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How Did I Miss That? On a Cuteness Jag; Shameless Pharma

Steve Russell
9/25/15

Jaguar, not the sleek but mechanically challenged British sports car but the cat considered sacred by Mayan Indians, is in danger of disappearing from the earth. The sad state of the species made it news when Texas Monthly reported the birth of Balam, a healthy jaguar cub, at the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas.

Balam is bound to be a rock star in Texas, where the last wild jaguar was killed in 1949. At Mission San Antonio de Valero aka the Alamo, Texas supports an official cat by the name of Miss Isabella Francisca Veramendi de Valero---Bella for short. Bella’s primary duties are as greeter, but The Institute of Texan Cultures also has a working cat to protect priceless historical artifacts from vermin. Cats rule beside dogs south of the Red River.

On the other hand, my Republican cousin Ray Sixkiller reminded me, Texas allows killing of cougars and bobcats. Cousin Ray is embarrassed for his party because it routinely buries legislative attempts to designate the big cats as “game animals.” That does not sound like a conservation measure, but if they were game animals, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would have to adopt rules to protect a minimum breeding population.

It’s probably too late for Jaguar, but rumors of sightings in the wild abound and the last one killed was substantially north of the most logical place for the sacred cat, Big Bend. The rumors are not impossible, but for now the arrival of unbearably cute Balam is good news because the species needs all the human friends it can get.

Sexy as the mechanical Jaguar is, there is competition. Car & Driver reported that Ford is bringing back the GT in 2017. To buy the 700 horsepower Corvette thumper you have to make an application. Owners of previous GT models and loyal Ford owners get first dibs, but only 250 copies per year are anticipated. Cousin Ray felt pretty good about his application because he’s always be partial to Ford F-150s, but he piped down after I told him the estimated MSRP is $400,000.

Most of us have other uses for our money. A New York Times piece was a stark reminder. The Times was critical of a new CEO increasing the price of a 62-year-old drug that is “the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection” from $13.50 a pill to $750.

When Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on,” biotech stocks tanked.

It was not just pols. Business writer Kurt Eichenwald, one of those expected to argue we need high drug prices to encourage innovation, tweeted to the CEO responsible, “As the son of a world-famous infectious disease MD who saved continents, let me say: U are the personification of evil.”

For once, the Twitter innocent Cousin Ray announced, he could sum it up in a tweet: “Your money or your life!”

The personification of evil, Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals, gave the one finger salute to his critics for two days and then backed off. Outside of The New York Times, nobody mentioned that the drug used to cost a dollar a pill when the behemoth GlaxoSmithKline made it. It went up to $13.50 when Glaxo sold to CorePharma, which sold to Turing, at which time what had been one dollar and then $13.50 became $750.

The Times also pointed out other generic drugs raised overnight 525 percent and 212 percent. One antibiotic, according to investigating congressmen, went from $20 a bottle in 2013 to $1,849 in 2014. “Like I said,” Cousin Ray repeated, “Your money or your life.”

The average person can’t sue a drug company over this kind of crap. State Attorneys General do that, so Pennsylvanians should pay attention when The New York Times reported that Democrat Kathleen Kane, elected after attacking her predecessor for tardy response to the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, has been suspended from practicing law by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The suspension is over pending criminal charges that she leaked grand jury testimony and then lied under oath about having done so.

As in most states, the law requires that the Attorney General be a practicing attorney. Kane could avoid going to court by sending assistants, but signing documents in her official capacity is also practicing law. My snarky Republican cousin commented, “I am shocked, shocked to hear that a prosecutor would leak grand jury testimony.”

Another public servant on the hot seat, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, issued a joint statement with Mexico’s Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu promising a “prompt, thorough and transparent investigation” into an Egyptian air strike that killed eight Mexican tourists and four Egyptian guides. Then, the Egyptian government promptly banned media coverage of the investigation.

Cousin Ray was grim. “Looks like Egyptian transparency is a lot like Mexican transparency in the Iguala Massacre,” referring to the abduction and presumed death of 43 college students and the murder of six bystanders September 26, 2014.

The New York Times reported a borderlands commonplace, “Many Mexicans have no confidence in anything the government says.” I can’t imagine why the people have no confidence in Mexican “justice,” but it appears the Mexican government is well fixed to understand the Egyptian government.

This silly season offers little hope that the U.S. will do better in its presidential election.

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