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Chicago's Jazz Age Gangsters
were covered like celebrities
Excerpts from Ron Grossman's Chicago Flashback story:
"For the Tribune, it was an era of journalistic civil war between its Editorial page and its news columns—the former decrying lawlessness, the latter feeding the public's seemingly inexhaustible hunger for tales of tough guys with blazing guns."
"Still, editorial writers, concerned citizens and indignant cops were fighting an uphill battle in trying to raise the public's ire against mobsters, as Page One stories and movies were making them celebrities."
My chicken-or-egg question: So who was responding to what—the media, to the public's inexhaustible hunger for celebrity mobsters; or the public, to the deluge of page-one stories and movies making the mobsters celebrities? Grossman tells us that back in the day, there was a "popular-culture romanticization" of the mobsters "who held huge swaths of the city in their deadly grasp." Huh? They terrorized Chicago, so Chicago romanticized them? Was this the Stockholm syndrome at work? Was it gratitude because they provided hooch? And why don't we romanticize today's mobsters? Or is The Sopranos just the most obvious evidence that we do? Please elaborate.
Experimental drug trials
bring promise, frustration
Excerpts from Bonnie Miller Rubin's front-page story on the manufacturers' decision to pull the plug on arbaclofen, an experimental drug created to treat Fragile X syndrome, a rare genetic condition afflicting children:
"The Fishmans' experience sheds light on the emotional roller coaster of all clinical trials, which combine vulnerable and often desperate patients with untested drugs and market forces. Despite all the consent forms and cautionary language, the subjects sometimes perceive the process as a cure, rather than an experiment."
"While the drug showed significant benefits in some areas in the 300-patient trial, researchers said, it failed to beat the placebo on the main goal of the study: social withdrawal."
"Among [investigator Elizabeth Berry-Kravis's] participants taking the drug, about one-third had little or no improvement from their previous behaviors, one-third showed some benefits and for the remaining 30 to 40 percent arbaclofen 'could be life-changing,' she said."
Arbaclofen is now available nowhere in the world, Rubin tells us. Some four million babies are born each year in the U.S., and as only one in 100,000 has Fragile X, the number of new babies in this country who will be denied a drug that "could be life-changing" is just about 12 to 16 a year. I guess it's understandable that the drug's two manufacturers (one American, the other Swiss) would turn their backs on such a tiny market, but is it really the naivete and desperation of Rubin's subjects that doesn't allow them to accept this? Did the subjects (and their parents) perceive the process as a cure rather than an experiment? Or did they reasonably assume that it was an experiment that would be called off if it failed and continued if it were succeeding? Rubin's subjects thought it was succeeding. The behavioral changes she says they observed were exhilarating.
A drug-development process that gives parents not simply a reason to hope but a reason to rejoice and then leaves them in the lurch is a flawed process. If the study flunked its "main goal" yet showed "significant benefits," why throw those benefits out with the bath water? Instead of offering the fate of arbaclofen to us as a poignant example of the ways of the world of Big Pharm, why not put to the manufacturers, and to the Food and Drug Administration, the question the reader most wants answered: What gives?