The Heart of Luck and Circumstance

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Drug Hunters

Written by: Donald R. Kirsch, Phd, Ogi Ogas, Phd

Narrated by: James Foster

the drug hunters

 

OGI OGAS (AUTHOR, COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENTIST)
OGI OGAS (AUTHOR, COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENTIST)
DONALD R. KIRSCH (AUTHOR, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER AT WYETH, CYANAMID,SQUIBB, AND CAMBRIA PHARMACEUTICALS)
DONALD KIRSCH (AUTHOR, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER AT WYETH, CYANAMID, SQUIBB, & CAMBRIA PHRAMACEUTICALS.)
SCIENCE OF PHARMACOLOGY
As a science, pharmacology survives in the heart of luck and circumstance.

Donald Kirsch and Ogi Ogas recount the origin and history of drug discovery in THE DRUG HUNTERS.  Kirsch and Ogas explain how drugs evolved from shamanistic ritual and magic to plant extraction and modern synthetic drug creation.  They argue that the complexity of myth, elemental plant extraction, and animal metabolism make the search for effective drugs a casino exercise.

LUCK AND FATE
Like gamblers, drug hunters lie to themselves about continuing research on busted bets with bigger financial and emotional investments.  Sometimes they win but usually they lose–no breakthrough is made.

Kirsch and Ogas reveal how scientists, entrepreneurs, and corporations make big bets; garnering wins and losses wrapped in luck and circumstance.  Like gamblers, drug hunters lie to themselves about continuing research on busted bets with bigger financial and emotional investments.  Sometimes they win but usually they lose–no breakthrough is made.  The drug does not work as expected.

The reasons for failure range from false expectation of drug hunters to impure abstraction (or creation) of ingredients.  They add to the list of potential failures with mistaken methods of administration (topical, pill-form, or injection), chemical bonding miscalculations, and human versus animal metabolism. The paths to error outnumber the highways to success.

In Trump’s treatment for Covid 19, the story of “The Drug Hunters” infers he is on a highway where errors outnumber successes.  Trump’s cocktail of drugs were vetted by a team of doctors who concluded “potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks”. Trump and Covid19 Treatment

Americans hope for Trump’s recovery but not necessarily his re-election.

MONEYSo why do scientists, entrepreneurs, and corporations gamble on research?  Because a win can make billions of dollars.  Kirsrch and Ogas imply corporations are reducing their research departments and changing their mode of drug discovery by purchasing companies that have found new and effective drugs.

BIG PHARMA SYMBOLS
A troubling implication is that new drug discoveries will not come from corporations.

A troubling implication is that new drug discoveries will not come from corporations.  That leaves new drug discovery to driven independent scientists, entrepreneurs, and government agencies (funded by tax revenue).

A ten billion dollar investment by NIH is in Moderna’s effort to find a Covid19 vaccine.  Moderna is trying to patent their Covid19 drug with exclusive ownership. The public should be compensated for tax dollars that subsidize private industry research.

Kirsch and Ogas offer fascinating stories of how therapeutic drugs were discovered.  From aspirin to penicillin to birth control; to psychiatric treatment and cancer remediation, they explain how difficult, expensive, and serendipitous the search for effective drugs have been.

Specters of Revisionist History

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.wordpress.blog

American Ulysses, A Life of Ulysses S. Grant

Written by: Ronald C. White

Narrated by: Arthur Morey

RONALD C. WHITE (AUTHOR)

RONALD C. WHITE (AUTHOR, HISTORIAN)

Revisionist history always raises the specter of truth or fiction. Some histories report Ulysses Grant as a drunk, a failed farmer, a mediocre student of West Point, an uncaring General of soldier’s slaughter, and an inept President of the United States.

Ronald White tells a different story. He implies Grant is one of the three greatest leaders in American history. White ranks Grant with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

As may not be widely known, Grant chose to resign from the army in 1854 because of a threat of court martial from a commanding officer.  The commanding officer alleges Grant is too drunk to carry out his duty as a ranking officer at his post.  White explains Grant’s choice to resign as a defense against the stigma of trial. 

Based on research, White suggests Grant fears embarrassment for his wife and family with a public trial.  After leaving the Army, Grant tries his hand at farming and finds he cannot make it profitable. 

He sells his farm interest and carries its debt until paid in full.  Grant asks his father to allow him to work for him in his tanning business as a salesman.  When civil war is declared, Grant requests return to the Army as a Union officer.  As a graduate of West Point, his request is granted; partly for military necessity, but certainly with knowledge of a mark against his character.

BATTLE OF VICKSBURG (COUNCIL OF WAR WITH ULYSSES GRANT 2ND FROM LEFT ON BENCH AT CENTER LEFT)

Grant is shown to make his mark in history at the Battle of Vicksburg.  Beginning as a frontal assault that changes into a siege, Grant confirms his reputation as a master strategist and winning union general.  To many, Vicksburg is the turning point in America’s civil war.

It is unquestioned by White that many Union soldiers die under Grant’s command, but Grant is the first Union officer to fight and win battles.  Grant is soon promoted to Brigadier General. Grant is shown to be a quick study who makes strategic mistakes but learns to assess and manage fellow officers who battle and beat Confederate armies. 

ULYSSES GRANT

Grant at Cold Harbor

White reports that Grant is deeply affected by loss of close friends and soldiers.  However, Grant retains a fierce determination to win reunification of the States.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865, 16TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. )

Grant is strongly supported by Abraham Lincoln who reveres and respects Grant’s  hard-won battles against the Confederacy.

Grant abhors slavery and fully endorses freedom for slaves and enlistment of the freed into the Union Army.    White reflects on the character of Grant by noting that he is a self-effacing leader who supports and rewards successful subordinates while serving as a fierce fighter for unionization and the equality of all human beings.

CIVIL WAR RECRUITS (OVER 180,000 BALACK MEN FOUGHT FOR THE UNION ARMY DURING THE CIVIL WAR.)

CIVIL WAR RECRUITS (OVER 180,000 BLACK MEN FOUGHT FOR THE UNION ARMY DURING THE CIVIL WAR.)

ANDREW JOHNSON (17TH PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 1865-1869)

ANDREW JOHNSON (17TH PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 1865-1869)
After Lincoln’s assassination, White reveals the contentious time and inept handling of the government by Andrew Johnson.  Johnson is impeached. He is accused in eleven articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives.

(Legislation of that time forbade the President from discharging cabinet members without approval of Congress.)  Grant privately, and later publicly, opposed Johnson’s actions as President.  White also notes that Grant argues against Johnson’s attempts to return the South to slavery by allowing state governments to continue discrimination against Blacks. 

Grant argues for military intervention in southern state governments when they discriminate against minorities.  This remains an unresolved issue until Grant becomes President, after Johnson’s completed term.

ULYSSES GRANT POLITICAL CARTOON REGARDING CORRUPTION IN HIS ADMINISTRATION.

ULYSSES GRANT POLITICAL CARTOON REGARDING CORRUPTION IN HIS ADMINISTRATION.

White completes Grant’s biography by noting that the “Gilded Age” (a title coined by Mark Twain) smudges Grant’s reputation because of the greed of a few men who knew Grant and tried to take advantage of their association.  Some were members of Grant’s administration, but White argues that none of them included Grant in their sordid schemes. 

White infers a naivete in Grant because he views others as he views himself.  Once one gathers Grant’s confidence, White implies Grant loses his objectivity.  White illustrates Grant’s credulity in having joined a Ponzi scheme that nearly bankrupts his family.  This credulity is further explained by White in the story of Grant’s personally written biography of the war.  Mark Twain protects Grant from making a huge financial mistake in how his memoirs are to be published.

TRUTH IS TRUTH

Truth is left to historians, and society’s judgement.

Trump’s second impeachment–what is society’s and the Republican party’s judgement?

Is White’s revisionist history truth or fiction?  One draws their own conclusion, but few human beings are untouched by the seduction of money, power, and prestige.  White’s story of Ulysses Grant suggests he is among the untouched few.  White makes a compelling and interesting case for Grant’s place in American history. 

Truth is left to historians, and society’s judgement. Who knows; e.g. Ulysses Grant had his critics but time has revised his place in history. What awaits today’s American President in histories’ and societies’ judgement?

Remembering Africa

Voyager Review By Chet Yarbrough (Blog:awalkingdelight) Website: chetyarbrough.blog 20 Days in Africa Written by Chet Yarbrough Twenty days in Africa does not make you an expert.  But, as noted by our insightful Zimbabwe-born team leader, every visit to Africa changes both visitor and native.  Manue Joao paints a picture of three nation-states that vivify the … Continue reading “Remembering Africa”

Voyager Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

20 Days in Africa

Written by Chet Yarbrough

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Twenty days in Africa does not make you an expert.  But, as noted by our insightful Zimbabwe-born team leader, every visit to Africa changes both visitor and native. 

Manue Joao paints a picture of three nation-states that vivify the great beauty and wealth of Africa.  In twenty days, the nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana were traveled by our group of 15 Americans; organized, directed, and helped by local guides and a host of excellent camp managers.

Manue offers a history lesson on Africa as we travel on planes, boats, buses, and Land Rovers, through the African Savannah. 

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Today, the three major industries in Africa are mining, agriculture, and tourism.  Each of these industries have troubles.

Mining for coal is a big industry in crises with falling prices, and environmental concern. 

African laborers are offered decent salaries but Manue notes that one coal mine had not paid their laborers for over four years.  He goes on to explain—the laborers keep working because there is no alternative employment.  They are ecstatic when, earlier this year, the mine owners offer 7% of their back wages to continue working.

In an 11/21/21 N.Y.Times’ article, mining of cobalt has become the latest mining frenzy in Africa, particularly in the Congo. Cobalt is an essential ingredient for electric car development. Competition from China and the U.S. is a power struggle that has the imprimatur of economic benefit or criminal exploitation. It also carries the potential for further environmental degradation.

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Agriculture is constantly faced with the terrors of nature, i.e., poor rainfall, soil depletion, and animal destruction.

SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM

African Tourism–the natural attributes of an animal kingdom surprises and delights world travelers, but even that is at risk.

Tourism is troubled by ivory poaching, Rhino killing for horn profits, and animal overpopulation.

Botswana has more elephants than its habitat preserves can support.

Putting aside these troubles in the big three African industries, there seems a leadership deficit in a country that has so much untapped potential.  Too many Africans seem trapped in poverty when the wealth of the country is laid waste by an interstate transportation system that strangles economic growth. 

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Trucks are lined up for hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months for transport across borders.  Vast tracks of land are only accessible by dirt roads. 

Water, sewer, and infrastructure investment seems utilized un-systematically.  Government leaders are often corrupted by the power they wield over the finances of their countries.

Emmerson Mnangagwa (President of Zimbabwe)

Mugabe’s previous enforcer, Emerson Mnangagwa, has become president but he has only made Zimbabwe’s economy weaker.

The history of Africa sets the table for an economic feast that is consumed by everyone except most native Africans.  Because of Europe’s scramble for wealth and power (between the 15th and early 20th century), the continent of Africa is colonized by foreign rulers.  Great Britain, Portugal, France, and Belgium carve Africa into nation-states in the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. 

Without regard to native societies a multi-state continent is formed based on greed and hubris of occupying foreign governments.  Most African nation-states are comprised of white Europeans and native tribes who establish societies within each country. Just as in America, the mixture of cultures often boils over like an over-heated melting pot. 

map_africa

The irony of Africa’s artificial nation-state creations is that these arbitrary borders become a source of conflict in Africa’s drive for independence.

Either because of religion, ethnic differences, or different societal norms, one factional group treads on another’s freedom.  Conflict rises; in some cases, with violent and deadly results. 

In Africa, conflict comes from a variety of reasons, some of which exist in America. Examples are–the taking of private property without compensation, inter-state commerce inefficiency, rule by force and corruption of leaders like Idi Amin, and Joseph Kony, and equal rights and opportunity for all (particularly women).

SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHIED

The economic difficulties of Africa remind one of the early days of America.

Every state of the original 13 colonies was a kingdom unto itself until the First Continental Congress in 1774.  Though the 13 colonies are largely populated by white English, Germans, and French, with a growing population of Black slaves, each colony becomes a melting pot for immigrants arriving from different nations of the world.  Native Americans are slaughtered by the advance of “civilization” with the increasing influx of foreign, largely white, Americans.

THE BEAUTY AND MAJESTY OF AFRICA IS EVIDENT IN EVERY CLICK OF THE CAMERA LENSE:

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Africa is incredibly beautiful.  In sunrises and sunsets; in exposure to the largest and most beautiful animals in the world; in spectacular views of Victoria Falls, and with many Africans’ heart-felt acceptance of tourists.  A traveler sees and feels the radiance of nature and the kindness of all human beings.  But, the economic hardship of the general population in the face of such great potential wealth is disheartening.

OAT AFRICA-05

The heart of the failure of the nation-states is said to lie at the feet of poor leadership and corruption.  Though there is undoubted truth in that observation, it seems an excuse for failure.  Every presentation by indigenous Africans notes how important education is to their and their family’s success.  It may be that the people we met are an exception but every culture has its exceptions.  It is these exceptions that modernize the world.

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Sacrifice for education and family values are obvious characteristics of the people we met.  Stories were told of the sacrifice that a Principal makes to teach children English; a story of a prostitute who sells herself with the intent of saving enough to finish school and start her own business; a story of an un-wed mother who is first in her class in high school and goes on to college—all are native Africans emphasizing the importance of family and education.

One is drawn to the conclusion that corruption and poor leadership are a stage of early development that will be ameliorated (not eliminated) over time.  There is no quick solution but a first step would be to re-value the indigenous culture of each part of Africa.  Changing borders is not the answer.  But, like early America, sections of Africa should consider their own Continental Congresses to provide government services that one state is unable to provide; i.e. services like interstate commerce, military preparedness, and a common currency.  Every power not given to this centralized government would remain in the hands of respective nation-states.

FREE TRADE IDEAL

Today, the economic strength of Africa is being strangled by border crossing regulations that delay interstate commerce.  Undoubtedly, corruption is exacerbated by bribes to get goods across borders.  Respective state leaders are reluctant to give up control of borders because they get a piece of the interstate border crossing fees.

The greed of leaders can be co-opted by making them understand they will make more money with the opening of their borders by using some of their wealth to create paved roads into growth corridors of their states.  When a foreign company sees they can get to their mine, or have water for agricultural development, they will invest.  Government leaders can negotiate deals with foreign businesses that demand training of native populations in the management work of new businesses.  When more Africans are employed, a source for government taxation is created.

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The emphasis on education must be reinforced.  In time, that education will remove overtly corrupt leaders.

It will not eliminate corruption but it will improve the condition of the local population.  There is a cost inherent in this push for modernization.  Manue tells of the family structure that exists in the three countries visited.  That close family relationship will be diminished by modernization.

LOCAL HEAD MAN SPEAKING TO VILLAGE PROPERTY OWNER

Every village has a Chief who has a Head man that supervises the village.  These positions are inherited; not earned by performance. 

This familial arrangement will be compromised by modernization because performance will become a more important criterion for Chief or Head man designations.  Money and power, rather than family relationship, will become prevalent.

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Another cost will be borne by the natural attributes of an animal kingdom that surprises and delights world travelers.  Manue notes that Botswana has an animal refuge that can support 20,000 elephants when 100,000 elephants roam the countryside.  Action is needed to control nature’s environment.  Exercising that control will turn a wilderness into more of a free-form zoo.  The wildness of a Safari will be diminished.

Love for Africa is clearly evident in the people we met.  One suspects our visit is a sanitized view of the real life of most Africans.  However, our view is through the eyes of a rich, modern nation.  A young African boy or girl born into a family of loving parents knows what he/she knows and cares little about what a foreigner thinks.  Twenty days in Africa is a trip of a life time; especially with a guide like Manue Joao.