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Frost-free Date

The spring season will begin soon. The sun will cross the equator of the sky about March twenty-first. Spring will officially arrive. However, the frost-free date is April fifteenth. Be patient and wait to plant your garden. April fifteenth will come all too soon.

College basketball teams are competing in the NCAA tournament affectionally known as March Madness. The competition is one of the largest of its kind. There seems to be tremendous competitive energy in the atmosphere. Especially for those who trash talk about their teams for which they root. The story lines are exciting and a welcome distraction from the daily absurdities reported by our news media. The public cannot escape the constant barrage of unnecessary information blaring from televisions, cell phones, tablets, computers, internet services, billboards, and any other media venue infiltrated by the news agencies. It is impossible to get raw facts about almost anything in today’s world. The members of our society trust the news media far too much as well as scientists in both the medical and non-medical fields. In sports competitions, there are clear winners and losers. Unfortunately, we are not-so-lucky in aspects of our world, especially the clinical laboratory industry.

The company Theranos enters here.  In 2003, while at Stanford University, Elizabeth Holmes allegedly created a wearable patch to adjust the dosage of drug delivery and notify doctors wirelessly of variables in patient's blood. When something sounds too incredible to be true, it usually is fallacious. Ms. Holmes claimed she started developing lab-on-a-chip technology for blood tests. Her alleged intention was to make clinical blood testing cheaper, more convenient, and accessible to consumers. Ms. Holmes dropped out of school so she could use her education trust from her parents for Stanford to establish the company that would later be called Theranos. So many red flags in this story, but no one could see them. No one wanted to see them.

During its first ten years, Theranos operated in secrecy, common to other Silicon Valley startups. Despite their stealth, the company received criticism from the media and scientific community. However, significant news coverage began after September 2013 following favorable profiles published in the San Francisco Business Times and Wall Street Journal. By 2014, Ms. Holmes had raised more than $400 million with an estimated value of $9 billion. She was a golden child, heralded by many as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Her financial worth fascinated the public, not her innovative technologies. The technologies were fake; she had never created innovative nanotechnology to evaluate fingerstick capillary blood.

In November 2016, the Wall Street Journal published an article which identified the fraudulent activities of Theranos. The Journal piece quoted former employees that suspected the technology was a fraud, and it found that the company was using routine blood testing equipment for most of its tests. The story raised concerns about the accuracy of Theranos' blood testing technology, which put patients at risk of having conditions either misdiagnosed or ignored.

This article started the landslide of legal actions taken by private investors, state and federal government agencies, and Walgreens to name a few. Ms. Holmes, the young woman who was lauded by social and new media as a genius was nothing more than a fraud. She conned investors out of 750 million dollars or more, not to mention that her company gave out blood test results that were inaccurate and virtually useless.

Ms. Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford University dropout once billed as the "next Steve Jobs" has forfeited the control of Theranos, the blood testing startup she founded. She will personally pay $500,000 to settle charges that she oversaw a "massive fraud." She also had to forfeit 19 million shares of company stock, and she is barred from having a leadership position in any public company for ten years. I think she should be banned for life; ten years is not good enough. The settlement comes two years after the SEC, prompted by a Wall Street Journal investigation, began looking into claims at Theranos that it had developed the potentially revolutionary blood-testing technology. Agencies are investigating criminal charges for her behaviors.

What can we believe? The news media? They failed to protect the public from this young female sociopath. They embraced her, pushing her agenda without investigating the validity of her claims. With the help of the media, Ms. Holmes was successful at cleverly assembling a group of outside directors on her "star-studded board," which included William Perry (former Secretary of Defense), Henry Kissinger (former Secretary of State), Sam Nunn (former U.S. Senator), Bill Frist (former U.S. Senator and heart-transplant surgeon), Gary Roughead (Admiral, USN, retired), James Mattis (General, USMC), Richard Kovacevich (former Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO) and Riley Bechtel (chairman of the board and former CEO at Bechtel Group). These uninformed directors were as gullible as everyone else. There was no question that Ms. Holmes deceived investors into believing that Theranos’ had developed its compelling product -- a portable blood analyzer – which could conduct comprehensive blood tests from finger drops of blood. I say nonsense! No one took the time to ask the right questions; no one cared because the money was so incredibly good until it was not.

The next time you see Dr. Oz on television, remember no one is policing him either; someone is paying him to say the things he says. Do not let the news media or talk show hosts sway you into believing the sky is yellow and the ocean is pink, regardless of their convictions to the same. Informercials are made to distort the truth, whatever it is.  You can believe that when the sun crosses the equator of the sky, spring will officially arrive. It has for thousands of years.

Remember: the frost-free date is April fifteenth.

Doc

 

 

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