May 23, 2019
“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.” – Yuval Noah Harari
Our Last Chance: Fight Virus With Virus
Scientists are approaching the war against antibiotic-resistant superbugs in a new way. They’ve created “living antibiotics” made of viruses that have been genetically modified using the gene-editing tool CRISPR.
“What CRISPR is able to do [is to] very selectively modify genes in the viruses to target the bacteria,” says Dr. Michael Priebe, head of the spinal cord injury service at the VA Medical Center in Augusta, GA. “If we’re successful, this revolutionizes the treatment of infections.”
– A scientist who studies phages is excited about the potential of this new direction. “We’ve been using antibiotics, which really have a scorched-earth approach to the treatment of infections. They don’t just kill the bacteria that we want to kill. They kill friendly bacteria in our microbiome as well,” she said.
Come Together, Far-Right Now…Over Me
11 populist leaders were in Milan last Saturday, attending a rally hosted by Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini. Joining Salvini were France’s far-right leader Marie Le Pen and 10 other European ethno-nationalists who hope to usher in a nationalist wave before the European Parliament elections begin this week. A close ally of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and a master of social media, Salvini, 46, channels phrases by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and frequently targets German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros as “The extremists … who led Europe into insecurity and poverty….” Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, is one of Salvini’s biggest fans.
Female commuters riding Japanese trains are downloading a public service app called Digi Police at breakneck speed.
– The app enables victims of groping to activate a voice shouting “Stop it!” at ear-piercing volume, or bring up a full-screen message reading, “There is a molester. Please help” that they can show to other passengers.
– Groping is a perennial problem on Japanese public transport, particularly on packed rush-hour trains. Victims are often reluctant to call for help, but the app’s SOS message allows them to alert other passengers while staying silent.
Go Collect Your Things And Sit In Timeout
A new study from the consulting division of PwC, one the nation’s largest auditing firms, has found that for the first time since the group began tracking executive turnover 19 years ago, scandals over bad behavior, rather than poor financial performance, were the leading cause of leadership dismissals among the world’s 2,500 largest public companies.
– 39 percent of the 89 CEOs who departed in 2018 left for reasons related to unethical behavior stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct or ethical lapses connected to things like fraud, bribery and insider trading.
– The rise of the #MeToo movement is partially responsible for many corporate boards adopting a ‘zero tolerance’ stance toward allegations of executive misconduct.
– Some former CEOs say the study is proof that more women are feeling emboldened to share stories of alleged abuse or misconduct, and it is reshaping corporate America.
Oh, Give It A Rexit, May
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May unfolded her latest proposal to resolve Brexit Tuesday, but the backlash from members of parliament, including those in her own party, was so fierce some lawmakers thought putting it up for a vote would only make matters worse. One conservative lawmaker said another crushing defeat would complicate life for her successor. All Wednesday pressure mounted on May to scrap the vote she is still promising for the week beginning June 3, and to announce the date of her departure immediately.
- U.K. Austerity Has Inflicted ‘Great Misery,’ U.N. Official Says (NYT, $)
- South Africa’s Deputy President, Accused of Corruption, Faces Uncertain Future (NYT, $)
- Venezuela turns to Russia, Cuba, China in health crisis (Reuters)
Faker Faker You Don’t Have A Belly-Acher
Medical school teaches doctors how to spot real illnesses. But how do they differentiate genuine sickness from the fake kind? “Malingering” — faking a sickness for an ulterior motive — is surprisingly common.
– In one study of 879 people accused of crimes, 17.5 percent those found incompetent to stand trial (and sent to a state hospital rather than prison) were later identified to be faking their symptoms.
– Feigned symptoms can be most difficult ones to evaluate. There’s no blood test or brain scan to confirm the hallucinations of schizophrenia. And while pinpointing genuine psychosis is challenging, it’s important not to presume malingering and miss an authentic mental health disorder — not to mention that both can co-exist.
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Tariffs Create Riff Among Farmers
US farmers have depended on foreign buyers for some of their corn, soybeans, pork and other products for a long time. And some agricultural commodities have been used by federal officials as diplomatic tools for decades.
– But the Trump administration’s current trade war with China has left farmers with huge surpluses, and required billions of dollars of federal bailout money.
– The administration has now promised a second bailout of $20 billion.
– That will help some, but many farmers are saying a trade resolution that reopens the Chinese market is what they really want. “We were willing to take one for the team, if it was going to be a long-term goal,” said the vice president of the Missouri Soybean Association. “But … are we going to be able to still survive in the short term so we can be here to take advantage and enjoy that long-term goal?”
- John Walker Lindh, Known as the ‘American Taliban,’ Is Set to Leave Federal Prison This Week (NYT, $)
- Ransomware Cyberattacks Knock Baltimore’s City Services Offline (NPR)
- The secret trick used by firms helping cyberhacking victims: pay the ransom: Four payments sent after SamSam ransomware targeted entities across the US were traced by ProPublica to Proven Data (Guardian)
- How Trump Is Outspending Every 2020 Democrat on Facebook (NYT, $)
Let It Go, Let It Go, Can’t Hold That Grudge Anymore
According to the founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project: “Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master.”
– If effectively dealing with life situations means growing up, then grudge-holding is probably pretty immature. Plus, it can actually affect one’s health.
– A 2006 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology suggests that “skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms…” that can affect immune and cardiovascular systems.
– Bolstering that theory is a study published this year that found anger carried into old age is associated with higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness.
– Bottom line: You too can learn to discard those weighty old grudges and enjoy a whole new bearable lightness of being. (NYT)
“Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.” – Yuval Noah Harari
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