Sunday, October 15, 2017

Heroin and Oxycodone

You cannot escape the terms Opioid Abuse, Opioid Epidemic, and Opioid Crisis, in today's news articles and political debates. The reason behind it is the steady increase in how many people have died from prescription painkillers over the past two decades.

I have an inside perspective into this state of affairs, as I have worked for a pharmacy around the time when pain management centers began to pop up and prescribe painkillers for every kind of ailment over 17 years ago. In addition, I have had two close people who have been engulfed by this epidemic. Luckily both of them are still alive and on an endless path to recovery.

The recovery is endless, because this kind of addiction never goes away. It stays with the person for the remainder of their life. And any anomaly in terms of mental or physical stress, coupled with availability of the drug, always puts an addict into a prime position to relapse.

The proliferation of the Oxycodone type medication began to amplify in the late 90s, as an effective painkiller. The Pharmaceutical companies were called to testify before Congress regarding the medication's safety. Despite having the knowledge that Oxycodone is very similar in molecular structure to Heroin and more study was necessary, the Pharmaceutical Executives lied through their teeth and said that addiction to the medication is rare and avoidable.

After all we shouldn't be that surprised. It was the Pharmaceutical giant Bayer, who over a century ago certified Heroin to be safe. It was sold in every Pharmacy for decades, until it was summarily pulled off the shelves due to its apparent addictive property.

That's right, the Pharmaceutical companies, their suppliers, and retailers put profit before the well being of the very people whom they claimed would avoid feeling the pain. The Pharmaceutical companies were very effective in their marketing technique. They went to every doctor, hospital, and pharmacy to tout the benefits of their medication and entice them to be prescribed for everything from headache, toothache, to recovery from surgery and cancer treatment.

But people became addicts, and in much greater numbers than the Congress or Pharmaceutical companies could foresee. The State Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency caught on to the early signs of this deadly trend and had competent attorneys lead successful cases to restrict these medications and contain the Opioid crisis.

The only problem was that the private Pharmaceutical companies have more money than the DEA or the State Department. So the Pharmaceutical companies began to recruit the most competent DEA attorneys and make them work against the very same cases the attorneys constructed for the government.

And this is where we find ourselves today. The Opioid Crisis has now reached Epidemic proportions, with over 15,000 Americans dead in 2015 due to prescription painkiller overdoses alone. We have over two million Americans who have been identified as having at least a degree of dependency on prescription painkillers. These are two million lives, each with a lifetime of recovery ahead of them... if they are lucky.

We need to act on this matter. We need to call our local elected officials to put pressure with our votes. We, as human beings, cannot stand idly by while the greedy Pharmaceutical companies extract profit at the expense of human life. This is a serious matter, and nobody is immune. Because the next time you go to a hospital for something minor, it may be you who receives a painkiller prescription.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: The Mummy

Having fond memories of the original late 90s Brendan Fraser movie, I had some hesitation to watch this reboot of a series. I held true to this hesitation, as I didn't want to pay money for this amalgamation of stories that are as predictable as the trailer foreshadows them to be.

However, when no other good movie was available on the return flight from my Bermuda vacation, I decided to spend the two hours watching this work of corporate art. After watching this movie, I have a far greater appreciation for Brendan Fraser's acting skills over those of Tom Cruise. Tom really is a very terrible actor when it comes to real human expressions without any dialogue.

Moving on, the story line is highly speculative due to the wild gaps in logic all along. Such as, if Tom Cruise and his comic relief sidekick are soldiers, they would have been long deemed AWOL and court marshaled, before any question of black market adventures arose.

But it doesn't stop there, the mystery of the organization that keeps order between good and evil devolves into British literary villain of dual nature played by Russell Crowe. Something that has nothing to do with ancient Egypt. At this point, I got the suspicion that even before establishing this movie as entertaining enough on its own, it already began to set up for a sequel.

Furthermore, when the mummy does reanimate, her minions appear to be not the ancient soldiers of movies past, but zombified humans she collects along the way. The way she completely reanimates is also reminiscent of the way vampires regain strength, rather than mummified royalty.

Lastly, the main character's "sacrifice" does not make sense and runs counter to the manner in which the story should have easily resolved the main conflict. It also tends to be very silly in suggesting that an ordinary human being can "will" themselves over the all powerful god of death.

Aside from these shortcomings, this movie is only good for a brainless action thrill ride full of computer generated imagery that is the very well crafted. If you're a fan of Universal's Dark Universe, you may enjoy some of the characters involved. But this is not a movie I would recommend for anyone that enjoys the story line or the plot.

I give this movie 2.5 out of 5 gummy bears.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Review: Beatriz At Dinner

I found this movie to be very well paced, with expressive and human touch at every turn. The dialogue between the main characters of the story was executed in a flawless and consistently connected fashion. Beatriz at dinner is a very well scripted and acted portrayal of a practical modest spiritual therapist that unintentionally enters the world of the well off and often oblivious to reality.

A good mannered client invites Selma Hayek's character (Beatriz) to the dinner party, after she is stranded on location by her stalled vehicle. She soon learns that she is surrounded by people who aren't interested in their own health, spiritual satisfaction or their environment.

Their only pursuits are image, self-gratification, and money. At the dinner table, the values clash in a very direct but well mannered fashion. However, all manners are eventually stripped away when Beatriz finds out what the guest of honor's business and hobby involve.

The sparring escalates to a full blown confrontation. And while Beatriz defends her position with concern for humanity and spiritual well being, the hosts and guests of the dinner party are only concerned with their finances and status.

The evening's main guest is a very brash Real Estate mogul named Doug Strutt, played masterfully by John Lithgow. He is a man who is engulfed by his own ambitions and aura of infallibility, requiring an occasional adrenaline rush that he achieves through big game hunting expeditions.

The screenplay soon reveals that there are two connections between him and Beatriz. She first realizes that Doug shares the same profession as the man who destroyed her hometown with a hotel project, and initially thinks they are one in the same.

Despite animal hunting and passion for real estate finance that rub Beatriz the wrong way, she feels a sudden overwhelming desire for revenge when she realizes that Doug is the man who killed her goat. At the last minute, she comes to her senses and does not go through with it. Instead, the movie ends on a note of letting go and cleansing herself in the ocean.

My thoughts is that the movie is a very excellent portrayal of clashing values between the people who are true to themselves and their humanity, as opposed to those who are trapped in the pursuit of material satisfaction at the expense of others. It also offers a view of what effects of any given action can have on the lives of others. Finally, it truly underscores that the action of revenge and violence are not the way to resolve conflict between people. Instead, the moral of the film is to let go of the pain and let go of the hate.

Outside of the incredibly overly sensitive Beatriz, whose character was by design made such to contrast with the rest of the characters, the movie hits every mark as far as entertainment and message delivery is concerned. Beatriz's sentiments border on unbelievable, which is why I cannot give it the perfect mark it otherwise deserves.

I give Beatriz at Dinner 4.5 out of 5 gummy bears.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Vegas Murders

I am incredibly saddened by the mass murder of concert goers outside of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this past Sunday night. Stephen Paddock, with unclear motives, stocked his hotel room with a sizable arsenal of automatic weapons and unleashed a deadly barrage upon the unsuspecting crowd. To me it is tragic, shocking, and sad. I mourn for the victims and the city.

The reason I encourage everyone to stop using the term 'shooting' and start using the term 'murder', is because it is the most accurate term for intentional loss of life. We have become so desensitized to the term 'shooting', that the only way we can truly grasp the reality of what happened Sunday night is to use the term 'murder'.

The second thing I encourage everyone to do is to stop using the term 'terrorism' until it is confirmed to be valid. The term 'terrorism' is defined as the 'unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims'. While the violence aspect of what Stephen Paddock did at the Las Vegas country music festival this past Sunday night is clearly evident by the 59 attendees killed and another 527 injured, there is no political motives that have been uncovered at all as of yet.

Both of the aforementioned terms are excessively used by the media to grab the headlines, viewers, and internet traffic. Such is the reality of the entertainment news delivery vehicles we live with. But news should not be entertainment. The news delivery vehicles should be impartial, objective, and avoid instilling fear or confusion in the minds of its viewers.

Politicians also hijack such tragedy for their own political agenda. They usurp the lives that were lost and changed forever in order to achieve their selfish crusade. Do not let them influence you. Think for yourselves and learn to recognize when exaggerated fear is being applied as a manipulative tactic in order to get a desired response from you.

Stephen Paddock was an independently wealthy reclusive individual with no political or religious affiliations. He owned various properties across the United States, gambled a lot, but was generally known as a nonviolent person. He texted his brother to check on their mother's health, after hurricane Irma ravaged Florida. He successfully passed Federal background checks at every gun shop he ever purchased a firearm from and showed no abnormal psychological tendencies before he turned violent Sunday night.

Those of you who know me are aware that the Las Vegas strip has been an annual destination to me over the past two decades. New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Las Vegas is the city where time is irrelevant. To many it serves as a destination for celebrating life's joyous events, a fun spot for business conferences, and an escape from everyday reality. In addition to the incredibly painful human tragedy, after Sunday night's events that image has lost some of its luster.

I sincerely ask all of you to not fall under the entertainment news media's influence of panic and fear. It causes needless confusion, division, and antagonism toward each other. It prevents us from uniting together as human beings and achieving a common voice with the politicians who should represent all of us. Think independently and find trustworthy news outlets like the BBC, that provides unbiased objective information and has no ulterior motives to pursue. We should all expose and shame the politicians who usurp tragedies for their own political means. Such people should never be allowed to hold an elected office ever again, because they are unable to represent anyone's interests except their own.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trumpier than Trump

With our nation's president going on the offensive with everyone from foreign allies, dictators, media, to professional sports and more; we have become accustomed, if not completely numb, to some of the things he says that are deprived of any intelligence whatsoever.

Fast forward to this past week in Alabama, where a firebrand conservative Roy Moore won a Senate seat by igniting the flames of the intellectually less fortunate. We should be concerned with this development, if we are ever to progress our country out of the educational and intellectual decline, or else we risk tumbling ever further into the phenomenon known as Idiocracy.

Roy Moore is a more audacious version of Trump - a Trumpier Trump, if you will. He doesn't do Public Relations remediation of anything he does that is viewed as a negative, because he doesn't believe anything of the kind exists. This is a man who has conviction that all of society's ills boil down to the people forgetting about God. He believes that God incurs wrath on all of us, because of those among us who have strayed from the almighty.

He also believes that homosexuality is illegal, all law comes from God himself, evolution is a hoax, Obama is not an American, reds and yellows are fighting, and Islam is a false religion. He even idolizes Vladimir Putin and likens himself to the character of the Russian leader.

But if that wasn't enough, he was fired from his previous job on the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing a Federal order to remove the massive stone Ten Commandments statue from inside the courthouse. While he believes all law comes from God, it is evident that he picks and chooses which laws to follow on a case by case basis.

While the media and the people here on the East Coast may chuckle and laugh at his election, it is not a reason to laugh. It is a rather sad event that we have to tolerate such people representing any community as elected officials. He is by far not the only one present in the Senate or the House of Representatives. Various representative degrees of the intellectually challenged sit and preside over laws that impact us nationally.

We all are responsible for this. We must take our education system back, enforce separation of church and state, communicate with our representatives, keep aware of legislative news, and vote intelligently. If we brush off the election of the Moores with a chuckle and a laugh, it won't be long before Idiocracy is realized.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cracks in Japan

If you're like most Americans, you have probably missed the news this past Monday morning that the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has called for snap elections and a dissolution of the current government body that has previously given him stern opposition.

In effect, he is seizing the moment of higher approval ratings that are currently hovering above the fifty percent mark and put him in a much better position to make this move than his thirty percent approval ratings just months ago. So what has changed? He is finding the opportunity in the North Korean threat, which has propped up his approval despite an economy that is in deep trouble.

Japan's annual debt is currently over twice its own annual gross domestic product. This means that Japan has to continue borrowing and use its own quantitative easing variation of the program in order to keep up the illusion of a functional economic health.

Essentially, the world's governments are all doing this. They are borrowing from each other with money they do not have, treating each others' debt as assets. So we are all essentially stuck holding each others' IOU notes that on which we can barely pay the interest. The problem with playing this global game of musical chairs is that sooner or later the music will stop... and there will be no chairs.

Every time the governments borrow, print, and dilute money; they are in fact devaluing the currency each country uses and its people earn. Therefore, these measures are going along a curve of continuously diminishing returns. As a result, there will come a time when these measures will become completely ineffective. And that's when the music will stop.

Japan, with the highest ratio of debt to GDP, will be one of the first, if not the first country to fall in this setting. Shinzo Abe, being the proponent of monetary easing measures, is seeking to consolidate power and reduce opposition, as his Monday power move has proven.

In America, we will likely be the last nation to feel the impact of this global wave of deflation. The reason is once the dominoes begin to fall, all foreign countries' biggest capital holders will transfer their wealth to the United States market, as it is seen as the most stable. But this will ultimately prop up our assets only to fall the farthest and in the most painful devastating fashion.

That is why Japan matters, why foreign economies we have ties with matter - our economic well being is intertwined with the countries whose debt United States lists as assets. We must recognize that the troubles we are seeing in armed conflicts across the world and natural disasters that devastate other countries are not just "their problem", it is in fact our collective problem.

So do not be deceived by the skyrocketing Dow Jones and S&P 500 in the next few years. These events occur because of the money coming in from foreigners to temporarily avoid the calamity that their nations are enduring, one that will ultimately come our way in the end.

For now, the market will be a good place to keep your savings and retirement. But once the music stops, the only assets that will be safe are defensive ones, whose value doesn't fluctuate based on paper currency.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Woe is Boxing

Professional sport of any kind is a basic distraction from real life, which so many of us use to relax, deflect stress, and blow off some negative energy. Boxing, in particular, is a working man's (and woman's) sport where competition by way of the fist and movement achieves victory. Two combatants bruise and injure each other for 12 rounds on canvas in order to achieve supremacy and respect by the end.

When you are the Boxing governing bodies, you want to promote a genuinely worthy fight like the one we saw last night between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. Two complementary style fighters in top form, slugging it out for the undisputed championship of the world. There's just one problem, as is with any sport where judges decide the winner, There are no definitive metrics to decides who wins or loses, unless a knockout is involved.

The general metrics we use to judge any fight are number of punches thrown, number of punches landed, percentage of punches landed, and the power punches version of the aforementioned three. But, the judges may override those figures based on more subjective metrics - the punches that landed more effectively or cleanly than others, who controlled or was more aggressive during the fight, and who was more stationary than their opponent. This is where the competency of the judge comes into play.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the enterprise of Boxing in a very questionable, if not altogether laughable, place. Spotty and inconsistent judging, promotional shenanigans, no regulations for champions to fight the top rated challengers, and a general apathy toward the ever increasing money the Boxing broadcasters charge the public. This is all a very dangerous recipe for the Boxing's governing bodies.

So what do they do? The promoters finally come up with a worthy and blockbuster fight where the top boxers in their division compete for the championship, 2 years after it was supposed to happen. The Boxing's governing bodies decide that it would be great to have a rematch (because they can fleece the public for even, even before the original bout starts. So they insert Adalaide Byrd into the judging panel as insurance, to make sure that the scorecard from the judges gives them a better outcome, in terms of getting a rematch.

After 12 rounds, of some of the best boxing we have witnessed in a while, last night the decision went to the judging panel. The result was a draw, which the vast majority of people who saw this fight thought was unjust. Gennady Golovkin controlled the fight and thrown, as well as landed, more punches than his opponent, Canelo Alvarez. Canelo landed some crushing blows, but they were too far and too few in between to even come close in making this anything resembling a close fight.

Teddy Atlas, the ESPN's boxing analyst and a very important voice of conscience in this once revered sport, is 100% correct. The Boxing authorities are corrupt and culpable in the decision, as they have appointed judge Adalaide Byrd to the panel, despite her glaring record of questionable scores in prior contests. Despite promoters asking her to be removed from the panel before the fight. If she is incompetent, she is the kind of incompetent that the Boxing authorities like - it appears her score for any fight can be bought.

In watching last night's post-fight ESPN coverage, I am incredibly saddened by the blatantly fraudulent corporate sellout comments by Stepehen A Smith. He is a child in a grown man's body, whom nobody taught that raising your voice does not make you right - it just makes you seem arrogant and self-absorbed. He started off deflecting Teddy Atlas' scathing criticism of the Boxing authorities by using this argument - "everybody here in Vegas knew that Golovkin will have to knock Alvarez out and that if it goes to the scorecards, he will not win the decision". Just because it is the truth, Stephen A Smith, does not make it right (no matter how much the deal between ESPN and Boxing is worth). He went on to sell the rematch and spinning this turd into how good it is for the sport.

It is the perfect setup because the Boxing authorities, and their money-receiving enablers, can use the lone judge as the professional scapegoat whom they paid - "Oh, it was Adalaide Byrd and her incompetence." But these Boxing authorities were responsible for not only allowing this judge on the panel, but insisting she stay there despite objections form the promoters. But Teddy Atlas is right, short of removing the human judges and using technology to computerize the scoring of punches landed and their power, we will never have a finite metric for a Boxing match decision. And the Boxing authorities are free to exploit this weakness for profit.

So where is the sport of Boxing today? It is in the same category as Figure Skating, where the judging panel decides the fate of the match. And at times like this, their decision runs counter to the reality we saw in the ring.

Last night we saw a fantastic fight, and I left last night with the following:
  1. Deep admiration for Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez for giving us a great fight
  2. Complete disgust with Adalaide Byrd, Stephen A Smith, and Boxing authorities
  3. Empathy for Teddy Atlas and all those who are Boxing purists that ache for the sport


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