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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the April 16, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
A Vindicated Bear’s Brave New Theories
At the end of the last decade, Yale economist Robert
Schiller was way out of favor. As the stock market was on a tear,
rocketing to a record high of 11,722.98, his bearish comments could
not have been more out of vogue. An article in the Yale Herald commented:
"As the stock market reached unprecedented heights in 1998, many
Americans reveled in the success of their investments. One Yale professor,
however, could only watch in amazement as his predictions were repeatedly
proven wrong." Fortune proclaimed Schiller "the smartest guy
who’d been most wrong about the stock market."
In an interview with the Yale Herald in 1999, Schiller said the best
thing Americans could do with their money was to put it into indexed
government bonds. How many holders of flat-as-a-pancake equities-stuffed
retirement funds would give anything for the opportunity to turn back
the clock and take Schiller’s advice?
Schiller, testifying before the board of governors of the Federal
Reserve in 1998, discussed the irrationality of investors. Just a
few days later, Alan Greenspan issued his warning about "irrational
Princeton University Press published Irrational Exuberance, Schiller’s
best selling book, on the Ides of March in 2000, close to the exact
moment the bubble burst.
Now Schiller has a new book, The New Financial Order, which he discusses
on Friday, April 18, at Barnes & Noble in MarketFair. Call 609-716-1570
for more information. Here is an excerpt from a Publishers Weekly
review of the book:
do not reflect underlying economic reality and that the volatility
of the market makes the financial system unstable. It is therefore
a surprise to find him advocating vast expansion of financial derivative
markets to reduce the economic risk faced by individuals and countries.
According to Schiller, governments should swap 10 percent or more
of their gross domestic product with other countries and administer
income swaps among entire generations.
Individuals should manage risk by trading in new financial instruments
based on the lifetime income of their profession, the value of homes
in their area, or economic statistics like the unemployment rate or
Money, he says, will be replaced by "indexed units of account"
tied to things like wage rates and commodity prices. People will carry
transponders to report on their every activity, with the results stored
in "global risk information databases," containing all personal
information, including genetic data, but protected against unauthorized
access. In this way, the government can eliminate the underground
economy and tax evasion and individuals will enjoy more economic security.
- Revolutionary stuff. But while many are sure to dismiss Schiller’s
new theories as, well, crazy, anyone doing so might do well to look
back at the heady days when every grandmother, grocer, and gamekeeper
was loathe to stray too far from a stock ticker for fear of missing
all the details on the stock surge that was making them all rich.
d>Kenneth Moch, now CEO of biotech Alteon in Ramsay,
cut his entrepreneurial teeth at Liposome on Route 1 in the 1980s,
and spent the first half of the 1990s as CEO of Biocyte, a Stamford,
Connecticut-based company that pioneered the collection, storage,
and use of cord blood cells.
There are no embryos involved in the process. Cells are harvested
from an umbilical cord after birth, and are most often used to help
save the life of a family member, typically the sibling of the just-born
baby. The brother or sister often is suffering from leukemia. Perhaps
surprisingly, the life-saving procedure Biocyte, and companies like
it, make possible, is the subject of intense ethical debate.
Life sciences technology is galloping ahead, so much so that Larry
Ellison, CEO of Oracle and a major figure in the computer revolution,
stated last week that biotech is poised to shove computer technology
aside in the coming decades.
With the advances come myriad ethical questions. Examining some of
the biggest issues is "The Grand Bargain: The Pharmaceutical Industry
and Society in the 21st Century," a conference taking place on
Monday and Tuesday, April 21 and 22, at the New Jersey Performing
Arts Center in Newark.
In addition to Moch, speakers include Representative Rush Holt;
Norman Daniels of the Harvard School of Public Health; Delon
Human of the World Medical Association; Elora Weringer, Bioethics
Advisor, U.S. Science Policy; Martin Delaney of Project Inform;
and Harlan F. Weisman, president, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical
Research and Development.
The conference on the morning of April 21 is "The Ethics of Clinical
Trials." Topics to be considered include who gets priority access
to experimental drugs; under what circumstances is it appropriate
to administer a placebo to a control group; can meaningful consent
be obtained in diverse cultural contexts; and what rights do participants
have to post-trial access to successful research products?
The afternoon conference looks at "Intellectual Property and Equal
Access." Topics to be considered include patent protection in
less developed countries with weak legal infrastructures; desperate
health needs as a valid justification for generic manufacturing; whether
indigenous peoples have intellectual property rights to traditional
medicines they have practiced for centuries; and whether AIDS has
become an international crisis that requires suspension of patent
rights guaranteed to multinational companies under the legal provisions
of the World Treaty Organization.
On Tuesday morning, the conference is "Bioethical Issues in the
21st Century. Topics to be considered include the ethics of cloning
human children; the use of Ritalin by those who do not suffer from
Attention Deficit Disorder to enhance mental acuity on an exam; the
use of human growth hormone; and the use of germ line genetic engineering
to improve the genetic characteristics of future generations.
This array of subjects hints at the complexity of the debates growing
up around new life sciences technology. So new — and controversial
— are some technologies that Moch, during his tenure at Biocyte,
the cord cell pioneer, relied on an ethics advisory panel.
One issue was equal access. "The demand was tremendous," says
Moch, who studied biochemistry at Princeton (Class of 1976), received
an MBA from Stanford, and was in on the founding of the Liposome Company.
A problem is that collecting and storing the cells for a procedure
that could mean the difference between life and death for a leukemia
patient is expensive. "Some can afford it, some can’t," says
He points out that many ethics debates concerning life sciences technology
have a religious component, but that the issue of affordability does
not. This does not necessarily make it any easier to untangle. New
medical procedures often are not covered by insurance. Where they
are expensive, as is often the case, the wealthy will be able to extend
their lives by taking advantage of the advances, but the poor —
and many in the middle class — will not.
As health care becomes more expensive and as demand rises, the question
of affordability moves beyond new procedures like the one Biocyte
developed. Presently, the lion’s share of health care dollars go to
individuals — many of them very elderly — during the last
months of their lives. A question, says Moch, is whether society should
continue to spend finite health care dollars this way, or whether
it should put them to use to enhance the health of the very young.
"Do we say we’d rather save one person who is 90, or 100 young
people?" he posits.
Another question the cord cell technology raises is that of whether
it is morally right to have a child only — or largely — to
save the life of another child. Biocyte not only developed cord cell
technology, but also worked with OB/GYNs and with parents. In some
cases the parents seeking the procedure were having a child because
they wanted to obtain stem cells that could save one of their other
children. "Some argue that to have a child solely to benefit another
child is wrong," says Moch. His panel of ethicists, however, advised
that such a decision is a permissible personal choice.
Another issue surrounding Biocyte’s technology was its attempt to
patent it. An article in Genetics Forum magazine, a British publication,
states that "critics claim this (the patent) will enable Biocyte
to control all future uses of umbilical cord cells and jeopardize
the interests of patients. It will, for example, be able to demand
royalty payments from those using these cells for bone marrow transplants.
Such transplants are seen as a promising technique in helping to reduce
deaths of patients on bone marrow waiting lists. U.S. estimates indicate
that 9,000 patients die each year whilst waiting for a bone barrow
In further stating the argument, the article brings up another interesting
ethical issue. It says that the International Society of Transplantation
states that no part of the human body should be commercialized, and
that donation of organs or cells should be free and anonymous. Ethical
arguments such as these led to the revocation of Biocyte’s European
In arguing against a patent on technology to remove and freeze cord
cells, opponents stated that, until very recently, patents were granted
for "mechanical inventions — not living things." As biotechnology
moves ahead, the world is sure to change radically as the cotton gin
and even the mainframe begin to look quaint. And there will be plenty
of opinions about the direction that change should take. Or as Moch
says of the upcoming bioethics conference: "It’s clear that all
the speakers will have very different things to say."
Despite hundreds of embedded reporters and 24/7 cable
television coverage, Americans are not getting the full picture of
what is going on in Iraq. It seems remarkable that a people with free
access to myriad radio, television, print, and Internet outlets could
still be missing big parts of the picture, but, according to Jay
Milner, that is the case.
Milner, a screenwriter and producer whose resume is full of both big
oil and the Middle East, speaks on "Mass Media and the Marketplace
of Ideas" on Wednesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. at a meeting of
the Princeton Media Communications Association at the Sarnoff Corporation.
Other speakers include Brian McKernan, editor of Digital Camera
Media, and Jeffrey Bloom, video and web informatics specialist
at Sarnoff and author of Digital Watermarks. Call 609-818-0025.
There is little but Iraq in the news now — everything from details
on the furnishings of Saddam Hussein’s palaces to desert weather reports
to interviews with Kurdish clansmen. But, normally, says Milner, there
is little reporting on international news of any sort.
"One concern," he says, "is that over the last few years,
the amount of international news has dwindled greatly. We were getting
a 50/50 split, but now I’d be surprised if it is 25 percent."
While that figure has plumped up considerably over the past two weeks,
the reporting is still quite U.S.-centric. "You don’t get full
exposure to reactions in other countries and to why they feel as they
do," he says. "We’re getting one side of the story — and
we’re getting it constantly."
A native of Tennessee who retains the diction of his home state, Milner
studied English and drama at East Tennessee State (Class of 1978).
By the time he obtained his degree he had already served for four
years in the Marines, two of them in Vietnam.
Upon graduation he went to work for a Houston company as an administrative
manager. The company did consulting work with an oil refinery that
was setting up an office in Dubai. He went to set up the office, and
then got involved in a Saudi joint venture. During the course of his
career in the oil industry he was also posted in Oman and in Qatar,
as well as in Europe.
Perhaps improbably, he ended his oil career in Princeton, a town not
known for its connection with petroleum products. He was president
of Refinery Systems International, a company involved in software,
manufacturing, and equipment for modernizing oil refineries. When
the company consolidated with a company in Houston, Milner decided
to stay put.
"I had always wanted to write," he says. "I took the stock
options and ran with them." Infatuated with the movies since the
age of two, when his mother, a fan of all movie genres, began taking
him along to the cinema, he wanted to write screenplays.
"I gave myself a five-year window," he says. He began by purchasing
Scriptware, a software package that formats screenplays, and getting
to work on a political thriller set in the Middle East. Working without
an agent, he was able to get the screenplay optioned. At that point,
he felt he was moving in the right direction. A "boot camp"
course at Media Bistro in New York City convinced him that he was
on track, and over the next five years he settled in to write 10 more
screenplays, six of which have been optioned. Last year he started
working with a partner, a veteran writer, in Los Angeles. The pair
are close, says Milner, to inking a deal for their latest screenplay,
about which he is reluctant to reveal too much.
In addition to his writing, Milner teaches screen writing at Mercer
County Community College. His wife, Karyn, owns The Beat Goes On,
a website that sells designer clothes (www.thebeatgoeson.com).
Milner gets a good amount of his war news on the Internet. "Old"
media is moving toward a consolidation that gives rise to homogenization,
in his view. He speaks with alarm about Clear Channel, the Texas-based
media conglomerate that owns 1,225 radio stations and 39 television
stations in the United States, and has an equity interest in 240 overseas
While radio is consolidating, Milner says that television, which has
also consolidated to a degree, is mired in political correctness.
It’s attitude on the Iraq conflict, he says, is "you’re for it."
There are not a lot of commentators striking a balance. "There
are not a lot of `but’s’ in the news," he says.
So Milner turns to the Internet. If he wants to know what is going
on in Malaysia, he says, he simply logs on and finds a site with an
English version of a Malaysian newspaper. It is now fairly easy, he
says, to find English-language versions of newspapers from all around
the world. He acknowledges that these publications may not be totally
objective, either, but at least they offer an alternate view.
As for news in this country, Milner fears that the reverence is vanishing
for the belief that "I don’t agree with what you say, but I will
defend to the death your right to say it."
Until big media rights the balance, Milner suggests a spin on the
Internet. "If somebody takes the time and effort," he says,
"they will get a better picture than anywhere else. It has the
potential to give the most balanced view."
On Saturday, April 12, Martin House, a Trenton-based
non-profit, hosted a ground breaking ceremony for the construction
of six homes for low-income families. The construction is part of
the 100 Homes for 100 Families Campaign, which aims to raise $2.1
million to build 100 homes over the next five years. Nearly half of
that amount has already been raised.
Among the sponsors who have donated the $21,000 are the Mary
Owen Borden Foundation, the James Kerney Foundation, New Jersey Manufacturers
Insurance Company, St. John’s Church of Allentown, St. Vincent de
Paul Church of Yardville, Joyce and George Albers-Schonberg, Michael
Johnson, Joanne Livingston, Regina Bee Goaneh, Sharon Love, Jackie
and Rayfield Meyers, and Melinda Holiday.
The $21,000 provided by donors is matched with government funds, through
which it grows to the $63,000 necessary to allow Martin House to create
a home with an 11-year, interest-free mortgage.
To date, 113 mortgages have been created and 43 have been retired.
Families who receive the new homes must attend community meetings,
complete 50 hours of home repair courses, and invest a minimum of
150 hours of sweat equity in the construction of their homes and those
of their neighbors.
- Creative Marketing Alliance , a marketing communications
company with offices at 191 Clarksville Road, was honored by the
American Cancer Society at the 16th Annual Celebration of Life Gala
on Saturday, March 29, at the Westin hotel.
CMA was recognized marketing communications services it provided to
the organization over the past three years, including design and layout
of the Annual Celebration of Life Gala advertising journal.
- Pepper Hamilton , a law firm with offices at 300 Alexander
Park, has begun holding fundraisers in anticipation of the 33rd annual
WalkAmerica, an event that benefits the March of Dimes. WalkAmerica
takes place this year on Sunday, April 27.
The employees of the Alexander Park Pepper Hamilton office have participated
in WalkAmerica for over 15 years. This year the office aims to raise
$5,000 for the charity.
To generate enthusiasm for its team of walkers, consisting of 28 employees,
friends, and family members, Pepper Hamilton has conducted a number
of fundraising events. Starting with a Kick Off on February 10, these
events have included 10 weeks of raffles, auctions, sales, and contests.
The Notre Dame High School PTA is sponsoring a
Post Prom Party for the Class of 2003 at the high school on Friday,
May 23, and is soliciting for prizes such as gift certificates, movie
tickets, theater tickets, sporting event tickets, merchandise, or
cash. To donate a prize, contact Lynn Root at 609-587-7668 or Dee
Dee Nemeth-Juno at 609-584-7510.
- The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America is sponsoring
its fourth annual New Jersey Walk the Walk for Tissue and Organ Donation
on Sunday, May 4 at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant.
Walk the Walk is an event that helps raise awareness of the critical
need for organ and tissue donation. In New Jersey alone there are
2,400 people on the national transplant wait-list in need of a kidney,
lung, liver, heart, or pancreas to survive.
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