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How Did I Miss That? On a Cuteness Jag; Shameless Pharma

Jaguar, not the sleek but mechanically challenged British sports car but the cat considered sacred by Mayan Indians, is in danger of disappearing from the earth. The sad state of the species made it news when Texas Monthly reported the birth of Balam, a healthy jaguar cub, at the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas.

Balam is bound to be a rock star in Texas, where the last wild jaguar was killed in 1949. At Mission San Antonio de Valero aka the Alamo, Texas supports an official cat by the name of Miss Isabella Francisca Veramendi de Valero---Bella for short. Bella’s primary duties are as greeter, but The Institute of Texan Cultures also has a working cat to protect priceless historical artifacts from vermin. Cats rule beside dogs south of the Red River.

On the other hand, my Republican cousin Ray Sixkiller reminded me, Texas allows killing of cougars and bobcats. Cousin Ray is embarrassed for his party because it routinely buries legislative attempts to designate the big cats as “game animals.” That does not sound like a conservation measure, but if they were game animals, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would have to adopt rules to protect a minimum breeding population.

It’s probably too late for Jaguar, but rumors of sightings in the wild abound and the last one killed was substantially north of the most logical place for the sacred cat, Big Bend. The rumors are not impossible, but for now the arrival of unbearably cute Balam is good news because the species needs all the human friends it can get.

Sexy as the mechanical Jaguar is, there is competition. Car & Driver reported that Ford is bringing back the GT in 2017. To buy the 700 horsepower Corvette thumper you have to make an application. Owners of previous GT models and loyal Ford owners get first dibs, but only 250 copies per year are anticipated. Cousin Ray felt pretty good about his application because he’s always been partial to Ford F-150s, but he piped down after I told him the estimated MSRP is $400,000.

Most of us have other uses for our money. A New York Times piece was a stark reminder. The Times was critical of a new CEO increasing the price of a 62-year-old drug that is “the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection” from $13.50 a pill to $750.

When Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on,” biotech stocks tanked.

It was not just pols. Business writer Kurt Eichenwald, one of those expected to argue we need high drug prices to encourage innovation, tweeted to the CEO responsible, “As the son of a world-famous infectious disease MD who saved continents, let me say: U are the personification of evil.”

For once, the Twitter innocent Cousin Ray announced, he could sum it up in a tweet: “Your money or your life!”

The personification of evil, Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals, gave the one finger salute to his critics for two days and then backed off. Outside of The New York Times, nobody mentioned that the drug used to cost a dollar a pill when the behemoth GlaxoSmithKline made it. It went up to $13.50 when Glaxo sold to CorePharma, which sold to Turing, at which time what had been one dollar and then $13.50 became $750.

The Times also pointed out other generic drugs raised overnight 525 percent and 212 percent. One antibiotic, according to investigating congressmen, went from $20 a bottle in 2013 to $1,849 in 2014. “Like I said,” Cousin Ray repeated, “Your money or your life.”

The average person can’t sue a drug company over this kind of crap. State Attorneys General do that, so Pennsylvanians should pay attention when The New York Times reported that Democrat Kathleen Kane, elected after attacking her predecessor for tardy response to the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, has been suspended from practicing law by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The suspension is over pending criminal charges that she leaked grand jury testimony and then lied under oath about having done so.

As in most states, the law requires that the Attorney General be a practicing attorney. Kane could avoid going to court by sending assistants, but signing documents in her official capacity is also practicing law. My snarky Republican cousin commented, “I am shocked, shocked to hear that a prosecutor would leak grand jury testimony.”

Another public servant on the hot seat, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, issued a joint statement with Mexico’s Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu promising a “prompt, thorough and transparent investigation” into an Egyptian air strike that killed eight Mexican tourists and four Egyptian guides. Then, the Egyptian government promptly banned media coverage of the investigation.

Cousin Ray was grim. “Looks like Egyptian transparency is a lot like Mexican transparency in the Iguala Massacre,” referring to the abduction and presumed death of 43 college students and the murder of six bystanders September 26, 2014.

The New York Times reported a borderlands commonplace, “Many Mexicans have no confidence in anything the government says.” I can’t imagine why the people have no confidence in Mexican “justice,” but it appears the Mexican government is well fixed to understand the Egyptian government.

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This silly season offers little hope that the U.S. will do better in its presidential election.

Christian nationalist Ann Coulter got whacked for a series of tweets about Jews. She was in high dudgeon about candidates in the GOP debate mentioning Israel in response to a question about what the U.S. would look like if they were elected. Fending off a Twitterstorm, she speculated, “Maybe it’s to suck up to the Evangelicals.” Cousin Ray harrumphed, “Why didn’t she just say so?”

Dr. Ben Carson disqualified himself because he said on Meet the Press that he does not support Article VI of the Constitution.

Having watched the rise of Ted Cruz in Texas, I never thought I would write these words, but props to Cruz for standing up for the Constitution he studied at Yale and Dr. Carson trashed.

Vox published an op-ed advocating that Jeb Bush drop out in favor of Marco Rubio. Bush is leading among establishment candidates, but only because he’s raised more money than God. The Vox op-ed suggested, “Marco Rubio is Jeb Bush but good at politics.”

Carly Fiorina’s star will dim as she becomes serious enough for her record to get examined, particularly her record prior to Hewlett-Packard. Fortune reported on how Fiorina took Lucent down the tubes back in 2010. The short version is that she drove up sales by financing for customers obviously not credit worthy. Some of the loans exceeded the full cost of Lucent products purchased. HP hired Fiorina before her leveraged house of cards collapsed.

Neatly completing the circle of political news and gossip, Gawker posted an op-ed trolling for information about a rumor that a story about to become public would sink Scott Walker in spite of his multi-million dollar SuperPAC.

Personally, I wonder what kind of news could upstage two dismal debate performances, making a fool of himself in Britain, and polling less than one percent? In the first state to act, Iowa, Walker went from 30 percent in February to three percent this month.

Walker had also appeared to be the preferred candidate of the Koch Brothers, they of the infinite checkbook to pull the country to the right. In his withdrawal, he urged other establishment candidates to follow his example.

To beat the Democrats? No. To beat The Donald Trump.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran and Russia have been meeting to discuss how to keep Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in power. We now have U.S. jets flying air cover against the Islamic State and being OK with Assad’s forces as collateral damage and Russian jets flying air cover for Assad and being OK with our allies the Kurds as collateral damage. Proxy war, anybody?

Some Russian soldiers are in serious trouble for complaining to a newspaper about their deployment to Syria. Foreign Policy wisecracked that the first rule of Syrian fight club is don’t talk about Syrian fight club. The Russian troops are on the same down low as U.S. and British special operators.

Army Times reported on the practical demonstration of a cloak of invisibility, er, dielectric metasurface cloak, that can manipulate electromagnetic waves, including radio and visible light. Professor Harry Potter, er, Boubacar Kante told the army that the cloak is much lighter than the proof of concept back in 2006 and it’s ready to be scaled up.

Jay Nordlinger appeared on Morning Joe to flog his new book, Children of Monsters, a history of the offspring of the world’s most odious dictators. One of the stranger stories is about the daughter of mass murderer Pol Pot. She holds a graduate degree in English literature. Her father, Nordlinger pointed out, “killed people with glasses because they might have read something.”

The dictator might have been right about smoking out intellectuals. When I was in law school, I looked around a big classroom one day and noticed over two thirds of my classmates were wearing glasses. Questioning later revealed that most of the others had contact lenses.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Pope Frank disappointed those who thought he came to give hope to Cubans who want to see freedom of thought, since he met with the Castro brothers but not with dissidents. “Big surprise,” grumbled Cousin Ray. “If Frank thinks Junipero Serra ought to be a saint, he couldn’t have much interest in freedom of thought.”