Items filtered by date: Friday, 20 July 2018

The New York Yankees led the American League Wild Card race by five games over Seattle as of the Major League Baseball All-Star Break. They could very well finish the season 10 games better than both the Mariners and the winner of the AL Central Division, and will still have to win a one-game playoff just to earn the right to play the best team in the American League, who will likely be from their own division.

I’m not one to make excuses for the Yankees. As a Minnesota Twins fan, I despise the Yankees more than most, and I’m a huge fan of the one-game playoff. But there’s nothing fair about a team’s postseason chances coming down to one game when that team has played a tougher schedule to a better record than all but one team in the league. It’s time for MLB to do away with divisions and go back to a division-less pennant race.

While Rob Manfred was repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth prior to the MLB All-Star Game, blaming the Los Angeles Angels and Mike Trout for not marketing Mike Trout, and calling for a discussion on ending defensive shifts, only the most interesting thing happening in baseball, he failed to address the most pressing issue facing the game. The one-game Wild Card could be played between the second- and fourth-ranked teams in the American League while the sixth-ranked team in the league gets a pass to the Divisional round simply for playing in a historically weak division. And that sixth-ranked team won’t even play the league’s best team.

Back in 1969, when East and West divisions were adopted by Major League Baseball, there were no Wild Card teams in the playoff format. And when just one team from both the American League and National League were awarded a postseason berth as a Wild Card for the first time in 1995 (the 1994 postseason was cancelled due to a player strike), there weren’t immediate issues.

But now that there are two Wild Card teams from each league reaching the postseason, either those teams need to play a three-game Wild Card series, or the league needs a good, old-fashioned pennant race. I’m for both.

I would recommend shortening the season to 154 games and adding a three-game Wild Card Playoff series to be played between the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams in each league, regardless of division standings. There is no need for a team to play the same four teams 19 times every year. I’d be fine with MLB divisions remaining simply for travel and rivalry reasons, but 17 games against division rivals is still probably too many. Commissioner Manfred should shorten the regular season to the original 154-game length while adding at least four and up to six lucrative playoff games to the schedule.

Since the All-Star Game no longer determines which league has home field advantage in the World Series, a good, old-fashioned pennant race is the most reasonable and fair way to determine who plays who in the playoffs. The top three seeds in each league would benefit from up to five days off entering the playoffs while the two Wild Card teams are decided, and each league’s top seed would play the fourth-best team instead of the second-best team that happened to lose its division despite winning more games than other division champions.

So before Manfred even considers changing rules to the game regarding defensive shifts and pace of play, he should make sure the league’s best teams are rewarded for being the league’s best teams. Even if the Yankees were to win the Wild Card Game, if the playoffs began today, they’d meet the Red Sox in the Divisional Series instead of the ALCS. And if 2004 taught us anything, it’s that baseball’s best rivalry should be decided in the ALCS. Most importantly though, the league’s best playoff team should play the league’s worst playoff team in the divisional round, and that’s not the case as the MLB postseason currently stands.

Published in Opinion

Due to a lack of profit potential, Novartis Pharmaceuticals has been the latest to join the exodus of drug companies from antibiotic research and development.

The Swiss based pharmaceutical company will shut down their antibacterial and antiviral research programs resulting in the termination of 140 jobs.

They join Sanofi, Allergan and AstraZeneca who have also pulled out of antimicrobial R & D.

Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Roche will remain active in the antimicrobial market.

Since the birth of antibiotics in 1928 with Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin, we’ve aimed to make them stronger and shrewder than the bacteria.  However, nature always wins, and some bacteria have outsmarted our fanciest of antibiotics, as we’ve seen with MRSA (methicillin-resistant staph aureus) and CRE (carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae).  The more antibiotics we make and use, the stronger the bacteria become.

Since insurance companies favor generics, new drugs that do go through the long and expensive process of R & D have no guarantee of turning a profit.  According to a report published by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD) the cost of developing a prescription drug that is successful enough to make it to market costs approximately $2.6 billion.  Drugs that are researched, developed, tested but then fail in obtaining FDA approval or success long-term may never make it to market, costing the drug company millions.

The Writing’s On The Wall

 

And pharmaceutical companies aren’t stupid.  They see the legal circus surrounding Purdue Pharma for its “role” in the opioid crisis, so drug companies may wonder if they’ll eventually be held liable for the “superbug crisis”.   If a company thinks they will lose money or be sued in the future for a drug that cost billions to manufacture, they may choose to pass.

But if they pass….who steps up?

I suggest more research into other forms of treating antibiotics such as laser treatments.  Or go old school with silver.  During the Roman empire and Middle Ages, silver had been used as healing agent.  During the Civil War, silver nitrate was used to cure Gonorrhea, another bacteria currently becoming drug resistant.  The silver nitrate was eventually replaced by a colloidal silver. But in 2013 researchers at Boston University discovered why silver was so antibacterial.  Its properties interfered with the cell metabolism of the pathogen as well as  disrupted its wall.  This mimics what antibiotics have been designed to do.  Silver may be able to be used as an agent by itself, in a non toxic form of course, or used in conjunction with current antibiotics who cannot break into the bacteria wall by themselves.

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

Published in Health
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Televise federal trials? Of course!

With one recent Supreme Court Justice confirmed and another just appointed by President Trump, the issue of televising hearings before the nation’s highest court will surely be discussed. The Supremes have stood steadfastly against letting the public watch the cases argued before them, even though the court’s decisions can often have major implications for every American. The Constitution guarantees that trials are public and open to everyone.  And what could be more public than televising a criminal trial for the whole world to see?

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wrote recently that cameras should be taken out of the courtroom, particularly in high-profile trials.  She concludes: “Our mighty respect for the public’s right to know — has clouded our judgment. There may be no way to quantitatively prove that cameras influence courtroom behavior and, possibly, a trial’s outcome. But anyone who’s ever sat in front of a camera knows that it is so.”

I disagree with Ms. Parker.  The criminal justice system could use some help.  A majority of Americans feel that justice often doesn’t prevail.  A nationwide poll by the respected Rasmussen Reports found that 45% of Americans feel that the justice system is fair.  Only 34% felt that the system is unbiased to the poor.  That’s a lot of cynicism.  Maybe more public trials would help skeptics gain more confidence in a system where many feel over half the time that justice is not served.

America has a strong tradition of public trials. In early colonial America, courthouses were the centers of community life, and most citizens regularly attended criminal trials. In fact, trials frequently became community events. Citizens were knowledgeable about trials, and there was wide participation in the process — especially in rural America, where prosecutions were often scheduled on market day, when local farmers came to town for supplies.  Many courtrooms were built to accommodate 300 or more observers.

Back then, citizens closely observed the defendants, knew when judges issued ridiculous rulings, and saw firsthand whenever justice was perverted. Whatever happened, the citizens were there, watching.  The court system belonged to them. The televising of criminal trials would merely be an extension of this direct review by the average citizen.

Would televising criminal trials create a circus atmosphere?  There’s no reason to think that they would. In fact, many of our most sacred ceremonies, including church services and inaugurations, are televised without dignity being lost.  Judge Burton Katz said it well:  “We should bring pressure to bear on all judges to open up their courtrooms to public scrutiny.  Members of the judiciary enjoy great entitlements and wield enormous power. They bear close watching by an informed public. I guarantee that the public would be amazed at what goes on in some courtrooms.”

Back in 1997 when I was a practicing attorney in Louisiana, I participated in the state’s first televised trial before the Louisiana Supreme Court.  A state senator was opposing my authority to impound the automobiles of uninsured drivers. I was the elected state Insurance Commissioner at the time, and represented the state in our effort to uphold the impoundment law. The issue was important to the vast majority of Louisianans, and they were entitled to hear the arguments, and watch the trial in progress.  No one pandered to the cameras, and the entire courtroom procedure was straightforward and dignified.  The proceedings were televised without a hitch.

Harvard law professor and criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz put it this way: “Live television coverage may magnify the faults in the legal system, and show it warts and all. But in a democracy the public has the right to see its institutions in operation, close-up.  Moreover, live television coverage generally brings out the best, not the worst in judges, lawyers and other participants.  The video camera helps to keep the system honest by keeping it open.”

America prides itself in being an open society that protects and encourages the public’s right to know.  Too often, courtrooms have become bastions of secrecy where the public has little understanding of how the system works and how verdicts are reached.

The video camera serves as a check and balance.  We can better keep the system honest by keeping it open and easily available to the public.  Time to turn on the cameras.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

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Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.

 

Published in Opinion