The View From the Outback© 2000 Richard C. Rhodes
A great deal of what we read in newspapers, magazines, and books, and what we see in the movies and on TV is written and produced in New York City or Los Angeles. Much of the "political wisdom" comes from the PR machines of the White House, the Congress, and from the Washington media corps. In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington DC, or Hollywood. I am now a senior citizen, plus. My experience was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries. That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written articles off and on for various magazines and newspapers. I've had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. Some insights come from talking with ham-radio operators in every major country and such idyllic places as the Cook Islands. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 14 years. Every few weeks I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback. Click on a Topic to go directly to that topic. If someone is telling you about a satellite and you respond that you don't think you have ever seen a saddle with a light - you may be a goat-roper. If you think that "three-way calling" is calling the hogs first facing North, then South, then East - you may be a goat-roper. I'm reading "Ronnie & Nancy," by Bob Colacello. By page 66, I had severe goosebumps. I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Ronald "Dutch" Reagan was a sportscaster on radio station WHO in Des Moines. My dad was also in radio, but I can't remember if he was with WHO or another station. But, later in my life, dad would tell me that he used to drink beer with Dutch Reagan at Cy Griffith's (Griffin's?) Moonlight Tavern (or Inn). In the book, the author says that one of Dutch Reagan's hangouts was Cy's Moonlight Inn! That is the first time I have seen the name of the place in print. I was about five years old when Reagan left Des Moines for Hollywood, so I have no recollection of hearing him on the radio. Diana Krall fans will want to check out her new DVD, "Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival." The DVD features some songs written by her husband, Elvis Costello, with Diana providing the musical score on some cuts. In "Live in Paris," her face had a taut, almost pained look. On this DVD, her face is soft and at peace. She looked like she might have just come from a pleasant intimate interlude before taking the stage. Married life must agree with her. I buy about one or two DVDs a year. This will be it for 2004. If you use the Firefox Browser and have a mouse with a wheel, you can probably open a page link in a new tab by clicking on the wheel and close the one you are reading by clicking on the wheel, instead of right-clicking and using the drop-down menu to open or close a tab. A TV commercial shows a volcano erupting and part of the falling debris is a Jeep Cherokee. At the bottom of the screen are the words "Don't attempt this," - I think it is. The stupid lawyers have runied my vacation plans. I had planned on buying a Jeep Cherokee, driving to the rim of the crater at Mt. Saint Helens and waiting for her to blow her top. Wheee! What a ride. A commentator at the Army-Navy football game made some excellent points. He noted that in this game, between two service academies, there is no trash talking on the field, no end-zone celebrations, no talking back to the coach, and players are always on time. Also, I don't think there were any players who jumped up from a tackle and beat themselves on their chest like apes. Oh, that some of this restraint would seep over in the NFL. But, there is not much chance that will happen. In the Outback for Sept. 14, 2002, I noted how much I enjoyed seeing the great tennis players come to the WCT tournament in Dallas: "My idols were Laver, Rosewall, Smith, Ashe, Newcomb, and Borg. When John McEnroe won the World Championship Tennis finals in Dallas, I turned in my 3-rd row end-zone tickets and never saw another match. McEnroe was, and remains, a jerk. John McEnroe helped start the trend toward accepting all kinds of outrageous behavior by pro athletes, as long as they played well. Thanks, John, for your contribution to modern social behavior." The "McEnroe" talk show on CNBC has been canceled after only a few-month run. Some nights he got a 0.0 Nielsen rating. Now, if they could just find a way to get him off of the tennis commentating gigs, the world would be a better place. The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued a report in which they find abuses of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Red Cross reports were based on information gained from prisoners and not from any eye-witness accounts by Red Cross personnel. I have no knowledge of the treatment of the detainees. But, among the abuses, "temperature extremes" were cited. The annual mean temperature is 79 °F (26 °C), with little variation between January, the coolest month, at 73 °F (23 °C) and August, the warmest month, at 82 °F (28 °C). Unless somebody put the detainees in a sauna or a walk-in cooler, they can hardly complain about the temperatures. If my health insurance was good in Cuba, I would have moved there long ago. Send those detainees to Duluth, Minnesota, and house them in tents. Then, they would have something to bitch about. Do you have a few slim advertising ballpoint pens that you rather like but that have run out of ink? In checking with about 15 of mine, I discovered that they all use the refill for the CROSS ballpoint pen. (Nov. 30, 2004, 2:40 p.m. CST) The Ken Jennings JEOPARDY! winning streak has finally ended! He earned $2.5 million, less a ton of taxes. It was interesting to watch the major media slowly catch on to the the genius of this man. Because, on 6-23-04, I wrote the following in the Outback:
A great deal of what we read in newspapers, magazines, and books, and what we see in the movies and on TV is written and produced in New York City or Los Angeles. Much of the "political wisdom" comes from the PR machines of the White House, the Congress, and from the Washington media corps.
In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington DC, or Hollywood.
I am now a senior citizen, plus. My experience was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries. That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written articles off and on for various magazines and newspapers. I've had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. Some insights come from talking with ham-radio operators in every major country and such idyllic places as the Cook Islands. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 14 years. Every few weeks I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
Click on a Topic to go directly to that topic.
If someone is telling you about a satellite and you respond that you don't think you have ever seen a saddle with a light - you may be a goat-roper.
If you think that "three-way calling" is calling the hogs first facing North, then South, then East - you may be a goat-roper.
I'm reading "Ronnie & Nancy," by Bob Colacello. By page 66, I had severe goosebumps. I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Ronald "Dutch" Reagan was a sportscaster on radio station WHO in Des Moines. My dad was also in radio, but I can't remember if he was with WHO or another station. But, later in my life, dad would tell me that he used to drink beer with Dutch Reagan at Cy Griffith's (Griffin's?) Moonlight Tavern (or Inn). In the book, the author says that one of Dutch Reagan's hangouts was Cy's Moonlight Inn! That is the first time I have seen the name of the place in print. I was about five years old when Reagan left Des Moines for Hollywood, so I have no recollection of hearing him on the radio.
Diana Krall fans will want to check out her new DVD, "Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival." The DVD features some songs written by her husband, Elvis Costello, with Diana providing the musical score on some cuts. In "Live in Paris," her face had a taut, almost pained look. On this DVD, her face is soft and at peace. She looked like she might have just come from a pleasant intimate interlude before taking the stage. Married life must agree with her. I buy about one or two DVDs a year. This will be it for 2004.
If you use the Firefox Browser and have a mouse with a wheel, you can probably open a page link in a new tab by clicking on the wheel and close the one you are reading by clicking on the wheel, instead of right-clicking and using the drop-down menu to open or close a tab.
A TV commercial shows a volcano erupting and part of the falling debris is a Jeep Cherokee. At the bottom of the screen are the words "Don't attempt this," - I think it is. The stupid lawyers have runied my vacation plans. I had planned on buying a Jeep Cherokee, driving to the rim of the crater at Mt. Saint Helens and waiting for her to blow her top. Wheee! What a ride.
A commentator at the Army-Navy football game made some excellent points. He noted that in this game, between two service academies, there is no trash talking on the field, no end-zone celebrations, no talking back to the coach, and players are always on time. Also, I don't think there were any players who jumped up from a tackle and beat themselves on their chest like apes. Oh, that some of this restraint would seep over in the NFL. But, there is not much chance that will happen.
In the Outback for Sept. 14, 2002, I noted how much I enjoyed seeing the great tennis players come to the WCT tournament in Dallas: "My idols were Laver, Rosewall, Smith, Ashe, Newcomb, and Borg. When John McEnroe won the World Championship Tennis finals in Dallas, I turned in my 3-rd row end-zone tickets and never saw another match. McEnroe was, and remains, a jerk. John McEnroe helped start the trend toward accepting all kinds of outrageous behavior by pro athletes, as long as they played well. Thanks, John, for your contribution to modern social behavior." The "McEnroe" talk show on CNBC has been canceled after only a few-month run. Some nights he got a 0.0 Nielsen rating. Now, if they could just find a way to get him off of the tennis commentating gigs, the world would be a better place.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued a report in which they find abuses of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Red Cross reports were based on information gained from prisoners and not from any eye-witness accounts by Red Cross personnel. I have no knowledge of the treatment of the detainees. But, among the abuses, "temperature extremes" were cited. The annual mean temperature is 79 °F (26 °C), with little variation between January, the coolest month, at 73 °F (23 °C) and August, the warmest month, at 82 °F (28 °C). Unless somebody put the detainees in a sauna or a walk-in cooler, they can hardly complain about the temperatures. If my health insurance was good in Cuba, I would have moved there long ago. Send those detainees to Duluth, Minnesota, and house them in tents. Then, they would have something to bitch about.
Do you have a few slim advertising ballpoint pens that you rather like but that have run out of ink? In checking with about 15 of mine, I discovered that they all use the refill for the CROSS ballpoint pen.
(Nov. 30, 2004, 2:40 p.m. CST) The Ken Jennings JEOPARDY! winning streak has finally ended! He earned $2.5 million, less a ton of taxes. It was interesting to watch the major media slowly catch on to the the genius of this man. Because, on 6-23-04, I wrote the following in the Outback:
After reviewing the Final JEOPARDY! question that stumped Ken Jennings, I think he may have taken a dive, gone into the tank, either at the suggestion of the producers (let's get some new blood) or because Ken had enough of the fun and games. I also wonder at what point, it made no sense financially to continue, due to the tax burden. The question was: "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only 4 months a year." I thought of the Christmas season and UPS. But, their temps are not "while-collar employees," they work mostly in sorting depots. Retail chain store temporary employees would also not be "white-collar." Time ran out before I could consider a better answer. Nancy, the contender, wrote the correct answer, H&R Block, the tax people. Ken Jennings wrote Fed Ex. As brilliant as he is and with such a logical mind, I find it hard to believe that he thought Fed Ex temps, who would mostly be sorting boxes, were "white-collar." And, if he had to choose a shipping company, UPS seemed to me to be the only one big enough to have 70,000 temporary employees, not Fed Ex. Also, this was one of the few shows where Ken "allowed" anyone to get close enough to be able to beat his total with their Final-Jeopardy wager. The closeness of the dollar totals going into the final question were atypical, to say the least. Hmmmm. Very interesting. Yes?
Julia Roberts, whom I adore and think is one of the few genuine people in Hollywood, named her son Phinnaeus Walter. This is a kid who will surely be known as P. Walter, P.W., or Walt. I hope she had a very good reason for saddling the kid with Phinnaeus.
Staples office supply may think it is funny to show an elderly lady trying to take a photograph with a stapler. It is not funny to those of use who take out a frozen TV dinner, remove the dinner carton and place it in the refrigerator - and wonder why the microwave chime does not go off.
One of the things I like about pro and college football is that they seem to be color blind. Players of many races hug each other, joke together, and suffer together. It seems to carry over to the fans. On the "Monday Night Football" game for Nov. 29, Donald Driver, a black player for the Green Bay Packers, caught a touchdown pass and leaped into the stands. A white lady joyfully patted him on the fanny - four times by my account viewing the slo-mo replay.
In the Outback for July 10, 2004, in a article entitled "Statins Inducing Heart Problems, Among Other Things," I noted that cardiologist Peter H. Langsjoen, M.D. had asked the FDA to require a label on all statins what would warn against the depletion of Coenzyme Q10 when taking a statin. This depletion has caused, in the opinion of more than one cardiologist, heart failure, among other problems. The FDA has done nothing about this. On Nov. 29, 2004, Julian M. Whitaker, M.D. an author and expert on heart disease, filed a second petition to the FDA for inclusion of the warning label for all statins. He noted that Health Canada already insisted on the Q10 depletion warning in the advertising of statins.
I got an e-mail from a lady in England in which she said that she attributed her father's death (he was 71) to taking Lipitor. A lady in Texas wrote and asked me about the information that statins (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, etc.) deplete Coenzyme Q10 and can cause heart failure. I have exchanged several e-mails with both ladies. The one in England is actively pursuing the matter in legal and medical channels. The lady in Texas has already begun taking Coenzyme Q10. After these exchanges, I decided to put a new topic on my main Web page "Cholesterol, Statins, Q10," where I will pull into one place everything I have ever written on the subjects and many reference links.
For a long time, many of us have been aware that the COX-2 inhibitors, such as Vioxx and Celebrex, were probably no more effective at relieving pain or easing inflammation than NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. The COX-2 inhibitors claim to fame was that they were less likely to cause bleeding ulcers. In the "Harvard Heart Letter" for Dec. 4, 2004, Dr. Thomas H. Lee in his Q&A column, says in part: "... about 1% - 2% of people who use an older NSAID develop serious stomach bleeding, compared to 0.5% - 1% of those using a COX-2 inhibitor." Not much of an advantage for the COX-2 inhibitors. Plus, aspirin has heart protecting anti-platelet action in the blood. There are some who say that only Celebrex or Vioxx has been able to ease their pain. But, I will make an educated guess that about 90% of the people who take (or took) a COX-2 inhibitor would have done just fine with a NSAID, and at considerably less expense - and without potential serious effects. We can lay a large part of the blame for the overuse of COX-2 inhibitors to those incessant TV commercials. I wish they would ban all TV drug ads. They once were not allowed, you know. Dr. Lee suggests avoiding Celebrex or Bextra until you have given the NSAIDs another try. He suggests starting with Tylenol. If you have a problem with NSAIDs, Dr. Lee suggests taking Prilosec to protect the stomach. (www.health.harvard.edu)
Update: Dec. 13, 2004. In reviewing a book by two Ph.D. biochemists and public-health practitioners, "The Modern Nutritional Diseases," by Alice and Fred Ottoboni (Fred is a Ph.D. and M.P.H.), I came across these comments about Tylenol (Acetaminophen): "The toxic dose is not much greater than the recommended safe dose. With long-term or excessive short-term use, Acetaminophen can adversely affect liver function and damage kidneys. In the United States, poison control centers report that Acetaminophen is the leading cause of death from drug overdose." (page 61-62) Once again, you should never rely on a single source of medical information, even from seemingly credible sources. Do your own research, and where at all feasible, consult with more than one medical professional. The Ottoboni book is a treasure trove of information about cholesterol, nutritional supplements, vitamins, and so forth, with solid references and even dosing suggestions. My cardiologist said to me one day as he scribbled a note, "Here is a book you MUST read." He was right. Half of the paragraphs are highlighted.
Update: Dec. 16, 2004. A news release warned against taking two of the same kinds of medicine for a cold or the flu. For example, if you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) tablets for pain while also taking a cough medicine containing acetaminophen, you could suffer liver damage, according to the FDA.
Update: Dec. 9, 2004 -- Pfizer Inc.'s Bextra COX-2 inhibitor will come with a new warning about possible heart and blood clotting problems when the drug is used by patients who have just had heart bypass surgery, according to the FDA. -- Are you paying attention? Do you see a trend?
Seeing one of the cast of "Boston Legal" dressed in a Santa suit at a staff meeting brought back memories. The one time I acted as Santa Claus for a large group of kids, one of them gave me the flu. Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas and a Happy Flu Year.
The six hunters who were killed in Wisconsin have special meaning for me. The shooter was a Hmong tribe member from Laos, one of about 25,000 Lao refugees living in St. Paul, Minnesota. One, I was in Laos with the CIA during the Vietnam war and had considerable contact with the Hmong, who made up the largest part of those fighting the Communists in Laos. Two, I attended grade school, high school, and college in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. I have never understood whose bright idea it was to relocate the Hmong to St. Paul. In Laos, it is frequently 110-120 degrees F. In St. Paul, the temperature in the winter can make it to twenty below zero or so. Probably some D.C. bureaucrat who had never been to either place.
In 2003, the statin Lipitor had global sales of $9.2 billion. It is the top-selling drug in the world. Lipitor is only one of several statins on the market. The total statin sales figures can pay for a lot of honoraria to doctors to promote the drugs at conferences, pay for a lot of travel expenses and other perks for doctors to attend seminars and conferences, pay for funding for research - including honoraria to many doctors who perform the research - and for a barrage of ads in print and on TV telling the public about the statins. To put Lipitor sales in perspective, years ago when I lived in Dallas, Southland Corp., the then parent of 7-ELEVEN, had about $9 billion in annual sales. That is a lot of Slim-Jims, coffee, cigarettes, and Slurpees. But Lipitor alone in recent years has sold more product than all the 7-ELEVEN stores combined. That's a lot of pills.
The brawl during the NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons has been covered from most every angle. One thing that struck me was a recitation of how much the suspensions would cost in salary per game for several players. You can talk about losing $5 million in salary, but that is just hard to comprehend for the average wage earner. The suspensions will cost some players more than $60,000 per game. That is one year's salary for an upper-middle class person - or a family with both husband and wife working. A basketball player makes that much in one game. Does that help put the ridiculous salaries in sports into better focus? Think about what you have to endure to make your salary each year, from the traffic backed up on the expressway, to the long hours, to the knot in your stomach from deadlines and quotas you cannot meet. And a guy who plays a game makes that much in one evening.
David Letterman continues to make gratuitous references to the lesbian daughter of Dick and Lynne Cheney, for reasons that I do not fully understand. As a parent, I think I would have an easier time coming to grips with the fact that my daughter was a lesbian than that my son had fathered a bastard child. In my dictionary, "bastard" is defined as an illegitimate child. Illegitimate (child) is defined as "not recognized as lawful offspring; specifically, born of parents not married to each other."
Many complain that President Bush is mixing his religion in with politics. Did you see the dedication ceremony at the Clinton library? The Rev. Floyd Flake gave the invocation, during which he extolled the many political successes of the Clinton administration - from low inflation, low interest rates, decreasing crime, and so forth. It sounded more like a stump speech for Clinton's second campaign than an invocation. Rev. Flake is a former Democratic Congressman from New York. Flake. A great name for a politician.
Amiodarone - A Classic Case of Dangerous Over-Medication
Update: Also refer to the Outback for March 5, 2005, "Amiodarone (Cordarone) Forced by FDA to Admit Potential Lethal Effects." (www.home.earthlink.net/~rickhgtx/outbak2.htm)
Americans are over medicated, without doubt. Often, the drugs used have dangerous side effects that are not made known to the patient. You need not be taking Amiodarone to be interested in this topic. It is an insight into how many drugs have serious side effects that are often not communicated to the patient. And how some drugs are improperly prescribed.
One subject close to my heart appears in an article by Alison Young of Knight Rider Newspapers for Nov. 23, 2004. Amiodarone is a prescription drug that the FDA approved only for ventricular arrhythmias, and then only as a treatment of last resort. Even then, patients are often not told of the potential, and sometimes fatal, side effects of Amiodarone. I was given a small prescription for it after my bypass surgery, either because I exhibited some arrhythmia while in the hospital or as a preventative. I am not sure why. The prescription was for only a few days and was not to be refilled. But, I started researching Amiodarone on the Web. I was stunned. The side effects listed by the manufacturers were scary enough. Then, browsing forums, I found all kinds of people who were either having severe problems related to taking the drug, or knew someone who was having problems. Some cases resulted in very debilitating conditions or death.
The most egregious misuse of Amiodarone is when it is prescribed for Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB), a non-life threatening arrhythmia. On balance, any clear-thinking person or doctor would have to say that prescribing Amiodarone for Atrial Fibrillation, which is known as prescribing "off label," is most likely potentially worse than the problem it is intended to correct. But, that does not stop it from being prescribed often for AFIB. I know from personal knowledge of a bypass patient who developed intermittent and very mild Atrial Fibrillation and was referred by his doctor to a well-known cardiologist at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. The doctor came into the room with some notes from the referring doctor about an EKG analysis that showed AFIB, never put a stethoscope to the patient's chest, or felt his pulse, and wrote out a prescription for Amiodarone. The patient did some research, tossed the pills into the toilet, and complained to his referring doctor. When the referring doctor heard the story - and what had been prescribed - he apologized to his patient for sending him to the other doctor.
There are about 2 million people who take Amiodarone each year. The Knight Rider article notes that a 48-year-old man in St. Paul was prescribed Amiodarone to treat a slight Atrial Fibrillation. He underwent successful heart valve replacement surgery but died not long afterward of liver failure. The autopsy listed Amiodarone as a possible cause of death. There are many cases where Amiodarone is suspected in deaths from a variety of causes, from liver failure to lung problems.
One cause for concern is that the advisory that comes with Amiodarone is supposed to warm of its many risks and potential severe and sometimes deadly side effects. The advisory has been ping-ponging back and forth for over a year between the FDA and one of the makers of the drug who is supposed to write the advisory.
If you or someone you know has been prescribed Amiodarone, do some research on the Web. Read the overt literature and the comments on forums. Or, if you are just interested in seeing how a powerful and risky drug is often cavalierly prescribed, do the same research.
Amiodarone is sold under the brand names Cordarone and Pacerone and made by several generic manufacturers.
Here are some of the possible side effects listed for Amiodarone (from www.nlm.nih.gov):
Elderly patients may be more likely to get thyroid problems with this medicine. Also, difficulty in walking and numbness, tingling, trembling, or weakness in hands or feet are more likely to occur in the elderly.
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of Amiodarone. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
* Heartbeat problems—amiodarone may make this problem worse.
* Hepatitis, acute— Risk of adverse effects is increased.
* Liver disease—Effects of amiodarone may be increased because of slower removal from the body
* Thyroid problems—Risk of overactive or underactive thyroid is increased
Some side effects may not appear until several weeks or months, or even years, after you start taking amiodarone.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
* Cough; painful breathing; shortness of breath
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
* Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting; fever (slight); numbness or tingling in fingers or toes; sensitivity of skin to sunlight; trembling or shaking of hands; trouble in walking; unusual and uncontrolled movements of the body; weakness of arms or legs
* Blue-gray coloring of skin on face, neck, and arms; blurred vision or blue-green halos seen around objects; coldness; dry eyes; dry, puffy skin; fast or irregular heartbeat; nervousness; pain and swelling in scrotum ; sensitivity of eyes to light; sensitivity to heat; slow heartbeat; sweating; swelling of feet or lower legs; trouble in sleeping; unusual tiredness; weight gain or loss.
* Skin rash; yellow eyes or skin
Frequency not determined
* Abdominal or stomach pain; agitation ; back, leg, or stomach pains; bleeding gums; blistering, peeling, loosening of skin; bloating; blood in urine; bloody, black, or tarry stools; blue lips, fingernails, or skin; blurred or double vision; chest pain; chills; clay-colored stools; coma; confusion; coughing or spitting up blood; cracks in the skin; dark urine; decreased urine output; depression; diarrhea; difficult or labored breathing; difficult urination ; dry cough; eye pain; fast heartbeat; fatigue; general body swelling; high fever; hostility; inability to have or keep an erection; indigestion; irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing; irritability ; itching; joint or muscle pain; large, hive-like swelling on face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, sex organs; lethargy; loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance; loss of heat from the body; lower back or side pain; muscle cramps or spasms; muscle pain or stiffness; muscle twitching; no breathing; noisy breathing; nosebleeds; pain in abdomen, groin, or scrotum; pain or burning with urination; pains in stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back; pale skin; pinpoint red spots on skin; rapid weight gain; rash; red irritated eyes; red skin lesions, often with a purple center; red, swollen skin; scaly skin; seizures; severe headache; sneezing; sore throat; sores, ulcers, or white spots on lips or in mouth; stupor; swelling of face, ankles, or hands; swelling of scrotum; swollen or painful glands; tightness in chest; troubled breathing; unpleasant breath odor; unusual bleeding or bruising; unusual tiredness or weakness; vomiting of blood; weakness; wheezing.
Here are a few of the many places where you can learn more about Amiodarone:
(Highlight a URL below by left-clicking on your mouse and dragging across the citation. Then press Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard. Open a second browser, put the cursor in the address line, and press Ctrl-V to paste the URL into the address box.)
Now, a hypothetical. Suppose you had Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB). AFIB is characterized by an irregular heart rhythm and increased heart rate. One of greatest risks is stroke, which can be minimized by taking Warfarin (blood thinner). To slow your heart rate, you might also be given a beta blocker. Alternatively, would you agree to take Amiodarone to control the heart rhythm? Especially since the current wisdom is that rate or rhythm control are about equally effective in dealing with AFIB. The point is that Amiodarone is not approved by the FDA for treating AFIB. All such use is "off label." There are less risky alternatives for treating AFIB.
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Hi-Definition DVD - Another Beta/VHS Fiasco
You can see all the classic signs of another consumer-electronics debacle. Two competing technologies for Hi-Def DVD are emerging, HD-DVD from Toshiba and Blu-ray DVD from Sony. Each has its advantages. But, I see the same chaos ahead that we had with 8-track tapes, BetaMax and VHS VCR formats, and more recently with CD-R and DVD formats. Normally, I jump on new technology like a Mongoose on a Cobra. It was quite a while before I bought a VCR, waiting until the smoke cleared and there was a clear winner. That Beta/VHS struggle turned off a lot of people and they waited it out. Next, we saw several standards for CD-ROM recording and playback. First, we had expensive CD-R "burners" that would only record one format. Eventually, expensive CD burners would accommodate all of the available formats - and burn both CD-R and CD-RW. In the meantime, even people as tech crazed as I am waited it out.
It took years for any semblance of sanity to come to the CD-R/RW burner market. In the meantime, millions of sales were lost because people were either confused or disgusted with the lack of a uniform standard. Still, you had to choose among CD/R, CD/RW, and Audio CD disks. Do I need CD/R disk marked "Audio" to record my music to disk? Probably not, unless you have a stand-a-lone CD/R/player. On what devices can I play my CD/Rs on which I have ripped and burned my MP3s? Some DVD players will also play MP3s on a CD/R disk (mine does). Most any CD/R drive should play your MP3s burned on a standard CD/R disk. Will the music CD I copied to a CD/R play in my automobile CD player? Maybe. And how about music burned to a CD/RW, in which devices would it play? It's nearly a crapshoot. Can I copy my backup files to a CD/R or CD/RW and then copy them to the hard drive of another computer? It depends on whether you used multi-session recording, or "closed out" the recording, and how old the CD drives are on each end. All this confusion after the technology had "matured."
Just as CD/R technology was beginning to get settled, out came the DVD burners. This time, it was even worse. There were half-a-dozen formats! Once again, we started with expensive DVD burners that would record only one or two formats. The choices became dizzying. Articles that attempted to explain the various formats and their particular usefulness left most more confused than when they started. So, we sat on the sidelines waiting for somebody in the industry to make up their mind. Eventually, we got DVD burners that in a single package could record most all of the existing DVD formats. As a bonus, they could also record and play back CD-R/RW disks. The prices were still around $300. All that was left was to decide which format of blank DVD disk to buy, which is a daunting task for the casual buyer. It was only a few months ago that I bought my first DVD burner. The technology had matured and software like NERO 6.6 (and others) burned DVDs with precision. Today, you can buy a multi-format 12X DVD burner that also records and plays back CD-R at a 48X speed - and CD/RW a good bit slower - for under $100. My first CD-R burner was a 4X! I think CD/RW burning, which I used only once or twice, was 1X.
Barely had the DVD market come to a reasonable point of stability when the Hi-Def DVD rumbles started. Here we go again. Two competing technologies, which will in the beginning most likely produce $1000 players that will only play (and burn?) one format or the other. Competing movie companies are endorsing different sides in the Hi-Def DVD battle. Does this mean that you might have to have two different expensive Hi-Def DVD players? Possibly. Eventually, we will no doubt see Hi-Def players/burners that will play both the HD DVD and Blu-ray disks, and play and record CD/R/RW disks. Maybe by the end of 2006? In the meantime, millions of us will sit on the sidelines waiting for the technology gurus and movie studios to make up their minds on which standard they will use. Millions of sales will be lost because folks are getting a little smarter. After buying an 8-track tape deck, a BetaMax, a single-format CD-R burner, and a single format DVD burner, all at premium prices - we are fed up with this nonsense.
When a Hi-Def DVD recorder comes out for under $300 that will record and play both HD DVD and Blu-ray DVD and will record and play CD/R/RW, I might buy one. In 2006? In 2007? Won't you join me in sending a message to the technology industry. We are tired of being jerked around and paying high prices for multiple technologies that are basically in an experimental stage. We are tired of competitive standards that drive up the price of equipment, due to lack of universal acceptance and "economies of scale" (making a bunch of one kind at a cheaper price). Has the industry not learned anything from 8-track recorders, BetaMax's, multiple CD-R standards, and multiple DVD standards? Apparently not.
Update Dec. 21, 2004: As I predicted, the nonsense about the new DVD players has started. Here is a clip from the WSJ for 12-24-04 on Page B3:
NEC Corp. said it has developed an optical disc drive capable of playing back compact discs, digital videodiscs and next-generation high-definition DVDs with a single optical head. The Japanese electronics maker said it plans a commercial launch of the device for use in desktop personal computers next September. This is part of NEC's efforts to promote HD DVDs -- a next-generation DVD format it and Toshiba Corp. have jointly developed. Another group that includes Sony Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. is promoting the rival Blu-ray Disc next-generation DVD format.
No More Medical House Calls for Me
A very distressing incident took place for me. It evolved out of my passion for trying to spread the word about the dangers of statins, such as Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor, and the clear indication that statins deplete CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) - which can lead to congestive heart failure - among other things.
I was discussing topics of the day with a female friend of many years whom I admire, at her office. We talked about Ken Jennings on JEOPARDY!, and she said that she thought he threw the episode where he lost. Amazing, I said, as I had written that in the Outback only minutes after the show aired. Later, I mentioned that I had put something in the Outback concerning a press release about CoQ10 and an attempt to get the F.D.A. to require a warning label on all statin prescriptions that would warn of the depletion of CoQ10 and suggest that CoQ10 be supplemented from 100-200mg per day. I have no idea why I brought that up. I guess it is because if you talk to 10 people, seven of them - or a close friend or relative - are probably on a statin or have had their doctor suggest that they should be.
My friend asked me if I had the information with me, and I said that I had it in the truck. It seems that her husband had just been placed on a statin. I went to the truck and got the press release and an article from the "American Journal of Cardiology" about statins depleting CoQ10. My friend made copies and I began to ask questions. Her husband's Cholesterol was just barely above 200. I said that it was almost criminal for a doctor to prescribe a statin at that level (even though that is now the "accepted" medical practice), and I mentioned my Web page address where I had started to accumulate my writings and references about cholesterol, statins, CoQ10, etc.
The husband had some other problem, which in my experience (and from what I have learned from my cardiologist) has very little to do with the need for a statin. I began to get agitated, not with my friend, but with the pharmaceutical companies who bombard people with their statin ads on TV and doctors who prescribe them like they were aspirin. She said I wasn't listening. Oh, I was listening. And I had heard several of the hot-button words that send me to the tallest soapbox I can find. Somehow, the conversation got heated and I started raising my voice, again not upset with my friend, but at the medical community and the drug makers. Finally, she asked me to quiet down, as there were customers within earshot, or leave. I left in a huff, with a parting shot about how I was sick and tired of doctors who were "doing this" to people.
From there, I went to see a lady who had read the Outback and contacted me about the statin/CoQ10 thing. I had told her in an e-mail that I had a medical journal article about CoQ10 depletion that I thought she would be interested in, and she said to please bring it when I came to town. She and I talked for nearly an hour, a lot about statins, CoQ10, etc. and other than my hyperactive manner of speaking when I am fired up over a subject, there was complete harmony between us. I even mentioned the confrontation I had just come from, and she played it down.
But on the way home, and all evening, I was not able to concentrate. All I could think about was how I managed to end up practically shouting at one of my best friends. The last time I could remember raising my voice that much to a woman was in a lover's spat about 20 years ago - and it was two-sided contest. I realized that I had too much emotion involved in the issue of the way doctors treat clogged arteries, cavalierly prescribe statins, do bypass surgeries willy-nilly, fail to even be aware that the statins are depleting CoQ10 and that this depletion can lead to very serious consequences. As I said somewhere in the Outback, based on many, many hours of conversation with my cardiologist and years of research, I am willing to bet my miserable life that someone with a cholesterol of 200-220 who does not take a statin will live longer than a person who has the same level and takes a statin to lower the cholesterol.
Doctors are "attempting" to prescribe statins to one of my family members and to a close friend, for example. Based partly on the materials supplied by me, mostly scientific articles, not just my hysterical ramblings, both are resisting. One is taking CoQ10 every day and fish-oil caps - among other things.
The "confrontation" with my friend has caused me to make a resolution. I have resolved not to attempt to counsel anyone about their health choices or answer e-mails asking for help or advice on health matters. I am not a doctor. My only expertise is having dealt with heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bypass surgery, and years of research and boxes of source material. In case you missed it, one of the e-mails I got recently was from a lady in England who said she felt that her father died as the result of taking Lipitor. The long e-mail answer I sent will not be duplicated in the future.
I will continue to write about what I read or am told by doctors, but my days of "making house calls," or doing "e-mail consultations" are over. If someone queries me, I will just say, "All I know about the subject is on my Web page."
Life in Laos During the Vietnam War
A while back, I got an e-mail from a soldier in Iraq who had read my "Flying in Laos" story and wanted to know if I had written anything else about Laos. Although I had made some notes and was thinking about writing a book on the subject of the experience of an American family living in Laos during the Vietnam war, I never got around to it. On my main Web page is my story, "Princess Moune Plays Piano." She was the daughter of Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma. So, I will recite a few of the things I remember about living in Laos in the middle of a war.
When we lived there, Laos was a pure definition of a "third-world country." There were a few decent roads, but no bridge across the Mekong to Thailand. You either had to take a barge from Thailand or fly into the Vientiane airport, with its one paved runway. There was virtually no industry, except a match factory, as I recall. Housing was mostly huts or shanties, many fabricated in large part from pierced-steel-planking, which is what our military engineers use to construct a temporary runway, for example. The houses that Americans and Lao officials lived in were generally quite large and a remnant of the French occupation days.
My wife and I and two sons lived among Lao families in a couple of different houses. Neither had windows, but did have shutters. In our second house, we had an air conditioner in the bedroom. Dust from the roads would waft into the house and cover everything. We had a Lao husband and wife team who helped with household chores. One day my wife noticed that the male servant was sweeping dust under a throw rug in the living room. She asked him why he didn't pick it up in a dustpan. His reply was that it was a waste of time, because more dust would just be coming into the house. Hard to argue with that logic.
One day we sat fascinated watching a Lao neighbor lady take a bath in the front yard across the street. They had a 55-gallon drum of water, and she was clad in what would be called by most a sarong. She would pull the sarong straight away from her body, sponge off, rise with a coffee can full of water and move on to another part of her body. Never did you see any private parts of her body.
Of course, the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran into Laos, but we lived in Vientiane and were pretty far away from that. But, the Pathet Lao, the Communist army in Laos, had a barracks right in the middle of Vientiane. A guard stood in front with an AK-47. My son Rick, went to the PL HQ one day to take a picture of the guard. As I was reminded by my other son this week, the guard drew down on my son with his AK-47 and Rick raised his hands and backed off, but managed to snap a picture as he retreated. I don't think I ever saw that picture. I'll ask Rick for clarification. Kids have no fear, or is it no sense?
I had a small Honda motorcycle. Once I got hit broadside by a Taxi, skidded across the intersection on the downed cycle, came to a halt and jumped up and took a bow. The Laos applauded. My only injury was a tear in the elbow of my shirt and a mild abrasion. Another time, the Honda slipped on some gravel and I took a very nasty spill. My ribs hurt really badly. I had ruptured some rib cartilage, for which there is not much treatment other than a chest strap and some pain pills. The doctor at the U.S. Embassy said that he did not have any pain pills (in a country embroiled in a shooting war?). He suggested that I drink Cognac each night until I could "feel no pain," and then go to bed. So, I sat in a chair and drank Cognac until the glass would fall from my hand. Then, it was time to go to bed.
My son Rick, the older of the two boys, was a born entrepreneur. He somehow found a wholesale supplier of socks, pots, pans, and nick-nacks. He set up shop in front of our steel entrance gate. He folded numbers into squares, some of them were "winning numbers," and stapled them to a board. One of our local staff taught him how to say in Lao "Take a chance - 10 Kip" (Kip, of course, was the local currency). Rick has now chimed in from the hinterlands and tells me that the phrase was "CHA LOCK SIP KIP." He did a land-office business, partly because the locals were fascinated that this American kid had the moxie to take advantage of one of their great weaknesses. Most Laos were inveterate gamblers. The Biz finally ran its course, and I can't find any photos in my archives of Sonny hawking his wares. Strangely, although I had access to fine cameras and even had a photo lab at my office, I seldom took pictures around the house and grounds.
One day I flew to an airfield in Northern Thailand where a lot of U.S. military flights originated. I was touted on a local shoe and bootmaker who made custom boots - after carefully measuring your foot. I wanted a pair of short pull-on boots and asked what leathers were available. The old Thai man told me he would use Elephant hide. "Is that any good?" I asked. "Will it wear out easily?" His answer: "You ever see an Elephant with a hole in its hide?" Okay. They were great boots and I can't find them anywhere. Another victim of moving too many times.
There were precious few hours for recreation, but I passed by a tennis court one day and got interested. I found an elderly Chinese man who said he would teach me the game. I was strong as an Ox, and like all strong people, I wanted to "kill" my serve and smash my groundstrokes. This old man taught me two lessons that helped me later in the States win hundreds of tennis matches against younger players. Get your first serve in and hit deep - at any speed. Then, after you have mastered that, you can learn to hit to spots and put some more pace on the ball. On the day after the U.S. Astronauts landed on the Moon, I took the court for my "lesson." The elderly Chinese man had a big smile and hopped up and down like the guys had done on the Moon. No words were required.
The "White Rose" was known far beyond Laos. It was a bar, with young dancing girls, who would also come and sit in your booth - and a massage parlor upstairs which provided a variety of soothing services. Most big-shots from Washington would trek off to the White Rose with us at night. But, as I later pointed out in a personal letter to William Colby, who eventually became CIA director, "You were about the only guy I remember who would not go to the White Rose with us." I was soliciting a quote from him for the dust jacket of my novel, which he did graciously provide. There was even a little card with a picture of a rose on it that said "The Order of the White Rose," which guys could show their wives and family at home and claim it was some kind of special royal organization, since we did have a King at that time. I remember well my boss from Washington sitting with me as a naked young lady moved from person to person in our booth. I never used that event to blackmail him for a promotion, but if I had some pictures, I might have tried. He is now dead, as is my favorite former boss in Laos. As is Bill Colby. I wish I could tell you a couple of stories here about the White Rose that you might find hard to believe. If you ever happen out this way, remind me to tell you.
We acquired a Mongolian pony we named "Shorty." The kids would ride him, but he was not very well broken and would toss them off now and then. One day Shorty got out of our little walled and gated compound. Days passed and no sign of Shorty. Then, our best friends said they were driving down the main street, which was patterned after the wide Champs-élysées in Paris, complete with a partially-finished knockoff of the Arc de Triomphe (from the time of French occupation). Shorty, the pony, raced up to their car while it was slowed or stopped in traffic, turned and kicked some chrome off the rear and took off, never to be seen again.
Laos was the only place in the world where I ever saw wine in cans. You could buy a six-pack of Beaujolais at a market on the main street.
Our "gardener" kept the lawn trimmed. He used a pair of manual hedge clippers and squatted and clipped away for hours. We never attempted to buy a push mower. It was job security for him. As soon as he finished, it was time to start over.
I had to have a tooth pulled. I went to a Lao dentist. I will never forget that experience. He used the same water glass for all patients, the one you would fill and sip from to rinse your mouth. The extraction left me with a dry socket, and I had to fly to Bangkok to get it attended to.
Before we got to Laos, there had been an attempted coup. The American kids were telling our kids how "cool" it had been. There were machine-gun tracer bullets flying, houses being dive-bombed, and armored vehicles racing up and down the main drag. Now, we understand why kids are so fascinated with violent video games. It's in their genes. But, they would not be so facinated if they felt the sting of a bullet or saw their mother or father shot dead in front of them, or had a bomb dropped on their house. You could cure all kids from playing violent video games with about two weeks in Iraq in one of the hot spots. That's real blood, those are real brains spattered on the pavement. And you cannot reload the game and start over.
One morning I was on an "assignment" at the morning market. When the car I was interested in started to drive away, I drove my little Honda motorcycle down a dirt path that would allow me to catch up with the car. A Lao policeman stood in front of me and imparted to me that the dirt path was a "one-way" path and I was going the wrong way. He came over, turned off my ignition and took my key. Being very anxious about my target getting away, I reacted in a stupid way. I glanced to see if the officer had a gun. He did not. Most Lao people are quite small compared to Americans. I got off the motorcycle, grabbed the officer's hand in a reverse twist and wrenched the key out of his hand. A crowd had gathered. One guy run out of the crowd and hit me in the back of the neck with a sort of Karate chop. I brushed him off and got on the Honda and rode away. Later, I was called into police HQ and talked with the chief. He said he knew his men sometimes were a little strict in interpreting the rules and regulations, but that did not excuse my behavior. He said that if I would apologize to the officer, so that he could save face, the department would not press charges against me. I agreed and all was bliss with me and the Vientiane police force after that.
You could buy all kinds of meat and produce at the morning market - and children. The locals would come up to my very white and blonde-headed sons and pat them on the head. They would have fetched a good price, but we were not in a selling mood. It may have helped the kids behavior, since there was always that unspoken threat, "Behave or I will sell you at the morning market."
One of our guys was married to a beautiful Thai woman, whom I adored - as did most everyone in our tight-knit clan. Her sister was the Queen of Thailand. It was so much fun to hear Pat (I think that was her name, it has been a long time) talk about visiting with her sister. One time, she said her sis was talking about being Queen. She said it was tough "being in the Queen business." All those public functions, all the receiving lines and handshakes, everyone watching your every move, public and personal, and so on. Gee, most of us have never given any thought to what it might be like to "be in the Queen business." Owning a donut or a muffler shop, maybe, but not the Queen or King biz. Our work brought us constantly into contact with some very interesting people.
It took a lot of money to run operations in Laos, and most of it was paid out in cash. We took turns counting the money in the safe and signing off on the balance on hand. There were three members to the counting team, as I recall, and the members rotated. I remember one day signing off on about $1 million in cash in U.S. bills. Later, I was asked to change the combination on the safe. To change a combo, you turn a kind of a key in back and dial in a new combo and then turn the key back to set the combo permanently. I asked for one variance. I said that I would open the safe, unlock the mechanism, spin off the old combo, but that some senior official would have to dial in the new combination, turn the key to set the combo - and then run the new combo three times with the drawer open to make sure it was correct. I would be in another room while the new combo was set and tested. Why the convoluted procedure, I was asked? "When the $1 million is missing, I don't want to be on the list of suspects." All agreed, and I got my way. I am sure that for the military in Iraq, having $1 million in a safe is chump change. I wonder if their procedures are are good as ours - and mine - were?
Much of the payouts had to be in the local currency, of course. You would take a suitcase of American bills to the banker and come back with a station-wagon full of local Kip, which looked like Monopoly money. The bills were even small, like Monopoly money. If I can find a Kip bill in my junk, I will scan it and put the image on this page.
I was supposed to be a technical guru. One day my boss got a call from the American Ambassador who wanted to know if anybody could come to his residence and help him set up a projector for home movies. I got elected. I managed to fumble my way through setting up the projector. The films were from a vacation trip to Greece. It was just the Ambassador and me, since his wife was on a trip. After the films, we got to talking and drinking some Cognac. We hit it off pretty well. The Ambassador invited my wife and I to a formal dinner at his residence. It was very nice, with the official china and all. Later, he invited me to come back and just shoot the bull, about the war, about the bombing, and so on. We pretty much killed a bottle of Cognac that night. I did a couple of other technical jobs for him, which I cannot relate due to their nature. When my two-year tour was up, even though I did not work for the State Department (but that other rogue agency), the Ambassador implored me to extend my tour for another two years. Two years had been about 23 months too long for me and my family as it was (long, long story about the pressures we were under at work and trying to live as a family in this God-forsaken place). We returned to the States at the end of our two years.
When we lived in Germany, we bought a Rambler station wagon at the PX one day, from a picture in a looseleaf binder. It was cheap and served us well. We had a bad accident in Italy and shipped the car back and got it repaired in the States when we rotated from Germany to stateside. There are some photos on my main Web page that show the Rambler. We shipped the Rambler to Laos. Just before I was to leave the country, I sold the Rambler, probably for about $400, after all it had been through. One day I saw the old gold Rambler, the only one in Laos, parked in front of a massage parlor. Well, I need not tell you that you could get more than a massage and a beer at these places. I called the buyer of the Rambler and asked if he would mind not parking the Rambler at massage parlors until I had left the country. He laughed and agreed.
The pressures of working in Laos, in the kind of work I was engaged in were enormous, almost beyond description. I had never been much of a drinker until I started serving overseas. In Laos, about the only relief we had was to throw parties and drink a good bit. We had a "Beach Party" one night where you were supposed to dress like you were on vacation in Hawaii. We piled some sand in the concrete courtyard and posted a sign, "Son-of-a-Beach." I had been a drummer as a youth and still carried sticks, wire brushes, and a small set of bongos around with me. We had a brass lamp with a big ring around the edge. One night while some jazz was playing on the Hi-Fi, I got out the wire brushes and played accompaniment on the lamp. Hey, good entertainment was hard to come by.
My wife had help in the house, but it was still not easy. The heat and the dust were oppressive. All water, even for dishwashing, had to be boiled. Shopping was a chore. We had no TV for diversion. One day, my wife had to chase a poisonous pit viper out of the house with a broom. I would have had trouble doing that. But, she grew up in Texas in a very small town, so she was perhaps better prepared for life in Laos than I. She was nearly six feet in her stocking feet. One night there was a dance where some Lao military officers attended. One officer, who was probably about five feet or so, asked my wife to dance. She declined, as it would simply have been a spectacle. You do the geometry.
The night guard was always catching bugs and collecting them in a jar to eat for the protein. He almost had me convinced to eat some bugs with him one night.
I had the best Hi-Fi of the group, with big amps that I had built from kits and electrostaic speakers. So, we would have musical "events." We would line up rows of folding chairs, open the bar (most every house had a bar) and play LPs, classical and jazz mostly. Drinks were served, but no talking was allowed during the "performance," and drinks could only be refreshed during intermissions. Everyboy abided by the rules and we brought a little of civilization into our lives for a couple of hours.
My son Rick, the older of the two sons, has to this day retained a fascination with the Agency and with Laos. He either wrote to or talked with some of the legendary players - once they were back in the United States. One was Tony Poe. Tony lived upcountry and was married to a local. He ran teams who fought the Communists. One day, I was in his hut with a small piece of equipment that had to go on an overland journey, but it was not protected from the rain. Tony paid bounties to those who brought back the ears of enemies they killed. They were hung in baggies along the sides of the hut. He yelled to one of his guys, "Dump out one of those bags of ears and give the bag to Dusty." My son remembers this incident more than any other in Laos, and he talked on the phone years later with Tony about this and other memories of Laos.
Well, this is about one hour's worth of memories. So, it looks like this will get out of hand as more comes to mind and my sons chime in. I will probably move it to a topic under my main Web page.
A footnote about the State Department. The Ambassador in Laos was not the only one to treat me with special deference in comparison to people from his own agency. Another Ambassador in Europe, who asked me to do a job for him, said that he had no faith in his own people to do the job right. Later, an Under Secretary of State **, with whom I worked overseas on a very sensitive operation, tried to recruit me to leave my agency and join the State Department in the security division. I told him that I simply could not work with the "cookie pushers" (whatever that meant to me at the time) at State. He said he fully understood, and we remained friends. While visiting Rome, he invited my wife and I to join him for breakfast at one of the fancy hotels. My obvious closeness with this man and his wife caused quite a bit of interest around the U.S. Embassy. Who is this guy, they wondered? Kind of like the Russian Embassy chauffeur who is actually a KGB agent. Good luck to Condi Rice. The State Department is nearly unmanageable. The career bureaucrats will always find a way to undermine any policy they don't approve of.
**When I worked with this man in Europe, he was assigned to one of our major embassies and was later to become an Under Secretary of State. Actually, I stayed in his large apartment in that European capital while working on my project in that city, and came to know both he and his wife very well. He and I would sit up late at night in the study, talk, and sip Cognac. Yes, it was always Cognac after dinner. It was years later that he called me to the State Department building in D.C. to make his pitch to me about the job. When he came to Rome, he had a different high-level job, but was well-known internationally. We ran into each other in the parking lot of the U.S. Embassy, and he immediately invited my wife and I to breakfast for the next day. I would love to be able to tell the story of how and why we met in Europe and what our working connection was, as it is one of the most interesting stories I could tell of my time in the cloak and dagger business. But, sadly, I cannot write about the particulars, even today, decades later. Don't ever go into that business. It ruins your social life, as you have nothing to talk about with people you meet. Or, you end up telling lies about where you work and what you do. A real bummer - unless you are a reclusive introvert and enjoy lying.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Richard C. Rhodes
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