You make my blood evaporate

This is a compilation of¬†love song lyrics supposedly translated into English by ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Most amusing, I thought ūüôā :

From morning’s glaring sun to the smelly afternoon,

 

You are always inside my lonely brain.

 

I hope we meet in an accident very soon.

 

My heart will not stop hemorrhaging for you.

 

The night you squeezed me I visited heaven.

 

Your love flies me swiftly into a mountain.

 

You make my heart sour.

 

One day, you will startle yourself and say “oh no!

Why did I walk the opposite direction of him?

 

Like the fishes need the ocean beach, I need you.

 

When you kiss me, you make my blood evaporate.

 

Your lovely, unwrinkly skin requests my attention

 

You will always be my lemon moon ray lover.

First steps

A blog reader (thanks!) told me about a study published earlier this month in ‚ÄúNature.‚ÄĚ I’ll start with a quote from the Eureka Alert I read yesterday (http://tinyurl.com/5nesch): For the first time, scientists have decoded the complete DNA of a cancer patient and traced her disease – acute myelogenous leukemia – to its genetic roots. A large research team at the Genome Sequencing Center and the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis sequenced the genome of the patient – a woman in her 50s who ultimately died of her disease – and the genome of her leukemia cells, to identify genetic changes unique to her cancer.

 

The scientists believe that these genetic¬†changes originated from a single clone (!) and occurred one after the other‚ÄĒa sort of domino effect. They discovered three types of mutated genes: genes that are tumor-suppressors under normal circumstances, genes that promote cancer growth, and¬†genes that may unlock the mystery of¬†chemoresistance. Ahhh, chemoresistance‚Ķthis phenomenon is unfortunately common to many cancers, including myeloma (incidentally, while doing research for this post I made an unexpected discovery…must do some major research this weekend‚Ķhope it pans out!).

 

The Eureka Alert provides a good, easy-to-understand summary. But I¬†like to check my sources whenever possible, so I¬†looked up the full study: http://tinyurl.com/57yd6j. Using a simple skin sample taken from the AML patient, these Washington University scientists found ten genes with acquired mutations. Two had already been studied,¬†as they¬†possess typical AML mutations and are¬†involved in disease progression, but eight presented ‚Äúnew‚ÄĚ mutations. The researchers determined that all of these mutations […] were present in nearly all tumour cells at presentation and again at relapse 11 months later, suggesting that the patient had a single dominant clone containing all of the mutations. No kidding: a single clone!!! Do I smell an AML¬†stem cell, here?

 

The study is very detailed, very¬†technical. At one point I found myself wading through a sea of alleles and genome gapped alignments and putative small indels and coding exons and split reads algorithms. Mamma mia. Eh, sometimes¬†it is best to give up and glide gracefully over to¬†a study’s¬†Discussion part, which is¬†usually more intelligible. So, let’s have a look at the Discussion. The fact that most of the genes discovered by this team¬†have¬†not been targeted in the treatment of AML justifies the use of next-generation whole-genome sequencing approaches to reveal somatic mutations in cancer genomes. I couldn’t agree more.

 

Of the unidentified (above-mentioned) eight mutations, four had not been previously implicated in cancer pathogenesis, which I found verrrry interesting. Further on we read that The importance of the eight newly defined somatic mutations for AML pathogenesis is not yet known, and will require functional validation studies in tissue culture cells and mouse models to assess their relevance. So mutations do exist, but they may be harmless, in other words. Probably not, though.

 

And also: the same mutations were detected in tumour cells in the relapse sample at approximately the same frequencies as in the primary sample. All of these mutations were therefore present in the resistant tumour cells that contributed to the patient’s relapse, further suggesting that a single clone contains all ten mutations. Ah, the single clone theory again.

 

The study ends on a note of prudence: For AML and other types of cancer, whole-genome sequencing may therefore be the only effective means for discovering all of the mutations that are relevant for pathogenesis. Okay, that, to me at least!, means that a cure for all of these presently incurable cancers, including my own, is not in the near future. This is not easy for me to say, but now I know why my skin crawls whenever I hear myeloma specialists declaring that a “cure” is around the corner or¬†visible on the horizon¬†(it just so happens that I recently heard one say words to that effect)‚Ķoh, I wish it were true‚Ķ

 

But I don’t want to end on a negative note. I really do hope that genome sequencing for all cancer patients will shift quickly into high gear. And there are reasons to be optimistic. The sequencing technology has improved a great deal. It used to be very expensive and complicated to perform these genetic tests, plus the necessary genomic DNA samples had to be very large, but that is no longer the case. Reduced costs and smaller samples should make this new-generation technology more widely available to us. 

 

It’s a first step.

Avemar

Some months ago, a blog reader (thank you!) brought an interesting substance to my attention. I read about it, did some research and¬†began writing a draft, which then got pushed into the background, as¬†sometimes happens. Then a second blog reader (thank you, too!) reminded me of its existence¬†by sending me¬†several studies and links. I read a few of them, added material¬†to my original draft, and plan to read more on this topic when I have more time (…in the next century, perhaps…hah!). This has been a long work in progress.

 

The substance is called Avemar, a ‚Äúnontoxic fermented wheat germ extract demonstrated to significantly improve the survival rate in patients suffering from various malignancies.‚ÄĚ This quote, containing an unfortunate split infinitive (sorry, can’t help it), is taken from a study carried out on HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia cells (see abstract: http://tinyurl.com/yrk3w6) published in ‚ÄúCancer Letters‚ÄĚ in June 2007. Apoptosis occurred in as much as 85% of these cells. Not too shabby, eh!

 

A 2005 study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/2vjxkh) reports that Avemar inhibits the proliferation and SURVIVAL of myeloid cells. Yes! I still have to go through this particular study in more detail, though, so I will only mention it.

 

Another 2005 study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/5eueyu), published in the “NY Academy of Sciences,” discusses the wonders of this substance, which apparently has been used¬†favorably¬†in the treatment of a bunch of human cancers, notably ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin‚Äôs lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Very interesting.

 

Let’s have a look at the introduction, which gives a detailed description of Avemar: Wheat germ, if left in flour, has an adverse effect on the functional properties of dough and therefore on breadmaking quality. […] During the 1990s, a new, fermented wheat germ extract for human consumption was invented by Professor Máté Hidvégi in Hungary. The standardized manufacturing technology included the extraction of wheat germ, the fermentation of the extract, followed by separation of the fermentation liquid, microencapsulation, drying, and granulation. The resulting powder was named Avemar pulvis (or simply Avemar), and the granulate is also known as Avemar. As you can see, the extraction process would not be easy to replicate in your own kitchen!

 

Interesting bit of info: A way for tumors to survive in the host environment is to evade the defense control of the host by mimicking themselves as normal cells for the survey of the immune system. Cancer cells use a lot of proteins called MHC-I to hide from our Natural Killer (=NK) cells. The study points out that As Avemar reduces the MHC-I level on human tumor cells, it may sensitize them against NK killing, thus reducing their metastatic activity. Aha!

 

Another important thing: we all know that cancer cells love glucose. They are addicted to it. Well, Avemar reduces the flow of glucose into cancer cells, and that is fabulous news indeed. In fact, this particular activity of Avemar enables cancer patients, even in advanced stages, to gain weight. This has been observed in vivo. Oh, the study also tells us that Avemar is a COX-inhibitor (both Cox-1 and 2), so it apparently is beneficial also to folks suffering from arthritis and rheumathoid arthritis.

 

The issue of safety is also discussed. Avemar has been tested both on animals and humans. In fact, cancer patients in Hungary have been taking Avemar for years in order to reduce chemotherapy side effects, thus improving¬†their quality of life. Only a few mild adverse effects such as diarrhea and constipation (not occurring at the same time, I would imagine…) have been reported. You can read about those and also the warnings for gluten-intolerant patients (etc.) in this Sloan-Kettering report: http://tinyurl.com/6ox9ov.

 

I found a 2007 abstract that also mentions the issue of safety, reaching the same conclusions (see: http://tinyurl.com/5davx3). This particular study also mentions that cancer patients given as many as 8.5 grams a day had reduced side effects from chemotherapy. And, importantly, Avemar did not lessen the effects of chemotherapy. On the contrary, it may have a synergistic effect with certain drugs such as tamoxifen.

 

More on the issue of chemotherapy. My second blog reader also sent me a study published in¬†2002. Since the full study is available online (http://tinyurl.com/6x5tdu), I won’t but mention it here, but do¬†urge those who are currently undergoing chemotherapy to have a look at it and perhaps bring up the subject with their oncologists. You see, the study makes an important claim: Avemar is a dietary supplement to be given to cancer patients to help drugs to work better. Toward the end, you can read that colorectal cancer patients who took Avemar didn‚Äôt progress as quickly as those who didn’t (=controls), and also lived longer. A curiosity: the Avemar-takers had significantly more advanced disease stages. So they started off¬†in a worse position than the controls but ended up in a much better one. Interesting.

 

Avemar was recently used in a Phase II trial¬†in high-risk melanoma patients (see: http://tinyurl.com/5qkezw). Based on their findings, the researchers¬†recommend The inclusion of Avemar into the adjuvant protocols of high-risk skin melanoma patients […]. Well, this is all quite impressive, I must say.

 

If someday my cancer progresses to the point where I may need chemotherapy, I will be sure to order some of this stuff…provided my haematologist agrees, of course.

Fishy links to multiple myeloma, NHL and leukemia

A blog reader, thank you!, sent me a study titled Dietary Fish Intake and Risk of Leukaemia, Multiple Myeloma, and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, published in ‚ÄúCancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention‚ÄĚ in April 2004. The full study is available online, so I won‚Äôt load the post up with details that you can read for yourself, right here: http://tinyurl.com/5wugks.

 

But, as always, a quick overview. The study is based on questionnaires, which always makes me wary, since there could be a million other unmentioned factors involved. But I decided to have a look at it anyway, since the findings might be relevant to us.

 

The researchers examined a total of 4175 controls, 914 leukemia cases, 287 myeloma cases, and 1408 NHL cases; these were participants in a¬†study carried out between 1994 and 1998 in Canada. Interestingly, compared to controls, myeloma folks were older and less likely to have ever smoked. I have never smoked in my life, but I found¬†this mention of non smoking rather puzzling. It almost seems to imply that smokers are more protected against getting myeloma…weird! As for the second point mentioned,¬†I was diagnosed with MGUS in 1999, at age 38, then with SMM in 2005, at age 44 (okay, okay, so 44 is “older” compared to 38…!).

 

Now, for most of my life, my fish intake has been limited to occasional cans of tuna. Dreadful, I know. If only I could go back in time, I would eat tons of fish!¬†Fact is, growing up, I simply didn‚Äôt like the taste of it…until I met Stefano, who is a gourmet cook‚Ķyes, the rather annoying but also wonderful type who can peer inside a nearly-empty fridge and come up with a scrumptious meal within minutes. Gotta love the guy. And boy, can he cook fish!

 

Anyway, back to the study. The Canadian researchers discovered that people who consumed greater proportions of their total energy intake from fresh fish had a significantly lower risk of each of the three types of cancer, and there was a significant dose-response for risk of leukemia and NHL. Furthermore, Those in the highest quartile for percentage of fat intake from fish were at lowest risk […].

 

Basically, the higher your weekly fish intake, the lower your risk of developing one of the LH cancers (=the three cancers combined).

 

Attention-grabber: There was no association between level of education and cancer status. Well, phew!, that is indeed comforting. Until now, I had been absolutely convinced there must be an association between my undergrad years at Harvard University, my subsequent grad school career and my myeloma‚Ķ ūüėČ

 

Discussion part of the study: The major conclusion of this paper is that increasing proportions of total energy and fat obtained from fresh fish seems to protect against the development of leukemia, NHL, and myeloma. For all cancer types, the strongest reduction in risk was associated with increasing proportion of total fat obtained from fresh fish. This supports the hypothesis that dietary fats provided by fish are the key to the protective effect of fish intake against LH and other cancers. Aha!

 

The study ends as follows: In summary, in a very large case-control study, we have found a strong protective effect of fresh fish intake for leukemia, myeloma, and NHL which is consistent with previous literature.

 

Okay,¬†but here is a good question: how can we know if our freshly caught fish is contaminated or not?¬†(Go read the part about the myeloma-attacked Japanese village on p. 5.) Indeed, for that matter, how do we¬†know that anything we eat isn‚Äôt contaminated? Does the label ‚Äúorganic‚ÄĚ (biologico, in Italian) really protect us enough? But I am getting off track, and besides,¬†the implications of that¬†question would¬†provide¬†enough fodder for an entirely¬†separate post.

 

Interesting titbit: Animal studies have found that consumption of fish oils increases survival of animals with cancer. I glanced at the particular animal study (full text: http://tinyurl.com/67cwaw) listed in the bibliography, and it implies that fish oil, i.e., not fish fillets or whole bits of fish, was given to dogs with lymphoma. Fish oil

 

That is why I will stick to my free-from-contamination (!) daily fish oil capsules. But, about once a week, I will also eat fish caught by a small fishing cooperative off the coasts of Tuscany. At least, contaminated or not, the fish is fresh!

Towers of San Gimignano

This morning Stefano suggested that we drive to the medieval Tuscan town of San Gimignano, which we haven’t visited in years.

 

Well, I didn’t need much convincing (none, in fact!).¬†It¬†was a perfect day for¬†such an outing, sunny and glorious.¬†Besides, this little trip gave me an opportunity to take¬†a few¬†photos for the blog! ūüėČ

 

I had forgotten how breathtaking San Gimignano is, even though only 14, some websites say 15 (I have to say that I didn’t count them)¬†of its original 72 13th century towers are still left standing. But those 14 or 15‚Ķaaah, what a sight!

 

We walked all over the¬†place and had a fabulous time popping in and out of countless arched alleys and¬†walking¬†on the ramparts of the town’s 14h century fortress (Rocca di Montestaffoli).¬†A lovely day.¬†

More on curcumin and iron

Another study on curcumin‚Äôs function as an iron chelator was published in ‚ÄúBlood‚ÄĚ last month (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/5fhhwd). The interesting part is that these Wake Forest University NC researchers wanted To test whether the chelator activity of curcumin is sufficient to induce iron deficiency in vivo, using mice whose diets contained graded concentrations of both iron and curcumin for 26 weeks. Well, after reading the full study, I have reached a couple of conclusions. But first, the study‚Ķ

 

As we can read in the abstract, the researchers found that curcumin has the potential to affect systemic iron metabolism, particularly in a setting of subclinical iron deficiency. This may affect the use of curcumin in patients with marginal iron stores or those exhibiting the anemia of cancer and chronic disease.

 

Hmmm, doesn’t sound too good, eh. Well, now for the full study (grazie Sherlock!).

 

As usual, it begins with info on how curcumin has been used traditionally, how human Phase I clinical trials of curcumin have yielded good results, such as almost no toxicity, and so on. It then discusses how curcumin works‚ÄĒinhibition of NF-kappaB and so on. Skip, skip. Skip.

 

Then the study mentions a 2006 study, which I discussed in a previous post (see my Page on curcumin and iron). In a nutshell, liver cells treated with curcumin showed a decrease in ferritin, raising the possibility that the chelator activity of curcumin might be sufficient to induce systemic iron depletion, potentially triggering or exacerbating subclinical or clinical iron deficiency.

 

The first thing that the researchers did was put groups of mice on either high or low iron diets. Then curcumin was added to the mix, up to the equivalent of 8-12 grams a day. No toxicity from the curcumin was observed, by the way. So far, so good.

 

Results: the addition of curcumin had no effect on the hematocrit, haemoglobin, serum iron or transferrin saturation of the “high-iron” mice BUT it did have a dramatic effect on the “low-iron” mice. All the above-mentioned values declined; the higher the curcumin dose, the lower the values.

 

However, before we freak out and toss our precious bottles of curcumin into the rubbish bin, let me say that the Discussion part of the study makes a few interesting points.

 

1. Compared to other chelators used for the treatment of iron overload, curcumin has a moderate chelator activity.

 

2.¬†Indian diets are traditionally low in bio-available iron. This is important, since Indians consume quite a bit of curcumin via the spice from which it is extracted–turmeric. So, theoretically, Indians should be an anemic population en masse with their large consumption of turmeric and low iron intake, right? Hmmm…I doubt that that is the case…

 

On the negative side, the mice with the iron-deficient diet ended up with iron deficiency anemia, including a decline in serum iron, decreased hematocrit, decreased transferrin saturation and appearance of hypochromic red blood cells. ‚ÄúHypochromic‚ÄĚ red blood cells means ‚Äúpaler than usual‚ÄĚ red blood cells = anemia (Werriam Webster definition: marked by or being red blood cells with deficient haemoglobin).

 

Then we read that Curcumin also decreased iron levels in the bone marrow and spleen. And that curcumin-mediated changes in the liver were extensive: curcumin reduced liver iron, activated IRP, repressed ferritin, blablabla.

 

This sounds really scary, but hey, after all I have been on a high dose of curcumin for almost three years, and I am not anemic. Yes, my haemoglobin is on the low end of normal but is still hanging in there. I just checked, and, as far back as 2005, my Hgb has never been super high. So, without meaning to sound flippant, I say, no big deal. My serum iron, though, took a plunge in February, after our (Sherlock’s and mine) failed Biocurcumax experiment. So far, it hasn’t recovered, and for the past three set of tests has been slightly below the normal range. I will keep an eye on it.

 

At any rate, at the end of the study, the researchers make a few important points: There are two important implications of these results. First, iron chelators have been shown to exert anti-tumor effects, both through the formation of redox-active iron complexes and by iron depletion. Thus, reduction in systemic iron resulting from the use of curcumin in the setting of a low iron diet may contribute to the anti-cancer activity of curcumin. Second, curcumin may have the potential to contribute to the development of anemia in patients with marginal iron status. This may be an important consideration when curcumin is used to treat patients with marginal or depleted iron stores or those exhibiting the anemia of cancer and chronic disease.

 

So if you are healthy but trying to prevent the development of cancer and your iron levels are normal or high, don’t worry about taking curcumin. However, you have to be more cautious if you are a cancer patient with low iron levels. Problem is, if we, the low-iron myeloma folks, add an iron supplement to our daily intake, we may end up inhibiting curcumin’s anticancer activity (again, see my Page on curcumin and iron)…sigh. Catch-22.

 

My own conclusions. Driving to work this morning, I decided to wait until I get my test results in mid December before taking any action on the iron front. I will begin taking an iron supplement in December if I see that my Hgb, serum iron and ferritin levels keep dropping compared to my July tests. If I do start taking iron, though, I will wait at least 12 hours before swallowing my curcumin, so as to minimize any possible interference.

 

In yesterday’s post I forgot to mention that a couple of weeks ago I came across a bottle of curcumin (in my medicine cabinet) that turns out not to be the C3 Complex curcumin that I usually take. No idea where it came from, my parents must have brought it with them last spring. Anyway,¬†each capsule contains about 850 mg of curcumin,¬†which means that¬†I have to take only 10 capsules a day, not 16 (bonus!). And¬†each capsule¬†has a bit of bioperine in it, which is good. So I decided, what the heck?, and began taking this new curcumin.¬†That was about ten days¬†before I had my blood tests.¬†

 

But the big decision of the past few days is that I have decided to begin taking feverfew, in its capsule form. The parthenolide content is rather low, but I hope it WILL work anyway. This weekend I am going to do some research on when and how to take it (at the same time as I take my curcumin or not?), etc.

Next tests in January. My parthenolide tests. Exciting! ūüôā

UPDATE: after reading this post, Sherlock wrote me a private note¬†reminding me¬†that her Hgb is the same as it was one year ago (=before she began taking curcumin). However, get this: her¬†serum iron and transferrin have actually gone¬†UP since 2007. Now that is interesting. (Hmmm, my transferrin is high, incidentally…food for thought.)

The only value that has decreased in a year’s time for Sherlock is her ferritin. So, curcumin may have a different effect on different people. After all, we are not mice! ūüėČ

Blood tests

I zoomed into the Careggi hospital lab at 6:30 a.m. this morning. Even that early, I had 50 people in line in front of me. By 7:45, though, that number would have risen to almost 150…yikes. It’s a popular lab!

 

Unfortunately, since I am having some specific things tested (a few vitamins and my parathyroid hormone, e.g.), I won’t get my test results until mid December. Without those specialized tests, I would have had my results in 10 days. Bummer, since I am seeing my haematologist on November 26th and my endocrinologist on the 29th. Oh well. Can’t have everything!

 

Next week I am having a flu shot. If your immune system is compromised, ask your doctor about having a flu shot this year. And here is a word of caution. I always make sure that my vaccine doesn’t contain any mercury, i.e., that it is thimerosal-free, even though the percentage of mercury is supposed to be tiny. (Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative.) Still, a percentage is a…percentage.

 

It‚Äôs a controversial topic, some studies report that the mercury contained in flu shots exits¬†the body quickly without¬†causing any damage, others that it can accumulate in the brain‚Ķwell, my reason for choosing the no-mercury option is that I think we already have enough toxins in our food and¬†environment…I just don’t see the¬†point in adding any more, even if the risk might be (!) minimal. Might be…

 

Might not be…

 

Nothing much else going on right now. I am settling back into my regular, post-election life‚ÄĒreading and monitoring new (or not so new, sometimes) studies/research and so on. Life is good.

 

Yesterday, in the spirit of change, I changed my blog header image. It’s a portion of a lovely photo I took last month on a Cape Cod (Massachusetts, U.S.A.) beach.

OHF

Well, there is not much that I can add to what has already been written in the comments to my previous post. Just a few random items.

 

Unlike my cousin and aunt and half the world, it seems!, I didn‚Äôt stay up last night, figuring that we wouldn‚Äôt have any reliable election results until at least mid morning (Italian time). But as soon as I woke up this morning, my first thought was to turn on the TV, where I saw the headlines: ‚ÄúObama presidente.‚ÄĚ

 

Presidente??? Still bleary-eyed, I thought ‚Äúwait, that‚Äôs not possible, it‚Äôs too SOON!‚ÄĚ

 

But it wasn’t. I began watching CNN International, Sky News and Fox News. It really happened.

 

I laughed, I cried (with joy, obviously), and laughed again.

 

And when I turned on my computer, I found cheery messages from my students, family members and friends. One of my Italian friends phoned earlier to congratulate me, as though I myself had run for President and won. ūüėÄ

 

Special reports on the U.S. election have substituted regular TV programming here in Italy. I am simply blown away by the celebrations going on all over the world, not just in the United States. Unprecedented.

 

This is an amazing day. I am so proud. So happy.

And tomorrow I am going to have my blood tests. I want to take advantage of OHF, the Obama Happiness Factor. I am sure that OHF will kill at least a few of those evil myeloma cells…!

The elephant in the living room

This morning I woke up thinking about the issue that nobody wants to bring up under normal circumstances, much less during a presidential election: cancer.

 

I asked myself:¬†simply based on health status, would I be running for President right now? Well, after all, my cancer is inactive, so far, at least. Hmmm. So here are my morning ruminations…mainly but not exclusively from a health perspective (when I use italics, I am pretending to be‚Ķsomeone else). Just for the sake of argument, of course.

 

Let’s say that between 1993 and 2002 I had four cases of malignant melanoma. The one removed in 2000 was a particularly nasty one.

 

Let‚Äôs say that, in April 2008, my doctors had found and removed six adenomas–growths with the potential to turn malignant–from my large intestine.

 

Let’s say that they had also removed a basal cell carcinoma (considered to be highly curable) from one of my legs, in May 2008.

 

Okay, my doctors have pronounced me ‚Äúcancer-free‚ÄĚ and fit to run for President. Off I go.

 

But wait a sec…why in the world would I even remotely desire to run for President??? The stress of a prolonged presidential campaign could cause a recurrence of the cancer. I certainly do not want put my family through hell again, do I?

 

Out of curiosity, this morning I¬†did a quick search¬†on¬†a possible¬†connection between stress and malignant melanoma. Well, quelle surprise, I found¬†quite a number of studies on this topic. The following, e.g., shows that stress inhibitors hold back the invasion of malignant melanoma cells: http://tinyurl.com/6gx3aq¬†Another one¬†on stress and malignant melanoma: http://tinyurl.com/5bb24s And here (on page 212, see also the bit on ‚Äúanger,‚ÄĚ to which Sen. McCain is no stranger): http://tinyurl.com/5t6399

 

Of course, I am not saying that cancer patients should crawl into a hole and isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Hah. That would be sooo silly. But why make matters potentially worse?¬†I don’t get it. Not in this case, certainly.¬†But let’s go on, for the sake of argument.¬†

 

Let’s say that I am elected President of the United States and that my cancer rears its ugly head again, due to the¬†overwhelming stress of a prolonged presidential campaign. To take the argument a step beyond the obvious consequences for me and my family, what would happen to my beloved country? Shudder…

 

As a cancer patient, I¬†have a lot of empathy¬†for¬†Sen. McCain. In fact, I would have loved to hear him speak openly about his melanoma during the campaign. But he didn’t, or if he did, I must’ve missed it.

 

Indeed, from what I saw while I was in the States, and from what I continue to see over here in Italy (except when I watch Fox News), his campaign has been based more on shockingly reprehensible, angry and hypocritical mudslinging than on addressing the issues that concern us all. There are heaps of mudslinging examples from which to choose…but this morning I received a private note from a blog reader¬†supporting¬†Sen. McCain‚Äôs most recent attack on Sen. Obama. I have already responded privately, but now I will do so publicly.

 

The attack concerned Sen. Obama’s acquaintance with a highly esteemed Middle Eastern scholar, Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi. His impressive credentials are available online, I won’t bother repeating them here.

 

But I do have an interesting¬†bit of news: since 1993, Sen. McCain¬†has been chairman of¬†the International Republican Institute (IRI). Tax returns show that in 1998 IRI gave $ 448,873 to the Center for Palestinian Research and Studies (CPRS), an organization co-founded by Prof. Khalidi. I kid you not. The 1998 IRS form is available online, just click on this link,¬†go to p. 14 and¬†look for “CPRS”: http://tinyurl.com/6nt6tx¬†¬†

 

My question is: why, uhmmm, has Prof. Khalidi become an undesirable connection all of a sudden? The answer is obvious. This is merely another GOP desperate last-minute attempt to distract and confuse U.S. voters.

 

The worst case scenario is that Sen. McCain and his script writers are suffering from a severe case of memory loss. The best (?) is that they are not able to do even a minimally acceptable amount of research.

 

Either way, I am not at all impressed. I hope U.S. voters won’t be, either.