Pharmaceutical Entrepreneur Solomon Got Rich by Finding a Drug to Help His Son

(p. A19) Howard Solomon was building the pharmaceutical company Forest Laboratories, not by manufacturing drugs but by licensing them. In his search for deals in the United States and Europe, he learned about citalopram, a Danish antidepressant. He did not license it, though, believing the U.S. market was saturated with drugs to treat depression.

Then, in 1994, a family crisis intervened: His older son, the writer Andrew Solomon, had fallen into a deep depression. Mr. Solomon moved Andrew into his apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and took weeks off from work to take care of him; . . . .

. . .

After two types of antidepressants were unable to help Andrew, a third did. His experience persuaded his father to make the deal a few years later for citalopram, which, under the name Celexa, became a billion-dollar drug for Forest Labs in the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, along with Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil.

. . .

Forest Labs was transformed by licensing Celexa from H. Lundbeck, the Danish company that developed it. But Lundbeck’s chief executive, Erik Sprunk-Jansen, was initially reluctant to speak to Mr. Solomon because licensing deals with some other U.S. companies had unraveled.

“Howard flew to Denmark to meet with him,” Phil Satow, a former executive vice president of Forest Labs, said in a phone interview. “Both were lovers of ballet, which became the common chord between them, and they developed a strong relationship.”

Celexa’s sales grew quickly, peaking at nearly $1.5 billion in 2003. Forest Labs then licensed Lexapro, an upgraded version of Celexa, which first reached $2 billion in sales in 2007.

. . .

His desire to work into his 80s was, he said, inspired by the example of Giuseppe Verdi.

“Growing up, he’d talk about Verdi writing ‘Falstaff’ in his 80s,” Andrew Solomon said. “‘Imagine that,’ he’d say, ‘in his 80s, he wrote some of the greatest music ever written.’ That was the path he hoped to follow.”

For the full obituary, see:

Richard Sandomir. “Howard Solomon, 94, Whose Business Feats Were Personal, Is Dead.” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 19, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Jan. 18, 2022, and has the title “Howard Solomon, 94, Dies; His Business Success Had a Personal Connection.”)

Research on Robust Bacteria Immune System, Serendipitously Led to CRSPR Gene-Editing

(p. C8) The author of “The Secret Body,” Daniel M. Davis, is another immunologist by trade.

. . .

Mr. Davis tells us how advances in microscopy have revealed unexpected structures inside human cells, and describes how efforts to map every cell type in the body have turned up a previously unknown tracheal cell that may be pivotal in understanding cystic fibrosis. The daunting structural complexity of the human brain, however, has thus far frustrated attempts to map out even minuscule portions of it.

A recurring theme in “The Secret Body” is “how a discovery of great medical significance [may begin] with relatively obscure research.” Recently, researchers found that bacteria boast a surprisingly robust immune system, which resists viral infection by attacking an intruding virus’s genes. Part of this system, the CRISPR complex, can be used to edit the genomes of human cells, even to tinker with the genetic makeup of embryos.

For the full review, see:

John J. Ross. “The Battle Inside Your Body.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021): C8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 10, 2021, and has the title “The Defenders: Three Books on the Science of Immunity.”)

The book under review in the passages quoted above is:

Davis, Daniel M. The Secret Body: How the New Science of the Human Body Is Changing the Way We Live. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2021.

Larry King “Wanted to Stay Alive Forever”

(p. 23) King spent his life dodging death, resistant but haunted by its specter.

. . .

King took four human growth hormone pills every day, hoping they would buy him more time; . . . .

. . .

He deplored the idea of exiting the party while it was still going on, knowing he could never get back in. “Larry wanted to stay alive forever,” his best friend, Herb Cohen, told me. “He didn’t want to leave. He wouldn’t know who won the World Series.”

For the full obituary, see:

Jazmine Hughes. “Larry King.” The New York Times Magazine (Sunday, December 26, 2021): 22-23.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Dec. 22, 2021, and has the title “Did Larry King’s Obsession With Death Fuel His ‘Indomitable’ Will to Live?”)

Identifying as “Taiwanese,” They “Love the Freedom”

(p. A1) CHIAYI, Taiwan — When Li Yuan-hsin, a 36-year-old high school teacher, travels abroad, people often assume she is Chinese.

No, she tells them. She is Taiwanese.

To her, the distinction is important. China may be the land of her ancestors, but Taiwan is where she was born and raised, a home she defines as much by its verdant mountains and bustling night markets as by its robust democracy. In high school, she had planted a little blue flag on her desk to show support for her preferred political candidate; since then, she has voted in every presidential election.

“I love this island,” Ms. Li said in an interview. “I love the freedom here.”

Well over 90 percent of Taiwan’s people trace their roots to mainland China, but more than ever, they are embracing an identity that is distinct from that of their Communist-ruled neighbor. Beijing’s strident authoritarianism — and its claim over Taiwan — has only solidified the island’s identity, now central to a dispute that has turned the Taiwan Strait into one of Asia’s biggest potential flash points.

. . .

(p. A8) When nearby Hong Kong erupted in anti-government protests in 2019, Ms. Li, the schoolteacher, followed the news every day. She saw Beijing’s crackdown there and its destruction of civil liberties as evidence that the party could not be trusted to keep its promise to preserve Taiwan’s autonomy if the sides unified.

Ms. Li’s wariness has only grown with the pandemic. Beijing continues to block Taiwan from international groups, such as the World Health Organization, a clear sign to her that the Communist Party values politics above people. Taiwan’s success in combating the coronavirus, despite these challenges, had filled her with pride.

. . .

“We are Taiwanese in our thinking,” she said. “We do not need to declare independence because we already are essentially independent.”

That emerging confidence has now come to define Taiwan’s contemporary individuality, along with the island’s firm embrace of democracy. To many young people in Taiwan, to call yourself Taiwanese is increasingly to take a stand for democratic values — to not, in other words, be a part of Communist-ruled China.

Under its current president, Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwan government has positioned the island as a Chinese society that is democratic and tolerant, unlike the colossus across the strait. As Beijing has ramped up its oppression of ethnic minorities in the name of national unity, the Taiwan government has sought to embrace the island’s Indigenous groups and other minorities.

Taiwan “represents at once an affront to the narrative and an impediment to the regional ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party,” Ms. Tsai said last year.

. . .

Growing up in the 1980s, Ms. Li was faintly aware of the divide between the Taiwanese and mainlanders. She knew that going to her “mainlander” grandparents’ house after school meant getting to eat pork buns and chive dumplings — heavier, saltier food than the Taiwanese palate of her maternal grandparents, who fed her fried rice noodles and sautéed bitter melon.

Such distinctions became less evident over time. Many of Taiwan’s residents are now proud of their island’s culinary offerings, whether it is the classic beef noodle soup — a mix of mainland influences unique to Taiwan — or bubble milk tea, a modern invention.

. . .

Ms. Li points to Beijing controls on speech and dissent as antithetical to Taiwan.

She compares Tiananmen Square in Beijing, which she visited in 2005 as a university student, with public spaces in Taipei. In the Chinese capital, surveillance cameras loomed in every direction while armed police watched the crowds. Her government-approved guide made no mention of the Communist Party’s brutal crackdown in 1989 on pro-democracy protesters that she had learned about as a middle school student in Taiwan.

She thought of Liberty Square in Taipei, by comparison, a vast plaza where people often gather to play music, dance, exercise and protest.

“After that trip, I cherished Taiwan so much more,” Ms. Li said.

For the full story, see:

Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien. “‘We Are Taiwanese’: A Rising National Identity.” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 19, 2022): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “‘We Are Taiwanese’: China’s Growing Menace Hardens Island’s Identity.”)

Xi’s Micromanaging “Zero Covid” Policy Hurting Chinese Economic Growth

(p. A1) Earlier this year, Xi Jinping issued brief instructions to education officials in Beijing. China’s leader wanted to reform the country’s $100 billion private tutoring industry, which the state worried was helping well-to-do families gain advantages for their offspring and creating anxiety among families that couldn’t afford the help.

Education officials drafted a plan that included new limits on tutoring for children up to the equivalent of ninth grade, said people familiar with the effort.

The plan was too soft, Mr. Xi said, in a one-sentence note to the education ministry, according to the people.

Scrambling to please him, the ministry expanded the limits to include students up to the equivalent of 12th grade. In addition, it required all private education companies to re-register as nonprofits.

The more extreme rules, issued in July [2021], triggered panic selling that erased tens of billions of dollars from the value of education com-(p. A14)panies listed on U.S. and Hong Kong stock exchanges. Officials from the China Securities Regulatory Commission hastily scheduled meetings with foreign investors to calm them down, according to people familiar with the conversations, and promised that Beijing would consider market impact before introducing future policies.

The episode is just one example of Mr. Xi’s evolving management style as the Chinese president consolidates control of the world’s second-largest economy. He is widely considered the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation. He is also a micromanager who intervenes often, unpredictably and sometimes vaguely in policy matters big and small.

. . .

Behind the scenes, many officials question some of Mr. Xi’s decisions.

In late July [2021], a Covid-19 outbreak caused more than 1,200 infections after months of nearly zero reported cases. Some central government officials, eyeing other countries, suggested it might be time for China to stop its strategy of pursuing “zero Covid” and learn to live with the virus, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Xi was furious, said people familiar with the issue. In a note to underlings, he asked if officials were becoming “lax and numbed” in fighting the virus, according to these people and to state media reports. “Zero Covid” would remain the policy.

Local officials intensified their efforts. In late October [2021], they locked more than 30,000 visitors into Shanghai Disneyland and forced them to undergo Covid-19 tests after one customer tested positive. Authorities temporarily shut one of China’s biggest container ports after a single case, hurting global supply chains.

China’s economic growth slowed to 4.9% in the third quarter from the previous quarter’s 7.9% rate. Economists have said China’s zero-tolerance pandemic measures, including lockdowns of residential compounds and cancellations of public events, are likely to have a significant impact on China’s growth if they don’t succeed in snuffing out the virus soon.

Some local government officials have warned against “excessive pandemic prevention” measures, according to speeches quoted on websites. Yet officials keep pressing, fearful they might be punished if a Covid-19 case emerged in their area.

. . .

Mr. Xi later “personally planned, personally proposed, personally deployed and promoted” the development of Xiongan, a new “eco-city,” out of farmland about 60 miles from Beijing, according to state media, and urged state firms to move there. Despite billions of dollars of investment, it hasn’t matched the quick success of Deng-era special economic zones such as Shenzhen.

To comply with the new regulatory regime for after-school tutoring this year, education companies have laid off tens of thousands of employees, including teachers. Given the impact on the industry, officials have been enforcing the rules on tutoring for children only up to the equivalent of ninth grade—as originally proposed.

. . .

“Some only act when the party’s central leadership has instructed them to do so,” Mr. Xi said in a speech to the party’s top disciplinary officials last January, made public only recently. He complained that many officials aren’t competent to deal with complicated issues, and that if he didn’t issue so many instructions, little would get done.

“I issue instructions as a last line of defense,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Josh Chin. “Xi Jinping’s Style: Micromanagement.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021): A1 & A14.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the December 15, 2021, and has the title “Xi Jinping’s Leadership Style: Micromanagement That Leaves Underlings Scrambling.”)

Bret Baier Documents How Fauci and Collins Dishonestly Dismissed the Hypothesis That COVID-19 Originated in Wuhan Lab

Bret Baier gave a serious report on the substantial and growing evidence that Anthony Fauci, Francis Collins, and other “experts” and officials lied, early and intentionally, in their dismissal of the likely Wuhan lab origin of Covid-19. (The report aired on Bret Baer’s “Special Report” nightly news program on Tues., January 25, 2022 on Fox News.)

Nebraska Bumblebee Outlook Is “Rosier”

(p. A1) The dismal outlook for the American bumblebee across the United States is much rosier in Nebraska, and experts aren’t exactly sure why.

They’re just happy to report that the Bombus pensylvanicus appears to be holding its own here, compared with eight states where the American bumblebee has reportedly disappeared completely.

. . .

(p. A5) “While there is clear decline in parts of this bee’s range, the American bumblebee appears relatively stable in Nebraska based on our recent work,” Lamke said.  . . .

She speculates that one reason numbers are higher in Nebraska than elsewhere is that this is near the center of the once-abundant bee’s territory.

For the full story, see:

Marjie Ducey. “Beleaguered Bumblebee Still Seems to Be Thriving in Nebraska.” Omaha World-Herald (Monday, January 22, 2022): A1 & A5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 11, 2021, and has the title “Threatened American Bumblebee Still Seems to Be Thriving in Nebraska.”)

China’s “Authoritarian Virus-Fighting Methods” Lead To Loss of Freedom and Scarcity of Food and Health Care

(p. A1) China’s ability to control the virus has come a long way since the pandemic started: It has inoculated nearly 1.2 billion people and set up a nationwide electronic health database for contact tracing.

Yet it has continued to rely on the same authoritarian virus-fighting methods from early 2020, including strict quarantines, border closings and lockdowns. These have led to food and medical shortages and growing questions about how much longer its zero-Covid strategy, the last in the world, can continue.

. . .

“The district security guards are like prison guards and we are like prisoners,” said Tom Zhao, a Xi’an resident. Mr. Zhao, 38, said he had joined dozens of chat groups last week searching for anyone who could help him find medicine for his mother, who has early-stage diabetes.

. . .

(p. A6) Xi’an has reported 1,800 cases in its latest outbreak, stunningly low compared with the daily case count in the United States. And as the world struggles to contain the spread of Omicron, in China officials have reported only a few local cases of the variant, and none in Xi’an.

The authorities are nevertheless worried, in a country that has stridently stuck by its zero-Covid policy — and held up its success fighting the virus as proof that its authoritarian style of leadership saves lives.

. . .

So far, the experiences have been grim. Tens of thousands of people have been relocated to centralized quarantine facilities to stop the spread. Several top city officials have been fired, and the head of Xian’s big data bureau was suspended.

On Tuesday, the vast health code system used to track people and enforce quarantines and lockdowns crashed because it couldn’t handle the traffic, making it hard for residents to access public hospitals or complete daily routines like regular Covid testing.

Many were incensed when a woman in the city, eight months pregnant, lost her baby after she was made to wait for hours at a hospital because she was unable to prove she did not have Covid-19. (The authorities responded by firing officials and requesting an apology from the hospital.)

Days into the lockdown, residents began to post on social media about how hard it was to get groceries or order food. After being reassured by officials that it was unnecessary to stock up, residents across the city were caught off guard when an initial policy allowing one member of each household to leave every two days was eliminated.

Officials later acknowledged the mistake and quickly posted images of volunteers delivering groceries. But by then, residents were already complaining online that officials had put the pursuit of eliminating the outbreak above the well-being of citizens.

Mr. Zhao, who moved in with his parents ahead of the lockdown to help take care of them, watched as their neighbors bartered for food. Several days ago, officials came in trucks to deliver vegetables, announcing their arrival on loudspeaker. Mr. Zhao and his parents received two plastic bags: a white radish, a head of cabbage, three potatoes, a carrot and two zucchinis.

They fared much better than others.

. . .

As the situation worsened across the city, people posted videos and heartfelt appeals for help. “SOS,” wrote one resident whose father could not get medical care when he suffered a heart attack. He later died, according to a post from his daughter, who shared the story on Weibo, a major social media platform in China.

Zhao Zheng, the father of an 8-year-old boy with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, found himself battling with staff at several hospitals in Xi’an after his son’s Dec. 28 appointment was canceled. Each hospital asked for proof that he was no longer in quarantine and documentation that Mr. Zhao and his family had not recently been exposed to the virus.

“Nobody could issue this document for us at all,” said Mr. Zhao, 43, who until recently had owned a small construction company.

For the full story, see:

Alexandra Stevenson. “China’s Latest Lockdown Leaves Residents Feeling ‘Like Prisoners’.” The New York Times (Friday, January 7, 2022): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 6, 2022, and has the title “China’s Latest Lockdown Shows Stubborn Resolve on Zero-Covid.”)

“Unexpected” Discovery of Large “Pristine” Coral Reef “Unscathed by Climate Change”

(p. A7) An underwater mapping project recently took an unexpected twist off the coast of Tahiti, where deep sea explorers said this week that they had discovered a sprawling coral reef resembling a bed of roses that appeared to be largely unscathed by climate change.

Extending for about three kilometers (1.86 miles), the reef is remarkably well preserved and is among the largest ever found at its depth, according to those involved in the mapping project sponsored by UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Some even described the condition of the reef, hidden at depths between 30 meters (about 100 feet) and 100 meters in the crystalline waters of the South Pacific, as “pristine.”

Alexis Rosenfeld, an underwater photographer from Marseille, France, said on Thursday that the reef lived up to what he had envisioned when he first explored it shortly after its discovery in November [2021].

. . .

John Jackson, a film director with 1 Ocean who is involved with the project, compared the reef’s shape to lacework. In an interview on Thursday [January 20, 2022], he said that significant work remained when it came to underwater exploration, pointing out that only about 20 percent of the world’s seabeds had been mapped.

For the full story, see:

Neil Vigdor. “‘Pristine’ Coral Reef Resembling Bed of Roses Is Found Off the Coast of Tahiti.” The New York Times (Saturday, January 22, 2022): A7.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year and date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 20, 2022, and has the title “Sprawling Coral Reef Resembling Roses Is Discovered Off Tahiti.”)

Boeing Maximized Short-Term Profits Instead of Long-Term Quality (and Profits)

(p. A19) Boeing remains one of America’s leading manufacturers, but it is reduced in reputation as well as equity. The “fall” that Mr. Robison’s subtitle alludes to is the corrosion of a culture that had emphasized quality.

. . .

Mr. Robison is upset that Boeing followed the unremarkable philosophy of the Business Roundtable (recently revised under woke pressure) that the first duty of any company is to its shareholders. He says that Boeing focused on metrics that “tend to favor investors over employees and customers.” This is an easy but misworded critique. In the long term, the interests of shareholders and customers are aligned. A manufacturer that disregards either customers or employees will eventually not have profits to distribute.

In fact, Boeing forgot that its long-term success depended on its reputation for superior engineering. Executives like Alan Mulally, project leader in the 1990s for the costly but highly successful Boeing 777, were passed over for the top job. The corporate metamorphosis was accelerated by the 1997 merger with rival McDonnell Douglas. The executive suite was colonized by such figures as McDonnell’s Harry Stonecipher, a Jack Welch protégé who was explicit about changing the culture. His intent, he said, was to run Boeing “like a business rather than a great engineering firm.” Increasingly that meant doing whatever it took to hike the share price. Phil Condit, the CEO who orchestrated the merger, pushed his managers to quintuple the stock in five years, which suggested that his eye was on Wall Street and not on the planes.

. . .

Test flights showed a tendency for the MAX to pitch up. Designers corrected the problem on the cheap, with software that pushed the nose down. Somewhat perilously, a single sensor measuring the angle of the wings against oncoming air could force the plane into a downward trajectory. An optional cockpit indicator—alerting pilots that the sensor might be faulty—was not included on cheaper models. And the sensors, which sat outside the plane, were vulnerable to bird strikes or improper installation.

. . .

. . ., the FAA, as Mr. Robison shows, was compromised by years of having adapted its regulatory role to promote manufacturers. Even after the first plane went down, it kept the MAX flying—despite an agency analysis predicting more crashes.

For the full review, see:

Roger Lowenstein. “BOOKSHELF; Downward Trajectory.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Nov. 29, 2021): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 28, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Flying Blind’ Review: Downward Trajectory.”)

The book under review is:

Robison, Peter. Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing. New York: Doubleday, 2021.

Biden’s Science Advisors Do Not Agree on What “Science” Says to Do Against Covid-19

(p. A1) WASHINGTON — On the day President Biden was inaugurated, the advisory board of health experts who counseled him during his transition officially ceased to exist. But its members have quietly continued to meet regularly over Zoom, their conversations often turning to frustration with Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response.

Now, six of these former advisers have gone public with an extraordinary, albeit polite, critique — and a plea to be heard. In three opinion articles published on Thursday [Jan. 6, 2022] in The Journal of the American Medical Association, they called for Mr. Biden to adopt an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely, not to wiping it out.

. . .

(p. A11) Like any White House, Mr. Biden’s prizes loyalty and prefers to keep its differences in house; in that regard, the articles are an unusual step. The authors say they wrote them partly because they have not made headway talking directly to White House officials.

. . .

The authors shared the articles with White House officials before they were published, but it was unclear whether the administration would adopt any of their suggestions. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, declined to comment on the articles.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters she had not read the articles, and dismissed a question about whether the president “is coming around to accepting” that Covid-19 is here to stay, even though several recent media accounts suggested that the administration was beginning to operate under that assumption.

. . .

The most surprising thing about the articles is that they were written at all. Several of the authors said in interviews they were dismayed that the administration seemed caught off guard by the Delta and Omicron variants. Dr. Bright, who helped write two of the pieces, recalled the warning he issued when the advisory board had its last meeting on Jan. 20, 2021.

“The last thing I said,” he recalled, “is that our vaccines are going to get weaker and eventually fail. We must now prepare for variants; we have to put a plan in place to continually update our vaccines, our diagnostics and our genomics so we can catch this early. Because the variants will come, and we should never be surprised and we should never underestimate this virus.”

. . .

The president recently released a new winter strategy, just as the Omicron variant began spreading in the United States.

. . .

He has insisted there will be no lockdowns, and has repeatedly pleaded with Americans to get vaccinated.

“I honest to God believe it’s your patriotic duty,” Mr. Biden said recently.

But Dr. Bright said such language was turning off Americans, including many Trump voters, who are resistant to vaccines.

“The message continues to berate unvaccinated people and almost bully unvaccinated people,” said Dr. Bright, who led a federal biomedical agency during the Trump administration but quit the government after being demoted for complaining about political interference in science. “There are so many reasons people are unvaccinated; it’s not just because they follow Trump.”

The authors say the administration needs to look past Omicron and acknowledge that it may not mark the end of the pandemic — and to plan for a future that they concede is unknowable.

For the full story, see:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “Ex-Aides Urge U.S. to Remake Covid Strategy.” The New York Times (Friday, January 7, 2022): A1 & A11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 6, 2022, and has the title “Former Biden Advisers Urge a Pandemic Strategy for the ‘New Normal’.”)

The three JAMA articles mentioned above are:

Emanuel, Ezekiel J., Michael Osterholm, and Celine R. Gounder. “A National Strategy for the “New Normal” of Life with Covid.” JAMA (Jan. 6, 2022). DOI: 10.1001/jama.2021.24282.

Michaels, David, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, and Rick A. Bright. “A National Strategy for Covid-19: Testing, Surveillance, and Mitigation Strategies.” JAMA (Jan. 6, 2022).

Borio, Luciana L., Rick A. Bright, and Ezekiel J. Emanuel. “A National Strategy for Covid-19 Medical Countermeasures: Vaccines and Therapeutics.” JAMA (Jan. 6, 2022). DOI: 10.1001/jama.2021.24165.