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The San Juan Weekly
JJanuary Ja nuary 6 - 12, 2011
Puerto Rico Paradise Plagued With Pollution “Just Think” is a new copy line launched by the Ofﬁce of Tourism for Puerto Rico (PR). Mario GonzalezLafuente, Executive Director of the PR Tourism Company, is also asking us to Discover Why Puerto Rico Does It Better. Why PR tourism executives really want us to think very deeply about their commonwealth and to consider what the destination does better is a mystery to me. Just Think: PR Highest Murder Rate in US A press release issued by Annie Rodriguez, the Director of Communications and Public Relations for PR Tourism stated, “Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s Gonzalez: Puerto Rico is Safer Than Ever” (November 29, 2010). Even a cursory look at PR crime statistics challenges this statement. Crime is so out of control in the
commonweath that in October 2010, 750 FBI personnel were ﬂown into PR to carry out raids and make arrests. According to Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, more than 1,000 FBI personnel participated in Operation Guard Shack, which was the largest crackdown on police corruption in the FBI’s 102-year history. In February 2010, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, activated 1,000 members of the National Guard to battle crime in this US territory. In the past 8 years there have been 25 slayings of transgender people. Rose Ellen in a CNN iReport told the story of a 19-year-old gay Puerto Rican who was found on November 14, 2009 burned, dismembered, and decapitated, with arms, legs, and head torn off before the body was dumped. According to Ellen, the insensitivity of the police response demonstrated a prejudice against the
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Exquisite Cuisine in an Oppulent Setting gay community claiming that, “...people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.” Because PR is a US territory, the brutal murder is a hate crime (signed into law by President Barack Obama). Fortunately the killer was recently apprehended and is spending 99 years in jail. Finally acknowledging the serious nature of hate crimes, in June 2010, Guillermo Somoza-Colombani, the Attorney General for PR, convened a special committee to investigate. The committee includes the US Attorney’s ofﬁce in San Juan, police ofﬁcials, and the island’s civil rights commission. The Center for the Prevention of Young Hispanic Violence of the University of PR conducted a study (2006) that revealed that between 1999 and 2003, homicide was the number one cause of death in the PR among young people between the ages of 15 and 29. The study concluded that in the years between 1990 and 1999, the risk of death by homicide in PR was one of the highest in the world, with a rate of 213.2 percent homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants, in contrast with the global rate of 10.7 percent for every 100,000 residents.
The locations with the highest crime rates include San Juan, Ponce, as well as Loiza and Catano. PR also has a massive marijuana problem as noted by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) and puntos de drogas, or drug points, can be found throughout Puerto Rican nightclubs, restaurants, bars, and city streets. Fevers and Chills PR is not the healthiest destination and in February 2010 PR declared a dengue fever epidemic with 210 dengue and three hemorrhagic dengue cases conﬁrmed by Health Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez. Dengue, a tropical virus spread by mosquitoes for which there is no vaccine, causes fever, headaches, and extreme joint and muscle pain. Moody’s Lowers Rating In August 2010, Moody’s Investor Services lowered its outlook on PR to negative (specially A3 – just four notches above junk status), citing the likelihood that the government will have to incur signiﬁcant debt to support the public pension system, as well as the country’s high unemployment, low workforce participation, and high poverty levels. In PR It Does Not Stop • To add other woes, there is conMario Gonzalez-Lafuente, Executive cern with the public water supply reserDirector of the PR Tourism Company voirs as they are ﬁlling with sand and other sediment reducing the storage capacity by as much as 60 percent over the last 50 years. The decline in capacity combined with population expansion presents a problem for long-term water supplies. • Years of sand-mining from beaches and dunes have caused serious erosion, creating ﬂooding and storm damage problems for coastal PR communities. • According to attorney Cindy Badano, Animal Rights Special Committee President, dead animals are littering the roads, and their decomposition is creating a loss of US$15 million yearly as animal rights tourists are boycotting the island and refuse to return to see the pitiful scenes.
Continues on page 4
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Comes from page 3 • On October 30, 2010, Governor Luis Fortuno lifted a ban on new construction for resorts and is permitting large-scale development inside the 3,200-acre parcel of land immediately north of El Yunque - the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest system. • Governor Fortuno is supporting a new coal-ﬁred power plant and garbage facilities, alarming environmentalists. • According to Camilla Feibelman of the Sierra Club, PR has many Superfund sites where the EPA is overseeing contaminant cleanup. • Exposure to air pollutants from large ships includes nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter and can cause respiratory illnesses, such as lung disease, asthma, and heart disease. The Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico moves approximately 11 million metric tons of goods on nearly 3,800 vessel trips annually. It is also a major destination for over one million cruise ship passengers. It was reported in the States News Service (December 7, 2010) that because of the pollution caused by cruise lines and container vessels there is a proposal for these vessels in “emission control areas” to use much cleaner
fuel or install better pollution control technology. • On October 26, 2010, President Barack Obama declared the commonwealth and surrounding areas as qualiﬁed to receive a federal aid supplement to assist local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms, ﬂooding, mudslides, and landslides associated with Tropical Storm Otto during the period of October 4-8, 2010. • On September 29, 2010, the EPA approved a list of 593 instances in
which a pollutant caused impairment in the PR water body that keeps it from supporting its designated use for drinking water, swimming and recreation, ﬁshing, or other activities speciﬁed by the commonwealth. The most common pollutants causing impairment include pathogens, arsenic, and dissolved oxygen. • In June 2010, the Red Cross declared the areas from Arecibo to Dorado and surrounding areas as Disaster Areas. • Workers in PR earn half the per capita income of the poorest US state (Daily Herald, May 23, 2010). • In 2009, 9 beaches were closed due to excessive levels of bacteriologicals: enterococci and fecal coliforms (from human waste contamination). The beaches included Cerro Gordo en Vega Alta, La Monseratte en Luquillo, Boqueron en Cabo Rojo, and Rincon (60 colonias). • In a 2009, PR Asthma Surveillance Report, “...our population suffers
from the highest asthma morbidity and mortality of all states and territories of the United States of America.” The CDC showed that PR had a signiﬁcantly higher overall prevalence of lifetime (19.6%) and current (11.6%) asthma in the US. In a Wessex Institute study of PR air quality, it was found that on average the urban districts presented higher particulate matter concentrations than the rural area. The study also revealed that particulate matter concentrations at some areas and at certain time periods were above the US National Ambient Air Quality Standards. • In addition, the global recession has hit PR tourism in its tourism pocket, showing a 4.7 percent decline in 2009. Private Sector Supersized The Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, is offering a 30-percent tax cut for businesses plus a ﬁve-year property tax holiday. PR is also waiving most fees for many real estate transactions. This robust public-private partnership program cuts capital gains for new housing proposals along with caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractices cases and a crackdown on frivolous laws. What is Better There are many optimists among the public and private sector executives in the PR, and it is likely that the
economy, safety, security, employment, water safety, pollution, etc. for the country will improve overtime. However, in a Paradise Lost study by John M. Hunter and Sonia I. Arbona in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, it was found that while “...rapid industrialization...” transformed PR, creating employment opportunities and raising living standards, “...in its wake is widespread pollution resulting in a landﬁll crisis, a heritage of toxic dumps, and an advancing tide of pollution…” The authors call upon “...inter-sectoral political leadership” to reverse the trend “...towards environmental deterioration.” In most situations, countries wait for the worst conditions to be eliminated before making an announcement or at least hedging their bets by stating the problems and proposing solutions (Iceland and the volcano situation is an example). It is rare for a locale to call attention to its many shortcomings and publicly declare that “it is does it better” until it has found remedies that address the challenges and in fact are “doing it better.” Perhaps the “Just Think” marketing campaign should “think” about the serious reality of the situation in the PR and “think” about a turnaround plan prior to drawing global attention to the many issues it faces.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
2010 Ended With 983 Killed T
he year 2010 ended as the second in the history of Puerto Rico in which more people have been killed by a balance of 983 cases. It is preceded by 1994, when 995 killings occurred. Police Superintendent Jose Figueroa, said that at the end of the year, Puerto Rico is a safer place now and that the crimes of the past three years are the result mostly from an alleged out war declared against drug outlets. “If you’re in the drug business, you have a far higher percentage of dying from the war by the drug points, “ said Figueroa, “but no one can be satisﬁed with the number of murders in the past year” . In the opinion of sociologists, the genesis of the homicide problem lies in poverty and loss of values occurred on the island Some say that Puerto Rico is experiencing the worst period in its history. The problem was no easy answer ﬁrst step in trying to minimize violence in the island is reshaping social values beginning with the family, instead of attributing all the evils the government nor the present nor to any other.
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2010: A Record Breaking Wet Year in the Caribbean R
esidents of San Juan, Puerto Rico will remember 2010 as the wettest year on record. Throughout the year, 89.51 inches of rain accumulated in the city. This is nearly double the normal amount of yearly rainfall, which is 50.76 inches. Despite the excessive amount of rain, rain fell on 199 of the 365 days, which is nearly the average amount of rainy days in a year (average is 202 days). San Juan did, however, break 2 records on the way to the yearly record. The ﬁrst record was the number of rainfall amounts over 0.25 of an inch, which occurred 95 times. The other record was the number of 1 inch or more rainfall amounts, which occurred 28 times in 2010. San Juan was not the only location in the region to experience the excessive rainfall. Puerto Rico as a whole reported 132 percent of normal rainfall, while
the Virgin Islands reported 172 percent of normal rainfall for the year. In addition, Saint Thomas recorded their second wettest year on record, while Saint Croix reported their seventh wettest year on record. Two factors contributed to the unusually wet conditions across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The ﬁrst contributing factor was the El Nino during the dry season (December through April). When El Nino’s occur during the dry season, there tends to be an increase in rainfall throughout the northern Caribbean Sea. The second factor was the onset of a strong La Nina during the wet season (May through November). La Nina’s that occur during the wet season also tend to produce more rain to the northern Caribbean Sea. These two factors have lead to excessive rainfall throughout the entire year.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
Dupont Plaza Hotel Arsen Mew Year’s Eve 1986 T
he Dupont Plaza Hotel ﬁre was a ﬁre that occurred at the Hotel Dupont Plaza (now San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino) in San Juan, Puerto Rico on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1986. The ﬁre was set by three disgruntled employees of the hotel who were in the middle of a labor dispute with the owners of the hotel. The ﬁre claimed 97 lives and caused 140 injuries. It is considered the most catastrophic hotel ﬁre in Puerto Rican history. The Puerto Rico Fire Department was dispatched at around 3:40 PM and 13 ﬁretrucks, 100 ﬁreﬁghters, and 35 ambulances were responded.
Background The employees of the hotel were in the middle of a labor dispute with hotel management relating to higher salaries and medical care. Three of the employees, Héctor Escudero Aponte, José Rivera López, and Arnaldo Jiménez Rivera, planned on setting several ﬁres with the intention of scaring tourists who wanted to stay at the hotel. Fire The hotel’s labor organization (which at some point was afﬁliated with the Teamsters) called a meeting for the afternoon of December 31, 1986. At the conclusion of the meeting, the members voted to go on strike. Around 3:30 PM, a few men placed opened cans of a ﬂammable liquid commonly used in chaﬁng dishes in a storage room adjacent to the ballroom on the ground ﬂoor of the hotel. The storage room was ﬁlled to the ceiling with unused furniture from the hotel. While some of the labor organizers created a distraction by staging a ﬁght just outside the doors to the ballroom, three men set the fuel alight. The ﬁre ignited the furniture and burned out of control, growing to massive proportions and ﬂashing over. After ﬂashing over in the ballroom, the superheated gasses swept up the grand staircase into the lobby of the hotel. From there, the ﬁre was sucked into the open doors of the casino by the smoke-eaters[clariﬁcation needed] present throughout the casino. Most of the deaths occurred in the casino, as guests discovered that the emergency exit doors were locked and that the only other egress from the casino was through a
pair of inward-opening doors. The casino patrons pressed against the doors to no avail. Some guests leapt from the second-story casino through plateglass windows to the pool deck below. Others perished from smoke inhalation on upper ﬂoors of the casino. Others were killed as they rode the elevators to the lobby only to discover their path blocked by the ﬁre when the doors opened. The ﬁre ultimately claimed 97 lives. Casualties The total number of casualties of the ﬁre has been estimated at 97, mostly by burns. Most of the victims were burned beyond recognition. Of the recognizable casualties, one was found in a bathroom, three were found in a lounge by the casino, another three were found in an elevator and one other was found in a fourth ﬂoor room. Aftermath The ﬁre gave rise to several amendments in security policies in hotels around the world. More than 2,000 claims were ﬁled against the hotel. The resulting litigation was, at the time, the largest civil litigation in U.S. history with over 2000 plaintiffs, 250 defendants and more than $2 billion in claims. Eventually the hotel management and most of the other defendants in the civil case settled with the plaintiffs. The remaining defendants were held not liable at trial. Of the three employees accused of the ﬁre, only one, Héctor Escudero Aponte, is still in prison. Armando Jimenez and José Francisco Rivera Lopez were released from federal prison in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
The Supreme Court and Obama’s Health Care Law By JOHN SCHWARTZ
hen it comes to the future of the Obama administration’s health care plan, the judicial math can seem simple. So far in three lawsuits against the plan, two federal judges appointed by Democrats have upheld the law; one Republican-appointed judge has declared an important part of it unconstitutional. Use party as your measure, send the cases up the appeals ladder, and you quickly get to a 5-4 decision at the Supreme Court: the justices appointed by Republican presidents will vote to strike down the law. Game over, thanks for playing. But the votes of the Supreme Court are not that easy to divine, and while political considerations can creep into any judge’s views, deeper factors are at play, said Mark Tushnet, a professor at Harvard Law School. Supreme Court justices, for the most part, “are attuned to their reputations as individuals in history, and their overall place in the government as a whole,” he said. Supreme Court justices work differently from judges at the District Court level, noted Jack Balkin, a constitutional scholar at Yale. “Federal District Court judges do not have to deliberate with anyone else,” he said. “Multimember courts are affected by who sits with them,” and “this is especially true of a nine-person Supreme Court.” Predicting how justices will vote, and especially the reasoning they will use to get there, becomes especially dicey when questions concerning the extent of government power come up. Take this year’s decision in United States v. Comstock. A Supreme Court majority supported the power of Congress to order the conﬁnement of “sexually dangerous” prisoners — to many observers, an enormous extension of state power. Justice Stephen Breyer, of the court’s liberal wing, was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, who are among the most conservative of the nine. In the history of Congressional power and the court, one struggle stands out: the New Deal. President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress took on a Supreme Court that was
overturning their reform initiatives. Eventually, they prevailed and the ﬁght left justices reluctant to overturn Congressional action, especially if the legislators could themselves repeal the measure, said Eric M. Freedman, a Constitutional scholar at Hofstra University Law School. Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown University who opposes the health care bill, agreed that the ﬁght over the law was best understood in the context of the Roosevelt administration. While the court retreated from its efforts to overturn New Deal legislation, Professor Barnett said, those later opinions should not be interpreted as having fully abdicated power to Congress. The power of the courts to restrict Congress never ended, he said. “The New Deal cases have been misread by wishful thinking.“ Professor Barnett acknowledges that his overall view is in the minority of legal scholars. But, he said, “we’re not reﬁghting the New Deal here.” The Obama administration, he said, is “trying to go beyond the line drawn by the New Deal.” Opponents of the law insist that Congress has never ordered people to buy something — that is, to regulate inactivity as opposed to activity. But Congress has successfully regulated inactivity, said Professor Tushnet of Harvard. In a famous 1942 case, Wickard v. Filburn, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of federal quotas, meant to support wheat prices, that restricted how much farmers could grow. In the case, Roscoe Filburn grew more wheat than permitted; he argued that the wheat was for his own use. Professor Tushnet noted that Mr. Filburn’s actions could be described as a failure to purchase wheat in the general market — a situation similar to that of people who do not buy health insurance. “If the constitutional challenge has any legs, it is on the ground that it is unprecedented — Congress has never done it before,” he said. “Well, it turns out that Congress has done it before.” Michael McConnell, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford, said the health care bill “is the ﬁrst time that regulation of commerce has been taken this
TRY AGAIN Chief Justice Charles Hughes, center, and his fellow justices rejected many of the early New Deal laws. far.” Even so, he said, “that doesn’t make it automatically unconstitutional.” Professor McConnell said the New Deal had been misunderstood — but not necessarily in the ways that Professor Barnett argues it has. In his view, Professor McConnell said, the Supreme Court’s initial resistance to the New Deal legislation sent Congress back to the drawing board to fashion better legal approaches. “By the time the Supreme Court started sustaining most of the New Deal legislation, the character of it had changed, and become much more economically defensible,” he said. “You can say that the Supreme Court actually helped save the Roosevelt administration from some of its mistakes.” The chief justice at the height of the court crisis, Charles Evans Hughes, would say that the problem with the early New Deal legislation was not its political slant but its legal quality. In “Rethinking the New Deal Court: The Structure of a Constitutional Revolution,” the legal historian Barry Cushman wrote that Chief Justice Hughes complained to a United States senator, “The laws have been poorly drafted, the briefs have been badly drawn and the arguments have been poorly presented.” Professor McConnell, who pronounced himself no fan of the individual mandate, said similar things could happen with the health care
law. “It’s not impossible that some kind of interplay between the administration, a more skeptical Congress and a somewhat more skeptical judiciary could lead to improvements in the legislation.” Professor Freedman of Hofstra noted that even if the justices were reluctant to accept the government’s primary argument that inactivity can be controlled under the Commerce Clause, there are other grounds for ﬁnding the health care law constitutional. The most attractive to the court, he suggested, might be categorizing the ﬁne for not buying health care as a tax. He noted that a while only a handful of cases had restricted the power of Congress, under the Commerce Clause, the power to tax has almost always been upheld. The Obama administration has made the tax argument in court, despite having argued during Congressional debate that the ﬁnancial penalties under the individual mandate were not a new tax. That seemingly uncomfortable conﬂict for the administration might suggest a path to upholding the law. A ﬁnding that the mandate is in fact a tax — and thus constitutional — could mean “the Obama administration might gain a long-term legal victory at the cost of a short-term political loss,” Professor Freedman said. In the world of sports, that’s called winning ugly. But the Obama team would probably be happy to win any way it can.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
U.S. Bioethics Commission Gives Green Light to Synthetic Biology By ANDREW POLLACK
he president’s bioethics commission says there is no need to temporarily halt research or to impose new regulations on the controversial new ﬁeld known as synthetic biology. In a report being issued, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues says that at present the technology — which involves creating novel organisms through the synthesis and manipulation of DNA — poses few risks because it is still in its infancy. Instead, the report recommends self-regulation by synthetic biologists. It also says the president’s ofﬁce should better coordinate government agencies that oversee different aspects of the ﬁeld. “The commission thinks it imprudent either to declare a moratorium on synthetic biology until all risks can be determined and mitigated, or to simply ‘let science rip,’ regardless of the likely risks,” the report says. “The Commission instead proposes a middle ground
— an ongoing system of prudent vigilance that carefully monitors, identiﬁes and mitigates potential and realized harms over time.” Synthetic biology uses genetic engineering and other techniques to create novel organisms tailored for particular tasks. The idea is that by synthesizing DNA and by combining standard genetic building blocks, engineers can efﬁciently design a biological machine much as they might design a bridge or computer chip. Synthetic biology is already being used to engineer microorganisms to manufacture a malaria drug and produce biofuels, so it might form the basis of a huge new bio-economy that could partly supplant petroleum-based industry. But the promise is accompanied by the risks of “bio-terror” and “bio-error” — that the same
techniques, either nefariously or inadvertently, might create organisms that would harm public health or the environment. President Obama asked the commission, which he created about a year ago, to examine synthetic biology as its ﬁrst order of business in May, right after the scientist J. Craig Venter announced that he and his colleagues had created what might be called the ﬁrst “synthetic organism.” Dr. Venter’s team had manufactured the complete genome of a bacterium from chemicals and transplanted it into another closely related type of bacterium, where it took over control of the organism. While the feat raised concerns
that man was now playing God, the commission’s report says that Dr. Venter’s team did not create life, since it had duplicated a known genome and transplanted into an already living cell. Nor, the report says, are truly novel creatures on the immediate horizon. “Here’s something signiﬁcant in science, but there’s no cause for fear and dread about what is going to happen immediately next,” Amy Gutmann, the chairwoman of the commission, said in an interview Wednesday. Dr. Gutmann, who is president of the University of Pennsylvania, said the 13 scientists, ethicists and public policy experts who make up the commission had unanimously endorsed the report’s 18 recommendations. Among those recommendations was that training in ethics be required for researchers in the ﬁeld. Some critics of synthetic biology lambasted the recommendations. “This is a disappointingly empty and timid little report,” Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, a Canadian environmental organization, said in a statement. Mr. Thomas testiﬁed at the ﬁrst of three public meeting the bioethics commission had on synthetic biology. More than 50 environmental groups from around the world signed an open letter to federal ofﬁcials calling for a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms until the risks are understood and regulations developed. “The commission’s lack of attention to the ecological harms posed by synthetic biology is
irresponsible and dangerous,” the letter said, adding that “self- regulation amounts to no regulation.” Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents companies that use the technology, called the report “reasonable, well balanced and insightful.” He said the commission had recognized that synthetic biology “is not something radically new and threatening, but is part of an ongoing continuum of biotech innovation that has resulted in safe and successful products and public beneﬁts for the past 15 or 20 years.” Drew Endy, a Stanford engineer who is considered one of the most inﬂuential researchers in synthetic biology, said he welcomed leadership from the executive branch of the government, which he said was needed for the ﬁeld to thrive. He also praised a recommendation in the report asking the government to evaluate whether patents might be hindering progress. Dr. Venter, whose work precipitated the commission’s study, also praised the recommendations as “wise, warranted and restrained, which will help to ensure that this young ﬁeld of research will ﬂourish in a positive manner.”
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
White House Issues Long-Delayed Science Guidelines By KENNETH CHANG
he Obama administration issued long-awaited, long-delayed guidelines on Friday to insulate government scientiﬁc research from political meddling and to base policy decisions on solid data. Under the guidelines, government scientists are in general free to speak to journalists and the public about their work, and agencies are prohibited from editing or suppressing reports by independent advisory committees. And the agencies are instructed that when communicating a scientiﬁc ﬁnding to the public, they should describe its underlying assumptions. For instance, they are told to describe “probabilities associated with both optimistic and pessimistic projections” — a guideline that, had it been in place last summer, might have helped the administration avoid overly optimistic estimates of the BP oil spill. In a blog entry on the White House Web site, John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, said the guidelines set “minimum standards” that federal agencies will be expected to meet.
The agencies are to report to Dr. Holdren within 120 days, detailing how they will carry out the policy. Some scientists praised the new guidelines. “I think they represent several steps in the right direction,” said Albert H. Teich, director of science and policy programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. But others were disappointed that the four-page document did not provide more speciﬁcs. “The guidelines are substantively quite thin,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. The guidelines have their roots in a series of scientiﬁc controversies that erupted during the administration of President George W. Bush. Ofﬁcials were repeatedly accused of suppressing or even altering research ﬁndings, particularly on climate change, to match the political views of the White House. So in March 2009, when Mr. Obama overturned Bush administration limits on stem cell research, he set out several principles to “guarantee scientiﬁc integrity throughout the executive branch” and added, “We make scientiﬁc decisions
based on facts, not ideology.” But though the president called on Dr. Holdren to come up with recommendations within four months, the guidelines did not emerge for over a year and a half. Dr. Pielke said on Friday that considering the guidelines were merely “a starting line for agencies to consider these issues, what is surprising is how long it took to get these out.” Dr. Holdren told a House panel in February that the process took longer than expected because of “the difﬁculties of constructing a set of guidelines that would be applicable across all the agencies and accepted by all concerned.” With the delay, some Republicans have charged that the Obama administration was manipulating scientiﬁc data in the same way it said the Bush administration had done — to justify policy decisions on climate change, fuel mileage standards, nuclear waste disposal and other issues. “In fact, what I see from this administration, seems to me they’re holding on to the idea that the world is ﬂat,” Representative Paul Broun, Republican of Georgia, said at the panel hearing.
Francesca T. Grifo, director of the scientiﬁc integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, praised the guidelines but cautioned, “A lot of the details are left to the agencies.” The document states, “Federal scientists may speak to the media and the public about scientiﬁc and technological matters based on their ofﬁcial work,” but then adds a caveat: “with appropriate coordination with their immediate supervisor and their public affairs ofﬁce.” “That could mean so many different things,” Dr. Grifo said — for example, that a scientist should keep their colleagues informed, or that a supervisor could prohibit appearances. Dr. Grifo said the language would not prevent a recurrence of the kind of situation that arose in 2006, when James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, accused White House ofﬁcials of trying to keep him from talking about ﬁndings that connected emissions of carbon dioxide with rising global temperatures. “I don’t like the ambiguities,” Dr. Grifo said. “I don’t like the discretion it gives to the agencies.”
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
The Bipartisanship Racket By FRANK RICH
EEZ, can’t we all just get along? Can’t we be civilized? Can’t we reach across the aisle, ﬁnd common ground and get things done? Can’t we have a new Morning in America as clubby and chipper as MSNBC’s daily gabfest, “Morning Joe”? This is actually the manifesto of the new political organization called No Labels. It’s no surprise that its ofﬁcial debut last week prompted derisive laughter from all labels across the political spectrum, not to mention Gawker, which deemed it “the most boring political movement of all time.” But attention must be paid. In its patronizing desire to instruct us on what is wrong with our politics, No Labels ends up being a damning indictment of just how alarmingly out of touch the mainstream politicalmedia elite remains with the grievances that have driven Americans to cynicism and despair in the 21st century’s Gilded Age. Although No Labels sounds like a progressive high school’s Model U.N., its heavy hitters are serious adults — or at least white male adults. Among the 16 billed speakers at last week’s ofﬁcial launch in New York, there were three women and no blacks, notwithstanding an excruciating No Labels “anthem” contributed by the Senegalese-American rapper Akon. (Do ﬁnd on YouTube.) The marquee names on hand included Michael Bloomberg; Senate Democrats (Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, the incoming Joe Manchin of West Virginia); moderate Republicans drummed out of ofﬁce by the Tea Party (Charlie Crist, Mike Castle); and no fewer than four MSNBC talking heads. Despite Bloomberg’s denials, some persist in speculating that No Labels is a stalking horse for a quixotic 2012 presidential run. At the very least the organization is a promotional hobby horse for MSNBC. “Morning Joe” plugged No Labels with an alacrity to match Fox News’s Tea Party boosterism (if not Fox’s decibel level). The No Labels slogan — “Not Left. Not Right. Forward” — even echoes MSNBC’s advertising tagline, “Lean Forward.” Presumably No Labels ditched “lean” because it’s too muscular a verb for a group whose stated goals include better schools, affordable health care and more jobs — as long as they can be achieved “in a ﬁscally prudent way.” To proselytize for such unimpeachable verities, no leaning is required — you can do it frozen in place, and just possibly in your sleep. The notion that civility and nominal bipartisanship would accomplish any of the heavy lifting required to rebuild America is childish magical thinking, and, worse, a mindless distraction from the real work before the nation. Sure, it would be swell if rhetorical peace broke out in Washington — or on cable news networks — but given that American politics have been rancorous since Boston’s original Tea Party, wishing will not make it so. Bipartisanship is equally extinct — as made all too evident this month by the pathetic fate of the much-hyped Simpson-Bowles deﬁcit commission. Less than a week after the panel released its recommendations, the Democratic president and the Republican Congressional leadership both signed off on a tax-cut package that made a mockery of all its proposals by adding another $858 billion to the deﬁcit. Even the Iraq Study Group — Washington’s last stab at delegating tough choices to a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission — enjoyed a slightly longer shelf life before its recommendations were unceremoniously dumped into the garbage. The No Labels faith in kumbaya as an antidote to what ails a polarized Washington isn’t derived from any recent historical precedent but from the undying Beltway
anecdotes about how Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill used to bury the hatchet over booze in times of yore. Bipartisanship is also a perennial holy grail in Beltway punditry — as typiﬁed by David Broder, who hailed the SimpsonBowles commission as “historic” in The Washington Post just hours before its ﬁndings were voted down by commission members on both the left (Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois) and right (Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin). Beltway conventional wisdom is equally responsible for another myth promoted by No Labels: that the Move On left and the Tea Party right are equal contributors to America’s “hyperpartisanship.” In the real world, no one could seriously believe that activists on the left have the sway over Democratic leaders, starting with President Obama, that the Tea Party has over the G.O.P. Nor, with all due respect to MSNBC, does the left have a media megaphone to match the Tea Party’s alliance with the Murdoch empire, as led by Fox News, and the megastars of talk radio. Besides, polls consistently show that hyperpartisanship is more prevalent among Republican voters than Democrats. When Democrats were asked in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey released last week if they wanted their leaders in Washington to stick with their positions rather than compromise with Republicans, only 29 percent said yes. When Republicans were asked the equivalent question, the no-compromise number jumped to 47 percent. Yet what’s most disturbing about No Labels is that its centrist, no doubt well-intentioned leaders seem utterly clueless about why Americans of all labels are angry: the realization that both parties are bought off by special interests who game the system and stack it against the rest of us. Indeed, No Labels itself is another manifestation of this syndrome. Its two prime movers are a political consultant, Mark McKinnon, a veteran of the Bush and McCain campaigns known for slick salesmanship; and a fund-raiser, Nancy Jacobson, who, along with her husband, the pollster and corporate ﬂack Mark Penn, helped brand the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign as a depository for special-interest contributions. No less depressing is the No Labels veneration of Evan Bayh, the Democratic senator from Indiana who decided to retire this year rather than ﬁght for another term. For months now, Bayh has been positioning himself as a sacriﬁcial lamb to broken Washington; when he made the rounds plugging No Labels last week, he was greeted as a martyr on MSNBC. What goes unmentioned in the Bayh
morality tale is that in quitting the Senate without a ﬁght, he became part of the problem rather than the solution: his exit facilitated the election of a high-powered corporate lobbyist, Dan Coats, as his Republican successor. Then again, Bayh’s father — another former liberal Democratic senator — is also a lobbyist. (Evan Bayh has so far been mum about his own post-Senate career plans.) This is exactly the kind of revolving-door synergy between corporate power and governance that turns off Americans left, right and, yes, center. Oblivious to this taint, No Labels named a few fat-cat donors who have ponied up $1million-plus. But like those shadowy outside groups invented by Karl Rove and his cronies for the 2010 campaign, No Labels has registered as a 501 (c) (4) and is not legally bound to release information about its contributors. WHAT America needs is not another political organization with a toothless agenda and less-than-transparent ﬁnances. The country will not rest easy until there are brave leaders in both parties willing to reform the system that let perpetrators of the Great Recession escape while the rest of us got stuck with the wreckage. As Jesse Eisinger of the investigative journalistic organization ProPublica summed up “Nobody from Lehman, Merrill Lynch or Citigroup has been charged criminally with anything. No top executives at Bear Stearns have been indicted. All former American International Group executives are running free.” For No Labels to battle this status quo would require actual political courage — true bipartisan courage, in fact. To say there’s been no accountability for the crash is an understatement. In yet another spectacular display of failed bipartisanship last week, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, charged by Congress with unearthing the roots of the ﬁnancial meltdown, split apart in sectarian warfare. The panel’s Republican members issued their own rump report eliminating all mention of derivatives, executive compensation, failed regulatory agencies and even the words “Wall Street” so the whole debacle could be pinned solely on government (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) and deadbeat Americans who took on predatory mortgages. Our political leaders seem more inclined to hasten the next bust — and perhaps cash in on it — than prevent it. Massachusetts Republicans can’t be blamed if they react with anger, not civility, to The Boston Globe’s new revelations that Scott Brown raked in off-the-charts donations from the ﬁnance industry while toiling to weaken the ﬁnancial regulatory bill. Democrats are equally entitled to be outraged that Obama’s former budget director, Peter Orszag, has followed the egregious example of his mentor, Robert Rubin, by moving from the White House to a job at Citigroup — and only four months after leaving government service. Citi is now marketing all-new lines of loosey-goosey credit cards to debt-prone Americans much as it stoked the proliferation of no-money-down mortgages during Rubin’s tenure in the housing bubble. It can do so with impunity, since the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer Bachus, has already guaranteed institutions like Citi a pass. As Bachus’s instantly notorious pronouncement had it, “My view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” In truth, this congressman’s view has been the prevailing view in Washington under both parties since the Reagan administration. If No Labels is the best our centrist political establishment can come up with to address the ills eating away at America, its culture is as bankrupt as Citigroup would be if taxpayers had been allowed to let it fail.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Careful When Shooting the Messenger By ERIC PFANNER
n May 2009, The Daily Telegraph set off a political storm in Britain when it detailed widespread expense-account abuse by members of Parliament. Among the claims: £1,645, or $2,547, for a ﬂoating duck house in one lawmaker’s garden. The reports were based on a leak, in the form of a stolen computer disk that The Telegraph obtained from a disgruntled public-sector employee, reportedly in exchange for a fee. At ﬁrst, the British political establishment was nearly unanimous in its condemnation of the newspaper. There was talk of prosecuting The Telegraph, and government lawyers boned up on the Ofﬁcial Secrets Act. Eventually common sense prevailed and the government backed off, realizing that legal action would have made a bad situation worse. Given that the information had already escaped, shooting the messenger would have been pointless. And the damage to Britain’s image as an advocate of transparency and fair play would have been enormous.
The expenses scandal is worth considering as the U.S. government weighs its response to an even bigger leak of secret information obtained with the aid of digital technology — the publishing of thousands of American diplomatic cables by the Web site WikiLeaks. According to reports in The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, its global edition, which have published articles based on the cables, the Justice Department is examining charges against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. There are, of course, some differences between the expenses scandal and what WikiLeaks calls “Cablegate.” The cables are arguably more sensitive than the information on The Telegraph’s disk — in some cases, publication threatens lives, according to the U.S. government. Yet the expense reports provided more immediately compelling evidence of scandal; the WikiLeaks ﬁles contain a lot more “cable” than “gate.” On the other hand, the alleged payment by The Telegraph adds a commercial factor to the newspaper’s motivation for publis-
hing; WikiLeaks, meanwhile, says it acts purely in the interest of promoting transparency. Still, there is one important parallel: A U.S. prosecution of Mr. Assange would carry signiﬁcant downside risks for the United States. The issues at stake were described neatly in a recent policy paper by Google, about government efforts to disrupt the free ﬂow of information on the Internet. The paper does not mention WikiLeaks; it was widely seen as a broadside against China’s policy of ﬁltering the Internet, after Google’s run-ins with the censors in Beijing. But it contained a useful summary of the different kinds of censorship practiced around the world, including this tactic: “Encouragement of self-censorship through means including surveillance and monitoring, threats of legal action and informal methods of intimidation.” That sounds a lot like what is going on in the United States right now with regard to WikiLeaks. It is not necessary for America to erect a Chinese-style “Great Firewall” to ﬁlter out government criticism; if Mr. Assange were prosecuted, wouldbe whistleblowers and news tipsters
would have to think twice before taking action. That would be bad news for American journalism, and it might be even worse for U.S. technology giants, whose global dominance is underpinned by a sense that American values align with the spirit of openness and free expression that has generally prevailed on the Internet. Technological superiority is not the only reason why Google, and not Baidu of China, is the world’s pre-eminent search engine. Google argues in the paper that censorship should be viewed as a barrier to trade, given the increasing importance of the Internet in moving goods and ideas around the world. In the WikiLeaks saga, other commentators have elevated the stakes further, describing the cable dump, the bellicose ofﬁcial response and the juvenile efforts by hackers sympathetic to WikiLeaks as the opening salvoes of a long-awaited cyberwar. Does it really make sense for Washington to escalate? This is one war in which most of the collateral damage would be American.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable By WILLIAM J. BROAD
uppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not ﬂee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till ofﬁcials say it’s safe. The advice is based on recent scientiﬁc analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far. But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So ofﬁcials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public. “We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.” Ofﬁcials say they are moving aggressively to conduct drills, prepare communication guides and raise awareness among emergency planners of how to educate the public. Over the years, Washington has sought to prevent nuclear terrorism and limit its harm, mainly by governmental means. It has spent tens of billions of dollars on everything from intelligence and securing nuclear materials to equipping local authorities with radiation detectors. The new wave is citizen preparedness. For people who survive the initial blast, the main advice is to ﬁght the impulse to run and instead seek shelter from lethal radioactivity. Even a few hours of protection, ofﬁcials say, can greatly increase survival rates. Administration ofﬁcials argue that the cold war created an unrealistic sense of fatalism about a terrorist nuclear attack. “It’s more survivable than most people think,” said an ofﬁcial deeply involved in the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The key is avoiding nuclear fallout.” The administration is making that argument with state and local authorities and has started to do so with the general public as well. Its Citizen Corps Web site says a nuclear detonation is “potentially survivable for thousands, especially with adequate shelter and education.” A color illustration shows which kinds of buildings and rooms offer the best protection from radiation. In June, the administration released to emergency ofﬁcials around the nation an unclassiﬁed planning guide 130 pages long on how to respond to a nuclear attack. It stressed citizen education, before any
attack. Without that knowledge, the guide added, “people will be more likely to follow the natural instinct to run from danger, potentially exposing themselves to fatal doses of radiation.” Specialists outside of Washington are divided on the initiative. One group says the administration is overreacting to an atomic threat that is all but nonexistent. Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and New York University’s Center on Law and Security, recently argued that the odds of any terrorist group obtaining a nuclear weapon are “near zero for the foreseeable future.” But another school says that the potential consequences are so high that the administration is, if anything, being too timid. “There’s no penetration of the message coming out of the federal government,” said Irwin Redlener, a doctor and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “It’s deeply frustrating that we seem unable to bridge the gap between the new insights and using them to inform public policy.” White House ofﬁcials say they are aware of the issue’s political delicacy but are nonetheless moving ahead briskly. The administration has sought “to enhance national resilience — to withstand disruption, adapt to change and rapidly recover,” said Brian Kamoie, senior director for preparedness policy at the National Security Council. He added, “We’re working hard to involve individuals in the effort so they become part of the team in terms of emergency management.” A nuclear blast produces a blinding ﬂash, burning heat and crushing wind. The ﬁreball and mushroom cloud carry radioactive particles upward, and the wind sends them near and far. The government initially knew little about radioactive fallout. But in the 1950s, as the cold war intensiﬁed, scientists monitoring test explosions learned that the tiny particles throbbed with ﬁssion products — fragments of split atoms, many highly radioactive and potentially lethal. But after a burst of interest in fallout shelters, the public and even the government grew increasingly skeptical about civil defense as nuclear arsenals grew to hold thousands of warheads. In late 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the director of central intelligence told President George W. Bush of a secret warning that Al Qaeda had hidden an atom bomb in New York City. The report turned out to be false. But atomic jitters soared. “History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act,” Mr. Bush said in late 2002. In dozens of programs, his administration focused on prevention but also dealt with disaster response and the acquisition of items like radiation detectors. “Public education is key,” Daniel J. Ka-
niewski, a security expert at George Washington University, said in an interview. “But it’s easier for communities to buy equipment — and look for tech solutions — because there’s Homeland Security money and no shortage of contractors to supply the silver bullet.” After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 revealed the poor state of disaster planning, public and private ofﬁcials began to question national preparedness for atomic strikes. Some noted conﬂicting federal advice on whether survivors should seek shelter or try to evacuate. In 2007, Congress appropriated $5.5 million for studies on atomic disaster planning, noting that “cities have little guidance available to them.” The Department of Homeland Security ﬁnanced a multiagency modeling effort led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The scientists looked at Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities, using computers to simulate details of the urban landscape and terrorist bombs. The results were revealing. For instance, the scientists found that a bomb’s ﬂash would blind many drivers, causing accidents and complicating evacuation. The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates. “This has been a game changer,” Brooke Buddemeier, a Livermore health physicist, told a Los Angeles conference. He showed a slide labeled “How Many Lives Can Sheltering Save?” If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter, Mr. Buddemeier said, there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region. Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that ﬁgure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big ofﬁce building or an underground garage
would provide the best shelter of all. “We’d have no signiﬁcant exposures,” Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout. On Jan. 16, 2009 — four days before Mr. Bush left ofﬁce — the White House issued a 92-page handbook lauding “preevent preparedness.” But it was silent on the delicate issue of how to inform the public. Soon after Mr. Obama arrived at the White House, he embarked a global campaign to ﬁght atomic terrorism and sped up domestic planning for disaster response. A senior ofﬁcial, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the new administration began a revision of the Bush administration’s handbook to address the issue of public communication. “We started working on it immediately,” the ofﬁcial said. “It was recognized as a key part of our response.” The agenda hit a speed bump. Las Vegas was to star in the nation’s ﬁrst live exercise meant to simulate a terrorist attack with an atom bomb, the test involving about 10,000 emergency responders. But casinos and businesses protested, as did Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He told the federal authorities that it would scare away tourists. Late last year, the administration backed down. “Politics overtook preparedness,” said Mr. Kaniewski of George Washington University. When the administration came out with its revised planning guide in June, it noted that “no signiﬁcant federal response” after an attack would be likely for one to three days. The document said that planners had an obligation to help the public “make effective decisions” and that messages for predisaster campaigns might be tailored for schools, businesses and even water bills. “The most lives,” the handbook said, “will be saved in the ﬁrst 60 minutes through sheltering in place.”
The San Juan Weeekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Artaban The Fourth Wise Man T
he best known presents given at the ﬁrst Christmas are Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, given by the three wise men. However legend has it that there was a fourth wise man, whose name was Artaban. He travelled from Persia to meet the others carrying with him his gift for the new King - three precious jewels a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. On his way Artaban met an old Jew by the roadside, who was almost dying from fever. He decided to stay with the sick man until he was well and so he missed the
other three wise men whop completed their journey to Bethlehem. The Jew told Artaban that the prophets said that the King would be born in Bethlehem . To make such a journey it was necessary to form a caravan and buy expensive supplies and equipment. So Artaban sold his costly sapphire to raise money and he set out for Bethlehem . When he arrived in Bethlehem and made enquiries he was told that the other wise men had left 3 days before. A young mother told him that the family he was seeking had ﬂed and that Bethlehem was in fear of King Herod. While Artaban was in the town, the soldiers arrived with orders to kill all the baby boys. The young mother was very frightened for her young son and when the captain of the soldiers ordered the child to be killed, Artaban came to the rescue and gave his ruby to the soldiers to save the boy. Artaban sought for the King for many years, although he only had one of his gifts left - the pearl. Finally, after 30 years searching, he came to Jerusalem at the time of the
Passover. The city was buzzing with talk about the man named Jesus who claimed to be the son of God and who was to be cruciﬁed. Artaban wondered whether he could use his last jewel to save the life of this man, Jesus. But as he hurried through the streets of the city Artaban came across a young girl who was crying. She told Artaban she was crying because she was going to be sold into slavery to pay her father’s debts. Artaban could not pass by and leave the girl crying so he gave her the pearl, the last of his jewels. At that moment the city was rocked by an earthquake and Artaban saw Jesus on the cross. So Artaban was not able to worship his King. His precious gifts had been sold, or given away, to help others on his long journey. Yet Artaban had worshiped his King and served him
by using the gifts he had to help other people This is our way of serving God - by helping, sharing and being kind to other people - as shown in our Beaver Scout promise.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
More Than One Part of France Is Fizzy By ERIC ASIMOV
Tasting Report BEST VALUE Philippe Foreau Vouvray, $24, *** ½ Clos Naudin Brut NV Complex and distinctive with savory, toasty ﬂavors and a touch of honey, yet dry and refreshing. () (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York)
BSESSED with Champagne? I plead guilty. But you must understand, your Honor, it’s not just Champagne. I’m obsessed with almost all sparkling wines. Yes, I know, that’s a big obsession. Sparkling wines are everywhere this time of the year, and they come from all over the wine-producing world, too. Just about every historic wine region has its own version. But no country is so closely identiﬁed with sparkling wine as France is. Clearly, that’s because of the huge, foaming presence of Champagne at so many of life’s important events. The tradition of making ﬁne sparkling wines goes beyond Champagne, however, reaching to all corners of the country and taking many different, sometimes surprising forms. You want a delicate, slightly sweet, pinkish bubbly that can be absolutely delicious before or after a meal? Bugey Cerdon from eastern France is the one for you. Or a fragile, lightly sparkling white wine that is the ultimate in freshness? Maybe something perlant — just a whisper of bubbles — from Gaillac in the southwest. These are, perhaps, obscure examples, but many regions of France make more-conventional sparklers that resemble Champagne only in the sense that they can play similar roles. Like Champagne, these sparklers are wonderfully versatile with food, yet may be delicious on their own. They are usually forcefully bubbly in the manner of Champagne, and therefore can gush forth on ceremonial and celebratory occasions. But in their aromas and ﬂavors they are most deﬁnitely not Champagne. Instead, they offer distinctive personalities and characters. Curious about the non-Champagne side of French sparkling wine, and true to its seasonal obligation, the wine panel recently tasted 20 bottles of Gallic bubbly. For the tasting Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Pascaline Lepeltier, wine director of Rouge Tomate restaurant in Midtown, and Victoria Levin, general manager of the Tangled Vine, a wine bar on the Upper West Side. Over all, I was impressed with the quality and distinctiveness of these variations on the theme. The wines we liked best were lively and refreshing, with some degree of ﬁnesse. This, it turned out, was one of the chief differen-
Parigot Crémant de Bourgogne, $22, *** Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Tangy, balanced and refreshing, with dry, chalky, spicy ﬂavors. (A Becky Wasserman Selection/Willette Wines, New York)
ces between some of these wines and Champagne. The elegance and polish that we associate with good Champagne was sometimes lacking. Some of these sparklers seemed rustic or, even worse, clumsy. We also rejected wines that lacked the tense sense of balance that energizes good sparkling wines. This is a prerequisite, but it is not the only thing. “Sparkling wine is not only bubbles,” Pascaline said. “It’s also a wine.” In many of our favorites, we could sense what she called “the frankness of the grape.” This was especially clear in the three sparkling Vouvrays in our top 10, all of which expressed the character, in different ways, of the chenin blanc grape. Our favorite, the Philippe Foreau brut, was complex and savory, dry yet with the telltale touch of honey that to me always indicates chenin blanc. The Champalou brut, our No. 8 bottle, was pure and fresh, with ﬂavors of apples and honeysuckle. As with most of our favorites, these were made using the same method as Champagne, in which the grapes are fermented into still wines and then bottled. A second fermentation is then induced in the bottle, which produces carbon dioxide that, unable to escape, carbonates the wine. By contrast, the third sparkling Vouvray, the 2005 Huët Pétillant, was made differently, bottled part way through the ﬁrst fermentation rather than after it had completed fermentation. As it ﬁnishes its single fermentation in the bottle, a smaller amount of carbon dioxide is released, producing a pétillant wine, sparkling but with a gentler level of carbonation. Indeed, the
’05 Huët is light and delicate, yet pure and fresh, with a subtle touch of honey. Among our top 10 we had one more wine from the Loire Valley, our No. 5 bottle, the Langlois-Château Crémant de Loire. It is only 60 percent chenin blanc, with the rest chardonnay and cabernet franc, but the chenin still shines through in this fresh, vibrant wine. The crémant designation is used in much of France to indicate wines made in what used to be called the Champagne method. All six of our other favorites, two from Burgundy and four from Alsace, were crémants. Our No. 2 bottle, the Parigot Crémant de Bourgogne, was a tangy, minerally blanc de blancs, made of chardonnay and aligoté, while our No. 10 bottle, the earthy, toasty Crémant de Bourgogne from Jean-Louis Moissenet-Bonnard, was made of pinot noir. The Crémants d’Alsace are more of a guessing game. Our No. 3, from Jean Pierre Dirler, was largely pinot blanc, while the No. 6 François Baur was half pinot blanc, half riesling. The No. 7 Albert Mann is a blend of four different grapes, while the No. 9 Domaine Agapé was chardonnay and pinot noir, just as in Champagne, and yet this spicy, ﬂoral bubbly was completely different. I don’t mean to paint too frothy a picture of the sparkling possibilities. As with any type of wine you have to seek out dedicated producers. Even though we very much liked the three Vouvrays in our tasting, for example, a fair amount of sparkling Vouvray is made as sort of a dumping ground for grapes less than ripe or otherwise imperfect. It may be a big bubbly world, but you have to choose carefully out there.
Jean Pierre Dirler, $29, *** Crémant d’Alsace Brut 2007 Complex, lingering ﬂavors of fruit, herbs and spices with persistent bubbles. (Robert Chadderdon Selections, New York) Huët Vouvray, $30, ** ½ Brut Pétillant 2005 Pure, light, dry, delicate and subtle. (A Rare Wine Company Selection/Vieux Vins, Vineburg, Calif.) Langlois-Château, $22, ** ½ Crémant de Loire Brut NV Pure and focused with succulent ﬂavors of apples, herbs, honey and spice. (Paterno Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill.) François Baur Crémant d’Alsace, $21, ** ½ Brut Réserve NV Dry and persistent, with inviting texture and aromas of ﬂowers and fruit. (U.S.A. Wine Imports, New York) Albert Mann Crémant d’Alsace, $23, ** Brut NV Clean, crisp and inviting with lingering spicy, tart ﬂavors. (Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, Pa.) Champalou Vouvray, $19, ** Brut NV Fresh, pure and balanced with ﬂavors of apples and honeysuckle. (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif.) Domaine Agapé Crémant d’Alsace, $20, ** Émotion Brut NV Highly unusual with almost cider-like ﬂavors of apples, ﬂowers and spices. (Savio Soares Selections, Manhasset, N.Y.) Jean-Louis Moissenet-Bonnard, $18, ** Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV Earthy and dry, if a bit austere, with toasty, nutlike ﬂavors. (Bonhomie Wine Imports, South Orange, N.J.)
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Shrubs That Make Good Neighbors By MICHAEL TORTORELLO
OR seven years, my nextdoor neighbor Paul and I abided by a gentleman’s arrangement to protect our privacy. I agreed to put on pants and a shirt whenever I got around to it — 10 o’clock, noon — while enjoying the glow of sunlight through my big kitchen window. Paul, whose bedroom sits on the other side of a 10-foot-wide driveway, agreed to keep his curtains closed. It worked for us. Until Paul sold his house and moved his family to the Minneapolis suburbs. The new next-door neighbors leave the bedroom shades half open, day and night. Now we have an issue. It occurred to me recently
that my problem could have a horticultural solution: a privacy hedge. What kind of planting, I wondered, could screen my windows from theirs — while, of course, shedding splendor on both our properties in a neighborly fashion? A few weeks ago, I started calling horticulturists for advice. For decades, the answer would have been obvious: a privet hedge. Its botanical name, Ligustrum ovalifolium, seems too elegant, somehow, for that tightly packed shrub with shiny little leaves. Alas, the privet hedge grew fast and died young — generally after 20 years, according to Chris Grampp, an Oakland, Calif., landscape archi- America’s Home Grounds.” “Plants go in and out of fastect and the author of “From Yard hion,” Mr. Grampp said. These to Garden: The Domestication of days, “gardeners have all these issues with being colorful and whimsical.” “But Ligustrum itself is none of those things,” he said. “It’s really very practical. It’s very bland.” The same could be said of another ubiquitous screening plant, arborvitae, that evergreen with the shape of a concrete security bollard and the dull color palette of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Bruce Crawford, the director of Rutgers Gardens, in New Brunswick, N.J., can imagine the privet hedge enjoying a kind of kitschy vogue someday. Like water beds, say. But “I don’t think arborvitae is coming back,” he said. This dim reputation is not entirely deserved, Mr. Crawford added. Many hedges are planted with the eastern variety of arborvitae, which has multiple stems. “What happens is, with a heavy snow load, it tends to break apart,” he said. “And people go, ‘ehh.’ ” Mr. Crawford prefers the western variety, which has a single leader and doesn’t have the same tendency “to self-des-
truct.” A compact eastern cultivar that he does like is called Emerald Green arborvitae or, by its Danish name, Smaragd. (It must sound better in Danish.) This single-leader pyramid-shaped shrub tops out at around 15 feet. To my eye, it’s the color of money. Yet a shrub that size might send greenery through my neighbor’s bathroom window. I laid out for Mr. Crawford the peculiarities of my plot. The dimensions — 45 feet long by 3 feet wide — resemble a badly gerrymandered Congressional district. And my neighbor’s mustard stucco house, on the south side, steals sunlight for at least half the day. Mr. Crawford picked a deciduous viburnum that might do the job, with the cultivar name Summer Snowﬂake. “It’s very narrow and upright,” he said, a description that sounded a little priggish, somehow. Yet to its credit, the Summer Snowﬂake at Rutgers Gardens has shot up about a foot and a half each year, he said. Best of all, it stays in bloom almost all summer long, with white lace-cap ﬂowers. Another shrub Mr. Crawford liked was the Cornelian cherry Continues on page 18
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Comes from page 17 dogwood. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, he had seen it pruned into a neat 4-by-4-foot hedge, with a fascinating peeling bark and small yellow ﬂowers. In July, it grows tart red berries that can be boiled into a palatable jam. With just a few pounds of sugar added. Or how about a screen of ornamental grass, Mr. Crawford mused. Cloud Nine is a switch grass cultivar that develops ﬂoppy pinkish panicles. It can reach eight feet with steady afternoon sunlight, he said. Dallas Blues, another switch grass, would top out at around six feet. It occurred to me that none of these plants was going to restore the privacy of my previous neighbor’s iron curtain. But I had started having second thoughts about walling off the people next door. The question with a privacy planting, Mr. Grampp said, is whether you’re willing to offend your neighbors. “I would say, be careful. There’s a lot of symbolism attached to what you do on your property line.” The message you send seems to match how high a plant stands against the human body. “If you put up something knee height, you can still step
over,” Mr. Grampp said. “The minute you put up something higher than people can step over, you say, ‘I don’t want you coming over here.’ ” A plant that goes higher than the eyes — about ﬁve feet — announces that you’d like to pretend your neighbor doesn’t exist. Might as well torch the welcome wagon.
And so, a few days later, at a hippie nursery near the Mississippi River, I picked up ﬁve clumps of Karl Foerster grass, a feather reed plant noted for its early bloom. A different dogwood cultivar, Winter Flame, called out to me with its brilliant red twigs. When the foliage drops in fall, the bare branches look like a straw broom that has been used to sweep up blood. The plants are ﬂanking the driveway now, along with a few ferns transplanted from the backyard. They’ll grow. But by any
reasonable standard, the whole assemblage is no monument to privacy. “There’s kind of a Stonehenge feel to it,” my girlfriend said. Unfortunately, she was referring not to the stone megalith, but to the 18-inch stage trinket in “This Is Spinal Tap.” Still, I’m reluctant to dismiss my not-so-private hedge. Yes, my neighbors can see me in the morning, less than halfway on the halting road to getting dressed. But for my part, I don’t really notice the open curtain anymore. I’m staring out at my new dogwoods instead, watching the blood-twigs ﬂow. Plants Made For Privacy Do you believe that the best kind of neighbor is the one you can’t see? Garden your way into a little privacy with these hardy plants, suggested by the landscape architect Chris Grampp and the horticulturists Bruce Crawford and Jeffrey Johnson. WHITE FRINGETREE This small tree or large shrub could make media appearances as a lilac impersonator, said Mr. Johnson, the woody plants specialist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Its ﬂowers are white, though, “and kind of dangle from the tree.” BLACK CHOKEBERRY
While its orange-y fall leaves may suggest a spray-on tan, this eight-foot plant isn’t a sunglutton, Mr. Johnson added later in an e-mail message. And the “glossy black fruit” could stick around until winter, if peckish birds didn’t get the berries ﬁrst. FALSE HOLLY Smell, but don’t touch. Mr. Crawford likes this ball-shaped shrub for its “exceedingly fragrant” late fall ﬂowers. The half-prickly foliage makes it Bambi-resistant for the New York suburbs, but like many plants — and people — it can’t handle a Minnesota winter. CALIFORNIA GRAPE “People love to plant grapes along their fences here,” Mr. Grampp said. Vitis californica is native to the Bay Area, he said, “where you’ll have pretty full coverage” in 18 months. But varieties of wild grape are hardy across the country. BLACK BAMBOO For the mild West Coast, Mr. Grampp likes this “jet-black stalk” with “vibrant yellow-green” leaves. “It looks like a famous Italian designer made the plant,” he said. But a rubber-root barrier is the only way to keep the plant’s aggressive runners from colonizing the block.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
New York Times Editorial There Goes the Sun By RICHARD COHEN
HAT is the winter solstice, and why bother to celebrate it, as so many people around the world will tomorrow? The word “solstice” derives from the Latin sol (meaning sun) and statum (stand still), and reﬂects what we see on the ﬁrst days of summer and winter when, at dawn for two or three days, the sun seems to linger for several minutes in its passage across the sky, before beginning to double back. Indeed, “turnings of the sun” is an old phrase, used by both Hesiod and Homer. The novelist Alan Furst has one of his characters nicely observe, “the day the sun is said to pause. ... Pleasing, that idea. ... As though the universe stopped for a moment to reﬂect, took a day off from work. One could sense it, time slowing down.” Virtually all cultures have their own way of acknowledging this moment. The Welsh word for solstice translates as “the point of roughness,” while the Talmud calls it “Tekufat Tevet,” ﬁrst day of “the stripping time.” For the Chinese, winter’s beginning is “dongzhi,” when one tradition is making balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering. In Korea, these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean called pat jook. According to local lore, each winter solstice a ghost comes to haunt villagers. The red bean in the rice balls repels him. In parts of Scandinavia, the locals smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe, sun goddess of fertility, can lap it up before she continues on her journey. (One wonders who does all the mopping up afterward.) Later, young women don candleembedded helmets, while families go to bed having placed their shoes all in a row, to ensure peace over the coming year. Street processions are another common feature. In Japan, young men known as “sun devils,” their faces daubed to represent their imagined solar ancestry, still go among the farms to ensure the earth’s fertility (and their own stocking-up with al-
cohol). In Ireland, people called wren-boys take to the roads, wearing masks or straw suits. The practice used to involve the killing of a wren, and singing songs while carrying the corpse from house to house. Sacriﬁce is a common thread. In areas of northern Pakistan, men have cold water poured over their heads in puriﬁcation, and are forbidden to sit on any chair till the evening, when their heads will be sprinkled with goats’ blood. (Unhappy goats.) Puriﬁcation is also the main object for the Zuni and Hopi tribes of North America, their attempt to recall the sun from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of another turning of their “wheel of the year,” and kivas (sacred underground ritual chambers) are opened to mark the season. Yet, for all these symbolisms, this time remains at heart an astronomical event, and quite a curious one. In summer, the sun is brighter and reaches higher into the sky, shortening the shadows that it casts; in winter it rises and sinks closer to the horizon, its light diffuses more and its shadows lengthen. As the winter hemisphere tilts steadily further away from the star, daylight becomes shorter and the sun arcs ever lower. Societies that were organized around agriculture intently studied the heavens, ensuring that the solstices were well charted. Despite their best efforts, however, their priests and stargazers came to realize that it was exceptionally hard to pinpoint the moment of the sun’s turning by observation alone — even though they could deﬁne the successive seasons by the advancing and withdrawal of daylight and darkness. The earth further complicates matters. Our globe tilts on its axis like a spinning top, going around the sun at an angle to its orbit of 23 and a half degrees. Yet the planet’s shape changes minutely and its axis wobbles, thus its orbit ﬂuctuates. If its axis remained stable and if its orbit were a true circle, then the equinoxes and solstices would quarter the year into equal sections. As it is, the time between the spring and fall
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equinoxes in the Northern Hemisphere is slightly greater than that between fall and spring, the earth — being at that time closer to the sun — moving about 6 percent faster in January than in July. The apparently supernatural power manifest in solstices to govern the seasons has been felt as far back as we know, inducing different reactions from different cultures — fertility rites, ﬁre festivals, offerings to the gods. Many of the wintertime customs in Western Europe descend from the ancient Romans, who believed that their god of the harvest, Saturn, had ruled the land during an earlier age of abundance, and so celebrated the winter solstice with the Saturnalia, a feast of gift-giving, role-reversals (slaves berating their masters) and general public holiday from Dec. 17 to 24. The transition from Roman paganism to Christianity, with its similar rites, took several centuries. With the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, customs were quickly appropriated and refashioned, as the sun and God’s son became inextricably entwined. Thus, although the New Testament gives no indication of Christ’s actual birthday (early writers preferring a spring date), in 354 Pope Liberius declared it to have befallen on Dec. 25. The advantages of Christmas Day being celebrated then were obvious. As the Christian commentator Syrus wrote: “It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same Dec. 25 the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity .... Accordingly, when the church authorities perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.” In Christendom, the Nativity gradually absorbed all other winter solstice rites, and the co-opting of solar imagery was part of the same process. Thus the solar discs that had once been depicted behind the heads of Asian rulers became the halos of Christian luminaries. Despite the new religion’s apparent supremacy, many of the old customs survived — so much so that church elders worried that the veneration of Christ was being lost. In the ﬁfth century, St. Augustine of Hippo and Pope Leo the Great felt compelled to remind their ﬂocks that Christ, not the sun, was their proper object of their worship. While Roman Christianity was the dominant culture in Western Europe, it was by no means the only one. By millennium’s end, the Danes controlled most of England, bringing with them “Yule,” their name for winter solstice celebrations, probably derived from an earlier term for “wheel.” For centuries, the most sacred Norse symbol had been the wheel of the heavens, repre-
sented by a six- or eight-spoked wheel or by a cross within a wheel signifying solar rays. The Norse peoples, many of whom settled in what is now Yorkshire, would construct huge solar wheels and place them next to hilltop bonﬁres, while in the Middle Ages processions bore wheels upon chariots or boats. In other parts of Europe, where the Vikings were feared and hated, a taboo on using spinning wheels during solstices lasted well into the 20th century. The spinning-wheel on which Sleeping Beauty pricks her ﬁnger may exemplify this sense of menace. Throughout much of Europe, at least up until the 16th century, starvation was common from January to April, a period known as “the famine months.” Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed over the winter, making the solstice almost the only time of year that fresh meat was readily available. The boar’s head at Christmas feasts represents the dying sun of the old year, while the suckling pig — with the apple of immortality in its mouth — the new. The turning of the sun was perhaps even more important in the New World than the Old. The Aztecs, who believed that the heart harbored elements of the sun’s power, ensured its continual wellbeing by tearing out this vital organ from hunchbacks, dwarves or prisoners of war, so releasing the “divine sun fragments” entrapped by the body and its desires. The Incas would celebrate the solar festival of Inti Raymi by having their priests attempt to tie down the celestial body. At Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian Andes, there is a large stone column called the Intihuatana, (“hitching post of the sun,”) to which the star would be symbolically harnessed. It is unclear how the Incas measured the success of this endeavor, but at least the sun returned the following day. Yet above all other rituals, reproducing the sun’s ﬁre by kindling ﬂame on earth is the commonest solstice practice, both at midsummer and midwinter. Thomas Hardy, describing Dorset villagers around a bonﬁre in “The Return of the Native,” offers an explanation for such a worldwide phenomenon: “To light a ﬁre is the instinctive and resistant act of men when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the ﬁat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, ‘Let there be light.’ ” So there is good reason to celebrate the winter solstice — but maybe that celebration is still touched with a little fear.
20 January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weeekly
LETTERS Banana Democracy In Puerto Rico we have strange constitutional rights. If the cops question you and you refuse to answer, they arrest you for “obstruction of justice.” They then handcuff you and shove you into a police car just before reading you your rights from a rumpled dirty piece of cardboard they pull our of a pocket. “You have the right to remain silent...” they intone with a mocking smile, adding insult to injury. And for talking back you get “breach of the peace.” Same treatment. The cops know these charges are improper, so you never get to a judge. They just forcibly take you to the station and harass you there for a few hours. And if you’re poor, they beat you as well, and if you get too uppity, like demanding a lawyer or invoking the Bill of Rights, you might get a slap or two in any event. Then they let you go. No, you don’t get a ride back. Now is this the way law enforcement is carried out in a jurisdiction where the various oligarchy mouthpieces brag that as American citizens we have a right to life and liberty, to remain secure in our persons and a presumption of innocence and freedom of speech? Stuff that reminds one of the Puerto Rican expression that paper will take anything you put on it. And yes, we’re so smug this isn’t Cuba. Eleuterio Serpieri, Santuce
Doctors The physician who slaughtered Michael Jackson got convicted. Hooray for California. It was about time such crimes were dealt with. Once upon a time, Wolfgang Mozart was killed at 31, in the ﬂower of his proliﬁc genius, by doctors. He had a brain something that ruptured when the doctor bled him and caused a drop in blood pressure. The medical guideline in those days was that health depended on adequate proportions of the “four humors,” that were blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. They had a listing of symptoms that purportedly reﬂected too much or too little of one of these and then balance had to be restored by addition or subtraction. There was no evidence or justiﬁcation for this nonsense, it was a scam, yet it lasted a millennium. And things haven’t changed all that much. My grandfather used to tell me that in his day the doctor gave you an enema for anything from a bad headache to the ﬂu. When I was a kid I suffered from asthma and for every attack I got a shot of penicillin from the physician, who back then made housecalls. Weren’t antibiotics developed for infectious disease? Decades later doctors themselves explained to me that such a thing must’ve killed off my benign intestinal ﬂora, thus opening niches for pathogens, which
explains my sickly childhood. In our time Elvis Presley and Anna Nicole Smith were butchered by doctors as well. People get sold on pills to sleep, stay alert, lose weight and so on. The public doesn’t know that pharmaceuticals have toxic side effects that accumulate, and doctors don’t mention it when the price is right. For them the name of the game is a new Mercedes every year and that trip to Montecarlo. If we have any sense, we’ll ultimately demand of government that physicians be kept on a very short leash. Frágola Serpieri, Santuce
Heroism, Cowardice and Banditry Only the UPR students stand between economic liife and we know it and a new feudalism. If the University becomes once again exclusive of the moneyed, in a generation there’ll be no more middle class and oppression of the poor will turn ruthless to the point only police terror will keep our socioeconomy in one piece. The Puerto Rico of the penepeístas existed when sugar was king here, a Puerto Rico of sickness and illiteracy and barefoot children. It was also the age of the landlords, the mansions, of obscene privilege. We’re truly abject cowards that our children struggle alone, heroes not even acknowledged. While the bandits we voted for with banners and shouts reign unchecked, we handed our future over to merciless wolves. It’s our shame that our children wield a maturity we sorrily lack. Ana Montes, Las Lomas
Police Brutality 1970-2010 One thing must be said about UPR strikers-they’ve learned from experience. Back when students were massing around the ROTC, then on campus, they’d shortly set it on ﬁre, the SWAT weight lifters were getting into formation with their oversized helmets and long black sticks, a San Juan Star photographer was begging the FUPI lieutenant there to be allowed to photograph what was about to take place, but the fellow was adamant. The Commonwealth would get the ﬁlm off the newspaper one way or the other, remember Constitutional rights have always been a joke in Puerto Rico. I could discern the anguish in the photographer’s visage, history was about to happen there, his big moment as a photojournalist, and with three Nikon Fs hanging from his neck he was being forced to reliquish it. At the end he looked like he was going on his knees, and be-
ing a photographer myself, I wouldn’t have blamed him. Had I known boforehand I would’ve sneaked up the roof of Architecture in front with my Minolta SLR-101, f: 1/2.8-3.5, 30-70 mm zoom and shot everything myself. Demonstrators today welcome all the cameras. When things get rough they just cover their faces, a trick learned from the Arabs, and now cops don’t dare injure or murder anybody, as they did then, though they still rough them up, no matter who’s watching, as we’ve seen. Joaquín Serrano, Condado
Talk About Second Chances Volodya Putin is not kidding in his assertion that the greatest tragedy of the 20th century was the collapse of the USSR. But he might be missing the gist of it. What’s the difference between capitalism and communism? a 50s joke went. Under capitalism man exploits man and under communism it’s the other way around. People actually found this funny back then. Because what’s the point in taking everything out of the dominion of the wealthy, only to slip it into the clutches of Party hacks. If the rich use the privilege to bleed the people, why would an unchecked State bureaucracy do any differently. No, Comrade Putin, the name of the game is democracy, and the counterrevolutionaries, the cads who let spill the fruits of so much blood sweat and tears, were, are, in the mirror. You yourself headed the KGB, didn’t you? But there’ll be a second chance. Just as the savagery of the French Revolution put a lid on republican governance for half a century--not forever--socialism is making its way back into our hearts and minds, into our lives--simply, we need it. Only let’s not screw up again. Joaquín Serrano, Condado
Family Dept. = Bluster & Little Else A social worker once told me most real rapes go unreported and most reported rapes aren’t real. Ditto for maltreatment of children and the elderly. Why so? Bureaucracy. At Depto. de la Familia it’s easier and gets more press to harass families gratuitously than to work the real cases. So as the agency gains notoriety—and loses support—protection for the defenseless will not happen. But then, it never did. Carrutha Harris, Puerta de Tierra
The San Juan Weeekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
LETTERS Indignant Over Broken Window??? To Dictator Fortuño: You bandy about the headline where students smashed the windows on that van and you self-righteously proclaim, “We won’t allow this to happen again.” What’s revealing is your silence. About what WILL be allowed to happen again. The fellows crushed on the ﬂoor and while held there electriﬁed and kicked into the groin many times. The mother and daughter viciously assaulted. The man pepper-sprayed from behind by police while sitting on the hallway of Capitolio. The cop lieutenant who pulled out his gun to shoot himself some students. Well, what else could he have intended? I imagine you’re disappointed nobody’s been murdered yet. It won’t be long now. Juan Vega, Caparra Heights
Sideshow To Legislator Farinacci: How does it feel to play the red herring? Be a hero. Break loose from all the nonsense against you and show up at UPR to support the students and the right of the middle class to exist. Ana Badillo, Hato Rey
Snakepit Uncovered? This Traverzo fellow fancies himself a Sampson, he’s bringing the palace down with him. To this his colleagues answered that by threatening that, whatever sympathy for him was left there was now lost. But if somebody tells you he’s going to announce to the world all the crimes you’ve committed, and you’ve been a good boy, would you get rufﬂed up? Either the man is going to croak ignominiously or he’s going to leave Puerto Rico for Montecarlo or some locale where he can enjoy the hush money. Otherwise we’re going to be treated to the show of our lives. Just imagine the feds marching into Capitolio and carting a few dozen off. Keep your ﬁngers crossed. Belisario Badillo, Hato Rey
Equal Time To Sherman Wildman of WOSO Radio: It was sadly undemocratic of you to grant the Governor a spot this morning to spew his lies and obfuscation without the beneﬁt of a response from the students.
Believe me, if everybody were getting that $5K, the $800 would be inconsequential, there’d be no strike. But only the hand-to-mouth poor get anything approaching the whole thing. And those didn’t make it into the UPR, they ﬂunked the College Board Exam, because they went to public school. Nina Fotze, San Juan
Is UPR Burning? Like Paris in the 1940s, the UPR is suffering an army of occupation. It isn’t pretty. They’re there. You hate them. They know it. But they don’t care because they have nothing but contempt for you. Paul Théron, Condado
Forked Tongues When it was pointed out that public schools are minimum-wager hatcheries, politicians answered that 80% of UPR students come from public school. Now the same fellows say UPR students can easily pay the $800 because 80% of them went to private school. Mara Andere, Miramar
Wounds of a People The Governor thinks it’s all a joke. Breaking the window of a van is barbary while police torturing captives on TV live is not? Don’t international organizations watch over such outraging of human rights? And then the Governor makes fun of us by professing to react to our anguish over the La Comay TV mockery? The people of Puerto Rico, though our escutcheon be a lamb, are neither abject sufferers of the whims of despots nor without devices of redress. I remind the penepeístas and their afﬂuent patrons that, though the police cavalierly murdered Antonia Martínez in 1970, the captain of SWAT/Riot Force was snipered dead as well. And Alejandro González Malavé did not survive Cerro Maravilla, and a pair of American sailors were unjustly assassinated. But however you have it, the politicians always get another chance to mayhem. That might change. Tom Jefferson put it succinctly: “The Tree of Liberty must, from Time to Time, be nurtured by the Blood of Tyrants and Patriots.” How’s that for some Yankee thought, you unAmerican statehooders. Jennifer Contreras, Condado
Extenuating Circumstances What catalyzes the endless rage of UPR student activists---like don’t you wonder where they get all that energy?---is being abused by a cadre of bureaucrats, a whole bunch of them, who indulge in every futile activity the mind can conjure, who never ever lend you a hand, from whom all you garner is indifference and nastiness. And a techno-bureaucracy where nothing ever works because systems link and one link is ever missing. Professors think they’re in a Shangi-la of electronic information, they haven’t noticed what a mess everything is. They require you to download course material through something called Blackboard, that’s often down, and then at the library computers and printers aren’t linked and you have to use a pen drive, but the computers have viruses, only they don’t tell you till you catch it and then they tell you that’s you’re problem, and half the time the machine that puts money into the card you need to operate the printer isn’t working, or won’t take bills, or won’t take quarters. You spend a lot of time treading through glitch after glitch, time you rather spend studying. And ditto enrollment and ﬁnacial aid and you’re required all sorts of impossible nonsense and it all drives you bananas. You know it’s all wanton waste of money and that the machines ought to be serviced and the labyrinthine procedures discontinured and the do-nothing paper-pushers ﬁred. And then your car gets stolen. Or your computer. Or it happens to someone you know. You’re prescribed expensive and heavy textbooks and you can’t carry them around all day, but they get stolen in the library or anywhere else. But don’t you dare park where you’re not supposed to, a swarm of security pests will descend upon you and badger you silly. Fortuño wants $800 out of you in January. Not to be put to any use, but they all might as well make a bonﬁre out of all those Franklins. Hard not to get truly riled. Lastly a cute tidbit. You’ll never ﬁnd a working stapler anywhere on the Río Piedras campus. Chinese food on me if do. Emilio Santiago, Caparra Heights
Palaver of the Unschooled This morning the radio awoke me to an endless ramble by Sen. Melinda Romero that almost put me back to sleep. The least a legislator ought to be is articulate. Emilio Santiago, Caparra Heights
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
How Not to Wreck a Nonstick Pan By ALINA TUGEND
HIS all began when I was trying to come up with a clever idea for a present for my older son. Having exhausted all the sports-themed possibilities, I decided to buy him a griddle since he has become quite the pancake chef. My son greeted the present with more enthusiasm than I expected. A couple of days later, I realized it would be perfect for making holiday latkes. Usually I use two frying pans, but since we had this nice new nonstick griddle, why not make things easier? I asked Ben if I could borrow it and he graciously agreed. I fried 89 latkes for a get-together. The guests were happy, but the griddle was burned. I soaked. I scrubbed with little plastic scrub brushes, as suggested. It still looked nothing like new. Before admitting to Ben that I had ruined his present, I looked up “cleaning nonstick griddles” on the Internet. I came across a lot of advice about cleaning, but also how to use this type of cookware in the ﬁrst place. And to my surprise, I have been using nonstick pans in an inappropriate manner for, oh, the last three decades or so — in fact, ever since I started cooking for myself. Let’s starting with nonstick cookware. Teﬂon is the patented product made by DuPont, but most people use the term generically to refer to nonstick pans. Millions of us are cooking with nonstick pots and pans. But in the wrong way. So this is what I should have known. I should have “preseasoned” the pan by rinsing and drying it and rubbing it with a paper towel with a little oil on it. Pretty much any type of oil will do. It’s a good idea to rub about a teaspoon of oil or butter on a cold pan each time you use it, Mr. Winter said, because despite the name nonstick, most of the cookware needs some kind of lubricant. Just don’t pour oil or butter on the pan and then slosh it around (my method). “Then the oil is not adhering to the pan but being absorbed by the food,” he said. Not only will you have butter-soaked pancakes, but after a while they’ll start sticking because there’s no grease. But what about PAM or other cooking sprays? I often put a few squirts on my nonstick frying pans. Not a great idea, I was told. After a time, the build-up in the areas where the heat doesn’t burn the spray off — like on the sides of a frying pan — becomes sticky and pasty. I found this to be true of my pans, but didn’t know why. Mr. Winter said it’s the soy lecithin in the spray that causes that stickiness. Instead, he recommends just using oil or a spray called Baker’s Joy that also contains ﬂour. For due diligence, I checked in with DuPont, the makers of Teﬂon, and a spokeswoman said in an e-mail that “it is acceptable” to use nonstick cooking sprays although “not necessary.” And a spokesman at ConAgra Foods, which makes PAM, said, “You should check with your cookware manufacturer” to see if it
is safe to use with PAM. Another thing I shouldn’t have done is put the griddle on a high heat. High temperatures cause the coating to crack, Mr. Winter said, and don’t even cook the food as well. The food tends to be partly burned and partly doughy, he said. “Using a lower heat means it will turn out perfectly,” he said. Also, don’t use any metal or sharp objects to stir or turn food, because it can pierce the coating. Now as far as cleaning, I did scrub with a plastic scrubby sponge (never steel wool). Then I soaked with baking powder and hot water. Then I used some vinegar and water. It looks better, but not perfect. Although I don’t usually put my cookware in the dishwasher, I did as a last-ditch effort — another bad idea. Most experts I talked to said to hand-wash nonstick cookware, because the high heat and harsh detergents can ruin the coatings. In the end, the griddle looks, shall we say, well used. I showed it to my son and apologized. He took it with good grace. A few more tips. Store your pots and pans properly, said Mariette Mifﬂin, who writes about housewares and appliances for About.com, which is owned by The New York Times. If you nest them, they can scratch. Putting a napkin between each pot prevents that. And realize you’ll probably have to replace nonstick cookware more often than other types. Once the cookware peels or looks pitted, you want to get rid of it. Much depends on how often and how well you use and clean them. Here are a few more tips regarding questions about cleaning. Is there a downside to using the selfcleaning mode on your oven? Since it heats the ovens to over 1,000 degrees, does that put wear and tear on the appliance? Using the self-cleaning option is a good one, and it’s wise to do it at least twice a year, said Doug Burnett, manager for research and development of built-in cooking products for Electrolux. Otherwise, too much buildup, when incinerated, will turn into smoke that pours out of the oven. If you are going to clean it as often as, say, monthly, it would be best to use a light soil option on your oven if there is one, he added. Never use chemical cleaners on a self-cleaning oven. Just a little soap and hot water if you need to do a quick once-over, said Chris Hall, president of RepairClinic.com, a Web site that sells appliance parts and gives repair advice. And he shared with me his own recent mistake — cleaning the smooth glass top of his electric range with the green scrubby side of sponge. “I scratched it and I feel really terrible,” he said. He now knows that some scrubby sponges are safe for glass, but they have to be labeled as such. Well, that made me feel a little better about my griddle experience. Nonetheless, I think I owe my son another one. I’ll show him how to use it properly, and teach him another life lesson as well — if you give a present, borrow it and then ruin it, you have to replace it.
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
For Brunch, Runny Yolks and Sorrel (Thanks, Mom) By MELISSA CLARK
LL winter long I fantasized about the sorrel on my deck, a gift from my mother last spring. On the bleakest of afternoons, I’d dream up myriad plans for cooking with that ﬁrst batch. My husband, Daniel, served as a sounding board. “How about schav?” I’d ask, referring to the egg-and-sorrel soup that my mother always made with the sorrel from her garden. But before he could answer, I already had another idea. Instead of sorrel and eggs stirred into a soup to serve for dinner, what if I cooked them into some kind of a brunch dish, like scrambled eggs with sorrel pesto? Daniel nodded. He’d be happy with any sorrel egg dish, he said. But then I mentioned sorrel baked eggs. At this he hesitated. Daniel is the family memory keeper of culinary mis-
haps that I forget (or perhaps repress). “Baked eggs haven’t always worked out for us,” he said. Then I remembered the time I made four batches of them, and no matter how I ﬁddled with the oven temperature and type of baking dish, the sides of the eggs turned rubbery while the center stayed soupy and raw. I could have reverted to my scrambled eggs idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted runny yolks, rich enough to offset the lemony bite of the sorrel. So I settled on gently cooking the eggs in a buttery sauce I use for topping roasted salmon. Waiting for my own sorrel to come up became oppressive, and as soon as I saw a bundle in the farmers’ market, I pounced. I stirred the sorrel into a skillet of butter ﬂavored with scallions. Then when the leaves melted and turned olive green, I cracked in the eggs and co-
Eggs Poached in Buttery Sorrel Sauce 2 fat scallions, trimmed 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 large bunch sorrel (about 4 ounces), stems trimmed 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste Ground black pepper 1/4 cup heavy cream 4 large eggs Chili ﬂakes, like Aleppo, Turkish or crushed red pepper Flaky salt, like Maldon, for serving Buttered toast, for serving. 1. Thinly slice scallions, separating darker green parts for garnish. 2. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add light green and white parts of scallion and sauté until wilted, 2 minutes. Add sorrel leaves,
salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until sorrel wilts and starts to break down, turning olive-green in color, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream and let simmer for 1 minute to thicken a bit. 3. Carefully crack eggs into skillet; they should ﬁt in one layer. Lower heat to medium-low and sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Cover pan and let cook for 2 minutes, then turn off heat and let eggs rest, covered, until done to taste, about another 30 seconds for very runny yolks (the whites should cook through). 4. Carefully scoop eggs and sorrel sauce into two bowls. Season with chili and ﬂaky salt; garnish with scallion greens. Serve with toast. Yield: 2 servings.
vered the pan. When they were just set, I scooped them into bowls, and Daniel and I ate, spooning up drips of orange yolk mixed with the zesty, buttery sorrel sauce. We’ve had the dish several times since, using more sorrel from the far-
mers’ market. The sorrel on my deck still hasn’t come up, but I am expecting it, appropriately in time for Mother’s Day. And maybe then I’ll try using it for baked eggs. Or — given how easy and tasty this dish turned out — maybe not.
Bacon-Cheddar Quiche Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus chilling time FOR THE CRUST 1 1/4 cups all-purpose ﬂour 1/4 teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 5 tablespoons lard, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 large egg white, lightly beaten 1/4 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar For the ﬁlling 6 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 3 large eggs 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 3/4 teaspoon chopped sage 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cubed. 1. To make the crust, brieﬂy pulse together the ﬂour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and lard and pulse until mixture forms pieces the size of lima beans, about 3 to 5 one-second pulses. Adding 2 to 5 tablespoons of ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulse mixture until it is just moist enough to hold together. Shape into a ball, cover
with plastic wrap and ﬂatten into a disk. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. 2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly ﬂoured surface, roll out the dough to 3/8-inch thick and press it into a 9-inch quiche or pie pan. Line with foil and ﬁll with pie weights, rice or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and foil and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more, until lightly golden. 3. Brush the crust with egg white, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the bottom of the pie crust. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is just melted. Remove from the oven. 4. Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, cook the bacon for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned but not yet crisp. Drain on paper towels. 5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, sage, pepper, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle the bacon over the quiche crust, then carefully pour in the egg mixture. Dot with the butter pieces and return to the oven. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the top is puffed and golden and the middle is almost set. Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving. Yield: Serves 6.
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
The Simplest Egg, Yet the Most Elegant By MARK BITTMAN
OU can cook eggs successfully by just about every method, short of grilling them. And even the longer methods do not take much time. It can be challenging, however, to give eggs enough of an elegant twist to serve them to company, especially when the company arrives en masse, as tends to happen this time of year. Enter the baked egg, at 15 minutes or so perhaps the slowest common cooking method (yes, I know, you can cook eggs for ﬁve hours if you choose to do so). But this is in a way the easiest method for cooking eggs in quantity. Put one egg in a ramekin with almost any other ingredients you like, then bake it just until the white sets.
That’s pretty much it. The advantages are many: you can use one ramekin or 20; you can bake the eggs with oil or butter; and you can add whatever else you want — for example, as I do here, butter, tomato and prosciutto. But that’s just the start. Spinach, cooked and chopped, is a ﬁne bed, as is cooked chopped asparagus. A tablespoon or so of cream is a lovely addition, with any vegetable. Prosciutto is clearly about as fancy a meat as you can get, but chopped cooked bacon or sausage, or chopped plain ham, is also good. And a grating of Parmesan over all is never a mistake. Despite its simplicity, there is deﬁnitely elegance here, and the time sacriﬁce is not exactly extreme.
Baked Egg With Prosciutto and Tomato Butter or oil as needed 1 slice tomato 1 small slice prosciutto 1 egg Salt and freshly ground black pepper. 1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Smear a bit of butter or oil in ramekin; line with tomato and prosciutto. Break egg into ramekin, then put on a baking sheet. 2. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until egg is set and white has solidiﬁed. Because the cup retains heat, egg will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, so it is best to undercook it slightly. Precise time, in a good oven on a middle rack, is 12 minutes.
Fish and Eggs: It’s What’s for Breakfast By MELISSA CLARK
N a recent Saturday morning, my friend Judith and I shopped for breakfast at the farmers’ market in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We bought eggs, butter, cheese, fresh bread and plenty of apples: the makings of a princely meal. I chattered enthusiastically about the apple French toast and scrambled eggs with cheese we could whip up back at Judith’s house. But Judith wasn’t listening. She had stopped at the ﬁsh stand, and was staring bright-eyed at the pale ﬁllets. What do you think about that one, she said, pointing to a thick white slab of
ﬂounder with a reddish pink blush. It looks good, is that for tonight? I asked. No, for this morning, she said, adding that her family often had fresh ﬁsh for breakfast when they vacationed on the North Sea in the Netherlands. Now, I know perfectly well that ﬁsh is a breakfast staple all over the world, from the grilled ﬁsh and rice of Japan, to kippers and eggs in England, to the bagels-and-lox brunches of my own childhood. But fresh ﬂounder for breakfast seemed exotic, especially when I still had French toast on the brain. Judith was determined and I was curious to see
Baked Flounder and Eggs Time: 20 minutes 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 8-ounce boneless, skinless ﬂounder ﬁllets, rinsed and patted dry 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika Freshly ground black pepper 4 large eggs 3 tablespoons chopped scallions (optional) 3 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional) 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped (optional). 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour butter in a 13-by9-inch metal baking pan. Place ﬁsh in pan and turn to coat with butter. Season with about half the salt and paprika, and plenty
how she’d cook it, so ﬂounder it was. Applying a beach-vacation philosophy of cooking, Judith simply swathed the ﬁsh in butter, salt and pepper, and stuck it under the broiler. While it cooked, I scrambled the eggs. There was nothing surprising about the ﬂavors of the meal — the sweet, soft ﬁsh with its saline, buttery juices melding with ﬂuffy farm fresh eggs — but eaten altogether it was divine. I thought of Judith’s breakfast every time I passed the ﬁshmonger at the Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market near my house. But the line there is notoriously snaking. I rarely have the patience to wait. of black pepper. 2. Bake for 2 to 4 minutes, then add eggs (if you like runny eggs, add them after 3 or 4 minutes; for medium-ﬁrm but still slightly runny eggs, add them after 2 minutes, and for very ﬁrm eggs, you can add them along with the ﬁsh at the beginning). Crack eggs into pan in the corners; eggs should land next to, not on top of ﬁsh. Season eggs with remaining salt, paprika and more pepper. Continue baking until ﬁsh is just opaque and eggs are lightly set, 7 to 8 minutes more. 3. Combine scallions, parsley and capers, if using. Transfer ﬁsh and eggs to serving plates; garnish with caper mixture. Yield: 2 servings.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve. Yield: 1 serving. Variations: You could put chopped cooked spinach or cooked asparagus in bottom of cup, with a little cream. Or place the egg on a bed of chopped ham, bacon or sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan if you like. One frigid morning, the stand was blissfully un-mobbed, and there were ﬂounder ﬁllets galore. I picked up two and some free range eggs and all but ran home to make breakfast. I could have stuck to Judith’s gorgeously spare recipe. But leaving well enough alone isn’t my strong suit. I kept the backbone of her recipe the same, coating the ﬁsh with plenty of butter, and seasoning it generously. Then, for a garnish, I chopped together parsley, scallions and capers to add a tangy, bright note and a little bit of color. I also wanted to alter the eggs. As good as the scrambled were, they required a bowl to whip them and a skillet to scramble them. A lazier option would be to crack the eggs directly into the roasting pan with the ﬁsh, and let everything cook together. As a bonus, if I timed it right, the yolks would stay runny and gush all over the ﬂounder, creating a velvety sauce. I ﬁgured it would take the eggs less time to cook than the ﬁsh, so I added them after the ﬁllets had been in the oven for a few minutes. By the time the ﬁsh turned opaque and tender in the center, the eggs were just set, sunny side up. With its pungent green garnish adding verve and the yolks lending creaminess, it was a more complex dish than the original. It was interesting enough, even, to break out for dinner — the perfect end to a day that starts with French toast.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
The Tallest & Smallest Men T
he 2010 edition of Guinness Book of World Records lists Sultan Kosen as the tallest living man as well as having the largest hands (10.8 inches) (27.5 centimeters) and largest feet (14.4 inches) (36.5 centimeters). According to Guinness, Sultan Kosen is the tallest living human reaching an average height of 8’1” (2,46.5 m) when measured by GWR in Ankara, Turkey, in February 2009. He takes over the title from China’s Bao Xishun, who stands ‘just’ 2.36 metres (seven feet 8.95 inches). However, Sultan The New Tallest Man In The World Visits London For The First Time LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 16: The worlds new tallest man Sultan Kosen 26, of Turkey poses in front of Tower Bridge to celebrate the launch of the 2010 Guinness Book of Records, on September 16, 2009 in London, England. Sultan Kosen stands at 8ft 1in and also holds the record for the largest hands and largest feet at 27.5cm and 36.5cm respectively. (scroll down for more pictures of Sultan Kosen’s visit to London. Also included is a video).
Kosen was still growing and at a more recent meeting with then tallest man of the U.S. George Bell, Sultan Kosen was measured at 8’2” tall. Sultan Kosen was unable to complete his schooling because of his extreme height, but works occasionally as a farmer to support his family. Sultan Kosen has three brothers and a sister, who are all normal-sized, but his rate of growth surged from the age
of 10 because of a tumour which caused too much growth hormone to be released from his pituitary gland. The tumour was successfully removed in
surgery and he was thought to have stopped growing last year (2008). He uses walking sticks and tires quickly if he is standing. Another pretender to the tallest title, Ukrainian Leonid Stadnyk, who claims to be 10.5 centimetres taller than Sultan Kosen, fails to qualify for the record because he refused to be measured by Guinness World Records ofﬁcials. Guinness editor-in-chief Craig Glenday travelled to Turkey to personally validate Sultan Kosen’s height under strict guidelines, measuring him three times in one day because bodies expand and shrink throughout the day. Sultan Kosen has since been touring England, the U.S., Iceland, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Brazil. You can view more images of his visit to The Netherlands here...
here is a new king of the short people and his name is Eduardo Niño Hernandez as he is the world’s shortest man. Hernandez, a 24-year-old man from Bogotá, Columbia, was conﬁrmed today by the Guinness World Records as the World’s Shortest Man. Measuring in at 27.46 inches and weighing roughly 22 lbs, Hernandez replaces the previous holder of the World’s Shortest Man billing, Ping Ping. A full 1.5 inches shorter than the previous record holder, Hernandez lives with his mother, father and brothers, has a full-sized girlfriend and helps out in the family pajamamaking business. In order to be veriﬁed as the
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
World’s Shortest Man, Hernandez was measured standing up three times in a single day by Guinness representatives to determine the correct measurement. According to Hernandez’s own mother, the new World’s Shortest Man has not grown since he was approximately two years old. The passing of Ping Ping Guinness World Records representatives have been searching for a new World’s Shortest Man ever since the previous record holder, He Ping Ping of Mongolia, China, passed away in March. The 2-foot-5 Ping Ping was admitted to a hospital in Rome, Italy, in early March citing chest pains and, after 10 days in the hospital, passed
away due to heart complications. Guinness World Records editorin-chief, Craig Glenday, said at the time that the loss of Ping Ping was a big blow and that he was, “an inspi-
ration to anyone considered different or unusual.” Despite his small stature, Ping Ping’s celebrity grew ever since he was discovered on a Japanese television program. The former World’s Shortest Man went on to appear in a number of editions of the Guinness Book of World Records and was a featured guest on an episode of the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race.
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
Meet the Twiblings By MELANIE THERNSTROM
idway on our life’s journey, I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost. I’ve actually never read “The Inferno,” but I found that line in my mind every morning when I woke to do my hormone injection and especially on the darkest mornings — the ones when I went into the clinic to have my unpregnant blood drawn to conﬁrm another I.V.F. cycle’s failure. Of course, I had considered my life ruined many times before — other medical and romantic crises — but I was always wrong. This issue, though — childlessness — really did seem different. My two closest girlfriends chose not to have children and didn’t regret it, and I envied them, but I didn’t know how to feel as they did. No one gets everything they want in life, but to be childless felt like being deprived of something essential: the primal human experience. When I was 39 and single, I was in northern Uganda, and a woman there asked about my children. I said I didn’t have any, and she solemnly told me that she would pray to God to remove my curse. Instead of shrugging it off, I thanked her. I was 41 when, after a gazillion not-quite-right relationships and a broken engagement, I met Michael, the man I would marry. He was ﬁve years younger; socially, it didn’t seem like an important age difference, but in terms of fertility, it turned out to be. I was haunted by the thought that if we didn’t have children — even though he loved me and even though that love might blind him to the truth — in some sense marrying me would have turned out to be a mistake. Raising children was a crucial part of his vision of what he wanted to do with his life, and if he had married someone his age, she probably would have been fertile. “I’m not comfortable with it,” our doctor said when I begged him to let us do a ﬁfth round of I.V.F. “When a doctor offers you a treatment, there is an expectation that that treatment could work.” “It could work,” I said. “I don’t mind doing the treatments. I just want to keep trying.” “Realistically, you need to consider other ways to have a family,” he said. But it seemed to me that there were no other good options. I had friends who spent all of their money trying to adopt, only to have things fall through again and again — birth mothers who changed their minds, foreign programs that were discontinued. I researched adoption in China but discovered that the criteria excluded us. When Michael’s parents adopted his sister in the 1970s, there was an abundance of babies in the United States in need of homes, but the widespread use of birth control and abortion, among other factors, has caused the supply of infants available for adoption in the subsequent three decades to plummet to a fraction of what it was then. Knowing that, I was still taken aback by how discouraging one adoption agency was about our prospects for “competing” against other couples. “Most birth mothers do prefer younger women,” the woman informed me. “But you’ll get a letter from your doctor, certifying you are in excellent health for the social worker anyway.” “Right,” I said, thinking about the arthritic condition that caused the chronic pain I had been struggling with for many years. I found another doctor and persuaded him to let us try a ﬁfth round. All you have to do is not die, I told the embryos once again, but once again they all did. After a failed sixth round, I was told I had a new medical problem that would pose risks to a fetus’s health, and I began to consider whether the embryos might have been right about the merits of my body as their greenhouse. Should I scrap my problemridden body entirely and try third-party reproduction? I felt a pang at the idea of excluding myself — of having no role
at all in gestating or creating the child. But that pang was checked by disappointment in my body and a longing not to be limited by its limitations. I consulted with a perinatologist, a high-risk pregnancy specialist. “Is your goal to have the experience of being pregnant or is your goal to have the best chance of having a healthy baby?” he asked. “If you really want a healthy baby, get a surrogate and an egg donor.” In that instant, I made up my mind. Of course that was my goal — and compared with that goal, all other desires seemed not only secondary, but also trivial, even narcissistic. I began researching surrogacy and egg donation — corresponding with gestational carriers on surrogacy Web sites and talking to agencies. The process seemed so daunting and alienating — inviting all these strangers into our bedroom, creating relationships with unknown conventions and risks, giving others extraordinary power. In the story of what happens when a man and a woman love each other very much, they don’t need strangers to lend them their gametes. Having children was one of life’s great acts of selfdeﬁnition. How could we turn the most intimate thing a couple could do — coupling — into a ménage à trois, let alone à quatre or cinq? There were so many ways the journey could go astray. The Internet was ﬁlled with stories of predatory egg-donation and surrogacy agencies. The legal status of surrogacy is varied. In a number of states, the status is unclear or surrogacy is prohibited. There were several cases of surrogacy in recent years in which the surrogate succeeded in keeping the baby despite an absence of any genetic connection. Even if everything went perfectly, it was hugely expensive. Of course, the cost of surrogacy is dwarfed by the cost of actually raising a child, to say nothing, for example, of a college education, but considering what baby-making usually costs — nothing — it took our breath away. We were able to afford it because of a ﬁnancial deus ex machina. Just when the I.V.F. bills were mounting, the software company that Michael co-founded was acquired by a large company. But there was still something disquieting about choosing to spend so much — and having an option that many infertile people did not have. We were also unsettled to discover how many people disapprove of surrogacy and egg donation. There are objections to it on the right, on religious grounds, as violating the natural order and the trinity of father-mother-baby, or as being part of a slippery slope that would lead to abominations like human cloning. There are objections on the left by those who say that surrogacy is exploitative and degrading for the women, irrespective of what the women who become surrogates say about it. (Some people believe only paid surrogacy is exploitative but unpaid surrogacy is ﬁne.) I read articles and court decisions and took notes on the arguments, but in the end they mainly seemed to boil down to the fact that it is new. Because of the central social importance of the family, changes that affect it are often initially condemned as strange, unnatural, evil or dangerous. Using anesthesia in childbirth was controversial after anesthesia’s invention. Had not God condemned Eve to bring forth children in pain? Birth control was once condemned, but it is now widely accepted. Once outlawed, abortion is now legal and supported by a majority of Americans within certain limits. Reproductive technology ﬁlls an important — and growing — need. Gay couples are increasingly choosing to have families. Eight percent of women between 40 and 44 identify themselves as involuntarily childless or hoping to become pregnant, according to a Pew report. Most women in that age bracket will be able to become pregnant only by using donor eggs. Although we could handle negative reactions, it was upsetting to think that our children would have
to deal with them. Still, we didn’t want fear of other people’s opinions to inﬂuence such an important and personal decision, and we hoped we would raise children who could stand up for themselves. THROUGHOUT OUR FERTILITY treatment, our hope was that I would become pregnant with twins. We wanted to complete our family and not face future treatment, and we loved the idea that our children would be same-age companions for each other as they grew up. But in my consultation with the perinatologist, he discouraged the idea of twins. “The fertility industry has convinced themselves that twins are safe and only triplets are high-risk, but they’re not,” he said. “They don’t see the babies after they’re born. Take a look at a NICU sometime.” When conceived naturally, 11 pregnancies in 1,000 produce twins. Over all in the United States today, principally as a result of fertility treatments, 32 in 1,000 pregnancies result in twins. The majority of twins are ﬁne, but because 60 percent are premature, twins are more than twice as likely to have disabilities that require ongoing medical treatment or special education. Twins have a fourfold-to-sixfold increased risk of cerebral palsy compared with singletons, a ﬁvefold increased risk of fetal death and a sevenfold increased risk of neonatal death. And most of the high medical costs are, of course, passed on to society, which gives fuel to critics of reproductive technology. We scrapped the idea of trying to have twins and decided we would have a baby with an egg donor and a gestational carrier and then try to have another the following year, with as small an interval as possible between the two births. “If we really want our children to be the same age, we can try to ﬁnd two carriers now and do the pregnancies in parallel,” Michael said. “But that would be crazy,” I said. It sounded crazy, anyway. Although it was logical, and it would give us a better chance of having at least one viable pregnancy, it sounded weird and somehow hubristic, as if having children were a vanity project or a movie we were producing or a manufacturing job to be outsourced. What if trying for one child was reasonable but trying to go from an empty nest to a full house was greedy and would turn our tale into Icarus’s and irritate Fate, Mother Nature or any of the powers Michael deﬁnitely doesn’t believe in and I basically don’t, either, but I still fret about? For many couples, the most crushing aspect of fertility treatment is not all the early morning blood-draws but the haunting feeling that the universe is telling them that their union is not — in a spiritual, as well as a biological, sense — fruitful. But I knew Michael and I were a great couple — I had pined so long for the elusive feeling of rightness, and now that I ﬁnally had it, I was damned if I was going to let biology unbless us. And I knew if we let biology become Mother Nature, we actually would be damned.
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Comes from page 27 We forged ahead. I wanted to ﬁnd carriers who would be like female relatives — women with whom it was fun to shop for baby things and who would give us advice on actually caring for the babies and make it all seem doable. While this desire seemed natural to me, I was surprised by how differently other people saw it. “You won’t have anything in common with the carriers,” a director of a Los Angeles agency (which we decided not to work with) insisted dismissively. The gestational carriers at their agency were mainly white, working-class women, often evangelical Christians — “the kind of girls you went to high school with,” he said, managing to give “high school” an ominous intonation. He waved his hand. “You may think you want to stay in touch now, but trust me, once you have your baby, you’re barely going to remember her name. I call it surrogacy amnesia.” Many intended parents do feel uneasy at the idea of too much intimacy with their carriers and are willing to pay the hefty agency fees to “manage” the surrogacy and maintain distance between them. But for us, the idea of not being close to the carriers seemed much more alarming, like something from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Moreover, the only true safety in surrogacy lies in trust. What real remedy could there be if, for example, your baby was born with fetal alcohol syndrome? After six months, I had talked to or met dozens of potential carriers without sensing the possibility of the kind of connection I longed for. At one point, we thought we found someone, but after four months of conversation she backed out and kept the money we advanced her against the surrogacy expenses. Then a lovely local elementary teacher came forward, but her in-laws (from Berkeley!) denounced surrogacy and told her that she would be shaming the family and threatened to cancel their holiday visit, and she crumpled. Then Melissa, a 30-year-old nurse who lived with her husband and two children not far from us in a suburb of Portland, Ore., responded to my posting on a surrogacy Web site. We met at a cafe and chatted for a while, and then I sat stupeﬁed, blinking back tears of relief at the wash of feeling. Here is the person who will carry my baby. From a small town in Oregon, she had a blithe, happy-go-lucky way about her. She was 6-foot-2 and had gone to Montana State University on a basketball scholarship. With her pink cheeks and straight, shiny brown hair, it was easy to imagine her as a rugged pioneer woman who could till a ﬁeld and give birth squatting without the assistance of anesthesia (as, in fact, she had done — twice). Things that would be hard for other people didn’t seem hard for her; she put herself through nursing school as a single mother, and before remarrying, took her children to live on an island off the coast of Mexico for a summer without knowing Spanish. She had been an egg donor before, but she thought it would be even more fulﬁlling to be a gestational carrier. Unlike Melissa, we found our other carrier, Fie, through an agency, but we disliked dealing with the agency so much that we ended up paying a fee to free us from its services and work with Fie directly. She was 34 and lived with her husband and their three young children on the Oregon coast, a few hours from us, where she worked as a senior accountant for a community-development organization. She originally came to the United States as an au pair from her native Denmark and fell in love with her husband and stayed. Like Melissa, she said she loved being pregnant but was clear that her family was complete. She had an air of earnest intentness; she presented us with a long list of careful questions, like the arrangements at the birth and whether we would want her to provide breast milk afterward. Where Melissa merely scanned the contract, Fie reviewed it line by line, and we had long conversations about each provision addressing frightening scenarios, like the need for us to name guardians in case we died before the birth and the
The San Juan Weekly need to buy life insurance for the carriers in case they did. When we met their husbands, we felt relieved by their self-conﬁdence and self-possession. The role of a gestational carrier’s husband is, in some ways, more difﬁcult than that of the carrier herself. The husband is, as Fie puts it, “a bystander to a miracle,” who partakes in the inconvenience of his wife’s pregnancy but has fewer emotional rewards (as well as the occasional negative reaction from a stranger whose congratulations for a new chip off the old block can turn to disapproval). The thing I liked most about our gestational carriers was that they both seemed like great moms. I liked the way they carefully consulted with their children about the surrogacy. “Why can’t they get a puppy?” Fie’s 7-year-old daughter, Olivia, responded when Fie asked her if she wanted to help us have a baby. Fie explained that we had cats but wanted a baby. “If it’s a boy, we can give it to them, but if it’s a girl we can keep it,” Olivia decided. Fie explained that the baby would belong to Michael and me, even if she was a girl. Olivia didn’t respond, but a bit later she tugged on Fie’s sleeve and said, “Mom, we should help the lady with the broken belly.” CHOOSING THE RIGHT gestational carrier is, in a practical sense, more important than choosing an egg donor because a negligent carrier can ruin your life and your baby’s. But an egg donor has a striking claim on the imagination: it is the opportunity to choose a genetic replacement for yourself. While at ﬁrst this struck me as a project of great fascination — the kind of thing I would enjoy obsessing over — it soon became clear it was a fool’s errand. We looked online at donors’ proﬁles and felt at a loss. What exactly should we look for? Many women search for a donor who looks like them, but I didn’t care about that. The qualities I did care about — elusive ones like temperament, sensibility, intelligence, goodness — were difﬁcult to discern online, and it was unclear, anyway, whether genetics played any signiﬁcant role in them. I don’t recall the precise words our fertility doctor, John Hesla, used when he told me he had thought of a donor who he believed would be a good match. We had the highest conﬁdence in his judgment; something about his presence gave us a feeling of being deeply known. He had met the donor when she came to Portland to donate for another couple he worked with at Oregon Reproductive Medicine, and he said that he thought she had a lot in common with us. “There is something very delightful about her personality,” he said, thoughtfully. We had labored to come up with complicated, unsatisfactory formulations of what we hoped for in a child. But that, I realized, was what we really wanted: a child with a delightful personality. we decided we wanted to meet the person who might play such an important role in our lives and were glad the donor agreed. We ﬂew to California to meet her for brunch. But in the hotel the night before, I lay awake, clinging to Michael’s back, my heart thudding in the darkness. In the morning, I decided I had brought the wrong clothes and sat down on the bed in tears. “I don’t understand,” Michael said. I didn’t even know what I was afraid of (that she would reject me? that I would reject her?), but suddenly I didn’t want to go. I wondered if we should have arranged the meeting in the way nonanonymous donations are typically done: in the ofﬁce of the agency, brokered by the agency director or a counselor. As soon as we sat down at the restaurant and began to talk to the donor, though, everything changed. Adoptive parents often talk about the feeling of meeting their child and knowing he is the one: who knew he would be tucked away in a Siberian orphanage? But there he is, in a halo of rightness. In the case of egg donation, those same feelings can take shape around the donor, who appears before you like an apparition of your future child. As I drank my tea, I had a growing sense of conviction that the donor was the
Fairy Goddonor: the one who would give us the right eggs — the magical eggs, the eggs from which our babies would grow. When she ﬂashed a smile, I wondered if I had caught my ﬁrst hint of my child’s grin. Relationships have been said to begin with a metaphor — the desire to invent a narrative that weaves your lives together in a way that you can read as destiny. I fastened on a few coincidental biographical similarities. She grew up in Los Angeles, where I lived as a child, and she recently graduated from a college that I might have gone to if our family had stayed there. She was literary, but she worked in an area of science, which overlapped with an interest I had recently developed. I also found myself interpreting the differences between us in the most favorable way. She was the same height and weight as I and also had long straight hair, but hers was blond. On the Web sites, I felt alienated by the surplus of blond donors, but I suddenly recalled that I was blond as a child. I decided the Fairy Goddonor was the person I would have been had our family stayed in Los Angeles; had my hair stayed blond; had I grown up as a sunny outdoorsy California person instead of a brooding indoorsy East Coast person. And if there are brooding genes I prefer they die with me. She was athletic and played tennis and surfed, as I imagined I would have done, and would still do if only I didn’t suffer from the chronic pain condition that I wouldn’t have if I were her — and wouldn’t then pass on to my children. There was an air of appealing gaiety about her. She seemed reasonably, but not excessively, introspective. She did not seem like someone who stayed up late every night writing in her diary for hours, as I did at her age. She got the idea of donation from a college roommate who did it, and she joined the same agency, although she could have gotten triple the money at a high-end agency. She wanted to meet because she felt an anonymous donation would not be as satisfying. “I hope our children turn out just like her,” I said to Michael after she left. “Like her or like you?” I thought for a moment. “Like her.” “You’re going to be like an awful parent in a cartoon shaking her head at her misbehaving child and saying, ‘The donor was perfect,’ ” he chided me. “If you want to idealize her,” a friend counseled, “you should be careful not to get to know her too well.” But the more I got to know her, the more I liked her. For months afterward, I was haunted by the idea that she would change her mind and ﬂutter away — and I woke from anxiety dreams in the grip of her disappearance. But she didn’t. She came to Portland with her boyfriend to have her eggs retrieved. She had more eggs in the single cycle than I had produced in all six cycles put together, I noted, both pleased and slightly rueful. After the retrieval, we went back to the hotel where we were all staying. I waited anxiously as she napped, obscurely fearful that somehow she wouldn’t awaken. It was all so surreal. But she came down to the lobby in her usual spirits, wearing a silvery dress, and we all went out to dinner to celebrate. The eggs were fertilized with Michael’s sperm and metamorphosed into embryos; the morning after Valentine’s Day, they were transferred to Melissa and Fie, and by spring, in each of their bellies, a heart was beating. We were careful to refer to the fetuses as the “drafts” rather than our chosen names to remind ourselves that they were notes toward the children we wanted, but if they died, they were just beginnings like all the embryos had been, and we would start again. “TELL EVERYONE or tell no one,” the director of an egg-donation agency advised me. “If you tell even one person that you used a donor, word will spread. But if it were me, I’d tell no one,” she added. “Look, I run an agency, so it’s in my interest to promote these kinds of families, but to be honest, if I couldn’t have children naturally — God forbid — I wouldn’t want anyone to know!”
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly In that instant I made up my mind to be completely transparent about it (and to warn people to avoid her agency). But in being open about our story, I sometimes felt I was inviting a Greek chorus of doleful commentary. There was a curious insistence that the situation must be darker and more difﬁcult than it actually was and that I must simply be in denial or trying to put a brave face on it all. People were constantly suggesting horrifying hypotheticals about the carriers: drinking, using drugs, disappearing into Denmark, getting H.I.V. or hepatitis C from their husbands or seducing mine (a complicated seduction strategy indeed) and, of course, stealing the baby. Surrogacy turns out to be a perfect canvas upon which people can project their own ambivalence about pregnancy. I hated the way women would volunteer that I wasn’t missing anything by not being pregnant and then regale me with their pregnancy war stories, their eyes gleaming with pride. A childless friend of mine compared surrogacy to prostitution, saying that she personally would prefer to be a prostitute. “They can’t want to do it — they must be desperate for money,” she insisted. Faced with the fact that both carriers were well-paid professionals, she concluded they must be masochistic. I tried to explain that the gestational carriers we interviewed were the kind of women who said they cried when they gave birth to their last baby, knowing they would never be pregnant again. “Ten percent of women love being pregnant, 10 percent of women loathe it; most women are in between,” my gynecologist commented. “Surrogacy selects from the extreme end.” Many people talked as if the mere fact of being compensated negated the generosity of the gestational carriers and the egg donor and asked if they were doing it “for the money,” as if they couldn’t want to help and want to be paid. Would you be less grateful to a beloved teacher, nanny or fertility doctor because they were paid? We wanted to pay, because it made the relationship feel more reciprocal. There was one woman who responded to my surrogacy listing who said she didn’t want any ﬁnancial compensation. Although it sounded as if she really didn’t need money — she was an afﬂuent divorcée in Sonoma County — I felt that we would need to pay her. “That’s our contribution,” I said, ﬂummoxed — “one of the things we can give back.” Turning the lengthy labor of surrogacy into volunteer work felt as if it put tremendous pressure on the experience to be fulﬁlling at every moment. I worried she would back out or resent or regret it. What if she was masochistic? Surrogacy is prohibited or restricted in much of Europe, and as a result they have very few surrogates, and infertile couples come here. I was pleased when the Fairy Goddonor wrote and said she bought her ﬁrst major purchase — a classic midnight blue convertible — because I imagined she had paid for it partly with the donation money. Throughout the pregnancies, I worried about small practical things. Were Melissa and Fie remembering to take their ﬁsh oil? It was great that Melissa felt so energetic, but must she take her kids camping while her husband was away one long weekend when she was six months pregnant? And why did she order pizza from Pizza Hut? This is Portland — how about I drop off some organic kale? I was irked by all the people — especially health care professionals — who were unable to master the term “gestational carrier” and referred to Melissa and Fie as “birth mothers” or “biological mothers” even after I explained that the term was inappropriate outside the context of adoption. I assumed it would change as soon the babies arrived and was infuriated when the pediatrician in the little hospital on the coast where our daughter, Violet, was born said she didn’t know these “newfangled” words and continued to call Fie “the mom.” Nevertheless, I was relieved to discover that none of it truly pained me. Everything about third-party reproduction can suggest you are not the “real mother,” I realized, and torment you. Or nothing can, if you don’t allow yourself to see it that way. “I’m the only mother,” I’d correct people brightly, again and again. “Actually, there is no biological mother,”
I’d sometimes add, in a tone that I hoped suggested Isn’t this interesting rather than You are an insensitive fool. “You see, both the donor and the carrier contributed biologically to each child, so the term cannot encompass this situation.” Third-party reproduction creates all kinds of relationships for which there are not yet terms. For example, there is no word to describe the relationship between our children and the carriers’ children, but it feels to me that they are, somehow, related. They are gestational siblings; they don’t share a mother, father or genes, but they were carried in the same body and they learned its fathomless chemical language. There is also no word to describe our children’s relationship with each other. Our children were born ﬁve days apart — a fact that cannot be easily explained. When people press me about their status (“But are they really twins?”), the answer gets long. The word “twins” usually refers to siblings who shared a womb. But to call them just “siblings” instead of “twins” also raises questions because full genetic siblings are ordinarily at least nine months apart. And our children could be considered the same age because they were conceived at the same time (in the lab) and the embryos were transferred at the same time. If the person continues to quibble about whether they really qualify as twins (as, surprisingly, people often do), instead of asking why it matters, I announce airily that they are “twiblings.” AFTER OUR SON, Kieran, was born, the hospital set up something called a supplemental nursing system by taping a tube to my breast so that the baby could suck to get the ﬁrst milk — the caramel-thick colostrum — that Melissa expressed. When the nurse put Kieran on my breast to feed, I was in a daze of ecstasy and so focused on the astonishing strength of his newborn ﬁngers curled around mine, I hardly noticed. But by the time he was hungry again, I was coming out of the trance and wondered about whether this feeding system made sense. The nurse urged me to stick with it. “We don’t want you to feel like you can’t nurse,” she said. I suddenly felt cross. Did she really think I couldn’t handle the reality that my body was not producing milk after it didn’t give birth to my baby? I knew she was trying to be supportive, but her concern made me feel diminished, as if she thought the truth of my infertility were unbearable (yet so easily disguised with plastic tubing). I looked down at my breasts, and they looked awfully small, whereas Melissa’s were enormous, dripping with fecundity, like a relic of a fertility goddess. I ditched the tube. I felt similarly when Violet was born ﬁve days later and another perfectly nice nurse presented us with the hospital’s certiﬁcate to commemorate her birth, on which there was no mention of Fie. It wasn’t a legal birth certiﬁcate (our lawyer obtained a “prebirth judgment order,” which meant that a legal birth certiﬁcate would come in the mail, naming us as the parents) but a sentimental keepsake with a blank space for the baby’s name followed by the words “born to” over a pair of baby footprints. When the nurse came back in, I
insisted she reprint it and include all three of our names. Just at that moment, Fie knocked on the door from her adjoining room to complain about her birth certiﬁcate, which had been doctored just the opposite way, to exclude mention of us. “I was just trying to make everyone feel good,” the nurse said, backing toward the door, ﬂustered. “We feel good about the truth,” I said ﬁrmly. And I wanted people to reinforce — not undermine — that feeling. After we got home, we arranged for a doula to come over to give us a lesson in managing two infants and, twice in the afternoon, apropos of nothing, she took it upon herself to tell me, in a empathetic voice, “just because you’re not their biological mother doesn’t mean you’re any less a mother.” “Yup,” I replied evenly. “For sure.” But I made sure never to have her to our house again. MELISSA AND FIE agreed to provide breast milk for the twiblings after the births. Melissa pumped milk for Kieran, but Fie offered to nurse in the hospital, which was the best way to stimulate and establish a milk supply. Michael was hesitant. “You’re comfortable with it?” he asked. But his solicitousness made me uncomfortable; ever since I decided, in the perinatalogist’s ofﬁce long ago, to value the babies’ health above all, I closed the door on considering those kinds of feelings — and in some sense on experiencing them. All I could think now was that breast-feeding would be better than pumping to get every precious drop of colostrum to line our newborn’s gut and protect her from disease. After we came home, Fie and Melissa continued to pump. We usually picked up the milk from Melissa, but Fie liked to visit and brought us a full ice chest every few weeks. After Violet had been home from the hospital for a few weeks, Fie drove to Portland from the coast one afternoon with the milk. Violet was beginning to fuss, and it seemed odd to take a bottle of Fie’s milk out of the refrigerator where it had been sitting around losing antibodies and warm it, when the warm-milk source was right there and had just mentioned that at the sound of the Violet’s cries, she felt her shirt grow damp. I asked if she wanted to nurse, and she said sure. After that, if Violet was hungry when Fie was there, Fie would simply unbutton. There was something profoundly moving about the way Violet would pant with anticipation and close her mouth on the breast as swollen, quivering and alivelooking as a sea animal. Fie would thank me afterward, as if I were doing her the favor. Once when Fie was visiting, Violet was sleeping, but Kieran was hungry. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask Fie if she’d like to feed him (since we ourselves mixed up the milk sources for the babies), but I quickly realized that would be inappropriate, as if I thought she were a wet nurse. Melissa had developed an umbilical hernia near the end of the pregnancy — a painful condition that required bed rest, a trial for someone as active as she. But within a few months after the birth, she had it repaired, shed the pregnancy weight and moved on with her life in her easy way. But for Fie there seemed to be more of an emotional process. She had silver charm necklaces made for each of us. Mine had two charms, with Kieran’s and Violet’s names, and hers had four charms, with the names of her three children — and also Violet’s. I was moved by the gesture — not only by the gift but also by the fact that she would want our daughter’s name resting on her chest. But I hoped it did not mean she was pining for Violet. There are losses that are damaging — destructive and emptying — and perhaps the sense of loss that a birth mother feels when giving up a child for adoption is inevitably that. But there are losses that are poignant but sweet and that stem from a willingness to give — to invest, attach, love. As we watched Fie through the months, we came to believe that Fie’s was that and that nursing was simply the ﬁnal stage of the biological relationship she and Violet had shared.
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Comes from page 29 Our nanny, however, was scandalized by Fie’s nursing. “What if someone came over and saw?” she said. “The person would think she was Fie’s baby!” She said she talked about it with another nanny and they both agreed it was improper. “Another woman is nursing your baby,” she tried to press on me. “You feed my baby,” I said. “Another woman’s boob is in your daughter’s mouth!” “I don’t have a monogamous relationship with her,” I said. She gave me a horriﬁed look. It was the same look I might give a woman talking lightly about her supposedly happy open marriage: a suspicion that beneath that surface lay an ocean of jealousy and confusion. I understood that in our nanny’s mind-set, a mother for whom breastfeeding was one of the strongest expressions of her maternity, to allow another woman to feed her baby would be an unimaginable violation. But in my mind-set, in which I have my baby only because another woman gave birth to her, the fact that that other woman was choosing to do one more thing to help our Butterball, as we called our rosy little daughter, was also wonderful and great. Melissa pumped for three months, and Fie pumped for ﬁve until her supply dried up. Our doula connected us to another mom who had extra milk who decided to donate to us, refused compensation and regularly lugged breast milk into work for us in an ice cooler for eight months. She didn’t even seem particularly interested in pursuing a friendship with me; she just wanted to help. I had never felt so positively about the world before. THE MOST POINTED questions concerned the Fairy Goddonor and whether we should have an ongoing relationship with her. If we did, we were asking for trouble, everyone in the world informed me. I would be triangulating and undermining my maternal status. “She has thousands of eggs — so she gave you a few,” a friend said. “Why do you have to turn it into more than it is? If someone donated blood to you, would you think you were blood sisters? There’s a reason these things are usually anonymous.” I remembered how the Fairy Goddonor had once told me that she thought of donation like the program Locks of Love, in which people donate hair to cancer patients. To me, though, the donation was more akin to liver or kidney donation. Although it didn’t save our lives, in saving us from the death of our dream of offspring, it resurrected our future. “Let it go already!” my friend said. “Don’t send emails or photos or presents and — whatever you do — do not introduce her to the babies. That would be a giant misstep.” But I liked doing those things. We foisted pictures of the twiblings on our friends, and they duly declared them adorable, as we did their children, but I imagined that the Fairy Goddonor and Melissa and Fie took real satisfaction in the pictures. I liked secretly stockpiling the most precious of our outgrown baby clothes for the Fairy Goddonor, even though she didn’t know if she wanted to have children. I tried to persuade her to do an I.V.F. cycle for herself to freeze her eggs (the costs of which we would cover), but whether because infertility was impossibly far away for someone in her 20s or some other reason, I couldn’t get her interested in the idea. “Maybe in a few years,” she said, unenthusiastically. “The donor’s future is not your problem!” my friend scolded. “You never feel jealous or threatened by her?” she asked, curiously. “Jealous of?” “The fact that. . . . ” Her voice trailed off. “What?” I said. But, like all the others who made si-
The San Juan Weekly milar insinuations, she was unable or unwilling to pinpoint the threat. The main threat I felt was the way in which everyone seemed to think I should be threatened and the anxiety it produced in me that one day I would see what they were talking about. I ONCE FELT a prick of an unpleasant emotion. It was the week the Fairy Goddonor came to Portland for the egg retrieval. Over tapas one night, I watched her and Michael laughing and suddenly felt unhappy. I poured myself more wine, but instead of dispelling the feelings, it made me feel more alone. “You were so quiet at dinner,” Michael said as we got into the car. He turned to look at me. “Are you not feeling well?” “Is it weird that you’re having babies with her instead of me?” “I’m not having babies with her. I’m having babies with Melissa and Fie.” The conversation dissolved into laughter. That was the thing about our conception: there were too many players to be jealous of any one. And once we made the decision to have children this way, and put away regret, I felt happier embracing it than just tolerating it. There was even something I liked about the idea of a family created by many hands, like one of those community quilt projects, pietra dura, or a mosaic whose beauty arises from broken shards. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not begin with conception? When I tried to think about why I don’t want to have donor-and-surrogacy amnesia, it isn’t that it seems unfair to them (although it is), but that it erases our own experience of how our children came to be. At a basic level, the fact that our children originated through the good will of strangers feels like an auspicious beginning. A friend of mine who looked into egg donation to conceive a second child but ultimately felt too uncomfortable with the process told me that she was particularly sickened by the way agencies tried to romanticize the donors with the language of altruism. One agency went as far as to refer to their donors as “donor-angels” on its Web site. “For Pete’s sake — they’re not angels,” she said. “They’re ordinary young women looking for a way to make money.” Typically, I thought, they might be ordinary young women (although naturally I believed ours was not) but their role in the lives of childless families is extraordinary. I remembered a conversation I had with a former donor. She was having a wretched Christmas — her boyfriend had dumped her, and she was too proud to try to make last-minute plans — so she sat alone in her apartment. The sole thing that cheered her was staring at the holiday cards with family photographs on her refrigerator from the three couples who used her eggs, and thinking about how — were it not for her — they would all be having miserable holidays, too. “If I don’t do one other good thing in my entire life, I’ll still go to heaven,” she told me and laughed, as if abashed at having revealed a secret pride. As a girl, I was fascinated with the idea of angels, and that fascination lingered when I became an adult, and my interest in the supernatural variety turned into an interest in the idea of angel as a role that anyone might, unknowingly, momentarily assume. The angel is the benevolent stranger who shows some ordinary kindness to miraculous effect. It is the woman who is friendly to the grungy kid on the bridge, not knowing he had been planning to jump off, but whose chitchat breaks the spell of despair so that, instead of plummeting to his death, he goes home and makes an omelet. The woman would continue on her way, unaware, but for that moment, in that tableau, she was an angel. In a painting of the moment, the light would fall on her. Needless to say, my own musings on that tableau had always involved the desire to be the angel. Being an object of gratitude is gratifying, of course, but it also turns out that feeling profound gratitude toward another is also a pleasurable emotion — humbling and inspiring. Friends
and family have helped me with many things in my life, but I’ve helped them, too, and after all, that’s what friends and family are for. As the phrase implies, an obligation for mutual assistance is part of the nature of the relationship. I had never before felt so unadulterated a gratitude as I felt toward the three strangers who led us across the chasm of childlessness to our Butterballs. INFERTILITY IS OFTEN described as an irreversible loss, a grief you will carry to your grave. And there are ways in which third-party reproduction is not like the natural experience. There were times that Melissa and Fie would rest their hands on their bellies, and the same dreamy look of contentment would steal over their faces, like a woman in a Vermeer painting — a feeling I would never know. The baby’s heart did not beat under my heart, its immune system was not tuned by my immune system and I was not — physically and emotionally — expecting in the same way. The morning we got the call from Melissa, I felt it wasn’t a good day to have a baby after all — I had work I wanted to ﬁnish. I felt as shocked as if I had imagined my virtual pregnancy would lead to a virtual baby, like a pet rock, and I wished we could reschedule the delivery for a couple of months later — say, ﬁrst thing in 2010, or, better yet, 2013. But then I snipped Kieran’s umbilical cord and took him in my arms, and he stared up at me, not even surprised, and held my ﬁnger with the ﬁerce grip that kept his simian ancestors from plummeting to the forest ﬂoor, and I whispered that I’d never let him go — and I never will. When our own fertility treatment ﬁnally failed, Michael said, “There will always be a part of us that wishes that we had met when we were younger and could have had children naturally together.” At the time, I thought I would always feel that way, but when I look in my heart now, those feelings just aren’t there — and Michael has trouble recalling that he ever felt that way. “Then we wouldn’t have the twiblings!” he said. Plan A — making babies with the tools you have around the house, as they say, the fun, free tools — faded into the background, and Plan B became foreground. I can count the ways Plan B is a less-desirable way to have children — the route seems to take you off the edge of the world and into the land of scrolly dragons. But when you actually go there, the map shifts. The brain’s ability to rewrite — to destinize, as it were — the birth story and turn a barn into a manger is so powerful that Plan B, all its unsexiness notwithstanding, became the best plan, because Plan B created the children that we have and are convinced we had to have. There had to be a soft spot in the top of Kieran’s head that seems to have been put there to make a perfect hollow for your lips to rest in a kiss. And Violet had to twirl her hair and press her tongue against her lips when she was thinking, in a pose that we call Philosophical Violet — you’d have to see it to see how it looks philosophical, but it does. Third-party reproduction hardly seems a romantic beginning, but it became romantic to us when it became our story: “Baby’s Own Story,” as the vintage baby books I am ﬁlling out for each of them declare. It’s one I am always composing and that, one day, I will tell to our children, and it will take shape and grow in each of their minds, as they write the stories of their lives that become their lives. Once, there was a couple who wanted to have babies. They tried and tried, but no babies arrived, and they were very sad. But then a Fairy Goddonor brought them some magical eggs. She came from a place where it never rains, and she drove a midnight blue convertible and had long golden hair (well, currently short and aubergine). They took the eggs, and the eggs changed into the beginnings of babies, and they gave them to angel women to help them grow. So the angel women stowed the beginning of each baby in their bodies, where they grew and grew like pumpkins. Do you know who those babies are?
San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
FASHION & BEAUTY
Yves Saint Laurent: New Vintage III O nly can YSL make vintage as good as new. After the success of not one but two environmentally feel-good capsule co-
llections, New Vintage, initiated by YSL’s creative director, Stefano Pilati, and Julie Gilhart, is having another go. New Vintage III’s moxie is quite simple: reclaim, recycle and sustain. “The collection is materially comprised of garments made from recycled fabric and from existing patterns instead of new ones, to start a dialogue with the market using known codes and a common
language that are reassuring and familiar,” says Pilati about the 180 pieces that will be available this week. Metallic wide leg trousers, velvet tuxedo suiting jackets and leopard-print wrap dresses with a hint of disco pay a refreshing nod to Saint Laurent’s iconic 1970s designs. You’ll have a second chance to ﬁnally own that missed ready-to-wear piece, and no doubt appreciate the brand’s intelligent use and reuse of its existing resources. Pilati adds, “New Vintage is meant to be part of a process, a general attempt to give a sensibility and an education to our public so that it can act consciously toward its environment.” Today, progressive cultural shifts in consumption and sensibility seem more modern than ever.
The San Juan Weeekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Is Going to an Elite College Worth the Cost? By JACQUES STEINBERG
S hundreds of thousands of students rush to ﬁll out college applications to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, it might be worth asking them: Is where you spend the next four years of your life that important? The sluggish economy and rising costs of college have only intensiﬁed questions about whether expensive, prestigious colleges make any difference. Do their graduates make more money? Get into better professional programs? Make better connections? And are they more satisﬁed with their lives, or at least with their work? Many college guidance counselors will say, ﬁnd your own rainbow. But that can sound like pablum to even the most laid-back parent and student. Answers to such questions cannot be found, typically, in the sort of data churned out annually in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which tend to focus on inputs like average SAT scores or college rejection rates. Handicappers shy away from collating such information partly because it can be hard to measure something like alumni satisfaction 5 to 10 years out. Moreover, in taking a yardstick to someone’s success, or quality of life, how much can be attributed to one’s alma mater, versus someone’s aptitude, intelligence and doggedness? But economists and sociologists have tried to tackle these questions. Their research, however hedged, does suggest that elite schools can make a difference in income and graduate school placement. But happiness in life? That’s a question for another day. Among the most cited research on the subject — a paper by economists from the RAND Corporation and Brigham Young and Cornell Universities — found that “strong evidence emerges of a signiﬁcant economic return to attending an elite private institution, and some evidence suggests this premium has increased over time.” Grouping colleges by the same tiers of selectivity used in a popular college guidebook, Barron’s, the researchers found that alumni of the most selective colleges earned, on average, 40 percent more a year than those who graduated from the least selective public universities, as calculated 10 years after they graduated from high school. Those same researchers found in a separate paper that “attendance at an elite private college signiﬁcantly increases the probability of attending graduate school, and more speciﬁcally graduate school at a major research university.” One major caveat: these studies, which tracked more than 5,000 college graduates, some for more than a decade, are themselves now more than a decade old. Over that period, of course, the full sticker price for elite private colleges has far outstripped the pace of inﬂation, to say nothing of the cost of many of their public school peers (even accounting for the soaring prices of some
public universities, especially in California, suffering under state budget crises). For example, full tuition and fees at Princeton this year is more than $50,000, while Rutgers, the state university just up the New Jersey Turnpike, costs state residents less than half that. The ﬁgures are similar for the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University. (For the sake of this exercise, set aside those students at elite colleges whose ﬁnancial aid packages cover most, if not all, of their education.) Despite the lingering gap in pricing between public and private schools, Eric R. Eide, one of the authors of that paper on the earnings of blue-chip college graduates, said he had seen no evidence that would persuade him to revise, in 2010, the conclusion he reached in 1998. “Education is a long-run investment,” said Professor Eide, chairman of the economics department at Brigham Young, “It may be more painful to ﬁnance right now. People may be more hesitant to go into debt because of the recession. In my opinion, they should be looking over the long run of their child’s life.” He added, “I don’t think the costs of college are going up faster than the returns on graduating from an elite private college.” Still, one ﬂaw in such research has always been that it can be hard to disentangle the impact of the institution from the inherent abilities and personal qualities of the individual graduate. In other words, if someone had been accepted at an elite college, but chose to go to a more pedestrian one, would his earnings over the long term be the same? In 1999, economists from Princeton and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation looked at some of the same data Professor Eide and his colleagues had used, but crunched them in a different way: they compared students at more selective colleges to others of “seemingly comparable ability,”
based on their SAT scores and class rank, who had attended less selective schools, either by choice or because a top college rejected them. The earnings of graduates in the two groups were about the same — perhaps shifting the ledger in favor of the less expensive, less prestigious route. (The one exception was that children from “disadvantaged family backgrounds” appeared to earn more over time if they attended more selective colleges. The authors, Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger, do not speculate why, but conclude, “These students appear to beneﬁt most from attending a more elite college.”) Earnings, of course, and even graduate school attendance, are but two of many measurements of graduates’ success postcollege. Earlier this year, two labor and education professors from Penn State, along with a sociologist from Claremont Graduate University in California, sought to examine whether graduates from elite colleges were, in general, more satisﬁed in their work than those who attended less prestigious institutions. Writing in April in the Journal of Labor Research, the three researchers argued that “an exclusive focus on the economic outcomes of college graduation, and from prestigious colleges in particular, neglects a host of other employment features.” Mining a sample of nearly 5,000 recipients of bachelor’s degrees in 1992 and 1993, who were then tracked for nearly a decade, the authors concluded that “job satisfaction decreases slightly as college selectivity moves up.” One hypothesis by the authors was that the expectations of elite college graduates — especially when it came to earnings — might have been higher, and thus more subject to disappointment, than the expectations of those who graduated from less competitive colleges.
Still, one of those authors, Scott L. Thomas, a sociologist who is a professor of educational studies at Claremont, said high school students and their parents should take any attempt to apply broad generalizations to such personal choices with a grain of salt. “Prestige does pay,” Mr. Thomas said in an interview. “But prestige costs, too. The question is, is the cost less than the added return?” His answer was one he said he knew families would ﬁnd maddening: “It depends.” For example, someone who knew he needed to earn a reliable salary immediately after graduation, and as a result chose to study something practical like business or engineering, might ﬁnd the cost-beneﬁt analysis tilted in favor of a state school, he said. “Students from less afﬂuent backgrounds are going to ﬁnd themselves in situations where college is less about ‘ﬁnding themselves,’ and more about skills acquisition and making contacts that will lead straight into the labor market,” Mr. Thomas said. For such a student, he said, a state university, particularly a big one, may also have a large, passionate alumni body. It, in turn, may play a disproportionate role in deciding who gets which jobs in a state in a variety of ﬁelds — an old-boy (and increasingly old-girl) network that may be less impressed with a job applicant’s Ivy league pedigree. “If you’ve attended a big state school with a tremendous football program,” Mr. Thomas said, “there’s tremendous afﬁnity and good will — whether or not you had anything to do with the football program.” In the end, some researchers echo that tried-and-perhaps-even-true wisdom of guidance counselors: the extent to which one takes advantage of the educational offerings of an institution may be more important, in the long run, than how prominently and proudly that institution’s name is being displayed on the back windows of cars in the nation’s wealthiest enclaves. In this analysis, one’s major — and how it aligns with the departmental strengths of a university — may be more signiﬁcant than the place in the academic pecking order awarded to that college by the statisticians at U.S. News. “Everything we know from studying college student experiences and outcomes tells us that there is more variability within schools than between them,” said Alexander C. McCormick, a former admissions ofﬁcer at his alma mater, Dartmouth College, and now an associate professor of education at Indiana University at Bloomington. “This is the irony, given the dominance of the rankings mentality of who’s No. 5 or No. 50,” Professor McCormick added. “The quality of that biology major offered at School No. 50? It may exceed that at School No. 5.”
The San Juan Weekly
enrique iglesias E
nrique Miguel Iglesias Preysler (born May 8, 1975), better known as Enrique Iglesias, is a Spanish pop music singersongwriter. Iglesias started his musical career on Mexican label Fonovisa. This helped turn him into one of the most popular artists in Latin America and in the Hispanic or Latino market in the United States, and the biggest seller of Spanish language albums for a number of years. Before the turn of the millennium, he made a crossover into the mainstream English language market, signing a unique multi-album deal with Universal Music Group for an unprecedented US$48,000,000, with Universal Music Latino to release his Spanish albums and Interscope to release English albums. In 2010, he parted with Interscope and signed with another Universal Music Group label, Universal Republic.
January 6 - 12, 2011
34 Iglesias has had four Billboard Hot 100 top ﬁve singles including two #1s, and holds the record for producing 21 number 1 Spanish-language singles on the Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks. Up until the release of his latest album, Euphoria, in 2010, he had sold over 55 million albums in both English and Spanish. 2010–present: Euphoria On July 5, 2010, Iglesias released his ninth studio album, Euphoria, his ﬁrst work to be released under his new label, Universal Republic. The album is Iglesias’s ﬁrst bilingual album with seven original English songs and six original Spanish songs. Iglesias worked with three producers whom he has worked with before; RedOne, Mark Taylor and Carlos Paucer. The album features collaborations with Akon, Usher, Nicole Scherzinger, Pitbull, Juan Luis Guerra and his third duet with Wisin y Yandel. In a joint venture with Universal Latino Iglesias will release different singles in both languages simultaneously to different formats. The ﬁrst English single from the album, “I Like It”, which features Cuban rapper Pitbull, was released on May 3, 2010 in the U.S. and became a success, reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. After weeks on the chart, it reached to #1 on the Billboard Hot/Dance Club Play, making it Enrique’s 7th number one song on that chart and also making it the male singer with most number-ones tying with Prince & Michael Jackson. “Cuando Me Enamoro” was released as the lead Spanish single from the album. The song debuted at number 8 and number 25 on U.S Latin Pop Songs and U.S. Hot Latin Songs, respectively. The song became his 25th top 10 single on the U.S. Billboard Hot
Latin Songs & after 4 weeks of its release date it became his 21st No.1 song on this chart. Songwriting, producing, and acting Iglesias has collaborated with songwriter Guy Chambers to write “Un Nuovo Giorno”, the lead single from Andrea Bocelli’s ﬁrst pop album. The song was later translated into English as “First Day of My Life” and recorded by Spice Girl Melanie C. The song has since gone to become a huge hit throughout Europe,, and peaked in the number onee spot in numerous countries. Iglesias also wrote the single “The Way” for American Idol runner up Clay Aiken. Four songs co-written by Iglesias appear on the UK band The Hollies’ current album. Many times Iglesias has said that should he ever retire, he wants to write and produce songs for other artists. In 2010 Idol Allstars 2010 (Swedish Idol Series) released a songg “All I Need A d Is You” co-written by Iglesias withh Andreas Carlsson, Kalle Engström and Kristian Lundin. It went straight to I-Tunes #1. In 2000, Iglesias co-produced an off Broadway musical called Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria. In the musical, four Americans of Latin heritage possess a common interest in music and meet and decide to put on a show. The show contained many references and allusions to many classic and contemporary Latin and pop songs by the likes of Carmen Miranda, Selena, Richie Valens, Santana, Ricky Martin and Iglesias himself. Iglesias also developed an interest in acting, starring alongside Antonio Banderas,
Deceiving Black Swan By Max González
lack Swan”, is the title of the ﬁlm so much talked about, shown in town recently. It is based on the character of Odette-Odile duality central theme of “Swan Lake Ballet” by Tchaikovsky. As far as ballet is concerned it is deceiving to “
The San Juan Weekly
December 30 - Jan. 5, 2011
the utmost. The purpose of the ﬁlm is focused in the pathological tragedy of an illmimded mother who being frustrated as a “corps de ballet” member is bitterly jealous of her daughter who has been appointed prima ballerina of the company. The hideous rake director has decided to mount a different version of the clas-
Salma Hayek and Johnny Depp in the Robert Rodriguez ﬁlm Once Upon a Time in Mexico, in which he played the foul-mouthed gun-wielding Lorenzo. In 2007, he had guest starred in the TV comedy Two and a Half Men as a carpenter/handyman. He says that he would act again if given small roles that he could ﬁt in between his musical commitments. g He also guest starred as Ga an ArgenGael,
tinean guitar playing/surfer/massage therapist love interest on the CBS hit TV show How I Met Your Mother. Iglesias also played the part of an evil Roman emperor in an ambitious TV commercial for Pepsi, which sponsored his last world tour. He starred alongside Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Pink, who turn the tables on him in the commercial. He’s also starred in commercials for Doritos and for Viceroy watches.
Enrique Ig lesias Concert in Puerto Ric o Saturday January 2 9, 2011 at the Colis eo Jose Migue l Agrelot
sic ballet by concentrating in the conﬂicting transformation of the sweet princess Odette into the monster like Odile; the Black Swan. Roth bart is the magician who has turned the princess Odette and her companions into swans. They are allowed to turn into humans for a few hours at night. This is when Prince Siegfried comes around hunting and falls in love with Odette. She tells him that the spell is to be broken when a prince comes to rescue, and promises never to be unfaithful. However, the magician has other
plans. At the ball given with the purpose of choosing a bride to be for Siegfried, the magician introduces his daughter Odile, as a Black Swan to seduce the prince. This is the motivation for the terrifying ﬁlm. The competition to be awarded the part of the Black Swan, becomes a bloody sinister controversy that submerges ballet in sort of an underworld of vice, drug addiction, sexual orgies, like the obnoxious scene of lesbianism between the two rivals. Not to mention the old man masturbating in the subway train, molesting the girl. Dancing actually stays in the background. More over it has many ﬂaws. The girl that plays the leading part is an excellent actress that deserves an Oscar. On the other hand, although she trained in ballet for the purpose of the ﬁlm, her “port de brass”, (movement of the arms), is not authentic, looks awkward not performed by a professional ballerina. Her point work not better. The self-inﬂicted bloody torture of ripping of the skin of her toes and nails is nauseating. Her mother’s contribution to this process is disgusting. The ending is no less tragic. She stabs herself with a piece of the shattered mirror, thus ending the enigmatic treatment of this controversial work of art in the level of the technical resources of present movie making.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Basking in a Workout’s Long, Mysterious Afterglow
By GINA KOLATA
t’s a cold day and you have just ﬁnished a grueling session at the gym, sweating away on an elliptical crosstrainer. Or you had a tough workout in the swimming pool. Or in a spin class. Or you just ﬁnished a hard run or a long, fast bicycle ride. Now you’ve showered and changed your clothes. You are no longer sweating, but you still feel warm. Your cold house, your chilly ofﬁce does not feel so frigid anymore. Exercise researchers used to say that this was an exercise bonus — that you burn more calories not just when you work out but for hours after you stop, even for the rest of the day. Exercise, they would tell people, has a signiﬁcant effect on weight loss because of this so-called excess postexercise oxygen consumption. But then the naysayers weighed in, reporting that such an exercise effect is just a myth. Metabolic rates plunge back down to normal as soon as exercise ends, investigators reported. Still, many who exercise insist that there must be some change in their metabolism. Why else would they feel so warm? If it is not an increased metabolic rate, then what is it? Paul Laursen, a performance physiologist at the New Zealand Academy of Sport, competes in Ironman triathlons. Regular prolonged and intense exercise is part of his life. He felt the afterburn effect, he says, after a recent tough 90-mile bicycle ride. “It was an epic training session with friends, testosterone levels were high, and we were all trying to drop one another on the climbs,” Dr. Laursen wrote in an e-mail. “It was like I had a fever the rest of the day. And even into the night as well. My wife slept with the quilt, but all I wanted was the sheet. My body resembled a furnace.” It turns out that there is no easy answer to why people like Dr. Laursen feel so warm. “One thing we know for sure: your
metabolism goes sky-high when you exercise,” said Nisha Charkoudian, an associate professor of physiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. “Then, when you stop, the interesting thing we don’t understand is that your body temperature stays up for about two hours.” The effect is very dependent on how hard you exercise. “If you go out for a walk, your temperature does not go up much,” Dr. Charkoudian said, but if you run hard for an hour or so, you can have what seems like a fever, a temperature of 100 degrees or so. It’s an effect that Glenn Kenny, a professor in the School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, spent years investigating. He built a million-dollar machine — the only one in the world, he says — that can measure minute-by-minute changes in the body’s heat loss. It looks like a giant can. The subject sits inside and, if exercise is being tested, pedals a recumbent bicycle. The device can detect the amount of heat dissipated by the subject’s body at every moment of exercise and at every moment of postexercise rest under different conditions — warmer or cooler air temperatures, more or less humidity. From experiments with the device, Dr. Kenny learned the reason for the feverlike state that arises when the body’s core temperature is elevated: not because you keep burning calories at the rate you did during exercise, but because the body has a hard time getting rid of the extra heat it generated during the exercise session. Heat dissipation is sharply reduced after exercise: for some reason the body just can’t seem to rid itself of the extra heat that it gained. Dr. Kenny thinks that the effect is linked in some way to exercise’s effects on the cardiovascular system. But even though you may feel hot, you are not burning more calories, he says, so you are not going to lose more weight. From other studies, in which he measured metabolic rates, he discounts
claims that exercise might also increase the rate at which people burn calories for hours afterward. He found that any effect on metabolism after exercise was so small as to be almost immeasurable, and so ﬂeeting it was gone within ﬁve minutes after exercise stops. His subjects, though, were not people like Dr. Laursen. Joseph LaForgia’s subjects were. Or at least they were experienced athletes. Dr. LaForgia, an exercise physiologist at the University of South Australia, says people who exercise intensely — doing repeated sprints, for example — can experience a prolonged metabolic effect. Their metabolic rates can go up and remain elevated for seven hours after the session is ﬁnished. Even so, the extra calories burned were about 10 percent of the calories burned during the intense exercise. As for people who exercised moderately, like most people do, the small increase in metabolism lasted no more than two hours and added up to only about 5 percent of the amount they burned while exercising. And since a modest exercise bout does
not burn nearly as many calories as an intense one, people who exercised modestly ended up with very few extra calories burned afterward. That still leaves a question, though. If your metabolic rate increases slightly, why would you feel warmer as much as seven hours after a long, hard workout? Dr. LaForgia says he has not studied sensations of warmth, and Dr. Kenny says that if someone feels warm that long, it is not an effect of delayed heat dissipation. Instead, it might be caused by yet another exercise effect — the body’s efforts to repair subtle tissue damage from all that exercise. The immune system can kick in, and so can enzymes that repair muscles and require heat-producing energy. Maybe the heat-generating effects of damage repair are the reason Dr. Laursen kicked off the covers that night after his 90-mile ride. If so, he probably was not burning many more calories. But then again, that tough ride over the steep hills of New Zealand burned more than enough.
Humming Can Ease Sinus Problems By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
ealing with a cold is bad enough, but when it leads to a sinus infection, the misery can double. Some researchers have proposed a surprising remedy: channeling your inner Sinatra. Sinus infections — which afﬂict more than 37 million Americans every year — generally occur when the lining of the sinuses becomes inﬂamed, trapping air and pus and other secretions, and leading to pain, headaches and congestion. Because the inﬂammation is often caused by upper-respiratory infections, people with asthma and allergies are more vulnerable than others to chronic sinusitis. Keeping the sinuses healthy and infection-free requires ventilation — keeping air ﬂowing smoothly between the sinus and nasal cavities. And what better way to keep air moving through the sinuses and nasal cavity than by humming a tune? In a study in The American
Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers examined this by comparing airﬂow in people when they hummed and when they quietly exhaled. Speciﬁcally, they looked to see if humming led to greater levels of exhaled nitric oxide, a gas produced in the sinuses. Ultimately, nitric oxides during humming rose 15-fold. Another study a year later in The European Respiratory Journal found a similar effect: humming resulted in a large increase in nasal nitric oxide, “caused by a rapid gas exchange in the paranasal sinuses.” Since reduced airﬂow plays a major role in sinus infections, the researchers suggested that daily periods of humming might help people lower their risk of chronic problems. But further study is needed, they said. THE BOTTOM LINE Studies show that humming helps increase airﬂow between the sinus and nasal cavities, which could potentially help protect against sinus infections.
36 January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
What We’re Not Looking After: Our Eyes By JANE E. BRODY
oe Lovett was scared, really scared. Being able to see was critical to his work as a documentary ﬁlmmaker and, he thought, to his ability to live independently. But longstanding glaucoma threatened to rob him of this most important sense — the sense that more than 80 percent of Americans worry most about losing, according to a recent survey. Partly to assuage his fears, partly to learn how to cope if he becomes blind, and partly to alert Americans to the importance of regular eye care, Mr. Lovett, 65, decided to do what he does best. He produced a documentary called “Going Blind,” with the telling subtitle “Coming Out of the Dark About Vision Loss.” In addition to Mr. Lovett, the ﬁlm features six people whose vision was destroyed or severely impaired by disease or injury: Jessica Jones, an artist who lost her sight to diabetic retinopathy at age 32, but now teaches art to blind and disabled children. Emmet Teran, a schoolboy whose vision is limited by albinism, a condition he inherited from his father, and who uses comedy to help him cope with bullies. Peter D’Elia, an architect in his 80s who has continued working despite vision lost to age-related macular degeneration. Ray Korman, blinded at age 40 by an incurable eye disease called retinitis pig-
mentosa, whose life was turned around by a guide dog and who now promotes this aid to others. Patricia Williams, a ﬁercely independent woman legally blind because of glaucoma and a traumatic injury, who continues to work as a program support assistant for the Veterans Administration. Steve Baskis, a soldier blinded at age 22 by a roadside bomb in Iraq, who now lives independently and offers encouragement to others injured at war. Sadly, the nationwide survey (conducted Sept. 8 through 12 by Harris Interactive) showed that only a small minori-
Risks: Fewer Heart Problems Among Moderate Drinkers By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
new study suggests that what matters to your health is not how much alcohol you drink, but how and when you drink it. For the study, in the journal BMJ, French scientists gathered data on the drinking habits of 2,405 men in Ireland and 7,373 in France, and found that the French drank more — an average of 1.2 ounces a day, compared with about three-quarters of an ounce for the Irish. Only 12 percent of the Irish drank every day, compared with 75 percent of the French. But among the Irish the rate of binge drinking was sharply higher: 9 percent, compared with 0.5 percent in France. (A binge was deﬁned as ﬁve drinks or more at least one day a week.) The scientists followed the men for 10 years. After controlling for smoking, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other risks, they found that compared with regular drinkers, both binge drinkers and teetotalers were almost twice as likely to have had heart problems. There are cultural differences in drinking habits, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Jean Ferrières, a professor of medicine at Toulouse University. “In France, fruits, vegetables and wine are consumed at the same meal,” he said. “We think you can protect your heart by drinking daily with a complete meal. But we don’t know how to disentangle the effect of wine from the other things.”
ty of those most at risk get the yearly eye exams that could detect a vision problem and prevent, delay or even reverse its progression. Fully 86 percent of those who already have an eye disease do not get routine exams, the telephone survey of 1,004 adults revealed. The survey was commissioned by Lighthouse International, the world-renowned nonproﬁt organization in New York that seeks to prevent vision loss and treats those affected. In an interview, Lighthouse’s president, Mark G. Ackermann, emphasized that our rapidly aging population predicts a rising prevalence of sight-robbing diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy that will leave “some 61 million Americans at high risk of serious vision loss.”
become totally blind and unable to work, read or drive a car, he said. Yet many people fail to realize that early detection can result in vision-preserving therapy. Those at risk include people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, as well as anyone who has been a smoker or has a family history of an eye disorder like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. Smoking raises the risk of macular degeneration two to six times, Dr. Rosenthal said. Furthermore, he said, the eyes are truly a window to the body, and a proper eye exam can often alert physicians to a serious underlying disease like diabetes, multiple sclerosis or even a brain tumor.
The Beneﬁts of a Checkup
Reasons Not to Wait
Low vision and blindness are costly problems in more ways than you might think. In addition to the occupational and social consequences of vision loss, there are serious medical costs, not the least of them from injuries due to falls. Poor vision accounts for 18 percent of broken hips, Mr. Ackermann said. So, why, I asked, don’t more of us get regular eye exams? For one thing, they are not covered by Medicare and many health insurers. Even the new health care law has yet to include basic eye exams and rehabilitation services for vision loss, though advocates like Mr. Ackermann are pushing hard for this coverage in regulations now being prepared. Lighthouse International is one of ﬁve regional low-vision centers participating in a Medicare demonstration project in which trained therapists teach patients how to use optical devices, how to make changes in their homes to facilitate independence and how to maintain mobility outside the home. Thus far, an interim analysis showed, the costs of providing these services are well below what had been anticipated. I can think of no good reason for excluding this coverage in the nation’s health care overhaul, any more than there are good excuses for Medicare’s failure to pay for hearing aids. A lack of coverage for such services will inevitably carry its own heavy costs in the long run. But even those who have insurance or can pay out of pocket are often reluctant to go for regular eye exams. Fear and depression are common impediments for those at risk of vision loss, said Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, low-vision specialist at Lighthouse. Patients worry that they could
He recommends that all children have “a basic professional eye exam” before they start elementary school. “Being able to read the eye chart, which tests distance vision, is not enough, since most learning occurs close up,” he said. “One in three New York City schoolchildren has a vision deﬁcit. Learning and behavior problems can result if a child does not receive adequate vision correction.” Annual checkups are best done from age 20 on, and certainly by age 40, Dr. Rosenthal said. Waiting until you have symptoms is hardly ideal. For example, glaucoma in its early stages is a silent thief of sight. It could take 10 years to cause a noticeable problem, by which time the changes are irreversible. For those who already have serious vision loss, the range of visual aids now available is extraordinary — and increasing almost daily. There are large-picture closed-circuit televisions, devices like the Kindle that can read books aloud, computers and readers that scan documents and read them out loud, Braille and large-print music, as well as the more familiar long canes and guide dogs. On Oct. 13, President Obama signed legislation requiring that every new technological advance be made accessible to people who are blind, visually impaired or deaf. Producing “Going Blind” helped to reassure Mr. Lovett that he will be able to cope, whatever the future holds. Meanwhile, the regular checkups and treatments he has received have slowed progression of his glaucoma, allowing him to continue his professional work and ride his bicycle along the many new bike paths in New York City.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
37 SCIENCE / TECH
Best Ideas of a Decade THE BEST IDEA OF EACH YEAR 2001: “Populist Editing.” Wikipedia has since eclipsed the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Microsoft’s Encarta project, and many of us use it almost every day. 2002: “Early-Detection Revisionism.” We often ﬁnd extra medical treatment hard toturn down, yet frequently it does us little good or even harm, so sometimes it’s better not to know your condition at all. Prostatecancer is one area in which this idea is having an impact. 2003: “Social Networks.” The New York Times has a Facebook page, a Facebook application and a New York Times News Quiz on Facebook; then there are Facebook’s 500 million users. 2004: “Dumb Robots Are Better.” The days of the Jetsons, and housecleaning robots, are not upon us, so settle for less. Be happy if your robot does anything useful at all. 2005: “Touch Screens That Touch Back.” This pick was ahead of its time, as few people realized that this technology, as seen in the2002 Steven Spielberg movie “Minority Report,” would show up so quickly in the iPhone and the iPad. 2006: “Walk-In Health Care.” We’ll need more of this, as general practitioners are harder to see and emergency-room waits get longer. 2007: “The Best Way to Deﬂect an Asteroid.” Send satellites with mirrors to reﬂect the sun, vaporizing one spot on the asteroid, releasing gases and changing its course. If this ever comes in handy, it will be the biggest idea of them all. 2008: “Carbon Penance.” “ . . . a translucent leg band . . . keeps track of your electricity consumption. When it detects, via aspecial power monitor, that electric current levels have exceeded a certain threshold, the wireless device slowly drives six stainless-steel thorns intothe ﬂesh of your leg.” Satire is an idea, too. The slightly more practical anti-global-war-
2003: “Futures Markets in Everything” Intrade.com is the ﬁrst place to go on election night for the results; it’s way ahead of the evening news. But how about conditional futures markets, like comparing the price of “2014 G.D.P. if a Republican wins” versus “2014 G.D.P. if Obama is re-elected”? That would show us which candidate the markets thought was better for the economy. 2004: “The Television Blaster” You point it at a loud TV in public, and it shuts the thing down. 2006: “Walk-in Health Care” It is time to consider bringing more of the retail efﬁciencies of WalMart to our health care sector.
ming idea from 2008 was to eat kangaroos,since they, unlike cows, do not produce methane gas. 2009: “Music for Monkeys.” We still don’t know which of the ideas from last year will pay off, but the idea of generating music that monkeys enjoy (and humans don’t) was the most fun of the bunch. THE MOST PRESCIENT PICKS 2001: “Populist Editing” Wikipedia started in January 2001, and the magazine was quick to call its success. By 2007 (“Wikiscanning”), the magazine was writing about Congressional staff members who were editing Wiki pages for the beneﬁt of their bosses. 2001: “The Game That Plays You” The idea of a collectively created ﬁctional world, built out of thousands of interlinked Web pages, is standard for World of Warcraft fans, but it was not well known at the time. 2002: “S.S.R.I.’s as Performance Enhancers” Think of beta blockers for musicians or anti-social-anxiety drugs for athletes. Millions use them, and they probably lie behind a lot of today’s top performances. This story is still being written, but the evidence favors their effectiveness, and the drugs will only get better. 2002: “Early Detection Revi-
sionism” Excess mammograms, overly zealous prostate treatments and too much back surgery still get press today, as the evidence continues to accumulate that some medical issues are better left alone than overtreated. 2004: “The Drug-Trial Registry” All clinical results from drug trials should be posted online for public inspection, and indeed the world has moved a long way in this direction. BEST UNDERSTATEMENT 2005: “The Global Savings Glut” “Should the day of reckoning arrive, the task of mitigating the pain is going to fall mainly on Bernanke’s shoulders.” That’s the last sentence of the article, about the United States’ current account deﬁcit. OVERSOLD 2005: “The Laptop That Will Save the World” Predicting that a $100 laptop would help solve worldwide poverty wasn’t so prescient. The bettercall from 2005 was “Touch Screens That Touch Back”: screens that offer a sensory response when you run your ﬁnger along them, asis now the case with the iPad and other such devices. A FEW IDEAS WE COULD USE MORE OF
THE BEST ONE-SENTENCE OBSERVATION “They” — our thumbs — “have suddenly become our most important digit.” That’s from 2003’s “Text Messager’s Thumb,” about the physical toll of text messaging. THE MOST ‘OFF’ PICKS 2001: “The ‘X-Files’ Conspiracy Trope is Dead” Conspiracy theories seemed in decline, yet now so-called birthers are common, and as of August nearly 20 percent of the U.S. citizenry were willing to claim that Barack Obama was a Muslim, secretly or otherwise. 2001: “American Imperialism, Embraced” American imperialism has hardly remained fashionable, given the widespread skepticism about Iraq and Afghanistan and demands for ﬁscal austerity. 2005: Can Work Only Once? “Forehead Billboards” A 21-yearold named Andrew Fischer auctioned off the space on his forehead for $37,375 on eBay, thereafter attaching a small temporary tattoo advertising an over-the-counter sleep remedy. The company, SnoreStop, calculates that it received nearly $1 million worth of publicity. And a woman named Kari Smith leased her forehead for a permanent tattooed ad for the online gambling and entertainment venture GoldenPalace.com.
SCIENCE / TECH 38
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Airport Apps Put You First in Line Flight Information
By MICHELLE HIGGINS
T goes without saying: Holiday travel is brutal. Security lines are longer. Planes are more crowded. The battle for storage space heats up as travelers vie to stuff all those gift-laden bags in overhead bins. And if bad weather hits, your delayed or canceled ﬂight may make you tardy for Christmas or New Year’s dinner — that is, if you even make it out of the airport. This year, the experience may be even more intense. Over the holidays, 43.6 million passengers are expected to travel on United States carriers, up about 3 percent from last year, according to the Air Transport Association of America, the industry trade group. Still, holiday travel doesn’t have to be totally miserable. While the usual groundwork — showing up early with boarding passes in hand and packing as lightly as possible — still applies, an array of travel applications for smartphones can help you tackle just about any problem that might arise at or on your way to the airport. So before you leave home this year, take a moment to download a few of these to help you navigate the holiday crush.
Trafﬁc and Parking Google Maps (free) Avoid trafﬁc jams on your way to the airport with this app, which comes preinstalled on many smartphones or is available for download. In addition
to driving directions, it offers an at-aglance display of road conditions to help you ﬁnd the best route around trafﬁc. Color-coded lines correspond to the intensity of trafﬁc: green for no trafﬁc jams, yellow for medium congestion, red for heavy congestion, and red and black for stop-and-go. Information: google.com/mobile/maps. SmartPark JFK (Free) AirportParkingReservations.com, which allows travelers to search for and reserve parking spots at so-called offairport lots by plugging in their departure airport and travel dates, is working on an app. Until it rolls one out, SmartParkJFK.com has the closest thing with a Web-based option for New York travelers. To avoid losing precious moments circling for parking — and possibly missing your ﬂight — go to m.smartparkjfk. com from your mobile browser to place a reservation. Information: SmartParkJFK.com. Take Me To My Car (free) There are various 99-cent apps with names like Find My Car and Car Finder that can help you remember where you parked that car — which comes in handy when you need to locate your vehicle among hundreds of others in the airport parking lot after a week at the in-laws’. Take Me to My Car offers a decent free option for the iPhone. Information: takemetomycar.anresgroup. com. For Android users, Car Locator ($3.99) offers a free trial version good for several uses. Information: Androidlicenser.com.
FlightTrack, ($4.99) Plug in your ﬂight number or route to learn your ﬂight’s status, gate and aircraft type. A delay forecast offers a quick snapshot of the ﬂight’s on-time percentage to help you anticipate delays. FlightTrack Pro is available as an upgrade for Android and iPhone for an additional $4.99 and allows you to sync ﬂight information automatically from TripIt, a popular trip management service. For the iPhone only, it also gives you push-alert notiﬁcations (similar to text messages) that update you on ﬂight changes. Information: mobiata.com. FlightCaster ($1.99) Still concerned about delays? Using a proprietary algorithm that includes real-time data from FlightStats, 10 years of historical ﬂight data and weather reports, FlightCaster aims to predict the likelihood of a ﬂight arrival delay up to six hours before airlines notify passengers. It is currently available only for domestic ﬂights on iPhone or Blackberry. Information: ﬂightcaster.com. Next Flight( $2.99) Want to be sure you beat the scrum to a seat on the next ﬂight out when yours is canceled? Plug your origin, destination and departure date into this iPhone app for a list of available nonstop ﬂights from more than 1,200 carriers for the current and following day. You can drill down to the ﬂight details for terminal and gate information so you don’t have to elbow your way to a monitor at the airport amid the chaos. Information: touchmeme.com/nextﬂight.html.
Airport Navigation GateGuru (free) This iPhone app can help you ﬁnd your way around more than 100 airports in the United States, Canada and London so you can easily determine if there is another Starbucks after security or if you need to grab that coffee now. If your ﬂight is delayed, you can quickly ﬁnd the nearest bookstore, pedicure station or airport bar. User ratings and photos can help avoid unappealing restaurants or those with poor service. Coming soon: an updated version with 10 European airports, trip management features and security wait times. Informtaion: gateguruapp.com. IFly Pro ($6.99) offers information for more than 600 commercial airports, including layover ideas and airport parking rates. Information: iﬂy.com/iphone-pro.html.
MyTSA (free) Find out which airport checkpoints are backed up or if you can bring that snow globe through security (the answer is no) with this app, developed by the Transportation Security Administration to provide passengers with answers to the most commonly requested security questions on their mobile phones. Available as an iPhone app or as a Mobile Web app from www.tsa. gov/mobile, MyTSA relies on travelers to report security wait times. So be sure to post the approximate time it took you to get through, once you’ve cleared security. Information: www.tsa.gov/travelers/mobile.
And Don’t Forget ... Orbitz (free) When you need to book an airport hotel or rental car on the ﬂy, this app for iPhone or Android allows customers to shop for and book last minute, sameday reservations right from the phone. It also offers ﬂights. Information: orbitz.com/mobile. Kayak.com also has a sleek free app with ﬂight, hotel and car rental search capability, airport information and trip management capabilities, but you must go to a mobile Web page to make a purchase. Information: kayak. com/mobile. TripIt (free) This automatic travel organizer lets you forward travel conﬁrmation e-mails from more than 3,000 sites to one place and creates a master itinerary that can be accessed from your Android, BlackBerry or iPhone, synced to your calendar and shared with friends. An upgrade to TripIt Pro ($49 a year but available free for a 30-day trial) not only alerts you to ﬂight delays or cancellations, among other features, but also generates a list of ﬂight options, with status and available seats for each ﬂight, when you need a new route to your destination, fast. Information: tripit.com. Old MacDonald ($1.99) This popular iPhone app will keep your toddler occupied with colorful, interactive illustrations and songs. Visit the farm where you can shear a sheep, push a tractor, ﬂip a cow or make a chicken cluck. Record your own duet or listen to the song sung in ﬁve languages. Information: duckduckmoosedesign. com. Doodle Kids (free) for Android or iPhone lets kids virtually draw shapes and patterns on your phone. Information: Virtual-gs.appspot.com.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
39 SCIENCE / TECH
010 was supposed to be the Year of the Tablet. That did not really happen — the ﬂood of product was reduced to a trickle, as many manufacturers awaited a more tablet-friendly operating system from Google. So, once more, with feeling: 2011 will be the Year of the Tablet. Several new models have either been released, or are in a very advanced state of preview. This interactive guide can help sort through the latest offerings. Use the checkbox at the top of each listing to select it for comparison. And check back frequently — this page will be updated as new information or models are released.
Since its release in April, Apple’s iPad has sold more than 7.5 million units. The iPad comes in several versions, with different memory capacities and an available cellular connection via AT&T (in October, Verizon started selling the iPad with an external 3G-to-Wi-Fi wireless router). For now, the iPad remains the dominant tablet computer.
H.P. Slate The on-again, off-again Slate was in the works for some time. In October Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, introduced the Slate, its ﬁrst tablet. Running a touch-optimized version of Microsoft Windows 7, the Slate is initially being targeted at business users. That would explain its enterprise-level price: $800.
Black Berry PlayBook Refusing to cede tablet ground to the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft, smartphone maker Research In Motion has been developing the PlayBook, part of its BlackBerry line of devices. The PlayBook will be available in 2011, though R.I.M. has shown prototypes already. Expect full Flash support for the Web, compatibility with corporate servers and enhanced security features.
Dell was one of the ﬁrst computer makers to respond to the iPad, releasing the Streak in August. The Streak has a ﬁve-inch screen, smaller than the eightto 10-inch screens common in tablets. With dimensions like that, the Streak occupies the space between the smartphone and the tablet.
Samsung Galaxy Tab The Galaxy Tab from Samsung is one of the few real competitors to Apple’s iPad. Available through all four major cellphone carriers, the Galaxy runs on Google’s Android 2.2 operating system, which means it comes with some features — turn-by-turn navigation, voice dictation, Flash support — that either cost extra on the iPad or are not available at all. Prices vary depending on the carrier, but expect to pay between $400 and $600.
SCIENCE / TECH 40
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Five Years in, Gauging Impact of Gates Grants By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
ive years ago, Bill Gates made an extraordinary offer: he invited the world’s scientists to submit ideas for tackling the biggest problems in global health, including the lack of vaccines for AIDS and malaria, the fact that most vaccines must be kept refrigerated and be delivered by needles, the fact that many tropical crops like cassavas and bananas had little nutrition, and so on. No idea was too radical, he said, and what he called the Grand Challenges in Global Health would pursue paths that the National Institutes of Health and other grant makers could not. About 1,600 proposals came in, and the top 43 were so promising that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made $450 million in ﬁve-year grants — more than double what he originally planned to give. Now the ﬁve years are up, and the foundation recently brought all the scientists to Seattle to assess the results and decide who will get further funding. In an interview, Mr. Gates sounded somewhat chastened, saying several times, “We were naïve when we began.” As an example, he cited the pursuit of vaccines that do not need refrigeration. “Back then, I thought: ‘Wow — we’ll have a bunch of thermostable vaccines by 2010.’ But we’re not even close to that. I’d be surprised if we have even one by 2015.” He underestimated, he said, how long it takes to get a new product from the lab to clinical trials to low-cost manufacturing to acceptance in third-world countries. In 2007, instead of making more multimillion-dollar grants, he started making hundreds of $100,000 ones. “Now,” he said, only half-kidding, “you get a hundred grand if you even pretend you can cure AIDS.” That little won’t buy a breakthrough, but it lets scientists “moonlight” by adding new goals to their existing grants, which saves the foundation a lot of winnowing. “And,” he added, “a scientist in a developing country can do a lot with $100,000.” Over all, he said: “On drawing attention to ways that lives might be saved through scientiﬁc advances, I’d give us an A. “But I thought some would be saving lives by now, and it’ll be more like in 10 years from now.” Several scientists at the conference noted that Mr. Gates comes from the software industry, where computing power constantly doubles. Biology, by comparison, moves glacially — and microbes are less cooperative than electrons. Biology also has a greater tendency
to create progress-hindering controversy. For example, doing clinical trials on illiterate subjects in poor countries, which was once cheap and fast but ethically dubious, has become time-consuming and expensive as ethical standards have improved. Also, poor countries lacking regulatory authorities and highly educated political and scientiﬁc elites may be nervous about being misused by Western scientists and careful about accepting new technologies. Despite discoveries on many fronts, up to two-thirds of the grants either did not get renewed or may not in the near future, Mr. Gates estimated. In some cases, it was because they were not succeeding, either scientiﬁcally or because of political obstacles, or someone else had found a better path. In others, the foundation changed the goal. What follows is a sample of the progress of a few grants. Dried Vaccines The hardest-hit inventors were those working on thermostable vaccines. Several techniques worked, but paying for all to go ahead made little sense. Billions of dollars — including hundreds of millions from the Gates Foundation — have been poured into improving the distribution of a dozen existing refrigerated vaccines, and having one or two heat-stable ones doesn’t help if rural clinics still need refrigerators and electricity for the rest. Abraham L. Sonenshein of Tufts University succeeded in splicing tetanus vaccine proteins into a bacterial spore that survives heat or cold and can be sprayed into the nose. But his grant ended before he could add diphtheria or whooping cough vaccines or start human trials. Dr. Sonenshein said he was grateful to the Gates Foundation for the seed money and now might switch to veterinary vaccines. “A lot of farmers would like to be able to vaccinate their own cows and pigs instead of calling the vet every time,” he said. Robert E. Sievers, a University of Co-
lorado chemist, also reached his chief goal — attaching a measles vaccine to a sugar matrix that can be stored dry and then sprayed into a child’s lungs. His ﬁrst sugar — based on the one that protects the “amazing sea monkeys” seen in comic books (actually dried brine shrimp) — did not work, so he found another. In his speech ﬁve years ago at a gathering of grant winners, he blew a goose call as an example of a device that vibrates air to send particles into the lungs. That didn’t work either, so he designed a puffer that lofts the sugar in a tiny plastic bag, creating a sweet cloud that a child inhales. While Dr. Sievers’s Gates grant is not being renewed, he is partnering with the Serum Institute of India — the world’s biggest vaccine maker — to test it there. The foundation is still supporting two thermostabilization techniques. The ﬁrst attaches vaccines to nanoparticles that can be absorbed by the skin inside the nostrils. Dr. James R. Baker Jr., director of the University of Michigan’s nanotechnology institute, said it works with hepatitis B and ﬂu vaccine. He won a new grant to test the respiratory syncytial virus, which causes pneumonia. The particles are in what Dr. Baker described as a “proprietary formulation of mayonnaise” based on soybean oil. The vaccine ends up inside the oil particles, which protect it from temperature changes and microbes. The immune system is “made to eat oil droplets,” Dr. Baker said, because it targets viruses, which are essentially time bombs of genetic instructions inside casings of fats. The “mayonnaise” is so safe, he said, that rats fed the equivalent of two quarts a day had only one side effect — weight gain. The emulsion by itself cures viral lesions like cold sores, he said; its surfactants harmlessly penetrate the skin but break up the herpes virus inside. The second thermostabilized vaccine the foundation is still backing is a complex one against malaria. It fuses the genes for
parasite proteins onto a “genetic backbone” from vaccines against smallpox and a chimpanzee virus. Rather than being bottled, the vaccine can be dried onto a bit of ﬁlter paper. No malaria vaccine comes close to working 100 percent of the time. Dr. Adrian Hill, of the University of Oxford, said his is the “the No. 2 most effective in the world.” He has proposed combining it with its chief rival, made by GlaxoSmithKline, since his attacks the malaria parasite in the liver, while Glaxo’s attacks it in the blood. “It would be a belt-and-braces approach,” he said. “We’d anticipate efﬁcacy of over 80 percent.” Lab in a Box Another grant that was not renewed was $15 million for several teams collaborating on a hand-held battery-powered diagnostic laboratory. The plan was to have it split a single drop of blood into a dozen fractions to test for ﬂu, malaria, typhoid, dengue, measles, rickettsia, salmonella and other infections, all within 30 minutes. Many advances were made, said Paul Yager, a bioengineer from the University of Washington. The blood drop went into a plastic card with 23 layers of microchannels, pumps and bladders. But obstacles kept cropping up. Some illnesses, like ﬂu, left too few traces in the blood. Not every company whose patented test was to be miniaturized would cooperate. A big partner, Hewlett-Packard, dropped out; others were acquired. “It was really challenging being the chief cheerleader for ﬁve research teams,” Dr. Yager said. “But the single toughest problem in the whole project was ‘low cost.’ ” The prototype was as big as a toaster, weighed nine pounds, and cost $1,000. And while the project had no competition when it began, two types of rivals emerged. Big companies developed boxes that cost up to $70,000 but could do more. And George M. Whitesides, a Harvard chemist, got intrigued by the same challenge and began work on a revolutionary variant: skip all the plastic and let the ﬂuids instead be wicked through paper the size of a postage stamp infused with color-changing reagents. The foundation gave him a grant two years ago to develop a liver-function test. “He was right — paper was a good way to go,” Dr. Yager said. “An experiment we did 15 years ago with three $1,000 pumps and a $30,000 microscope you can do now with 5 cents worth of paper.” He is now moving on to other projects, like writing code and developing chemicals that will turn cellphone cameras and inkjet printers into diagnostic devices.
The San Juan Weekly The Gates grant, he said “took me places I never would have gone, like a South African township. I have so many students I have to beat them back with a stick, and I’m left with a burning desire to accomplish the goals of the program.” Mosquito ‘Olfacticides’ As the inventors of “a cell line that behaves like a mosquito antenna, recreating mosquito smellers in a dish,” Leslie B. Vosshall of Rockefeller University and Dr. Richard Axel, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Columbia University, got $5 million to hunt for molecules that could block mosquitoes’ ability to detect people. Dr. Axel shared a 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine for cloning insects’ olfactory receptors. “When you puff human odors over the cells, they get excited just like mosquitoes would,” Dr. Vosshall explained. In this case, they turn ﬂuorescent green. They tested 91,000 compounds in Rockefeller University’s chemical library and found ﬁve that jammed the antennae. Their Gates grant is renewed for two years, but they now have a contract with Bayer CropSciences to screen its two million compounds — the same smell mechanism is used by corn borers, apple maggot ﬂies and other farm pests. The ideal, Dr. Axel said, is a repellent harmless to humans that works at a fraction of the concentration of DEET. But repellents aren’t the only way to outwit mosquitoes, he said. Triggering the hormone that tells a female she is already full of blood could work, as could one that sends her far from humans to lay her eggs. ‘Exhausted’ Immune Cells Another grant is ending because it attracted so much commercial backing. Raﬁ Ahmed, an Emory University immunologist, studies why the immune system’s T-cells get “exhausted” during a long battle against some viruses like H.I.V. or hepatitis C. Eventually, he discovered, the cells start growing “inhibitory receptors” on their surfaces as a self-protection measure. “You can’t continue a totally active T-cell response indeﬁnitely,” Dr. Ahmed said. “You’d be sick or dead.” In mice and monkeys, he has found molecules or antibodies that block those inhibitory receptors, perking up the cells again. “It doesn’t result in a cure, but it’s quite promising,” he said. He hopes to ﬁnd a way to revive exhausted cells in humans with AIDS and let them take breaks from the toxic drugs. Because T-cells ﬁght many diseases, including cancer, Genentech, BristolMyers Squibb and the National Institutes of Health are all offering him money. “Without Gates, we wouldn’t have been able to put together the team we did,” Dr. Ahmed said. “The money, and the fantastic vision of a grand challenge —
January 6 - 12, 2011
that’s been one of the best things.” A Better Banana James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia successfully added Vitamin A to bananas and is working on adding iron. A new Gates grant will support ﬁeld trials in Uganda. Bananas are a staple for millions of people from Africa to Ecuador to India. “They’re also one of the best weaning foods for babies,” Dr. Dale said. “They come in a nice sterile package and don’t need to be cooked.” The Ugandan government agreed to genetic modiﬁcation as long as Ugandan scientists did the work on Ugandan bananas, he said. Dr. Dale ﬁnds the right bits of DNA in his lab and ships them to Uganda’s national agricultural laboratories for insertion — a team approach that the Gates Foundation praised. He has had no problems doing ﬁeld trials in Australian banana-growing areas. “The growers there know bananas are sterile and can’t swap genes,” he said. (Bananas are propagated by shoots, not seeds.) In Africa, Dr. Dale has kept a low proﬁle since it may take another decade of testing before a banana is ready to be given to farmers. Part of the Gates grant is for “feeding trials” to see if people will accept the new fruit, which has papaya-orange ﬂesh from the vitamin precursor, beta-carotene. “Everyone asks me what it tastes like,” Dr. Dale said. “And I don’t know.” His licenses forbade testing them on humans before. But has he never succumbed to the temptation to take a bite? “No. And I wouldn’t tell you if I did.” And a Better Cassava The $7 million grant to BioCassava Plus, a consortium led by Ohio State University, was increased to $12 million. While it, too, will take another 10 years, the project is meeting interim goals, said Richard T. Sayre, its principal investigator. They include decreasing the natural cyanide in the tubers, increasing the protein, iron, zinc and vitamins A and E, and engineering in resistance to new cassava diseases. Cassava is a staple for 800 million people, but environmentalists like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have slowed the project by opposing ﬁeld trials in Nigeria and Uganda. Martin Fregene, a Nigerian geneticist who is BioCassava Plus’s product development manager, accused them of using scare tactics and prompting local journalists to issue warnings that “killer cassava” was on its way. “These environmentalists are paternalistic,” he said. “They treat Africans as if we are kids and can’t make up our minds.” “Middle-class newspaper readers in the capitals are under their inﬂuence,” he
said. “But they are only 20 percent of the country. When we have meetings with the farmers, they say: ‘If you can assure us it’s safe, we’ll grow it. And you don’t have to worry about the politicians. We’ll take care of them.’ ” Resistance to genetically modiﬁed crops, which was high ﬁve years ago in Africa, has begun fading country by country, said Claude M. Fauquet, another member of the cassava team. For example, when farmers in Mali and Nigeria saw the huge yields Burkina Faso farmers got from insect-resistant cotton, they agitated for the right to grow it, too. Mosquitoes and Bacteria The fastest-moving project is that of Scott O’Neill, a biologist at the University of Queensland, Australia. Five years ago, Dr. O’Neill got $7 million to try to infect mosquitoes with a strain of wolbachia bacteria that didn’t kill mosquitoes outright, but made them die before they got old. The advantage is that a female must be “middle-aged” — about 14 days — before she can pick up the dengue fever virus from one human, see it mature in her gut and then pass it on to another human. If she lives long enough to take one blood meal and lay eggs, she never transmits dengue, but the bacteria is under no Darwinian pressure to disappear from the mosquito population. Also, she passes it to her embryos, so they too lead shortened lives. The wolbachia strain he started with killed mosquitoes too quickly, Dr. O’Neill said, but he found another that had an unexpected side effect: for unknown reasons, it blocks both the dengue virus and chikungunya, another tropical disease. “That turned everything on its head for us,” he said. “It’s like a vaccine for mosquitoes — it protects them from picking up the virus.” In Cairns, Australia, which has had repeated dengue outbreaks, his lab built 65-foot-long cages of ﬁne mesh, ﬁlled them with Aedes egypti mosquitoes and intro-
41 SCIENCE / TECH duced the wolbachia, which spread to all of them. In Vietnam, he let wolbachia-infected mosquitoes feed on the blood of people with dengue fever. “We got complete blocking,” he said. “No virus in the saliva.” The next trial, just starting now, will release wolbachia-infected laboratory mosquitoes into the wild in Cairns to see if they infect others and curb the dengue problem. Asked if he faced any popular backlash there, he said: “None at all. People are quite fearful of dengue, and really tired of having insecticide sprayed in their homes.” The Gates Foundation is still supporting his work, and the Australian government is now contributing as well, he said. “And if the ﬁeld trials are successful, worrying about ﬁnancing isn’t going to keep me awake at night.” Stem Cells to Muscles The most radical project announced in 2005 was that of Dr. David Baltimore, who shared a 1975 Nobel Prize in Medicine and now teaches at Cal Tech. Dr. Baltimore envisioned removing stem cells destined to be white blood cells from people and infecting them with a slow-acting virus containing genes to reprogram their internal machinery to produce doubleheaded antibodies to attack H.I.V. at two different points. “This original high-risk, highreward approach proved too difﬁcult,” said a foundation document describing the grant’s history. Slow-acting viruses have cancer risks, and harvesting bone marrow from rural Africans “wasn’t really practical,” said Dr. Christopher B. Wilson, the foundation’s director of global health discovery. Meanwhile, other scientists cloned new anti-H.I.V. antibodies found in the blood of infected people, so the grant was “repurposed” with a different goal: to inject genes that code for these new antibodies into muscle cells. The hope is that this could become a simpler form of prevention than current H.I.V. vaccine efforts.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Animal Lovers, Beware of Ownership Costs By PAUL SULLIVAN
EOPLE love their pets, but how often do they think about the costs? The question is akin to asking which child we love more. Yet the reality is that pets cost far more than many people expect. And right now, as the economy continues to stumble, those costs have become a burden to many people, like the cat lover who cannot afford medical care or the horse owner struggling with boarding fees. The problem is that the general information out there is not realistic. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the cost for a large dog at $875 a year for food, medical expenses, toys and a few related expenses, and $560 for ﬁrst-year setup costs. The estimate for a cat is $670 a year, with ﬁrst-year expenses of $365, for a total of $1,035. When I looked at these numbers, I thought they were taken from Voltaire’s “Candide”: derived from the best of all possible worlds. This month alone, my wife and I spent $600 on one Labrador retriever with a bladder infection who needed some kidney tests and $300 on the other one for an injured paw. This did not include the food for the two of them and our Maine Coon cat, nor their monthly ﬂea and tick medicine or heartworm pills. So with the holiday gift-giving season under way, I write this column for parents who may be asked by children for a dog or a horse. Remember that the costs need to be factored in. RESPONSIBILITY FACTOR Many pet lovers scoff at talk about expenses. Dan Denbow, co-manager of USAA’s precious metals and minerals fund, said he had purposely never added up all the expenses from his four dogs, two cats, hermit crab and aquarium. “No, I’d be afraid to,” said Mr. Denbow, who lives in a rural town north of San Antonio. “It’s a lot of money, but it’s just something we’ve ended up doing.” But the expenses have added up. One spaniel charged a porcupine ﬁve times — with a cost to remove the quills at $250 per poke. Another dog had buckshot removed from its hindquarters. Only the hermit crab has been cheap: food, water and an occasional cage cleaning. Mr. Denbow said he was fortunate to have a good job to cover the costs, but added. “I realize some people have to make that decision — can I spend $300 to have this ﬁxed?” City pets can be a more expensive proposition. Andrew and Julie Sacks of New
York estimated that they spent $15,000 a year on Skye, their black Labrador. Skye has a dog walker to take care of him when they are at work. And he goes to camp in Pennsylvania when they go away. “It’s all about the right team,” Mrs. Sacks said. “We’ve been so lucky to have them.” Some people may ﬁnd this excessive, but what else are they going to do with him? He needs to be walked during the day and he needs to be boarded when they go away. Kennels are not cheap, with board costing a minimum of $50 a night. But they are not complaining. Mr. Sacks, who runs Agency Sacks, a consultant that works with the afﬂuent, said Skye’s brother Moose recently had a sock removed from his stomach at a cost of about $6,000. HORSE SENSE Of course, people who have horses will say that dogs and cats are cheap in comparison. And this is where otherwise intelligent people can make expensive mistakes. A thoroughbred racehorse can be purchased for as little as $1,000 at Keeneland, the premier horse auction in America. But Chauncey Morris, its sales marketing associate, cautions against thinking a less expensive horse will be less expensive in the long run. Just because the price tag is far below the $4.2 million paid by Benjamin Leon Jr., a Miami health care executive, at Keeneland’s yearling auction in September, does not mean that the maintenance costs are far less, too. “To keep a horse in training in the U.S., it will average $40,000 a year,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s the same for the $1,000 horse or the $4.2 million horse.” (For dreamers, Mr. Morris said Zenyatta, the champion mare, was purchased at the 2005 yearling sale for $60,000 and won about $7 million in her racing career.) Not everyone who buys horses trains them to race. But the ﬁxed cost is still high. Andrea Redmond, a consultant in Chicago and a lifelong horsewoman, owns the Bull Run Equestrian Center in Elburn, Ill., where she said she cautioned newcomers to ease into the sport. She said boarding alone was $750 a month, but could stretch into thousands of dollars at other barns. That fee does not include the farrier who shoes the horses — about $200 every four to six weeks — or the veterinarian bills. There are also the costs of the saddle, bridle, blankets, boots and brushes to get started. “I had three horses die in the past 12 months,” Ms. Redmond said. “One was old. The others were ﬂuke accidents.”
She said she had recently reduced the mortality insurance — such insurance is common for high-value animals or those with earning potential, like race horses and breeding animals — for a 12-year-old horse that died, but she was glad she had not dropped it entirely. “I learned the hard way to insure them,” she said. The costs of insuring horses depends on what they do. Holly Grifﬁn, executive director of the equine department at the insurance broker Hub International and a former show jumper, said the least expensive was a dressage horse with an annual premium of 3 percent of the purchase price. The most expensive are steeplechase horses at 9 percent. Ms. Grifﬁn estimated total fees for a horse at about $2,200 a month. “When you’re not around, that’s more for someone to exercise the horse,” she said. Health insurance exists for dogs and cats as well. But the Sackses said they dropped their pet health insurance because getting reimbursed for claims was time-consuming and frustrating. CHEAPER OPTIONS What can you do if your children are clamoring for a pet this year? Saying no is an option, but it rarely works. With a dog outside of a city — meaning no dog walker — the ﬁxed costs can be fairly low, but a family needs to have a cushion for those times when the medical care costs increase. As my wife and I know, pet owners have few choices when their pets are sick. I remember a woman at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston whose job it was to make sure we could pay before they began caring for our cat ($2,600 for liver problems) and later a dog ($1,250
for relief from a sausage that irritated his intestines). On this woman’s desk were brochures for payment plans, the same type people use for funerals or cosmetic dental work. But these plans only spread out the bill — with interest. Horses are different. With continuing costs of $9,000 to $40,000 a year, they should be for the rich only. Still, lots of children from more modest families want to ride, too. Lessons on a school horse are the cheapest at about $50 to $100 for 45 minutes. Beyond this, people have traditionally leased horses, by covering the boarding and insurance costs for the person who owns it. Ms. Redmond said that horse shares had recently become popular. In this sense, families are taking a half or quarter of a horse’s riding time in return for covering that amount in expenses. The biggest problem is when people cannot afford their animals. Lori Muhlenberg, a senior vice president at National Penn Investors Trust Company, takes care of 23 retired racehorses. Her family has owned 60 acres of pasture in Pennsylvania for decades, which she does not count in calculating expenses, and her horses spend their days grazing outside unless it is too cold. Still, she estimates that each one costs $5 a day to feed and an additional $6 a day for the four months when they need to be inside — or about $58,000 if nothing goes wrong. But the responsibility of caring for them cannot be simply calculated as an out-of-pocket expense. “You have to have the compassion and the commitment,” Ms. Muhlenberg said. “It’s not just the funds. You have to worry about them.”
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January 6 - 12, 2011
At Security Council, a Stalemate Over Blame By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
t an emergency Security Council meeting, members failed to reach agreement on a statement calling for calm on the Korean peninsula, with China opposing the majority that wanted speciﬁc language condemning North Korea for the Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Chinese diplomats did not address reporters after meeting, but diplomats involved in the six hours of negotiations said the Chinese position was that such a condemnation would be a “provocation.” Negotiations were to continue Monday after further consultations with capitals, but Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador, said she doubted the council would reach consensus. “I think it’s safe to predict that the gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged,” said Ms. Rice, who holds the rotating presidency of the council this month. The majority of the council’s members — particularly the United States, France, Britain, Japan, Austria and Bosnia — felt strongly that no statement at all was better than one that let North Korea off the hook, diplomats involved in the talks said. “The vast majority of the members of the council believe that it would not be productive for there to be a statement that was ambiguous in some fashion,” Ms.
Rice said, noting that the American position was that “we think that it is very important for the council to be able to speak with clarity and unity to condemn these attacks as unprovoked aggression by D.P.R.K. against the Republic of Korea. “ South Korea’s allies on the council wanted to steer away from language that equated the actions of the two sides. “They are implying the South Koreans are doing something which they should not, while we view the drills as perfectly within their rights and something they have done countless times,” said one Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It is the D.P.R.K. that is in violation of international law.” Council attempts to form a uniﬁed position on the tension between the two Koreas have stalled this year, after the council passed new sanctions against the North last year. It took months for it to agree to a statement condemning the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March, killing 46 — and that failed to single out North Korea by name. South Korea says a North Korean torpedo sank the ship; the North denies involvement. A senior Asian diplomat at the United Nations said that North Korea seemed dangerously isolated, not unlike Japan in the 1940s, and equally capable of lashing out in any direction in an attempt to assert its power no matter what the consequences. Hence, council members feel the need to tread lightly, yet also seek
to avoid issuing such anemic statements that Pyongyang feels that belligerence pays. But Security Council members recognize that the subsequent drift is also dangerous. “Now we have a situation of very serious political tension and no game plan on the diplomatic side,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s United Nations ambassador. Russia’s initial draft resolution included a request to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to send a representative to both Seoul and Pyongyang to help defuse the tension. But that idea was in limbo, given the lack of agreement over the statement. Russia had called the meeting, and while its initial draft statement did not condemn North Korea, Mr. Churkin said Russia had tried two additional drafts of compromise language to incorporate that idea. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Churkin repeated Moscow’s condemnation of the Nov. 23 shelling, which killed two South Korean civilians and two South Korean service members, but he also said that Russia thought it was a mistake for South Korea to proceed with its exercises, given the current circumstances. “Within hours there may be a serious aggravation of tension, a serious conﬂict for that matter,” Mr. Churkin said. More than six hours of talks were held behind closed doors, even when the delegations moved around the famous
horse-shoe-shaped table, but diplomats said all the discussions proceeded in a businesslike manner without heated rhetoric. The ambassadors of both North and South Korea addressed the council. Sin Son-ho, the North Korean ambassador, warned that if war broke out, it would not be limited to the peninsula but could easily spread worldwide, diplomats said. However, Mr. Sin focused almost his entire speech on the line dividing the two countries, saying live-ﬁre exercises near it were a violation of North Korean territory, which he described as “gangsterlike” behavior, according to diplomats in the meeting. In-kook Park, the South Korean ambassador, noted that the line had been established in 1953 and that North Korea had accepted it under a 1992 agreement, diplomats said. Mr. Park also pointed out that South Korea had repeatedly conducted similar exercises over decades and, as this time, had always given notice, diplomats said. Its allies on the council spoke in support of that position. “It is not enough simply to be concerned by tensions on the Korean peninsula and urge restraint on all sides,” Philip Parham, Britain’s deputy permanent representative, told the council in remarks released by his mission. “We need to be clear who bears responsibility. In this case, we have one party — the D.P.R.K.”
Germany Investigating Bribes at Its Embassies By JUDY DEMPSEY
ublic prosecutors in Berlin are investigating allegations that staff in several German embassies received substantial bribes in return for issuing visas, the Foreign Ministry said. According to the ministry, local staff in German embassies in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia issued visas in exchange for money, overlooking false statements and failing to properly scrutinize the applications. Several embassy employees have already been dismissed, and investigations are continuing, the ministry said. Visas were issued through a system that was “irregular, abused and corrupt,” the ministry said. The police said Monday they suspected that human trafﬁcking networks seeking to bring young women to work as prostitutes were being run from within Germany.
“The investigations will take some time,” said a ministry ofﬁcial who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The ofﬁcial did not say how many visas were issued in exchange for bribes. But in 2007, he said, the German Embassy in Cairo had used irregular means to issue several hundred visas. The number of irregular visas issued by other embassies now under investigation is thought to be lower, the ofﬁcial added. German embassies issue more than two million visas each year, the ministry said. Wolfgang Bosbach, a leading Christian Democrat lawmaker, called for closer cooperation between German diplomatic missions and the security services. He also proposed the establishment of a special visa database that could prevent abuse of the system, he said in interviews Monday.
This is not the ﬁrst scandal involving German embassy staff issuing visas in return for bribes. In 2004, when the Foreign Ministry was headed by the Greens party leader Joschka Fischer, the embassy in Kiev issued tens of thousands of visas to Ukrainians who were allowed into Germany under dubious circumstances, many entering the underground economy in Germany or passing through to gain access to other E.U. countries. The Greens, at the time the junior partner in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s government, had endorsed a relaxation of Germany’s rigorous visa regime when they joined the government in 1998. Until then, the principle adopted by consular ofﬁcers was that if there were any doubt about the applicant seeking a visa, then the visa should be withheld. The Greens introduced a more liberal policy under which the right to travel had
more weight in such situations. Procedures were tightened after the 2004 scandal, introducing more oversight and inspections, the ministry said. The fresh revelations are an embarrassment for Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is fending off calls from senior ofﬁcials inside his own Free Democratic Party to resign as leader. The Free Democrats regained control over the Foreign Ministry in late 2009, ending an eleven-year absence atop a ministry it had traditionally held as the junior partner in the conservative bloc of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union. Since joining Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition 15 months ago, support for the pro-business Free Democrats has fallen to less than 5 percent from 14 percent. The minimum vote required to enter the German Parliament is 5 percent.
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January 6 - 12, 2011
Pope Says Sex Scandal Has Hit Unimaginable Dimension By RACHEL DONADIO
ope Benedict XVI said on Monday that the continuing sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church had reached a “degree we could not have imagined” this year, and that the Church must reﬂect on its failures, help the victims, and prevent abusers from becoming priests. “We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred,” the pope told the Vatican hierarchy in a pointed Christmas message. “We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen.” In recent months, investigations in Ireland, Germany, Bel-
gium and the Netherlands have found that clerics had sexually abused children in the past and that the church hierarchy was often found to have covered up the abuse. Victims have accused the Vatican of not acting decisively and swiftly enough to discipline errant priests and of using complex bureaucracy and uneven application of church law to protect priests over children. This month, the Vatican published a letter from 1988 that it said showed that Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal ofﬁce in charge of handling abuse, had sought ways for swifter punishment for errant priests. At the time, he was unsuccessful. After the abuse scandal erupted in the United States in 2002, the Vatican introduced
fast-track norms for punishing errant priests, and bishops in the United States introduced a zerotolerance policy, in which priests are suspended at the ﬁrst accusation of abuse. But victims have called that too little, too late. The Vatican has said that
it is working on a series of guidelines for bishops around the world advising them how to handle abuse cases, including reporting abuse to civil authorities in countries where it is required. In his remarks on Monday, the pope also thanked “the many good clerics,” and “all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the church.” But he focused on ways the church needed to change. “We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility,” the pope said. But he added that the scandal should be seen “in the context of these times.” He said that as recently as the 1970s, the devastation of pedophilia was not well understood, and that today’s market in child pornography and sex tourism should also be condemned.
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January 6 - 12, 2011
Zimbabwe Health Care, Paid With Peanuts
By CELIA W. DUGGER
eople lined up on the veranda of the American mission hospital here from miles around to barter for doctor visits and medicines, clutching scrawny chickens, squirming goats and buckets of maize. But mostly, they arrived with sacks of peanuts on their heads. The hospital’s cavernous chapel is now ﬁlled with what looks like a giant sand dune of unshelled nuts. The hospital makes them into peanut butter that is mixed into patients’ breakfast porridge, spread on teatime snacks and melted into vegetables at dinnertime. “We literally are providing medical services for peanuts!” exclaimed Kathy McCarty, a nurse from California who has run this rural hospital, 35 miles from the nearest tarred road, since 1981. The hospital, along with countless Zimbabweans, turned to barter in earnest in 2008 when inﬂation peaked at what the International Monetary Fund estimates was an astonishing 500 billion percent, wiping out life savings, making even trillion-dollar notes worthless and propelling the health and education systems into a vertiginous collapse. Since then, a power-sharing government has formed after years of decline under President Robert Mugabe, and the economy has stabilized. Zimbabwe abandoned its currency last year, replacing it with the American dollar, and inﬂation has fallen to a demure 3.6 percent. Teachers are back in their classrooms and nurses are back on their wards. But a recent United Nations report suggests how far Zimbabwe has
to go. It is still poorer than any of the 183 countries the United Nations has income data for. It is also one of only three countries in the world to be worse off now on combined measures of health, education and income than it was 40 years ago, the United Nations found. For many rural Zimbabweans, cash remains so scarce that the 85-bed Chidamoyo Christian Hospital has continued to allow its patients to barter. Studies have found that fees are a major barrier to medical care in rural areas, where most Zimbabweans live. “It’s very difﬁcult to get this famous dollar that people are talking about,” said Esther Chirasasa, 30, who hiked eight miles through the bush to the hospital for treatment of debilitating arthritis. Her son, Cain, 13, walked at her side carrying a sack of peanuts to pay for her care. Mrs. Chirasasa said her family of seven was nearly out of the food they grew on their small plot, so she needed to get her pain under control to work in other farmers’ ﬁelds to feed her children. Bartering helps plug some of the holes. A May survey of more than 4,000 rural households found that each of them, typically a family of six, spent an average of only $8 for all their needs in April, the cost of a couple of cappuccinos in New York. To help them get by, more than a third of households surveyed in September 2009 had used bartering. Still, United Nations agencies estimate that 1.7 million of Zimbabwe’s 11 million people will need food aid in the coming months. And Mr. Mugabe’s continued domination of political life, along
with persistent violations of the rule of law and human rights, have deterred foreign aid and investment needed to rebuild the nation’s shattered economy, analysts say. Here in this rustic outpost with no phone service and often no electricity, the Chidamoyo hospital and the people who rely on it have entered an unwritten pact to resist the tide of death that has carried away so many. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe, plagued by AIDS and poverty, has fallen to 47 years from 61 years over the past quarter century. Patients provide the crops they grow and the animals they raise — food that feeds the thousands of patients who use the hospital — and the hospital tends to their wounds, treats their illnesses and delivers their babies. Its two doctors and 15 nurses see about 6,000 patients a month and have put 2,000 people with AIDS on life-saving antiretroviral medicines. Even during the hyperinﬂation of 2008, when government hospitals ceased to function as the salaries of their workers shriveled, the Chidamoyo hospital stayed open by giving its staff members food that patients had bartered. “People are helped very well and the staff cares about the patients,” said Monica Mbizo, 22, who arrived with stomach pains and traded three skinny, black-feathered chickens for treatment. The hospital, founded over four decades ago by American missionaries, from the Christian Church and Churches of Christ, receives limited support from a government that is itself hurting for revenue. The hospital also gets up to $10,000 a month from American and British churches, enabling it to charge patients far less in cash or goods than the fees at most government facilities. The hospital charges $1 to see the doctor — or a quarter bucket of peanuts — while a government hospital typically charges $4, in cash only. Short of cash like the people it serves, the hospital practices a level of thrift unheard of in the United States. Workers and volunteers steam latex gloves to sterilize them for reuse, ﬁlling the ﬁngers with water to ensure against leaks. They remove the cotton balls from thousands of pill bottles to swab patients’ arms before injections. And they collect the tissue-thin pages of instructions
from the same bottles for use as toilet paper. But there are limits to what even stringent economies can achieve. For most of the past year, the hospital did not have enough money to stock blood. Ms. McCarty said women who hemorrhaged after giving birth or experiencing ruptured ectopic pregnancies were referred to bigger hospitals, but often they had no blood either. Eight women died, she said. Just recently, the United Nations has begun paying for blood at the hospital to improve women’s odds of surviving. Standing over an anesthetized woman before a Caesarean section, Dr. Vernon Murenje recalled how frightening it was to operate without blood in stock. “You’re operating,” he said, “but then at the back of your mind, you’ll be thinking, ‘What if we have signiﬁcant blood loss?’ ” As he prepared to make the incision, the hospital was in the midst of almost two weeks without power. Its old generator, already used when the hospital bought it 20 years ago, lacked enough juice to run the X-ray machine or to keep the ﬂorescent lights from ﬂickering. It was turned on just before the Caesarean section. The air-conditioner coughed weakly to life in the stiﬂing room. When a boy emerged, Ms. McCarty cried, “Welcome to Zimbabwe!” But the newborn made no sound. She pounded his back and suctioned his nose until he let out a cry like a quavering baby bird. “Oh, you ﬁnally realized you were born in Zimbabwe,” she said. “He thought he was born in South Africa, and he was happy.” Postscript: The Community Presbyterian Church of Ringwood, N.J., has raised $24,000, and the Rotary Club of Sebastopol, Calif., contributed $7,000 to buy the hospital a generator.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Belarus Police Arrest Opposition Leaders By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
he government of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko carried out a sweeping crackdown on opposition leaders and their supporters on Monday, making scores of arrests that drew scathing condemnations from Western governments and seemed to imperil recent efforts to improve relations. By late in the day, at least six of the nine opposition candidates who ran against Mr. Lukashenko in elections on Sunday were under arrest, following an attempt by opposition supporters to storm the main government headquarters here in a futile effort to block the suspiciously lopsided re-election of Mr. Lukashenko, one of the world’s most authoritarian presidents. Mr. Lukashenko said at a news conference that more than 600 others had been detained, most of them young men. With so many arrests, few expected a continuation of the protests on Monday as some had wished. Throughout the day the streets of Minsk were largely quiet, blanketed in a heavy snow. Western ofﬁcials expressed particular concern over the treatment of Vladimir Neklyaev, a leading opposition candidate, who was savagely beaten on Sunday night, and later taken by unidentiﬁed men from the hospital where he was being treated. “At this moment, I do not know where my husband is located and who forcefully took him away,” Mr. Neklyaev’s wife, Olga, said in a tearful appeal at a news con-
ference with members of the election monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Later, Mr. Lukashenko told reporters that Mr. Neklyaev was being held in a detention facility, though did not elaborate. Western monitors offered a harsh assessment of Sunday’s elections, which Mr. Lukashenko ofﬁcially won with just under 80 percent of the vote. They highlighting apparent fraud in the vote tally, and strongly condemned police violence on Sunday night. “Violent attacks and subsequent arrests of most of the presidential candidates, as well as hundreds of activists, journalists and civil society representatives is the backdrop against which these elections will now be judged,” said Tony Lloyd, head of
the OSCE’s election monitoring mission. “I have to call upon the authorities to clarify the whereabouts, the condition and the future of all those arrested.” Given the overall atmosphere in the country on voting day, Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, who headed another OSCE monitoring group, said: “A positive assessment of these elections is impossible.” Mr. Lukashenko, who has ruled this former Soviet republic for 16 years, and is often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, responded to the criticism with what appeared to a mix of irritation and bewilderment. “We did just as you demanded. What complaints could you have?” he said, speaking about the Western assessments. “Openness and transparency were so high that people mistook these elections for a
reality show.” Mr. Lukashenko did make a concerted effort to give these elections at least the appearance of legitimacy. He allowed just about anyone to register as a candidate and permitted them to campaign more or less freely around the country, a novelty here. For the ﬁrst time candidates participated in televised debates where they openly criticized the president. Western observers did note the improvements, though they said these were largely undermined by infractions committed on election day. The assessment could harm attempts by Western governments and Belarus to improve their often strained relations. The foreign ministers of Germany and Poland had offered Mr. Lukashenko about $3.5 billion in aid on condition that this election be deemed free and fair. One Monday, ofﬁcials in both Germany and Poland joined a vocal chorus of condemnation that included several other European Union countries, as well as the United States. Meanwhile, a modicum of support came from the Kremlin, which in recent months has publicly clashed with Mr. Lukashenko. Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, called the elections in Belarus “an internal affair” and pledged Russia’s support. “I hope that with the results of these elections, Belarus will be a modern country, and continue its development as a modern country based on democracy and friendship with its neighbors,” Mr. Medvedev said.
India Leader Offers to Testify in Scandal Inquiry By JIM YARDLEY
rime Minister Manmohan Singh offered Monday to appear before a committee investigating a telecommunications scandal that has rocked India’s political establishment. He also rejected claims by opposition parties that he had been trying to avoid any questioning over the scandal. “I wish to state categorically that I have nothing to hide from the public at large,” Mr. Singh said during the ﬁnal day of a plenary session of the Indian National Congress party. He said that “as proof of my bona ﬁdes” he would appear before a government committee examining the scandal “if it chooses to ask me to do so.” Mr. Singh’s offer is the latest development in what has become a major political crisis for the Congress Party-led coalition government. Last week, the Supreme Court announced that it would monitor an investigation into the scandal by the leading law enforcement agency, the Central Bureau of
Investigation. In recent days, C.B.I. ofﬁcers have conducted raids across the country. At the same time, government agents also are investigating allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. The scandal centers on the 2008 allocation of cellphone spectrum — the electromagnetic waves required to carry mobile service — to private operators. Investigators are examining whether the telecom minister, who has since resigned, favored certain applicants and whether bribes and ﬁscal improprieties took place. A report by the government’s auditor general found numerous irregularities and concluded that the telecom ministry sold the spectrum at deﬂated prices that cost the treasury as much as $39 billion — though many analysts say that estimate is probably too high. Mr. Singh, one of the most respected ﬁgures in Indian politics, has not been accused of any wrongdoing or involvement in the spectrum allocation. But leaders with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party have
focused on the government’s refusal to call a special parliamentary committee comprising leaders from all parties to investigate the scandal. B.J.P. leaders say Mr. Singh is trying to avoid questioning from such a committee about whether his ofﬁce failed to investigate complaints about corruption in the telecom ministry. In protest, opposition leaders effectively blocked normal business during the recently completed winter session of the Indian Parliament. On Monday, B.J.P. leaders responded to Mr. Singh’s speech by accusing the Congress Party of operating with a siege mentality. “It is a party on the back foot,” said Arun Jaitley, the B.J.P. leader in the upper house of Parliament. “It is a party which is completely on the defensive. It is a matter of national concern when the prime minister is pushed to a situation where he has to say, ‘I have nothing to hide.’ ” Mr. Singh and other Congress Party leaders have argued that a special parliamentary committee would only create a
political witch hunt and noted that, in addition to the tax and criminal investigations, a permanent parliamentary committee is already looking into the ﬁndings of the auditor general’s report. Mr. Singh is offering to appear before this committee. “I have tried to serve my country to the best of my ability,” Mr. Singh said Monday. He said he was offering to appear before the existing committee because “I sincerely believe that like Caesar’s wife, the prime minister should be above suspicion.” On Sunday, the Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi, tried to take the offensive on the corruption issue by accusing the B.J.P. of hypocrisy and outlining a proposal to ﬁght ofﬁcial graft. Describing corruption as “a disease spreading throughout our society,” Mrs. Gandhi called for fast-tracking legal cases involving ofﬁcial corruption; ensuring transparency in public procurement contracts; reining in discretionary powers of political leaders, especially in allocating land; and instituting an open, competitive system for allocating natural resources.
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January 6 - 12, 2011
Calle San Sebastian Fest
val, which enjoys great popularity, has been carried out for the past 40 years. San Sebastian, whose day is celebrated on January 20, was born in Narbonne, France. The saint was an ofďŹ cer of the Roman emperor Maxi Continues on page 48
as Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian will feature over 300 artisans and over 50 bands, in addition to the participation of 20 publishers. The traditional festivities will be held from 13 to 16 January 2011 in Old San Juan. The activity will include a dance of time with 50 couples, a childrenâ€™s festival and music groups. Be presented also thematic exhibitions, church
services, samples of paintings and outdoor theater. There will also be a contest of sizes and posters to be displayed at the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, in Old San Juan. Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian is celebrated in honor of the saint on the third weekend of January in the Old San Juan. This festi-
48 January 6 - 12, 2011
Comes from page 47 minus in the mid-third century. The martyr, who was accused of being a Christian, refused to renounce their faith, and he was sentenced to death by the emperor. In the Catholic imagery, this saint is depicted tied to a tree, wounded by arrows. These festivities in honor of San Sebastian began to take place during the 1950’s. These were organized by Father Madrazo, pastor of San Jose del Viejo San Juan, with the aim of raising funds for the repair of several buildings of the church. Some years later, we discontinued the conclusion of these festivities. In 1970, Ricardo Alegria, anthropologist and historian, suggested Balladares Rafaela de Brito, a resident
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of Calle San Sebastián, which restarted the celebration of the holidays. With the help of neighbors, Balladares organized the festivities, this time to beneﬁt the nursery school, elementary school run by the Sisters of Charity and also located on Calle San Sebastian. In the early years, a group of musicians through the streets of San Juan announcing the festival from early morning. It was a procession
from San Sebastian Street to the Church of San Jose in which bore the image of the saint. In it, participating cabezudos-people dressed in masks of enormous proportions - who represented the Catholic Monarchs. As part of the activities, residents decorated the streets and balconies of their houses. Also, in charge of making the costumes for traditional dances and typical dishes prepared. Themselves acted as presenters of the musical. Furthermore, unlike the house of José Campeche, Puerto Rican painter of the eighteenth century, he carried out a small exhibition of painting. Later, he joined the party
a crafts fair, an element that still retains. At present, the procession arrives at the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, located across the street from Christ. The parade of big heads, now including Puerto Rican folkloric characters such as Juan Bobo, General and Diplo, cruises around the island, followed by the audience singing and dancing to music. Over the years, the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian have become very popular. They participate in more than 200,000 people. Her fame has transcended the island, so it currently enjoys internationally.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
36 Hours in Paris By GISELA WILLIAMS
S Paris lost its edge? Mais non! The city’s bohemians are just harder to ﬁnd. The artsy denizens and creative tastemakers, always on the hunt for cheaper rents, have migrated to the city’s fringes, like Belleville and the former red-light district of Pigalle. There are even fashion-forward hangouts in the postcard-perfect center — a pop-up restaurant here, a taxidermy-stuffed speakeasy there. And, of course, a modern take on the classic Parisian bistro or boulangerie will never go out of style. Friday 4 p.m. 1) GALLERY GHETTO The ghosts of Paris’s master artists are everywhere, but if you want to dive into the city’s contemporary art scene, head to Belleville, where the steep hilltop streets are dotted with upstart galleries and cozy wine bars. Among the earliest galleries was Bugada & Cargnel (7-9, rue de l’Équerre; 33-1-42-71-72-73; bugadacargnel.com), which specializes in both French and international emerging artists. Newer arrivals include Gaudel de Stampa (3, rue de Vaucouleurs; 33-1-40-21-37-38; gaudeldestampa.fr) and Marcelle Alix (4, rue Jouye-Rouve; 33-9-50-04-16-80; marcellealix. com). For a mix of art and fashion, swing by Andrea Crews (25, rue de Vaucouleurs; 33-1-45-26-36-68; andreacrews.com), where vintage duds are transformed into fast fashion.
6 p.m. 2) LA BOHèME WINE BAR Perched above the Belleville park, Le Baratin (3, rue JouyeRouve; 33-1-43-49-39-70 ) is an unpretentious and intimate wine bar with antique tile ﬂoors and worn wood tables. Despite the local buzz, it has managed to stay lowkey, so it’s still possible to walk in at an odd hour, sans reservations, and join the bohemian crowd as they sample the dozen or so smallproduction wines, scratched on the chalkboard. 8:30 p.m. 3) CHIC BISTRONOMIQUE Here’s the trick to getting a table at always-packed Le Chateaubriand (129, avenue Parmentier; 33-1-43-57-45-95). Park yourself at the bar around 8:30 p.m. the day of, and fortify yourself with wine and snacks — and people watching —
while you wait for a table. It’s ﬁrst come ﬁrst served for the 9:30 seating. (Otherwise, you have to make reservations at least two weeks in advance for the 7:30 seating.) The young Basque chef, Iñaki Aizpitarte, serves a ﬁve-course menu that changes daily. Recent meals included a foie gras served in miso soup, and a sea bass served with red chi-
cory and lemon crème fraîche. Prix ﬁxe: only 50 euros, or $65 at $1.31 to the euro. Midnight 4) RED LIGHT SPECIAL In recent years, the area around Pigalle has drawn Parisian tastemakers looking for a good time — with their clothes on. Start with a drink at Hôtel Amour (8, rue de Navarin; 33-1-48-78-31-80; hotelamourparis.fr), an artsy hotel decorated with disco balls and Terry Richardson photographs that is partly owned by the reigning king of Paris night life, André Saraiva. Then continue to Chez Moune (54, rue Jean
Baptiste Pigalle; 33-1-45-26-64-64; chezmoune.fr), a former lesbian cabaret that is now a popular hangout for the city’s polysexual fashionistas. Saturday 11 a.m. 5) WHERE LADY GAGA SHOPS By now, you can pretty much ﬁnd those Lanvin ﬂats and Céline bags back home. But Bambi-shaped shoes? Or a Kermit the Frog jacket? The aristocrat fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac has a new boutique in St.-Germain (61, rue des St.-Pères; 33-9-64-48-48-54; jc-de-castelbajac.com) where fashion inspiration comes from unexpected places, like “Paradise Lost” and Donald Duck. Noon 6) POP-UP BISTRO Even jaded Parisians have waited weeks for one of the 12 seats at the pop-up restaurant Nomiya (13, avenue du Président Wilson; online reservations at art-home-electrolux.com), a glass box that ﬂoats on the rooftop of the Palais de Tokyo. Instead of dinner, come for lunch, when seatings are easier to come by, and the views are more spectacular. The ﬁve-course meal cooked up by Gilles Stassart might include foie gras with eggplant conﬁt and scorpion ﬁsh served with a vegetable medley (80 euros for lunch and 100 euros for dinner). Nomiya’s run has been extended until spring 2011. 2 p.m. 7) SHOP THE CANAL On sunny weekends, stylish young families and boho-chic couples stroll the gentriﬁed Ca nal St.-Martin — fast becoming a
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Comes from page 49 charming little shopping hood of indie boutiques. Dupleks (83, quai de Valmy; 33-1-42-06-15-08; dupleks.fr) sells eco-friendly fashions, Espace Beaurepaire (28, rue Beaurepaire; 33-1-42-45-59-64; espacebeaurepaire.com) carries street-art prints, and La Piñata (25, rue des Vinaigriers; 33-1-40-35-01-45; lapinata.fr) has wooden children’s toys. Style hounds especially like Sweat Shop (13, rue Lucien Sampaix; 33-9-52-85-47-41; sweatshopparis. com) , a funky D.I.Y. collective and cafe with sewing machines to rent by the hour. 4 p.m. 8) SAVORY AND SWEET One bite, and you’ll understand why there’s a long line outside Du Pain et Des Idées (34, rue Yves Toudic; 33-1-42-40-44-52; dupainetdesidees.com), a cultish boulangerie in the Canal St.-Martin neighborhood. The escargot chocolat-pistache, a snail-shaped pastry ﬁlled with chocolate and pistachio, will shatter the will of any dieter. So will the mini-pavés, savory knots stuffed with spinach and goat cheese. 8 p.m. 9) AMERICAN TRANSPLANTS Paris-obsessed food bloggers will roll their eyes, but Spring (6 Rue Bailleul; 33-1-45-96-05-72; springparis.blogspot.com), an in-
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
timate restaurant that moved this summer to the First Arrondissement, deserves the hype. The French-trained American chef Daniel Rose takes something as simple as eggplant and prepares it four eye-opening ways. Dinner prix-ﬁxe menu: 64 euros. If you can’t make reservations months ahead of time, head to the newly revamped Minipalais (Grand Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill; 33-1-42-56-42-42; minipalais.com), a loft-like brasserie with an American-friendly menu that includes a terriﬁc duck burger with foie gras. Or try the new Ralph’s (173, boulevard St.-Germain; 33-1-44-77-76-00; ralphlaurenstgermain.com), owned by Ralph Lauren in St.-Germain, which, believe it or not, is fashionable with a young Parisian crowd. Midnight 10) LE CHIC ET LE GEEK Ever since the legendary Le Montana reopened during last spring’s fashion week, le party hasn’t stopped. Resurrected by André Saraiva (yes, him again) and Olivier Zahm, Le Montana (28, rue St.-Benoît) draws an A-list crowd of models and actors. But be warned: getting past the bouncer is harder than squeezing into jeggings. Fortunately, a 20-minute walk away is the geeky hot spot Curio Parlor (16, rue des Bernardins; 33-1-44-07-12-47;
curioparlor.com), a speakeasy-style lounge popular with a chic Parisian crowd that sips single malt whiskey. Sunday 11 a.m. 11) GRASS IS GREENER Since the historic dance hall and watering hole Rosa Bonheur reopened in 2008 (2, allée de la Cascade, in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont; 33-1-42-00-00-45; rosabonheur.fr), it has brought the city’s party crowd to the great outdoors. By day, middleaged hippies strum guitars alongside hungover clubkids. By night, it turns into a full-ﬂedged party complete with velvet rope and D.J. This winter the party continues inside
with the restaurant Mimi Cantine overseen by the Michelin-starred chef Armand Arnal. 1 p.m. 12) FANTASTIC MR. FOX Blame it on Wes Anderson movies or an obsession with the cult taxidermy shop Deyrolle, but nothing gets a Parisian bohemian more excited than a room ﬁlled with stuffed animals. Get your ﬁx at the Musée de la Maison de la Chasse et de la Nature (62, rue des Archives; 33-1-53-01-92-40), a quirky museum with an eccentric collection of taxidermy and antique weaponry. There is also a room dedicated to unicorns, which adds just the right amount of je ne sais quoi to the intentionally musty space. IF YOU GO Give Philippe Starck two years, a jaw-dropping budget and a grand Parisian shell, and you get the new Rafﬂes Royal Monceau (37, avenue Hoche; 33-1-42-99-88-00; leroyalmonceau.com). Steps from the Arc de Triomphe, the 85-room hotel leaves no detail too small to escape the designer’s touch, with rates from 780 euros, or $1,000. For a taste of the seedy-cool district of Pigalle, book a room at the Hôtel Amour (8, rue Navarin; 33-1-48-78-31-80; hotelamourparis. fr), the brainchild of the grafﬁti artist turned nightclub entrepreneur André Saraiva and Thierry Costes of the Costes family. Rooms start at 100 euros. The year-old Hotel Banke (20, rue La Fayette; 33-1-55-33-22-22; derbyhotels.com/banke-hotel-paris), near the Place Vendôme, combines Belle Époque-style architecture with not overly trendy touches, with 94 rooms starting at 260 euros in December.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Skype Looks for a Spot in Ofﬁces and Cellphones By VERNE G. KOPYTOFF
kype has become one of the Internet’s most popular services — so much so that it is even used as a verb to describe a phone call over the Internet, as in “Skype me.” The seven-year-old company, however, is still a work in progress on the ﬁnancial front. It was sold to eBay, then taken private and now aims to complete the round trip with an initial public offering. Under its new chief executive, Tony Bates, Skype is seeking new ways to make money from its 124 million users, most of whom do not pay a cent. In particular, Mr. Bates is looking at possible new markets like corporate phone systems and mobile devices, both highly competitive. Skype, based in Luxembourg, recorded $406 million in revenue in the ﬁrst six months of the year, up 25 percent from the period a year earlier, according to the company’s recent ﬁling with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Net income was down 42 percent, to $13 million. The increased revenue is coming from users making more paid calls. But that success is modest given Skype’s widespread adoption by consumers. Only 6 percent of Skype’s users pay to make calls from their computers to landline and mobile phones. The vast majority call only fellow Skype users, which is free. Those free users have some value, said Charles Golvin, an analyst for Forrester Research. But converting them to paying customers has proved difﬁcult, which, he said, will weigh on any public offering. “I ﬁnd it hard to understand why an investor would feel enthusiastic about owning that stock when the prospects for revenue growth are dim,” he said. “They may be growing revenue, but it’s not like its growing to billions of dollars.” Mr. Bates, who is originally from England, came to Skype in October from Cisco Systems, where he led its enterprise, commercial and small business division. In his ﬁrst interview as chief executive, he described himself as a fan of Skype’s
complex infrastructure, which handled 25 million users simultaneously last month, the most in its history. The service came to his rescue, he said, while at a lodge in Alaska. Rather than waiting in line to use the lodge’s only phone, he took out his cellphone, connected to the lodge’s Wi-Fi and used the Skype app to check his messages. “Universal, and useful and wonderful — they’re the things that Skype can do,” Mr. Bates said. “They’re not easy to do on a global scale.” Because Skype ﬁled its initial offering document in August, Mr. Bates is limited in what he can say about future products and the company’s ﬁnancial performance under rules governing company quiet periods. But he said that Skype could offer more premium phone and video services. He also spoke of the possibility of Skype embedding its service with other Web companies to accelerate growth. In October, Skype introduced a feature that allows users to get their Facebook news feed directly in their computer monitor’s Skype window and to call Facebook friends who are Skype users. Cellphone users complain that Skype has been slow to release new products. For instance, Skype has yet to make video chat available on mobile phones, except on a single Nokia handset. The company says it is working on video products. Skype also waited until October to introduce its Android app, long after Android had become one of the top smartphone operating systems. The company does have to deal with its legacy. Skype was founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennstrom, a Swede, and Janus Friis, a Dane, as an online alternative to the traditional telephone companies and their expensive rates. Users quickly embraced the service, positioning Skype as a major communications company of the digital age. EBay acquired Skype for $2.5 billion ﬁve years ago. It hoped to use the service so buyers and sellers in eBay’s marketplace could talk to each other. However, the combination, which was supposed to increase sales, failed because eBay users preferred to communicate as they
had always done — by e-mail. EBay sold about 70 percent of Skype last year to an investor group led by Silver Lake Partners for $1.9 billion. Skype has said that it hoped to raise $100 million in the public offering, although the amount is expected to change. Free service is synonymous with Skype, but only to consumers. Mr. Bates said he believed corporations would pay for an Internet service that cut their phone costs while also giving them an easy way to conduct video conferences, to use instant messaging and to communicate with customers. “The world previously looked very much like there was a business world and a consumer world,” Mr. Bates said. “They’re blurring very quickly.” To entice companies, Skype has partnered with Avaya, a major seller of corporate phone systems, to get its bundle of products to businesses that use Internet-based systems. Skype’s video and instant messaging is to be added to the bundle next year. About 38 percent of corporate phone lines are enabled for Internet calls, according to Frost & Sullivan, a market research ﬁrm. But persuading managers in charge of corporate phone systems to use Skype is difﬁcult, said Melanie Turek, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. Entrusting a newcomer like Skype with something as important as a company’s phone service is considered risky. “Most organizations are going to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it,’ and ‘I’m not really going to look at Skype very hard,’ ” Ms. Turek said. Mr. Bates also wants to put
Skype on mobile devices, but mobile carriers are wary of Skype’s plans. Skype could undermine wireless businesses by enabling consumers to circumvent the carrier’s network and make free or cheap calls using Wi-Fi or their wireless networks. “They have this love-hate relationship,” Arlo Gilbert, chief executive of iCall, a Skype competitor based in Greenwich, Conn., said of the wireless companies. “They think the old way was great.” Last year, AT&T refused to allow iPhone users to make Skype calls over AT&T’s 3G wireless network. AT&T eventually relented after intense criticism by consumer groups. Mr. Bates points to Skype’s partnership with Verizon Wireless as an example of how Skype and carriers can get along. Verizon offers more than two dozen phones that are compatible with Skype, about half them sold with Skype’s mobile app already on the phone. Calling fellow Skype users with the mobile app is free. Users who make domestic calls to non-Skype users are charged against their Verizon plan’s minutes. International calls are billed at Skype’s usual international rates. Under the agreement, Verizon routes all Skype calls over its network while blocking calls over Wi-Fi, except for calls made from abroad. Verizon said the decision was based on ensuring good sound quality, not to maximize proﬁts. “We could have continued to compete,” said Jennifer Byrne, executive director for business development at Verizon. “We are both in the voice business, but there are also ways we could work together.”
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Social Networks Meant for Social Good, but at a Price By STEPHANIE STROM
ver the last year or so, there has been an explosion of online intermediaries promising to help nonproﬁt groups raise money and awareness. Crowdrise, Jumo, Causecast, Causes on Facebook and others try to use social networking and crowdsourcing to build interest in charities and causes, and to help them attract donations. “2010 has really been the year of the social network for social good,” said Katya Andresen, chief operating ofﬁcer at Network for Good, a nonproﬁt that handles processing and other administrative chores for many of the new sites. In a recent study of online giving, Network for Good found that the experience when donating online is important to people. “I think many of these new sites are trying to make online giving, which is rather transactional in nature, an experience of greater intimacy, and that’s valuable,” Ms. Andresen said. But to many in the nonproﬁt world, the value of the sites remains to be seen. For one thing, they hand partial control over charity brand names and trademarks to users who are often unknown to the nonproﬁt groups they support. And virtually all of them ask users to pay to donate. “I think of them as disintermediaries because they stand between a nonproﬁt and its supporters, and what most of our clients’ value is establishing that direct connection,” said Gene Austin, chief executive of Convio, a company that provides technology to help nonproﬁts manage relations. “It’s especially concerning if they’re taking a cut.” To Mr. Austin and others, the new sites operate on a model that evokes memories of the United Way a decade ago. It began to lose ground when donors questioned why they should make donations through United Way — and give it a percentage of the money — when they could give directly to a charity. “Moving toward a more donordriven, pass-through model didn’t raise more money,” said Brian Gallagher, chief executive of the United Way of America. Now, the United Way raises money around three core issues, which it
addresses with proprietary programs. Its “pass-through” business, Mr. Gallagher said, has remained stagnant for the last ﬁve or six years. “What we learned is that folks will pay you if they think they’re getting more value for what you’re offering,” he said. The young entrepreneurs behind the new sites say their organizations are more than middlemen. “Saying the people can donate on an organization’s Web site misses the fact that nonproﬁts have to advertise to get people there, do marketing in various places to convince them to donate, cover credit card fees and pay for technology associated with their Web site and payment processing,” said Matthew Mahan, a representative of Causes. Chris Hughes, the founder of Jumo, said his site was primarily about helping people connect with one another and with organizations around social missions, not about fund-raising. “Jumo makes it easier for people to ﬁnd an organization and stay in touch with it,” said Mr. Hughes, who is also a founder of Facebook. “That has a value.” Crowdrise pitches itself as a tool to improve an individual’s fund-raising campaign, whether that is a celebrity like Barbra Streisand, who is
raising money for the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center, or a person like Christine (Crowdrise users usually use only their given name), who is using the site to raise $60,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “To us, Crowdrise is a complement or additive to whatever users are already doing,” said Robert Wolfe, a founder. “We don’t see this as a place for a charity to raise money for operational funds. It’s more for projects.” Several online intermediaries serve as conduits to projects that cannot otherwise be supported directly. For example, United States Artists, a nonproﬁt that works to raise awareness of artists and their work, recently turned part of its Web site into a social network that allows everyday donors to support speciﬁc arts projects. It charges an 18 percent fee, but there is no other simple way to contribute as directly to those projects. Similarly, GiveLocally, a new donation service started by Andrew Young III, who goes by Bo and whose father is the civil rights leader Andrew Young, allows donors to support people in need by providing money to pay for things like someone’s overdue electric bill. The business — it is not a nonproﬁt — does not just transfer money to the recipients featured on its Web site. Rather, it makes payments or purcha-
ses using the money that donors offer, se ta taking an 18 percent cut of each donati tion for what Mr. Young calls “a keepth the-lights-on fee.” He said none of the company’s executive team receive a salary. “What ex w we’re doing is a lot more personal than w what other sites are offering,” he said. “W “We’re linking individual donors to in individual recipients and providing all the necessary vetting.” al Virtually all of the new interm mediaries charge 4.75 percent of a d donation’s value to cover Network fo for Good’s administrative charges. The Web site for Causes says that the T 44.75 percent fee is “equal to or greater th than” what nonproﬁts pay themselv ves in credit card processing fees and co compares its cost-effectiveness to that of direct mail solicitation. o Experts say, however, that comp parisons to direct mail are unfair and th that, on average, nonproﬁts pay 3 perce cent to 3.5 percent in credit card fees. Most of the new sites also sugg gest leaving a “tip” and preselect an am amount, though donors can opt out. Jumo, for instance, proposes tipping 15 percent. Thus, a $25 gift would be whittled down to $20.06 once a 15 percent tip and processing charge were deducted, unless the donor decided to add the tip onto the $25. (The donor could still claim a tax deduction for the full amount, however, because Jumo and Network for Good are charities, too.) Donors to Crowdrise are also asked for a tip, and even if they opt out, fees to cover Network for Good’s charges and Web maintenance would reduce a gift of $100 to $92.75. Causes also has its hand out, saying, “We’re a small team that relies on the support of generous donors like you to keep the lights on.” In fact, Causes is a proﬁt-making business, and it recently received $9 million in venture capital ﬁnancing, bringing its total ﬁnancing to $16 million. Mr. Mahan of Causes, said, “The purpose of our recent funding round and other revenue streams — including tipping — is to help us deliver more innovative solutions at a faster pace in order to grow activism online, incite more giving and deliver scale efﬁciently and effectively.” Mr. Hughes of Jumo said, “I think there’s probably a good conversation to be had about how these sites self-fund.”
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
In Pursuit of the Perfect Brainstorm By DAVID SEGAL
ast month, in a small room on the ﬁfth ﬂoor of a high-rise building in San Mateo, Calif., three men sat around a table, thinking. The place was wallpapered with Post-it notes, in a riot of colors, plus column after column of index cards pinned to foam boards. Some of the cards had phrases like “space maximizers” or “stuff trackers” written on them. Many had little three-dimensional ink drawings and titles, like “color-coded Tupperware horizontal stacker.” It looked as if these guys had been locked in and told they couldn’t leave until they dreamed up 1,000 of the wackiest home-storage items they could imagine. Which was pretty much what happened. “We’re in our third month,” said one of the men, Clynton Taylor, “so we’re at about the halfway point.” This was a project room at Jump Associates, a company with 50 employees that comes up with ideas to solve what it calls “highly ambiguous problems.” Exactly what problem was being solved in the room, and which client asked Jump to solve it, the company wouldn’t say. But Jumpsters, as its employees call themselves, are chattier about closed cases. Procter & Gamble asked Jump to study the future of water and what it portends for a company that makes waterdependent products like soap and laundry detergent. Mars, the candy maker, asked Jump to deﬁne the current meaning of “indulgence,” on the theory that it now conjures pampering rather than stufﬁng your face. General Electric has retained Jump for at least 10 different projects. Jump’s work has elements of management consulting and a bit of design-ﬁrm draftsmanship, but its specialty is conceiving new businesses, and what it sells is really the art of innovation. The company is built on the premise that creative thinking is a kind of expertise. Like P.&G. and Mars, you can hire Jump to think on your behalf, for somewhere between $200,000 to $500,000 a month, depending on the complexity and ambiguity of the question you need answered. Or you can ask Jump to teach your corporation how to generate better ideas on its own; Jump imparts that expertise in one- and ﬁve-day how-to-brainstorm training sessions that can cost $200,000 for a one-day session for 25 employees. This was a pretty exotic business model when Jump opened in 1998, but it isn’t today. In the last decade, a quirky legion of idea peddlers has quietly invented what might be a new discipline and is certainly an expanding niche. How and why this happened is, naturally, a subject that everyone in the ﬁeld theorizes about. What’s clear is that in recent years, much of corporate America has gone meta — it has started thinking about thinking. And all that thinking has led many executives to the same conclusion: We need help thinking. A few idea entrepreneurs, like Jump,
Ideo and Kotter International, are companies with ofﬁces and payrolls. But many are solo practitioners, brains for hire who lecture at corporations or consult with them regularly. Each has a catechism and a theory about why good ideas can be so hard to come by and what can be done to remedy the situation. Eric Haseltine, who has worked for both Disney and the National Security Agency, draws on the ﬁndings of evolutionary psychologists to explain to corporations why they are often unable to see opportunities that are right in front of them. “Although we like to believe we know what is going on in our brains, we know almost nothing about what is going on inside them,” he says. “We’re not only blind to certain things, but we’re blind to the fact that we’re blind to them.” Though they offer different messages, idea entrepreneurs have plenty in common. Nearly all are superhigh energy. (“I’m octotasking,” said one, speaking on the phone.) Many are just eccentric enough to straddle the line between crank and visionary. (In his spare time, Haseltine is inventing a communication system designed to work in the event of an apocalyptic disaster.) Quite a few of them have published books with the word “innovation” in the title. All of them hate to be called consultants. “I like to position myself as a thought leader,” says Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and co-author of “The Other Side of Innovation.” “A consultant solves problems,” Govindarajan says. “That is not my role. What I want is for companies to self-diagnose their problems and self-discover their own solutions through my thought leadership.” You often hear this from idea entrepreneurs: Don’t ask us for the answers. Let us help you frame the questions, so you can answer them yourself. When I visited Jump Associates in San Mateo in early November, it was conducting a one-day boot camp, attended by a couple of dozen executives from the region. The morning session started at 8:30 and was led by a handful of Jumpsters, most of whom were in their 30s. Dressed in identical Tshirts, they seemed plucked from the Apple Store. Some of them were M.B.A.’s and former management consultants, but nearly everyone’s résumé had a polymathic twist. One Jumpster was a former U.S. forest ranger and Korean foreign-ministry staff member. Another had an undergraduate degree in civil engineering and a master’s in visual criticism. The tone of the day was buoyant and rah-rah in a summer-camp kind of way; it began on a sunlit terrace, where everyone stood in a circle for a few yogalike warm-up exercises, to ease our way to cogitation. Our goal, we soon learned: to conceive business plans that would improve the experience of commercial air travel. (This was a pure, Platonic exercise in innovation, since none of the executives hailed from the airline
industry.) For the next few hours, we were schooled in Jump 101, which amounted to a series of interactive lectures, interrupted by small-group sessions in other rooms. Despite the Up With People tenor, there was serious thought about how ideas are born and nurtured, and why some great ideas die after just a few gulps of oxygen. Like many of its competitors’, Jump’s core offering is an assortment of reﬁnements to old-fashioned brainstorming. The analogy to weather built into that term is apt, it turns out, because Jump and others contend that without the right atmospheric mix, no brainstorming session will produce the cognitive version of lightning. Dev Patnaik, a sunny, kinetic co-founder and the chief executive of Jump, notes that even under ideal circumstances, traditional brainstorming can devolve into a kind of competitive idea tennis. You think of a new use for pencil. Then me. Then you. Then me. Somehow, the unstated goal is winning, however ill deﬁned victory might seem, instead of ginning up virtuoso concepts. At Jump, they prefer to brainstorm with a variation of a technique pioneered in improv theater. A comic offers the ﬁrst sentence of a story, which lurches into a (hopefully funny) tale, when someone else says, “Yes, and?” then adds another sentence, which leads to another “Yes, and?”— and back and forth it goes. In the context of brainstorming, what was once a contest is transformed into a group exercise in storytelling. It has turned into a collaboration. One of Jump’s ﬁrst megaclients was Target, in 2001. Still early in its spiffy-design phase, Target was selling home products by the designers Michael Graves and Phillipe Starck. Kmart was teamed up with Martha Stewart. Robyn Waters, then Target’s vicepresident of trend, design and product development, was worried that the company’s famous-designer-on-a-budget success was being mimicked in categories that Target considered strongholds. One such category was back-to-college. Using a variety of methods, including “Yes, and?” brainstorming and having anthropologists analyze video footage of collegebound kids shopping for kitchenware, Jump helped devise a product
called Kitchen in a Box, a collection of dozens of different utensils, pans, pots and a kettle, later designed by Todd Oldham. Sales took off. “It worked phenomenally well,” Waters says. Why now? Why did innovation-mania take hold in the last decade or so? One school of thought holds that corporations both rise and die faster than ever today, placing a premium on the speedy generation of ideas. The dot-com boom accelerated the process, Govindarajan says. “In the late ’90s, people started to say strategy isn’t about stability, it’s about change,” he says. Other ideas entrepreneurs offer a “great man” theory, pointing to the enormous inﬂuence of Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and an author of books including “The Innovator’s Dilemma”and “Innovation and the General Manager.” Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in 1992 to describe the kind of technological and marketing ideas that blindside established and seemingly well managed businesses. Think of Netﬂix, which reinvented the way videos are rented and crushed Blockbuster. Or Sears, a titan of retail for decades, which was poleaxed by discounters like Wal-Mart. Christensen has plenty of suggestions for avoiding the fate of the disruptees; for instance, he urges corporations to wall off a division that is built to think creatively and is small enough to be excited by small proﬁts. But all of his prescriptions can be boiled down to three words: Innovate or die. Dev Patnaik of Jump has his own answer to the why-now question. He contends that advances in technology over the past three decades have gradually forced management to reconceive its role in the corporation, shifting its focus from processing data to something more esoteric. “My dad was a midlevel manager for I.B.M.,” Patnaik explains, “and I remember him in the ’70s, sitting there with plastic 3M transparencies,by hand, with marker, to make presentations. For years, the good manager was one who had data at their ﬁngertips. What’s our sales in Peoria? ‘It’s actually 47 percent abo-
Continues on page 54
54 Comes from page 53 ve last year.’ People say, ‘Oh, he’s a good manager.’ ” By the early ’90s, though, companies like Microsoft and SAP were selling software that digitized this task. The days when a manager at, say, the Gap could earn a bow just for knowing how many sweaters to ship to Seattle were over. “When that happens, what is the role of the manager?” Patnaik asks. “Suddenly it’s about something else. Suddenly it’s about leadership, creativity, vision. Those are the differentiating things, right?” Patnaik draws an analogy to painting, which for centuries was all about rendering reality as accurately as possible, until a new technology — photography — showed up, throwing all those brush-wielding artists into crisis. “Then painters said: ‘Well, wait, you can tell what is but you can’t tell me my impression of what is. Here’s how it looks to me, like Seurat. Or the Cubists who said, ‘You can’t capture what is going on from multiple angles.’ ” Technology forced painters to re-evaluate, which transformed their work. Something similar has happened in corporate America. As Patnaik puts it, “We’re in the abstractexpressionist era of management.” Of course, as expressionistic as this era may be, it is far from an ideal moment to sell innovation. The recession caused many companies to pare back the number of consultants they retain. Meantime, giant consulting ﬁrms like Bain and Booz Allen Hamilton are peering down at this relatively tiny industry with an eye to co-opting it, says Ram Mudambi of Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “The traditional consulting ﬁrms have talked and advised about innovating for years,” he says, “but the advice was usually that it was dangerous for a large company to innovate from within. The mantra was: ‘When you want new ideas, buy them. Find a small company and acquire it.’ ” Precisely how Jump’s business model could work in a management ﬁrm with a vastly larger payroll is unclear. “But what Jump and others are doing is squarely in the management-consultants’ space,” Mudambi says. “So believe me, they’re watching.” For the competition part of the day at Jump’s boot camp, we were divided into groups of three. Our ﬁrst job, a Jumpster informed us, was to come up with an idea that would make air travel completely unbearable. One team thought of a doozy. “A reverse auction,” explained Brad Oberwager, the founder of Sundia, which sells premium fruit cups. “Everyone buys a cheap ticket for, say, $200, and then at the gate, an airline employee stands up and says: ‘O.K., who wants to get on the plane for $400 more? You can sit anywhere you like.’ And so on until all the seats are sold.” A nightmare, everyone agreed. Now, we were told, take that terrible idea and turn it into something that you actually like. After a few minutes of mental jujitsu, the group conjured this: Why not allow, say, a college kid in need of some extra cash to sell his prime window seat to someone willing to part with money to avoid being squished
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January 6 - 12, 2011
in the middle? If you had the kid’s e-mail address, a company, acting as a middleman, could send him or her a message: Would you take $200 to move to 22F? Airfair was born. After the group spent some time ﬁne-tuning the business model, what was needed, as the deadline for presentations neared, was a catchy motto. People tossed out ideas, one after another. “How about Airfair: Seat exchange in the air?” “Exchange your seats in the air.” “Airfair. Your seat choice.” “Airfair: Upgrade in the air”? “Maybe a play on fair trade.” “Just ‘fair trade.’ ” “Fair trade in the air?” This, of course, is the animated and slightly chaotic sound of brainstorming, the term popularized by Alex F. Osborn. In 1948, Osborn, the man who put the O in BBDO, the legendary advertising ﬁrm, wrote “Your Creative Power,” a jaunty, history-ﬁlled book that argued that creativity was essentially a muscle that, with enough exercise, anyone could develop. Especially if that exercise happened in groups, like the ones he started organizing at BBDO in 1939. The key to these sessions, he stated, was creating an atmosphere in which judgment about the quality of any idea is suspended. If participants worry about criticism, they edit themselves, which undermines the process. “The crazier the idea, the better; it’s easier to tone down than to think up.” Most idea entrepreneurs offer what could be described as Osborn deluxe. Govindarajan, the Dartmouth professor, presents companies with what he calls the three-box framework. In Box 1, he puts everything a company now does to manage and improve performance. Box 2 is labeled “selectively forgetting the past,” his way of urging clients to avoid ﬁghting competitors and following trends that are no longer relevant. Box 3 is strategic thinking about the future. “Companies spend all of their time in Box 1, and think they are doing strategy,” he says. “But strategy is really about Box 2 and 3 — the challenge to create the future that will exist in 2020.” He recommends to clients what he calls the 30-30 rule: 30 percent of the people who make strategic decisions should be 30 years old or younger. “The executives who’ve been there a long time, they grew up in Box 1,” he says. “You need voices in the room that aren’t vested in the past.” Eric Haseltine, the entrepreneur who has married management consulting and evolutionary psychology, says he walks his clients through a series of exercises intended to demonstrate how little they know about their brains. One of his favorites is the “cocktail-party phenomenon,” in which he asks participants to eavesdrop on a single conversation in a crowded room. It’s possible only if you manage to ignore every other sound. “Tuning in requires tuning out,” he says, “but few people realize how much they are tuning out at any given moment so they can focus on whatever they are focusing on.” Tuning out is adaptive, he says — it helped our hunter ancestors to focus on their prey and avoid starvation. But his job
is to point out to clients how that adaptation can also limit their perspectives without them realizing it, and to offer them practical strategies to deal with these unconscious limitations. To Patnaik, the traditional groupthink session — even with modiﬁcations — misses something crucial about how great ideas are often generated. A lot of breakthroughs are born in meditative states, he says, the mind-set you’re in when alone and driving, for instance. In the past 20 years, he says, neuroscience has found, with the aid of devices like EEGs and fMRIs, a link between the slower rhythms associated with zoning out and creativity. “Why do you have great ideas when you’re in the shower?” Patnaik asks. “You’re at ease. Your sense of judgment is quieted, you’re making nonlinear connections, you’re more likely to come up with great ideas. A shower is basically meditation for amateurs.” They don’t put employees or boot campers in showers at Jump, but they sometimes avoid the sort of directed group thinking that Osborn championed. At a ﬁveday course for G.E. employees, the goal was to come up with a new revenue source for the company’s aircraft-engine division. But Jump didn’t just conduct brainstorming discussions. As the week neared its conclusion, and as the participants started becoming increasingly antsy, Jump sent them shopping. “We sent some to a cooking store, we sent some to a toy store, some to a hardware store,” Patnaik says. “And we told them, ‘We
want you to buy something that is a metaphor for the solution.’ ” One of the participants returned with a model jet, which was sitting on a pedestal that was a black square, painted to look like a small bit of runway. When Patnaik checked in, they were contentedly staring at the model jet and already had a motto for their solution: take the tarmac with you. Private jets, they explained, are generally based in a handful of airports near big cities, but they land in out-of-the-way places that often lack parts and mechanics. Which means the jets are frequently idled, waiting to be ﬁxed. For a subscription fee, G.E. could guarantee jet owners speedy service in, say, 40 different airports. “That didn’t happen from a brainstorming session,” Patnaik says. “If you read Osborn, he tells you to stay focused on the question.” At the ﬁnal event of the camp I visited, the results of Jump’s techniques were on display. Nine different business pitches for air-travel improvements were presented, each to the entire room. Some were cockamamie (Skyloft, which turns the cargo section of the jet into a gym). Others were goofy (Paciﬂier, a paciﬁer that miraculously quiets babies). Every idea was vigorously applauded, but the crowd favorite, in a kind of clap-off that wrapped up the event, was Airfair. By then, the three attendees who imagined it were talking seriously about looking for investors. “I hope you’re not planning to write about this,” one of them told me with surprising gravity, “before we have a chance to run with the idea.”
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January 6 - 12, 2011
A Smoother Successor to Ford’s Proto-S.U.V.
By CHRISTOPHER JENSEN
HEN, in the course of discussing the all-new Ford Explorer, Ford ofﬁcials refer to the old one, it sounds like some kind of Blue Oval confessional. Forgive us, consumers. Its fuel economy was poor, its ride and handling weren’t great and, while it could handle some basic off-road feats, very few of you cared. So while perhaps the old Explorer had been a ﬁne sport utility for the 20th century — it was exceedingly popular, after all — the arrival of the 21st century came to Ford’s attention. The company decided to reinvent the Explorer for a new era ( though it missed the millennium celebrations by about a decade). The results of that reinvention are reaching dealerships this month. What consumers will ﬁnd is a radically changed Explorer with an emphasis on ride and handling, better fuel economy and some new features that will, Ford says, improve safety. Buyers will also ﬁnd lower towing limits and less off-road ability. The least expensive model, the plain Explorer with front-wheel drive, is $28,995. Up a step is the XLT at $31,995 and then the Limited at $37,995. All-wheel drive is offered on all trim levels for an additional $2,000. I tested an Explorer Limited with all-wheel drive and a sticker price of $44,565, including a $4,810 luxury option package. With an overall length of 197.1 inches, the 2011 Explorer is 3.7 inches longer than the 2010 model; the wheelbase is about an inch shorter. Ford has been trying to make its interiors not just practical but more visually appealing, and it certainly succeeded here. The cabin is relatively quiet and certainly comfortable — nothing trucky about it. Three rows of seats are now standard on all Explorers, which can therefore accommodate six or seven people, depending on whether the second row consists of a bench or captain chairs. There is 2.9 inches more legroom in the second row, making it quite acceptable for six-foot passengers. But 1.8 inches has been lost for the front seats and about 1.7 inches for the third row. The third row is still most easily reached and occupied by smaller children channeling their inner monkeys. Ford says there is 2 more cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. At 15.6 cubic feet, the capacity is about the same as the trunk of a midsize sedan. With the third row folded down there’s about 44 cubic feet of space, similar to the old model’s capacity. One thing that mystiﬁed me was the MyFordTouch system, which is standard on the Limited. It replaces simple knobs (MyFordKnob?) with controls centered on an eightinch screen used — along with voice commands — for controlling functions like the climate control, navigation system
and entertainment options. While I thought it was an overly complicated ergonomic setback, Ford representatives assured me that it was actually easier and simpler to use. They also provided a 52-page instruction book. Even the entry-level Explorer comes with all the crucial safety equipment, from air bags for sideimpact protection to electronic stability control. One interesting safety option — available early next year — will be inﬂatable rear safety belts. Compressed air inﬂates the shoulder belt in a crash so that the forces are distributed over an area ﬁve or six times as large as a regular belt, said Srinivasan Sundararajan, the technical leader at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. Because the belts are already on the occupant’s chest, they inﬂate far more slowly than an air bag. Ford says that should be particularly beneﬁcial for children or the elderly. The cost is expected to be about $195. The Explorer’s most radical change is invisible. Gone is the durable truck frame that Ford boasted about for almost two decades; the Explorer now has carlike unibody construction, its underpinnings based on the same architecture used for the Taurus and Flex. Thus, 2-wheel-drive Explorers are now driven by their front wheels. On previous generations, 2-wheel drive meant rear-wheel drive. There wasn’t much debate about getting rid of the body-on-frame design, said Frank Davis, the executive director for North American product programs. “The body on frame historically has been compromising on ride,” he said. “It has been compromising on fuel economy as well.” Ford came somewhat late to the decision to move away from a body-on-frame structure. Its main competitors began shifting to car-type construction years ago, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee has had a unibody since its introduction in 1992. But the wait was worthwhile. On some challenging two-lane roads northwest of Detroit the Explorer handled remarkably well. Ford did a great job of calibrating the new electric power steering, giving it an impressive blend of weight, feel and predictability. The steering is as good as, or better than, the systems on many cars. It syncs up with the independent suspension to give the driver considerable conﬁdence in the ability to not just travel quickly, but to react to surprises. In case of a particularly nasty surprise, the Explorer has what Ford calls Curve Control. Maintaining control of the vehicle used to be a function of the driver, but Ford has properly concluded that some drivers are not altogether proﬁcient at emergency maneuvers, so electronic intervention was warranted. At its core, Curve Control is an advanced version of electronic stability control. Stability control has been used to try to correct a skid if either the front or rear of the vehicle begins to slide out. Ford engineers say they have reworked the algorithm so the system doesn’t wait for a signiﬁcant skid. Instead, if sensors indicate the vehicle is heading in a direction at odds with where the steering wheel is pointed — say, going wide on a sharp turn — it makes a more subtle adjustment, perhaps by applying a single rear brake, to nudge the vehicle back on course. The Explorer also gets some help on turns by having additional power automatically shifted to the rear wheels. Normally, sensors would direct more power to the rear under hard acceleration. Now the computer also gets information from sensors that detect cornering. That pre-emptive
shift in power can help the Explorer turn more sharply. It is a feature increasingly used by automakers including BMW and Porsche. Meanwhile, the ride remains comfortable, and body motions are carefully and yet gently controlled. I also drove a 2011 Grand Cherokee on the same roads, and in contrast its ride often felt busy, with a lot of tight, sometimes jiggly movements. One particularly annoying movement on the Jeep was a side-to-side rocking that was virtually absent in the Explorer. The Explorer’s previous engines — a 4-liter V-6 and 4.6-liter V-8 — are gone. Power now comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower at 6,500 revolutions per minute and 255 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 r.p.m. Ford boasts that the new V-6 almost matches the horsepower of the old V-8, which is true. But the V-8 had more peak torque (315 lb. ft.). Gas mileage is notably better. The highest federal rating for the previous Explorer was 15 miles per gallon in town and 21 on the highway with the V-8 and 2-wheel drive. The new 4-wheel-drive models are rated at 17/23 and the 2-wheel-drive versions at 17/25. Early next year, Ford says it will offer a 2-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine with direct injection and turbocharging. Assembled in Spain, the engine will be rated at 237 horsepower at 5,500 r.p.m. and 250 lb. ft. of torque from 1,750 to 4,000 r.p.m. Although it will be less powerful, the EcoBoost will be the Explorer’s premium engine and will cost extra — how much more has not been announced. A spokesman said Ford expected the EcoBoost’s fuel economy to be at least 5 percent better than that of the 3.5-liter V-6. With either engine, the transmission is a 6-speed automatic, which can be manually shifted. The engine and transmission make a reasonable team, providing adequate acceleration and civility despite an unloaded weight of 4,695 pounds. Maximum towing capacity also dropped, to 5,000 pounds from 7,000. But Mr. Davis, the head of North American product programs, said Ford’s research showed that was enough for most owners. The old Explorer also had a moderately serious offroad ability. Mr. Davis said Ford had determined that customers might want to be able to reach a campsite, but do not care about extreme activities like rock crawling. This is a convenient discovery, because serious off-road rambling is much more of a challenge in a car-based crossover like the new Explorer. The ground clearance of the new model with all-wheel drive — about 8.2 inches — has barely changed. The Explorer no longer offers a low-range gearbox, useful in off-roading, but it does have a system called Terrain Management, which was developed for Land Rover when Ford owned that brand. Using a knob on the console, the driver can switch out of the “normal” setting for hard surfaces and into settings for “snow,” “sand” or “mud or ruts.” That then changes how the powertrain, the electronic stability control and the traction control react to surface conditions. During a drive in deep sand at Ford’s proving grounds in Michigan, the Explorer struggled with the Terrain Management on the “normal” setting. Switched to “sand,” the system allowed more wheelspin and the vehicle easily churned through. It may have taken Ford a while to ﬁgure out the shifting market and to cross over to a new species of sport wagon. But the new model’s excellence on pavement, its safety equipment and its comforts are likely to match the needs of many families most of the time. The new Explorer may well be the new benchmark in its class.
ARCHITECTURE & HOME DECOR
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
House Hunting in ... Costa Rica humpback whales. Restaurants and bars in the village of Ojochal are ﬁve minutes away by car. The nearest airport is 40 minutes away in Quepos.
MARKET OVERVIEW Prices have dropped 20 to 30 percent since the onset of the ﬁnancial downturn in 2007, particularly in Jaco, a popular tourist destination with many condominium developments on Costa Rica’s Central Paciﬁc Coast, said Federico Vega, a commercial manager at Stewart Title, a title insurance company in San José. Still, there is some movement at the lower end, with condos selling for around $200,000, Mr. Vega added. In Costa Ballena, another popular tourist area and the site of this home, prices have fallen even further since 2007, 40 to 50 percent, said Ben Vaughn, owner of Guys in the Zone, a real estate company in Uvita. Mr. Vaughn says most of the vacation homes near Uvita sit on the
Continues on page 57 By VIRGINIA C. McGUIRE A TWO-BEDROOM TWO-ANDA-HALF-BATH BALINESE-STYLE HOUSE IN UVITA, COSTA RICA $925,000
his home about a quarter mile from the ocean is surrounded by jungle. It was built in 2004 to resemble the open-air homes popular in Indonesia. The main living area is open to the elements, and connected by a series of steps to the pool deck. Countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms are made of local stone. Floors throughout are tiled. The half
bath and an ofﬁce are off the kitchen. The master and guest suites are in separate buildings on either side of the pool. The master bedroom has air-conditioning, and a walk-in closet with a dehumidiﬁer to keep clothes fresh in the moist jungle atmosphere. Baths in each suite have screenedin outdoor showers. The guest suite has a private deck. The property has a fourth structure, a 900-square-foot cottage for household staff. Currently a staff of two maintains the 1.2-acre property year round. The main house and the master suite have views of Ballena National Marine Park, a breeding ground for
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Comes from page 56 mountainside overlooking the ocean, and are accessible only via four-wheel-drive vehicles. He estimates that these houses usually sell for around $500,000. The house featured here is priced higher because it is within walking distance of the beach, and built on a ﬂat lot accessible by any vehicle, said John Wieland, president of the Coldwell Banker Vesta Group Dominical, who is the listing agent.
WHO BUYS IN COSTA RICA “Historically, our buyers have been 75 percent American, 3 percent Canadian and 22 percent Costa Rican,” said William Royster, the developer of Los Sueños Resort and Marina. Now, he said, the number of Costa Rican buyers is growing. Mr. Vega said the economic downturn in North America had also encouraged buyers from other Latin countries, especially Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.
BUYING BASICS Foreign property owners have the same rights as Costa Ricans, according to Mr. Royster, who explained that within 200 meters (about 650 feet) of the midpoint of the tide, coastal ownership is restricted. (The house featured here does not fall within the restricted zone.) Buyers seeking property in the restricted zone must be granted a special concession from the government. Many foreigners set up corporations as a means of buying property; the process costs $400 to $700 and takes 30 to 60 days, Mr. Wieland said. Total transaction costs are about 2 percent of the purchase price, ac-
January 6 - 12, 2011
ARCHITECTURE & HOME DECOR
cording to Mr. Vaughn. Properties in Costa Rica are almost always priced in United States dollars.
WEB SITES Costa Rica tourism: tourism.co.cr/ Ofﬁcial site of Puntarenas: puntarenas-cr.com
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY Spanish; colones (1 colón = $0.002)
TAXES AND FEES Annual property taxes come to 0.25 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Wieland said. If construction costs exceeded $200,000, there is an additional 0.3 percent luxury tax.
58 January 6 - 12, 2011
Frank & Ernest
Wizard of Id
Two Cows And A Chicken
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January 6 - 12, 2011
Sudoku How to Play: Fill in the empty ﬁelds with the numbers from 1 through 9 Click the “check sudoku” button to check your sudoku inputs Click the “new sudoku” button and select difﬁculty to play a new game
Sudoku Rules: Every row must contain the numbers from 1 through 9 Every column must contain the numbers from 1 through 9 Every 3x3 square must contain the numbers from 1 through 9
Answers on page 60
60 January 6 - 12, 2011
(Mar 21-April 20)
Prepare to push your luck romantically. Remember, if you do not ask, you do not get. Though you may be feeling a tad nostalgic and over emotional, do not give into the blues. There is no need. Stay buoyant as the dark cloud blows over and cloud nine sails into view. There is a lot to smile about.
(April 21-May 21)
A resurgence of an old love connection, which you have tried to leave behind, will keep you on your toes. Be ready, willing and able this time around. You will no doubt be adjusting to big changes. Keep your spirits bright and do not let anything defeat you. Remain the trooper that you always were.
(May 22-June 21)
Tap into that special grace that is uniquely yours and knock the socks off your competitors. Remove obstacles as they arise and be open to new, unexpected developments. Your ruler Mercury is about to move forward ﬁnally. You will soon move forward again. You are bound to feel nostalgic.
(June 22-July 23)
(Sep 24-Oct 23)
This is a good time to explore your options without committing to anything in particular. Leave things up in the air if necessary. You can afford to take your time with a major decision. Do not rush into anything just yet. Build up good vibes with a lively exchange of compliments and feelings.
(Oct 24-Nov 22)
Allow changes to take place: the line of least resistance will serve you well. It is important to admit that sometimes you misjudge people. You are usually right about things, but not always. It is very dangerous to assume that you know best. The karmic courts in the heavens may have other ideas.
(Nov 23-Dec 21)
A breath of fresh air is called for. Your more than occasional restless streak may be getting you down, so do what you can and maybe some of what you should not. This is all set to be a rewarding stretch romantically. You will also start to look and feel much better. About time too!
(Dec 22-Jan 20)
Speak up quickly, in order to avoid misunderstandings. If you can be practical and think effectively on your feet, this stretch offers the chance to clear up deep-rooted problems. Be digniﬁed and independent, in order to make a good impression. Be cautious of circumstances and offers at the moment.
Allow your conﬁdence to blossom but do not lose touch with reality. Consider that it may indeed be okay to go back to something you thought you had left behind for good. It will not be the same. However, it might be better. Times change; so do people. Ditch those negative thoughts.
Aquarius (Jan 21-Feb 19)
(July 24-Aug 23)
Stay as chilled as possible and pay attention to detail. Sign on the dotted line, only after you have checked over the small print. You have to know what you are letting yourself in for, after all! A fresh approach is well advised, since anything that begins at this time will have a great knock-on effect!
Do take things at an even, level pace. Hook Enjoy your dreams and visions and anticipate good things for the future. You deserve a break, as opposed to a breakup or a breakdown. Stay as upbeat as possible and you will ﬁnd that things turn around in your favour: at long last. Come out of your shell and allow relationships to ﬂourish.
(Aug 24-Sep 23)
Blessings are abundant if only you could see Links to the past are fortuitous. Turn on the charm and rev up your game plan. It is timely to still hold onto the vibes of the season. It is not over until the fat lady sings! Enjoy a relaxed social buzz and do not fret about anything. It can all wait for another day. You will be pleasantly surprised.
(Feb 20-Mar 20)
Things are as they should be, believe it or not. Try to be philosophical about what did or did not happen. Rest up and smile a while. There is no point trying to control the proceedings. Look after your end of things and leave the rest to fate. There is something to be said for kicking up, but not just now.
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Answers to the Zudoku and Crossword on page 59
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
For Critics of Lee’s Contract, Brown Deal Is Not Supporting Evidence A By DAN ROSENHECK
s the dollars and years mounted in the offers to Cliff Lee this off-season, many pessimistic observers invoked the specter of the game’s most infamous pitching contract: the sevenyear, $105 million deal signed in 1998 by the surly sinkerballer Kevin Brown. His name has become synonymous with freeagent excess, and serves as a cautionary tale for any general manager contemplating a long-term contract with a pitcher. “All I could think of was Kevin Brown,” Maury Brown, who runs the Web site The Biz of Baseball, wrote at the height of the bidding war for Lee. He
warned that Lee’s suitors were “setting themselves up for a bad contract” and risked losing “all sense of common sense.” There’s no doubting that seven-year deals for pitchers in their 30s are often bad bets. However, the choice of Brown to personify this is mystifying. Yes, he was the highest-paid pitcher of his generation without being the best, and he was accused in the Mitchell report of buying steroids. But his deal was far from an albatross for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, the Dodgers came close to breaking even on the transaction. In 1998, Brown was the undisputed star of a strong free-agent class. He had just completed a dominant three-year stretch in which he posted the major leagues’ best earned run average (2.33) and was third in innings pitched (narrowly trailing Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux). His unparalleled ability to post high strikeout rates while inducing large numbers of ground balls suggested he was likely to remain effective. His new contract’s average annual value of $15 million was just slightly higher than Mo Vaughn’s or Albert Belle’s. Only its length — it would pay him through age 40 — seemed excessive. In his ﬁrst year with the Dodgers, Brown was a relative bargain. He made $10.7 million and threw 252 1/3 innings with an E.R.A. of 3.00. Based on the market rate from the previous off-season — what an average free agent with Brown’s statistics would have been paid — his per-
formance was worth about $15 million. That gave the Dodgers a proﬁt of roughly $4.3 million. The following year, Brown’s salary jumped to $15.7 million — but he trimmed his E.R.A. to 2.58 and threw 230 innings. The market value for that performance was around $17 million. Brown’s start was just as strong in 2001. By mid-July, he had thrown 115 innings with a 2.65 E.R.A. He then tore a muscle in his elbow, ending his season. However, the greatest free-agent spending spree in the game’s history had occurred the previous off-season, including the monster deals signed by Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. As a result, in comparative terms, Brown’s salary was no longer such a burden. Based on the contracts signed that year, his 2001 season was worth about $9 million, or $6.7 million less than he was paid. The next season was a lost year for Brown. Struggling with injuries, he posted a 4.81 E.R.A. in just 63 2/3 innings. Those numbers cost the Dodgers about $15 million. But he rebounded strongly in 2003, with a 2.39 E.R.A. in 211 innings. That performance was worth $17 million, $1.3 million more than his salary. The Dodgers, reportedly motivated by suspicions of steroid use by Brown, traded him to the Yankees that off-season for Jeff Weaver, $2.6 million and two other players. Weaver proved to be a reliable starter for Los Angeles. He threw at least 220 innings in 2004 and 2005 and was paid
about $2 million less than the market value for those seasons. The Yankees got a dud in the aging Brown, whose meltdown in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series still sears the hearts of Yankees fans. Counting Brown’s ﬁnal two seasons makes the contract look worse. But they were the Yankees’ problem, not the Dodgers’. All told, the Dodgers paid Brown $73.6 million, and got $63.5 million back from the market value of his performance and the proﬁts from trading him. No general manager aspires to lose $10 million on a deal, but such small setbacks happen all the time. The Boston Red Sox, for example, took a similar hit on Jason Varitek’s four-year, $40 million deal in 2004 — which did not inspire a hint of the scorn that Brown’s deal has. Brown has a much stronger case for inclusion in quite a different pantheon: the Hall of Fame, for which he appears on the ballot for the ﬁrst time this year. Brown’s key statistics — 3,256 innings pitched at an E.R.A. 27 percent better than the league average — mirror those of Curt Schilling, who pitched 3,261 innings with an E.R.A. 28 percent better than the league average, and easily meet Cooperstown’s established standards. That record may well have been chemically enhanced. But as long as Gaylord Perry, who wrote a book in the middle of his career about throwing the spitball, remains safely enshrined, voters should take Brown’s Hallworthy numbers at face value.
Rafael Palmeiro May Find Door Closed to Hall of Fame By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
hree baseball milestones have traditionally guaranteed a player’s entry into the Hall of Fame. Smack more than 500 home runs, pile up more than 3,000 hits or win more than 300 games, and Cooperstown beckons. Of the 203 players in the Hall, 56 have accomplished at least one of those three feats. Two other players have done so but do not have plaques. One is Pete Rose, who has the most hits in the history of Major League Baseball but is ineligible because of his lifetime ban for betting on games. The other is Mark McGwire, who brieﬂy held the single-season home run mark, with 70, and hit 583 home runs in his career, but has drawn little support in his ﬁrst four years on the ballot because of his links to performance-enhancing drugs. Now comes a third candidate who is likely to ﬁnd himself shunned by baseball writers when the results of the Hall ba-
lloting are announced Wednesday, even though he has two of the three major milestones on his résumé. Over his 20-year career, Rafael Palmeiro hit 569 home runs and compiled 3,020 hits. Only three others — Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray — surpassed 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, and each was elected to the Hall the ﬁrst time he was on the ballot. But standing in Palmeiro’s way in his ﬁrst year of eligibility are that his numbers speak more to longevity than to dominance as a player and, more important, that his image suffered greatly in 2005, when he was suspended for a positive steroid test ﬁve months after pointing his ﬁnger at members of Congress Rafael Palmeiro being sworn in before and insisting he never used steroids. the House Committee on Oversight and Palmeiro’s dramatic gesture came Government Reform. “I have never used during a nationally televised hearing, the steroids,” he testiﬁed. “Period.” same one in which McGwire did great damage to his Hall of Fame candidacy by ﬁnally admitted that he had used perforcontinually declining to answer questions mance enhancers while an active player; about steroid use. Years later, McGwire Palmeiro, however, continues to maintain
that his positive steroid test was an accident, a result of a tainted B12 vitamin shot given to him by Miguel Tejada, then his Baltimore Orioles teammate. But that denial seems unlikely to carry much weight within the world of baseball, where he remains guilty as charged. Interviews last week with a half-dozen writers and commentators — some of whom cast Hall of Fame ballots — revealed an informal consensus that Palmeiro would be a Hall of Famer, although hardly an imposing one, if not for the stain of steroids. “It’s kind of an unusual Hall of Fame career,” said Bob Costas, the longtime television commentator and baseball historian, who is not a Hall voter. “While he was an excellent player for years, the consensus among people in baseball would never have said that he was one of the best players in the game.” In fact, Palmeiro made only four All-
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The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Comes from page 61 Star teams in his career and never ﬁnished higher than ﬁfth in balloting for the Most Valuable Player award in either league. And he was never on a World Series winner. Still, Costas said, he would have voted for Palmeiro if he had a vote but for the positive drug test. Henry Schulman, a longtime baseball writer for The San Francisco Chronicle, said that if Palmeiro had not tested positive, he would have been a borderline ﬁrst-ballot player. “I’m a voter who believes the ﬁrst ba llot should be reserved for players whose names instantaneously scream ‘Hall of Fame!’ when they are mentioned,” he said. “I’m not sure he is one.” Tim Brown, the national baseball writer for Yahoo Sports, said, “Putting the steroid issue aside, I believe he is probably a ﬁrst-ballot Hall of Famer by the numbers.” He added, “I sort of cast a wary eye on players who accumulated great stats over a long career, but I think he was domi-
nant enough to be strongly considered the ﬁrst time he’s on the ballot.” But like Costas, both Schulman and Brown said the steroid issue had made Palmeiro an unsupportable candidate, this year or in the foreseeable future. Ross Newhan, a former national baseball writer for The Los Angeles Times, said
he was not turned off by the fact that Palmeiro had accumulated his statistics over so many years and had few truly dominant ones. “I’m turned off by the fact that of all of these guys who have come up, the evidence is stronger in his case that he used performance-enhancing drugs than anybody else,” he said. Nick Cafardo, the national baseball writer for The Boston Globe, said he had difﬁculty assessing a player’s career amid the cloud steroids cast over the game. “It’s not easy to come up with a stance that ﬁts all,” he said. “But in the case of players who tested positive after the steroid policy was in place, I’m not voting for them. These players were forewarned about getting themselves clean or they’d face suspension and embarrassment for the rest of their careers.” Speciﬁcally addressing Palmeiro, Cafardo said, “I have to question his character and deﬁance of a very clear and much-publicized policy.” One person who said he would have put Palmeiro on his Hall of Fame ballot if he
had one was Tim McCarver, a veteran commentator and former major league catcher. “You can’t change the numbers,” he said of Palmeiro’s compelling career statistics. “To me, you are giving the writers too broad a power to be the judge on whether a guy took steroids. I would vote for all the guys who have the numbers.” “I just don’t think they should have the right to determine the moral aspects of a particular issue,” he said of those who do vote. Newhan, who won the Hall of Fame’s J. G. Taylor Spink Award, disagreed, saying: “Somebody said we are not the morality police, but yet I think we are. If we aren’t, who is? Part of our job is that we are custodians of the game’s history. I do look at the larger picture, and Palmeiro had a lot of good years, but that brings back to my feeling that otherwise he would be worthy of the Hall of Fame.” In a sense, Palmeiro’s career line now reads: .288 batting average, 3,020 hits, 569 home runs, 1 drug suspension. The last number may have shut Cooperstown’s door.
Turiaf’s Blocks Carve Out a Path for the Knicks By JONATHAN ABRAMS
or Ronny Turiaf, the game was part basketball, part wrestling. He had his eye poked, his ribs elbowed and his shoulder tugged against the Indiana Pacers. In between the bodily damage, Turiaf blocked enough shots to provide a spark and nudge the Knicks to a victory. The Knicks will never be mistaken for the defensive-minded Boston Celtics. But they are showing signs of transitioning away from the turnstile defense of their recent past, with Turiaf leading the effort from the bench. The Knicks lead the N.B.A. in blocked shots, and Turiaf accounted for half of the Knicks’ 12 on Sunday as they outlasted Indiana, 98-92, at Madison Square Garden. “That’s just what I do, my man,” Turiaf said, smiling afterward. He could have been referring to his blocks or to launching his body into the opponents’ way. His last rejection helped ensure the victory, but it arrived with a mistake. With the Knicks leading, 97-92, in the ﬁnal minute, Turiaf slapped Darren Collison’s shot off the backboard. Toney Douglas collected the ricochet and returned the ball to Turiaf, who had turned his attention to one of his many bruises. Collison retrieved the ball but missed the layup, and Turiaf grabbed his 10th and ﬁnal rebound. “It was one of those nights where we had to grind it out,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The Knicks ended a two-game losing streak and braced for another rugged stretch. They host the league-leading San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday before a Western Conference trip against the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz. The Knicks (19-14) squeezed Indiana into 37.4 percent shooting, the lowest of any opponent this season. With the game up for grabs, the Pacers missed 16 of their 23 fourth-quarter shots. The defensive effort helped the Knicks overcome their own offensive inabilities, which multiplied once Danilo Gallinari (19 points) left with a sprained left knee. By the time he spoke with reporters, the pain had subsided, and Gallinari expressed optimism that he would not miss any games. He is scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday. “I feel discomfort, but I can walk,” Gallinari said. All ﬁve Knicks starters scored in double digits, but no player dominated, leading to 21 lead changes and 17 ties. Neither team led by more than 4 points in the second half until Amar’e Stoudemire’s layup increased the Knicks’ advantage to 95-90 with 2 minutes 14 seconds left. Wilson Chandler, usually a model of consistency, had a rare off game, although his two baskets came at opportune moments. Chandler’s ﬁrst ﬁeld goal, banked in from near halfcourt to beat the third-
quarter buzzer, gave the Knicks a 2-point lead. His second 3-pointer, with 3:57 to play, broke an 87-87 tie. Stoudemire, pestered by Jeff Foster much of the game, made three baskets in the ﬁnal three minutes after Foster fouled out. Stoudemire had a game-high 26 points but shot 9 for 24. The Knicks beneﬁted from attempting more than twice as many free throws as Indiana (40 to 19). But Indiana had 21 offensive rebounds, leading to 20 second-chance points. Danny Granger scored 25 points for Indiana, but the Knicks held him to 6 in the second half. The Knicks occasionally struggle because their front line is relatively short, but the lack of height can also work the other way. Foster started ahead of the 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert in an attempt to counter Stoudemire’s mobility. Turiaf roamed free on defense and had four blocks by halftime, when the score was tied, 55-55. Turiaf is usually D’Antoni’s ﬁrst frontcourt player off the bench, but he played only six minutes in the Knicks’ loss to Orlando. He offered reasons for more playing time Sunday and remained on the ﬂoor for 28 minutes. The Knicks and the Pacers, bitter rivals more than a decade ago, are looking to resurface in the playoffs. The teams have a postseason drought of a combined 10 years. The Knicks are sixth in the Eastern Conference, and Indiana (14-18) is seventh. Any separation between teams close in the standings, even this early in the
season, is helpful. “You can’t wait for March to turn it on, or April,” D’Antoni said. “You’ve got to do it now.” REBOUNDS Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president for basketball operations, rescinded the technical foul that Amar’e Stoudemire drew against Orlando on Thursday. Stoudemire was penalized for taunting Gilbert Arenas after blocking his shot. Asked if he would taunt the next time he blocked a shot, Stoudemire said, “I may say it, but not as loud.” Players draw an automatic one-game suspension at their 16th technical; Stoudemire has nine.
The San Juan Weekly
January 6 - 12, 2011
Leaving Cockpit for Family By KAREN CROUSE
t the ofﬁce, she would speak of her desire to start a family, sometimes asking plaintively, “When I’m 80 years old, who am I going to tell I ran in the Indy 500?” On occasion this year she grew distracted as she went about her perilous job. By the fall, there was no question in the boss’s mind that she belonged on the mommy track, not the racing oval. So the ﬁrst and only female team owner in the IndyCar Series essentially dismissed herself as the primary driver. “I ﬁred myself, yes,” Sarah Fisher said with a laugh. It was mid-December, and she was seated behind her desk here in Sarah Fisher Racing’s 15,000-square-foot headquarters, which houses a machine shop, a design area, a gym and administrative ofﬁces. Off to the side was a life-size cardboard cutout of her, angled so it appeared that Fisher the driver was smiling down on Fisher the boss. After juggling dual responsibilities for three years, Fisher found herself on the cusp of 30 and still circling race podiums. She started driving at 5, and this year, for the ﬁrst time, it started to feel like work. In seven starts, Fisher’s best showing was 15th place at Texas and at Chicagoland, where she led for a few laps and infused her team with hope that success was just around the next curve. Unable to turn that promise into a podium appearance, Fisher placed 26th in the IndyCar Series points race, well below her expectations. “I really wasn’t happy with the results,” she said. With each fresh disappointment, Fisher found it harder to focus on the banana yellow No. 67 car that had been her baby. Thoughts of motherhood crept into her consciousness. “I had a couple of bad races where you’d have bad-handling cars, which is like having a bad elbow and playing golf,” she said. “You’re running 200 miles per hour and you’re thinking, Do you really want to be out here?” She added, “I don’t think that’s going to provide us with a quality result.” Fisher’s husband, Andy O’Gara, said the motherhood issue “shows even more what the female athlete gives up just over all in sports.” “You train so hard to get to where you’re at,” he said, “but the span of your career is so much shorter.” O’Gara added: “I suppose you could go and race till you’re 40. At the same time, we’d like to guarantee our kids some time with our parents. That was probably as big a turning point for us as anything.” When Fisher, 30, named Ed Carpenter as her driving replacement in November, it was the quiescent end to a professional ra-
cing career that began amid much fanfare. Her life as a driver was a blur of milestones, with Fisher serving as a kind of pacesetter for Danica Patrick. In 2000, at 19, Fisher became the youngest woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500. She was the ﬁrst woman to record a top-three ﬁnish in an IndyCar Series race, to race a full IndyCar Series schedule, to ﬁnish as high as second in a major league open-wheel race and to earn the pole position for a major league open-wheel race in North America.
Sarah Fisher with her husband, Andy O’Gara. She formed a team that is still sponsored by Dollar General even though she no longer races. On her way to becoming the belle of the podium, Fisher’s career sputtered. She struggled to secure ﬁnancing and took an unsuccessful detour to the Nascar West series in 2004 and 2005. “There’s a lot of reasons it never clicked together,” Fisher said of her career. “It’s having the right people around you. Being at the right place at the right time.” Fisher’s motivation for starting her company, she said, grew out of a desire to surround herself with a hand-picked team. In particular, she had grown weary of having her feedback from the cockpit ignored by some crew members. Although loath to play the gender card, Fisher conceded one drawback to being a woman in racing. While giving a tour of her headquarters, she pointed to the cockpit of her racecar and said, “There’s not enough room for a pregnant athlete in there.” She added: “That’s the biggest detriment to being a female athlete. You can’t compete and be a parent at the same time.” Fisher and O’Gara met on the track. Their romance even endured a pit-row accident in which a frustrated Fisher accidentally struck O’Gara, her left front tire changer at the time. “He didn’t break anything, thank God,” she said, laughing.
It would have been hard for O’Gara to stay angry with Fisher, who rubs people the right way. Three times her IndyCar peers voted her the most popular driver, and her bond with the public is so strong that strangers at the track have been known to slip her a $20 bill or a $100 check to help defray her costs. “I’m a little different than the other drivers,” said Fisher, referring to her humble roots. She is the only child of Midwestern parents; they met when her mother, Reba, edged her father, Dave, for ﬁrst place in a go-kart race. Dave Fisher, a self-employed engineer, had encouraged his daughter, who resembles the singer LeAnn Rimes, to retire from racing for some time. He was motivated by a concern for her safety and a yearning for grandchildren. “I think it was a little bit of both,” she said. Parenthood did not slow Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, who became a father last December. He had 3 victories and 15 top-10 ﬁnishes in 17 starts in 2010. After the birth of his daughter, CastroIn 2000, at age 19, Sarah Fisher became the youngest woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500. She has run it nine times.
neves was quoted as saying that parenthood had caused him to “shift gears.” If a female driver gives birth, it is more akin to stripping gears. Shawna Robinson, a Nascar driver, returned to racing after having children, but she is a notable exception. “I knew going into the sport I couldn’t drive racecars and have babies,” Fisher said. “I knew one day I was going to have to stop this and ﬁgure out something else to do.” “I think I’m big-picture enough to say I had a blast racing,” she added. “I still have a team; I can still be in the sport.” With O’Gara, she conceived Sarah Fisher Racing as a means for her to compete after she stopped racing. O’Gara, 26, said he did not pressure Fisher, the face of their franchise, to give up driving. “Our conversations about it were more from a business angle,” he said. “I was telling Sarah our business is strong enough to survive without her in the seat.” It was not an idle remark. Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s chairman and chief executive, recently extended its team sponsorship for another year. The only personal advice O’Gara had for Fisher, he said, was to make sure she retired on her terms. “That’s why even though it is a little open-ended on whether I’ll get in the car next year at Indy,” she said, “we wanted to come out and say I’m done racing so in the future our kids would know I didn’t stop racing because I was pregnant.” O’Gara comes from a large, loud and close-knit family, and children are a frequent topic of conversation. When Fisher retired from racing, O’Gara’s relief in one respect was palpable. “You’re constantly aware during every race that she’s doing something people have died doing,” he said. “So it’s a huge weight off.” Fisher’s focus now is on the numbers on her spreadsheet, not on the speedometer. She sounded happily retired, but when asked about racing in her 10th Indy 500 next year, she smiled and said, “I’m leaving that up to nature.”
January 6 - 12, 2011
The San Juan Weekly
Published on Jan 4, 2011