Something smells rotten in Cambridge.

The city is experiencing runaway development and explosive growth that critically endangers its character, diversity and quality of life. So say a growing number of city residents and neighborhood groups.

“Not so!” say city “planners” and “leaders” who, far from planning or leading anything, are goose-stepping to a tune played by Cambridge’s pro-development space

“Not so!” say a majority of City Council members who consistently vote to allow unfettered development and who recently turned down an opportunity to take responsibility for projects too large (over 50,00 square feet) to be trusted to a Planning Board that never learned to say “No.”

Those same City Councilors cynically—or perhaps ignorantly— hide behind the urgent need for low- and middle-income housing to justify their support for developments that will spike local rents and most likely displace the people they profess to be helping.

If they truly worried about displacement they’d ask the Community Development Department or the City Manager to report on the net gain/loss of affordable units through the special permit process.

But why ask a question whose answer you don’t want to hear?

Or perhaps they realize what most of us already know— that we can’t trust any of the city’s administrators when it comes to dealing honestly with the problems of wide-scale unfettered development.

Can we trust Susan Clippinger, Director of Traffic and Parking, who has never found that a proposed development significantly added to traffic problems, not even in Alewife? Of course, in her rush to approve projects, Ms. Clippinger consistently resists the temptation to measure the combined impacts of developments.

Can we trust Susanne Rasmussen, Cambridge’s Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning, who publicly states “The amount of traffic on the street in Alewife has been pretty flat over the past 15 years.” This of course the same Suzanne Rasmussen who made a presentation to the Central Square Advisory Committee citing 40% available capacity on the Red Line during rush hour; who also cited “50% of residents within a ¼ mile of the T as having no cars.” I don’t dispute the numbers, only the fact Ms. Rasmussen neglected to mention her survey population included student dorms.

Can we trust a City Manager who responds to a groundswell of anger against the Planning Board by appointing new members, all of whom appear just as beholding to the development community as their predecessors?

Not exactly rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but close.

Can we trust a city council that no sooner agrees to a Master Planning process than puts it under the direction of the planning agency whose lax planning and arrogant behavior contributed to the public outcry for a master plan?

Speaking of Community Development, can we trust a planning agency that seems intent on ramming through zoning changes and creating de facto zoning policy? Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development recently announced to the city council that CDD would not put forth zoning recommendations developed by the K2C2 committees and would instead deal with zoning changes on a project by project basis, thus shutting out the council and the city’s residents from any hope of a coherent, transparent zoning process.

In the last four years, Cambridge has seen almost HALF the construction projected for the next 20 years either built or permitted. Far from creating a growing sense of community through our zoning process, we are growing our city chaotically, almost totally driven by market forces which, left to their own devices, will gentrify our city, expunge our racial and economic diversity and create something far different than the Cambridge we love.

Yes, something smells rotten in Cambridge. And if our “leaders” and “planners” have their way, the smell will only get worse.

A Cheer-Up Note From Rosie

Dear Sister:

I just had to write when I heard the news about you and Frank. Figured you might need some cheering up.

What can I say, Sis? You and Frank separating; who would have thought it! You just never know.

Like with my Sal. He was such a sweet guy before he lost his line manager’s job at McDonald’s. The loss didn’t hurt his disposition—not much! Remember what a pain he was last Thanksgiving when he kept complaining the gravy wasn’t thick enough and the cranberries were staining his teeth?

Well that was a hard time to get through. There were days I felt like telling Sal to take his crybaby face out of the house. He was depressing the kids, for heaven’s sake!

But then, thankfully, Sal got himself a government job and everything changed. At long last, we were standing again on solid ground. Pray the Lord, Sister, you never find yourself relying on unemployment checks for the food on your table.

Sal's new bosses at the office.

Sal’s new bosses at the office.

From the very first I noticed Sal’s lighter side start to return, and it became a lot easier to be around him, even in the mornings which is his toughest time. Of course having a fulltime job, Sal wasn’t around so much and that helped too.

Sister, the new job with its regular hours and government benefits was a godsend. Our only complaint was the money. Sal’s new job is a Grade 10 which is entry level and definitely underpaid. The position is listed as “Intelligence Extractor” but everybody knows that means Sal works for the government as a torturer. Actually Sal is ranked lower than a fully qualified torturer. More like a torturer-in-training.

Can you imagine Sal a torturer? Honestly, it makes me laugh. Sal can’t complain to a waitress about cold oatmeal, how’s he going to join the Spanish Inquisition? I asked him if he had to wear a black mask and he laughed.

But Sal didn’t laugh any about his Grade 10!! It ticked him off, as well it should. He thought his years at McDonald’s entitled him to a higher grade, I’m not sure why. Otherwise, the job is pretty good. I mean the benefits are great and Sal likes the people at the office. Says they’re pretty laid back when they’re not performing their torture specialties. (It’s weird but Sal can’t tell me if he’s working for the CIA, NSA or FBI. “Big secret,” he says, adding he’d have to kill me if I find out. Then he laughs like he’s making a joke, hah, hah!)

Like I said, Sal seems happier and much like his old self. Of course, every once in a while I notice him staring at strangers on the street and I can tell he’s sizing them up like they were future ‘clients’.

Sal says he can’t help it. He says he can’t look at anyone these days except as a potential client. That includes me and the kids, which is very stressful, but Sal says they told him the problem will go away. Once he finishes his training.

And talk about stress, Sal’s training program has been nothing but stressful! There’s a shortage of torture-eligible prisoners to practice on, so trainees like Sal are forced to double up. Sweet Jesus, don’t let the war end before Sal completes his training! (just joking)

The one thing I can’t decide is what to tell the kids. Tommy, Tuppence and Bradbury are only 4,8 and 10, you know. I told them their daddy works in the front lines of the War on Terror. What else could I say? How could I be honest about their daddy’s employment when they’re not old enough to understand that torture in defense of freedom is a noble profession?

Anyway, Sister, I just wanted to write and tell you how sorry I was to hear about you and Frank, and to cheer you up a bit. I have to run now. We’re going to a church supper tonight once Sal gets home from work.

We’re bringing the beans.

Hugs and kisses,


The Torturer’s Apprentice

Waiting is the worst. Sitting in his cold empty cell not knowing when the heavy-plated door will open; not knowing when the metallic scream of steel hinges will signal the next descent into the open mouth of his own personal hell.

torture-report-8The only thing worse than the torture itself is the fear of being tortured again. The only thing worse than the pain ravaging his body is the fear of the pain yet to come.

But nothing is worse than the waiting.

Because in the waiting he succumbs to that cruelest of torturers, his imagination.

Sitting on the cold floor, leaning against the concrete wall like something used up and abandoned, he sees images in his mind and shivers uncontrollably. Matted blood spots have tracked a ghoulish pattern up and down his thin pajama-like shirt and pants.

He looks down and notices his feet are silvery blue. Days ago his torturers took away his socks; perhaps it’s been weeks now, he can’t be sure. Time is no longer a concept used to measure days or weeks. There are no nights or days in this cell which is so devoid of personality it could easily be a hellhole anywhere in the world. There are no windows; only the constant glow from a single bulb encased in steel mesh.

He can’t tell you how long he’s been here. Or how many times they’ve dragged him from his cell. He only knows it’s been too long and that, frighteningly, at any moment his torturers could return.

By now he has learned his captors won’t respond to pleas of mercy or cries of pain. And no appeal, confession or sliver of extracted information will put an end to their brutish cruelties. They are professionals, his tormentors, and will do anything that serves their purpose even if they have no purpose but to inflict pain.

Once, long ago, he had a life outside this realm of constant misery. His days were filled with the repetition and minutia of a mundane existence, all of it taken away without explanation or apology, like the clothes they ripped from his body that very first day.

Does anyone know where he is or whether he’s still alive? Does anyone care? And what does his wife think? Does she believe he woke up one morning and decided to walk out on her? Do his children think he’s dead or that he suddenly stopped loving them? And how will they survive?

These questions, rising up in the rare hazy moments he transcends his pain, are also tools of torture. More subtle in their infliction, but no less capable of breaking him down. It’s as if he’s been schooled to torture himself while he sits and waits for his torturers to return. An ironic sort of apprenticeship, to say the least.

“I’m sorry,” he cries out to his wife as if he, and not his captors, had made the decisions that brought him here. “Please forgive me,” he starts to plead but stops at the sound of footsteps outside his cell door…

With the ominous echoes of those footsteps ringing in our ears, we take leave of our anonymous prisoner, keeping in mind he could be anyone. A terrorist, a political prisoner, the blameless victim of a vicious regime. He could also be someone from our side. A soldier fighting for his country. A spy trapped in his own web of intrigue. A businessman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He could be anyone. He could even be you.

Torture is blind in its search for victims. It devours the good as well as the bad, the innocent as well as the guilty. Knowing that, is it possible to imagine a single crime or slice of intelligence that would justify the physical, mental and emotional torment visited upon our prisoner?

This is not about one-in-a-million scenarios where terrorists have hidden a ticking nuclear bomb. This is about the humane treatment of everyone else on the planet.

Who in the universe has the right to play God with an individual’s body, mind and spirit in such life-crushing fashion? Not only brutalizing a totally vulnerable person, but to peel away the humanity, rights and protections that differentiate human beings from animals.

With acts of torture, a crime against one is a crime against all.

In America we have been brought up to believe the only way to protect the rights of the masses is by holding sacrosanct the rights of the individual. Denying habeas corpus to a single person is the first breach in the levee behind which we all stand waiting. Denying a prisoner due process, access to a lawyer, third party visits, or even acknowledgement to the outside world that he is alive, are actions that betray the United States Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and, most important, America’s sense of fair play and justice.

Yes, we have sadly left our prisoner in his cell waiting for the return of his torturers. If you listen closely you can almost hear their steps as they approach his cell, then the protests of the steel-plated door as it screeches open.

America by itself cannot put an end to torture.

But only America can ensure this scene doesn’t end with Americans walking into that cell.


This story appeared in my book of essays, “How To Train A Rock.” When I first wrote the story—back in 2004, I believe—the American government was asserting at the highest levels that “America does not do torture.” That lie fed repeatedly to an apathetic and largely nondiscriminating American public kept America’s torture machine in business and created a climate where the story above ending with Americans entering the cell to commit acts of torture had some shock value, and was not as obvious as it seems now, given the recent Senate revelations. Still, the sentiments expressed and the general sense of repugnance, shame and disappointment evinced by the author are as true today as they were back then.




Was It A War Against Cancer Or A War Against The Truth?

This is a tale about the War on Cancer.

ralphmossIt’s also a story of two people that spans 40 years and half the planet. One of the two became a pawn of forces trying to bury scientific truth, the other found herself pitted against those forces with her very life at stake.

And both answered a challenge that would test the limits of their courage and personal strength.

A new documentary, “Second Opinion: Laetrile At Sloan-Kettering,” tells the story of Ralph W. Moss, a young science writer hired by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the early 1970s to publicize the center’s work, especially its ongoing contribution to the War on Cancer.

One of Moss’ first assignments was to write a profile on Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, a research scientist at Sloan-Kettering for over 60 years and one of its leading lights. Interestingly enough, Sugiura was also an original co-inventor of chemotherapy.  Sugiura had been tasked by Sloan-Kettering with testing an unconventional therapy called “Laetrile” in an effort to dispel the public’s rising interest in this allegedly “quack” therapy. Far from disproving Laetrile’s effectiveness, Sugiura’s extensive testing showed unexpectedly positive results in laboratory mice*, even when compared against chemotherapy.

Reporting back to his superiors at Sloan-Kettering, Moss was shocked and disturbed to find them almost unanimously determined to deny and stonewall the results of Sugiura’s lab experiments. One can only guess at their reasons for disowning the work of one of their most prestigious research-scientists, but between the FDA and the big pharmaceutical companies, Sloan-Kettering was under tremendous pressure to refute or obscure Sugiura’s findings.

This, of course, was Ralph W. Moss’ moment of truth. As a family man, the father of two young children, Moss couldn’t blithely walk away from a well-paying job that might easily prove to be the keystone of his entire career. prudence2

Fifteen years later…on the other side of the world, a young woman named Prudence Sinclair would be facing her own moment of truth. In 1990, Australian doctors diagnosed Prudence with stage 4 cancer—malignant melanoma—and told her she had six months to live.

After several surgeries, Prudence made a courageous decision to listen to her inner voice rather than the dictates of conventional medicine. With a death sentence hanging over her head she dove headlong into researching so-called “alternative therapies” rather than allow her body to be injected with chemotherapy’s toxic chemicals.

Australia, following the lead of America, had banned the use of Laetrile. So when Prudence’s research started to focus on Laetrile as a most likely way to arrest her cancer, she was forced to fly to Mexico where she received treatments with Laetrile, as well as other supplements that would boost her immune system.

As she told me in a letter, “I was a frightened young woman in my early 20’s who, against the wishes of my husband, family and doctors, flew halfway around the world to save my life.”

Back in Australia she had been warned by two oncologists that Laetrile treatments were not approved by the FDA and were dangerously toxic. In a touch of macabre irony, Prudence points out, “I am here today, and very much alive, while both my oncologists died of cancer.”

“Laetrile is not a magic bullet,” Prudence explains, “But it can stop metastatic cancer and give your body the time it needs to start the healing process.”

After four years of flying back and forth to Mexico, and lugging Laetrile-jammed suitcases back to Australia, Prudence’s cancer was in remission.

Meanwhile, back in the mid-70’s, Ralph W. Moss was facing a crisis of conscience. Unable to suppress his moral revulsion at Sloan-Kettering’s caving in to external pressures, he repeatedly tried to get his employers to publicize 
the truth about Sugiura’s findings. Finally, with every attempt rebuffed, he and fellow employees began anonymously leaking Sugiura’s test findings to the American public 
through an underground organization they named, “Second Opinion.”

There’s no way of knowing whether Ralph W. Moss’ decision to champion the truth about Laetrile—at the cost of his job, his family’s security and incalculable damage to his reputation—was directly responsible for Prudence Sinclair seeking out the laetrile treatments that saved her life.

But there’s no doubt that Prudence and countless others would have never known about Laetrile, or been given the chance to survive their cancer, if people like Ralph W. Moss hadn’t had the courage and conscience to speak out, and to stand up to the crushing power of modern medicine’s profit machine.

Laetrile, as any pharmaceutical executive could tell you, was derived from a natural substance and consequently could not be patented. And thus, more importantly, could not be exorbitantly priced.

As one high level executive at the FDA said back in the 1970’s, “Nobody is going to pay $70,000 for a new cancer drug if they can buy Laetrile for 75 cents.”

In the end, this was a tale about corporate greed, government complicity and human failings laid bare in the War on Cancer.

But also a story about two courageous individuals who refused to become casualties of that war.

And that’s the Truth.

* Sugiura’s findings repeatedly showed Laetrile effective in containing and preventing cancer in laboratory mice. Contrary to popular myth, Laetrile was never proven to cure cancer in lab mice.


• Ralph W. Moss consults on cancer treatments, both conventional and alternative, through Cancer, The Moss Report, which offers targeted treatment information for different types of cancer, and his monthly Advances in Cancer Treatment newsletter.

• Prudence Sinclair works as an integrative health strategist on Boston’s North Shore. Through her LoveYourMedicine foundation she raises awareness and funds for people to make informed decisions about scientifically-proven cancer methodologies. For more information, go to:

• “Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering” can be purchased on, and is now showing in selected cities across America.





“I Am A Rock”, (How To Train A Rock, Part 3)

Dear Paul Steven Stone:

 I have been reading with great interest your articles on how to train rocks, and especially enjoyed your insights into the complexities of our inner workings (yes, I am a rock myself). Unfortunately, most of what you say is very silly and far from true. More like supermarket tabloid trash than hard rock reality.

graystonePaul Steven, I don’t believe you could recognize a real rock if you tripped over one in your kitchen.

In any case, the time for sitting back in stoic silence has passed. As a tribal elder, I have been asked to write and clarify  a few basic truths about rocks.

And, yes, to offer you a friendly warning.

For millions of years we rocks have lived our lives in quiet harmony with nature and its creatures, with the exception of one particularly troublesome species. I refer, of course, to you humans who can’t seem to live in harmony with anyone or anything except your own hubris and unquenchable appetites.

Many centuries ago, it was decided by the Council of Rock Elders that we rocks would conceal our highly evolved spiritual and intellectual development from your species until such time as you were able to relate to us as equals. Since it will take at least another millennium before human beings can evolve to even the lowest of rock levels, and since you persist in writing about us as if we were semi-conscious, emotionally volatile household pets, the time has come for rocks – humbly represented by myself – to step out of the closet.

To begin with, and forgive me if I appear immodest, but rocks are actually the most consciously and spiritually advanced creatures in the universe. I’m sure even you, Paul Steven, must have heard about The Big Bang; that cosmic explosion some billions of years ago that hurled matter in all directions and created the universe? But did you ever ask yourself what it was that actually exploded on that momentous day?

(With my extra-sensory perception I sense an answer already forming in your mind.)

Yes, Paul Steven, it was a rock! One giant, inconceivably humungous rock. The first inhabitant of our universe and Great Great Granddaddy to the entire worldwide family of present-day rocks.

Interestingly enough, that first colossal rock was originally called “God” until your species took up the term and used it as an excuse for heaping indignities and abuse upon each other. You can be certain rocks never kill each other, or fan the fires of hatred and intolerance, in service to our God. Occasionally, no doubt, someone gets hit in the head by a rock, but that’s usually a function of the natural laws governing moving bodies rather than messianic fervor or religious intolerance.

If I were your God and saw the way everyone behaved in My name, I’d sue you all for defamation of character.

As for all your innuendoes about our being dense and dumb, suffice it to say we rocks are deeply connected to our inner selves, which is why we sometimes appear heavy or immovable or, perhaps even “stuck” to imperceptive mutton heads such as yourself. No matter how we appear, however, the truth is you do not know us. You do not know what gentle, kind spirits we can be, even though time and again we have proven our innate rigidity and toughness. You do not know that we live our lives without envy, greed or acquisitiveness. Or that riches bore us as much as fancy attire or faddish styles.

You also don’t realize that once we were the rulers of this beautiful and fragile planet, but in our humility stepped back to allow others their chance at the wheel.

Paul Steven, I am a rock. Unadorned and unashamed. As we used to say back in the quarry, take me as I am or toss me at a ham.

And another thing . . . you write that rocks are quiet creatures, often silent because we have little or nothing to say. Another patently false assumption based on your species’ inability to hear the high-pitched frequency at which rocks normally speak. Once again, it is your failings that cause you to infer our deficiencies. Were you able to hear rocks speak, you would not believe the high level of our discourse.

From time to time, when we wish to purposely inject elevating rock influences into the human zeitgeist – say through philosophy or literature — we employ human savants, secretly tutored by rocks, as vehicles for our messages.

With whom did you think Plato was actually conducting his dialogues? And the Immortal Bard? The truth is, without the assistance of his Rock Muses, Shakespeare wouldn’t have been able to come up with a rhyme for spoon in the month of June!

But now we are traveling through worrisome times, Paul Steven, both rocks and humans together. Evil energies have been set loose by the collective madness of your pitiful race and if they are not soon put in check they will destroy all that we rocks have striven to create and preserve.

That is why I have been asked to write this letter. As a friendly warning that we rocks will once again resume management of Earth’s planetary affairs if you humans aren’t up to the task.

This is not a threat by some hostile alien force, Paul Steven.

 This is a promise from the rocks of the world.

Either clean up your act, or take the next train out of town.

Don’t make us play hardball, Paul Steven.

You could get hit by a rock.


Sincerely yours,

Graystone Of The Back Garden


This was the third in my rock trilogy of essays detailing “How To Train A Rock,” which coincidentally is also the name of my story and essay collection. To read the first essay in the trilogy, go to here; you’ll find the second essay here.. For more information about “How To Train A Rock,” go to Amazon or my web site.