Archive

December 5th

How Big Pharma could lose the war on disease

    The planned merger of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer with competitor Allergan, aimed in large part at cutting the combined company's tax bill, illustrates a troubling trend in the industry: Firms are focused more on pursuing near- term profits than on the difficult, longer-term research needed to develop truly groundbreaking new drugs. This is unfortunate, because disease may be making a comeback.

    Consider the accelerating spread of multi-drug-resistant bacterial infections. There are now more than two million cases each year in the U.S. alone. Last month, scientists announced that they had found evidence, in farm animals in China, that genes for antibiotic resistance are being transferred directly among different bacteria -- a trick (known as horizontal gene transfer) that will allow the resistance to spread more quickly than ever before.

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December 4th

Fiery rhetoric a close relative of violence

    Yes, words matter.

    Vitriol aimed at Muslim refugees this month was followed by attacks on mosques.

    Dismissing the #BlackLivesMatter movement gave way to open gunfire on protesters in Minneapolis.

    The flaming hatred of Planned Parenthood set the stage for another act of domestic terrorism Friday at a clinic in Colorado Springs.

    Robert Lewis Dear Jr., a 57-year-old drifter with an extremist agenda, used the phrase "no more baby parts" after he allegedly killed three people - a police officer, an Iraq war veteran and a mother of two - and injured nine others in the rampage at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

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Christie's selling point: 'Anyone but Trump'

    With little more than an endorsement from the Manchester Union-Leader this weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's presidential quest has come back to life. In recent years, the tap hasn't been worth much -- just ask Newt Gingrich. But for Christie, it's the first spot of brightness in a campaign waged in the darkest shadows. New Hampshire's most influential newspaper has administered an elixir that's allowed Christie to man up to his pre-Bridgegate self, and attract some attention from the press, at least for now.

    Thus fortified, Christie did what any sensible candidate in this crazy election would do -- he invaded Donald Trump's airspace with attacks. The route to press attention lies through Trump. A 10-point program on health care won't get you there.

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Carson fails to impress on foreign policy

    Voters angry with traditional politics have been flocking to the support of Ben Carson, the famous neurosurgeon with the benign grin and temperament who has oozed his way into the affections of millions of Americans as an outsider 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

    He has garnered amazing backing as a sort of nonpolitical Willy Loman, running on a smile and a shoeshine. Without selling himself as the anti-Donald Trump, Carson has benefited from the sharp contrast he presents to Trump's bluster.

    But as foreign policy experience has taken on new significance in the campaign, the good doctor's prescriptions have seemed, under sharper scrutiny, to lack much depth, inviting the view that he has little familiarity with world affairs generally.

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Buy Today, Kill Tomorrow

    Good people can disagree about guns.

    Though I’ve always leaned left in my political views, I believe that Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I owned a gun for many years myself — at least until my conviction for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program canceled my Second Amendment rights.

    But there’s a problem that warrants immediate attention. You see, current law allows suspected terrorists, including those on the “No Fly List,” to legally purchase weapons.

    That’s right. I can’t legally buy a gun. But suspected terrorists can.

    Adam Gadahn, also known as Azzam al-Amriki, was an American citizen. Born and raised in California, he converted to Islam in 1995 and became a senior advisor to Osama bin Laden. Gadahn became al-Qaeda’s media expert, producing a slick magazine and videos to help the group recruit even more Americans to its cause.

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Blame geopolitics if the world slips toward war

    When George Friedman, founder of the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, published a book of predictions for the 21st century in 2009, a lot of it read like comedy. It no longer does: Regardless of whether Friedman got his specific forecasts right, old-fashioned geopolitics is making a comeback in the very countries he named as key players for his vision of the future.

    Friedman's brand of geopolitics can be hard to square with our everyday world. As the publisher of the Russian translation of "The Next 100 Years," I couldn't resist laughing when I read a sentence like "the only physical advantage Russia can have is depth," or "the secret lunar bases will represent the crown jewels of the Japanese military." It was hard to imagine a mid- century world war between two blocs, one dominated by the U.S. and Poland, the other by Turkey and Japan. In 2009, talk of a world war, never mind the specific shape of coalitions fighting it, appeared to belong in dystopian novels or conspiracy theory websites.

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Big Ag Serves Up Wastewater Salads

    Ask anyone who’s lived through California’s drought: Water scarcity is getting scary. And banning long showers isn’t even a drop in the bucket when it comes to finding a solution.

    The biggest water sponge by far is food production, yet agri-giants continue to douse their vast fields like there’s no tomorrow. Do you know how much water today’s industrialized food system sucks up?

    Just one little almond takes 1 gallon. A single walnut? 2 gallons. A head of lettuce? 12. A cluster of grapes clocks in at a whopping 24 gallons.

    Here’s the worst part: Big Oil says not to worry, because it can offer a gusher of H₂O to food producers. Believe it or not, companies are now selling their fracking wastewater to agribusiness for irrigating fruit and vegetable crops.

    This is water that ExxonMobil and other drillers mix with a witch’s brew of some 750 toxic chemicals before power-blasting it into underground rock formations.

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A Big Fat Radioactive Lie

    Not long ago, no billionaire worth his cufflinks would be caught dead without hurling bales of money at our nation’s educational system. They bankrolled charter schools, high-stakes testing, and the splintering of big high schools into smaller academies. Their failure to make American kids learn more scuffed the luster on this enduring philanthropic fad.

    Billionaires have landed, therefore, on a new mission. As Donald Trump might say, they want to make nuclear energy great again.

    “If we are serious about replacing fossil fuels, we are going to need nuclear power,” PayPal co-founder and Facebook mega-investor Peter Thiel crowed in a New York Times op-ed shortly before negotiators from 195 nations gathered in Paris to seal an international climate pact.

    Thiel, who personally invests in nuclear energy, made the self-serving demand that the U.S. government forge a “plan to fund and prototype the new reactors that we badly need.”

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Shopping Doesn't Have to Be a Drag

    First there was "Black Friday." Then there was "Cyber Monday." The holiday shopping markers plod through the calendar like a procession of Groundhog Days. The big difference is that Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog sometimes offers surprise. Will he see his shadow this year or bite his handler?

    The latest retailing news predictably relates the change in consumers' shopping habits -- the move from bricks-and-mortar stores to online merchants. The convenience of online buying and an aversion to crowds are the usual explanations, and they no doubt play a part.

    But there's another reason for the change in shopping habits. It's the change in selling habits. The mall-ification of America has made shopping a bore.

    From 1970 to 2009, retail space in America grew by 54 percent. Almost all that new square footage went into malls populated by chain stores featuring the same layout, the same signage, the same merchandise made in the same low-wage countries. Once inside a chain outlet, shoppers can't easily tell whether they're in Columbus, Ohio, or Birmingham, Alabama.

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Republicans' new, twisted climate logic

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., published a twisted op-ed over the weekend in The Post arguing that "Obama thinks it's okay to push a power plan that threatens working families for the benefit of, at best, a carbon rounding error." How does he know President Barack Obama's plan will be so insignificant? In part because he and other Republicans are determined to make it ineffective. In other words, Republicans oppose Obama's climate plan because it won't work, and it won't work because Republicans oppose Obama's climate plan.

    Here's the illogic behind McConnell's argument: The amount of carbon dioxide that Obama's Clean Power Plan would remove from the atmosphere is relatively small in the context of global climate change. In isolation, it would do relatively little to prevent dangerous global climate change. Therefore, the GOP Congress will fight it.

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