Emeritus Faculty Association news October-November 2010
Friday November 5th, usual time and place, 10.30 am. Javits room, 2nd floor library.
The speaker will be Nicholas Rzshevsky, Chair and Professor of Russian
Nicholas Rzhevsky is Professor and Chair of the Department of European Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. He received his doctorate from Princeton University where he was a Title VI Fellow. His honors include four Fulbright-Hays fellowships, and grants from the U.S. Department of Education, International Research Programs, NEH, and IREX. Rzhevsky's interests focus on Russian literature and theater, ideology, and Russian intellectual history, Russian literary texts and stage performances in the 20th century. The talk is entitled "Contemporary Russian Theater", and is based upon his latest book on the literary affiliations in Russian Theater.
Re: Clifford Swartz: The Physics department will be having a Colloquium in his honor on December 7th, 4.15pm, 137 Harriman Hall, refreshments at 3:45pm.
George Willams: Member, regular attendee, died on September 9. An obituary was sent out on university email by Provost Kaler on September 13.
Leslie Seigle, a long-time participant in our activities, passed away at his home on August 31st. Before coming to Stony Brook in 1965, Les was manager of metallurgy research in the atomic energy division of Sylvania Electric Laboratories where his expertise was in high temperature alloys. In 1961 Les was appointed by President John Kennedy to the Materials Advisory Board which he chaired for two years. In addition to his academic and extensive research work, Les was a long-distance cyclist, an amateur gymnast and an accomplished violinist. He also taught himself German and Russian, well enough to read the classics in those languages. Les helped found Opengate, a residential treatment center for mentally challenged young adults and served on its board for 40 years. He also served, for over 10 years, on the board of visitors of the Central Islip Psychiatric Center, to which he had been appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1984. When Les was 17 his father died and he had to drop out of Brooklyn Technical High School to go to work. One day he accompanied a friend to Cooper Union who was to take the entrance exam. The proctor suggested he take the test too. He passed and was accepted into the college, without having graduated from high school. After graduating from Cooper Union with a degree in chemical engineering, he then went on to earn a MS from U Penn and a PhD from MIT. Upon hearing about their distinguished former student the Brooklyn Tech administration presented Les with a diploma at their Homecoming Celebration in 1998, of which he was very proud.
- our speaker of November 2005, was honored at the end of the Emerson concert on Thursday 21st Oct for his 75th birthday and all of his contributions to the music department over 40 years. Among the speeches were those from President Stanley, the Emerson, Leon Fleisher, and Dawn Upshaw. A scholarship has been set up in his name and seeks contributions, see: http://naples.cc.sunysb.edu/CAS/music.nsf/pages/kalish_scholarship
Our UUP retirees chair Judy Wishnia sends the following news: " . . . A 70s civil service law specifies that retirees who were state workers would be reimbursed for their contributions to Medicare Part B (just under a thousand dollars a year). Gov. Pataki tried to do away with it several years ago but the court determined that one party could not abrogate a contract. . . However, in the rush to pass the recent budget, Gov. Paterson threatened to shut down the government unless the legislators agreed to some budget proposals. Among them was the abrogation of the civil service law on Part B. Some legislators we have spoken to did not even know that was in the packet and even those who knew felt they had no choice. The result is: Part B WILL be reimbursed to state retirees but everyone covered by NYSHIP is going to contribute to the cost; that is, both active workers and retirees will now pay more: something like $38 dollars a year for single membership and $95 a year for family coverage. This doesn't sound like much BUT it is a terrible precedent: the camel's smelly nose is under the tent. Without the civil service protection the cost can continue to increase. Also worrisome is our general health coverage. Once again, every year, the legislature approves a contract which says that retirees in NYSHIP will get whatever health coverage the active workers get. We have asked for a permanent moratorium to avoid the yearly vote. Every year for the past 4 or 5 years both houses have approved the permanent moratorium but each governor has vetoed it. Finally, as a reward for signing on to tier5 of the retirement system, NYSUT members (k-12) got permanency but we did not. Presumably because we are mostly TIAA/CREF or perhaps because we are a small union, they just didn't care about our approval or non-approval of tier5. At any rate, I am worried that given the way Part B was abrogated, we may be in trouble with health coverage. I am urging both unions (I also sit on the NYSUT retiree advisory committee) to make permanence a top priority. I will keep you informed."
Note from editor: Do not doubt the seriousness of this. We are lumped with police and others who retire in their 50's with full benefits and then take other jobs. For the impact on the state see:
Last Meeting: Summary of talk by Distinguished Professor of Pharmacological Sciences and Experimental Medicine, Arthur Grollman.
Your correspondent, having been raised on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and knowing nothing of pharmacology, has done the best he could with this. If you are dissatisfied, you can find a more conventional account at: http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/11/1/44/1/. So here goes:
The Case of the Black Houses
The tale starts in Croatia, where our speaker is on a short trip. There he learns of a mysterious kidney disease, Baltic endemic nephropathy (BEN), which since WW1 has afflicted adults only in selected villages and is familial but not inherited. When a political dislocation had caused an influx of Ukrainians to the area, then magically within 15 years only the newcomers in the same selected villages developed the disease. 50 years of intensive scientific scrutiny has drawn a blank. Meanwhile houses of afflicted families ominously darken . . . Our man assigns himself to the case.
In the local library he discovers an old article in Serbian, previously neglected, implicating a plant Aristolochia Clematis (common name birthwort, a distant cousin of ginger). The writer observed that horses eating hay contaminated with A.clematis developed renal problems. He also saw that the plant grew in local wheat fields where farmers made no attempt to separate the seeds, somewhat larger than those of wheat. Each village milled its own flour which local families then stored in their own houses and baked in their own bread. Our sleuth himself observed the plant growing in wheat fields where it grows preferentially in poor or damp soils close to tributaries of the Danube.
The trail now leads through Brussels, where word comes that a group of 100 otherwise healthy young women had been diagnosed with end stage kidney disease, Aristologic Acid Nephropathy (AAN). All attended a slimming clinic where they were prescribed a remedy prepared from the related species A.fangchi.
Meanwhile, back in the laboratory, mass-spectroscopy on BEN specimens preserved in jars from Croatia showed aristolactum adducts (pieces of DNA covalently bonded to a the cancer-causing chemical - the start of carcinogenesis). So an AmpliChip p53 microarray was employed to sequence the p53 gene in samples from current Balkan patients with upper urothelial cancer (UUC). Thus showing that (i) DNA adducts derived from aristolochic acid (AA) are present in renal tissues of patients with documented EN, (ii) these adducts can be detected in transitional cell cancers, and (iii) A:T to T:A transversions dominate the p53 mutational spectrum.
Elementary my dear Watson!
Our man is then alerted to a woman in Rhode Island whose fitness instructor had prescribed chinese herbs and whose kidneys now had to be removed. Her lawyer is so impressed with the news of the above that he proffers all kinds of compensation. But our sleuth only wants informed consent for a biopsy sample. Repeating the above tests on this documented case of AAN shows identical results.
Thus demonstrating that BEN = AAN. QED. Case closed.
Not so fast! In Taiwan where occurrence of AAN and UUC is the highest the world, 1 in 3 persons is prescribed herbal remedies containing an Aristolochia herb! This raises concern about mainland China and even India where similar herbal medicines are widely used. But with the onset of EN delayed for at least 10 years and UUC 40 years, many people in these areas who ingested related herbal medicines in the past died undocumented or of some other cause. And now, as life expectancy lengthens in the area, it may be difficult to wean them away from their traditional medicines. Furthermore, similar Aristolochia species, genus Moriarty, occur all over the world (eg: Virginia snakeroot)! And only Canada requires harvesting machinery capable of sorting seeds by size. As the presentation closed there came the inevitable question: "where can I buy Canadian bread around here?" - showing that there are some questions to which even Holmes himself cannot supply an answer. But as the legendary detective rides into the sunset to rescue upwards of a billion people from mortal danger, this must surely rank as one of his greatest cases.