Letters to the Editor

Cancer Trials

I got a phone call from my college roommate, Bill Flint (great Stanford pole-vaulter from ’52 to ’56), asking if I was mouse “A” or mouse “B.” It wasn’t until I got my January Stanford the next day that I understood what he was asking. The excellent article “Closing In on Cancer” was the answer.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999. With my urologist and oncologist agreeing that there is no treatment that guarantees a 100 percent cure, I chose radiation (five weeks) and brachytherapy (radioactive seeds).

In 2002, I was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer, had 12 inches of my small intestine removed and immediately started receiving Sandostatin. I was told in 2005 that my cancer was gone. 

In 2008, I was rushed to the emergency room in Sedona, Ariz., with what I thought was a heart attack. I will never forget the doctor’s words: “I have good news and bad news—the good news, you didn’t have a heart attack; the bad news, you have a broken rib resulting from bone cancer.” What a shock.

I was sent to Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, where tests revealed the cancer had metastasized to my rib, numerous spots on my spine and left clavicle. I immediately started a cancer shot regimen. Later, I was approached by my Mayo Clinic oncologist to see if I would be willing to try an innovative procedure, Provenge, a relatively new treatment for bone cancer. As cancer patients know, anything that offers promise is gratefully accepted. I gladly signed the waivers.

I was gowned appropriately, put into a bed and introduced to the nurse who had a needle in her hand that knitters would consider too large for most projects. My veins hide whenever they see a white coat, and only after several attempts did she find a vein that would allow the appropriate amount of blood flow. For the next hour, the blood was circulated through a carefully monitored centrifuge to separate the white from the red cells. Really no pain or major discomfort! I suggest you read the article to fully understand the entire process.

Three days later, I got my “fortified” blood back. Three more sessions and it was over. Did it work? I’m still here! I now take a new med, Zytiga, that I believe is keeping the cancer from spreading further. But I give credit and thanks to the developers of Provenge. I truly believe that immunology is the future of successful cancer research. I have written this to encourage prostate or bone cancer patients to explore these new technologies, explore clinical trials. One day this damn disease will be beaten.
Jack R. Lohey, ’56
Cave Creek, Arizona

I can’t think of another article in the entire history of the magazine that deals with something this important for the future of humankind. Our own immune system—what a weapon! Dr. Engleman deserves all the aid and help and encouragement the world can give him.
Dr. Hardy Lee Wieting Jr., ’63
Laguna Niguel, California

Bravo for such an informative article. The FDA needs to cut the red tape and get such cancer vaccines into clinical trials as soon as possible. Many lives depend on this!
Charles Raymond Tass, MS ’90

I am so very encouraged by this information. The fact that our own antibodies are programmed to miss our own cancer cells but recognize those of strangers—and to reverse the process and stimulate our dendritic cells to sound the alarm, this is pure genius. And, when one gets right down to the nub, this has been a forensic cellular quest worth our full support. I’m spreading this news as far and wide as I’m able.
Gerald L. Manning
Fairfield, Connecticut


Data Overreach

It is disturbing that Jennifer Granick frames the problem in terms of “government policies she says threaten civil liberties and erode personal privacy” (“Not on Her Watch,” January/February). The problem is much bigger and worse than that. It starts with the unlimited power of large companies like Google and Facebook to compile, crunch and analyze our personal data, preferences and networks. 

There are three problems with focusing our concern only on governments: 1) Without the private sector machinery for collecting our data, there would be little for the government to look at; i.e., despite their self-serving campaign to appear concerned about our privacy, these companies are the primary enablers of government surveillance; 2) These companies are rapidly transcending the quaint notion of national boundaries and will soon make traditional state-based power structures obsolete; and 3) There is no evidence that the agenda of such companies is benign or even neutral—quite the contrary. Just look at the huge budgets they spend on teams of psychologists (and psych AI’s) for the purpose of building tools to manipulate their customers. (If you’re not sure what the product is, it is probably you.)

Of course, this is Stanford, where the dream of so many undergraduates is to make a fortune in businesses that “monetize” personal data. The university itself is symbiotic with the information technology industry, if not largely captive at this point. It is silly to expect anyone at Stanford, even Professor Granick, to bite the hand that feeds them by asking the tough, and honest, questions about the industry we have helped birth. 
Charles Hsu, PhD ’85, MBA ’90
San Francisco, California

The article about Jennifer Granick is thought-provoking. I wonder how she defines “agents of foreign powers” for the purpose of authorizing warrantless surveillance; think ISIS/ISIL. 
Richard E. Rader, JD ’63
Sacramento, California

Mike Antonucci did a fantastic job summing up what is generally a complex subject. It’s reassuring to know there are experts out there with the balance Jennifer Granick has shown between academia and activism. We need more passionate people with high levels of expertise. Clearly, Jennifer fits the bill to a T. The ongoing (nascent) battle between privacy and security, as our enemies gain skills via social networks, will be a worthy war where we need a few generals like Granick. Kudos!
David H. Elton III
Lincoln City, Oregon


Remembering Wilbur

After reading the excellent report on Ray Lyman Wilbur (“The Doctor-President Who Made Stanford Better,” January/February), I felt our alumni might enjoy learning of my personal visit with him in December 1941.

The Pearl Harbor disaster had just occurred, and my Stanford classmates, both male and female, were leaving school for military service. The Japanese menace to the West Coast was still a very real possibility, and we all felt our country needed our services.

Looking back today upon my incident with the president, it seems impertinent and impetuous. Without an appointment I entered his office, and his secretary invited me into his presence. The Great Man greeted me with his usual charm and urged me to a seat near him. “What may I do for you, Mr. Preble?”

“Dr. Wilbur, I am perplexed as to my course at this point; I’m a first-term junior and I have worked diligently to achieve my present academic status. Should I volunteer, as so many others are doing, or should I stay enrolled?”

The wise person that he was, Dr. Wilbur sat back thoughtfully, not speaking for a bit. He then spoke words that changed my life: “Sir, I’ve been in public life long enough to know that when your country needs you and calls you, you will know.”

I heeded his advice, completing my four undergraduate years. Of course, I was committed upon graduation to report for active duty in the Naval Reserve. 

We all have “forks in the road,” and that visit was a great one for my future, influencing who I was and have become.
Bob Preble, ’43
Aberdeen, Washington

I know I speak for a large portion of the family when I say the nicely written story by Theresa Johnston, ’83, about Dr. Wilbur was a welcome reminder of how high the bar can be set for the role of president of this great university. I wanted to mention that each one of Ray’s five siblings was gifted with that kind and adventurous spirit which brought their pioneering parents, Edna and Dwight, to Riverside, Calif., in the 1880s. Ray’s older brother Curtis Dwight Wilbur became a California Supreme Court justice, before being tagged by Calvin Coolidge for the role of secretary of the Navy, and completed his career as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Ironically, Ray was still dealing with the death of his sister Louise, who lost her life performing medical missionary work in Persia, as he was being sworn in as president of Stanford in 1916. Louise’s children found their way to Stanford in the 1920s, as did many other Wilbur offspring throughout the 20th century, in a tradition of service and belief in the role this great university has to play on the world stage. It’s this dedication to excellence and service that brought Stanford to prominence and will keep this university in high esteem better than any sandstone block ever will. Long may you run, Stanford!
Curtis Lyman Wilbur, ’74
Carlsbad, California


Inequality: Policies Needed

The ideas put forward by the panelists at Reunion (“Inequality: What to Do,” Farm Report, January/February) contained some plausible ways to address the problem of inequality in Western societies.

What, in my opinion, was missing was the part that the introduction of the so-called living wage could play in helping to close the income gap.

In the United States and the European Union, the price of food, for example, is too low. Most households are spending a lower proportion of income on feeding the family than ever before. The wages of agricultural workers need to be raised to a level that lifts them out of poverty. Other parts of the low-wage sector of the economy, such as the unskilled service industries, need a similar boost.

Of course, someone would have to pay for this fundamental change of policy, and it would have to be managed over a sufficiently long period to avoid disruption. But we need to commit our nations to eradicate extreme poverty and inequality by accepting that a head of lettuce, or whatever, will cost more in the future. It would not be the complete answer, by any means, but it would be a start.
Charles W. Turner, PhD ’61
Virginia Water, Surrey, England

As I read the comments of the panelists, I had this nagging feeling of the intertwining of problems in our society with politics and whom we elect to lead us. To address that connection with each panelist’s remarks would require an article, not a letter.

But here is my answer: Be informed. This is the information age, for Pete’s sake. The thoughts of leading minds are a click away. As are fact checks.

Vote. We all know that a large percentage of registered voters stay home on election day, leaving the results to those who vote on sound bites and popularity contests, if they vote at all. Shame on those who don’t appreciate the price generations of our military men and women have paid for our right to live in this country and choose our leaders.

Campaign for the candidate of your choice. Walk your precinct, and tell people what you have learned. 

Now for a quick example. Caroline Hoxby speaks to our educational system. Politics controls much of our ability to change that. See the report from our own Hoover Institution, “The Case Against Public Sector Unions,” which points out the benefit of change both to liberals and conservatives.

After reading that and other resources, I selected a candidate for state office to support and walked my precinct. She won.

And when feeling down, check out Theodore Roosevelt’s quote “Daring Greatly.” It is not the critic who counts. . . .
Bob Olson, ’60
San Ramon, California

Your article on inequality wholly lacked an answer to the question it poses: What can be done? Unfortunately, the panelists from the Hoover Institution appear to be the wrong people to answer this question. All of them in one way or another blame the victim, and several question whether there is a problem. Their responses blame workers for not gaining enough skills and education, blame cities for not solving the problem, and accuse Americans of being “brain dead.” 

None of the panelists pointed out that one of the most important causes of inequality is public policy. The rise of the GOP in Congress brought multiple tax cuts for the rich, antilabor policies and cuts in welfare. GOP presidential candidates call for more cuts, which will lead to even greater inequality. 

The problem is real and grows daily. Oxfam tells us that 62 individuals now have as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, compared with six years ago, when it took 388 billionaires to equal the wealth of half the world’s population. According to economist Thomas Piketty, the top 1 percent in the United States now commands 24 percent of all earned income, up from 11 percent in 1944. Obama’s chairman of the Council for Economic Advisors and a number of other economists predict inequality will only increase. They predict consumer spending will fall, income mobility will stagnate, the debt of middle- and lower-income people will increase, and the wealthy will gain more political power. This shift in wealth and the conservative Supreme Court decision to allow unfettered hidden campaign contributions means a handful of rich individuals will determine U.S. economic policy. 

Tax-cutting our way to prosperity failed. Giving the rich more tax breaks does not lead to job growth. Instead, tax increases by Bush I and Clinton lead to the longest period of sustained growth in U.S. history. Cuts in welfare lead to further impoverishment, decreased spending levels and civil unrest. If we hope to turn this around, we must understand what causes inequality and develop public policy to deal with it. Stanford must have more knowledgeable people to answer these questions than the Hoover Institution, which is dedicated to the economic supremacy of the individual and promotion of conservative and libertarian policy. Could the magazine conduct a more thorough examination and develop more positive approaches to the question of “What to do?” 
Don Monkerud
Santa Cruz, California


Weighing Consequences

Whilst the use of beetle larvae to degrade polystyrene is innovative (“Eating Away at Plastics Pollution,” Farm Report, January/February), the simplest and least ecologically damaging way to reduce plastic infiltration into our natural world is to provide systematic incentives to reduce its use by charging the public for its use at the payout counter. There is then less demand for plastics manufacture. Although plastic is less likely to last forever with larval polystyrene feeders, one wonders whether after they become fully metamorphosed, there will be a surge in darkling beetle populations. Are the adults to be euthanized to prevent this? The introduction of now endemically destructive cane toads in Australia in 1935 to control beetles that ruined sugar cane crops is a salient reminder that our designs and manipulation of natural ecosystems hold potential to lead to more harm than good.

I am impressed with Stanford’s podcasts (“Podcasts Explain Big Data,” Farm Report, January/February), [which] critically appraise the pros and cons of quantifying the whole of a situation as it evolves live; there is no longer any risk of biased sampling that leads to misleading conclusions. Rational assessment of metadata will benefit community health in enabling the detection of early patterns of epidemic outbreaks. Satellites provide surveillance data that delineate the global impact of human activity, the natural environment and public health. The geophysical correlation of malaria surges with climate warming and local flooding allows targeted interventions to be delivered to communities before predicted outbreaks.

However, mining big data has also been turned into a fractious political football. Real-world data and informed prediction models that warn of the triumvirate threats of anthropogenic warming, thinning polar ice and rising sea levels continue to ignite acrimonious denial and heated debate.

The consequences of real-time collection and review of personal, emotional and physiological data remain uncertain. The life-logging capability to monitor a person’s minute-to-minute physiological and psychological status is fraught with adverse health risk. Although favorable feedback can enhance a positive mood, and reinforce health-seeking and health-promoting behaviors, adverse data that become permanently imprinted could be harmful. A one-off high blood pressure reading could lead to needless worry in the highly strung. As for life events, who wants to be reminded of broken marriages and health crises on a weekly or monthly basis? Once a year is sufficient for most, and a calendar serves that purpose well.

Life-logging benefits only persons capable of responding constructively to, and learning from, the permanent imprinting of adverse events in one’s life record. On the other hand, vigilant surveillance risks aggravating those inclined to anxiety or hypochondria. There is something oddly robotic about being a mobile docking station that constantly transmits and receives information. It could also be argued that obsessive measurement distracts from living a mysteriously rich nonquantified or nonquantifiable life.
Joseph Ting
Adjunct associate professor, School of Public Health and Social Work
Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Australia


Rose Bowl Reflections

Another beautifully clear day in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl this year (“One for the Ages,” Farm Report, January/February). The football team earned a second Rose Bowl trophy in the last three years, truly a dominant performance over Iowa—another demonstration that serious students can also be superior athletes. In fact, all the Stanford sports teams, men’s and women’s, prove that it can be done year in and year out. At least as impressive as the victory were the media interviews with key players after the game. These young men were well-spoken and conducted themselves humbly and with character. The same is true whenever any of our student athletes are interviewed; they are wonderful representatives of Stanford University.

Then there’s the Leland Stanford Jr. University Marching Band. This group of students takes pride in being the anti-marching band. They strive for satire but achieve only sarcasm. They try to be relevant but are irrelevant. They make mighty efforts to be irreverent but are only insulting. Their antics are designed to be entertaining but are merely sophomoric. Rather than laugh with others, they laugh at them; how cruel. I find it hard to believe that they are drawn from the same student body as the athletes.

There was no reason to insult the good people from Iowa. They were guests at the Rose Bowl, as were the Stanford people. The band once again demonstrated what many outside of the Stanford community already think: that Stanford students are immature, spoiled and arrogant. It’s long past time that the university insist that the band be overseen by adults. Their behavior has time and again shown that they cannot take responsibility for themselves.
Joe Virga, ’72
Redwood City, California


Nobel Omission

It is great that the Nobel committee has finally recognized the importance of DNA repair, but it is unfortunate that they completely ignored one of the most important and major repair systems, recombinational DNA repair (“DNA Distinctions,” The Dish, January/February). It is further disappointing, since a major portion of the work on this repair system was performed here at Stanford.
Kendric C. Smith, ’47
Los Gatos, California


Overpopulation and Climate

I enjoyed the report “Exhortation for the Earth” (The Dish, January/February) of the speech of National Security Advisor Susan Rice, ’86, on “the effects of climate change on U.S. national security.” Climate change affects every one of us, worldwide, in every aspect of our lives, not just at home.

One element of the cause of climate change that seldom gets addressed is that of overpopulation. With the overproduction of people comes fear of not having enough, anger, hate and frustration. No creature can live in such an atmosphere.

As population decreases, through voluntary prevention, everyone will benefit. People will be able to live with a greater sense of security, satisfaction and joy. They will be able to afford and enjoy the things they need—clean housing, food, water, air, space—and know it. As the world population becomes balanced, people will be happier, healthier and probably more giving, and so will our planet.
Jackie Leonard-Dimmick
Atherton, California


Big Game Disaster

Congratulations to Sam Scott for his fine cover article (“Thanksgiving Day Disaster,” November/December) detailing the tragedy occurring during the 1900 Big Game. 

In addition to his good job of historical journalism, Scott underscores the irony that this disaster, the greatest in American sports history, is so little known. As mentioned in the article, I wrote a piece for the San Francisco Examiner in 1977, based on talks with my great uncle, Herman Guehring, who was one of the boys who fell through the glassworks roof. Uncle Herm survived, badly injured. Interestingly, he went on to play semipro baseball as a left-handed second baseman, his right elbow having been shattered in the accident. Others weren’t so fortunate. 

The author suggests some reasons this tragedy has been largely forgotten. But this event is—and should be—one of the most dramatic in Big Game history and lore for both universities. 

I’m trying to work through the Alumni Association to establish some sort of permanent memorial. I hope Cal and the City of San Francisco will also participate. And I’d welcome anyone else to join in this effort.
William Briggs, ’68
Morgan Hill, California


Gutenbergs Secret

The gift of Donn Downing and Letitia Sanders of hand-printed papers dating from as early as the 1460s is a unique treasure (“Gutenberg’s Galaxy,” Farm Report, November/December). As noted, most of these prints came from Venice, Italy. There is a reason for this, which has never been fully explained by the historians.

It is accepted that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. What is not known is that he had a significant amount of secret help with respect to funds and technical support from Francesco Foscari, doge of Venice. This support was carried out by the doge’s foreign affairs representative, Zaccaria Bembo. My casa in Venice was originally the laboratory for Bembo.

Francesco Foscari wanted the bible mass-produced without the Roman Catholic Church knowing the involvement of Venice. Three different versions of the Gutenberg and Johann Faust bible were originally produced and presented to Foscari by Bembo. Foscari selected the one he wanted mass-produced and kept it. It is now in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. 

The other two printings were kept by Bembo. Of these two printings, one is still in the Ca’ Bembo in Venice and the other is in Milan. I have not seen the one in Milan, but I can confirm the copy in the Ca’ Bembo is signed by Zaccaria Bembo.

Gutenberg died in 1468, taking his promised secret with him to the grave. With this secret buried, the printing presses were allowed in Venice. By 1469, Venice was the printing capital of the world without any religious restrictions. This resulted in most of the above gifted pages by Donn Downing and Letitia Sanders in Green Library. Hopefully, similar donations are forthcoming.
John W. Reeder, MS ’74, PhD ’81, MS ’83
Venice, Italy

The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.


Stroke of Luck

In the May/June issue, a Stanford Health Care ad carried important advice on knowing the signs of a stroke (sudden loss of balance, dizziness, loss of vision or speech) and the importance of time. I had a stroke three years ago, during a balmy porch supper in July with our daughter and her new baby. By sheer luck, our son was just walking home from work nearby. He drove me to the hospital, and staff immediately summoned the neurologist. Research shows that stroke survivors do better when taken to hospital by a relative or friend who can explain the background. Thanks to this lucky timing and good care, I can now walk again.  
Linda Murrell Agerbak, ’58
Arlington, Massachusetts


Another Approach

I see the issue of protest is still alive and well on the Bay Bridge (“Something Is Stirring,” May/June).

Drawing upon my memory, I revisited How to Win Friends and Influence People. I couldn’t find any reference to confronting others and calling them names as good strategy. I did see reference to the opposite in the first chapter. I recommend the book to all would-be protesters.

It seems to me that protests are more about promoting your own ego than about real change. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, if I remember correctly, was for civil rights for black people. I wonder what his marches would have accomplished by chanting “What do we want? Dead cops” or trashing cities. Instead, he won us over to his cause through peaceful demonstration.

As for Black Lives Matter, for instance, of course black lives matter. I’m in the “all lives matter” camp, including the 6 million Jews killed in the holocaust and those lives being taken today by ISIS.

If you want to advocate for change in how black people are treated, for example, don’t cite a case that a full federal investigation concluded was justified; don’t call me racist; and don’t tell me “policing while white” is different than “driving while black.” 

Ditto for other causes. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Bob Olson, ’60
San Ramon, California