hasn’t changed meaningfully in decades. About a third of the nearly 3 million epileptics in the United States have drug-resistant seizures, and doctors estimate that at least 250,000 of those drug-resistant patients are children. Since keto often works when drugs do not, neurologists finally see a way to fix that problem. There has been so much buzz around keto that neurologists and scientists have begun wondering what else it can do. Could it be used to treat seizures in adults? What about Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, A.L.S. and certain cancers? Tumors typically need glucose to grow. There is very little of this simple sugar in a keto diet, and there have been interesting results with mice that suggest the diet might slow tumor growth. These scientific explorations are in their early stages and may not amount to much. Nonetheless, researchers are taking them seriously. Food as part of disease treatment is slowly being ac-

cepted by more doctors. Many think it is new. But it is not. During the first half of the 20th century, the impact of food on our bodies was one of the hottest scientific fields. Insulin was discovered in 1921, and its commercial production meant survival for diabetics. In the 1930s, three scientists won a Nobel Prize for discovering that a substance in raw liver cured pernicious anemia, a disease that was almost always fatal. Eight Nobels were awarded just for work related to vitamins. And, it turns out, the ketogenic diet was developed back in the early part of the last century, too, only to disappear from medical literature for two generations. Our family’s introduction to keto came in February 2009, when we flew to Boston to see Thiele and Heidi Pfeifer, a dietitian who works with her, at Mass General. Joseph Sullivan, our neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told us that Thiele and Pfeifer were doing cutting-edge work. And we needed cutting-edge help. We tried 11 seizure drugs, and Sam was hospitalized twice during the previous year. Yet we were still struggling to keep Sam’s seizure count below 10 per hour. Every day, seven days a week, during the 13 hours he was awake, he would have between 100 and 130 seizures. Nothing did any good. Some drugs, because of the side effects, actually did him harm. One drug gave him hand tremors, another made him a zombie and a third made him hallucinate, thinking that bugs and worms were crawling out of his skin. I hit my low point the night we took Sam home from his second hospitalization in six months. He had been seizing almost nonstop for more than a week despite being on four medications. So after keeping him home from school for a week and having daily conversations with Sullivan, we decided to admit him for what Sullivan called a “reset.” The thinking is that, like a computer, doctors can reboot a person’s brain to reduce or stop seizures. They knocked Sam out with Ativan for 15 hours and monitored his brain waves. The following day he was discharged, seizing just as frequently, and, for his bravery, sporting a head-to-toe body rash from a reaction to a medication. The best way to think about a seizure is to imagine an electrical storm. Our brains and bodies are normally full of electricity. The brain generates biochemical electrical charges, allowing brain cells, nerves and muscles to communicate. A seizure happens when this electricity surges out of control and overloads parts of the brain’s circuitry. Sam doesn’t have grand mal seizures — the kind you see in movies — but a form of what’s known as petit mal, or absence seizures. Instead of falling down and twitching for minutes, Sam loses consciousness for short 5-to-20-second bursts. Grand mal and many other seizure types — there are dozens — often leave the sufferer exhausted. Sam’s seizures are more like hitting the pause button on a DVD. He stops and stares vacantly. His jaw slackens. And his head and torso lean forward slightly, bobbing rhythmically. Then it’s over, as if it had never happened. He is not disoriented, tired or in pain. If he was in the middle of a sentence, he would finish it. If he was going hand-over-hand on the monkey bars, he would pause without falling. It is not like a faint, when you go limp. Part of his brain has momentarily shut down. Though Sam says that he is sometimes aware when he is having a seizure, typically his only clue is that when he comes to, everything around him has shifted slightly. A lot more happens in 10 seconds than we think. His seizures didn’t start this way. Epilepsy was first diagnosed in 2005, when Sam was just shy of 5. The diagnosis then was myoclonic epilepsy. Each day he would have about half a dozen spells that looked as if he had been touched by a cattle prod. Each was a strong, 45-degree snap

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forward at the waist. After a few tries, we found a medication that controlled them. The absence seizures started at the end of 2007. We tried first to treat them by increasing the dose of the seizure drug he was already on. But by the end of March 2008 he was having more, not fewer, seizures, and by early fall he was having trouble finishing a sentence. His teachers watched out for him and told the class about what was going on. But it’s hard to learn math or reading when you’re receiving life on the other end of a bad cell-phone connection. Swimming? Bike riding? Soccer team? Forget it. Sam couldn’t even cry without interruption: he would stub a toe or skin a knee; cry for 15 seconds; have a 15-second seizure; and then continue sobbing. Sam had trouble even watching a movie. Once after seeing “Speed Racer” at home, he said: “Dad, I think the DVD is scratched. When I was watching, it kept leaving words out.” We were desperate, and frankly, despite advances, the ketogenic diet is still only for the desperate. For Sam’s diet to be effective, he must eat a certain number of calories every day with specific ratios of fat, protein and carbohydrates. These are not back-of-the-envelope calculations, but ratios that have to be hit exactly at every meal. If Sam wants a snack after school, he gets 18 grams of bacon (about two slices), 14 grams of macadamia nuts (about seven nuts) and 18 grams of apple (less than an eighth). In keto-speak that’s 3.04 grams of fat to every gram of protein and carbs combined. A snack using the ratios of the typical American diet — about 30 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 55 percent carbs — would have twice the protein, a third the fat and eight times the carbs. To jump through these arithmetic hoops, Evelyn, who gave up her career to take on the now full-time job of feeding Sam, plans meals on the kitchen computer using a Web-based program called KetoCalculator. It is hard to imagine how to administer keto without it. A meal for Sam might have eight ingredients. Mathematically, there are potentially millions of combinations — a bit more of this; a bit less of that — that gets you to a 400-calorie meal and a 3-to-1 ratio. KetoCalculator does the math. Every ingredient — butter, cream, bacon, oil, eggs, nuts and fruit — is weighed to the 10th of a gram on an electronic jeweler’s scale. When Evelyn comes up with a recipe that works, she hits “print” and files it in a black loose-leaf binder. We now have more than 200 recipes. Doing all this once is fascinating. Who knew that a cup of milk had more carbs than half a slice of toast or that macadamia nuts have more than twice the fat of pork rinds? But administering the diet for three meals and two snacks a day, seven days a week for two years is relentless. There is no “Let’s just order pizza” in our house, no matter how crazy the week has been. A barbecue at a friend’s house takes Evelyn 30 minutes of prep time. A sleepover takes two hours, because she labels all the food and writes out heating and serving instructions for the parents. Evelyn spent six hours preparing food for a three-day camping trip in August. Unexpected events that barely register in most families — like the fact that I recently ate the applesauce that was to be part of Sam’s breakfast — create mad scrambles to recalculate and reweigh meals so Sam gets out the door on time. The diet is administered like medicine, and parents need to work with their neurologist and a keto dietitian to come up with an appropriate caloric intake for the child. You receive a log-in to KetoCalculator, which is only available through a clinician. Every three months, Sam’s height and weight are measured, and a baseline blood test is administered. This medical oversight lessens the worry that we are going to poison Sam with all the fat he eats. Children can fall into ketoacidosis — essentially overdoing keto. It’s rare, and easily reversible, but it can be fatal if you

dren with serious illnesses, his parents, Jim and Nancy, became experts themselves. Jim, a Hollywood director and producer, read about the diet in an epilepsy book and called the author, Dr. John Freeman, at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. In 1993 Freeman was the only doctor in the country using the diet consistently. He had been using it since 1969 and claimed that 30 percent of his patients were seizure-free. The idea seemed ridiculous to Charlie’s neurologist and most of the medical community at the time. The only thing you could stop with that much fat was your heart. “Flip a coin — I don’t think either will work,” his son’s neurologist said when Abrahams asked about trying keto or an herbal remedy he had also read about. With nothing to lose, the Abrahamses put their son on the diet just after Thanksgiving in 1993. Three days later his seizures stopped. He was on the diet for four years and hasn’t had another seizure since. Today, at 18, Charlie is getting ready to graduate from high school. The diet effectively cured a very sick child, but it only made an impact because Jim Abrahams made sure the rest of the world heard about it. He filmed a video about his experience starring his friend, Meryl Streep. “Dateline NBC” did a segment on Charlie in 1994, which led to an avalanche of media interest and letters from patients. At the same time, Abrahams started the Charlie Foundation to Help Cure Pediatric Epilepsy, an organization whose sole mission is to enable the diet to be administered in every hospital worldwide. All this publicity led patients to ask their doctors about the diet; doctors started experimenting with it and recording their results; and as e-mail and Internet databases became widely available, word spread at an accelerating rate. In 1997, 15 hospitals were offering keto to epileptic children; now roughly 150 do, Abrahams says. What astonished Abrahams and helped drive his effort to publicize the diet was that keto was not a new idea. It was first used as a medical treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s. The principles underlying the diet have been around since Hippocrates touched on them nearly 2,500 years ago. Starvation had long been one approach to treating epilepsy. Deny the patient food for, say, a week and often their seizures went away. But there were obvious limits on how long starvation could be used as a treatment. In the 1920s, researchers at the Mayo Clinic, looking for a way to treat diabetics, figured out that it was not fasting per se that helped control seizures. Rather, they found that it was what the body did during an extended fast that helped control them. Deprived of food, the human body starts burning body fat as fuel, and it was that process of ketosis that somehow had the antiepileptic effect. Trick the body into thinking it was starving by taking away its primary fuel of carbohydrates and forcing it to subsist on an all-fat diet, and you could create that antiepileptic effect as long as necessary. The diet was quickly adopted and widely used through the 1930s. And then, almost as fast as it had appeared, the keto diet disappeared. When Dilantin was first used as an antiepileptic drug in 1938, its success steered medical minds toward pharmaceutical solutions. A generation later, the diet had been all but forgotten. There was no scientific evidence that it worked, after all. More important, it was incredibly difficult to administer. Even in the 1990s, Millicent Kelly, Charlie Abrahams’s dietitian at Johns Hopkins, was planning menus with a calculator and a legal pad. By 2000, more people were asking about keto, but most pediatric neurologists still would not prescribe it. That bias seemed ridiculous to J. Helen Cross, the principal investigator of the 2008 randomized keto trial at University College London. “I’d been dealing with complex epilepsy cases for 10 years, and it was quite clear to me that certain children did respond to the ketogenic diet,” Cross says. “But we in our institution — and I know we weren’t alone — were coming up against barriers to get the resources to

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don’t know what to look for. Ultimately what makes the diet so stressful is that on top of all the gross recipes and weird mechanics, there is no margin for error. Just as you can’t take blood-pressure medicine sporadically or vary its dose day to day, on keto you can’t just dump beaten eggs into a pan; you have to take a rubber spatula and scrape out the two or three grams that typically adhere to the measuring bowl. Then Sam needs to finish every bite of every meal. (Two other, somewhat less restrictive diets are also being prescribed for epileptic children, but neither worked as well for Sam.) The penalty for cheating, at least in Sam’s case, is seizures. During the first few weeks on the diet, a friend in his carpool shared a piece of toast. We lost seizure control for a week. Miraculously, Sam has done this only once. Will the diet doom Sam to a lifetime of heart disease and high cholesterol? Thiele and Pfeifer don’t think so. There is research, published this year, suggesting that there are few lingering effects in the years after stopping the diet. Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, where the diet was pioneered in the 1920s, surveyed 101 former patients, most of whom had been off the diet for more than six years, and found that they had normal cholesterol and cardiovascular levels, no preference for fatty foods and, for those off the diet the longest, normal growth rates. Certainly Sam’s appearance shows no sign that he is eating so much fat. There are reports that the diet can stunt children’s growth even if they are on vitamin supplements. But Sam started the diet when he was 4 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 51 pounds. He is now 4 feet 8 inches tall and 68 pounds. His cholesterol and related measures of fat in the bloodstream are elevated, as is typical for children on the diet. But the other tests are normal. We don’t know how long Sam will be on this diet. It won’t be forever. Most who respond stay on it for about two years — which for Sam would be in April. But there is no magic number. I’ve read about some children who started in infancy and were on the diet for more than five years. Typically the diet is stopped at one of three junctures: when children have been seizure-free for two years; when they outgrow their seizures, as about 60 percent do; or when families decide the sacrifices required to stay on the diet have become too onerous. If you want to see someone who has been on the ketogenic diet, look up Charlie Abrahams on YouTube. The video to look for is his speech to some 300 doctors, dietitians and researchers at the International Symposium on Dietary Therapy for Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders. When Charlie was a baby, his doctors diagnosed Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a particularly severe form of epilepsy that if not properly treated often leaves sufferers permanently brain damaged. Drugs did nothing, and so, like many parents of chil-

The San Juan Weekly do it. They’d say there’s no evidence it works. It’s a quack diet. There is no controlled data. So I wanted to prove that it did work once and for all, and do it in a way so that people couldn’t argue with it.” It took five years to enroll and track enough patients to make the study credible and another two years to analyze the data and undergo the rigorous academic peer-review process. But since the study was published in 2008, it has answered doubts about keto’s clinical effectiveness. Keto has now attracted attention from all corners of the neurological community. Two scientists at the National Institutes of Health are planning a study of its effectiveness in Parkinson’s patients. Papers published in the past two years suggest that keto may slow the growth of a brain tumor in mice. A biotechnology company named Accera is marketing a high-fat powder to Alzheimer’s patients that is supposed to reproduce the effects of ketosis, without the dietary restrictions of keto. Still, there is one giant unanswered question: Why does keto work? Jong Rho, the head of pediatric neurology at the University of Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital, theorizes that ketone bodies — the compounds made by the liver when the body burns fat for energy — protect brain cells from being damaged. Rho, who just received a $2 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue to investigate this theory, says experiments with epileptic mice suggest that extended time on the diet makes them more seizure-resistant. Rho’s theory, however, only raises more questions. How would ketone bodies protect brain cells? Scientists don’t have a clue about how our cells react during ketosis. They don’t even know how much ketone bodies themselves matter. Until scientists understand the basic biological mechanisms, they can’t begin to embark on the long and costly process of drug development.

December. 2 - 8, 2010

The success of the pediatric diet seems to have made it easier for keto scientists to get money for this basic research. “Before Helen’s study, we all had a clear sense that keto worked,” says Carl Stafstrom, the head of pediatric neurology at the University of Wisconsin, “but we couldn’t say in a grant proposal that the diet has been proven to be effective. Now we can.” There are recently financed studies, for example, exploring why the body resists ketosis and exploring compounds that might trigger the antiepileptic mechanism. All of this still puts us a long way from anything remotely resembling a pill that would replace the keto diet. Being able to eat normally — or even close to normally — is critical to expanding the benefits of the ketogenic diet beyond the roughly 3,500 pediatric epilepsy patients currently on it. There are few adults who could adhere to a diet like the one Sam is on. For now the main alternatives to keto are the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD), published by Johns Hopkins in 2003, and Thiele and Pfeifer’s Low Glycemic Index Treatment (L.G.I.T.), published in 2005. MAD is more restrictive than the Atkins diet that people use for weight loss, but nonetheless a bit easier to follow than keto because it allows more protein; L.G.I.T. is easier than keto because it allows more carbs and protein as long as the carbs are like strawberries — which affect blood sugar slowly — and not like bread, potatoes or candy, which make it spike. There are volumes of clinical data supporting the effectiveness of these diets, but not yet the kind of randomized, controlled study that show these diets work as well as keto, and keto is still most often prescribed. We started Sam on L.G.I.T., moved to MAD and are now at keto. For the moment it seems to work best for him. Sam isn’t seizure-free yet, but he’s so close that you might think he was. From well over 100 seizures a day, Sam now typically has fewer than 6. Keto got us most of


the way there, but not all the way. The diet cut his seizures to roughly 30 a day, and two drugs, added separately to make sure we were changing only one variable at a time, did the rest. Sam is finally a happy, healthy and independent kid. He’s learning to skateboard and swim out of the shallow end. We’re about to teach him to ride a bike. In June he made me go on the 100-foot free-fall ride at an amusement park. He loved it. (I loved it less.) He and his friends Nick and Ethan spend almost every weekend searching for portals to other worlds. And he leaves people who meet him to wonder if he isn’t one of the bravest and most disciplined kids they have ever met. The truth is that as much control as Evelyn and I think we exert over Sam’s life — especially what he eats — we both understand that the person who is truly in charge of his health is Sam. Most days he and his Batman lunchbox are out of the house from 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. At lunch, at class birthdays — everywhere he goes, really — there is the temptation to quite reasonably say, “I would like to eat and drink like all the other kids.” But he doesn’t. Instead, on his own, he politely says: “I’m not supposed to eat that. It gives me seizures.” That doesn’t mean he likes it. He hates the diet. For his 10th birthday in May, he wants to go off keto; and we are going to try to honor that request. Will he start to seize uncontrollably again? In March, we found out that Sam’s twin sister, Beatrice, had epilepsy, too. At the moment, it’s completely controlled with medication. Will she grow out of it like many children do? Will Sam? Like all parents in our situation, we hope so. But we don’t know. At least we can comfort ourselves with the idea that we are participating in a grand exploration of the link between metabolism and brain chemistry that over the years may find some answers. That, at least, takes away some of the bad taste of this lousy diet.

34 December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Nurses’ Role in the Future of Health Care



t the start of my surgical training, I helped to care for a middle-aged patient who was struggling to recuperate from a major operation on his aorta, the body’s central artery, and the blood vessels to his legs. As the days wore on, the surgeon in charge began consulting various experts until the once spare patient file became weighted down with the notes and suggestions of a whole roster of specialists. The patient eventually recovered, thanks to the efforts of many. Nonetheless, one afternoon while walking around the wards with the senior surgeon, I couldn’t help but make a crack about the sheer heft of the patient’s chart; it was, after all, my job to carry it around while she visited with patients. “Remember this for when you get out into the real world,” she said, taking the chart from me and letting it dip in a way that exaggerated its bulk. “When the ship seems to be going down, you’ve got to get all hands on deck.” We might do well to remember that surgeon’s advice right now. As we inch toward 2014, the year that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of the health care overhaul, takes effect, it has become increasingly clear that the ship known as our health care system is in the process of sinking. And it is not spiraling costs or an overreliance on technology that is weighing most heavily on the health care system, but the sheer vo-

lume of patients it must serve. Currently overloaded with a rapidly aging patient population and their attendant complex medical problems, the system has yet to absorb the 32 million newly insured patients on the horizon. Moreover, over the next 10 years, a third of current physicians will retire, and the physician deficit will increase from just over 7,000 to almost 100,000, with shortages in all specialties, and not just primary care. But like crew members frantically moving deck chairs, policy makers, medical center administrators, third-party payers and even doctors and patients have remained focused on one thing: the physicians. In all the discussions about adjusting the number of medical schools and training slots, rearranging physician payment schedules and reorganizing practice models, one group of providers has been conspicuously missing. The nurses. Nurses currently form the largest sector of health care providers, with more than three million currently registered; but few have led or even been involved in the formal policy discussions regarding the future care of patients. To address this discrepancy, the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation assembled a national panel of health care experts that has been meeting for the last two years to discuss the role of nurses in transforming the current health care system. Their final report was published last month with no less ambitious a title than “The Future

of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” The report, it turns out, lives up to its name. Free of the kind of diatribes that usually creep into discussions about the roles of different health care providers, this report instead relies heavily on the evidence amassed over the last 50 years in clinical trials on the efficacy of nursing care. Weighing in at almost 600 pages, it offers several recommendations, including what amounts to a rebuke of the current piecemeal education of nurses and a debunking of the notion that physicians are the only ones who should lead (and be reimbursed for) any changes in the current health care system. Leaders in nursing have welcomed the report. “I think it’s a good blueprint for the future,” said Catherine L. Gilliss, president of the American Academy of Nursing, who was not a member of the panel. Part of that blueprint includes innovative nursing-led services like the Transitional Care Model program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where nurses are assigned to elderly hospitalized patients deemed to be at high risk for relapse. For up to three months after discharge, the nurse makes home visits, accompanies the patient to doctors’ offices and collaborates with the primary care physician and family caregivers. In early trials, the program has significantly decreased hospital readmissions and costs by as much as $5,000 per patient. But because not all third-party payers and institutions are willing to enroll patients in a nurse-directed program or pay for new nur-

sing services, not all patients who are eligible for the special care can enroll because they won’t be reimbursed. “What is fundamentally operating here is the culture of care,” said Mary D. Naylor, a principal investigator in the Transitional Care Model program and a professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. “We don’t recognize how critically important it is to maximize the contributions of everyone.” But the report was just as forceful in urging nurses to revamp the way they are educated, citing the decades-long struggle within the profession to define what exactly a nurse is. The term “registered nurse” can refer equally to graduates of two-year associate’s programs, four-year baccalaureate programs, and advanced master’s or doctorate programs. In addition to proposing the addition of postgraduate clinical training, or residency, programs, similar to what physicians currently go through, the panel recommended increasing the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees to 80 percent from 50 percent and doubling the number of nurses with doctorate degrees over the next 10 years. Whatever the final outcome, leaders in the nursing community believe that the report is an important first step toward organizing nurses to better serve patients through the challenges of the next few decades. “There’s a need for many hands,” she added, “and this may be nursing’s shining moment.”

2 Treatments for Retinas Make Gains By ANDREW POLLACK


lderly people losing their vision from age-related macular degeneration might one day have a treatment option that requires fewer injections into the eye than the standard drug now used. An experimental drug being developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, when injected every eight weeks, proved as effective as the standard treatment, Lucentis from Genentech, which was injected every four weeks. In a separate development, Advanced Cell Technology won regulatory approval to test a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells in people with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, another retina disease. It is only the second trial of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. The first involves a treatment for spinal cord injury developed by Geron. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Lucentis can restore a person’s ability to drive and read, in some cases. The drug works best when given every four weeks, which can be inconvenient for

patients and doctors. Doctors often give Lucentis less frequently, but even if that regimen produces good results, patients must still get checkups every month to make sure their vision is not deteriorating. Regeneron’s drug, called VEGF TrapEye, “gives us the opportunity to not have to see them monthly,” said Dr. Jeffrey Heier of Boston, an investigator in one of the trials and a consultant to Regeneron. Regeneron and its partner, Bayer, said they planned to apply for approval of the drug in the first half of 2011. The two similar trials involved a total of 2,457 patients who were randomly chosen to receive either Lucentis every four weeks or VEGF Trap-Eye either every four weeks or every eight weeks. In the eightweek arm, the first three doses were given every four weeks. After a year, roughly 95 percent of the patients in all the arms of the trial maintained their vision, meaning their ability to read an eye chart declined by no more than 15 letters, or three lines. VEGF Trap-Eye was also “noninferior” to Lucentis in terms of the average change in vision after one year. Lucentis re-

cipients had a mean gain of 8.1 letters and 9.4 letters in the two trials. Those getting Regeneron’s drug every eight weeks had gains of 7.9 letters and 8.9 letters. Regeneron said the two drugs were equally safe. Both VEGF Trap-Eye and Lucentis block a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor that causes blood vessels to grow and leak into the eye. VEGF Trap-Eye could become the first big product for Regeneron, which was founded in 1988 and is based in Tarrytown, N.Y. It sells one drug for a rare disease and has garnered hundreds of millions of dollars from licensing deals with big pharmaceutical companies. Regeneron’s drug is likely to face competition from off-label use of Genentech’s cancer drug Avastin. When used in the eye, Avastin costs about $50 a dose, compared with about $2,000 for Lucentis. Still, even with such low-priced competition, Lucentis has sales exceeding $2 billion globally. Meanwhile, Advanced Cell Technology, of Marlborough, Mass., said it would test its stem cell therapy on 12 adults with severe vision loss caused by Stargardt’s, an

inherited disease. The company has turned human embryonic stem cells into retinal pigment epithelial cells, which will be surgically implanted into the eye. The hope is that the implanted cells will replace those injured by the disease. Human embryonic stem cells are controversial because their creation usually entails the destruction of human embryos, although Advanced Cell Technology is working on a technique to avoid that. Embryonic cells can also form tumors if injected into the body. Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientist at Advanced Cell, said the company had to prove to the F.D.A. that its retinal cells contained virtually no residual embryonic stem cells. It took a year for the company to get clearance for the trial from the F.D.A. There is no treatment for Stargardt’s, which affects more than 25,000 people in the US. The disease is usually diagnosed during childhood and causes a loss of central vision, though not usually peripheral vision. Ryan Rapoport of Newcastle, Wash., who has the disease, “basically went from normal vision to legally blind in seven months,” said his father, Darrin.

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December. 2 - 8, 2010


Understanding Children’s Stomach Aches By PERRI KLASS, M.D.


he stomachache people look with some envy at the headache people. “For some reason people respect headaches,” said Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo, a leading pediatric gastroenterologist and a professor of clinical pediatrics at Ohio State. “I’ve never seen a parent or a pediatrician tell a child complaining of a headache, ‘You don’t have a headache — it’s not real.’ Bellyache is just as real as headache.” Indeed it is. And recurrent abdominal pain in children is common, frustrating and often hard to explain. Consider a girl who came to the clinic for her 10-year physical exam. She gets these bellyaches, she told me. Had a bad one that week, but her stomach wasn’t hurting right at the moment. She’d been treated for constipation; she’d been tested for celiac disease and other problems. Every blood and stool test over the two years since the pain began was completely normal. One night the bellyache was so bad she went to the emergency room — and her abdominal X-rays were normal as well. The diagnostic term for this common and perplexing condition is “functional abdominal pain”: recurrent stomachaches, as the American Academy of Pediatrics put it in 2005, with no “anatomic, metabolic, infectious, inflammatory or neoplastic disorder” to explain them. When I was a resident, we often smirked when we spoke of functional abdominal pain, treating it as a code for a troublesome patient, dubious symptoms or an anxious family. But recent research suggests we were too biomedically narrow in our thinking.

Scientists are coming to understand that abdominal pain is transmitted by a specialized nervous system that may be hypersensitive or hyperactive in some children. Studies in which researchers inflated balloons in children’s intestines suggested that those with functional abdominal pain might be unusually sensitive to any distension on the inside. “We think in terms of a biological-psychological-social model” for pain, said Dr. Joel R. Rosh, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, N.J., and an associate professor of pediatrics at New Jersey Medical School. “When a child says, ‘My belly hurts,’ what drives me crazy is people say, ‘No it, doesn’t.’ “Why would people say that? You’re feeling something! How much is biological, how much is psychological, how much is social?” The improved understanding of how such pain develops — and can be treated — has changed the ways that pediatricians look at the problem, but it hasn’t necessarily made it easier to take proper care of these children, to worry over them enough but not too much and, above all, to make them feel better. The problem may start with some initial insult, an infection or inflammation that may affect pain pathways in the child — and may also set up psychological patterns and anxieties in the child and response patterns and anxieties in the parent. And then the child continues to be extremely aware of sensations coming from the gastrointestinal tract, even when the initial illness is over. The challenge to the parents — passed on to the pediatrician — is how diligently these pains should be investigated,



ecently, researchers in Finland made the discovery that some people’s bodies do not respond as expected to weight training, others don’t respond to endurance exercise and, in some lamentable cases, some don’t respond to either. In other words, there are those who just do not become fitter or stronger, no matter what exercise they undertake. To reach this conclusion, the researchers enrolled 175 sedentary adults in a 21-week exercise program. Some lifted weights twice a week. Others jogged or walked. Some did both. Before and after the program, the volunteers’ fitness and muscular strength were assessed. At the end of the 21 weeks, the results, published earlier this year in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, were mixed. In the combined strength-and-endurance-exercise program, the volunteers’ physiological improvement ranged from a negative 8 percent to a positive 42 percent. The results were similar in the

groups that undertook only strength or only endurance training. Some improved their strength enormously, some not at all. Others became aerobically fitter but not stronger, while still others showed no improvements in either area. Only a fortunate few became both fitter and more buff. Hidden away in the results of almost any study of exercise programs is the fact that some people do not respond at all, while others respond at an unusually high rate. Averaged, the results may suggest that a certain exercise program reliably will produce certain results — jogging, say, three times a week for a month. The implications of such wide variety in response are huge. In looking at the population as a whole, writes Jamie Timmons, a professor of systems biology at the Royal Veterinary College in London, in a review article published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology, the findings suggest that “there will be millions of humans that cannot improve their aerobic ca-

how many tests a child should be subjected to, how much money should be spent. “One thing fairly well established is that as soon as you make a referral to a subspecialist, cost increases by fivefold,” Dr. Di Lorenzo said. “We’re going to tend to do a lot more tests.” The more anxious the parent, he said, the more tests may be done for reassurance. With the 10-year-old girl, I was trying hard not to refer her to a subspecialist. She was growing well, she didn’t have celiac disease, she had none of the red flags that signal a need for a medical work-up. We suggested that she learn techniques to cope with her abdominal pain and maybe see a counselor to talk about anxiety. Her mother thought we meant the pain was imaginary. “The vast majority of data suggest that

what helps the children is working with the brain more than working with the gut,” Dr. Di Lorenzo said. “Hypnosis is clearly more effective than medication.” And the medications that may work include those that work on the enteric nervous system (which uses serotonin as a neurotransmitter), so low doses of antidepressants are sometimes helpful with functional abdominal pain. Miranda A. L. van Tilburg, a psychologist who is assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, was the lead author of a study published a year ago in Pediatrics, which showed good effects from a treatment called guided imagery. “We would give them therapeutic suggestions,” Dr. van Tilburg said, “like imagining something in your hand that melts in your hand like butter and then you put it in your tummy and it makes it stronger, or imagine drinking your favorite drink and again the inside of your tummy is coated with this special layer.” The children were sent home with CDs and instructions to practice the imagery regularly as a prevention strategy. Our patient said she didn’t want to see any more doctors. She didn’t want any more blood tests, and she didn’t want tests she had heard about that involved tubes. Her mother didn’t really want those tests either, since as she said, they never seemed to find anything wrong. Neither was enthusiastic about seeing a counselor, but they finally agreed. How do you help doctors, parents and children get past the idea abdominal pain is not “real,” that a child doubled up with pain is faking it, that it’s all in his head?

pacity or their insulin sensitivity, nor reduce their blood pressure” through standard exercise. But what is it about one person’s body that allows it to react so vigorously to exercise, while for others the reaction is puny at best? One answer, to no one’s surprise, would seem to be genetics, although the actual mechanisms involved are complex, as a recent study by Dr. Timmons and others underscored. In that work, researchers accurately predicted who would respond most to endurance exercise training based on the expression levels of 29 different genes in their muscles before the start of the training. Those 29 genes are not necessarily directly associated with exercise response. They seem to have more to do with the development of new blood vessels in muscles; they may or may not have initiated the response to exercise. Scientists just don’t know yet. In other words, this issue is as intricate as the body itself. There is a collection of compelling data that indicate that about half of our aerobic capacity “is genetic,” Dr. Timmons wrote in an e-mail. “The rest may be diet,” or it could be a result of epigenetics, a complicated process in which the environment (including where you live and

what you eat) affects how and when genes are activated. “Or it could be other factors,” he said. Although fewer studies have examined why people respond so variously to strength training, “we have no reason to doubt,” he said, that genetics play a similar role. But none of this means that if you once took up jogging or weight lifting and didn’t respond, you should take to the couch. It may be that a different exercise regimen would prompt beneficial reactions from your particular genome and physiology, Dr. Timmons said. (Although scientists still have a long way to go before they can say, definitively, who needs what exercise, based on genetic and other differences.) In the meantime, Dr. Timmons stressed, even low responders should continue to sweat. Just as scientists don’t yet understand the complicated underpinnings of the body’s response to exercise, they also don’t necessarily understand the full range of exercise’s impacts. Even if you do not increase your VO2max, Dr. Timmons said, you are likely to be deriving other benefits, both big and small, from working out. Exercise does still remain, “on average,” he said, “one of the best ‘health’ treatments we have.”

36 December. 2 - 8, 2010

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Planning for Temporary Home Care After the Hospital Stay



NNIE BRUMBAUGH has become a bit of an expert on recuperating at home. Over the last two years, the 65-year-old wardrobe consultant has had two serious operations on her foot, plus a bone graft, each of which left her homebound for weeks at a time. “This is not easy,” said Ms. Brumbaugh, who lives alone in Manhattan. “Most people have no idea what they are in for.” Even straightforward procedures, like C-sections and hip replacements, can involve longer-than- expected recuperations. Preparing for these requires more than stocking up on novels, DVDs and plenty of frozen entrees (though such supplies certainly are useful). After a hospitalization, you will need help doing things that you’re unable to do for yourself — even with performing basic tasks like cleaning and dressing. You may need a nurse to change the bandage on a wound or to administer intravenous drugs. You may need equipment, too: a walker, a bath seat or a commode to ensure you don’t injure yourself during recovery. Equipment and support services will help speed up your recovery, but they also can put a dent in your savings. That’s because most insurers pay for home health care by skilled professionals only during the first, acute part of your recovery. Insurers do not pay for care provided by home care aides, often needed for both short and long recuperations. The gap often comes as a shock to pa-

tients and their families. “There’s a big misconception about what home health care is and what services are covered by insurance,” said Heather McKenzie, senior director of clinical education and quality initiatives for the Visiting Nurse Associations of America. “Most people think all home services will be covered on a long-term basis.” Every recovery is different, of course, but the more you know and the better prepared you are, the easier it will be to make cost-effective decisions. Whether you are entering the hospital for a planned surgery or just want to be better prepared for an emergency, a few strategies can help guide your way. PLAN AHEAD Many patients wind up in the hospital as a result of an emergency. For them, lining up home care is likely to be a haphazard process. But a surprising number know in advance that they will be convalescing, yet fail to consider the need for help once they return home. If you plan to go to the hospital for, say, elective surgery, have a frank talk with your doctor about how long your recovery may be and what you will and will not be able to do. Then call your insurer, whether it’s Medicare or a private carrier, and ask about your policy’s home care benefits. The insurer can give you a general sense of the services you are entitled to. Be sure to check out your long-term care policy, if you have one; it should cover temporary home care. If you’re covered by Medicare, you can find information on covered home health care services on its Web site.

Elderly patients in assisted living may need skilled aides, as well. While the staff can most likely help with showers and dressing, they probably cannot perform medical tasks, like emptying surgical drains. Don’t leave it up to the hospital to figure out what the facility can provide. “Hospitals often make false assumptions about what assisted living facilities can and cannot do,” said Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of public policy at the Assisted Living Federation of America. Check with the assisted living facility directly. APPROACH HOSPITAL STAFF Let’s imagine you land in the hospital as a result of a sudden emergency. The moment you are able, begin talking to the discharge manager or the social worker about what comes after the hospitalization. Better yet, designate a family member to speak on your behalf, someone who can get the ball rolling even if you’re not up to it. Whoever does the talking should detail the situation at home for the hospital discharge manager or social worker, including who lives with you and how much help can be provided. “Health professionals frequently assume there is more support at home than there is,” Ms. McKenzie said. It’s important to make clear that there may not be full-time support. The hospital will have to authorize skilled nursing care for your insurer to pay; discharge planners may consider someone living alone to be more qualified for services than someone living with a spouse. If you feel you are being hustled out the door too quickly, or that more time is needed to make arrangements, say so. If the discharge planner balks, ask to speak to the supervisor or the hospital’s patient advocate. “Discharge managers are under the gun to get people out when an individual’s insurance company indicates denial of further coverage and may overlook aspects of your case,” said Vanessa R. Bishop, founder of Elder Care Consultants Inc. in Reston, Va. Ask, too, if the hospital can order equipment, like a walker or commode, so it is there when you arrive home. DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS There are two basic levels of home care: skilled and unskilled. Most insurers will pay only for skilled care, but even then you must be

homebound and require only temporary care. The hospital should have arranged for short-term nursing care, if needed, before you were discharged. But typically a nurse will also come to your home and evaluate your continuing needs. Private insurers almost never pay for unskilled help, like a home health aide. If you decide you need more help than your insurer will authorize, first consider whether you need a nurse (who may charge $50 or so an hour) or whether a home health aide will suffice (more like $10 to $38, depending on where you live). If you do want a skilled nurse, you must get a prescription from your doctor ordering the services, even if insurance is paying. How do you find a home health aide? It’s usually less expensive to find someone on your own than to go through an agency, so start by asking friends and family for referrals. If you do opt to use an agency, call a few and ask for price quotes. Ask, too, whether they do background checks on their workers. (They should, of course.) A good place to start is the local visiting nurse agency. These agencies are nonprofit and privately operated, so each one offers slightly different services, but some can provide the services of both nurses and home health aides. For tips on selecting health care agencies, go to the V.N.A.A. Web site at HIRE A MANAGER If you don’t have the time or stamina to figure out an ideal home health care plan for yourself or a loved one, turn to a health care advocate or, in the case of elderly patients, a geriatric care manager. These consultants charge an hourly fee of $90 to $160, which is not reimbursed by insurers. But a one-hour consultation could potentially save you hours of precious time. A nurse advocate or geriatric care manager can explain how insurance and Medicare work and the services you may be entitled to, and they can speak to doctors on your behalf. If you’re interested in hiring a geriatric care manager, contact the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. If you want to find an advocate, you’ll have to ask around for referrals, as there is no central resource.

UV Radiation Poses Hidden Risk for Skiers By RONI CARYN RABIN


kiers, beware: you’re exposed to more ultraviolet radiation than you think. Hot chocolate at midday — preferably somewhere shady — may be a good idea. Scientists studying sun safety took multiple readings of ultraviolet radiation at 32 high-altitude ski areas in western North America and interviewed thousands of

skiers to find out whether they took precautions against the sun, like wearing hats, sunscreen and goggles, at appropriate times. Their conclusion was: only occasionally. “There were lots of findings, but the big takeaway is that people do not know when UV is high and do not take precautions,” said Peter A. Andersen, a professor of health communications at San Diego State University. “People took precautions not only when

it was sunny but when it was warmer, and that’s an erroneous calculation in people’s minds. There is absolutely no correlation between temperature and UV radiation.” There can also be a lot of exposure to UV radiation on cloudy days, he said. Skiers in the Northern Hemisphere get the highest exposure at midday, and during the late winter and early spring, as they get closer to the summer solstice, Dr.

Andersen said. Exposure also increases with elevation. Readings were generally highest in high-altitude resorts in Arizona and New Mexico, but the highest UV rating — 10 UV index units — was taken at Mammoth Mountain in California. That rating is “just as intense as being smack-dab in the middle of the sun at Jones Beach in June,” Dr. Andersen said.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


The Ruins of Baalbek


he mysterious ruins of Baalbek. One of the great Power Places of the ancient world. For thousands of years its secrets have been shrouded in darkness, or bathed in an artificial light by those who would offer us a simplistic solution to its mysteries. You are looking at the columns of the Temple of Jupiter - the grandest temple that the Romans ever built - one of the wonders of the ancient world. To this remote location in the Bekaa Valley of modern-day Lebanon, Roman emperors would travel 1,500 miles to make offerings to their gods and receive oracles on the destiny of their empire. Much has changed in two thousand years. The magnificent temple is ruined, its gods abandoned, its secrets forgotten. Even the ruins have been neglected, wiped off the tourist map by twenty years of terrorism, war, hostages and hijackings. Some archaeologists might well wish that Baalbek had been buried forever. For it is here that we find the largest dressed stone block in the world - the infamous Stone of the South, lying in its quarry just ten minutes walk from the temple acropolis. This huge stone weighs approximately 1,000 tons - almost as heavy as three Boeing 747 aircraft.

Back at the temple acropolis, three stones not much smaller than this, weighing 800 tons each, have been miraculously fitted together in a wall, forming a Trilithon at a height of 20 feet. I personally seized the opportunity to visit Baalbek in May 1995, shortly after tourists began returning to the bombed-out ruins of Lebanon. This e-tour will mirror my real life tour, which climaxed at the mighty Trilithon and the Stone of the South. In due course I will attempt to provide some personal insights into the enormous scale of this construction and the motivations of its builders. First, however, I offer you the

the original sanctity of this remote site? What was it that prompted the Romans to quarry, move and erect literally millions of stone blocks? We begin at the main acropolis by considering first this bird’s eye view of how it might have looked in Roman times, before its fortification by the Muslims. A monumental staircase leads up to the entrance or Propylaea, beyond which we find the Hexagonal Courtyard, the Great Courtyard, the Temple of Jupiter, the smaller Temple of Bacchus, and the much rare opportunity to see the entire smaller Temple of Venus. Note the Baalbek, of which the mighty Triunusual fact that the acropolis of lithon is only a part. As we proBaalbek is not aligned to the cardigress through our e-tour, reflect on nal points of the compass. the glorious splendour that was once here and ask yourself “why Continues on page 38 here?”. What was it that caused


December. 2 - 8, 2010

were dismantled and re-erected in the early 1930s, but they now threaten to collapse again. We now enter the main acropolis via the Propylaea - what we see here is a reconstruction by the German archaeological expedition in 1905. The original stair-

Comes from page 37 The Temple of Venus can be dealt with briefly. Situated in what is now a field of rubble, its former elegance can no longer be seen, and only four of its ten columns remain standing. Being outside

the fortified acropolis, this temple was swallowed up by an Arab town, to such an extent that the German Archaeological Mission had to remove five metres of debris to clear the first step of the monumental staircase at its entrance. The remains of the temple

The San Juan Weekly

case was destroyed by the Arabs to fortify the site and they dismantled the 12 granite columns which they re-used for defensive purposes. Only the bases of those columns survived, and they bore inscriptions identifying their Roman origin. Having come through the entrance, we find ourselves in the middle of the impressive Hexagonal Courtyard, which is a unique feature for a temple of this period (it may well have been a concession by the Romans to local customs and traditions). Roman inscriptions are found here in abundance, but the purpose of the Hexagonal Courtyard remains unknown. We now proceed into the Great Courtyard...

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


With Kinect Controller, Hackers Take Liberties By JENNA WORTHAM


hen Oliver Kreylos, a computer scientist, heard about the capabilities of Microsoft’s new Kinect gaming device, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. “I dropped everything, rode my bike to the closest game store and bought one,” he said. But he had no interest in playing video games with the Kinect, which is meant to be plugged into an Xbox and allows players to control the action onscreen by moving their bodies. Mr. Kreylos, who specializes in virtual reality and 3-D graphics, had just learned that he could download some software and use the device with his computer instead. He was soon using it to create “holographic” video images that can be rotated on a computer screen. A video he posted on YouTube last week caused jaws to drop and has been watched 1.3 million times. Mr. Kreylos is part of a crowd of programmers, roboticists and tinkerers who are getting the Kinect to do things it was not really meant to do. The attraction of the device is that it is outfitted with cameras, sensors and software that let it detect movement, depth, and the shape and position of the human body. Companies respond to this kind of experimentation with their products in different ways — and Microsoft has had two very different responses since the Kinect was released on Nov. 4. It initially made vague threats about working with law enforcement to stop “product tampering.” But by last week, it was embracing the benevolent hackers. “Anytime there is engagement and excitement around our technology, we

see that as a good thing,” said Craig Davidson, senior director for Xbox Live at Microsoft. “It’s naïve to think that any new technology that comes out won’t have a group that tinkers with it.” Microsoft and other companies would be wise to keep an eye on this kind of outside innovation and consider wrapping some of the creative advances into future products, said Loren Johnson, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan who follows digital media and consumer electronics. “These adaptations could be a great benefit to their own bottom line,” he said. “It’s a trend that is undeniable, using public resources to improve on products, whether it be the Kinect or anything else.” Microsoft invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Kinect in the hopes of wooing a broader audience of gamers, like those who enjoy using the motionbased controllers of the Nintendo Wii. Word of the technical sophistication and low price of the device spread quickly in tech circles.

Building a device with the Kinect’s capabilities would require “thousands of dollars, multiple Ph.D.’s and dozens of months,” said Limor Fried, an engineer and founder of Adafruit Industries, a store in New York that sells supplies for experimental hardware projects. “You can just buy this at any game store for $150.” On the day the Kinect went on sale, Ms. Fried and Phillip Torrone, a designer and senior editor of Make magazine, which features do-it-yourself technology projects, announced a $3,000 cash bounty for anyone who created and released free software allowing the Kinect to be used with a computer instead of an Xbox. Microsoft quickly gave the contest a thumbs-down. In an interview with CNet News, a company representative said that it did not “condone the modification of its products” and that it would “work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.” That is not much different from the approach taken by Apple, which has released software upgrades for its iPhone operating system in an effort to block any unsanctioned hacks or software running on its devices. But other companies whose products have been popular targets for tinkering have actively encouraged it. One example is iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba, a small robotic vacuum cleaner. That product was so popular with robotics enthusiasts that the company began selling the iRobot Create, a programmable machine with no dusting capabilities. Mr. Davidson said Microsoft now had no concerns about the Kinect-hacking fan club, but he said the company would be monitoring developments. A modification that compromises the Xbox

system, violates the company’s terms of service or “degrades the experience for everyone is not something we want,” he said. Other creative uses of the Kinect involve drawing 3-D doodles in the air and then rotating them with a nudge of the hand, and manipulating colorful animated puppets on a computer screen. Most, if not all, of the prototypes were built using the open-source code released as a result of the contest sponsored by Ms. Fried and Mr. Torrone, which was won by Hector Martin, a 20-year-old engineering student in Spain. The KinectBot, cobbled together in a weekend by Philipp Robbel, a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, combines the Kinect and an iRobot Create. It uses the Kinect’s sensors to detect humans, respond to gesture and voice commands, and generate 3-D maps of what it is seeing as it rolls through a room. Mr. Robbel said the KinectBot offered a small glimpse into the future of machines that could aid in the search for survivors after a natural disaster. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said of the wave of Kinect experimentation. “We are going to see an exponential number of videos and tests over the coming weeks and months as more people get their hands on this device.” Toying around with the Kinect could go beyond being a weekend hobby. It could potentially lead to a job. In late 2007, Johnny Lee, then a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, was so taken by the Wii that he rigged a system that would allow it to track his head movements and adjust the screen perspective accordingly. A video of Mr. Lee demonstrating the technology was a hit on YouTube, as were his videos of other Wii-related projects. By June 2008, he had a job at Microsoft as part of the core team working on the Kinect software that distinguishes between players and parts of the body. “The Wii videos made me much more visible to the products people at Xbox,” Mr. Lee said. “They were that much more interested in me because of the videos.” Mr. Lee said he was “very happy” to see the response the Kinect was getting among people much like himself. “I’m glad they are inspired and that they like the technology,” he said. “I think they’ll be able to do really cool things with it.”


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Google TV, Usability Not Included in a show or subject —“taylor swift,” say, or “modern family.” You’re instantly rewarded with a master list of TV shows, Web videos (from all different Web sites) and even apps (more on apps in a moment) that match your query. Just scroll, click and play. You can even search for and then change channels by typing, for example, “MSNBC” or “CNN.” Nice. Unfortunately, the search function is unpredictable. Sometimes, it searches all TV, Web and apps. Other times, it just opens the address bar of the Web browser, so that you wind up searching the whole Web instead of just videos. In still other situations, it searches only the program you’re using (the Twitter app, for example). That’s a little confusing. So is the Dual By DAVID POGUE


oogle Mail. Google Phone. Google Voice. Google News. Holy cow. Is there any corner of our lives where Google doesn’t want a toehold? Not anymore. It’s here, just in time for the holidays: Google TV! Now, let’s be clear: you can’t swing by your local Couch-Potato Depot and ask for “a Google TV.” (Well, you can, but they’ll look at you funny.) Instead, Google TV is an operating system, based on the same Android software that’s inside many app phones. Google hopes that other companies will build it into their TV sets, Blu-ray disc players and set-top boxes. The point of all this is to bring Web videos to your TV set. Now, the idea of bringing the Web to your TV is not a new idea. It’s been kicking around since the Internet was still in pullups. But no matter how many times the industry tries to cram Web+TV down our throats, the masses just don’t swallow. That’s probably because when we sit down at the TV, we want to be passive, with brains turned off, and when we surf the Web, we’re in a different mind-set: more active, more directed. For some reason, though, this year, the tech industry is going Web+TV crazy. Maybe it’s because they’re all focusing on Web video, not the whole Internet enchilada (e-mail, browsing and so on). Already, you can get services like YouTube, Netflix on demand and Amazon movies through set-top boxes like Apple TV, Roku, Western Digital Live Hub, TiVo Premiere and many others. But Google TV wants to reopen the case for the whole Internet on your TV. It offers access to Web video but also has a full-blown (well, mostly blown) Web browser built in. At this early stage, only three gadgets have Google TV: a 46-inch Sony TV (the catchy-named NSX-46GT1, $1,400) and two

devices that put it on your existing TV, a Sony Blu-ray player (NSZ-GT1, $400) and a set-top box from Logitech called the Revue (steeply priced at $300). I tried out the Sony TV and the Logitech box. This much is clear: Google TV may be interesting to technophiles, but it’s not for average people. On the great timeline of television history, Google TV takes an enormous step in the wrong direction: toward complexity. For starters, it requires a mouse and keyboard. That’s right. For your TV. Hope you weren’t going for that rustic look in your TV room. Sony’s remote control is a two-handed affair, designed like an Xbox game controller, with a BlackBerry-style keyboard and arrow keys that slowly, awkwardly move the cursor around the screen. The Logitech’s remote is, if you can believe it, an actual, full-size, wireless computer keyboard, with a trackpad and mouse clicker in the corner. (For $130, you can replace it with a smaller BlackBerry-style keyboard remote.) So why do you need a keyboard? First, you need it to navigate Chrome, Google’s Web browser. Second, you need the keyboard for Google TV’s star feature: Search. When you press Search on the keyboard, you can type

View button, which puts your current TV show into a picture-in-picture inset, so you can surf the Web and watch your show simultaneously. Fine. But you can’t move or resize the inset, which is a problem when it’s covering up, say, the Send or O.K. button of some Web site or dialogue box. And when you’re not watching TV, the Dual View button does nothing at all. (Shouldn’t it create a TV inset whether you’re watching TV or not?) On the main menu, quick: what’s the difference between Bookmarks and the Queue? What’s the difference between Applications and Spotlights? All of them look the same: labeled icons. It’s all customizable, unfamiliar and mostly baffling, and you don’t get a single page of instructions. (I learned how to use Google TV by shooting a fusillade of questions to the Google P.R. people — an option I’m guessing won’t be open to you.) So what are TV apps? Apparently, they’re like Web pages with video. For example, the CNBC app shows the live CNBC broadcast with a list of stocks on the right side. So far, there are only a handful of apps, all installed by Google, like CNBC, Pandora, Netflix and an N.B.A. app. Google says that the real fun won’t begin until next

year, when it will let programmers write TV apps, just the way they do now for Android phones. There’s a What’s On list of TV shows that are on right now. But otherwise, there’s no TV guide, except for the TV listings channel that your cable company already provides. The problem with Google’s open approach, of course, is that it breeds inconsistency and chaos. The Logitech Revue, for example, feels so much faster and better designed than the Sony. Once I told it I had a TiVo, for example, its keyboard could miraculously control all the TiVo functions. On the Sony remote, why are the Home, Menu, Back and Dual View buttons on a ring, as if they’re somehow related? Why are there two O.K. buttons — one inside that ring, one inside the arrow-buttons ring — and each works only sometimes? So much of Google TV and what it offers reflects its infant status. For example, you can buy movies from Amazon’s movie service, but not in high definition. Another example: In an app called Clicker, the very first offering was a David Letterman Top 10 list — but trying to play it produced only an error message: “The video you have requested is not available on this device.” That’s because every major TV network, as well as, has blocked Google TV so that you can’t see shows from its Web site. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense — do they want viewers, or don’t they? In any case, that still doesn’t explain why Google TV lists shows it can’t play. There’s not much integration, either. You can use the Search command to find a certain show, but if you want to record it, you have to exit Google TV and program it into your video recorder manually. (The exception: If you have Dish satellite, then you can click Record right in the list of search results.) But even if Google TV one day becomes more refined, the central problem remains: on the Web, videos routinely freeze, stutter, take forever to load or show “missing plug-in” error messages. We’re used to that. We have low expectations — on the Web. But do we really want to pay hundreds of dollars to bring this sort of flakiness to our TV sets? It will probably take a long time, and a lot more refinement, before Google TV is attractive to anyone besides tech-heads — especially when, for only $60, you can get most of the same stuff (Netflix, Amazon on demand, Pandora, Major League Baseball, apps) on a Roku box. But don’t worry for Google. There’s plenty of world left for it to conquer. Here’s looking forward to Google Car, Google Bank, Google Microwave. ...

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction By MATT RICHTEL


n the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh’s life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer? By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-yearold, should already have finished the book, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months. He typically favors Facebook, YouTube and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework. On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.” Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning. Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention. “Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.” But even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory. It is a tension on vivid display at Vishal’s school, Woodside High School, on a sprawling campus set against the forested hills of Silicon Valley. Here, as elsewhere, it is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day

or spend hours playing video games, and virtually everyone is on Facebook. The principal, David Reilly, 37, a former musician who says he sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised, is determined to engage these 21stcentury students. He has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center. He pushed first period back an hour, to 9 a.m., because students were showing up bleary-eyed, at least in part because they were up late on their computers. Unchecked use of digital devices, he says, can create a culture in which students are addicted to the virtual world and lost in it. “I am trying to take back their attention from their BlackBerrys and video games,” he says. “To a degree, I’m using technology to do it.” The same tension surfaces in Vishal, whose ability to be distracted by computers is rivaled by his proficiency with them. At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software. He acts as his family’s tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site. But he also plays video games 10 hours a week. He regularly sends Facebook status updates at 2 a.m., even on school nights, and has such a reputation for distributing links to videos that his best friend calls him a “YouTube bully.”

Several teachers call Vishal one of their brightest students, and they wonder why things are not adding up. Last semester, his grade point average was 2.3 after a D-plus in English and an F in Algebra II. He got an A in film critique. “He’s a kid caught between two worlds,” said Mr. Reilly — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands. Vishal, like his mother, says he lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer. She sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him that, while she respected his passion for film and his technical skills, he had to use them productively. “This is the year,” she says she told him. “This is your senior year and you can’t afford not to focus.” It was not always this way. As a child, Vishal had a tendency to procrastinate, but nothing like this. Something changed him.

Growing Up With Gadgets When he was 3, Vishal moved with his parents and older brother to their current home, a three-bedroom house in the working-class section of Redwood City, a suburb in Silicon Valley that is more diverse than some of its elite neighbors. Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him. But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate. “I realized there were choices,” Vis-

hal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.” Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children “are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around.” Research also shows that students often juggle homework and entertainment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework. At Woodside, as elsewhere, students’ use of technology is not uniform. Mr. Reilly, the principal, says their choices tend to reflect their personalities. Social butterflies tend to be heavy texters and Facebook users. Students who are less social might escape into games, while drifters or those prone to procrastination, like Vishal, might surf the Web or watch videos. The technology has created on campuses a new set of social types — not the thespian and the jock but the texter and gamer, Facebook addict and YouTube potato. “The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says. For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying. Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like “if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone,” Allison said. “I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else.” But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report. “I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message,

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42 Comes from page 41 and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ” Some shyer students do not socialize through technology — they recede into it. Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school. Escaping into games can also salve teenagers’ age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. “It’s a way for me to separate myself,” Ramon says. “If there’s an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I’ll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape.” With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook. Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option. Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit. “If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day. Sean’s favorite medium is video games; he plays for four hours after school and twice that on weekends. He was playing more but found his habit pulling his grade point average below 3.2, the point at which he felt comfortable. He says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else. “Video games don’t make the hole; they fill it,” says Sean, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, where he is surrounded by a multimillion-dollar view: on the nearby hills are the evergreens that tower above the affluent neighborhoods populated by Internet tycoons. Sean, a

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

senior, concedes that video games take a physical toll: “I haven’t done exercise since my sophomore year. But that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I still look the same.” Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books. “I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.” He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.

The Lure of Distraction Some neuroscientists have been studying people like Sam and Vishal. They have begun to understand what happens to the brains of young people who are constantly online and in touch. In an experiment at the German Sport University in Cologne in 2007, boys from 12 to 14 spent an hour each night playing video games after they finished homework. On alternate nights, the boys spent an hour watching an exciting movie, like “Harry Potter” or “Star Trek,” rather than playing video games. That allowed the researchers to compare the effect of video games and TV. The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics. Markus Dworak, a researcher who led the study and is now a neuroscientist at Harvard, said it was not clear whether the boys’ learning suffered because sleep was disrupted or, as he speculates, also because the intensity of the game experience overrode the brain’s recording of the vocabulary. “When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store,” he said. “Your brain

might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary.” At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory. In that vein, recent imaging studies of people have found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. These brain studies suggest to researchers that periods of rest are critical in allowing the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and even develop the sense of self. Researchers say these studies have particular implications for young people, whose brains have more trouble focusing and setting priorities. “Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.” “The headline is: bring back boredom,” added Dr. Rich, who last month gave a speech to the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled, “Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from the River of Electronic Screens.” Dr. Rich said in an interview that he was not suggesting young people should toss out their devices, but rather that they embrace a more balanced approach to what he said were powerful tools necessary to compete and succeed in modern life. The heavy use of devices also worries Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massa-

chusetts at Amherst, who is known for research showing that children are not as harmed by TV viewing as some researchers have suggested. Multitasking using ubiquitous, interactive and highly stimulating computers and phones, Professor Anderson says, appears to have a more powerful effect than TV. Like Dr. Rich, he says he believes that young, developing brains are becoming habituated to distraction and to switching tasks, not to focus. “If you’ve grown up processing multiple media, that’s exactly the mode you’re going to fall into when put in that environment — you develop a need for that stimulation,” he said. Vishal can attest to that. “I’m doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I’m doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t.” “If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, “I also wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life.”

Clicking Toward a Future The woman sits in a cemetery at dusk, sobbing. Behind her, silhouetted and translucent, a man kneels, then fades away, a ghost. This captivating image appears on Vishal’s computer screen. On this Thursday afternoon in late September, he is engrossed in scenes he shot the previous weekend for a music video he is making

The San Juan Weekly with his cousin. The video is based on a song performed by the band Guns N’ Roses about a woman whose boyfriend dies. He wants it to be part of the package of work he submits to colleges that emphasize film study, along with a documentary he is making about homeschooled students. Now comes the editing. Vishal taught himself to use sophisticated editing software in part by watching tutorials on YouTube. He does not leave his chair for more than two hours, sipping Pepsi, his face often inches from the screen, as he perfects the clip from the cemetery. The image of the crying woman was shot separately from the image of the kneeling man, and he is trying to fuse them. “I’m spending two hours to get a few seconds just right,” he says. He occasionally sends a text message or checks Facebook, but he is focused in a way he rarely is when doing homework. He says the chief difference is that filmmaking feels applicable to his chosen future, and he hopes colleges, like the University of Southern California or the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, will be so impressed by his portfolio that they will overlook his school performance. “This is going to compensate for the grades,” he says. On this day, his homework includes a worksheet for Latin, some reading for English class and an economics essay, but they can wait. For Vishal, there’s another clear difference between filmmaking and homework: interactivity. As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback. “I click and something happens,” he says, explaining that, by comparison, reading a book or doing homework is less exciting. “I guess it goes back to the immediate gratification thing.” The $2,000 computer Vishal is using is state of the art and only a week old. It represents a concession by his parents. They allowed him to buy it, despite their continuing concerns about his technology habits, because they wanted to support his filmmaking dream. “If we put roadblocks in his way, he’s just going to get depressed,” his mother says. Besides, she adds, “he’s been making an effort to do his homework.” At this point in the semester, it seems she is right. The first schoolwide progress reports come out in late Sep-

December. 2 - 8, 2010

tember, and Vishal has mostly A’s and B’s. He says he has been able to make headway by applying himself, but also by cutting back his workload. Unlike last year, he is not taking advanced placement classes, and he has chosen to retake Algebra II not in the classroom but in an online class that lets him work at his own pace. His shift to easier classes might not please college admissions officers, according to Woodside’s college adviser, Zorina Matavulj. She says they want seniors to intensify their efforts. As it is, she says, even if Vishal improves his performance significantly, someone with his grades faces long odds in applying to the kinds of colleges he aspires to. Still, Vishal’s passion for film reinforces for Mr. Reilly, the principal, that the way to reach these students is on their own terms.

Hands-On Technology Big Macintosh monitors sit on every desk, and a man with hip glasses and an easygoing style stands at the front of the class. He is Geoff Diesel, 40, a favorite teacher here at Woodside who has taught English and film. Now he teaches one of Mr. Reilly’s new classes, audio production. He has a rapt audience of more than 20 students as he shows a video of the band Nirvana mixing their music, then holds up a music keyboard. “Who knows how to use Pro Tools? We’ve got it. It’s the program used by the best music studios in the world,” he says. In the back of the room, Mr. Reilly watches, thrilled. He introduced the audio course last year and enough students signed up to fill four classes. (He could barely pull together one class when he introduced Mandarin, even though he had secured iPads to help teach the language.) “Some of these students are our most at-risk kids,” he says. He means that they are more likely to tune out school, skip class or not do their homework, and that they may not get healthful meals at home. They may also do their most enthusiastic writing not for class but in text messages and on Facebook. “They’re here, they’re in class, they’re listening.” Despite Woodside High’s affluent setting, about 40 percent of its 1,800 students come from low-income families and receive a reduced-cost or free lunch. The school is 56 percent Latino, 38 percent white and 5 percent African-American, and it sends 93 percent of its students to four-year or commu-

nity colleges. Mr. Reilly says that the audio class provides solid vocational training and can get students interested in other subjects. “Today mixing music, tomorrow sound waves and physics,” he says. And he thinks the key is that they love not just the music but getting their hands on the technology. “We’re meeting them on their turf.” It does not mean he sees technology as a panacea. “I’ll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen Smart Boards,” he says, referring to the high-tech teaching displays used in many schools. Teachers at Woodside commonly blame technology for students’ struggles to concentrate, but they are divided over whether embracing computers is the right solution. “It’s a catastrophe,” said Alan Eaton, a charismatic Latin teacher. He says that technology has led to a “balkanization of their focus and duration of stamina,” and that schools make the problem worse when they adopt the technology. “When rock ’n’ roll came about, we didn’t start using it in classrooms like we’re doing with technology,” he says. He personally feels the sting, since his advanced classes have one-third as many students as they had a decade ago. Vishal remains a Latin student, one whom Mr. Eaton describes as particularly bright. But the teacher wonders if technology might be the reason Vishal seems to lose interest in academics the minute he leaves class. Mr. Diesel, by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: “Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.” Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a “breath of fresh air” with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system. But Mr. Diesel adds: “If Vishal’s going to be an independent filmmaker, he’s got to read Vonnegut. If you’re going to write scripts, you’ve got to read.” Back to Reading Aloud Vishal sits near the back of English IV. Marcia Blondel, a veteran

43 teacher, asks the students to open the book they are studying, “The Things They Carried,” which is about the Vietnam War. “Who wants to read starting in the middle of Page 137?” she asks. One student begins to read aloud, and the rest follow along. To Ms. Blondel, the exercise in group reading represents a regression in American education and an indictment of technology. The reason she has to do it, she says, is that students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own. “How can you have a discussion in class?” she complains, arguing that she has seen a considerable change in recent years. In some classes she can count on little more than one-third of the students to read a 30-page homework assignment. She adds: “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations.” As the group-reading effort winds down, she says gently: “I hope this will motivate you to read on your own.” It is a reminder of the choices that have followed the students through the semester: computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future? Mr. Reilly hopes that the two can meet — that computers can be combined with education to better engage students and can give them technical skills without compromising deep analytical thought. But in Vishal’s case, computers and schoolwork seem more and more to be mutually exclusive. Ms. Blondel says that Vishal, after a decent start to the school year, has fallen into bad habits. In October, he turned in weeks late, for example, a short essay based on the first few chapters of “The Things They Carried.” His grade at that point, she says, tracks around a D. For his part, Vishal says he is investing himself more in his filmmaking, accelerating work with his cousin on their music video project. But he is also using Facebook late at night and surfing for videos on YouTube. The evidence of the shift comes in a string of Facebook updates. Saturday, 11:55 p.m.: “Editing, editing, editing” Sunday, 3:55 p.m.: “8+ hours of shooting, 8+ hours of editing. All for just a three-minute scene. Mind = Dead.” Sunday, 11:00 p.m.: “Fun day, finally got to spend a day relaxing... now about that homework...”


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

In Cybertherapy, Avatars Assist With Healing “Even if this approach works, there will be side effects that we can’t anticipate,” said Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and author of “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto” (Knopf, 2010). “And in some scenarios I would worry about defining humans down: defining what’s normal based on what we can model in virtual environments.” But most researchers say that virtual therapy is, and will remain, no more than a therapist’s tool, to be used only when it appears effective. “There’s a real and understandable distrust of technology as a shortcut for good clinical skills,” said Albert Rizzo, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, “but I think, deep down, most therapists will want any tool that can help them do their work, and they’ll be open to using virtual approaches.”



is talk was going just fine until some members of the audience became noticeably restless. A ripple of impatience passed through the several dozen seated listeners, and a few seemed suddenly annoyed; then two men started to talk to each other, ignoring him altogether. “When I saw that, I slowed down and then stopped what I was saying,” said the speaker, a 47-year-old public servant named Gary, who last year took part in an unusual study of social anxiety treatment at the University of Quebec. The anxiety rose in his throat — What if I’m not making sense? What if I’m asked questions I can’t answer? — but subsided as his therapist, observing in the background, reminded him that the audience’s reaction might have nothing to do with him. And if a question stumped him, he could just say so: no one knows everything. He relaxed and finished the talk, and the audience seemed to settle down. Then he removed a headset that had helped create an illusion that the audience was actually there, not just figures on a screen. “I just think it’s a fantastic idea to be able to experience situations where you know that the worst cannot happen,” he said. “You know that it’s controlled and gradual and yet feels somehow real.” For more than a decade, a handful of therapists have been using virtual environments to help people to work through phobias, like a fear of heights or of pu-

blic spaces. But now advances in artificial intelligence and computer modeling are allowing them to take on a wider array of complex social challenges and to gain insight into how people are affected by interactions with virtual humans — or by inhabiting avatars of themselves. Researchers are populating digital worlds with autonomous, virtual humans that can evoke the same tensions as in real-life encounters. People with social anxiety are struck dumb when asked questions by a virtual stranger. Heavy drinkers feel strong urges to order something from a virtual bartender, while gamblers are drawn to sit down and join a group playing on virtual slot machines. And therapists can advise patients at the very moment those sensations are felt. In a series of experiments, researchers have shown that people internalize these virtual experiences and their responses to them — with effects that carry over into real life. The emerging field, called cybertherapy, now has annual conferences and a growing international following of therapists, researchers and others interested improving behavior through the use of simulations. The Canadian military has invested heavily in virtual-reality research; so has the United States Army, which has been spending about $4 million annually on programs with computer-generated agents, for training officers and treating post-traumatic stress reactions. The trend has already generated a few critics, who see a possible downside along with benefits.

Virtual Humans, Real Therapy “My abilities are somewhat limited,” says a female voice. “For example, I can speak and listen to what you say, but I can’t do any physical activity.” In an office at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, a virtual woman named Angelina is addressing a college student from a computer screen. Angelina looks to be about 30 or so, a pretty, athletic figure with an open, intelligent face framed by short black hair. Her eyes and expression, guided by video cameras and microphones, stay in sync with the student’s, as an empathetic therapist’s would. “What are some of the things you hate about yourself?” asks the voice. The student stalls for a moment. “Well,” she says, in a video of the exchange, “I don’t like that I can be really quiet in social situations. Sometimes people take that as me being rude, but it’s just me being quiet.” Angelina nods sympathetically and then asks another question, about what the student fears most. Interacting with a virtual human programmed to be socially sensitive in this way is oddly liberating. The figures are clearly not human; some are balky with language, others mute. Many have a two-dimensional graphic-arts quality. But the faces are mobile, blinking, alive, the body language and gestures seemingly natural; in some cases, the voice recognition and choice of replies are good enough to conduct a stiff but

convincing conversation. The result is a living presence that is responsive but not judgmental. In a recent study using this virtual confidant, researchers at U.S.C. have found that Angelina elicits from people the crucial first element in any therapy: self-disclosure. People with social anxiety confessed more of their personal flaws, fears and fantasies to virtual figures than to live therapists conducting video interviews, the study found. The researchers are incorporating the techniques learned from Angelina into a virtual agent being developed for the Army, called SimCoach. Guided by language-recognition software, SimCoach — there are several versions, male and female, young and older, white and black — appears on a computer screen and can conduct a rudimentary interview, gently probing for possible mental troubles. Using SimCoach on a laptop, veterans and family members would anonymously ask about difficulties they’re having, whether due to post-traumatic stress or other strains of service. “It does not give a diagnosis,” said Jonathan Gratch, a co-author of the Angelina study with Sin-Hwa Kang, also of U.S.C. “But the idea is that the SimCoach would ask people if they would like to see a therapist; and if so, could then guide them to someone in their area, depending on what it has learned.” Once people are in treatment, therapists can use virtual technology to simulate threatening situations — and guide patients through them, gradually and incrementally, calibrating the intensity of the experience. In person-to-person sessions to address anxieties or phobias, for instance, therapists may have patients do this in their imaginations. Revisit a dreaded experience — say, a rooftop party, for a person afraid of heights — while defusing the physical reactions to the memory in the office. Out in the world, patients then practice the same techniques, gradually increasing their exposure, beginning with modest heights, for instance, and working up. Using virtual environments, therapists can run this entire drill in their offices. At the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, psychologists have treated hundreds of patients using gradual virtual exposure, for post-traumatic stress and agoraphobia, among other anxieties. At U.S.C., Dr. Rizzo has designed a program specifically for veterans of the Iraq war.

The San Juan Weekly In one scenario, wearing a headset, the patient is in a virtual Humvee, motoring along a desert road toward a small Iraqi village. To the right is a passenger, another soldier; behind and above rides a gunner; in front is another Humvee. As the motorcade approaches the village, en gines rumbling, there is a flurry of gunfire, and more. A roadside bomb goes off, bullets pierce the window — your fellow soldier on the right is wounded badly, now dying — all of it under control of the therapist. “We can control the intensity of the experience, and then work on the patient’s response,” Dr. Rizzo said. When it works, the therapy breaks the association between reminders of an upsetting experience and the racing heart, the flushing, the panic that the person has been struggling with. Adding autonomous virtual humans to the landscape allows therapists to begin addressing some of the most complex problems of them all — social ones. In one continuing study at the University of California, Davis, for instance, researchers are trying to improve high-functioning autistic children’s ability to think and talk about themselves while paying attention to multiple peers. The hope is similar for people with social anxiety: that practice interacting with a virtual boss, suspicious strangers or virtual partygoers who are staring as one enters the room will also lead to increased comfort, with the help of a therapist. “The figures themselves don’t even have to be especially realistic to evoke reactions,” said a psychologist, Stéphane Bouchard, who directs the cybertherapy program at the University of Quebec in Ottawa. “People with social anxiety, for example, will feel they are being judged by virtual humans who are simply watching them.” In the pilot study that included Gary, the University of Quebec researchers tracked two groups of patients: one that received an hour of talk therapy once a week for 14 weeks and another that got talk therapy with a virtual component, practicing virtual interactions. Both groups showed improvement, faring much better than a comparison group put on a waiting list, preliminary results suggest. But those who got virtual therapy achieved the same gains without having to practice interactions in the real world, deliberately putting themselves in embarrassing situations or dreaded encounters. The researchers are now working to identify which people benefit most, and whether combining virtual and real-world

December. 2 - 8, 2010

experiences accelerates recovery.

My Avatar, Myself

ractions after the headsets came off. Again, no one noticed the manipulation; its effects were entirely subconscious. The authors argue that the participants, in effect, psychologically internalized their virtual experience. “What we learn in one body is shared with other bodies we inhabit, whether virtual or physical,” they concluded. It seems people will psychologically inhabit almost any virtual body if the cues are strong. In recent research a team led by Mel Slater, a computer scientist at the University of Barcelona, induced what it calls body-transfer illusion — showing that men will mentally take on the body of a woman, for instance, if that’s the body it appears they’re walking around in virtually. The experience is especially powerful, Dr. Slater said, when the men feel a touch (on a shoulder, in a recent study) at the same time the avatar is touched. “You can see the possibilities already,” said Dr. Slater. “For example, you can put someone with a racial bias in the body of a person of another race.” These kinds of findings have inspired a variety of simple experiments. Dropping a young man or woman into the virtual body of an elderly person does in fact increase sympathy for the other’s perspective, research suggests. “This is to me the most exciting thing about using virtual environments for behavior change,” Dr. Bailenson said. “It’s not only that you can create these versions of reality; it’s that you can cross boundaries — that you can take risks, break things, do things you could not or would not do in real life.”

The face in the mirror does not look familiar; it has a generic, computer-generated look. Yet it does appear to be staring out from a mirror. Lift a hand and up goes its hand. Nod, wave, smile, and it does the same, simultaneously. Now, look down at your own body: and there, through the virtual reality headset, are a torso, legs, clothes identical to those in the mirror. In a matter of minutes, people placed in front of this virtual mirror identify strongly with their “body” and psychologically inhabit it, researchers at Stanford University have found. And by subtly altering elements of that embodied figure, the scientists have established a principle that is fundamental to therapy — that an experience in a virtual world can alter behavior in the real one. “The remarkable thing is how little a virtual human has to do to produce fairly large effects on behavior,” said Jeremy Bailenson, director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford and the author, with James Blascovich, of the coming book “Infinite Reality” (HarperCollins 2011). In one recent experiment , Dr. Bailenson and Nick Yee, now at the Palo Alto Research Center, had 50 college students enter a virtual environment and acquire a virtual body, an avatar. Each student then participated in a negotiation game with a member of the experimental team, who was introduced as another student. But all the avatars were not created equal. Some were four inches taller than their human counterparts, and others were four inches shorter. Mini-Me in Action In the virtual studio at the UniThe participants didn’t notice this alversity of Quebec, patients wearing a teration, but those made taller negotiated in the virtual game much more headset can have a short conversation aggressively than those made shorter. A later study led by Dr. Yee found that this effect carried over into face-to-face negotiations after the virtual headsets were removed. The researchers have demonstrated a similar effect in the case of attractiveness. In another experiment, they created generic avatars for some participants that were about 25 percent “more attractive” than average, based on features that the group had rated as attractive. Compared with study participants whose avatars were made 25 percent “less attractive,” the virtual beauties were more socially confident, standing closer in virtual conversation, revealing more about themselves — an effect that also seeped into social inte-

45 with a diminutive, attentive virtual therapist. Except for slight stature, it is a ringer for Dr. Bouchard: the same open face, the same smile, the same pelt of dark hair around a bald pate. “Mini-Me, we call it,” Dr. Bouchard said. The hologramlike figure seems at first to be minding its own business, looking around, biding time. Then it approaches slowly, introduces itself and kindly asks a question, like some digital-age Socrates: “What is the best experience you’ve ever had?” For now, Mini-Me cannot do much more than cock its head at the answer and nod, before programmers begin to guide the conversation; the scientists are adding more language-recognition software, to extend interactions. Yet Mini-Me offers a glimpse of where virtual humans are headed: three-dimensional forms that can be designed to resemble people in the real world. “You could scan in a picture of your mother or your boss or someone else significant and, with some voice recording samples, use a system that would automatically and quickly recreate a virtual facsimile of that person,” said Dr. Rizzo of U.S.C., where programmers have set up an Old West bar scene, complete with a life-size, autonomous virtual bartender, a waitress and a bad guy. “Then, perhaps, we’d be able to stage interactions that might closely resemble those in a patient’s life to help work through challenging issues.” Anyone could rehearse the dance of social interaction, tripping without consequence, until the steps feel just about right. “The great thing about it,” said Gary, the civil servant, referring to his own virtual therapy, “is that you can do anything you want and just see what happens. You get to practice.”

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The San Juan Weekly

Time for Young Wizards to Put Away Childish Things a lovely animated sequence, much as the inevitable preliminary battle scenes allow for episodes of explosive wand work. Even though it ends in the middle, “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” finds notes of anxious suspense and grave emotion to send its characters, and its fans, into the last round. The sorrow you experience may well be a premonition of the imminent end of a long and, for the most part, delightful relationship. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Dark arts, rough magic.



he midnight bookstore parties are all in the past, and, with the opening of the first half of the film adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” an extraordinary pop-culture cycle is on the verge of completion. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was published in America in 1998 — a lifetime ago for many young readers, just yesterday for their parents — and that tale and its six sequels now seem like permanent fixtures of the literary landscape. Under the spell of J. K. Rowling’s prose, a great many middle-aged readers were temporarily changed into 10-year-olds. That none of the movies have demonstrated quite the same power makes it easy to underestimate their success. But in the past decade more than a few promising franchises based on popular book series have failed to turn loyal readers into enthusiastic audiences or to bring in legions of new fans. Their fate (think of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “The Golden Compass”) suggests that the perennial appeal of “Harry Potter” on screen was hardly a foregone conclusion. So by now it is beyond doubt that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” will attract the passionate, the curious and the nostalgic in large numbers. And they are likely to be pleased. David Yates, who directed the fifth and sixth installments in the series, has shown a knack for capturing and quickening Ms. Rowling’s storytelling rhythm. He has also demonstrated a thorough, uncondescending sympathy for her characters, in particular the central trio of Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Harry himself. In this chapter their adventures have an especially somber and scary coloration, as the three friends are cast out from the protective cocoon of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry into a bleak, perilous grown-up world that tests the independence they have struggled to obtain under the not-always-benevolent eyes of their teachers. Childish things have been put away — this time there is no quidditch, no school uniforms, no schoolboy crushes or classroom pranks — and adult supervision has all but vanished. Albus Dumbledore is dead, and though Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Alastor Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) offer some assistance early on, Harry and his companions must rely on the kindness of house elves, on their own newly mastered wizarding skills and, above all, on one another. This is not always so easy. The implicit rivalry for Hermione’s favor that has always simmered between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Ron (Rupert Grint) bubbles to the surface, as does Ron’s resentment at being the Chosen One’s sidekick. The burden of chosenness weighs on Harry as well; it is easier for him to accept being singled out for death by Lord Voldemort than to countenance the willingness of his allies and protectors to sacrifice their lives for him. Hermione (Emma Watson), for

her part, seems lonelier than ever. She has broken entirely with her Muggle parents, expunging herself from their memories to prevent them from being caught up in an increasingly vicious intrawizard civil war. For most of this film Voldemort’s forces are very much in the ascendant. The production design is dense with visual allusions to 20th-century totalitarianism, while the battered and dispersed good guys carry some of the romance of guerrilla resistance, taking to the countryside and living rough as they search for weak spots in their enemy’s strategy. They also pop into nonmagical neighborhoods of London, visits that add a jolt of realism to this fantasy. The brilliant composer Alexandre Desplat has constructed a haunting, spooky sonic atmosphere with only an occasional splash of youthful whimsy. Not that “Deathly Hallows” is grim, exactly. But it is, to an unusual and somewhat risky degree, sadder and slower than the earlier films. It is also much less of a showcase (or bank vault, as the case may be) for the middle and senior generations of British actors. Many of the familiar faces show up — including Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange, and, of course, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape — but they move along after a scene or two. So do the two notable newcomers, Bill Nighy as a government official and Rhys Ifans as Xenophilius Lovegood, a wondrously eccentric underground journalist and father to the ethereal (and in this movie, briefly glimpsed) Luna (Evanna Lynch). The movie, in other words, belongs solidly to Mr. Radcliffe, Mr. Grint and Ms. Watson, who have grown into nimble actors, capable of nuances of feeling that would do their elders proud. One of the great pleasures of this penultimate “Potter” movie is the anticipation of stellar post-“Potter” careers for all three of them. While there is still one more film to go (Part 2 is scheduled for release in July), this one manages to be both a steppingstone and a reasonably satisfying experience in its own right. Some plot elements are handled with busy, “DaVinci Code”like mumbo jumbo as the three friends must hunt down not only a bunch of horcruxes, but also the mysterious objects alluded to in the title. The deathly hallows at least provide the occasion for

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Directed by David Yates; written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J. K. Rowling; director of photography, Eduardo Serra; edited by Mark Day; music by Alexandre Desplat; production design by Stuart Craig; costumes by Jany Temme; produced by David Heyman, David Barron and Ms. Rowling; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 26 minutes. WITH: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix LeStrange), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor Mad-Eye Moody), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), John Hurt (Ollivander), Rhys Ifans (Xenophilius Lovegood), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Bill Nighy (Rufus Scrimgeour), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Timothy Spall (Wormtail), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Warwick Davis (Griphook), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Toby Jones (Dobby), David Legeno (Fenrir Greyback), Simon McBurney (Kreacher), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), Nick Moran (Scabior), Peter Mullan (Yaxley), David O’Hara (Albert Runcorn), Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour), Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley).

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



Container Gardens Get Started Indoors



N a recent Saturday, over a cup of tea, I redefined the farm-to-table food movement. It didn’t take much. All I did was move my herb garden — that is, the farm — to my dining room table. Potting mix, dirt, seedlings, water. Everything. Without boasting, I think I can say that food does not get more local than this. A few friends stopped by to lend a hand, in the spirit of a country barnraising. We began by unboxing five container garden kits — three of them new to the market — that allow the gardener to grow food year-round. Several can be started indoors, then moved outside. When I ordered them online, I bought the promise of fresh herbs and greens as early as the ides of March. But when my friends and I tore open the packages, we found mundane stuff like plastic trays, fertilizer baggies and water-wicking mats. General observation: The gardener who’s allergic to gadgets should wait until later in the spring. Traditionalists might argue that gardening — like baseball and dueling with pistols — should be done only outdoors, on open ground. But the Puerto Rican consumer seems to think otherwise. According to the Gardening Association, container gardening is roughly a billion-dollara-year retail business. And he said

about half the country’s home food growers — that is, 18 million households — do at least some gardening in containers. After several years of steady growth, container sales climbed 25 percent last year at Gardener’s Supply Company, a mail-order business , said Maree Gaetani, the company’s spokeswoman. That’s “mostly owing to the increase in vegetable gardening and people’s desire to grow anywhere they can,” she said. This popularity has led to a proliferation of new products. “Last year we had two different varieties of grow bags, and this year we have five,” Ms. Gaetani said. One of these is the Herb Grow Bag ($10.95), a thick black sack that is a little bigger than a shoe box. Two of them will fit on the Gardener’s Supply Company’s Self-Watering Tray ($16.95), a black plastic reservoir with a fabric mat that wicks water up through the bottom of the Grow Bag. “I’ve never seen this stuff before,” said Nick Schneider, a 33-yearold chef and community garden instructor who dropped by to play with dirt. His own indoor plantings have typically gone into things like recycled yogurt containers, he said. Still, planting the reusable Grow Bags was about as easy as spilling a few quarts of dirt and burying a halfdozen herbs from the local garden center — basil, mint, oregano, thyme. Nick rubbed the black cloth bet-

ween his finger and thumb. “When I saw it, I mistook it for a wool felt,” he said. In fact, it is a dual-layer polypropylene. According to the instructions, this material should allow the roots to breathe and prevent heat buildup when the bags move to the wilds of the patio in the warmer weeks of spring. “A lot of long underwear is made of polypropylene,” Nick said. Interesting. For all its convenience, the Herb Grow Bag would still require some honest-to-goodness gardening. Not so the Garden-in-a-Bag ($8) from Potting Shed Creations, which promises the one-stop ease of an instant cake mix.

Ultimately, the contents of those pouches — coconut husk chips, dirt, oregano seeds — would go into a 6-inch-tall brown paper bag. Then that would be covered with a plastic bag (not included) to keep the soil moist. Ali blanched at all this packaging. Why, she wondered, couldn’t the shipping bag be repurposed to cover the grow bag? “To be positive,” she said, “I could see this being something that could be a good interest-sparker for a kid.” Whether the kit would grow robust herbs seemed almost beside the point, Nick said. At its heart, he suggested, the Garden-in-a-Bag is a housewarming gift — attractive, affordable and ultimately disposable. Most gardeners would think twice before tossing out the Garden Patch’s Grow Box ($29.95). It’s too heavy, for one thing. Load the 30-inch-long container with potting mix and fill the plastic reservoir tray with water, and you’ve got 58 pounds of instant garden. “It seems like an adapted version of a typical plastic window planter box,” Nick said. One adaptation is particularly hard to miss: the green jungle-themed plastic soil cover that contains a dissolving cylinder of squishy fertilizer. This nutrient sausage seemed to give Ali the willies. “You have to get another one of these every time you plant,” she said, scanning the instructions. “I wonder how much a replacement patch costs.” (Answer: $8.95.)

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The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Comes from page 47 So much fertilizer seemed like overkill for my pot of hardy chives. So after burying them in the middle of the box, Nick cut a few holes in the plastic jungle sheet and dropped in two clusters of Japanese Trifele Black tomato seeds. “I like the fact that it’s a traditional water-from-the-bottom system,” he said, pointing to the wide lip at the base of the green container. “It’s an appropriate method for growing tomatoes.” In the heat of the summer, the 4-gallon well would keep the soil moist without constant watering. What none of these kits includes is the kind of long, steady light that seedlings need to thrive indoors. So I placed most of my herb seedlings under a 4-foot-long Jump Start Grow Light System ($69.95) with an adjustable metal stand, which I picked up at Midwest Hydroponic Supplies. It came with an energy-efficient highoutput fluorescent bulb and a dummyresistant design. A similar pair of bulbs powers the MyGreens Light Garden ($149), another new product from the Gardener’s Supply Company. When it is set up, the kit resembles a giant black veggie burger: the top bun is a rounded light bonnet; the bottom bun, a one-gallon base with a wicking mat; and the patty in the middle comprises four reusable planting trays, each a little bigger than an egg carton.

We stocked these trays with herbs I started from seed last month: Smokey bronze fennel, holy basil, Italian aromatic sage, Fernleaf dill, French rosemary and French thyme. Nick liked the way the individual trays could be filled with complementary herbs. I could start seeds here, too. But the unit’s size — 16 by 24 inches — bothered Ali and Nick, in different ways. “I feel like this would be cumbersome to have in a small apartment,” Ali said. Nick, on the other side, wanted a larger kit with a higher yield. He couldn’t imagine the Light Garden paying off, he said, unless “you could sell some radicchio to your neighbors

for $3 a head.” They agreed, though, that for all the kit’s clean functionality, some of the materials felt cheap. The adjustable light hood, for instance, is supposed to slide up and down over a pair of posts, with rubber O-rings working as a guide. Or not working at all, in this case. I would like to introduce my friends at the Gardener’s Supply Company to an amazing piece of technology called the clamp. By this point, everyone at the table was suffering from doodad exhaustion. The time had come to break out a package with no miraculous materials or removable plastic parts. The Victorian Glass Bell Jar ($56) is a product newly available through Bosmere, a yard supply company, but

the technology goes back to the mid19th century. The model I unwrapped is a 10-inch-wide dome made of glass; the cloche flares at the top into a knob. For a reservoir, I bought a $4 terracotta saucer. That’s it. “Aesthetically, I think it’s beautiful,” Ali said. Practically, though, I didn’t know what to do with it. A few phone calls led me to Tovah Martin, a horticulturist whose book “The New Terrarium” came out last year. Outdoors, the cloche would protect tender plants from a spring cold snap. Indoors, Ms. Martin said: “what you want to grow is something that likes indirect light. Once the sun hits these things, they really bake.” In other words, the bell jar would be a mausoleum for most herbs, which prefer dry, sunny, well-drained conditions. There was one possible exception: mint. “Most mints can take high humidity and low light,” Ms. Martin said. “I’ve tried it.” What she wouldn’t recommend trying is to eat that mint — or anything else grown in an indoor terrarium. Unless you have an appetite for mystery fungus and a good toxicologist on call. Following her directions, I spread some gravel in the saucer for drainage and sprinkled it with horticultural charcoal, to soak up any boggy smells. Next, I mounded dirt into a little volcano and plopped a spearmint plant into the middle. Finally, I lowered the glass. That night, after my friends were gone, I scattered the garden kits on dresser tops and windowsills throughout the house. They are working for me there at this moment, growing food. The bell jar remains on the dining room table, where its only job is to look exquisite.

The San Juan Weekly

Victoria Sanabria

December. 2 - 8, 2010


50 December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Singer and “Travadora” (poet-musician)


ictoria Sanabria was born on October 6, 1976 in Guayama, Puerto Rico. A woman with a sublime voice who carries throughout her throat the essence of country singing. Victoria Sanabria is one of the most impressive national talents in popular country folk music. She has been recognized as the first female interpreter to win the “Trovador” contest sponsored by Bacardi, a revelation when at 19 years of age, imposed her talent to win thee highest award in 1995.. The daughter off Leopoldo Cruz and d Nilda Colon Gonzalez, z, neighbors to the he Pueblito del Carmen en Barrio in Guayama, her

love for the art of singing started at an early age. As told by her family, at the tender age of 5 she sang to please her uncle Jafine for a coin. Two years later the youngest of 17 children, Sanabria made her first public presentation with her father and three brothers in the band “Los Soneros de Borinquen”. At 14 years of age she started to prove her talent in contests for country music (musica Jibara), competing with the best in “Musica Jibara”.

The San Juan Weekly In 1992, Sanabria won the third prize in the “Juventud Vibra” contest and in 1993 won First Prize in the Institute of Puerto Rican’s Culture contest for “Trovadores”, making her the national “Trovador” of excellence. She later became part of the choir for the University of PR in Ponce Continuing her upward path in her art, she debuted in December of 1995 in “Bellas Artes” with the “Sinfonica de PR” orchestra. That same year, this talented artist was crowned the first female to win the Bacardi Trovadores contest, proving to be the best improviser in Puerto Rico at the end of the century.

December. 2 - 8, 2010


52 December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Polinia’s Superb Fifteen T

o celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, Ivan Olmos celebrated the occasion in the Sala de Drama, Centro de Bellas Artes, with a reprise of four of his latest works and one premiere. By the way, in Greek Mythology, the god Zeus fathered nine muses, representing the arts in the present. Polimnia is the one pertaining to Pantomime. The peculiar group he directs is a blending of all the theatrical expressions that include dancing, acting, dramatizing body language and music. All five works in the program are all Olmo’s inspiration. The first one, “De aqui pal cielo”, is a pathetic tragedy of a dying young man. It could be Aids, or any other malignant dis-

ease. A couple dressed in black is the antagonistic element. Both are involved as far as the end which is death. The whole somber work was delivered with consistent dramatic impact by Janyn Rodriguez, Emmanuel Melendez, Luis Ortiz. “Almas Perdidas”(Lost Souls), the last work before intermission is a masterpiece. You can see the author had a thorough ballet training. It is the closest work of them all, to be taken as a contemporary modern ballet. Every theatrical element converged in a masterfully expressed way, by the five members of the group, dancing, pantomime, acting, and body language. The physical display of the conceited character with ulterior results brings the climax to this extraordinary work.

“Insectos” and “Insomnia” are two solo jobs undertaken by Ivan Olmos. His histrionic endowment comes to the foreground with extreame knowledge of the precepts established by the masters of mimicry such as Marcel Morceu, The greatest of them all. To watch Olmos fighting away the virulent biting of the mosquitoes and the insistent biting attack of the roaches, as well as of a hellish night of insomnia is quite an experience to watch. The premiere of “Pecados” (Deadly Sins) is another asset to Olmos long list of successful events in his career. He mixes them all in a sequence of stories in which murder, greed, vanity, envy, lust and anger moved the whole group with temperamen-

tal, fatalistic events. Vanity, to set an example, is displayed by a scattered brain movie actress, brilliantly acted by Janyn Rodriguez. Perhaps, the author had in mind the image of Marylin Monroe. As the scene progresses it becomes a riot, delightful and farcical to the end. The tragic-comic note set in the first story of the murder of the unfaithful couple pervades the greed sequence; the unquenchable demand for food and the revengeful wife. The live music of the combo was welcomed; it included from the classic Bocherini; to the pop music of “All the things you are”. A show to appeal to large audiences; however the house was half empty. Max González-San Juan PR

San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010



Fete Accompli | Lanvin for H&M


nderneath the shabby opulence of a dozen or so sparkling chandeliers, mismatched and hanging at different heights from the ceiling of one of the ball rooms at the

Pierre Hotel, an array of top models — Dree Hemingway, Siri Tollerod and Lindsey Wixson among them — wore one-of-a-kind versions of Alber Elbaz’s new Lanvin for H&M collaboration, slinking, flirting and vamping down the runway in bright patterned tights, amazing costume jewelry and gowns made up of sexy mishmashes of bows, ribbon and poofy fabric. Set against the Pierre’s rarefied setting, this didn’t feel like fashion for the masses so much as an exclusive collection narrowed down to its more tarty elements. It isn’t always clear exactly what brands dripping in luxury hope to get out of such dips into the more shallow end of the pool. But they clearly are getting something. And if there were any doubt, Anna Dello Russo, dressed in a hot-pink one-shoulder number, pran-

cing under the bright lights with a poodle in tow, made things crystal clear: these were true Lanvin girls.



December 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Balenciaga Exhibition Opening on Park Avenue By CATHY HORYN


obody who buys a Ralph Lauren prairie skirtt or West informs the clothes. Mr. Lauren grew up p in history, but in practical terms, the links were as designers, fashion changes too often to supply a narratiatiIt’s astonishing, then, to realize how much one ne country, of course, is Spain, and the period of influence ce he retired in 1968 and returned to Spain. That is the fassMaster,” an exhibition that opens Friday at the Queen n If you go to the exhibition, which was organiiRenta, a protégé of Balenciaga’s and chairman of thee couturier’s designs — the flamenco-style gowns, thee ses that seemed to follow the austere sweep of a nun’s

cowboy jacket really thinks a personal history of the the Bronx. The late Alexander McQueen loved Scottish crumbly as an old castle. Even for the most sensitive of ve of a single place or culture. country shaped the ideas of Cristóbal Balenciaga. The was from 1937, when he opened his Paris house, until cinating, single-minded focus of “Balenciaga: Spanish Sofía Spanish Institute on Park Avenue. zed by Hamish Bowles at the suggestion of Oscar de la institute, you will be rewarded with top examples of the fichu stoles and matador-inspired hats, the evening dreswimple — borrowed from archives and private collectors.

Mr. Bowles, a Vogue editor, and the curator of the 2001 Jacqueline Kennedy exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, knows his way around Balenciaga. He is putting together a second, larger exhibition next spring at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. But maybe a more unexpected pleasure is to see how profoundly Balenciaga’s homeland influenced him and to measure that level of feeling against the loss of cultural identity that seems to be a result of things like communication and mass migrations of people to cities. Even if designers today were inclined to explore their own heritage — and if they had Balenciaga’s hyper-dedication to his craft — would there be enough of a story to tell? And could it be told over 30 years without boring the rest of us? Asked if he knew of another instance in fashion where traditions and native dress were central to a designer’s work, Mr. Bowles thought for a mo-

San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010



Balenciaga, who did all the fittings himself for his collections — which in the early years numbered as many as 250 outfits — never gave an interview during his career. As he told a British journalist after he had retired, he just couldn’t explain what he did, so he thought it was pointless to give press interviews. The clothes, however, speak volumes — with many asides that Mr. Bowles has helpfully interpreted. Standing before a ravishing silk faille dress in a deliberately blurry print of red carnations on a pale taupe background, Mr. Bowles said, “It reminds me of a bullring on a hot, hazy day with the carnations scattered in the dust.” Perhaps that’s what the mysterious Balenciaga had in mind. But if you go to the exhibition, consider what the distance between Spain and Paris and the years of his maturity (he was 42 when he opened the Paris branch of his house) must have meant: incredible refinement. The influence of regional dress is there in his clothes — and it isn’t. The garment is finally and uniquely a Balenciaga, and he has resolved every seam and proportion to his satisfaction.

ment and then said, “Not until the Japanese designers came along and did Japanese work-wear shapes that hadn’t been seen in Western fashion, I can’t think of a parallel.” As Balenciaga was starting his career in Spain, in the 1920s, there was a movement by the country’s leading cultural figures to promote flamenco. A little later, the photographer José Ortiz Echagüe documented Spanish regional traditions and dress. Mr. Bowles includes reproductions of some of these images in the show, as well as references to the paintings of Goya and Velázquez and the murals by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, like one of fisherman. In 1953, Balenciaga introduced his first fisherman blouse in unfitted white cotton piqué. The exhibition has a gorgeous example of one from 1964. Unfortunately, Mr. Bowles said, the original style, photographed on Suzy Parker by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, has never been located. The exhibition is presented on two floors, giving a separate view to clothes inspired by the Catholic church, like a crimson coat and a severe black evening dress (1939) that must have been based on a priest’s cassock, and another view to more festive garments influenced by flamenco and the bullring. On both floors are examples of Balenciaga’s stunningly simple dresses and suits, like a dress in beige wool jersey with the front buttons set diagonally to follow the grain of the fabric, and a black silk crepe suit that Mr. Bowles insisted “looked like nothing” on a hanger.



December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Is It Time for an Oil Change in the Kitchen? By HAROLD McGEE


HAT’S the best oil for everyday frying? Some markets where I shop offer more than a dozen oils, from argan and avocado to tea seed and walnut. I’d long figured that the choice is a matter of taste and price. I usually use canola oil because it’s neutral in flavor, a good source of omega-3s and inexpensive. Like soy oil, it costs about a dime a tablespoon, whereas extravirgin olive oils can run well over a dollar. Partisans of the olive maintain that a highquality extra-virgin oil brings its special flavor and health benefits to foods cooked in it. More recipes now suggest it for frying and other high-heat techniques, not just for last-minute drizzling. But does it make enough difference that it’s worth a tenfold premium in price? I investigated the flavor question by heating 15 oils — 4 olive and 11 seed oils — with nothing else in the pan, so I could taste what heat alone does to them. And I served some of them to trained oil judges. We were surprised at how thoroughly heat obliterated the flavors in cooking oil until they all tasted more or less the same. Even prize-winning, and costly, extra-virgin olive oils lost much of what makes them special, though they retain their apparently healthful pungency. To get food with the green and fruity flavor of good olive oil, it seems more economical and effective to fry with an inexpensive refined oil and drizzle on a little fresh olive oil after cooking. Many oils have little or no flavor to begin with, as they’ve been refined to remove almost everything except the oil molecules. This is true of most oils extracted from seeds, including canola and soy. Fresh out of the bottle, the nine refined seed oils I tested were almost odorless. Some seed oils, including peanut and sesame, are also sold in unrefined or partly refined form. These are usually darker and can carry the flavor of their sources. They’re also more sensitive to heat than refined oils. They start breaking down, developing unpleasant flavors and giving off smoke at lower temperatures. Heated in a frying pan, the two unrefined seed oils I tested began to smoke between 375 and 390 degrees, at the upper end of the frying range. The refined oils didn’t start smoking until 475 degrees or higher. When heated to a moderate frying temperature of 350 degrees, only the unrefined sesame oil had a distinctive flavor. The other 10 seed oils tasted about the same, slightly nutty and, well, fried. Unlike seed oils, olive oils are pressed from fresh fruits, so their flavors can vary tremendously. Of the four tested, one was an inexpensive “light” olive oil, made primarily of neutral refined oil, with very little aroma. The other three were labeled “extra virgin,” a standard that in theory signifies an unrefined

oil of good quality but in practice doesn’t signify much at all. The first two were a fruity Spanish oil and a spicy, pungent one from California. Both were international medal winners and priced accordingly, at a dollar or more a tablespoon. The third was a suspiciously inexpensive bottle from an upscale supermarket, a blend from several Mediterranean countries. It smelled stale and had a strong odor of fermented olives. These qualities should have disqualified it from extra virgin status because they indicate that the oil was made from damaged fruit. But oil appeal is on the palate of the taster. According to a forthcoming study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, many California consumers actually like and expect these off flavors in olive oils, probably because they’re used to them and have had little or no experience of fresh, well-made oils. The refined olive oil and two of three extravirgin olive oils I tested began to smoke at a respectable 450 degrees. The inexpensive extra-virgin oil started to smell of rubber and plastic almost as soon as it became warm, and fumed at 350 degrees. After I’d heated them, none of the olive oils had much olive flavor left. In fact, they didn’t taste much different from the seed oils. To get a set of more expert second opinions, I took the olive oils to a meeting of the University of California’s olive oil research group. This panel of trained tasters evaluates oils from all over the world to provide guidance to California’s young olive-oil industry. In a blind tasting of the four unheated olive oils, the six tasters easily distinguished the medal winners from the cheaper oils and found many interesting aroma notes in them, from tea and mint to green banana, stone fruit and cinnamon. For the second blind tasting, I heated each oil to 350 degrees for five minutes. I also heated a sample of the Spanish oil more gently, to 300 degrees, to see whether it might retain more olive flavor. The panelists said nothing as they swirled and sniffed the heated oils in their small tasting glasses, tinted blue to eliminate any consideration of color, then sipped, slurped and spat. The first spoken comment, immediately seconded by most of the panel members, was, “These oils all taste like popcorn.” In fact the panel ranked the heated light oil higher than the heated pricey California extra-virgin oil, whose pungency was no longer balanced by a spicy aroma and had become overbearing. Even the defective supermarket oil had become much less offensive. This surprise led one panelist to recall that heating is part of the refining process that manufacturers use to deodorize raw oils. Cooking clearly also drives aromas out of the oil and into the air. That helps explain the harsh smell that filled our kitchen decades ago whene-

ver my mother started to make spaghetti sauce. I hated that aroma, which came from the poor oil she must have used, but I loved her spaghetti sauce. While it’s understandable that many people have learned to enjoy off flavors in oils, there’s a good reason to recognize staleness and rancidity for what they are and avoid them. All cooking oils are fragile. Fresh oil begins to deteriorate as soon as it’s exposed to light, heat, oxygen or moisture, all of which can break intact oil molecules into fragments. One set of fragments is responsible for the hints of cardboard, paint and fish that we smell in stale, rancid oil. It turns out that stale aromas, pleasant fried aromas and unpleasant scorched aromas all come from oil fragments called aldehydes that are more or less toxic to our cells, whether we eat them or inhale them during cooking. Frequent exposure to frying fumes has been found to damage the airways of both restaurant and home cooks. Fresh oils, and in particular fresh olive oils, generate the fewest toxic aldehydes. So the choice of everyday frying oil should indeed be a matter of taste. Choose a cheap or expensive oil as you like. Fans of extra-virgin olive oil willingly pay more for its provenance and polyphenols as much as its aroma. But learn to taste the difference between good fresh oils and stale or funky ones. Buy small containers that you’ll use up in a few weeks, keep them dark and cool, and taste before you fry.

December 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Potatoes With Crunch, Without the Cabin By MELISSA CLARK


FEW years ago, I accidentally made perfect roasted potatoes. It was our first night in a borrowed cabin in the Berkshires, and all I wanted to do was get dinner on the table before midnight. I couldn’t find a roasting pan, so I tossed the potatoes in a cast-iron skillet with some unpeeled garlic and a lot of olive oil and salt. Then I slipped it into the oven, set at a low temperature (325 degrees) to give myself time to put the baby to bed. By the time we were ready to eat, the potatoes were soft, but not terribly crisp. So I turned up the oven to 450 degrees to blast them with heat. I was amazed by the results: the skin, golden and crisp, crackled when you bit into it and then dissolved into salty, oily crumbs reminiscent of potato

chips. It was one of those memorable, on-vacation meals that are impossible to replicate at home. Recently, though, I came pretty close, with one major difference. Before roasting, I broke up a cinnamon stick and tossed it into the pan. I had just bought a new bag of cinnamon sticks, and they reminded me of how much I liked the spice in the savory dishes I’d sampled on a vacation in Turkey. With luck, the added flavor would compensate for that ethereal crispness I’d yet to reproduce. It did. The potatoes were richly nuanced and very fragrant with a delicate sweetness intensified by the roasted garlic. But I do wonder what they would taste like if I made them in that cabin in the woods. Maybe I could borrow it again in exchange for an excellent roasted potatoes recipe?

Cinnamon Roasted Potatoes Time: 90 minutes 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks 6 unpeeled garlic cloves 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. 1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Put all the ingredients in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and stir until combined. 2. Transfer to the oven and roast, stirring once or twice, until potatoes are tender, about an hour and 15 minutes. Then raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees and cook until potatoes are crusty, brown and tender, about 15 minutes longer. Yield: 4 servings.





December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Sweet Potato Pie: Tradition, Plus By MARK BITTMAN


WEET potato pie is a lovely concept, for a variety of reasons: it beautifully marries sweet and savory, it uses a vegetable as the foundation of a dessert, its color is stunning and it’s creamy and crisp all at once. That’s the concept. Sadly, most sweet potato pie is an overly dense custard in what might as well be a cardboard shell. This one is different. It features not only a custard that’s rich and light, but an unusual and fabulously flavored crust with a slightly exotic flavor profile. It’s not traditional, but it is exciting. The pie starts with a simple graham cracker crust, which is already light-years ahead of the premade versions. It’s fla-

vored with warm spices and shredded coconut, which gives it extra flavor and a bit of texture, making it far more than a carrier for the custard. (You could actually substitute another kind of cookie here, like a ginger snap.) The custard is also innovative, lightened with coconut milk so that the result is creamy and almost flan-like. (A word of caution: be careful not to overwork the potatoes. Process them until they’re just smooth and combined. If you add them before the coconut milk or overprocess them, they’ll turn sticky and pasty.) Like many crusts, this one requires brief prebaking, after which you add the filling, stick it back in the oven, and cook until it’s just set. It will continue to cook for a bit after it comes out of the oven, and you want it to stay moist.

Coconut-Sweet Potato Pie With Spiced Crust Time: 1 hour 20 minutes 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs, made from one package graham crackers, which has 9 full cracker sheets 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted 3 eggs 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg Pinch ground cloves Large pinch salt 1 cup coconut milk. 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan, add water to cover by about an inch, and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain, then rice the potatoes or run them through a food mill.

2. While the potatoes cook, put the graham crackers in a food processor and pulse several times until they are finely ground. Add the shredded coconut, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each of the ginger and cinnamon, and pulse once or twice; add the melted butter and pulse just to combine. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and bake for about 7 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and cool. 3. In a food processor, combine the eggs with the remaining sugar, ginger and cinnamon, along with the nutmeg, cloves and salt; pulse until well combined. Add the coconut milk and pulse to combine, then add the sweet potatoes and pulse until just smooth. 4. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the crust and bake until the mixture is set on top but still quite moist, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Crêpes Parmentier By PETE WELLS 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks ¼ cup milk 1½ tablespoons flour 3 eggs 4 egg whites 1½ tablespoons cream vinegar and wine and cook for ano- Salt and pepper ther 30 minutes, stirring from time to 8 tablespoons butter. time, until the butter floats separately from the onions. You need only a few 1. Microwave the potatoes with 2 spoonfuls of this for the livers, but tablespoons water on high for a few midon’t be angry! The ingredients were nutes until tender. In a large bowl, whisk cheap, and this will keep for weeks, to combine all the other ingredients exstored in a jar in the refrigerator. From cept the salt, pepper and butter. When thence it shall come to enliven sand- the potatoes are done and still steaming, wiches, charcuterie, roasts and all run them through a ricer or food mill kinds of other stuff. 2. On to the livers. Warm a plate in a low oven. Trim, rinse and pat the livers dry; season with the pepper and the remaining salt. Warm the oil in a nonstick skillet and fry the livers for about a minute and a half per side. Let them rest for 5 minutes on the warm plate, then slice and serve with a few tablespoons of marmalade on polenta, toast or crêpes parmentier

Duck or Rabbit Livers With Onion Marmalade By PETE WELLS 8 tablespoons butter 1½ pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced ½ cup sugar 1½ teaspoons salt 7 tablespoons sherry vinegar 1 cup inexpensive red wine 1 pound duck or rabbit livers 1 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons cooking oil. 1. First, make the marmalade. Sizzle the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it is nut brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then immediately add the onions, sugar and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Reduce the heat and stew gently until the onions are dark caramel brown, 30 to 45 minutes, being careful to not blacken them. Add the

into the bowl. Mix this batter well and season. 2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, skimming the froth. Turn off the heat. After giving the white solids a few minutes to settle, tilt the pan and pour the liquid butter slowly into a second saucepan, leaving the solids behind. Warm one tablespoon of this clarified butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry 3 crepes, using a tablespoon of batter for each. When the tops are nearly set, about a minute and a half, flip them and briefly fry the other side. Transfer them to a platter in a low oven. Repeat with more butter and more batter until the batter is gone. Serves 6. Recipes adapted from “Roast Chicken and Other Stories,” by Simon Hopkinson.

December 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly



Greek Pumpkin and Leek Pie


his savory Greek pie, one of my favorites, makes a great vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving. You can make the filling days before you assemble the pie; you can also make the whole pie ahead, wrap it well and freeze it. Like all winter squash, pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene, and a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. 2 1/2 pounds pumpkin, cut into large chunks 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 large leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds), white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped 2 large garlic cloves, minced 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces) 3 large eggs, beaten Salt and freshly ground pepper 12 sheets phyllo dough 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place the pumpkin pieces on the baking sheet, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on top and cover tightly with foil. Place in the oven, and roast for 1 1/2 hours or until thoroughly tender. Remove from the

heat, transfer to a strainer or a colander set over a bowl or in the sink, and allow to cool and drain. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. 2. Peel the cooled pumpkin, and place in a large bowl or in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Purée coarsely or mash with a fork. Stir in the herbs, nutmeg and feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick frying pan. Add the leeks. Cook, stirring, until tender and just beginning to color, five to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat, and add to the pumpkin. Beat the eggs, and stir into the pumpkin mixture. 4. Brush a 10- or 12-inch tart pan or cake pan with olive oil and layer in seven sheets of phyllo dough. Place them not quite evenly atop one another, so that the edges overlap the sides of the pan all the way around. Brush each sheet with olive oil (or a mixture of olive oil and melted butter) before adding the next sheet. Fill with the pumpkin mixture, and fold the edges over. Brush the folded-over phyllo with olive oil, then layer five more sheets of dough over the top, brushing each with olive oil (or a combination of melted butter and olive oil). Crimp the edges into the sides of the pan. Pierce the top of the pie in several places with a sharp

knife. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Recrisp the crust if necessary in a low oven for 10 to 20 minutes. Yield: Serves eight to 10. Advance preparation: The pumpkin can be cooked and mashed three or four days ahead of making the dish and kept in the refrigerator in a covered bowl. Drain off liquid that accumulates. The filling will keep for two or three days in the refrigerator; don’t add the eggs until you’re ready to assemble the pie. The finished tart keeps for a few days, but you must keep crisping the phyllo. This is easily done, either in a low oven (250 degrees to 300 degrees) for 10 to 20 minutes or in a hot oven that has just been turned off for 5 to 10 minutes. You can assemble the pie in its entirety,

double-wrap it in plastic wrap and foil, and freeze until ready to bake. Uncover, brush the top with olive oil or melted butter, and transfer directly from the freezer to the oven. Add 15 minutes to the baking time. Nutritional information per serving (eight servings): 312 calories; 17 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 96 milligrams cholesterol; 32 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 383 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 9 grams protein Nutritional information per serving (10 servings): 250 calories; 14 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 77 milligrams cholesterol; 26 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 306 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 7 grams protein

ver 2 eggs 1 1/2 cups stone ground yellow cor1 cup drained pumpkin purée, can- nmeal ned or made from 1 pound fresh 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder pumpkin (see below) 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup low-fat milk 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon mild honey, such as clo- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

return it to the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before serving. To make the pumpkin purée: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place the pumpkin pieces on the baking sheet, drizzle 1 tablespoon of canola oil or olive oil on top, cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. Roast for 1 1/2 hours or until thoroughly tender. Remove from the heat, transfer to a strainer or a colander set over a bowl or in the sink, and allow to cool and drain. Peel the pieces, and purée them in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Yield: 12 servings. Advance preparation: This will keep for a couple of days if well wrapped. It does not freeze well. Nutritional information per serving: 141 calories; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 39 milligrams cholesterol; 22 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 320 milligrams sodium; 4 grams protein

Pumpkin Cornbread By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN


his rich cornbread is inspired by a Basque recipe that I’ve altered to resemble American cornbread.

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and place inside a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 2-quart baking dish. 2. Whisk together the pumpkin purée, milk, olive oil, honey and eggs. 3. Place the cornmeal in a large bowl, and sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together. Do not overwork. 5. Remove the baking dish or pan from the oven, and add the butter. When it has melted completely, brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush; tip the excess melted butter into the batter, and quickly mix it in. Scrape the batter into the hot pan, and



December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Tender Beans, Without Soaking By MELISSA CLARK


OR years, there was a nearly insurmountable barrier between me and a truly excellent pot of beans: the seemingly simple act of soaking the beans, a requirement of nearly every recipe I read. Not that this is hard, but it does require forethought. Plus there was never enough room in my refrigerator to fit a large bowl of the beans to soak overnight. Instead I relied on canned beans,

deluding myself into thinking that they were just as good as homemade. But in reality they were far from ideal, too mushy and bland. But then I read a recipe that made me reassess everything. It was for Mexican pinto beans that were not soaked, but simply tossed into a pot with vegetables and seasonings and simmered for three hours. And there was no overly cautious warning about waiting for the beans to cook through before adding the salt, common advice in many Ame-

rican bean recipes. (With this recipe, the beans were seasoned at the beginning.) The resulting beans were firmtextured yet silky, with a deep earthy flavor enhanced by the herbs and aromatics with which they simmered. The next time I craved beans, I walked right past the canned-goods section in the supermarket and headed straight for a package of dried Great Northern beans. I was imagining a meaty, cold-weather stew laden with herbs and garlic, so I also picked up

some sweet Italian sausages and hearty sprigs of rosemary. I caramelized the sausages first, sautéing the vegetables with cumin and tomato paste in the drippings, and then added the beans and plenty of water, simmering them until the house was fragrant and the windows fogged up. The stew was deeply flavored and complex, and the beans were tender and nuanced. Now that I know I no longer have to soak them, I suspect beans will be on the menu at my house all winter long.

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew Time: 2 1/2 hours 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 2 medium carrots, finely diced 2 celery stalks, finely diced 1 onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste 2 thyme sprigs 1 large rosemary sprig 1 bay leaf 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste. 1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add

the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. 2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged. 3. When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Vegan Catalan-Style Radicchio and White Beans Yield 5 servings Time 1 1/2 hours plus overnight soaking of the beans For the beans: 6 ounces (about 1 cup) dried cannellini beans, 1 clove garlic 1 sprig fresh thyme 1 to 2 vegetable bouillon cubes For the radicchio: 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 head radicchio, stem and core removed, leaves cut or torn into 1 1/2 inch squares 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley Cracked black pepper, for garnish. 1. For the beans: Place the beans in a bowl and add cold water to cover by two inches. Allow to soak overnight. The next day, drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. 2. In a medium pot, combine the beans, garlic, thyme, and cold water to cover by 2 inches. Place over high heat to

bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until tender, 25 to 45 minutes; do not salt the water. When the beans are tender, add 1 to 2 bouillon cubes, to taste, and cook 5 minutes more; the liquid should be slightly salted. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid; discard garlic and thyme. Set beans and reserved liquid aside. 3. For the radicchio: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add radicchio, turning to coat with oil. Add pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 4. In a separate skillet over medium heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic, and sauté until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add beans and 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid. Simmer until the liquid becomes somewhat creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add radicchio and parsley, and simmer 10 minutes more, adding more of the reserved cooking liquid if the mixture seems too thick. Serve in bowls, garnished with a sprinkling of cracked black pepper.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



Jorge Checo


orn in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 1968. He studied drawing and painting at the National

School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo, 1983-1988. She shares her studio-workshop with his wife, the painter

Minelis Ramirez. Have fathered three daughters.

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 1986 - drawing competition,

World Food Day. FAO: United Nations Food and Agriculture. Modern Art Gallery, Sto. Dgo. R.D. 1987 - Art Competition XII E. Leon Jimenez. Cultural Center, Santiago. R.D. 1989 - 2nd. Festival Latino-American art and culture. Novos Valores Latin American art. Continues on page 62



December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Puerto Rco. 2004 - As gifts of nature. Espinal Gallery, San Juan, Puerto Rco. 2006 - Fruit Colors Santo Domingo, Instituto Italo-Latinoamericano, Rome,

Comes from page 61 Art Museum of Brasilia, Brazil. 1990 - XVII Bienal Nacional de Arte. Modern Art Gallery, Sto. Dgo. R.D. - XIV E. Art Contest Leon Jimenez. Cultural Center, Santiago. R.D.

1992 - XVIII Bienal Nacional de Arte. Modern Art Gallery, Sto. Dgo. R.D.

INDIVIDUAL 2000 - De Tierra Adentro. Espinal Gallery, San Juan, Puerto Rco. 2001 - Between colors, smells and tastes. Espinal Gallery, San Juan,

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



In the World of Fine Wine, There’ll Always Be a France By ERIC ASIMOV


ERMIT me to speak briefly in praise of France. Yes, France, the greatest wine producing nation in the world. Don’t look so shocked. I’ve heard about the Judgment of Paris, the famous blind tasting in which French and American wines went glass-to-glass in 1976, and the French lost. I know all about the greatness of California cabernets and shiraz from Australia, and I understand that the French lag in the clever global marketing of instantly recognizable brands of wine. Nonetheless, no country comes close to matching France, either in setting demanding standards for its wine industry or in producing such a variety of consistently excellent wine. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhone go without saying, but those famous regions are simply the most visible. From Jurançon in the southwest to Jura in the east, from Nantes on the Atlantic to Alsace on the German border, France makes wines that are endlessly compelling and should be endlessly inspiring. Why is it necessary for me to state what should be obvious? Because a prevailing attitude toward France and its wines, in the New World at least, seems stuck somewhere between pity and glee for an industry supposedly rotting from within. New World producers and journalists like to jeer at the sacred French notion of terroir as a myth constructed to preserve French status in the industry, and they laugh at the rigidity of the French appellation rules, which dictate what French growers can plant, where they can plant it, and how they should tend the vines. The European Union’s recent decision to spend millions of dollars in an effort to diminish a European wine glut by digging up vineyards and turning excess wine into ethanol contributed to a confused perception of industry-wide crisis. The perception springs from an oversimplification of the French wine business, and no doubt a bit of wishful thinking. The latest chorus of American gloating was heard around the time of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Paris tasting, even as many of these same gloaters were lining up to pay record prices for the heralded 2005 vintage of Bordeaux. When French winemakers were understandably reluctant to participate in yet another re-enactment in May, American wine writers were quick to play the cowardice card. And when the event feebly played out, and the Americans won again, writers exulted.

“Sacré bleu! Make that red, white and blue,” Linda Murphy wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle, which can perhaps be forgiven for boosterish support of an industry in its backyard. In maybe the unkindest blow of all, Hollywood is apparently considering a movie version of the original event, based on the book “Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine” (Scribner, 2005), by George M. Taber. Maybe it’s payback for years of supercilious French sneering at the American wine industry. Or maybe Americans just need to lash out to pump themselves up with competitive energy, like football players pounding their lockers in an adrenalin-fueled frenzy. Any way you look at it, American wine partisans have got themselves a punching bag and they call it France. Business-oriented types look at the French wine industry as old and tired. Through rigidity, bureaucracy and lack of creativity, they say, once-dominant France clings to old and outdated ways, and can no longer compete with modern wine powers like Australia, the United States, Chile and South Africa. Those sympathetic to France heave a sigh, shrug their shoulders and say, What can you do? Meanwhile, some of the harshest critics are among the French themselves, particularly growers and winemakers in less prestigious areas, or entrepreneurs who feel hamstrung by French wine laws. Make no mistake. France’s troubles, as far as the wine business goes, are many. Consumption at home has dropped precipitously as the culture that once prized the long lunch and the arduous construction of a meal has taken a route toward convenience foods, quickly gobbled. The quest for productivity in a globalized economy, no doubt, has also taken its toll on daytime consumption, while stricter drunken-driving laws have also had an effect. Troubled fortunes in the wine economies of Bordeaux and the Languedoc are well known, if not well understood. And France’s share of the wine export market has tumbled as well. What’s crucial to understand is that France has two entirely different wine economies, and one should not be confused with the other. The first produces oceans of cheap, occasionally palatable wine, sold for immediate consumption under lowly appellations, like plain Bordeaux or Beaujolais, for example, rather than the more prestigious and more specific St.-Julien or Juliénas. This industry is indeed in a deep crisis, with many growers hurting badly. Historically, much of this

wine was for domestic consumption, and this segment has taken the biggest hit as the market has shrunk. Producers who would like to sell these wines overseas say they feel hampered because they cannot compete against the cleverly branded bottles of New World producers, who often use winemaking techniques unavailable to French producers. The other industry makes the middle to high-end wines, those sold around the world, consumed in restaurants and reviewed in publications like Wine Spectator. Producers like Sylvain Pitiot, who makes the seductive, voluptuous Clos de Tart, a grand cru Burgundy, are doing exceptionally well, regardless of how many gallons of French wine the European Union wishes to convert to fuel. Like Clos de Tart, much of the high-quality end of the business is prospering. In many ways, the French A.O.C. laws, for appellation d’origine contrôlée, which protect quality at the top, are simultaneously responsible for the demise of the low end. In other words, the law that insures the meaning of St.-Julien by dictating what the wine is made of and how it is labeled can stifle the producer of ordinary Bordeaux, who might want to legally blend some syrah into the cabernet sauvignon, or call the wine by a cute, memorable brand name — not Yellow Tail, but maybe Red Head. But while a producer in the Languedoc might wish he could pull out all his grenache and replace it with syrah, a Burgundy producer like Mr. Pitiot would be appalled at the idea of somebody wasting precious pinot noir territory by replacing it with merlot. It may be that both ends of the French wine industry can only work at cross purposes, with the Old World tradition of exalting specific place names struggling against the New World merchandising power of the brand name. For France to try to accommodate the low end by compromising the standards that have insured its high-end dominance might in the end be catastrophic for the whole industry. “Europeans should realize they

can’t play that New World game,” said Neal Rosenthal, an American wine importer who is devoted to the concept of terroir. “They’re better off protecting what they have and making sure people better understand the reasons behind it.” Not that the standards can’t be beneficially modified. In a recent column in Decanter, a British consumer magazine, Michel Bettane, the French wine critic, suggested that St.-Émilion would be a fine place to plant chardonnay, which is currently not permitted under A.O.C. rules. Maybe so. And as in any bureaucracy, a stultifying rigidity often makes rational decision making difficult. But on the whole, the A.O.C. rules do far more to protect greatness than to prevent it. While a further decline on the bottom end of the industry will have a tremendous social and human cost in France, it won’t undermine the greatness of French wines. It’s possible to imagine that France will be joined at the top by countries like Italy and Spain, which produce distinguished, singular wines like Barolo and Rioja, and are working hard to improve the quality in distinctive regions that have long been ignored. It’s harder to imagine New World countries like the United States and Australia reaching the same pinnacle. Their leading wines, whether made of cabernet, chardonnay, shiraz or pinot noir, will always be measured against the French, and regardless of the blind tasting here or there, few people really take seriously the notion that the New World wines will surpass the French reference points on a large scale. What’s more important about New World wines is how they have improved their quality on the low-to-middle ranks, to the point where today it is possible to say that very few bad wines are produced. No, France will always set a standard, barring some sort of colossal, selfdestructive move, like gutting its appellation rules. Should that happen, Americans and the rest of the world would then have great cause to jeer.


The San Juan Weeekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

French Professors Find Life in U.S. Hard to Resist


France’s top universities and elite schools like the École Normale Supérieure and the École Polytechnique. Many of France’s best biologists and economists can now be found in the United States. According to a study in 2007 by the École des Mines that looked at the 100 best economists in the world, according to the amount of their work published from 1990 and 2000, four of the six top French researchers in economics had left France for the United States. “Biology and economics are poorly recognized in France,” said Thomas Philippon, a French economist who began teaching finance at New York University Stern School of Business in 2003. “But the problem also comes from the fact that the French labor market doesn’t value Ph.D. theses.” The Institut Montaigne study concluded that, for the most talented French economics students, studies in the United States are an “obligatory step” toward a doctorate. Two of France’s best-known economists teach in the United States at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained their doctorates there. One of them, Olivier Blanchard, is also the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. The other economist, Esther Duflo, received the John Bates Clark Medal in 2010, which is one of most prestigious awards in economics. Dr. Duflo was granted tenure at 29 years old, making her one of the youngest professors to receive tenure at the university.

The emigrant trend is more recent among French biologists, but their numbers have grown significantly. “Biology is an extremely competitive field,” said Gérard Karsenty, a professor of genetics and and development at Columbia University in New York. “The notion of competition, the acceptance of competition is more in harmony with the American culture than the French and Latin one,” he added. The brain drain in French academia has been observed in other arenas, as well. The field of musical composition, for example has been hurt by the trend, and composers are few, training offers scarce and jobs rare. “We are in the process of killing contemporary music in France,” said an unidentified composer cited in the report. Today, many French academics working in the United States say their choice to leave their country was largely motivated by an American system “where universities are larger, richer and more flexible than in France,” said Dr. Philippon, the professor at New York University. Mr. Karsenty, the biologist, said: “Scientific education in the U.S. embraces the philosophy of science, which is a solitary and competitive field.” The French lifestyle, which puts a higher value on quality of living and less emphasis on competition and getting ahead, is no longer sufficient to keep talented researchers in France, many scientists said. In

a country where science is often viewed as cut off from society, French universities do little to glorify their researchers, they said, and offer working conditions that are often mediocre. “The freedom that academics garner in France is invaluable,” said Rava da Silveira, a physicist who teaches neuroscience at the École Normale Supérieure and collaborates with researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford, “but with it comes a deplorable waste of talent. People interact much less through informal discussions, and there is little team spirit or consultation, in particular between faculty and students.” Upon moving to France after nine years in the United States, Dr. da Silveira said, his salary was cut by about two-thirds. Like many other researchers, he agreed that the rigidity of the French higher education system and a lack of financing, infrastructure and administrative help have prevented France’s scientific talents from reaching their full potential in France. For Pierre-André Chiappori, a professor of economics at Columbia who is mentioned in the report, the American model is unique, and U.S. universities are havens of knowledge, the likes of which cannot be found in France. “If the United States attracts some of the best researchers in France, it is also true that a lot of them become better in the United States,” Dr. Chiappori was quoted as saying. “My only regret, in that matter, is that I should have come earlier.”

Teaching for America

skills (like Finland and Denmark), one thing stands out: they insist that their teachers come from the top one-third of their college graduating classes. As Wagner put it, “They took teaching from an assembly-line job to a knowledge-worker’s job. They have invested massively in how they recruit, train and support teachers, to attract and retain the best.” Duncan disputes the notion that teachers’ unions will always resist such changes. He points to the new “breakthrough” contracts in Washington, D.C., New Haven and Hillsborough County, Fla., where teachers have embraced higher performance standards in return for higher pay for the best performers. “We have to reward excellence,” he said. “We’ve been scared in education to talk about excellence. We treated everyone like interchangeable widgets. Just throw a kid in a class and throw a teacher in a class.” This ignored the variation between teachers who were changing students’ lives, and those who were not. “If you’re doing a great job with students,” he said, “we can’t pay you enough.” That is why Duncan is starting a “national teacher campaign” to recruit new talent. “We have to systemically create the environment and the incentives where people want to come into the profession. Three countries that outperform us — Singapore, South Korea, Finland — don’t let anyone teach who

doesn’t come from the top third of their graduating class. And in South Korea, they refer to their teachers as ‘nation builders.’ ” Duncan’s view is that challenging teachers to rise to new levels — by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, by increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be. There are 3.2 million active teachers in America today. In the next decade, half (the baby boomers) will retire. How we recruit, train, support, evaluate and compensate their successors “is going to shape public education for the next 30 years,” said Duncan. We have to get this right. Wagner thinks we should create a West Point for teachers: “We need a new National Education Academy, modeled after our military academies, to raise the status of the profession and to support the R.& D. that is essential for reinventing teaching, learning and assessment in the 21st century.” All good ideas, but if we want better teachers we also need better parents — parents who turn off the TV and video games, make sure homework is completed, encourage reading and elevate learning as the most important life skill. The more we demand from teachers the more we have to demand from students and parents. That’s the Contract for America that will truly ensure our national security.


cademics are increasingly leaving France for the United States, which carries the risk of a “brain drain” in France, according to a report this month by an independent study group. The report, by the Institut Montaigne, a leading independent research group in Paris, found that academics constitute a much larger percentage of French émigrés to the United States today than 30 years ago. According to the report, between 1971 and 1980, academics represented just 8 percent of the departing population; between 1996 and 2006, they represented 27 percent of the departing population. “The acceleration of French scientific emigration to the United States is recent and worrisome,” said the report, called “Gone for good? The expatriates of French higher education in the United States.” Of the 2,745 French citizens who obtained a doctorate in the United States from 1985 to 2008, 70 percent settled there, the study found. The number of French scientists who leave France for the United States remains limited, but the exodus of the country’s most talented scientists could hurt the economy, the report suggested. “Those who leave France are the best, the most prolific and the best integrated on an international scale,” said the report, which surveyed about a hundred French researchers and professors who studied in



hen I came to Washington in 1988, the cold war was ending and the hot beat was national security and the State Department. If I were a cub reporter today, I’d still want to be covering the epicenter of national security — but that would be the Education Department. President Obama got this one exactly right when he said that whoever “out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.” The bad news is that for years now we’ve been getting out-educated. The good news is that cities, states and the federal government are all fighting back. But have no illusions. We’re in a hole. Here are few data points that the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, offered in a Nov. 4 speech: “One-quarter of U.S. high school students drop out or fail to graduate on time. Almost one million students leave our schools for the streets each year. ... One of the more unusual and sobering press conferences I participated in last year was the release of a report by a group of top retired generals and admirals. Here was the stunning conclusion of their report: 75 percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 to 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because

they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit.” America’s youth are now tied for ninth in the world in college attainment. “Other folks have passed us by, and we’re paying a huge price for that economically,” added Duncan in an interview. “Incremental change isn’t going to get us where we need to go. We’ve got to be much more ambitious. We’ve got to be disruptive. You can’t keep doing the same stuff and expect different results.” Duncan, with bipartisan support, has begun several initiatives to energize reform — particularly his Race to the Top competition with federal dollars going to states with the most innovative reforms to achieve the highest standards. Maybe his biggest push, though, is to raise the status of the teaching profession. Why? Tony Wagner, the Harvard-based education expert and author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” explains it this way. There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate. If you look at the countries leading the pack in the tests that measure these

The San Juan Weeekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Lessons of Hate at Islamic Schools in Britain By JOHN F. BURNS


British network of more than 40 part-time Islamic schools and clubs with 5,000 students has been teaching from a Saudi Arabian government curriculum that contains anti-Semitic and homophobic views, including a textbook that asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, according to a BBC documentary broadcast on Monday. The 30-minute “Panorama” program quoted the Saudi government-supplied textbook as saying that Jews “looked like monkeys and pigs,” and that Zionists set out to achieve “world domination.” The program quoted a separate part of the curriculum — for children as young as 6 — saying that someone who is not a believer in Islam at death would be condemned to “hellfire.”

The program said the textbooks had been obtained by an “undercover” Saudi Arabian researcher who asked for them during a visit to one of the Saudi-backed schools and clubs, which meet in the evenings and on weekends in a network that is linked to the cultural bureau of the Saudi Embassy in London. On Monday, the embassy did not respond to requests for comment, but Saudi officials quoted by the BBC disavowed direct responsibility for the schools and clubs and described the teachings cited in the program as having been “taken out of their historical context.” One of the textbooks, according to the BBC program, prescribed execution as the penalty for gay sex, and outlined differing viewpoints as to whether death should be by stoning, immolation by fire or throwing offenders off a cliff. Another set out the punishments prescribed by Shariah law for theft, including amputation of hands and feet. A BBC video accompanying an article on the program’s Web site showed a textbook illustration of a hand and a foot marked to show where amputations should be made. Michael Gove, the education minister in the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, said on the program that the government would not tolerate “antiSemitic material of any kind in English schools.” He elaborated in interviews with British newspapers, saying there was also no place in British schools for teachings against gay men and lesbians. But Mr. Gove appeared to be at pains not to allow the issue to develop into a

confrontation with Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia is a sovereign country,” he said in a statement issued as the program was broadcast. “We have no desire or wish to intervene in the decisions that the Saudi government makes in its own education system. But we are clear that we cannot have any anti-Semitic material of any kind being used in English schools.” Mr. Gove added that Ofsted, the governmentappointed agency with oversight of education and children’s services, would be “reporting to us shortly” on measures to tighten oversight of part-time schools, whose teaching is currently free of the controls imposed on full-time schools. “Panorama,” which first appeared on the BBC nearly 60 years ago, is described by the corporation as the world’s longest-running current affairs documentary program. Other “Panorama” investigative programs in recent years have focused on the Vatican’s restrictive rules for dealing with accusations of child molestation by priests, the Pentagon’s inability to account for billions of dollars spent in Iraq, and a pattern of alleged bribes and kickbacks among coaches and scouts in English professional soccer. Neal Robinson, a theology professor at Leeds University who has written widely about the Koran and Islamic teachings, said in the BBC program that the material cited from the textbooks was taken from ancient texts, and added: “To present it cold, as it is here, as part of the teaching of Islam, is not wise. In the wrong hands, yes, I think it is ammunition for anti-Semitism.”

12th-Grade Reading and Math Scores Rise Slightly After a Historic Low in 2005 By SAM DILLON


eading scores for the nation’s 12thgrade students have increased somewhat since they dropped to a historic low in 2005, according to results of the largest federal test, released Thursday. Average math scores also ticked upward. Experts said the increases, after years of dismal achievement reports, were surprising because every year the nation’s schools are educating more black and Hispanic students, who on average score lower than whites and Asians. The black-white achievement gap dates back more than a century, though researchers debate why it persists. Researchers presume that language barriers pull down scores for Hispanics. “It’s very good news because you have scores going up despite a demographic trend that pulls scores down,” said Grover J. Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who directed the Department of Education’s research division in the Bush administration. The math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and administered by the Department of Education, were given in

spring 2009 to a representative national sample of about 50,000 12th-grade students. Educators and school policymakers closely monitor the national assessment scores much the way corporate leaders and economists watch for changes in the gross domestic product or employment trends. On the 500-point scale used in the reading assessment, the average 12th grader scored 288 on the 2009 test, up from 286 in 2005. About 38 percent of 12th graders scored at or above the test’s proficiency level. Although the latest scores were a short-term increase, Steven L. Paine, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, noted that the average score in 2009 represented a drop of four points from the average score of 292 in 1992. “If we go back almost 20 years and compare today’s national reading results, these scores are not quite what they should be,” Mr. Paine said by audio hookup during a news conference in Washington. The latest results show that Asians overtook whites as the nation’s best readers at the 12th-grade level from 2005 to

2009. The average Asian 12th grader scored 298 in 2009, compared with 287 four years earlier. The average white student scored 296 in 2009, up from 293 in 2005. (After years of reading improvement, Asian fourth- and eighth-grade students first outscored whites in 2007 and 2009, respectively.) The average Hispanic 12th grader scored 274 in 2009, a two- point rise from 2005. Black 12th graders, on average, scored 269 in 2009, up from 267 in 2005. Officials said these two-point changes in minority scores were not statistically significant. Whether score increases can be considered significant depends on the test’s margin of error, which increases as the number of test-takers falls. Minority students made up a small fraction of total test-takers, making the margin of error for minority scores greater than for scores cited as a national average. On the reading assessment, the proportion of test-takers who were Hispanic rose to 17 percent in 2009, from 14 percent in 2005. The percentage who were black also rose, while the percentage of whites fell to 61 percent, from 67 percent in 2005. Not surprisingly, students who said they read a lot in school scored far higher

than students who said they read little, said Mr. Paine, West Virginia’s schools superintendent. Students who reported reading 20 or more pages for school every day scored 25 points higher on average than students who reported reading five or fewer pages, he said. On the math assessment, which is scored on a 300-point scale, the average 12th grader scored 153 in 2009, up from 150 in 2005. Because the governing board changed the math test before its 2005 administration, the latest results cannot be compared with previous math tests given in the 1990s and early 2000s. Twenty-six percent of 12th graders were proficient in math in 2009. By comparison, on the most recent national assessment of economics, administered in 2006, 42 percent of 12th graders were proficient. On the most recent science and history assessments, only 18 and 13 percent of 12th graders, respectively, showed proficiency. Officials complain that it is difficult to persuade high school seniors to take the national assessments seriously. They are old enough to realize that because no student is individually scored, there are no consequences to performing poorly.


The San Juan Weeekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Questionable Science Behind Academic Rankings



or institutions that regularly make the Top 10, the autumn announcement of university rankings is an occasion for quiet self-congratulation. When Cambridge beat Harvard for the No. 1 spot in the QS World University Rankings this September, Cambridge put out a press release. When Harvard topped the Times Higher Education list two weeks later, it was Harvard’s turn to gloat. But the news that Alexandria University in Egypt had placed 147th on the list — just below the University of Birmingham and ahead of such academic powerhouses as Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands (151st) or Georgetown in the United States (164th) — was cause for both celebration and puzzlement. Alexandria’s Web site was quick to boast of its newfound status as the only Arab university among the top 200. Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education magazine, issued a statement congratulating the Egyptian university, adding “any institution that makes it into this table is truly world class.” But researchers who looked behind the headlines noticed that the list also ranked Alexandria fourth in the world in a subcategory that weighed the impact of a university’s research — behind only Caltech, M.I.T. and Princeton, and ahead of both Harvard and Stanford. Like most university rankings, the list is made up of several different indicators, which are given weighted scores and combined to produce a final number or ranking. As Richard

Holmes, who teaches at the Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia, wrote on his University Ranking Watch blog, according to the Webometrics ranking of World Universities, published by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Alexandria University is “not even the best university in Alexandria.” The overall result, he wrote, was skewed by “one indicator, citations, which accounted for 32.5% of the total weighting.” Phil Baty, deputy editor of Times Higher Education, acknowledged that Alexandria’s surprising prominence was actually due to “the high output from one scholar in one journal” — soon identified on various blogs as Mohamed El Naschie, an Egyptian academic who published over 320 of his own articles in a scientific journal of which he was also the editor. In November 2009, Dr. El Naschie sued the British journal Nature for libel over an article alleging his “apparent misuse of editorial privileges.” The case is still in court. One swallow may not make a summer, but the revelation that one scholar can make a world class university comes at a particularly embarrassing time for the rapidly burgeoning business of rating academic excellence. “The problem is we don’t know what we’re trying to measure,” said Ellen Hazelkorn, Dean of the Graduate Research School at the Dublin Institute of Technology and author of “Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education: the Battle for World Class Excellence,” coming out this March. “We need cross-national comparative data that is meaningful. But we also need to know whether the way the data are collected makes it more useful — or ea-

sier to game the system.” Dr. Hazelkorn also questioned whether the widespread emphasis on bibliometrics — using figures for academic publications or how often faculty members are cited in scholarly journals as proxies for measuring the quality or influence of a university department — made any sense. “I understand that bibliometrics is attractive because it looks objective. But as Einstein used to say, ‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”’ Unlike the Times Higher Education rankings, where surveys of academic reputation make up nearly 34.5 percent of the total, Shanghai Jiao Tong University relies heavily on faculty publication rates for its rankings; weight is also given to the number of Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals won by alumni or current faculty. The results, say critics, tip toward science and mathematics rather than arts or humanities, while the tally of prizewinners favors rich institutions able to hire faculty members whose best work may be long behind them. “The big rap on rankings, which has a great deal of truth to it, is that they’re excessively focused on inputs,” said Ben Wildavsky, author of “The Great Brain Race,” who said that measuring faculty size or publications, or counting the books in the university library, as some rankings do, tells you more about a university’s resources than about how those resources impact on students. Nevertheless Mr. Wildavsky, who edited U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges list from 2006 to 2008, described himself as “a qualified defender” of the process. “Just because you can’t measure everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure anything,” said Mr. Wildavsky, adding that when U.S. News published its first college guide in 1987 a delegation of college presidents met with the magazine’s editors to ask that the whole exercise be stopped. Today there are over 40 different rankings — some, like U.S. News, focused on a single country or a single academic field like business administration, medicine or law, while others attempt to compare universities on a global scale. Mr. Wildavsky freely admits the system is subject to all kinds of bias. “A lot of ratings use graduation rates as a

measure of student success,” he said. “An urban-setting university is probably not going to have the same graduation rate as Dartmouth.” “But there’s a real need for a globalized comparison on the part of students, academic policymakers, and governments,” he said. The difficulty, Dr. Hazelkorn said, “is that there is no such thing as an objective ranking.” Mr. Baty said that when Times Higher Education Magazine first set up its rankings in 2004 “it was a relatively crude exercise” aimed mainly at prospective graduate students and academics. Yet today those ratings have an impact on governments as well as on faculties. Dr. Hazelkorn pointed out that a recent Dutch immigration law explicitly targets foreigners who received their degree “from a university in the top 150” of the Shanghai or Times Higher Education rankings. According to Mr. Baty, it was precisely the editors’ awareness that the Times Higher Education rankings “had become a global news event” that prompted them to overhaul their methodology for 2010. So it is particularly ironic that the new improved model should prove so vulnerable. “When you’re looking at 25 million individual citations there’s no way to examine each one,” he said. “We have to rely on the data.” That may not convince the critics, who apparently include Dr. El Naschie. “I do not believe at all in this ranking business and do not consider it anyway indicatory of any merit of the corresponding university,” he said in an e-mail. But if rankings can’t always be relied on, they have become an indispensable part of the educational landscape. “For all their methodological shortcomings, rankings aren’t going to disappear,” said Jamil Salmi, an education expert at the World Bank. Mr. Salmi said that the first step in using rankings wisely is to be clear about what is actually measured. He also called for policy makers to move “beyond rankings” to compare entire education systems. He offered the model of Finland, “a country that has achieved remarkable progress as an emerging knowledge economy, and yet does not boast any university among the top 50 in the world, but has excellent technology-focused institutions.”

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The San Juan Weekly



British Royal Wedding Set for April 29 By SARAH LYALL


he date and location have been set: the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton is to take place on April 29 at Westminster Abbey. An aide to Prince William said on Tuesday that the couple had chosen the abbey, where Queen Elizabeth was also married, for its “staggering beauty” and because it offers intimacy despite its grand scale. Prime Minister David Cameron has declared April 29, a Friday, a national holiday, meaning that most Britons will get a four-day weekend because May 2 is already a holiday. “We want to mark the day as one of national celebration,” Mr. Cameron said. “A public holiday will ensure the most people possible will have a chance to celebrate on the day.” The abbey is a traditional royal wedding venue: Queen Elizabeth and the late Queen Mother were married there. The funeral of Prince William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, also was held

in the abbey. On that day, Prince William walked behind his mother’s coffin as it was carried to the abbey. “The venue has long associations with the royal family — it is, in many ways, the royal family’s church — and of course with William personally,” Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the prince’s private secretary, told reporters. The wedding is to be paid for by the royal family, Mr. Cameron said, although public funds will be used to pay for security and other ancillary costs. With Britain in the throes of its most drastic austerity measures in decades, the royal family seems particularly anxious to avoid the impression that the wedding would add to the public burden. Mr. Lowther-Pinkerton said that the couple were “calling the shots” on the wedding plans, with a “rather large supporting cast.” “The couple are very, very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best,” he said. But with British forces deployed in

Afghanistan, Prince William — a serving officer in the Royal Air Force — and his bride-to-be were said to be anxious not to draw troops away from frontline duties or training missions for ceremonial purposes. Mr. Lowther-Pinkerton added: “The couple are very mindful of the current situation, and for example, Prince William has already expressed a clear wish that any involvement by the armed forces should rely in great part on those servicemen and women already committed to public and ceremonial duties.” “I’ve never seen two happier people,” Mr. Lowther-Pinkerton said. “They’re on cloud nine, like any other newly-engaged couple.” London’s great cathedrals are heavily laden with royal history — and mixed memories. Prince Williams’ parents, Charles and Diana, were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but that marriage ended 15 years later in divorce, as did three other modern royal weddings at Westminster Abbey in the past half-century. But the marriage of

William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, to Prince Phillip at Westminster Abbey has endured since 1947. Six years later, the Queen was crowned at the abbey in June, 1953, following the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952. That ceremony was closely followed on television, with many Britons clustering around small black-andwhite sets to watch the ceremony. The ceremony next April is forecast to attract millions around the world, if the interest in Charles and Diana’s wedding is any measure. The venue is one that reaches back centuries in monarchic tradition. “Westminster Abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history,” the abbey’s Web site declares. “Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day.” “The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066” — when the Norman King William I was crowned — “and is the final resting place of 17 monarchs.”

A Dim View of Betting on Start-Ups BY ANDREW ROSS SORKIN


ean Parker says venture firms are interested in investing in companies that they could sell to Google or Microsoft. “There’s too much money chasing too few deals.” Sean Parker, the entrepreneur behind Napster and Facebook now turned investor, was talking about the state of the venture capital industry last week over coffee. At 30, Mr. Parker, who was recently portrayed by Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network,” has been thinking a lot about innovation — or the lack of it — in the United States. And he’s come to a depressing conclusion about the money industry that he says used to be “the engine of innovation” for this country. “The risk-reward doesn’t work out in favor of putting money into venture capital anymore,” he said, even though he himself is a partner in a venture capital firm that owns stakes in Facebook and SpaceX, the private spaceflight company run by Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal. Mr. Parker, a night owl who had awakened before his usual rising time of noon to meet with me, said the problem plaguing the venture business represented a “systemic risk” to the country that he believed meant “innovation could gradually grind to a halt or at least become

less effective.” Mr. Parker may tend toward hyperbole, but ever since the bursting of the dot-com bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat of “venture capital is dead.” In the last year, however, that drumbeat has gotten louder as it has become clear that many of the best-known venture firms in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have returned a pittance to their investors. According to the Cambridge Associates U.S. Venture Capital Index, venture capital returned a paltry 8.4 percent to investors in the last decade, starting in 1999. Ernst & Young reported last month that venture capital investing had fallen off a cliff this year, down 47 percent in the first half of the year compared with the period a year earlier. “You’ll see big old established firms that everybody thought were here to stay probably splintering,” Mr. Parker said. That’s in part because he is convinced that the industry’s biggest backers — institutional investors — are going to seek a haven elsewhere. “I can’t name names but certain large university endowments have lost as much as half of their value,” Mr. Parker said. For every Facebook, there are dozens of start-ups that never make it. That is the model — it is all about swinging for the fences. Even Facebook, still private, having not pursued an initial public offering, has

yet to see the big payoff for its largest investors. One of the problems often cited for depressing the venture capital world is the perception of a tight market for I.P.O.’s. Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark Capital, which was an early investor in eBay and, says he believes exaggerated expectations are the problem. “We may also have a perturbed notion of what a healthy I.P.O. market looks like,” he wrote last week on his blog. “The I.P.O. market of 1999 was a myth, a facade, a once-in-a-lifetime mirage that you will never see again.” That the market for initial offerings is dead may also be a myth, however. It may just be Silicon Valley. Only 11 of the 42 high-tech, venture-backed offerings since 2008 came from Silicon Valley. As Mr. Gurley pointed out, “In other words, 74 percent of these I.P.O.’s hail from outside of the S.V. echo chamber.” Silicon Valley’s latest, greatest hopes — clean tech and green tech — also seem to be failing despite big investments from the likes of John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Vinod Khosla, a former Kleiner partner. “It is not clear anyone will make money on their green-tech investing. It looks like it was a bubble, “ Mr. Parker said. But worst of all, from the standpoint of innovation, entrepreneurs may be chan-

ging the way they are thinking — they are becoming less ambitious. “Ten years ago, venture capitalists would ask the question: Do you want to build a company and flip it or do you want to build a company and I.P.O. it? It’s a trick question. The correct answer was always, ‘I want to build an incredibly valuable standalone business and maybe we get bought, maybe we go public but we’re going to build an incredibly valuable company,’ ” Mr. Parker said. “Now it’s actually not clear that that’s the right answer. There’s a lot of venture firms that are clearly interested in building something and selling it either to Facebook, Google, Microsoft.” That’s not to say that Mr. Parker is all doom and gloom. His firm may actually have another venture capital-backed winner on its hands in Spotify, an online music service that some analysts suggest could one day challenge Apple’s iTunes. But before you get too excited about great leaps in innovation in the United States, consider this: Mr. Parker didn’t discover Spotify in his backyard. It was founded in Stockholm. Given his own status as a rock star entrepreneur, just how did Mr. Parker feel about Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of him in the “The Social Network?” Pausing for a moment, Mr. Parker reflected: “It’s hard to complain about being played by a sex symbol.”


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Between Firefights, Jokes, Sweat and Tedium By JAMES DAO


rom his rooftop position, Sgt. Santiago Zapata watched the firefight begin after prayer call ended, a rocket-propelled grenade exploding as the muezzin’s voice was still fading into the Afghan dusk. Tracer rounds whizzed overhead, mortar shells burst nearby and heavy machine guns clattered. Then as suddenly as it began, it was over. Sergeant Zapata brushed away the powdery dust that coated him like flour, walked downstairs and started to sing. “Sometimes when we touch,” he warbled, his mind stuck on a tune recorded before he was born 30 years ago. “Hey, how does that song go?” “The honesty’s too much,” a soldier helped. “And I have to close my eyes and cry,” yet another continued, in a comically quavering falsetto. (The actual lyric: “And I have to close my eyes and hide.”) For G.I.’s, life on the front lines has two sides. There are, of course, the adrenaline-fueled moments of fighting, when soldiers try to forget their fear, remember their

training and watch one another’s backs. And then there is everything else, the dirty, sweaty, unglamorous and frequently tedious work of being infantrymen. Filling sandbags. Stirring caldrons of burning waste. Lying in the dirt while on guard duty. Cleaning weapons. And more than anything else, waiting — for orders, for patrols, for the chance to sleep or eat. They even wait for the fighting they know will come. It is a life of wild pendulum swings. One moment, their sergeants are barking at them to stay ready, eyes focused, rifles loaded, protective gear at hand. In the next, the soldiers are searching for amusement, killing time with the skill of people who have had plenty of practice. They tell stories about girlfriends, wives, drinking and sex. They wrestle and play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. They share music on iPods and check football scores on BlackBerrys. They debate evolution and chase chickens. They argue over comic-book heroes and then tell more stories about sex. During a six-day mission in October with Delta Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, both sides of frontline life were on display. Firefights, truck-flip-

ping mine explosions and earth-shaking mortar exchanges. And the pauses in between, when life in their encampment felt like a guys-only slumber party. Pfc. William Moody taught Afghan police officers how to curse in English. Specialist Joshua Chamberlain sang a dirty song about his soon-to-be ex-wife. And Staff Sgt. Jonathon Clark and Sergeant Zapata, on their fifth deployment together, argued over an issue that had divided the men of the battalion’s Second Platoon for a week: could Batman beat Superman in a fight? (Sergeant Clark: “If you took Clark Kent as a man, Bruce Wayne would whip his ass. He knows karate.” Sergeant Zapata: “Batman’s got skills, but those aren’t superpowers. You could just kill him with a gun.”) Inevitably, as the vacant minutes multiplied, many soldiers — though not all — found themselves craving combat. They had come here to train the Afghan police. But fighting is the reason many of them signed on to be infantrymen. In a war with no easily defined endpoint, combat provides some sense of progress, at least when the enemy is bloodied. And if nothing else, it makes time pass faster. “When our platoon actually goes out there and we do get into firefights, the guys love it,” said Sergeant Clark, a squad leader in Second Platoon. “They get tired of just sitting.”

A Show of Strength The roughly two dozen men of Second Platoon arrived in the village of Nahr-i-Sufi before daybreak, after tripping through rutted cotton fields and splashing through irrigation canals under the cover of darkness. The village bordered hostile territory to the north, where a mix of local Pashtun fighters and Islamist separatists from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan held sway. When they camped here for three days in July, insurgents attacked them every day, twice a day. American commanders could draw a line on a map that, when crossed, would almost certainly lead to a fight. Nahr-i-Sufi was right on that line, only a mile from the

fortified police headquarters for the district, known as Chahar Darreh. Being on the border meant that the elders of Nahr-i-Sufi seemed prepared to support whichever side they thought was winning the war at that moment. Delta Company, accompanied by a small troop of Afghan police officers, was there to show that they were stronger. Second Platoon set up camp in a residential compound on the village’s northwestern corner, the most likely to come under fire first. The owner sent his wife and children to a neighbor’s home, but he stayed, bantering with the police and the soldiers, who showed him how to tuck tobacco under his lower lip and spit into a bottle. (They politely refused his green Afghan “dip,” worrying that it contained opium.) But later that morning, the owner received a phone call that made the soldiers suspicious, and they confiscated his cellphone. He departed, taking his two cows. Later, village elders would say that they were not pleased to be forced from their homes, particularly because it was harvest season. “I apologized to him,” Sgt. First Class Craig Pritchard said later of the owner. “This is war.” The first sound of combat arrived at midmorning with an explosion on the main road. An American truck had hit a mine that pitched it onto its roof and sent two of its tires sailing into adjacent fields. But the four people inside survived and were evacuated by helicopter to be treated for concussions and cuts. Inside their newly appropriated compound — with its 10-foot walls, stable, courtyard filled with chickens and main house — the soldiers hurried their preparations for battle. The roof of the mud-brick house became their main fighting position, from which soldiers could fire unhindered at insurgents hiding in a tree line 500 yards away. All morning they lugged 30-pound sandbags from a nearby command post and hefted them one by one up a ladder onto the thatched roof, which bowed under their weight.

December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly Every soldier in the platoon except the medic was required to do guard duty on the roof, two hours on, two off. It could be cold, uncomfortable, mind-numbing work, lying prone behind sandbags that barely covered their helmets. But Pfc. Cade Guidry, a 22-year-old from Louisiana known as Bayou, volunteered repeatedly for the duty because he wanted to fire his weapon. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, I admit it,” he said. “I love to fight.” Some officers warned the younger soldiers that once they had seen casualties or experienced a close call or two, they might be less eager to see combat. (Six American soldiers have died in the region since March: two from the battalion, which is part of the 10th Mountain Division; three from mine-clearing teams working with the battalion; and one from a Special Forces unit.) Specialist David Gedert, for one, had lost some of his enthusiasm for the fight. He was a thoughtful 21-year-old from Detroit with an interest in poetry and Japanese films as well as guns. As an infant, he was given up for adoption, and he grew up wondering who his biological parents were. A little more than a year ago, he found a tattered photo of his biological mother in a shoebox and had her likeness tattooed on his left arm, thinking he would never meet her. (He did, just weeks before deploying.) On Facebook, Specialist Gedert once proclaimed himself a fan of “anything that goes boom.” But earlier in the deployment, he was almost hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Now, explosions made him jumpy — and just about every firefight began with an explosion. “That first R.P.G. kind of spoiled it for me,” he said early in the Nahr-i-Sufi mission. “I’m not eager to be in a fight.” Life as an Open Book If upstairs was for fighting, downstairs was for everything else. Here, an open-air hallway connected two bedrooms lined with dusty pillows and cushions. The only furniture was two rusted bed frames with no mattresses. On a wall hung the lone adornment: a photo ripped from a magazine depicting a rustic village, perhaps European. Water came from a well, light from a single bulb. Here the soldiers ate, slept, shaved, played and bantered, like brothers who knew one another’s every quirk. Specialist Chamberlain, 26, personified their open-book way of life. The platoon medic, Specialist Chamberlain, raised on a ranch in Arizona, was also its troubadour and jester. On some missions, he took along his 6-string and 12-string guitars, passing them around for anyone to pick. He sang his own country-style songs and told stories, often about himself — like the time he raced to a bar near Fort Drum in upstate New York to help a friend in a fight, only to be arrested before throwing a punch. As everyone knew, he had married the

same woman twice. The first time they were teenagers who lived on food stamps. By his telling, she cheated on him and they split up. But after joining the Army, he fell for her again and they remarried — until, on leave during this deployment, he says, he discovered she was cheating on him. Again. He has filed for divorce. Again. “I loved her,” he said. “And I thought she loved me.” When they were not eating, sleeping or pulling guard duty, the soldiers often engaged in a jazz-like form of debate, riffing on topics like whether chickens had evolved from dinosaurs or big cats could be properly domesticated. But no subject captured their imaginations more vividly than il Duce. Il Duce was a mound of human waste spotted in a latrine at their home base that was so spectacular someone had given it a name. Discussing it had become the unofficial platoon pastime. Squeeze peanut butter on bread, il Duce was mentioned. Discuss a film, starring roles were pondered: Predator versus il Duce. Mention Facebook, plans for an il Duce fan page were hatched. But as often as not, conversations led back to home. “When we go home, everything will be great,” Pvt. Brandon Thompson mused between firefights one morning. “Airconditioning will be great. Cold water will be great. Sleep will be great.” “Yeah,” Specialist Christian Dupree interjected, “for about a month.” Each night, as the chatter died down and the temperatures dropped below 50, the men downstairs crowded into a bedroom, wrapped themselves in ponchos and struggled to stay warm, lying side by side on the dirt floor, as close as canned fish.

A Sudden Attack Each day brought gunfire, sometimes intense, sometimes sporadic. Under rules of engagement intended to prevent civilian casualties, the Americans rarely shot first, even when they suspected insurgents of gathering nearby. But when the enemy attacked, the soldiers returned fire with overwhelming force: .50-caliber machine guns, sniper rifles, mortars and grenade launchers. One afternoon, two squads from Second Platoon fanned out into the fields bordering the main road, looking for trigger wires to buried explosives. They did not find a wire, but a team of snipers stumbled upon a handful of insurgents dressed in black who were dashing out of a house a few hundred yards off the road. One of the insurgents launched a grenade that exploded just a few feet behind the Americans, knocking several to the ground. None were badly hurt. Across the street, another squad from Second Platoon heard the explosion and ducked into an empty house. Within minutes, machine guns and mortar rounds were going off in several directions: small bands of insurgents were attacking American positions on the other side of town. The squad dashed back toward its compound, which was taking fire.

One of the soldiers in that squad was Private Moody, who had played bass in a popular heavy metal band in his hometown, Asheville, N.C. At 26, he was older than many of his platoon mates and had proved himself steady in combat. When the platoon was ambushed in a village called Qaryatim in July, he reacted quickly and shot an insurgent fighter trying to flank the unit. With his caustic sense of humor, he loved to rage against the “garrison rules” requiring soldiers to maintain dress and hygiene standards even on combat missions, including daily shaves. Now his squad was getting lost in the narrow alleys of Nahr-i-Sufi, jumping over walls and banging on locked doors. When the soldiers finally reached their own compound, panting and sweating, Private Moody wondered why they had not stood and fought. “Did you hear about our new reaction on contact?” he quipped. “We run!” Sergeant Pritchard exploded in anger. The squad had to regroup to avoid being surrounded, he argued. “What are you, a strategic genius now after one year in the Army?” he yelled. Making Friends and Enemies On Day 5, the company began its withdrawal from Nahr-i-Sufi. Leaving was no simple matter. The Afghan police had received reports of improvised explosive devices along the route, either strung from the trees or buried in the road. A mine-clearing team led the way, looking for both. Trucks known as Huskies that carried metal detectors and ground-penetrating radar went first. Behind them, the 20-ton “Buffalo” used mechanical arms to probe the dirt for wires and explosives. Somehow, they missed one. Twenty yards behind the Buffalo, a thundering explosion from a deeply buried mine tossed an armored truck into the air and left a 10-footdeep crater. “Welcome to H. M. E.” said Pfc. Robert Gooch, a gunner inside the Buffalo, referring to the homemade explosives containing fer-



tilizer that their equipment had trouble detecting. Though the mine was powerful, it had not penetrated the heavily armored truck, and injuries were not life-threatening. But for the next 20 hours the convoy remained stalled, as first a tow truck and then a crane failed to pull the truck upright. Finally, before dawn the next day, a German tank succeeded. For the G.I.’s, the wait was excruciating. Some were stuck inside trucks. Others camped in compounds without their packs, freezing. To some, it seemed a fittingly futile end to the mission. Clearly, they had alienated some residents of Nahr-i-Sufi. But the fighting might have also had a positive impact: shortly after it ended, an insurgent commander from a nearby village announced that he was switching sides. American commanders were convinced that their show of force was the reason. (Those commanders believe they inflicted more than a dozen casualties on the insurgents.) For Specialist Gedert, the mission was memorable in a different way. On a patrol, his squad had found itself in a firefight in the middle of a field. Specialist Gedert looked up and saw a man in a black robe with a Kalashnikov rifle hiding behind trees 30 yards away. He fired his automatic weapon from the hip and cut the man down. He recalled the moment later with evident pride. “It was awesome,” he said. But then he paused and reconsidered. “And scary. It was dumb luck. It could have been me.” Wearily, he joined his platoon mates as they unloaded their trucks back at their home base in Kunduz. A warm shower, a hot breakfast, Facebook, cigarettes and sleep were their priorities, pretty much in that order. But there was one other pressing matter. “Got to shave,” Private Moody said as he shouldered his pack and began the trudge back to his tent.


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In Rare Cases, Pope Justifies Use of Condoms



ope Benedict XVI has said that condom use can be justified in some cases to help stop the spread of AIDS, the Vatican’s first exception to a long-held policy banning contraceptives. The pope made the statement in interviews on a host of contentious issues with a German journalist, part of an unusual effort to address some of the harshest criticisms of his turbulent papacy. The pope’s statement on condoms was extremely limited: he did not approve their use or suggest that the Roman Catholic Church was beginning to back away from its prohibition of birth control. In fact, the one example he cited as a possibly appropriate use was by male prostitutes. Still, the statement was something of a milestone for the church and a significant change for Benedict, who faced intense criticism last year when, en route to AIDS-plagued Africa, he said condom use did not help prevent the spread of AIDS, only abstinence and fidelity did. The interviews are to be published this week in a book, and excerpts were posted online by the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on Saturday afternoon. In the book, Benedict said condoms were not “a real or moral solution” to the AIDS epidemic, adding, “that can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” But he also said that “there may be a basis in the case of some indi-

viduals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.” The decision to grant the interviews was a rare effort to humanize a pope often seen as a distant intellectual whose papacy has lurched from crisis to crisis, including revelations worldwide last spring that called into question the Vatican’s handling of cases of child abuse by priests. Although Benedict, 83, took pains to explain his most controversial decisions, he did not veer from them. That included his defense of Pope Pius XII, whose tenure during World War II has been criticized by Jewish groups who say he could have done more to help Jews escape the Nazis. Benedict also suggested several times that he was a victim of overly zealous critics, including those who criticized him for revoking the excommunication of a bishop who denied the scope of the Holocaust. The pope did, however, acknowledge the church’s failings during the years that children were being abused. “The deeds themselves were hushed up and kept secret for decades,” he said. “That is a declaration of bankruptcy for an institution that has love written on its banner.” The book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” comes from a series of interviews conducted in July by Peter Seewald, a German journalist and the author of two previous books of interviews with Benedict when he was still a cardinal. The New York Times saw an early copy of the English version of the book. Benedict’s concession on condoms, however slight, may have left room for debate on the issue of whether they may be used as part of campaigns against AIDS. The use of condoms has been a contentious issue ever since Pope Paul VI denounced birth control in his famous 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” In recent years, bishops in Africa and elsewhere have been calling on the Vatican to allow for condom use as part of a broader approach to fight the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. At a news conference at the Vatican last year, Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson of Ghana suggested, for instance, that condom use was worth considering for married couples in which one partner is H.I.V.-positive. The Vatican has also faced pushback at some church-run health clinics in Africa, according to experts who say health care workers often ignore the teachings and distribute condoms. Although the pope’s statements did not go nearly as far as some church leaders in Africa might like, the Rev. James Martin, who has written about the Vatican’s stance on the is-

sue in “America,” a Jesuit publication in New York, said even a slight shift by the pope was noteworthy. “What’s significant is that this is an exception that’s being voiced by the pope, whereas previously there were no exceptions,” he said. The Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of Benedict and the editor in chief of Ignatius Press, which is publishing the English-language edition of the book, said the pope’s new remarks on condoms were among the most surprising in the volume. But he also stressed that they were “very carefully qualified.” “It would be wrong to say, ‘Pope Approves Condoms,’ ” Father Fessio said. “He’s saying it’s immoral but in an individual case, the use of a condom could be an awakening to someone that he’s got to be more conscious of his actions.” The book devotes an entire chapter to the sexual abuse crisis that roared back in the spring, likening it to a natural disaster that marred a year Benedict had intended to celebrate priests. “One might think that the Devil could not stand the Year for Priests and therefore threw this filth in our faces,” he said. He did, however, acknowledge that the scandal had undermined the moral authority of the Catholic Church. “It is not only the abuse that is upsetting, it is also the way of dealing with it,” he said. Benedict also defended his decision to revoke the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, including one, Richard Williamson, who turned out to have denied the scope of the Holocaust, provoking international outrage that took the Vatican months to subdue. The pope reiterated that he did not know about Bishop Williamson’s statements. Benedict’s statements in the book defending Pius XII, who he said “saved more Jews than anyone else” by opening up Italian convents, were already drawing an angry reaction Saturday from Holocaust victims groups. In March, Benedict moved Pius one step closer to sainthood. Although Benedict mostly defended traditional Vatican policy, he did challenge one that affected him personally and appeared to show that the pontiff was contemplating his own age. He said that if a pope “clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.” George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II, said that canon law is very clear that the papacy becomes vacant only when the pope dies. “Benedict seems to be putting on the table something that is generally spoken about behind closed doors,” Mr. Weigel said.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Cidra City of Eternal Spring ...Land of the “Sabanera” Dove


idra is a municipality of Puerto Rico located in the central region of the island, north of Cayey; south of Comerío and Aguas Buenas; east of Aibonito and Barranquitas; and west of Caguas. Cidra is spread over 12 wards and Cidra Pueblo (The downtown area and the administrative center of the city). Cidra is known as La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera (City of Eternal Spring).

History Cidra was founded in 1809. Geography and Topography • Lakes: Cidra • Ravines: Bocana & Galindo • Rivers: Río Arroyata, Río Bayamón & Río de la Plata

Economy Agriculture Agriculture (citrics) Industry Apparel and pharmaceuticals.

Landmarks and places of interest • Frog’s Rock • Hamacas’ Bridge

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72 December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly

Comes from page 71 • Iberia Theater • Lake Cidra • Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish • Perico’s Waterfall • Treasure Island Hotel

Festivals and events • Myrna Vázquez Week - February • Matron Festivities - July • Paloma Sabanera Festival - November

The climate in the Cidra area is ideal for the cultivation of the Poinsettia, know as the Christmas Flower.

Sabanera Dove


he Plain Pigeon (Columba inornata) was listed as endangered in Puerto Rico in 1970. During 1986–1992 and 1997–2001, we collected point transect survey data to estimate density, population size, and rate of change. Density and population size estimates increased between 1986–1992 and 1997–2001. With a mean density of 0.25 ± 0.06 SE individuals/ha and a mean population size in the area of the surveys of 3,746 ± 892 SE individuals during 1997–2001, we believe that the status of the Plain Pigeon is not as precarious as it was during 1986–1992, when mean density was 0.02 ± 0.003 SE individuals/ha and mean population size in the area of the surveys was 218 ± 42 SE individuals. However, Plain Pigeons are not widely distributed and the loss and fragmentation of second growth forests combined with the effects of hurricanes and other factors may cause their extinction. Because Plain Pigeons have a spatially clumped distribution, we recommend sampling at least 1,195 points during peak nesting activity (March through June) throughout the island, with at least 526 points covering areas of abundance in eastcentral Puerto Rico, to monitor population changes and evaluate the effectiveness of management actions.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Argentina’s Napa Valley By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO


HE sunlight sliced through the clear glass of the gazebo-like restaurant at Familia Zuccardi, one of dozens of wineries located in the small town of Maipú, just outside the city of Mendoza, Argentina. The purple-red malbec and torrontés grapevines glistened in the early afternoon sun. Inside, a waitress poured us chardonnay as bread sticks and an appetizer of ham ravioli arrived. She brought a different chardonnay for the cannelloni filled with sweetbread. Then a hearty malbec, Argentina’s signature wine, accompanied the main course of baby goat rolls filled with sun-dried tomatoes and aubergine. For the apple with cardamom soup, oak ice cream and goat cheese — the “predessert” on this tasting menu — a sweet white wine cleared the palate. Then one more malbec appeared for the dessert of yerba mate foam with grapefruit and orange caviar. After getting up from the table, more than a little lightheaded, we passed through a courtyard where visitors had put their feet up and were sipping tea while reading books amid the chirping birds and warm sun peeking through the trees. No one seemed in any rush to leave. Such is winery-hopping in Mendoza — Latin America’s largest winemaking region. Situated some 600 miles west of Buenos Aires, the province is home to more than 800 wineries, about 100 of which actively receive tourists. And as Argentine wine exports continue to grow by 25 percent a year, this 57,000-square-mile area is drawing not only more tourists, but also vintners, who see in Mendoza the same charm and potential that propelled more established wine regions decades ago.

“Mendoza is Napa 30 or 40 years ago,” said Michael Evans, a former Democratic campaign strategist from Washington, D.C., who moved to Mendoza six years ago to go into the wine business. But while money is pouring in, charming hotels are popping up, and wineries are going all-out architecturally, Mendoza

remains very much an old-world experience. In the course of two visits over the past two years (the most recent in May), I found that days can easily turn into a week driving along dusty roads, knocking on winery doors and indulging in lunches that never seem to end. Mendoza and wine have been intricately intertwined since the 1550s when Spanish settlers brought vineyard cuttings from Chile’s Central Valley to what are now the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan. Just a few years later a provincial governor, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, instructed a French agronomist to bring grapevine cuttings from France. Argentina can thank him for its original malbecs, the robust red wines that are such perfect accompaniments to the country’s beef-heavy diet and which have become synonymous with its wine exports in the past decade. New winemaking expertise arrived in

the 1800s with the first wave of European immigrants, many escaping a phylloxera epidemic that had ravaged vineyards in their homelands. After an earthquake in 1861 that killed at least 5,000 people, the city of Mendoza was rebuilt with large squares and wider streets and sidewalks to help resist future earthquake damage. Today those refinements, especially the sprawling plaza with its colorful fountain, lend the place a grand and stately feel. In the decades that followed the quake, Mendoza developed into a center for winemaking and olive oil production, with its wine gaining fame in the early 1900s when winemakers began exporting it during the country’s economic boom. But when the country fell on harder economic times, foreign investment dried up and so did the quality of Argentine wine. Things began to turn around in the 1990s, when the winemaker Nicolás Catena, scion of the Catena Zapata winery, pioneered the modern malbec. After a stint as an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, he returned to Argentina in the early 1980s and began planting vines at different altitudes, up to almost 5,000 feet above sea level, and took advantage of microclimates that allow for more varied blends. More recently, millions of dollars in foreign capital have been flowing in from around the globe, with investors attracted by the relatively cheap land and a healthier Argentine economy. They are both buying vineyards outright and pumping life into traditional family operations. Kendall Jackson and Moët & Chandon have facilities there. But still, while its wineries are fortified with state-of-the-art technology and its visitor centers rival any in Napa Valley, it remains a region where the slow pace and rustic backdrop recall an earlier age. First-time visitors to Mendoza hoping to sample lots of wines are often disappointed to learn how far apart the wineries are and how limited their hours can be. Visiting four or five wineries in a weekend is an ambitious agenda, which is why I strongly urge staying longer. There are several ways to approach the visit. My girlfriend and I stayed in the city of Mendoza. With a population of

110,000, it has wonderful restaurants along with places to stay that range from boutique hotels to chains like the Park Hyatt and the Sheraton. Outside the city, many wineries also have inns on the premises, offering everything from simple rooms to luxurious hideaways with access to horses and golf. If you stay in Mendoza, however, you will need a car to visit the wineries. You can rent one or do what we did, which is to hire a taxi for multiple day trips at about $100 a day. We found that our driver, with a cellphone full of winery numbers, was invaluable in making the most of our time there. Most of the better wineries are located 30 minutes to two hours from downtown Mendoza, so planning is critical. (Also, some of the larger wineries require reservations.) If time is tight, choose a handful of the wineries recommended by local sommeliers and wander at leisure at each for half a day. Or stay in one of the smaller rural towns like Maipú, Godoy Cruz or Luján de Cuyo, with quaint inns and spectacular mountain views, and concentrate on wineries clustered nearby. While driving is still the easiest option, a 7.75-mile light rail connecting some of the nearby towns to Mendoza, including Godoy Cruz and Maipú, is scheduled to begin operation in the first half of 2011. And tour companies are expanding their range of services. You can organize a bicycle tour with companies like DuVine Adventures to visit four or five small wineries in a day. As the day progresses, however, safety does become an issue. “Everyone says it’s fun in the beginning but it becomes complicated at the end when the bike starts to sway from one side to the other,” said Fernando Szczurowski, a sommelier at Azafrán, a restaurant in downtown Mendoza. We set out with a driver one morning armed with the names of a few wineries suggested by the hotel. The sun was blindingly bright. Mendoza is arid, with northern Arizona-like days of temperatures that can reach 90 degrees in the summer and plummet to 50 at night. Our first stop was at Belasco de Baquedano, in Luján de Cuyo, about a 25-minute drive from the city. We passed through

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Comes from page 73 the stately gates and drove down a long dirt driveway stretching between the vineyards that ended at the massive front door of a modern, five-story Mayan-style building. The 222-acre vineyard, whose malbec vines turned 100 years old this year, is an example of those that have benefited from the foreign dollars pouring in over the last decade — in particular, the Belasco family of Spain, which owns four wineries there and expanded to Mendoza to make Argentine malbec. The winery boasts modern conveniences like mechanical steam barrel washers and gravity-driven grape delivery from sorting table to tank. The visitor center opened in January of 2008. A young Argentine woman greeted us at the entrance and led us and another small group on a detailed tour, free of charge, of the modern facility, with its red lacquered concrete floors and shiny stainless steel tanks. The highlight was an “aroma room” where we were able to sample 46 fragrances used to infuse the wines with everything from mint to mushroom to geranium. We ended our visit at a tasting lounge with a wood bar framed by large paintings of Argentine landscapes. Later we made our way to Familia Zuccardi for our spectacular lunch. It was so good, in fact, that we returned at day’s end to experience their tasting room, where a pleasant sommelier from Britain with dreams of becoming a winemaker awed us with his knowledge of Argentine malbecs. We ended up buying a few bottles, along with some house olive oil. One of the vineyards we most wanted to visit was that of Catena Zapata, as it produced some of the wines we had grown to love at home in Brazil. Getting a tour, however, proved difficult. On our first trip, a long weekend, we learned that it was closed on Sundays, when many Mendocinos spend the day barbecuing with their families. On our second trip, a driver called on a Friday afternoon and was told that the tours were all full. Ultimately we decided to drive over and try our luck. After explaining that I was a journalist working on an article, we were allowed in. We drove along the broad road leading up to the winery’s main building, designed like a yellow Mayan temple and finished in 2001. The snowcapped Andes loomed in the background. Inside, we joined a group of about

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December. 2 - 8, 2010

eight on a tour that included a movie — with English subtitles — telling the story of Mr. Catena’s forefather Nicola Catena, who sailed to Argentina from Italy in 1898. We were also able to peek down into the steel vats containing the wine, and at one point one of the winemakers politely stopped to answer a few of the visitors’ questions. Tours are free and include a glass of wine. Tastings are 40 to 60 pesos ($10 to $15.50, at 3.88 pesos to the dollar). We tasted two or three wines for about 40 pesos, the most expensive tasting we encountered on our two trips. I bought a bottle of Angelica Zapata malbec 2006 for 180 pesos, about 25 percent less than what it costs in Brazil, which has high import taxes on wine. (Duty-free is still a better deal than the winery.) The next day, with many wineries shut down for a holiday, we decided to take a break from our wine travels. We climbed in a hotel cab and drove about two hours out of the city and into the Andes to the sprawling Termas Cacheuta, a hotel and spa that features outdoor thermal pools of differing temperatures. Tourists can visit for a day or stay overnight at the inn and partake of massages and a diverse buffet that includes mouthwatering warm bread and cheeses. It’s a great way to detox. We stayed for the day and returned to Mendoza that afternoon. That night we dressed up a bit and headed out to Godoy Cruz, a small winemaking town about a half-hour from Mendoza, to visit 1884, a restaurant owned by the Argentine chef and grilling expert Francis Mallmann. A collaboration between Mr. Mallmann and Mr. Catena, 1884 is set inside the Escorihuela winery, where diners can eat — weather permitting — in a charming candle-lit courtyard. We were not overly impressed with our pasta dishes — mine was a fairly pedestrian fettuccine with shrimp — but we were amazed by the wine cellar filled with 600 different Argentine labels. On Sunday, the third day of our second trip, we took another suggestion from our hotel and headed to Salentein winery in the Uco Valley, about an hour away from Mendoza. With hulking doors and clean, modern European lines, it reminded me of the Tate Modern in London. It even has an airy art gallery inside the winery featuring Dutch and Argentine painters (it is owned by Dutch investors) and sculptors like Jorge Gamarra. A glass elevator takes visitors from the ground floor to a lower level filled

with stainless steel and oak barrels, which locals have dubbed “the Bat Cave.” We ate an unmemorable lunch while enjoying memorable views in the winery’s large restaurant, and bought a malbec and two bottles of a pinot noir we liked from our tasting. Our driver shuttled us just down the road from the winery’s main building to show us the peaceful, 16-room Salentein inn set amid manicured lawns and malbec vines. That night we went back to one of our favorite restaurants in Mendoza. On our first trip we had become enchanted with Azafrán, a few blocks off the main square, which specializes in local cuisine with an international twist. The thick wood tables, vintage checkered floors and wall lined with spices gave us the sense that we were in a French countryside bistro. Before selecting our main course, Mr. Szczurowski, the sommelier, accompanied us to the extensive cellar and wine store, which features some 450 labels, and discussed our tastes, encouraging us to match the wine to our food. We selected a malbec and started with the house specialty, a platter of smoked cheeses and meats. I ordered a young lamb cooked with caramelized onions. The restaurant is best known for its red tuna. On the last night of our trip we stopped by again, this time to have a light dinner of just the cheese and meat platter, a salad and a glass of chardonnay. Then we walked a few blocks to the Hyatt, where to our surprise we discovered one of Mendoza’s best wine bars near the pool. In a project indicative of the money and innovation currently flooding the area, Mr. Evans, the American campaign strategist, and Pablo Giménez Riili, a Mendoza winemaker, started an Argentine-American company called Vines of Mendoza in an effort to broaden the possibilities of wine tourism in the region. Vines of Mendoza selects 100 of the best wines from the region and brings them to the tasting room and vinoteca it has created at the Hyatt so that visitors, especially tourists, can sample a large number of Argentine wines in one place without having to go to each and every winery. Another initiative is creating a sort of winery co-op, in which 85 international investors will share in the expenses (and pro-

fits) of a vineyard. The partners also plan to open a small boutique resort later this year very near the vineyards, where guests will be able to ride horses and crush grapes during the harvest. In a comparison suggesting that the languid pace of Mendoza might not always be the only way to experience the region, Mr. Evans had one final comment: “The vision is to create an experience that is a little closer to what you might experience in Napa, but with an Argentine flair.” IF YOU GO LODGING With its stately restored Spanish colonial facade, the Park Hyatt is one of the city’s most prestigious hotels. On the Plaza de la Independencia, it has a wine bar with more than 100 Argentine wines. Rooms with twin or king beds start at about $190; The Wine Hotels Collection Web site lists hotels at wineries around the world; One to look for is , a relaxing inn just up a gravel road from the Salentein winery. Rooms start at $150 with breakfast included; bodegasalentein. com. WHERE TO EAT One excellent choice in the city of Mendoza is Azafrán, a few blocks from the Plaza de la Independencia. A wine cellar/shop offers 450 wines. Main dishes are about 20 to 40 pesos, or about $5 to $10 at 3.88 pesos to the dollar. Reservations recommended; On one side of the main Plaza de la Independencia is Francesco Barbera, a traditional Italian restaurant surrounded by tranquil gardens. Main dishes are about 50 to 80 pesos. Reservations recommended; Outside the city, Familia Zuccardi winery features a seven-course tasting menu with six glasses of wine for 180 pesos, and a three-course regional menu for 160 pesos. Reservations recommended; Inside the Escorihuela winery in nearby Godoy Cruz, the restaurant 1884 boasts 600 wines and specializes in grilled meats. Main courses are about 80 to 160 pesos. Open for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended;

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


F.D.I.C. Says Hundreds of Small Lenders Still at Risk By ERIC DASH


ven as the nation’s biggest banks have rapidly recovered, hundreds of small lenders remain at risk of collapse, according to the government’s latest report card on the financial industry. The Federal Deposit Insurance Commission said Tuesday that the its list of so-called “problem banks” — those with the highest risk of failing — has grown to 860 from 829, or nearly one in nine lenders. Most are small community banks, saddled by bad real estate loans. Not all of those banks are destined to fail, but officials reiterated that they expected the number to peak later this year. So far, the agency has shuttered more than 149 banks in 2010, with about 41 closing in the third quarter. Bank earnings, meanwhile, continue to rebound as losses appear to be stabilizing. The nation’s 7,760 banks made about $14.5 billion in profit during the third quarter, the F.D.I.C. reported, the fifth consecutive quarter that earnings have registered a year-over-year increase. Nearly

two in three banks saw an improvement in quarterly results. That was down from the $21.4 billion in the previous quarter, but much of the difference was the result of a $10.1 billion charge by Bank of America in quarter. The $14.5 billion was about $2 billion higher than the quarter a year ago. Fewer borrowers are falling behind on their loan payments, giving banks confidence to set aside the lowest amount of money since the credit crisis gathered steam in fourth quarter of 2007. And for a second quarter, the banks charged off fewer loans in nearly every category. Lending, however, remains weak. Total loans and leases were essentially flat from a year ago. And with the economy still fragile, many bankers do not expect a sharp increase anytime soon. Still, Sheila C. Bair, the F.D.I.C. chairwoman, said she was cautiously optimistic about her outlook for the nation’s 7,760 banks. “The industry has come a long way in cleaning up balance sheets, building capital, and adjusting to changes in financial markets and the economy,” she

said. “But the adjustments are not over, and this is no time for complacency.” But Ms. Bair cautioned the industry about getting ahead of itself too soon by ratcheting down the reserves it had previously set aside to cushion against losses. Although almost 60 percent of the nation’s banks increased their reserves in the third quarter, 9 out of the 10 largest institutions sharply lowered them. “At this point in the credit cycle, it is too early for institutions to be reducing reserves without strong evidence of sustainable, improving loan performance and loss rates,” Ms. Bair warned in the statement. “When it comes to the adequacy of reserves, institutions should always err on the side of caution.” Regulators have cited the banks’ ultra-thin reserves in the early days of the crisis as a major factor exacerbating the industry’s troubles, and are eager to avoid a repeat. The nation’s 19 biggest banks are currently undergoing a new round of stress tests to determine their ability to absorb a protracted downturn in the economy.

With so many banks failing, the deposit insurance fund has been severely depleted. At the end of September, it carried a negative balance of $8 billion, up from a negative balance of $15.2 billion in the second quarter. The insurance fund is in better shape than such numbers might suggest, however. Officials have estimated that bank failures would drain about $100 billion from the fund from 2009 through 2013. But of that amount, about $80 billion in losses were recognized last year or projected for 2010. By that math, the agency is expecting an additional $20 billion of losses over the next three years. F.D.I.C. officials said they hope to recoup those costs through higher premium fees and a special assessment imposed last September. Still, Ms. Bair said the agency had ample resources. “While we expect demands on cash to continue,” Ms. Bair said, our projection indicate that our current resources are more than enough to resolve anticipated failures and meet outstanding obligations for banks that have already failed.

U.S. Home Sales Fell Sharply in October By DAVID STREITFELD


ousing sales plunged again in October, dropping 26 percent from the month a year ago, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. While severe, the decline was anticipated. Buyers rushed beginning last fall to conclude deals so they could qualify for an $8,000 tax credit and that pulled sales forward from the winter. This fall had no such incen-

tive, and despite the lowest interest rates in decades, buyers shunned the market, agents and analysts said. “Nothing’s selling,” said Mark Fleming, an analyst with the data firm CoreLogic. “People aren’t buying houses. Period.” October sales dropped 2.2 percent from September. One factor apparently weighing on some buyers was the uproar surrounding foreclosures. Several major banks suspended the processing of foreclosures under pressure du-

ring October. In some cases, buyers for foreclosed homes were told they had to postpone their deals. That helped reduce the sales of foreclosed homes, which have been declining anyway. About 4.43 million homes were sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis in October, compared with nearly 6 million in October 2009. The tax credit was extended late last year through the spring, which saw another burst of activity. Then came July and a sharp

drop. Sales fell 26 percent from July 2009 to an annualized rate of 3.84 million, the lowest level in 14 years. The Midwest was the region hit the hardest in October, falling nearly a third below the level of a year ago. The West fared best, dropping 21 percent. It would take 10.5 months to sell all the homes on the market now, down from 10.6 months in September, the Realtor’s group said. A normal house market has about half that level of inventory.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Viewers May Be Willing to Watch More Ads Online. Lots More. By BRIAN STELTER


IEWERS of television shows on the Web have grown accustomed to 15and 30-second commercial breaks — a fraction of the time given for commercials on traditional TV. Would they accept TV-style ad loads? “It’s a million-dollar question,” said Jack Wakshlag, the chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting, the parent of TNT and TBS. He says the answer is yes. Research conducted by Turner suggested that programmers could surround the online streams of shows with even more ads than TV broadcasts have. Regardless of the ad load, Mr. Wakshlag said in an interview, “people will spend approximately the same amount of time watching episodes online.” The research comes at a pivotal time for programmers like Turner, which would like to extend TV-style ad loads to the Internet. Turner and others are slowly extending their programs to the Internet for existing cable and satellite subscribers only, a concept sometimes called TV Everywhere. Heavier ad loads and restricted access will go a long way toward brin-

ging TV on the computer in line with TV on the living room set. To conduct the test of online viewers’ behavior, Turner randomly assigned three sets of anonymous visitors to and tbs. com to a specially built video player. There, the first set was shown about a minute of ads an episode; the second was shown 8 to 10 minutes of ads; and the third was shown 16 to 20 minutes. Viewers of 30-minute TBS sitcoms like “Meet the Browns” watched, on average, 40 percent of the episode, including the ads, if there was one minute of ads and 37 percent of the episode if there were 16 minutes of ads. Viewers of hourlong TNT shows like “Memphis Beat” watched 59 percent of the episode if there were one minute 15 seconds of ads, and 49 percent of the episode if there was 20 minutes of ads. Mr. Wakshlag’s takeaway was that viewers watched, on average, for the same number of minutes no matter how many ads were embedded within. Indeed, the Turner research highlighted one of the oddities of online TV viewing: viewers often do not watch an entire episode, just as they channel-surf while on the couch. Turner also found that the commercial retention rate for online video was

higher than for traditional television. Mr. Wakshlag said the research, which was done in concert with Magna Global, affirmed that people would trade ad exposure for access to programming. The CW network has reached the same conclusions in a real-world test. CW, the home of “Gossip Girl” and “The Vampire Diaries,” announced last spring that it would increase its ad load on, and since then, it has reported gains in video viewing and visitor retention. According to the measurement firm comScore, the Web site averaged 57 minutes of video viewing (a total of ads and content) per visitor in September, up 140 percent from the same month in 2009. Some in the television industry continue to proselytize for fewer but better ads. Hulu, the dominant Web site for free TV viewing, notes on its Web site that it has about one-fourth the ad load of traditional TV, and that advertisers pay a premium to be in its less cluttered environment. One of Hulu’s principles, as expressed by its chief executive, Jason Kilar, is, “When it comes to the amount of advertising, lighten up.” In an address at the industry conference NewTeeVee Live this month, Mr. Kilar compared the four minu-

tes of ads on the half-hour “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in the 1950s with the eight minutes of ads when NBC broadcasts “The Office” now, and said, “Where we are today is not the ideal balance.” Hulu has been at the fore of coming up with ad products that give viewers more options to, for example, select among three types of commercials by a car company. Still, some Hulu users have noticed an uptick in the number of ads being streamed lately, perhaps evincing the complex calculations that are under way in the industry to increase ad loads and, in doing so, increase revenue for media companies. Asked about the recent uptick in ads, a Hulu spokeswoman reiterated that the site had “less than half” the ads compared with “what is found on traditional TV.” The company said the lighter ad load and the tailoring efforts had “resulted in the advertising spots on Hulu being measured as at least 55 percent more effective than the same ads in traditional channels.” The ads on Web sites like, and will continue to be better customized. But if this year’s tests indicate anything, it is that there will also be more of them.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


Fed Adopts Political Tactics on Critics By SEWELL CHAN


aced with unusually sharp ideological attacks after its latest bid to stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve now faces a challenge far removed from the conduct of monetary policy: how to defend itself in a hyperpartisan environment without becoming overtly political. Caught off guard by accusations from Congressional Republicans, Sarah Palin, Tea Party activists and conservative economists, the central bank and its chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, are pushing back, making their case on substantive grounds but also haltingly adopting the tactics of Washington battle, like strategically placed interviews, behind-the-scenes assuaging of opponents and reaching out to potential allies on Capitol Hill. The stakes are high. Last week, one House conservative announced legislation to strip the Fed of its mandate to promote jobs and have it focus solely on containing inflation. The attacks, coupled with criticism from foreign officials, have introduced enough uncertainty into global financial markets to potentially undercut the Fed’s plan to drive down interest rates, which rise or fall as investors anticipate Fed action. Since the Nov. 3 announcement, Treasury yields have risen as the bond markets seemed to be doing what they normally never dare do: fight the Fed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, at 2.67 percent on Nov. 3, fell to 2.53 percent on Nov. 5. But then came a reversal that caught traders by surprise. The yield was up to 2.92 percent by Nov. 15, before falling slightly, to 2.80 percent on Monday. Behind the scenes, Mr. Bernanke has signaled that he is steadfast on the Fed’s plan to buy $600 billion of government securities through June in an unorthodox effort to push down long-term interest rates and spur the anemic recovery. In doing so he is trying to make clear to the markets that the Fed will not reverse course unless there

is a compelling reason to do so, like a big increase in inflation expectations or a sharp rise in commodity prices. Whether the uptick in yields represents genuine market anxiety about the Fed’s inflation-fighting commitments, or the fact that the Fed’s policy has already been effective at accelerating the recovery, the attacks are a distraction and could hurt the Fed’s ability to set policy. “That is certainly the effect of Congressional criticism,” Alan Greenspan, Mr. Bernanke’s predecessor, said. Mr. Bernanke, who unlike Mr. Greenspan shuns the Washington social circuit, lacks close ties to conservative Republicans, even though he was first appointed by President George W. Bush and served briefly as his top economic adviser. But lately he has stepped up his outreach, meeting with members of the Senate Banking Committee and explaining the Nov. 3 decision in an opinion-page article and a speech. But the efforts have only had partial success. After meeting with Mr. Bernanke on Wednesday, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Banking Committee, said, “The bottom line is that the Fed is attempting to spur job growth because the Obama administration has done so much to inhibit it.” Fed officials concede that they left an opening for their detractors by timing their latest move — the decision to resume the asset-purchase strategy known as quantitative easing — for the day after the midterm elections. Operating outside the political calendar, the Fed’s policy-making committee had long planned to convene Nov. 2 for two days. The Fed had signaled its intentions to the markets. Starting in August, when it hinted that the recovery was so weak as to require additional support, stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell in anticipation of the Fed’s announcement. But Mr. Bernanke and other top officials, unaccustomed to partisan considera-

tions, did not anticipate the political fallout. “The fact that immediately after an election which was a historic rejection of American liberalism and the borrowing and the spending and the bailout agenda of the recent past, for the central bank, for the Federal Reserve, to unilaterally announce $600 billion in printed money going into the economy, I think is at odds with the goals of the American people,” said Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who is the chairman of the House Republican Conference and has ties to the Tea Party. Mr. Pence introduced legislation that would strip the Fed of one of its two legally mandated goals — promoting maximum employment — and have it focus on fighting inflation and preserving the value of the dollar. Mr. Bernanke has relied on two aides, Michelle A. Smith, his chief of staff and spokeswoman, and Linda L. Robertson, a former lobbyist for Enron and Johns Hopkins, to manage his political messaging. Both worked at the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration and have had experience handling crises, though they probably could not have foreseen the intensity of the storm the Fed kicked up. President Obama, who nominated Mr. Bernanke to a second term, has defended the Fed’s actions in the face of international criticism. The Fed has taken criticism over the recession and Wall Street bailouts, but in the financial overhaul this year, it helped defeat proposals to strip away its power to regulate and supervise banks. Mr. Bernanke, who had thought the worst was behind him, was unsettled by the suddenness of the recent attacks. He has said that the Fed was in a no-win situation; if it had not acted, it would have been criticized for ignoring the painfully slow pace of the recovery. The situation forms an odd corollary to the early 1980s, when Mr. Greenspan’s predecessor, Paul A. Volcker, sharply rai-

sed interest rates, setting off back-to-back recessions in a painful but effective war on inflation. Liberals attacked Mr. Volcker, a Democrat, as an inflation-fighting zealot who disregarded the plight of the unemployed. Now conservatives are portraying Mr. Bernanke, a Republican, as trying too hard to stimulate growth and underestimating the risk of inflation. Several veterans of the Bush administration signed an open letter to Mr. Bernanke last week, saying the program should be “reconsidered and discontinued.” They included John B. Taylor, a former Treasury under secretary, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional budget director. The letter was the work of a new group, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st Century, led by Christopher Papagianis, a former Bush aide. Its chief supporters include David R. Malpass, who was a Treasury official in the Reagan administration, and Paul E. Singer, a hedge fund manager and prolific Republican donor. Mr. Bernanke faces at least two years of scrutiny by a Republican-controlled House; the chairman of a subcommittee that oversees the Fed is likely to be Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian who wants to abolish the central bank. “The Federal Reserve’s decisions are appropriately debated in the public forum and the Fed should explain and be held accountable for them,” said Donald L. Kohn, who retired this year as the Fed’s vice chairman. “But I have the sense that this is being turned into a partisan issue and that is worrisome to me.” Mr. Kohn added, “The verbiage has gotten intense and extreme — out of line, in my view, with the decision itself.” Mr. Greenspan, who recently suggested that the Fed was weakening the dollar, expressed sympathy for his successor. “The Fed in recent years has been facing far greater policy challenges than I, or my colleagues, had to confront during the whole of my tenure,” he said.

Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter By CATHERINE RAMPELL


he nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever. American businesses brought in $1.66 trillion at an annual rate in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms. Corporate profits have been going gangbusters for a while. Since their cyclical low

in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history. This breakneck pace can be partly attributed to strong productivity growth — which means companies have been able to make more with less — as well as the fact that some of the profits of American companies come from abroad. Economic conditions in the United States may still be sluggish, but many emerging markets like India and China are expanding rapidly. Tuesday’s Commerce Department report also showed that the nation’s output

grew at a slightly faster pace than originally estimated last quarter. Its growth rate, of 2.5 percent a year in inflation-adjusted terms, is higher than the initial estimate of 2 percent. The economy grew at 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter. Still, most economists say the current growth rate is far too slow to recover the considerable ground lost during the recession. “The economy is not growing fast enough to reduce significantly the unemployment rate or to prevent a slide into deflation,” Paul Dales, a United States econo-

mist for Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients. “This is unlikely to change in 2011 or 2012.” The increase in output in the third quarter was driven primarily by stronger consumer spending. Private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, exports and federal government also grew. Growth in these areas was partially offset by a rise in imports, which are subtracted from the total output numbers the government calculates, and a decline in housing and other residential fixed investments.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

India’s Next Steps: Looking for a Stable Public Sector By EDWARD L. GLAESER Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard.


recent telecommunications scandal in India, which has enmeshed even that country’s once irreproachable prime minister, Manmohan Singh, reminds us that the Asian Miracle is not a done deal. Longterm prosperity doesn’t depend on just private energy and entrepreneurship, which India has in abundance, but also on a reasonable, competent, honest public sector. The great Asian economies of India and China are currently the hot engines of world growth, but their growth is unlikely to be durable unless their governments evolve into stable, well-functioning democracies. India’s 2G Spectrum scandal is pretty tame stuff relative to the great scandals of history, but it does seem to have cost Indian taxpayers billions. The 2G Spectrum, part of the band of frequencies used for wireless telecommunications, was given away on a first-come, first-serve basis to telecommunications companies at significantly below-market prices. The official auditor estimates that this approach cost India’s treasury $12.8 billion to $40 billion relative to a transparent auction. The communications minister who authorized the allocation, A. Raja, has resigned. Mr. Singh has not been accused of any wrongdoing but has been criticized for failing to act decisively. Giving away public assets at belowmarket value is one of the classic methods of political corruption. In the 19th century, city councils gave streetcar magnates, like

Charles Yerkes — the model for Theodore Dreiser’s antihero Frank Cowperwood in “The Financier” — century-long rights to public space at no cost. Well, at least no official cost. Mr. Yerkes supposedly spent a million dollars in bribes to clinch the deal. More recently, political power helped determine access to America’s airwaves. Lyndon Johnson’s millions came from his wife’s success in radio and television, which, as Robert A. Caro wrote in The New Yorker, may have resulted from favoritism by the Federal Communications Commission to one of America’s most powerful politicians. The 2G Spectrum scandal is remarkable both in its financial size, and because it has enmeshed the prime minister himself. According to an India Syndicate poll that was posted on MSN News, a majority of Indian voters seem to believe that “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to intervene in the 2G spectrum allotment by A. Raja, fearing a backlash” from Mr. Raja’s political party — which is a significant part of India’s ruling coalition. Anything that taints Mr. Singh is important, because he is a man of remarkable accomplishment and apparently the highest integrity, who has long reassured outside investors and Indians alike that someone reliable sits at the apex of the Indian political establishment. Given how much I admire Mr. Singh, I fervently hope that his reputation survives this mess, but the scandal must remind us of the vast problems that still exist within India’s public sector. The Transparency International Corruption Report gave India a ranking

of 3.7 out of 10 (higher is better), which puts the county in 87th place, tied with Albania, Jamaica and Liberia. The United States was ranked 22nd, at 7.1; Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tied for first place at 9.3. Corruption is hardly the only failing of India’s public sector. The road system is often awful. The nation’s school system is wildly inadequate. Electricity is uncertain. And while Mr. Singh himself deserves enormous credit for dismantling the “License Raj,” the country remains far too regulated. The very success of the nation’s information technology sector reflects the public sector’s problems. Information technology is unusual in that it can deliver its products by satellite without relying on public infrastructure, and so its output is far less prone, relative to physical products, to public-sector holdups. Any successful Bangalore start-up that can afford its own emergency generator can manage when the public system fails. But for India to achieve broader success, it will need to move far beyond software into industries that depend more on public competence and honesty. It is easy to be impressed with the brilliant Indians who lead Infosys and Tata, and to think that the nation is bound for a great success. But there is no truly prosperous country without a stable, wellfunctioning government. India needs political change for us to be confident that its economic growth will continue. China’s success is also uncertain. At this point, the Chinese government seems both competent and progrowth, and pro-growth dictatorships have often achieved enormously high

rates of economic growth. But the economic growth rates of dictatorships vary far more than those of democracies. While China’s government looks better in many ways than India’s does today, China’s government has also done far more harm than the messy democracy in New Delhi. It is not impossible that something terrible could happen within China’s public sector in the years ahead, which could create huge costs for China — and for the United States. I believe that the Asian economic superpowers will flourish in the 21st century, and that this will be a good thing for their people and for the world. But for them to achieve durable success, they will need to have stable, well-functioning governments, and that needs more work. And for the United States to remain a superpower, it will need public-sector improvements too.

Higher Deductibles, Lower Spending By REED ABELSON


s more families find themselves enrolled in health plans with high deductibles, they are increasingly likely to delay or forgo medical care because of the out-of-pocket cost, a new study shows. The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, asked people who are in family plans with deductibles of at least $2,000 whether they have hesitated or decided against getting care because of the expense. While the researchers say they had

expected individuals who made less to think twice about spending money for their care, “we were surprised even high income families had very high levels delayed or foregone care,” said Dr. Jeffrey T. Kullgren, a primary care doctor and the lead author of the study. The researchers conducted a survey of 400 families who belonged to a highdeductible plan offered in New England. While 57 percent of low-income participants said they had delayed or went without care due to cost in the last six months, 42 percent of high-income families said they, too, had made similar de-

cisions. The real question, of course, is whether people are being more mindful of the cost of medical care when they spend their own money and avoiding the expense of care of little benefit or whether they are choosing not to go ahead with essential kinds of treatments and tests. “It’s still an open question,” said Dr. Kullgren, who pointed to numerous studies that he said suggested people are not particularly sophisticated when it comes to deciding which care is beneficial and which isn’t. Dr. Kullgren said many individuals

would like to ask their doctor about the cost of treatments and potential alternatives, but that these discussions are rarely taking place today. Even if they are asked, doctors may have no idea how much a treatment costs or where to get the best price for a test, and he and other primary-care physicians have little time to discuss these issues. “It is very difficult, if not impossible, at point of service to walk patients through these decisions,” he said. Do you think people are better and more savvy consumers when they share in the cost of their medical care?

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


After the Nuclear Plant Powers Down



welve years ago, Commonwealth Edison found itself in a bind. The Zion Station, its twinunit nuclear reactor here, was no longer profitable. But the company could not afford to tear it down: the cost of dismantling the vast steel and concrete building, with multiple areas of radioactive contamination, would exceed $1 billion, double what it had cost to build the reactors in the 1970s. Nor could Commonwealth Edison walk away from the plant, because of the contamination. The result was that Zion Station sat in limbo for more than a decade, and Commonwealth Edison, now part of Exelon, paid about $10 million a year to baby-sit the defunct reactor. Now, though, the company is trying out a radical new approach to decommissioning the plant that promises to make the process faster, simpler and 25 percent less expensive — instead of hiring a contractor, it has turned the job and the reactors over to a nuclear demolition company that owns a nuclear dump site. The cost will be covered by the $900 million that Exelon accumulated in a decommissioning fund. If the approach is successful, it could have implications for 10 other nuclear plants around the country that are waiting to be decommissioned, and for the 104 reactors that are still in operation but will eventually be torn down. It will also save money for electricity customers, who often end up paying for the cleanup of nuclear plants through their utility bills. The decommissioning operation at Zion, which began on Sept. 1, will skip one of the slowest, dirtiest and most costly parts of tearing down a nuclear plant: separating radioactive materials, which must go to a licensed dump, from

nonradioactive materials, which can go to an ordinary industrial landfill. The new idea is not to bother sorting the two. Instead, anything that could include radioactive contamination will be treated as radioactive waste. Exelon could never have done this on its own, because the fee for disposing of radioactive waste was too high. But the company has given the reactor to EnergySolutions, a conglomerate that includes companies that have long done nuclear cleanups, and which also owns a nuclear dump. “This is a first-of-a-kind arrangement,” said Adam H. Levin, director of spent fuel and decommissioning at Exelon. He added that others could do the job for less than Exelon and acknowledged, “utilities in general are not very good at tearing plants down.” Government regulations require that nuclear reactor sites be thoroughly decontaminated, so that they can be released for re-use — often a lengthy process. The plan is to return Zion’s site, in the midst of parkland on the Lake Michigan shore north of Chicago, to re-use by 2020 — 12 years earlier than expected under Exelon’s original plan, which was to begin in 2013 and finish in 2032. Any money left over from the $900 million in the plant’s decommissioning fund goes back to electricity customers in the Chicago area. On Sept. 1, Exelon transferred ownership, along with the license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to EnergySolutions, which is based in Salt Lake City. The company owns a one-squaremile area of desert about 70 miles west of there, in Clive, Utah, where most of the Zion plant is supposed to be shipped. The dump in Clive already has parts of several other defunct nuclear plants —

including Maine Yankee in Wiscasset, Me., and Yankee Rowe in Rowe, Mass. In those two cases, the reactor owners tried to sort the radioactive materials from the nonradioactive, in order to dispose of ordinary concrete and steel at recycling centers or industrial landfills. It turned out to be a costly mistake, many in the industry now say. Workers used a device like a pneumatic drill to “scabble” the concrete, knocking off the surface layer. “It got to be very, very complicated and nasty work,” said Andrew C. Kadak, a nuclear consultant who at the time was president of the company that operated Yankee Rowe. Often, he said, a survey would find that the concrete was not clean, or worse: that a tiny bit of radioactive material was mistakenly shipped to a “clean” landfill. “It’s easier to suppose everything is radioactive,” Mr. Kadak said. Sometimes a contractor hired to decommission plants would also find radioactive material in unexpected places or at unexpectedly high levels, other experts said. Crowds of workers would stand idle while the contractor sought the plant owner’s authorization to deviate from the procedures specified in the contract — a costly proposition at a site with 500 workers paid collectively “$30,000 to $50,000 an hour,” said John A. Christian, president of the Commercial Services subsidiary of EnergySolutions. At Rowe, managers finally gave up and shipped vast amounts of concrete, much of it clean, to the repository in Clive. The new plan for Zion, by far the largest nuclear power plant to be decommissioned and the first twin-unit reactor to be torn down, eliminates the relationship between contractor and owner. EnergySolutions has hardly any internal cost for burial, beyond shipping. Mark Walker, a spokesman for EnergySolutions, said that the dump could accommodate all 104 of the nation’s operating nuclear plants, “with space left over.” It could also absorb plants that are shut and awaiting decommissioning, like Indian Point 1 in Buchanan, N.Y.; Millstone 1 in Waterford, Conn.; and Three Mile Island 2, near Harrisburg, Pa., the site of the 1979 accident. Not everyone is delighted with the idea of Exelon turning the job over to EnergySolutions. Tom Rielly, the executive principal of Vista 360, a community group in

nearby Libertyville, Ill., said that with a monopoly provider of dump space also functioning as the contractor, it would be difficult to determine what was being charged for disposal and whether electricity customers were getting a good deal. But approval from utility regulators in Illinois was not required for the deal, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave its assent, so the work is going forward. EnergySolutions cannot dispose of all the waste. Clive is licensed only for the least contaminated material. And the spent nuclear fuel is in the same situation as used reactor fuel all over the country: the Energy Department is under contract to take it, but has no place to dispose of it. Until a permanent repository is built at the proposed Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada or another location, the waste will stay at the Zion site in steel and concrete casks built to last for decades. Frank Flammini, a control room operator, has worked at the Zion Station since before it shut down. The room, filled with 1970s-style dials, used to have at least six people around the clock, but on a recent afternoon he sat alone in the control room with his coffee cup, next to the one modern piece of equipment, a flat-panel display showing the temperature, water level and humidity of the room housing the spent fuel. Mr. Flammini, 54, said he was called on now and then to make sure equipment was “tagged out” so that workers could safely dismantle it. But hours go by with little to do. The parking lot of Zion is so quiet these days that the raccoons and skunks have been joined by shy species like coyote. Mr. Flammini said he knew his job here was not permanent. “It’ll get very busy for about four years, and then it’ll go away entirely,” he said.


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

CEO Interview: Richard Branson on Space Travel B

ritish billionaire and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson could see the gently curving roof line and unfinished steel shell of Spaceport America rising from the desert as his jet banked overhead. It’s in this remote part of southern New Mexico, where Branson’s dream of reaching space may soon come to fruition. Branson, the head of Virgin Group, which counts airlines, entertainment and mobile communications among its many businesses, visited recently for a tour of the spaceport and the dedication of its nearly two-mile-long runway. It’s the world’s first dedicated spaceport, which aims to become ground zero for the burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry. “This is history, we’re making it right here,” Branson, 60, told a crowd of about 800 people, including aspiring space tourists who have already paid a deposit for their chance to go into suborbital space. Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant of the taxpayerfunded $198 million spaceport. It plans to use the facility to take tourists on what will first be short hops into space. State officials want to add companies for other commercial space endeavors, such as research and payload delivery, once the spaceport’s terminal and hangar are complete next spring. Branson also has dreams of flights that would orbit the earth as well as flights that would take tourists to space hotels. After extensive rocket testing on the company’s sleek six-seater spacecraft — dubbed SpaceShipTwo, weekly flights for tourists are ex-

pected to begin in nine to 18 months. The ship looks like a small plane with wings near the rear that sweep upward. It’s designed to be carried aloft by its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, to an altitude of close to 50,000 feet. That’s when the spacecraft will be released and its rockets fired, pushing passengers back into their seats for the trip to suborbital space. At 60 feet long, SpaceShipTwo features two large windows for each passenger, one on the side and one overhead, and small thrusters that allow the two pilots to maneuver the ship once in space. The craft, designed by well-known aerospace maverick Burt Rutan, also has a unique feathering system that allows it to return to the atmosphere and glide to a landing. Tickets for SpaceShipTwo cost $200,000. The 2 1/2-hour flights will include about five minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth that until now only astronauts have been able to experience. Some 380 people have made deposits totaling more than $50 million, Virgin Galactic officials said. With his tousled blond hair, designer shades and black leather jacket, Branson has always been daring. He’s vowed to be among the first passengers, along with his parents and his two children. Ultimately he aims to get the price down so space travel is more affordable. Here are excerpts from an interview with Branson, who got the crowd clapping and dancing for several minutes as WhiteKnightTwo circled overhead and made a surprise landing — it’s first on the

new spaceport runway. Q: At what point did you consider space travel and think, ‘Hey this is something I want to invest in, this is going to be something’? A: I went searching for engineers and technicians who could build a spaceship. I wouldn’t have done it unless I could find the genius who could make our dreams become a reality, and Burt Rutan was the genius who made all of this possible. Having spent time with him, I decided he was the person to build a spaceship that could well revolutionize spaceship travel. So that was the key that made us decide to go ahead. Q: So it’s always been a dream for you? A: Ever since I saw the moon landing as a young teenager, I was determined I would go into space one day. Because governments ran space travel, I soon realized they weren’t really interested in you or me going to space. So I decided I would never have the chance to go into space unless I hurried up and created our own spaceline. So about a year from now, I can finally be able to fulfill my own personal dream. Q: What do you think it will feel like? A: I think the most breathtaking thing about being in space is actually looking back at the Earth. We do have a beautiful Earth still, one that is fragile and one that we need to protect. Every single astronaut who has come back from space comes back determined to do more to protect it. But also from creating something like this, other dreams become possible. From this, we’re dreaming about orbital travel, we’re trying to make that dream a reality. We’re dreaming about putting up a

Virgin hotel in space one day, we’ll try to make that a reality too. We’re dreaming about intercontinental travel at a fraction of the time it currently takes and using our engineers and technicians to try to make that become a reality. So unless you dream, nothing will happen. If you dream, you might be able to make your dreams come true. Q: Some people talk about this being pie in the sky. Tell us how close we really are to reaching the goals the commercial space industry is talking about? A: People are beginning to believe now. I think the drop flight (the first time SpaceShipTwo glided to a landing during a test in early October), which went so beautifully, made people sit up and realize this is really a reality. The next stage is to start flying the spaceship into space with rocket tests and that’s months away now so we really are getting close to being able to say commercial spaceship travel is a reality. Q: What role do you see for yourself in helping to propel commercial space travel? A: It takes a team of people with different skill sets to make these things happen. Burt was the engineer and technician, and hopefully what we’ve done is manage to make it all possible by helping create the spaceport, creating the Virgin spaceship line and finding the money to make it all a reality. Also by using our commercial aviation skills to bring astronauts on board and our design skills to make the crafts look like sexy beasts, and finding the right people to create a spaceport that’s going to be the sexiest spaceport in the world — the only spaceport in the world.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


The Hunt for Jobs Sends the Irish Abroad, Again



ntoinette Shields had a plan to keep her tall, blueeyed son, Kevin, close at hand. When she took over her boss’s construction company in 2002, she hoped to retire at 55 and give her son the business. But it is not working out that way. Mrs. Shields’s company, which once employed 26 people, is now down to 8, still afloat in Ireland’s collapsed economy, but barely. Though Kevin graduated from college two weeks ago, she has no work for him, and he expects to emigrate to the United States or Canada next year. “That is where we are,” Mrs. Shields said. “Sad, isn’t it?” Just three years ago as Ireland’s economy boomed, immigrants poured in so fast that experts said this tiny country of 4.5 million was on its way to reaching population levels not seen since before the great potato famine of the mid19th century. The conditions that prompted the Irish statesman Éamon de Valera to express the hope that Ireland’s children would no longer “like our cattle, be brought up for export” seemed like quaint history. That has abruptly turned around. As this country struggles with its newest financial crisis, and the European Union and the International Monetary Fund prepared a bailout package that is likely to run into the tens of billions of dollars, Ireland seems set to watch yet another generation scatter across the globe to escape desperate times. Many are headed to Australia, where a mining boom has produced construction jobs in the western part of the country. But others are going to Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Britain and even the Middle East or Asia. Mrs. Shields, who lives in Carlingford, a village about 48 miles north of Dublin, said she knew a number of parents whose children were already gone. The parents gather at the local golf club “trying to take strength from each other,” she said. Experts say about 65,000 people left Ireland last year, and some estimate that the number may be more like 120,000 this year. At first, most of those leaving were immigrants returning home to Central Europe. But increasingly, the experts say, it is the Irish themselves who are heading out — unsure that they will ever come home. “Things totally flipped in a very short time,” said Edgar Morgenroth, an economist with the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. “And if you don’t want to

go, it can be quite painful.” Those left behind say it is hard for them, too. Cónán Ó Broin, 23, who works for the Union of Students in Ireland, said the sendoffs in his hometown, Clondalkin, were now so frequent that everyone knew the drill, assembling at a pub for a final round of drinks. “We call the parties Irish wakes,” said Mr. Ó Broin, whose two best friends left for Australia this year, after nine months without work. “It’s pretty bad. It really affects you.” Ireland’s economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession. Signs of the downturn are everywhere. Dublin’s main shopping area is full of for-rent signs and handwritten posters in store windows advertising special one-day sales. Mr. Morgenroth sits in his office overlooking an almost vacant office complex. Some of those emigrating are desperate for a paycheck. Others are just disgusted that Ireland should find itself in such a state, and they fear they will be paying for years — with tax increases and pay cuts — for a mess they did not create. Bernard McNerney, 25, who has a job, said he would leave next year to teach English in South Korea and see where life took him after that. “I don’t want to be here with everyone complaining and people in a genuinely bad way,” he said. The latest moves to shore up Ireland’s economy follow more than two years of harsh austerity measures by the government. Taxes have been raised and salaries cut for nurses, professors and other public workers by up to 20 percent. This month, the government announced that an additional $6 billion would need to be cut from the budget next year. Some economist argue that emigration can be a useful safety valve in hard times, reducing the numbers of the unemployed and avoiding the debilitating effects of longterm unemployment. In fact, the number of Irish signing up for unemployment benefits dropped about 3 percent last month. The government pointed to the change as a sign of an improving economy. But opposition parties quickly disputed that analysis, saying the change was really caused by emigration. And there are risks, too, that Ireland’s best and brightest — the very people who could help turn things around — are leaving. Edwina Shanahan, the marketing manager of Visafirst, a company that helps emigrants settle abroad, said there might be some truth to this. “A lot of the countries giving visas are quite choosy,” she said. “You need to be highly qualified and have recent job experience to get into Australia. They are getting the best among us.” Orla Neary and Joseph Rice decided to move to Australia three months ago, when they realized it could be years before they could afford their own home. Mr. Rice, 25, is in training to become an electrician, but he

would have trouble getting his license here — there are so few jobs that he cannot log the required hours. His brother has won awards as an electrician, and even he cannot find work, Mr. Rice said. Ms. Neary, 22, just finished her training as a midwife. But because of austerity measures the national health system is unlikely to hire anyone soon. She takes temporary work when she can get it. Some weeks, she will get called to cover for three shifts. But other weeks, none. “Things here are not going anyplace,” Mr. Rice said recently. “This place is just stuck.” Ireland experienced its sharpest population drop during the 19th-century potato famine when the population dropped sharply from 6.5 million. More than a million people emigrated, and another million died. But there have been other waves of emigration during economic downturns in the 1930s, the 1950s and the 1980s. While most emigrants plan to return someday, most of those early emigrants never did. But people who left in the 1980s did come back in the 1990s, encouraged by the Irish government. Ireland benefited from their experiences abroad. “The drain of the ’80s was the gain of the ’90s,” Mr. Morgenroth said. The Irish have emigrated so often that almost everyone has relatives in several countries. “Emigrating is a cultural norm, even if it is not a cultural preference,” said Brian Lucey, an economics professor at Trinity College in Dublin. “The Irish know how to do it. They build networks and take care of each other.” Kevin Shields has relatives in the United States, even an uncle who was in the Marines, and he has entered the lottery for a green card. With a degree that qualified him to estimate the cost of construction projects, he is also contacting construction companies in Canada. “It is depressing listening to the news here,” he said. “There is nowhere as bad as here.” But he hopes to be back in Ireland eventually. Mrs. Shields said she took comfort from the fact that emigration today was not what it used to be. “It’s not like when we were waving goodbye from a dock,” Mrs. Shields said. “There are lots of ways to stay in touch — Google, Facebook. A lot of mothers around here are learning a lot about computers these days.” “We’ll come out of it,” she added. “And maybe we will come out of it stronger.”


The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Unlikely Alliance Results in an All-Electric RAV4 By HIROKO TABUCHI


t was over glasses of red wine on a May evening in Palo Alto, Calif., that Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, and Elon Musk, founder of the electric vehicle start-up company Tesla Motors, first talked through the particulars of a partnership they had just announced. By the end of their chat, according to Mr. Toyoda, they had settled on at least one project: an electric version of Toyota’s RAV4 sport utility vehicle. A mere six months later, the two automakers are set to show a prototype of an all-electric RAV4 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The car represents the real debut of this unlikely alliance, in which Toyota invested $50 million for a 3 percent stake in Tesla and signed a $60 million deal to jointly develop an electric vehicle. Toyota is known more for rigid and methodical decision-making than for flair, while Tesla is the bold Silicon Valley upstart that sells $100,000 cars to George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio. The prototype, developed at remarkable speed and based on the idea of a relatively affordable mass-market electric, indicates that each company is learning from the other. A commercial version is expected to reach the market in 2012. Neither company has publicly discussed pricing, but electric cars tend to be more expensive than gasoline-powered ones. The base price for a 2011 gasoline RAV4 is in the $22,000 to $25,000 range. As executives, Mr. Toyoda and Mr. Musk could not be further apart. One is the staid scion of Toyota’s founding family, groomed for the top job for years, a shy cha-

racter who seems more comfortable mixing with the Toyota ranks in a neatly pressed factory jacket than appearing in the media spotlight. The other is a South African immigrant-entrepreneur, a co-founder of PayPal who last year showed off Tesla’s upcoming Model S sedan in leather boots and designer jacket. In September, Mr. Musk wed actress Talulah Riley in a lavish ceremony splashed across the pages of celebrity Web sites. But more than a difference in cultures, the two companies share divergent views of the future trajectory of electric automobiles. Mr. Musk is a firm believer in a decisive swing toward electric cars, and would like to enter a wider market in 2012 with a cheaper electric car. Mr. Toyoda and his colleagues are more cautious, with Toyota executives often talking down the all-electric car in favor of the company’s gas-electric hybrid technology. The company has invested millions of dollars in its Prius gas-electric hybrid and is not eager for a quick switch to electricity, analysts say. Toyota has said it will introduce hybrid versions of all of its models by 2020. And yet, as momentum builds around all-electric power trains, Toyota has been increasingly criticized for lagging behind in next-generation automotive technology. Nissan Motor plans next month to start selling the Leaf, which it calls the world’s first mass-produced all-electric car. General Motors will soon introduce its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. Toyota is also set to introduce its own all-electric vehicle in 2012, a car based on its iQ ultra-mini compact that the automaker is developing independently. But Toyota has signaled that it considers the iQ a niche car,

one mainly tailored for short-distance commuters in Japan. Toyota is also leasing limited numbers of its new Prius plug-in hybrid to fleet customers, and is planning a wider commercial rollout in 2012. Compared with the original Prius models, the new one plugs into an electric socket and operates only on batteries at higher speeds and longer distances. Mr. Toyoda said the market had simply not yet chosen the best low-emissions technology, which was why Toyota was preparing for all options. “When customers do give us their answer,” he said, “I want the company to be ready.” Still, analysts say the electric version of the RAV4 — a mainstay in Toyota’s S.U.V. lineup — could signal more openness by Toyota to the idea of electric power trains for more mainstream models. In planning a RAV4 electric vehicle with Tesla, moreover, Mr. Toyoda has displayed his own signs of being star-struck. The chief executive warmed to the idea, officials say, when he was shown a letter written by Tom Hanks to The New Yorker, in which the actor talked enthusiastically about a previous electric version of the RAV4 that he bought in 2003. That would have been one of the 1,500 or so all-electric RAV4s that Toyota leased from 1997 to 2003 in response to stringent but short-lived emissions regulations passed in California. “The letter made an impression on him,” said Masami Doi, a Toyota spokesman. “It convinced him that Americans thought the idea of an electric RAV4 was cool.” Toyota’s deal with Tesla has been a bright spot in an otherwise grim year for

the Japanese automaker. Over the last 12 months Toyota recalled some 11 million vehicles for faulty gas pedals, floor mats that could trap accelerators, and braking and engine defects — each recall tarnishing the company’s once-sterling reputation for quality. As a result, Toyota’s United States sales have fallen off, despite generous incentives. The company’s $4.46 billion profit for the first nine months of 2010 trails Ford’s earnings of $6.37 billion and General Motors’ earnings of $4.77 billion during the same period, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg. Tesla, meanwhile, is seeking to build credibility among investors as it struggles to become profitable. Despite the attention it has brought, the company has sold only about 1,200 of its electric sports cars, and has never turned a quarterly profit since its founding in 2003. According to a May filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, since its inception, Tesla had incurred cumulative losses of $290 million through March. But the Toyota partnership is helping Tesla attract new investors. Earlier this month, Panasonic, the Japanese electronics company and the supplier of Tesla’s batteries, said it would invest $30 million in the start-up, acquiring an approximately 2 percent stake. Calling Toyota’s manufacturing technology “the best in the world,” Mr. Musk said Tesla had “a lot to learn” from the Japanese automaker. Mr. Toyoda was also uncharacteristically expressive, vividly recalling his first ride in Tesla’s Roadster in May. “I could hear the wind as we drove,” he beamed. “I felt like I was on a yacht in the ocean.”

Nissan Says Its Leaf Gets Equivalent of 99 M.P.G. By NICK BUNKLEY


he federal government has rated the Nissan Leaf, the battery-powered car scheduled to go on sale next month in five states, as having the fuel equivalent of 99 miles a gallon, Nissan said. The Environmental Protection Agency, which tests vehicles for emissions and fuel efficiency, has determined Leaf’s official range to be 73 miles on a fully charged bat-

tery, considerably less than the 100 miles previously claimed by Nissan. Both figures will appear prominently on the Leaf’s window label, which shows the estimated yearly electricity cost as $561. The E.P.A. calculates annual fuel costs as $867 for the Toyota Prius hybrid and $1,669 for Chevrolet’s midsize sedan, the Malibu. Because drivers cannot simply stop at a gas station and refuel, the Leaf’s range is expected to weigh heavily on shoppers’ minds. Adding to any confusion they might feel, the Leaf will have a second sticker, from the Federal Trade Commission, displaying the car’s range as 96 to 110 miles. “Driving behavior, temperature — those things do affect your range,” said Mark Perry, the director of EV and Advanced Technology strategy in North America for Nissan. The E.P.A. calculated the 99-m.p.g.-equivalent figure by combining ratings of 106 m.p.g. in city driving and 92 m.p.g. on highways. The Leaf’s rating is nearly double that of the Toyota Prius hybrid, which is listed at 50 m.p.g. The agency has not concluded its tests of the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid that also goes on sale next month

in parts of the United States. The Volt, unlike the Leaf, has a gasoline engine that allows the car to remain operational after the battery, which General Motors says has a range of 25 to 50 miles, is depleted. “Their calculation is a little bit more straightforward than ours, so I suspect they may have gotten through the process a little faster,” a G.M. spokesman, Rob Peterson, said in explaining why the Leaf results were finished first. “At this time we don’t have a definitive number.” The Leaf’s rating is based on an formula from the E.P.A. in which 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity is equivalent to one gallon of gasoline. Mr. Perry noted that electricity costs — assumed to be 12 cents a kilowatt-hour for the purposes of the label — vary widely in different parts of the country and in some cases depending on what time of day the car is plugged in. The Leaf’s window sticker will list the car as needing seven hours to charge via a 240-volt outlet and consuming 34 kilowatt-hours every 100 miles. It will show the Leaf, which has no tailpipe, as receiving the best possible scores for emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

December. 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly


More Than a Car, It’s a Co-Star By JONATHAN SCHULTZ


ESTED 2011 Suzuki SX4 SportBack WHAT IS IT? A compact wagon that daydreams of being a rally car. HOW MUCH? Base price, $17,244; as tested, $17,644. WHAT MAKES IT RUN? A 2-liter 4-cylinder (148 horsepower, 140 pound-feet of torque); 6-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. IS IT THIRSTY? Relative to its competitors, only slightly more so. A LT E R N AT I V E S : Hyundai Elantra Touring SE, $19,715; Kia Soul Sport, $19,190; Nissan Versa SL, $17,650; Scion xD, $15,620. FOR the American “Top Gear” segment Big Star, Small Car, the professional skateboarder Tony Hawk recently put a Suzuki SX4 SportBack through some hot laps at a former airstrip in Southern California. The segment will feature a different celebrity each week in the SportBack, attempting to go faster over a course than previous guests had managed. Afterward, Mr. Hawk told a Suzuki representative that the SportBack was almost too good for the task at hand. Indeed, the Suzuki is something of a pleasant surprise, taking cues from mud-romping rally cars rather than the Heathrow-rental-fleet econoboxes featured on the equivalent segment of the British “Top Gear,” Star in a Rea-

sonably Priced Car. The SportBack has aggressive front and side aero skirts; 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels; prominent fog lamps; and a pert little rear spoiler — all included in the base price. This SX4 differs markedly from the version that was reviewed on these pages three years ago. That model, now called the SX4 Crossover, is the country’s least-expensive passenger car with all-wheel drive. The SportBack eschews that system for front-wheel drive, and also receives stiffer springs and shocks, Dunlop sport tires and a slightly lower suspension, shedding

the engine’s revs and ever so slightly bumps up the fuel economy. With the stick shift, the SportBack is rated at 22 m.p.g. in town and 30 on the highway, but thanks partly to miles of backups approaching the Woodbury Common outlet mall, I averaged a gentleman’s 25. (I also bought three shirts.) Both on the New York Thruway more than 150 pounds in surgery. The only modifications for “Top Gear” duty were the installation of racing seats, a roll cage and a camera rig. Each celebrity tackling El Toro’s turns will have to master the SportBack’s standard 6-speed manual transmission. The overdrive sixth gear hints at straightaway-gobbling prowess, but as I learned during a recent trip through the Hudson Valley of New York state, it merely lowers

and on two-lane roads wending through the Catskills, the car’s steering was precise and confident, traits that should inspire the show’s track neophytes to attack the corners. A good thing, considering they will need as much exit velocity as their nerves can bear. The SportBack’s 2-liter, 148-horsepower 4-cylinder engine is, I was informed by a Suzuki representative, related to the 2.4-liter unit powering the brand’s nimble Kizashi sedan, but here it bleated and chugged, sending interior plastics abuzz as it approached its peak horsepower churn of 6,200 r.p.m. And for all the noise, the SportBack labored to build speed, reinforcing the manufacturer’s estimate of 0-to-60 m.p.h. acceleration in a lackluster 10.8 seconds. Meanwhile, gear changes snapped my head backward for all the wrong reasons. If timing the shifts on a 500-horsepower, $135,000 Porsche 911 Turbo can be mastered in an afternoon, surely those on a $17,000 Suzuki should be, too. I, however, did not succeed. Despite its dynamic faults, the 2011 SportBack is a compelling package, with generous headroom, a handsome center console, robust safety features and, a $400 option on my test car, the latest in Bluetooth hands-free telephone technology. If only that feature could dial in more powertrain grunt and a better shift linkage, the SportBack would truly be — in the words of Tony Hawk — almost too good.



The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

In Italy, Luxury Transforms Caves Into Hotels



T was early evening in Matera, a city in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, and swallows circled the sky, their melodious calls interrupted only by the clanking of bells worn by cows drinking from a stream deep within a canyon. On the other side of the canyon was old Matera, an area so ancient that it was used to portray Judea in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Often called the Sassi (which means stone), or the City of Stone, this part of Matera is a maze of caves, churches — some dating back to Roman times — zigzagging steps and stone facades carved from a massive slope of yellowed tufa. Just after my family and I checked into a new hotel called Sextantio Albergo Diffuso Le Grotte Della Civita, we noticed an elderly couple climbing the hotel’s worn stone stairs. The pair, dressed in their Sunday best, entered the hotel’s stone terrace through a metal gate. In the lobby, we heard the man, Francesco Di Cecce, introduce himself to the manager and explain that he and his wife had come to visit his childhood home. Curious, we followed them as they found their way to Suite 10. “I was born here in

1939,” Mr. Di Cecce said as he opened the thick wooden door to a cave that went back about 60 feet. Like the dwellings that surround it, much of the hotel incorporates grottoes, with facades cut into the rock or constructed from limestone blocks. Suite 10 had been transformed into a magical version of Plato’s Cave, glowing with golden artificial light that filtered in through small windows, and from recessed lighting in the walls. The minimal space was simply decorated, with an artfully worn wooden desk, a large bed with a white crocheted cover, arched ceilings and a floor of packed earth and patinaed stone tiles. “I grew up here with my seven brothers and sisters,” Mr. Di Cecce said, and pointed to the luxurious bathroom with an egg-shaped Philippe Starck bathtub. “And the animals lived back there.” In 1945, when “Christ Stopped at Eboli” — Carlo Levi’s account of the extreme poverty in Basilicata — was published, it brought attention and shame to this forgotten region, sandwiched between Puglia and Calabria. A decade later, Mr. Di Cecce and about 15,000 other sassi dwellers were relocated to new low-

income housing, and the ancient grotto homes were abandoned. As I looked around the room that was once the home of a desperately poor family, I recalled something that the American humorist Finley Peter Dunne once said: “The past always looks better than it was because it isn’t here.” Indeed, these days the caves look a lot better than the government housing. In 1993, in an attempt to protect the historically significant sassi, Unesco declared the Matera sassi a World Heritage site, and gradually those condemned homes

have been transformed into hotels and restaurants. Now that some of the caves are designed with Starck bathtubs and high-tech temperature and humidity control, some travelers spend more than $400 a night to immerse themselves in an enchanted atmosphere of antiquity, even if it means doing without flat-screen television or Wi-Fi. The filmmaker and dabbling hotelier Francis Ford Coppola is contributing to the Basilicata buzz. Next spring he is planning to open the intimate Palazzo Margherita in the remote town of Bernalda, about 25 miles south of Matera, and less than 10 miles from the Mediterranean coast. Although it is his sixth property, it is his most personal. Mr. Coppola’s grandfather Agostino Coppola was born and raised in a “tiny home in the lower part of Bernalda,” Mr. Coppola wrote in an e-mail. He added that his grandfather, who spoke often of his ancestral village, never failed to call his hometown “Bella Bernalda.” Mr. Coppola went to see Bella Bernalda for himself in 1962 and “was embraced by the town and discovered that almost everyone was a cousin.” In 2004 he bought Palazzo Margherita, a grand 19th-century villa. The new inn’s interiors have been designed by the chic Paris-based designer Jacques Grange, and it will feature nine suites, a restaurant and streetside bar. In his e-mail, Mr.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010


of Aglianico del Vulture wines, an ancient red grape variety originally from Greece, grown on the slopes of an extinct volcano in northwest Basilicata. Although Mr. Valicenti searches for inspiration in medieval and Renaissance texts, he said his recipes are his own interpretations of historic dishes. “I make them lighter and use modern cooking techniques,” he said. At the newly opened Hotel Torre Fiore, a 10-minute drive from the small hilltop city of Pisticci, the addictive ricotta cheese served at the breakfast buffet is made by a lo-

Coppola described the charm of Basilicata: “It’s hard to dig a hole in the ground anywhere, without discovering an ancient Greek vase or shard. The wine is great. The olive oil is great. The food is unique. There are things eaten that are unknown anywhere else in Italy.” It takes a passionate food explorer to get to Luna Rossa, a restaurant so off the map that one should almost bring along some spare fuel. Along the winding drive through the Pollino National Park to the blink-and-you’ll-drive-by-it village of Terranova di Pollino, it becomes clear why some of Basilicata’s recipes have never left the province.

“Some of the towns in Basilicata are so secluded that you can sometimes find dishes that haven’t changed much since pagan times,” said Federico Valicenti, Luna Rossa’s chef and owner, a self-proclaimed culinary anthropologist. That particular day in May he served his guests a meal that included thinly sliced salami made from acorn-eating pigs raised in Pollino; tapparelle, a local ear-shaped pasta, served with hard ricotta cheese and lemon rind; a roasted goat dish that was inspired by a medieval recipe; and pork served with eggs and local caciocavallo cheese. On the Luna Rossa wine list were dozens

ARCHITECTURE & HOME DECOR cal cheese artisan whose family has been making ricotta for six generations. The hotel’s chef, in turn, uses it to make a simple but memorable ricotta mousse. The hotel, surrounded by wildflowers and fields of grain, was once a masseria (a farmhouse with fortified walls typical of southern Italy) built by a wealthy landowner. Now it is a dream realized by the current owner, John Giannone, who was born in Pisticci, but emigrated to Toronto. It was originally planned as a vacation home for his family, but his middle-aged children became so enthusiastic about the area’s potential that they decided to turn it into a boutique hotel with a pool and 13 suites. The Torre Fiore’s restaurant is popular with well-traveled locals like Roberto Martino and his companion, Angelo Bianco, who had driven 45 minutes from Matera to eat there. Originally from Basilicata, the two moved to Florence where they hosted contemporary art happenings. About four years ago they decided to return to Basilicata to run SoutHeritage, a contemporary art foundation that organizes pop-up modern art exhibitions in historic spaces throughout Basilicata. Mr. Martino recalled that the first few shows seemed to attract locals who were looking more for free food and wine than art. “Modern ideas take time to be accepted here,” he said. “We’re at least 60 years behind northern Italy.” Then, he added with a laugh, “Although sometimes it seems like centuries.”

86 December 2 - 8, 2010


Speed Bump

Frank & Ernest


Scary Gary

Wizard of Id

Two Cows And A Chicken


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The San Juan Weekly

December 2 - 8, 2010



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 88

88 December. 2 - 8, 2010


Keep your secrets to yourself and treasure an opportunity that no-one else knows about. A variety of tasks will hold your interest; just. Concentrate! A cover-up or hasty wrong move could backfire big time. Be careful as you go about your business. Know who your friends are; they may not be quite whom you think.

(Mar 21-April 20)

.Libra (Sep 24-Oct 23) Shift your attitude up a gear. Deep thought is productive, so long as you do not give in to resentment or anger. Take a financial risk by all means, but assess whether it is a sure thing first. Do not squander your opportunities. An open mind attracts many new possibilities.



(April 21-May 21)

(Oct 24-Nov 22)

Stay upbeat and optimistic about the future; then if all else fails you still have your soul and spirit intact. There is no need to compromise or sell yourself out; so treasure truth and integrity, as they are your most precious commodities. The worst nightmare in your head can turn into the realization of a dream.

Keep your thoughts sweet and the best scenario will then manifest. Balance and a clear head are crucial to your progress. Take things as they come and be ready for anything. Reflect on a significant picture and listen to your dreams. You have the ability to ground every good thing, so get busy and be amazing.



(May 22-June 21)

Good things come out of bad. Amazing! It is time to get real and desist from merely hoping for the best. A complex, emotional situation needs delicate handling. You may start to wonder what is in a price tag. Reassess your values sharply. You cannot put a price on your heart’s desire, nor can you quantify the right thing.


(June 22-July 23)

(Nov 23-Dec 21)

What transpires promptly is unexpected but very necessary. Be philosophical with regard to the things you cannot control though and enjoy the things you can. Jupiter in Pisces could make you overly emotional, but also put you in touch with emotions you thought you had forgotten. Dream big and trust life!


(Dec 22-Jan 20)

You need to be smart with financial decisions and take your time with big moves and ultimatums, i.e., do not make them just yet. You are more than equal to the task before you, so do not panic about what is being set before you. Simply get on with it. You are well able for what happens next. Engage in the here and now.

Prepare for dynamic action concerning location, finances and the time of your life. Do not miss the moment. There is a window of opportunity that comes around once in a blue moon; so grab it with both hands. Use the power at your fingertips to claim a release from past difficult emotions. Never return to what you hurt you so much.



(July 24-Aug 23)

Close encounters of the delicious kind are highly likely. The consequent attention and questioning should bring you back down to earth with a bang. Never mind the intrigue and mystery, what about the reputation? Love matters, more than words can express. A potent triangle of events will soon make life very interesting.


(Aug 24-Sep 23)

Objectivity serves you well. Distance yourself from troubles: have faith and let go. Strong attractions stir in your Soul. Be sure to steer a steady course through a tempting dilemma. Stay centered. Do not, under any account, compromise your integrity. Business mixes well with pleasure, but watch cash flow and guard against an embarrassment

(Jan 21-Feb 19)

Communicate clearly and speak the truth at all times. Be sure anything less will creep up behind you and bite when you least expect it. You may love to claim ownership of ideas, people or items; but loosen your grip. No-one is out to get you. Pay close heed to your relationships. Take your time and keep things right.


(Feb 20-Mar 20)

Resentment is an unhealthy mindset; stop wallowing. Remember thoughts and feelings have a magnetic quality. The law of attraction is basic: like attracts like. You need to make sure that what you are putting out for is all good. Keep your thought processes pure and your results will be too. Be open and amenable.

The San Juan Weekly

Answers to the Zudoku and Crossword on page 87

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



In Tottenham, Belief Becomes the Dominant Spur



n a bitter, raw, gray day, a sporting contest can sometimes confound all preconcep-

tions. At halftime in the North London derby on Saturday, the home team, Arsenal, seemed the almost complete master of the situation. Its 2-0 lead might easily have been doubled. Its movement and passing were so superior to Tottenham Hotspur’s that it seemed only a matter of time before Arsenal rose to the top of the league. At halftime in the dressing room, the Spurs’ manager, Harry Redknapp, was the only one talking. “I gave a few of ’em a rollicking,” he said. “I changed one or two things, but if I was that clever, I’d have started with a different lineup in the first place.” It wasn’t simply a change of personnel. The manager took off a winger, Aaron Lennon, and replaced him with a striker, Jermain Defoe. “If anything, I opened the game up even more,” Redknapp said. “I told them we could take this game to them, go for broke.” He can sound like a preacher man, this veteran coach. Yet his message, before the game and at halftime, was that the English Premier League is wide open this season. Nobody is consistent, somebody has to win it, and he, Redknapp, really believes that Tottenham has the ability to be that winner. From two goals down at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium? Sure, why not? Tottenham had been four goals down to the European Champion Inter Milan, pulled that back to 4-3, and then beat Inter in their second game a week later in Champions League. Believe, the manager kept saying, and you can do it. Shortly after halftime on Satur-

day, Gareth Bale, the player who had led the fight back in Milan, scored against Arsenal. Then, Cesc Fàbregas of all people, Arsenal’s captain and the finest player to that point on the field, hand-balled in the area, allowing Rafael van der Vaart to equalize from the penalty spot. Finally, Younes Kaboul, a defender, popped up to head the first goal of his career with Tottenham. Spurs won, 3-2. Redknapp effectively said to his team, told you so. And at the end of a local derby between teams barely 10 minutes apart, but broadcast around the world, we had witnessed the first Tottenham triumph on Arsenal territory in 17 years. Moreover, it was Tottenham’s first win in 69 attempts against any of England’s established “Big Four” — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United — away from home. So now will they believe that Tottenham can win the league for the first time in 50 years? The opponents are giving every encouragement. Chelsea, weakened by injuries but also by some untimely meddling in the coaching staff by the team’s owner, Roman Abramovich, suffered a 1-0 loss at Birmingham City on Saturday. That result was a perversion of the play in which Birmingham scored with its only shot on target, and somehow held on through a barrage of 32 Chelsea attempts, all of which failed to beat goalkeeper Ben Foster. It was Chelsea’s second defeat in six days since the club terminated the contract of assistant coach Ray Wilkins, apparently without the approval of head coach Carlo Ancelotti. It was another of those quirks in modern day soccer where major clubs have so many surplus players on their staffs

that they sometimes loan them out to opponents. Foster belongs to Manchester United, and is on the seventh loan of his eight-year career. He had played in goal for England last Wednesday, and been labeled along with the rest of England’s finest as lacking in skills compared with the French side that beat them in London. Believe, Ben, and you can do it. His real club, Manchester United, remains in the market to buy a long-term replacement to its 40-yearold Dutch goalie, Edwin van der Sar. It appears Foster has been tried, but failed, as the successor. United, however, was the only winner this weekend among the leading contenders for the English title. Its 2-0 home victory against Wigan Athletic was less convincing that it sounds. United had labored against an opponent it expects to beat in second gear. Fullback Patrice Evra scored right before halftime, his first goal in four years. Wigan then imploded, with first Antolín Alcaraz, then Hugo Rodallega, sent off. Against nine men, United eventually scored the decisive second goal, through Javier Hernández. But though United remains unbeaten this season, its manager, Alex Ferguson, admits there is neither flow nor conviction to its performances. It is a jumble atop the most heavily marketed league on earth, mostly because of the inconsistencies of the top teams. Something similar is ha-

ppening in Germany, where Borussia Dortmund rides high in the Bundesliga, far, far ahead of the inconsistent Bayern Munich. In Spain, the resources of Barcelona and Real Madrid, augmented by the fact that those two clubs arrange their own television deals, make La Liga the domain of two giants. Barça’s eight goals away at Almeria, and Madrid’s five at home to Athletic Bilbao, were mere shooting matches for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — again. They are stars, no doubt about it. So, once, was Wayne Rooney. Not since March has anyone seen the best, or the most committed, Rooney at play. His agent’s much trumpeted threat to remove Rooney from Manchester United, unless the club doubled his wages, came during a period when the player was laid low with ankle injury. Saturday was his designated comeback. The moment arrived in the second half. Unsure whether the 74,181 fans in the home crowd would welcome back the recalcitrant star, Ferguson, the manager, made a diplomatic double substitution. He warmed up Rooney alongside Paul Scholes, a crowd favorite throughout his long and distinguished United career. So the mighty roar of approval from the stands might have been for Rooney, or more probably the welcome relief of a trusted old campaigner coming on to give the team direction. There were boos as well as cheers, just to let Rooney know that he will have to earn trust from here on in.



The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Lacking Star Power, Rapids Find Touch to Win M.L.S. Cup By JEFFREY MARCUS


he Colorado Rapids, one of the original Major League Soccer teams, won their first championship Sunday night, beating F.C. Dallas, 2-1, on an own goal in extra time. In the second overtime period, the Colorado substitute Macoumba Kandji received a long pass in the Dallas box from Conor Casey. Kandji faked defender Jair Benitez, pushed the ball between his legs and ran around him. His toe-poke across the goalmouth was deflected into the net by Dallas’s George John in the 108th minute. The goal gave the Rapids — a team that finished fifth in the Western Conference and won only 12 games, one more than last season’s champion, Real Salt Lake — the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy as league champion. It was the first time a team won the M.L.S. Cup on an own goal. It was a title game between two teams that lacked star power and name recognition, even in their own cities, and might not have happened if not for the league’s bizarre and sometimes confusing postseason format. Before the game, the league’s commissioner, Don Garber, announced a series of changes for next season that might make such contests inconceivable in the future. “It’s been a struggle,” said the Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni, who has endured a number of down seasons since he joined the club in 2001. “We were a club still trying to find an identity. And I think that goes for a lot of clubs, especially the smaller-market teams. It seems like you have to win the whole thing in order to be heard.” Dallas, driven by the creativity of David Ferreira, the league’s most valuable player, scored first. Benitez sent a long ball from the back left that found Marvin Chavez on

the right side of midfield. After he trapped it with his chest, he whipped a cross into the box and Ferreira pounded the ball up into the net from 8 yards. It buoyed his teammates, who controlled the ball through midfielder Dax McCarthy and advanced judiciously on the flanks with Benitez and Chavez. But they were unable to find Abita Harris, the lone Dallas striker, for the final touch. Colorado could not control the ball as consistently as Dallas and was forced to counterattack. Mastroeni won balls in the midfield, and Jamie Smith and Brian Mullan tried to make progress on the wings. “This sport is about adapting and I think you’ve seen our team tonight adapt extremely well,” Rapids Coach Gary Smith said. “I’m not sure it was the greatest viewing for fans because it was such a cut and thrust game.” Dallas Coach Schellas Hyndman lamented the Rapids’ physical approach — 16 fouls committed to Dallas’s 11 — but it was Smith who had the most legitimate gripe. In the 27th minute, Benitez brought down Casey in the penalty box, first kicking him, then apparently tripping him, without earning a whistle from the referee, Baldomero Toledo. Casey protested vigorously. “The game of soccer is a cruel game,” Hyndman said, which goes as much for Casey as it does his own player, John, whose deflection was more bad luck than blunder. “I thought George John had a very good game,” Hyndman said. “If you only look at one bad deflection, then you’re very narrow minded.” The Rapids drew even early in the second half. Smith broke down the left flank and sent a low cross deep into the box. Casey slid in close to the near post, colliding with Benitez and Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, trapping the ball on the turf 6 yards out next to a tangled pile of legs.

While still on the ground, Casey broke free and kicked the ball into the net from his backside. Casey was pugnacious from the start and combative throughout. His spirit — and his goal — lifted the Rapids, who managed to come back from an initial deficit only once in 12 games this season. Casey was voted the game’s most valuable player. The game at BMO Field on the shores of Lake Ontario was played in temperatures just above freezing with winds around 12 miles an hour. Spectators, mostly fans of the local club, Toronto F.C., were bundled tightly in traditional soccer scarves and filled the stadium at the start of the game. Toronto has some of the most committed fans in the league, despite an underwhelming team and unpopular owners. Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment made the M.L.S. Cup a mandatory part of the season-ticket package, charging almost twice as much per ticket for the final, and announced price increases for next season, prompting protests from supporters groups. During the first half, a number of

seats filled by Toronto supporters at the start were vacated. But it did not appear to be part of another organized protest; fans sought refuge from the cold, huddling under heat lamps positioned along the stadium concourse. Others may have headed home early. Those who did leave early missed a hard-fought if not exactly dramatic comeback. After Colorado tied the game, the Rapids showed less urgency. Dallas pressed the attack, taking off midfielder Brek Shea and replacing him with striker Jeff Cunningham, the second-leading goal scorer in league history. It was not enough, and the game moved to 30 minutes of overtime for the second straight year and was settled when Kandji’s desperate shot was innocently redirected by John. “I don’t mind how they come,” Smith said. “If they’re winners, it doesn’t matter.” “You don’t get too many where the volley goes in from 40 yards,” he said. “I’m just pleased that the guys were able to in the extra time mount enough of an attack to make a difference.”

Poulter Holds On to Win Hong Kong Open I

an Poulter held off a spirited challenge from Italian youngster Matteo Manassero to win the Hong Kong Open by one stroke Sunday. The 17-year-old Manassero shot an 8-under 62 at the Fanling course and finished at 21-under 259, but Poulter’s 67 was enough to secure his 10th win on the European Tour. “I felt comfortable the whole day, the way I was hitting it,” Poulter said. “I was hitting it inside 12 feet at pretty much nearly every hole out there and I knew if I kept doing that I would be very tough to beat.” Simon Dyson tied Manassero for second after a 65, while American Anthony Kang finished fourth, a stroke further back. Poulter, who had said in early 2008

that when he reached his full potential he was the only golfer who could challenge Tiger Woods atop the rankings, refrained from making anymore predictions. With Lee Westwood having taken over from Woods as No. 1, Poulter was decidedly more low-key about his own prospects. His second win of the year moved him up to No. 11 in the ranking. “I’m not going to play the game of saying I’m going to get to No. 1,” he said. “I tried that once before and it didn’t work, so I think I’ll just try and win next week and see how high I go. Tiger’s dropped a lot of points, Westwood’s the world No. 1 and if I keep playing well, then who knows, I could get up there.” Poulter led Graeme McDowell by two

shots heading into the final round, but the U.S. Open champion’s challenge was all but over by the third hole after a pair of bogeys. He finished fifth at 20 under after closing with a 68. Still, McDowell reduced his deficit to European money leader Martin Kaymer to $293,000 ahead of next week’s season-ending Dubai World Championship. “I’m within touching distance now of next week,” McDowell said. “I’ve got to play well next week, simple as that. Martin, I can’t control his ball, I can only control mine. I’m going to go in there next week and try to play my own game.” Rory McIlroy, who was runner-up in this tournament in 2008 and 2009, had a final-round 67 to finish sixth.

The main threat to Poulter looked like it would come from fellow Englishman Dyson, who eagled the par-5 third hole and had birdies at the fourth, sixth and seventh to move to the top of the leader board. A bogey at the eighth, however, stalled his progress before Poulter reignited his charge, eagling the 13th after shooting a 32 on the front nine. Not even a bogey at the last — only his second of the tournament — could deny the 34-year-old Poulter as he won his second European Tour event of the season. Manassero, meanwhile, was consistently picking up shots and, after four birdies in the first 12 holes, an eagle at the 13th and another pair of birdies over the closing three holes, secured a share of second.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



Vikings Fire Childress as Season Gets Away By JUDY BATTISTA


erhaps the first sign this was going to be an off-kilter season for the Minnesota Vikings came when Coach Brad Childress dispatched three players on a private jet to beg Brett Favre to return for one more run at the Super Bowl, a season after the Vikings reached the N.F.C. championship game. Favre did return, but the chaos was only beginning. There would be the arrival and stunningly rapid departure of receiver Randy Moss. The sideline bickering. The bruised feelings. With the season devolving as Favre struggled with injury — and with Childress struggling to contain growing locker room discontent with his personal style — the team’s owner, Zygi Wilf, pulled the plug on a year he hoped would help him secure a new publicly financed stadium. On Monday, a day after a humiliating loss at home to the Green Bay Packers, Wilf fired Childress and installed defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, as the interim coach. The move came almost a year after Wilf gave Childress a contract extension intended to keep him until 2013. “There wasn’t one component that factored into this decision, just that we felt we made the best decision for the future of the team,” Wilf said Monday. “We have high expectations for this team and want to

capitalize on what is left of this season.” The Vikings are 3-7 with no championship hopes remaining, but Frazier has already made his first significant coaching decision: he announced Monday that Favre, 41, would remain the starting quarterback. This season, Favre has thrown 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and after the 31-3 loss to the Packers, he said he wanted to “re-evaluate” when asked if he would finish the season. Favre is expected to retire after this season — really, this time he says he means it — and with a full-scale rebuilding on the horizon, Frazier might consider inserting Tarvaris Jackson to determine if the Vikings want to go forward with him. “Brett is a tremendous quarterback,” Frazier said. “There are some things we have to do as a group to help support Brett.” Wilf and Frazier sought to turn the focus to the future and to Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, but the ugly few months that led to Childress’s inevitable firing will be hard to forget. He sparred with players, harshly criticized Favre even when he was hurt and then, just a month after surrendering a third-round draft pick to acquire Moss from the New England Patriots, released Moss without consulting with Wilf first. Wilf was said to be livid with how Childress handled the Moss situation, but with the Vikings still in contention in the N.F.C. North at the time, he kept Childress

on. On Sunday the Vikings were barely competitive against the Packers, and bickering erupted on the sideline. Childress followed the Cowboys’ Wade Phillips as coaches fired after terrible losses to the Packers this season. The Cowboys have won two straight under their interim coach, Jason Garrett, and perhaps Wilf took the Cowboys’ change of fortunes as encouragement to make his own switch, especially after fans chanted for Childress’s firing Sunday. Childress had irrevocably hitched his job to Favre last year, when he personally picked Favre up at the airport and chauffeured him to practice after Favre decided to join the Vikings late in the summer. Last year, Favre summoned the magic of his younger days and led the Vikings to the N.F.C. Championship game against the New Orleans Saints. But an unthinkable mistake in that game — the Vikings were penalized for having too many men in the huddle with 19 seconds left in a tie game, which moved them out of field goal range — may have begun to sour some players and front office people on Childress. Now, Childress has become the second coach to lose his job in part because of Favre’s foibles, following Eric Mangini, who was fired after the 2008 season, Favre’s lone year with the Jets. “I have a great respect for the players and coaches who I have worked with and

for their dedication to each other and to the organization,” Childress said in a statement released by the team. “I am proud of our accomplishments and believe the foundation of this football team is stronger today than when I became head coach in 2006.” Perhaps. But Childress’s relationship with his players might have been most starkly reflected in the reaction to his firing. “What you see is what you get with Leslie,” Favre said. “He has a background of winning Super Bowls as a player and coach, and he knows what it takes to win in the N.F.L. He can relate to players having been in their shoes himself and will prepare the team well. “Brad Childress is a good guy, a man with strong faith and a great family; I wish him the best in the future. I think we all, starting with me, could have done more to make this a successful season.” Frazier seemed confident even though he admitted the team was going though an “adverse time.” “This is in some ways a day of celebration,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to embrace this opportunity as a group to focus our energy on the Washington Redskins.” He will have to do it with an aging quarterback, a porous secondary and a disenchanted fan base. “We’re going to make Minnesota proud of this football team,” he said. “That’s the goal.”

An Unsung Role in Vick’s Success By WILLIAM C. RHODEN


he story of the N.F.L. season thus far continues to be the extraordinary play of quarterback Michael Vick, although the Giants cooled Vick’s jets on Sunday — as well as some of the breathless talk about Vick as the second coming. Compared to last Monday night when he put on a spectacular, schoolyard performance against Washington, Vick was tame. He ran for a touchdown, had two passes dropped that looked like sure touchdowns and completed 24 of 38 passes for 258 yards. Employing a strategy Vick is certain to see — and feel — more often, the Giants hit him hard and blitzed often. His fumble in the fourth quarter opened the door for the Giants to take a temporary lead. Vick, true to form, led the Eagles back, and to a 27-17 victory. LeSean McCoy took a pitch with 4 minutes 34 seconds left to play and raced 50 yards for a touchdown. Vick hit Jason Avant for the 2-point conversion. The Eagles continue to roll. They improved to 7-3 and took sole possession of first place in the N.F.C. East. But even as Philadelphia fans celebrate Vick’s performances, the unsung hero of the Eagles’ season is the man fans often derided

and the organization eventually traded, Donovan McNabb. Before being dealt to Washington, McNabb, who played for Philadelphia from 1999 to 2009, bequeathed to the Eagles the gift of a thrilling quarterback who could lead them to their first N.F.L. championship in 50 years. McNabb’s role in bringing Vick to Philadelphia was an act of selflessness not often seen among professional athletes. McNabb lobbied for Vick, even though he had to know that Vick might make him expendable. “Donovan did go to bat for Michael and I think he did it because he liked him,” Tony Dungy, the former N.F.L. coach turned television analyst, said Sunday in a phone interview. “Donovan said he felt Mike needed some help, and he felt that he could help him. He has.” Dungy was the head coach at Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, leading the Colts to a Super Bowl championship in 2007. Dungy worked closely with the N.F.L. and with Vick following his release from federal prison after serving 18 months for operating a dogfighting ring. He spoke with Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid when the Eagles were deciding whether to pursue Vick once he became eligible for reinstatement in the N.F.L. Before Reid could even attempt to consult with McNabb, McNabb was on the phone

with Reid lobbying for Vick. Dungy said: “Andy said Donovan told him ‘If we get a chance to get him we should. Do it, he can help us. We’ll be a better team.’ ” Things have not turned out so well for McNabb, who was traded to Washington last April. His performances have been up and down and he has butted heads with Coach Mike Shanahan. In a 37-25 loss to Detroit on Oct. 31, Shanahan benched McNabb with less than two minutes left in favor of the backup, Rex Grossman. Shanahan cited McNabb’s lack of conditioning and a lack of familiarity with the system. Dungy was baffled by the move. Vick has credited McNabb — who threw for 376 yards in leading Washington past Tennessee on Sunday — with showing him how to prepare for a game. “Mike tells me how much he learned from Donovan and Marty Mornhinweg,” Dungy said, who added that he was surprised that Shanahan had difficulty communicating with McNabb. “I’m wondering, ‘What’s wrong with that picture.’ ” He continued: “Andy Reid can get his quarterback to know what’s going on and to understand things and to run his ship well enough to get him to the playoff games and championship games and Super Bowls. I’ve

never seen a head coach do that or say that about his quarterback. It just really, really surprised me.” Vick, meanwhile, continues to thread the needle. When Kevin Kolb was injured in the season opener, Vick replaced him and made the most of the opportunity. The fact remains, intended or not, that McNabb is Philadelphia’s unsung hero. “There’s no question about it,” Dungy said. “He could have said ‘No, I don’t think its a good move, I don’t want it to happen,’ and it wouldn’t have happened.” Dungy continued: “He could have snubbed Mike once he got in there. There could have been all kinds of different ways he could have responded. But he truly wanted him there, he truly wanted to help him get back and get going. He said, ‘Yes, I’m a team guy but I also have some compassion. Here’s a guy who I met along the way, a guy who I played with in Pro Bowls, a young, black quarterback who’s been through some things and I want to see him do well.’ That says a lot about McNabb.” If the Eagles do break through this season and win the Super Bowl, Eagles fans should reserve a seat on the float for Donovan McNabb.



The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

The Exceptional Receiving of Roddy White and Brandon Lloyd By CHASE STUART


oth Atlanta’s Roddy White and Denver’s Brandon Lloyd have over 1,000 receiving yards through 10 games. They’re the first receivers with that level of production since 2007; both have scored seven touchdowns this season. Lloyd and White are both 29 years old. But that’s where the similarities end. White, a former first-round pick out of Alabama-Birmingham, took a couple of years to adjust to the pro game. Then, in 2007, he caught 83 passes for 1,202 yards. The following season, in Matt Ryan’s rookie year, White set career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns while helping Ryan have one of the greatest rookie seasons in league history. Last year, White set another career high with 11 touchdowns. This year? He’s blowing all of his numbers out of the water again, and is on pace for 126 catches, 1,627 yards and 11 touchdowns. Barring injury, in a week or two, he’ll become just the eighth player to record 80 catches, 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns in four straight seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Torry Holt, Chad Ochocinco and Reggie Wayne. White is having a monster season, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Brandon Lloyd’s breakout season will go down as one of the more remarkable ones for a receiver in league history. Even if his per-game production drops by 25 yards, he will still top 1,500 receiving yards. If he does, he’ll become the fourth wide receiver to hit that mark despite never gaining half as many yards in any prior season. And those three players were all much younger than Lloyd — Isaac Bruce in his second season with the Rams in 1995, Michael Irvin at age 25 with the Cowboys in ‘91, and Charley Hennigan in his second season with the Oilers in the American Football League in 1961. Lloyd, a former fourth-round pick

playing in his second season in Denver and eighth over all, will become the most unlikely 1,500-yard receiver of all time. An even starker contrast can be drawn by noting how each player hit the millennium mark. White has 79 catches for 1,017 yards, a 12.9 yards per reception average; Lloyd has 54 catches for 1,046 yards, a 19.4 YPR average. Lloyd is a true throwback to the days before the West Coast offense took over the league. In the ’80s, 17 players had 1,200 yards and an 18 YPR average; in the ’60s, despite a shorter league schedule and fewer teams, 19 receivers hit those marks. But since 1990, only nine receivers met those criteria, with Steve Smith the only one to do so since 2000. Forty-one of Roddy White’s receptions — just over half of his total for the year — have gone for 10 or fewer yards; only seven have gone for 25 yards or more. Meanwhile, Lloyd has 15 receptions of 25 yards, with over half of his receptions gaining at least 15 yards. How might these two fare the rest of the season? Since 1980, and excluding the strike seasons of 1982 and 1987, there were 20 receivers to gain 900 yards and average 17 yards per catch through their team’s first 10 games. On average, they had 51 catches, 983 yards, 7.7 touchdowns and a 19.4 YPR average — very similar to the numbers Lloyd has produced this season. Over their team’s last six games, those 20 players averaged 25.6 catches, 439 yards, 2.9 touchdowns and 5.8 games, good for a 17.2 yards per reception average. Over those same years, 12 players gained 900 yards and had at least 70 catches after 10 games; on average, they recorded 74 receptions for 1,035 yards (14.0 YPR) and 8.1 touchdowns. Over their team’s last six games, the receivers averaged 41 catches for 533 yards (13.0 YPR) and 3.4 touchdowns in 5.9 games. While the sample sizes aren’t large, there’s no

denying that the “Roddy Whites” in league history have kept up their production better than the “Brandon Lloyds” have. Lloyd has a small lead right now in the race for the receiving crown: it looks as if he might need it. To win, one player may need to become the first in seven years to crack the 1,600-yard mark. Earlier this week, Lloyd noted that despite his $795,000 salary and a contract that keeps him in Denver for another year and a half, he sees no need to renegotiate his salary. But that’s typical of what players say during the season, and the Broncos have a robust recent history of parting ways with stars. If things get hostile in Denver, how should they value Lloyd? As stated before, Lloyd’s breakout season is as special as it gets. Since 1970, only three players have met the following three criteria: 1) At age 28 or older, gained 2) over 1,100 yards, setting a career high by 3) more than 400 yards. Lloyd, at age 29, is on pace for 1,674 yards, surpassing his previous career high by 941 yards. So who were those prior three receivers? • Drew Hill spent the first six years of his career with the Los Angeles Rams, catching just 60 passes. He topped out at 416 receiving yards in 1980. When the Houston Oilers traded for Hill in July 1985, it barely registered on N.F.L. radars. But Hill instantly clicked with quarterback Warren Moon, and pulled in 64 passes for 1,169 yards and 9 scores. And Hill didn’t slow down; despite playing until age 35 with the Oilers, Hill averaged 1,068 receiving yards per season with Houston. In 1987, Hill averaged 82.4 yards per game, the fourth-best mark in the league. • Qadry Ismail stood in his brother Raghib’s shadow for most of his life. Rocket Ismail, a year older than Qadry, finished second in the Heisman voting while starring for Notre Dame in 1990. Both players took a while to adjust to the pro game; at age 29, in 1998, Rocket broke

out with a 1,000-yard season for the Panthers. A year later, Qadry — nicknamed the Missile — moved on to the Baltimore Ravens, his fourth N.F.L. team. In ‘96, he gained 351 yards for the Vikings. He did not have a reception for the Dolphins in ‘97 or for the Saints in ‘98, playing solely on special teams. But the light went on for him in Baltimore, and he gained 1,105 yards, with 486 of them coming in one three-week span. The highlight of his career came in the third quarter of a game in Pittsburgh, when the Missile scored on touchdowns from 54, 56 and 79 yards out. Qadry struggled with injuries in ‘00, but rebounded with another 1,000-yard season with the Ravens in 2001. • Joe Horn had just 18 catches his first three years with the Chiefs; in his fourth season, at 27 years old, he caught 35 passes for 586 yards. But Kansas City thought that was Horn’s ceiling, and did not re-sign him after the season ended. It was a move they would regret for years. Playing with Jeff Blake in 2000, Horn burst onto the national stage with 94 catches for 1,340 yards and 8 touchdowns, earning a Pro Bowl berth. Teaming with Aaron Brooks over the next four seasons, Horn grabbed 343 passes for 4,949 yards and 37 scores. In 2004, with the Chiefs on the schedule, Horn got to exact some revenge. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass, one of his five receptions for 167 yards. Lloyd is a surprise breakout player, but he didn’t come out of nowhere. He starred at Illinois in college, and Matt Waldman of loved his potential six years ago. Lloyd made brilliant catches with the 49ers but struggled to play consistently well. A more mature Lloyd, with the same athleticism and fantastic hands, is making his impact known to everyone in 2010. He has always had the ability, and is finally in the right offense. There’s little reason to think he can’t continue to play at a high level for the foreseeable future.

Roger Federer Storms to Victory as Andy Murray Falls Flat R

oger Federer left home favorite Andy Murray reeling at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-4 6-2 round robin victory that means the Swiss will almost certainly qualify for the semis. The 29-year-old Federer, bidding for a record-equaling fifth title at the year-ending showpiece had often

struggled against Murray in their 13 previous encounters but he cruised to victory in a packed O2 Arena with a minimum of fuss. The writing was on the wall for Murray when he had to save break points in the opening game but Federer broke to love on the Scot’s second service game -- an advantage he ne-

ver looked like relinquishing. His usually trusty groundstrokes lacking bite and accuracy, Murray managed only three points on the world number two’s serve as the opening set slipped by in 36 minutes. The crowd hoped for a response from Murray but they were to be

disappointed as the 23-year-old unraveled before their eyes and he quickly went 4-0 down in the second set. Federer clinched one of his most straightforward victories over Murray after 76 disappointing minutes when another forehand from his dispirited opponent nose-dived into the net.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



Sports Agent’s Loans to Poor Players Pose Concerns By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT


he company of Scott Boras, baseball’s pre-eminent agent, provided tens of thousands of dollars in loans and payments to the families of poor Dominican teenage prospects, according to people with ties to Mr. Boras, raising questions about whether the company exploited the prospects and violated the rules of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The union, which oversees agents and restricts many such transactions because they create a financial tether that can lead to the player’s becoming indentured, can levy penalties ranging from a fine to revoking an agent’s right to represent players, sports law experts said. “The money obligates them to the agent, gives the agent leverage, and coerces the athlete to do what the agent wants because of fear of foreclosure or other adverse consequences for the athlete or the athlete’s family,” said Mark S. Levinstein, a prominent sports lawyer who is a partner at the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly. According to the union’s regulations governing agents, loans of more than $500 a year to players and their families are prohibited unless the purpose of the loan is disclosed to the union. A spokesman for the players union declined to comment on whether the loans made by Mr. Boras’s company had been registered with the union. In a statement, Mr. Boras declined to say whether any loans were made, although he did say his company had “aided” players and families in the past. In a written statement, a spokesman for Major League Baseball said, “This is a serious issue that raises concerns about the business practices of agents who have played a prominent role in the game.” Domingo Ramos, a former major league player who works for Mr. Boras’s company in the Dominican Republic, said in an interview that the company normally represented a handful of top prospects each year and made loans to a majority of them. The money was typically used for housing, food and other necessities, he said. “Like I say, sometimes we get it back, sometimes we don’t,” Mr. Ramos said. “Sometimes it’s tough to get it back. It’s as simple as that.” He added, “But we thinking about helping the kid out and retain him as a client.” In the case of Edward Salcedo, a can’t-miss shortstop prospect who agreed around age 15 in 2006 to be represented by Mr. Boras, the loans gave the Boras Corporation significant leverage.

From 2007 to 2009, the company provided payments to Mr. Salcedo and his family, according to Mr. Salcedo; his brother, Thommy; and a former Boras employee, Martiris Hanley. The loans eventually totaled about $70,000, which went for rent, food, other necessities and Thommy Salcedo’s college education, Thommy Salcedo and Mr. Hanley said. The money was to be repaid from Edward Salcedo’s future earnings, Thommy Salcedo and Mr. Hanley said. But the Salcedos hired a new Dominican trainer in 2009 because they believed Boras could not help them resolve questions that had arisen about Edward Salcedo’s age. That trainer, Edgar Mercedes, prepared him for tryouts with major league teams, and Mr. Salcedo received a $1.6 million contract from the Atlanta Braves last February. Days later, an employee of Mr. Boras’s called the family demanding immediate repayment of the loan, Thommy Salcedo said. He added, “We thought that if we went with another agent, Boras was going to put more pressure on us for this money, and my mother had so much debt that she couldn’t pay it.” Edward returned to Mr. Boras, Thommy Salcedo, 21, said. “We loan Salcedos,” Mr. Ramos said. “We haven’t get that back, but we’ll get it back.” Edward Salcedo, 19, who struggled in 54 games this season for Class A Rome in Georgia, said he was still represented by Mr. Boras and had not repaid the money. In the statement, Mr. Boras said that the company had aided the Salcedo family “in their time of need,” and said it was “something that we’ve done for other clients in the past, always consistent with” the rules of the union. Mr. Boras said the aid to the family came as a legal remedy was pursued to the questions raised over Edward Salcedo’s age. That statement, however, appeared

to contradict the accounts of Thommy Salcedo and Mr. Martiris, who said the loans began before age questions arose. Mr. Levinstein, the sports lawyer, said he found it “hard to believe” that the union would sign off on loans like the one involving Salcedo because the “entire set of rules they have created were designed to prevent this sort of relationship.” “I just can’t believe that they said this kind of relationship had their blessing,” he added. Mr. Boras, 58, is a former minor league player. His company, based in Newport Beach, Calif., employs scouts in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and elsewhere. Over the past two decades, he has represented many of baseball’s top players, including Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux and Barry Bonds, negotiating contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for them. This off-season, Mr. Boras represents several free agents, including Jayson Werth and Manny Ramirez. Mr. Boras, in particular, has been outspoken about the issue of agents who pay players. After Sports Illustrated published an article last month about a former agent who had paid college football players to represent them, Mr. Boras went on an ESPN talk show to criticize the practice. “A lot of these agents begin the process with social relationships, with bartering with the athletes, providing mundane services for people who have very little,” he said. “The mere association of providing illegal benefits to athletes was his foundation to entry,” he added, referring to the agent who had paid the football players. Mr. Boras’s company might not be the only one that might have violated the union’s rules. The New York Times reported on Thursday about how investors from the United States are financing training academies in the Dominican Republic in hopes of cashing in on players’ signing bonuses and developing clients. Among

those investors are agents who make loans to players and Dominican trainers. “You worry that these agents are gaining ownership over these prospects,” said Gabe Feldman, the head of the sports law department at Tulane Law School. “And the prospects then feel so indebted to the agents that the prospects feel that they cannot leave the agent for another.” In late 2007, when Edward Salcedo agreed to be represented by Mr. Boras, his mother, Solinia Diaz, began accepting monthly payments for more than $1,000 from Boras’s company, Thommy Salcedo and Mr. Hanley said. Within a few months, they said, the family moved into a larger house in a nicer neighborhood because the company wanted Mr. Salcedo to be more comfortable. Mr. Hanley, who last worked for Mr. Boras in 2008, said that he had been in charge of finding a new home and arranging the loans for the Salcedos. In February 2008, Mr. Boras negotiated a $2.9 million contract for Mr. Salcedo with the Cleveland Indians, who believed he was turning 16 that year. But questions arose about Mr. Salcedo’s age, and by the fall of 2008 the Indians walked away from the contract. Boras employees in the Dominican Republic said they tried to resolve the questions about Mr. Salcedo’s age, but Thommy Salcedo said of Mr. Boras, “It seemed like he wasn’t interested, and we were going through this ordeal.” So in 2009, Edward Salcedo left Mr. Boras and began working with Mr. Mercedes. “The mother told me she thought her kid was running out of time,” said Mr. Mercedes, who helped resolve the age questions that enabled him to sign with the Braves in February. Thommy Salcedo said Mr. Mercedes offered to pay what the family owed the Boras Corporation and to give them additional money if Mr. Salcedo chose an agent from the United States whom Mr. Mercedes recommended. “What I told them is that if he wanted we could coordinate paying it back and could help him make extra money to pay the money back,” Mr. Mercedes said. Around the same time, a Boras employee in Newport Beach demanded that the Salcedos repay the $70,000, according to Thommy Salcedo. He added that his mother took out a loan with 20 percent interest after the payments from Boras stopped in 2009. Mr. Mercedes said that Ms. Diaz told him that her son was returning to Mr. Boras because she did not have the money to repay him.



The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010

Edwards and Holmes Are Making Headlines for the Right Reasons By GREG BISHOP


pair of starting wide receivers obtained with considerable risk have rewarded the Jets. Neither Santonio Holmes nor Braylon Edwards will win any Mr. Congeniality awards, but in terms of productivity, in terms of value, they are becoming what the Jets envisioned when they acquired them. As the Jets improved to 8-2 with another dramatic victory — this time against Houston — Holmes and Edwards accounted for 67.3 percent of the passing offense (212 yards) and each of three passing touchdowns in Sunday’s last second-win over Houston. On the final drive, Edwards set up Holmes’s second straight game-winning grab with a 42-yard reception of his own. “Both those guys are game changers, and really, when you look at it, we stole them,” fullback Tony Richardson said. “What you saw Sunday was the original vision. It’s crazy. Most teams don’t have one receiver like that, let alone two.” The Jets acquired Edwards from Cleveland early in the 2009 season in exchange

for two players (receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik) and two draft picks (third round, fifth round). They picked up Holmes from Pittsburgh for a fifth-round selection, which so far looks to be the most lopsided N.F.L. exchange last off-season. Both receivers fell into trouble with the police and the league office. When Edwards was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving earlier this season and Holmes missed the first four games for violating the N.F.L.’s substance-abuse policy, it looked as if perhaps the Jets had erred. Recent results are more like what the Jets expected. Edwards leads the team with six touchdown receptions, and Holmes figured prominently in each of their four recent last-second wins. For all the Jets’ problems — the lack of a pass rush, a defense playing below expectations, injuries — the two receivers have not recently been among them. “This is becoming our style of football: winning in the end, standing to it and making the plays when they count,” Edwards said after Sunday’s victory. The last three weeks, as Mark Sanchez

threw for at least 299 yards a game, also marked an apparent shift in offensive philosophy. Even offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson acknowledged that the Jets could no longer label their offensive philosophy strictly Ground and Pound. Lately, it has been more like Ground Chuck, in which the Jets end up abandoning the run and lofting footballs down the field. Last season, the Jets were the No. 1 rushing offense in the league. By being less predictable this season, Ferguson said defenses would have to prepare for a more balanced attack. Asked if the Jets should be considered a passing team now, Ferguson said: “Not solely. But we have the option to be. We’ve shown excellence in all areas.” The offense has been stagnant at points as well, but Richardson argued that the emergence of Holmes and the steady performance of Edwards have recently shifted the dynamic. Both Richardson and Ferguson said they admired General Manager Mike Tannenbaum because his acquisition of players with past problems indicated faith in the Jets’ leadership — from Coach Rex

Ryan and throughout the locker room. Tannenbaum called himself roughly a “smart son of a gun” on HBO’s training camp documentary, in reference to the Holmes trade. That statement seems more accurate with each round of late-game heroics. Each player in the Jets’ stable of offensive stars seems legitimately happy. That could change, depending on a host of unknown factors. For now, wide receiver has become a position of strength, not an area of concern. For now, two risks have rewarded.

Yankees General Manager Speaks Bluntly on Jeter By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT


n his most direct statements about the status of contract talks with Derek Jeter, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said on Monday that the team had “concerns” with both Jeter’s age and his recent on-field performance and that both needed to be factored into any new multiyear contract. “We do appreciate the contributions he has made to this organization,” Cashman said in an interview with The New York Times. “And Derek Jeter is the person we want playing shortstop.” But, Cashman added, the money in a new contract “ has to be a fair salary” that reflects the fact that Jeter will turn 37 next June. Cashman’s statements came a day after The New York Daily News published an article quoting Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, as saying that the Yankees’ current negotiating strategy was “baffling” because it refused to acknowledge “Derek’s total contribution to their franchise.” In response, Cashman said on Monday that there “is nothing baffling about our position here.” “We have been very honest and direct with them — meaning Derek and Casey,” he said. “We have told them directly, face to face, how we came up with our offer, and we have made it clear to them that our primary focus is his on-the-field performance.” According to a lawyer in baseball

briefed on the negotiations, the Yankees have made Jeter a three-year, $45 million offer that was arrived at in part by comparing him with other middle infielders and with players close to his age. The lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his access to sensitive information, said that the Yankees and Jeter were “not even in the same ballpark” in terms of a new deal. Jeter’s batting average dropped 64 points to .270 in 2010, the only time he has hit below .290 in his 15 full seasons with the Yankees. That raised concerns that he was slipping just as he was concluding a 10-year, $189 million contract with the team and created a sense of awkwardness as talks began on a new deal for a player who is both the Yankees’ captain and a franchise icon. But that awkwardness has now turned into outright annoyance, or worse, as the two sides struggle for common ground on a contract that will keep Jeter in pinstripes. Although Close has not stated publicly what type of deal he is seeking, he has indicated to the Yankees that he wants a contract that would last longer than three years and pay more than the team wants to spend. But the Yankees, who are already locked into a contract with Alex Rodriguez that has seven years to run and will keep him a Yankee past his 42nd birthday, seem reluctant to do the same for Jeter, especially

after his 2010 drop-off. They appear concerned that Jeter will not have a logical position after he no longer can play shortstop, primarily because he does not hit with enough power to be a designated hitter or corner outfielder or even a third baseman, were Rodriguez to become the D.H. As for their offer of $45 million, the Yankees looked for comparisons and singled out Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is 37 and will make $17 million next season; Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins, who will turn 32 this week, plays the same position as Jeter does and will make $8.5 million in 2011; Rollins’s double-play partner, Chase Utley, who will also turn 32 soon and will make $15 million; and Rafael Furcal of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who plays shortstop, is 32, and will make $12 million. The Yankees also cited Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who turns 27 next month and hit .300 in 2010. He will make $11 million next year, or $4 million less than what the Yankees are offering Jeter. But Close has compared Jeter to Babe Ruth, which helps explain why the talks now seem to be stuck. How long they remain that way is unclear. Last week, Hal Steinbrenner, the team’s managing general partner, told reporters at the general managers’ meeting in Orlando that he wanted the bargaining to be civil and that he hoped a deal could be

concluded by Christmas. “But it will take as long as it takes,” Steinbrenner said. “The important thing is we don’t make it personal.” A day earlier, Randy Levine, the team president, told reporters that Jeter “is allowed to test the market” and that this negotiation was different from the one 10 years ago that left Jeter with the secondlargest contract in baseball, behind only Rodriguez’s $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. “It’s a player negotiation,” Levine said. “Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn’t a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal. He’s a baseball player.” As for Jeter, he addressed the situation briefly while attending a benefit dinner in Manhattan this month for Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation, noting that he had never gone through free agency before, said he did not know “time frames” as to when he would be signed and said his grandmother was teasing him about not having a job. At that same dinner, Cashman was asked about a statement Steinbrenner made at the beginning of November, when he said that there was always the possibility that the talks “could get messy.” Cashman told reporters he did not think that would happen. But now, two weeks later, that appears to be the case, with Cashman becoming more blunt and Close perhaps getting ready to respond.

The San Juan Weekly

December. 2 - 8, 2010



Manning Is Most Frequent Fumbler



iants quarterback Eli Manning, constantly compared to his quarterbacking brother on the Indianapolis Colts, leads Peyton Manning in one unsung career statistic: fumbles. Eli Manning has 59 fumbles in 99 career regular-season games. Peyton Manning has 57 in 202. “Not good,” Eli Manning said last week when this nugget was pointed out to him. On Sunday night in Philadelphia, Eli Manning had one of his more memorable loose-fingered gaffes. His team trailing the Eagles by 7 points in the final few minutes and facing a fourth-and-6 from its 44-yard line, Manning scrambled down the middle of the field for a 16-yard gain. But rather than sliding feet first, which ends the play to protect quarterbacks from hits, he dived forward. The ball bounced free. The Eagles recovered and won, 27-17. It was one of five turnovers for the 6-4 Giants, whose primary concern is re-

flected in a minus-8 turnover margin and a league-leading 14 fumbles lost. Turnovers, and particularly fumbles, rankle Coach Tom Coughlin more than anything else. When he stepped to the lectern for his postgame news conference, before anyone asked a question, the first words he chose were, “This disregard for the ball ....” For all of Coughlin’s pleading consternation about fumbles over the years — most famously with running back Tiki Barber and most often with subsequent backs like Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw (who fumbled against the Eagles, too) — the biggest culprit, quietly, has been Manning. He has a team-high seven fumbles this season, one more than Bradshaw. (Each has lost five of them to the other team.) Manning now stands third on the Giants’ career fumbles list, having passed Barber (53) and quarterback Charlie Conerly (54) this season. Manning is on a pace to pass Kerry Collins (61) in the coming weeks, leaving him behind only Phil Simms, who had 93. But Simms dropped the ball over the course of 164 regular-season games, averaging 0.567 fumbles per game. Manning is averaging 0.596, one of the highest rates in the N.F.L. Of the 32 current starting quarterbacks entering last weekend, only seven had a higher fumble percentage than Man-

ning. One was the Eagles’ Michael Vick. Yet Coughlin, at least until Manning’s flub on Sunday, has usually pinpointed the running backs, not his quarterback, when it comes to fumbles. “We don’t talk about it much,” Manning said last Wednesday. “I’m very conscious of it, that I have two hands on the ball when I’m moving in the pocket. Some of them are hard. You can’t really avoid them.” Sunday’s fumble was avoidable if Manning had slid instead of dived. He fumbled the same way against the Eagles in a 45-38 loss last year, too. “He should have slid,” Coughlin said. “I mean, competitively, he was trying to get as much yardage as he could. And then you could see him start to lunge, and I don’t think we would have said a thing if the ball didn’t come out. But it did. And it has happened before, so obviously we’ve got to learn from it.” Manning, according to a list of career fumbles kept by Pro-Football-Reference. com, entered Sunday in a four-way tie for 87th, alongside Troy Aikman, John Riggins and Billy Kilmer. The scramble-andfumble play pulled him even with Tommy Kramer, Don Majkowski and Jake Delhomme. Vick joined that group with two fumbles Sunday. Of the eight active quarterbacks with more career fumbles, none are under 30. Manning, in his seventh season, is 29. Should he play 13 full seasons (Peyton Manning is in his 13th) at his current fumble rate, Eli Manning would have 120 career fumbles. At the moment, that would place him eighth and put him far ahead of Peyton and their father, Archie, who had 73 in his career. Quarterbacks usually fumble more than other players. They handle the ball on every play. They are involved in dozens

of ball transactions in a game, receiving a snap from center and handing or pitching it to a running back. And they fumble when they step back to throw, whether on a blind-side sack or when a defender knocks the ball away as the quarterback cocks his arm. According to statistics compiled by, about three-quarters of Manning’s fumbles in 2009 (when he had 13) and 2010 were on strips as he prepared to throw. Quarterbacks dominate the list of career fumblers. The first nonquarterbacks on the list are Franco Harris and Tony Dorsett, tied for 20th, with 90 each. How many of the fumbles are lost to the other team is more difficult to ascertain. The N.F.L. tracks fumbles and fumble recoveries, but not fumbles lost. Warren Moon, for example, entered this season with more fumbles than anyone else, 161. (He has been passed by Brett Favre, who has 165.) Moon is the career leader in fumbles recovered: 56, all his own. According to the Giants, the team has lost 27 of Manning’s 59 fumbles. The ratio is worsening; 13 of his 20 fumbles the past two seasons ended up with the other team. Of course, Manning gets far more attention for his passing. With 16 interceptions through 10 games, he is on a pace to pass his career high of 20 in 2007, the year he led the Giants to victory in the Super Bowl. He had three against the Eagles. The Giants have committed 30 turnovers. Between fumbles and interceptions, Manning has had a hand, literally, in 21 of them. “We have got to stop — somehow, some way — the turnover,” Coughlin said Sunday night. It starts with the quarterback.


December 2 - 8, 2010

The San Juan Weekly


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