Archive for March 3rd, 2009

Philanthropists Singed by Madoff

March 3rd, 2009 | No Comments | Source: Wall Street Journal

faceofevilWith financial support from the Picower Foundation, Mark Bear had been head down looking for a way to restore eyesight in patients with amblyopia.

Not anymore. Bear’s funding is gone.

In fact, the Picower Foundation recently informed its grant recipients that its entire endowment-including the dollars supporting Bear’s efforts-had been managed by Bernard Madoff, and the whole thing is gone.

picowersplunderedThe Picower Foundation was formed by investor Jeffrey Picower and his wife. Its investment portfolio was valued at $950 million in 2007. It has already ceased grant making and plans to shutter completely in a few months.

“Madoff pulled the rug out from underneath us,” Jim Surmeier, chair of physiology at Northwestern and a participant in Picower-funded research on Parkinson’s disease told the Wall Street Journal.

Experts polled by the Journal estimate Madoff’s Ponzi scheme could ultimately affect millions of people and research from palliative care to diabetes.

mortmuggedReal-estate mogul Mortimer Zuckerman, who pledged $100 million to Sloan-Kettering in 2006, said his charitable trust lost $30 million to Madoff, equivalent to 10% of its value. But he vowed his gift to the New York cancer center would not be affected.

“Long-term, it’s billions of dollars of funding that won’t get made” Melissa Berman Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ CEO told the Journal.

Kay Windsor founder Carl Shapiro was scorched personally for $400 million, and his foundation’s endowment lost an additional $100 million.

shapirosscammedHe and his wife Ruth had recently pledged $27 million to the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. Their foundation announced it will honor all current pledges but that’s it for 2009.

“We’re back at the starting gate,” said Bear. “It’s disheartening.”



New Boss same as the Old Boss

March 3rd, 2009 | No Comments | Source: Economist

newbossIran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hasn’t been quite so cocky lately.

He knows a lot of his countrymen don’t like him and now, just 4 months from a national election, a strong challenger for his job has popped up.

Muhammad Khatami, the soft spoken reformist cleric and former 2-term president of Iran has thrown his turban into the ring!

Back in 1997, Khatami’s election was thought to herald a departure from the hard-core ideologues who’d ruled the roost ever since the Revolution.

oldbossBut Khatami couldn’t reign in the fractious reformists that swept into power with him, the movement was eaten alive by an entrenched conservative bloc, and next thing you know, Ahmadinejad –exasperatingly flaky, populist rants and all—was the new game in town.

But that’s old news. Nowadays, oil prices have fallen through the floor and Iran’s economy has followed suit. Plus that nasty inflationary spiral’s got the middle class up in arms and those cockamamie crackdowns on dissent are just so yesterday for the secularized citizens of the nation.

It’s gotten to a point where Ahmadinejad might not even get the fist bump from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, OKing him to seek a second term.


Meanwhile the centrifuges-are-a-spinnin’, so the Big O can’t just sit on his hands until the election plays out.

“The Iranian nation is ready for talks, but in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect,” Ahmadinejad informed a crowd during celebrations commemorating 30 years of the Revolution.

He knew Obama was dialed in.

Later in the speech, the man said Iran was a superpower with nuclear and rocket technology to boot. Oy vey!



Stem Cellers Hold Breath

March 3rd, 2009 | No Comments | Source: Washington Post

It was no coincidence that 3 days after the Big O’s coronation, the FDA approved the nation’s first stem cell trial. Bush had been throttling the regulatory agency until the day he left town.

OaklandA'sstemcellsMeanwhile, in that euphoric first week the new president practically developed writer’s cramp signing executive orders that closed Guantanamo, banned torture, made government less secretive and restored funding to certain groups supporting abortion.

Everybody expected the Big O would add one more, an order lifting the Bush ban on Federal funding for stem cell research.

The NIH even started drafting guidelines for reviewing stem cell grant proposals to save time once the floodgates opened.

But it didn’t happen, and it still hasn’t happened.

“We were surprised and disappointed it wasn’t in there,” Amy Comstock told the Washington Post. Comstock who is with the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research added, “we’re wondering why it’s taking so long.”

Then top lieutenant David Axelrod weaseled to Fox News Sunday that the Big O was “considering” an executive order. Uh-oh!


The man didn’t go and lose a game of HORSE to Rick Warren now, did he?

No, reassured Reid Cherlin.

In an email to the Post, the White House spokesman said “the president has made it clear that increasing stem cell research is a priority for his administration…he’ll be acting soon to reverse restrictions on this critical science.”

“If I were a smart scientist, I would be writing a grant right now,” said Story Landis, head of NIH’s task force on stem cells, who added that a chunk of the NIH’s stimulus money would look real nice in a package directed at his troops.



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