#70: Attention K-Mart Shoppers

Welcome to fall! It might be the last one. I'm kidding! Kind of. 

Let's do this.

On to the news!


Did you enjoy watching Eminem tear Trump a new asshole?

If so, you should:

1. Listen to the hundreds of hours of excellent, political-minded hip-hop from the past three decades.

2. Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy spit fire at these anti-science tweets.


Guess who?

The EPA's Science Advisory Board Will Now Be Stocked By Industry Shills

"Scott Pruitt made it official on Tuesday by signing a directive that any members of EPA’s science advisory board can’t have accepted a grant from the agency. It’s an unprecedented move and yet another step for Pruitt in turning the EPA into an extension of the industries it’s supposed to regulate. The move stands in stark contrast to the EPA’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.”

Oh but it gets more fucking ridiculous:

(Pruitt said): “In the Book of Joshua, there’s a story about Joshua leading the people into the promised land after Moses passed away. This is sort of the Joshua principle. As it relates to the grants and to this agency, you can choose to serve on the council or choose the grant but you can’t choose both.”

More here.

"With the same stroke, Pruitt appointed new chairs to three of the agency’s boards: Michael Honeycutt,the head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s toxicology division, will serve as the head of the Science Advisory Board. Honeycutt has downplayed concerns over ozone standards as “alarmism,” adding that “most people are indoors for 90 percent of the time.” Tony Cox, who produces research for major industry groups and leads private consultancy Cox Associates, will lead the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee; Cox has worked on behalf of the oil industry’s main lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, and once suggested that rising global temperatures would prevent the death of the elderly. To run the Board of Scientific Counselors, Pruitt appointed Paul Gilman, an executive at waste incinerator company Covanta."

The Damage Trump Can Do with 4000 Nuclear Weapons

"President Trump could decimate Libya, Syria, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China with a single, unilateral order — and still have 2,897 warheads remaining."

+ You better believe he knows this. And still -- he wants to expand our arsenal by tenfold. 10x.


The most immediate travesty of all this bullshit? All the people who voted for this monster, hard-working people who could be making new lives for themselves, 21st century lives, lifting up their families, their communities.

But no.

"When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing. 

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course. 

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner. 

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget. 

Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants. 

“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said."


Remember (I feel like we've posted this about a hundred times): Renewable energy is creating US jobs twice as fast as any other industry

+ You may be wondering why jobs news is "vital to our survival of the species".

A quick reminder:

Expiration of relic industries because of technological advances/AI/robotics --> sudden and massive unemployment --> populist revolution -->  fat orange monster runs for office and promises to revive said industries despite complete and irreversible turn in market --> fat orange vengeful monster is elected by said angry, unemployed people --> fat orange vengeful monster fixes nothing, ruins everything --> fat orange vengeful monster discovers he has unilateral key to 4000 nukes --> end game.


New artificial intelligence can detect colorectal cancer in less than a second, researchers say

Germany set to pay customers for electricity usage as renewable energy generation creates huge power surplus

Building a City: Battling Smog with Towers and Bicycles in Beijing

Seawater desalination will quench the thirst of a parched planet

"Roughly 40 percent of the world's population -- 2.3 billion people -- lives in water-stressed areas, with that figure predicted to rise to a full two-thirds by 2025. Per the World Health Organization, another billion don't have access to clean, piped water. So unless we want to try our luck with a Mad Max-style dystopia, we're going to need to find new sources of drinking water, so why not the ocean?

...As of 2015, roughly 18,000 desalination plants were in operation worldwide, 44 percent of them being located in the Middle East and North Africa. All told, they produce 22,870 million gallons of drinking water a day.

...Take the soon-to-be-completed Al Khafji desalination plant in the UAE, for example. It will produce 60,000 cubic meters of water per day while drawing power from a grid-connected solar-power plant spanning more than 119 hectares and generating up to 45.7MW of power.
Not only do these hybrid systems reduce the plant's carbon footprint but up to 40 percent, they drastically reduce fuel costs.

...Of course, cost and power consumption aren't the only hurdles desalination must overcome; there are a number of environmental impacts that need to be addressed as the technology becomes more common -- the first being, what do we do with all this brine?

Beyond the brine, desalination plants may also pose a risk to the local ecosystem..."

To Mend a Birth Defect, Surgeons Operate on the Patient Within the Patient

+ Click through for the lead image, alone. #thefuture

The ‘superantibiotics’ that could save us from bacteria apocalypse

"...Instead of searching for new compounds, many scientists are pinning their hopes on “superantibiotics”, essentially re-engineering existing drugs to overcome microbial resistance and make them thousands of times more potent. One of the problems with many antibiotics is that they need to get inside the bacteria cell to bind to it and kill it. And it only takes a single genetic mutation for a bacteria strain to render the antibiotic useless. So scientists have been exploring ways of changing the inherent killing mechanism and making it more lethal.

At Boston University, a team of biomedical engineers found that conventional antibiotics could kill between 10 and 1,000 times as many bacteria, including many previously resistant strains, when boosted with silver ions. This ancient remedy for infection – described by the Greeks in 400BC – works in two ways: first by disrupting bacterial metabolism, causing bacteria to self-destruct; and second by making their cell membranes more permeable to the antibiotic. However, while the research is promising, these drugs still have to pass safety testing, as ingesting too much silver can be toxic for humans."

+ This dovetails nicely with this piece in The Atlantic. Can we predict the next pandemic? (the answer: um, maybe?) 

Three tech breakthroughs that will help transform the world, from legendary computer scientist, inventor, investor, and sage Bill Joy

"Using a target list of 25 clean-tech “grand challenges,” I worked for over a decade to find, fund and commercialize big breakthroughs. One such challenge was radically cheaper batteries. Another was sustainable building materials, especially concrete. A third target was sustainable “meat.” They’re not the only breakthroughs that will help us transition to a more sustainable economy and society, but innovations in these three fields have the potential to radically transform the way we live. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an investor in some of these companies; I want to tell you about them because I’m convinced they can change the world."

And finally, this may be the best 12 minutes and 37 seconds you spend all week:

How we can face the future without fear, together

Watch it, watch it again, go out and change the fucking world.


Scientists Just Found Another Vulnerability in Antarctica's Icy Armor

In Antarctica, Two Crucial Glaciers Accelerate Toward the Sea

+ That's right. These two glaciers melt and sea levels go up 4 feet. By 2030.

Global Ocean Circulation Appears To Be Collapsing Due To A Warming Planet

The flooding in Houston was a nightmare. Next up? Sacramento.

"Models show a levee failure could submerge parts of this inland metropolis under as much as 20 feet of water. As Northern Californians are recovering from wildfires and sifting through homes reduced to ash, officials in the state’s capital are struggling to prevent another type of natural disaster. Sacramento is more vulnerable to catastrophic flooding than any other major city in the United States except New Orleans, according to federal officials, a threat created by the city’s sunken geography.

Levees and other flood defenses here and in the surrounding Central Valley have amassed up to $21 billion in needed repairs and upgrades, while Sacramento’s population has continued to grow. Just days before Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and flooded Houston, a report from the California Department of Water Resources warned that “many flood facilities” in the Central Valley “face an unacceptably high chance of failure.”

Rising temperatures are undermining the source of one third of Southern California’s drinking water: the Colorado River.

+ Not great, Bob.


Should we win this #raceagainsttime, or at the very least, survive it, we've got some really fun shit in store. On one level, there's reports of progress on a pill to replace exercise. Exciting!

On the next level, there's this:

CRISPR 2.0 Is Here, and It’s Way More Precise

(emphasis mine)

In two studies published today, one in Nature and another in Science, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard describe a new way to edit DNA and RNA, called base editing. The approach could one day treat a range of inherited diseases, some of which currently have no treatment options.

...The human genome contains six billion DNA letters, or chemical bases known as A, C, G and T. These letters pair off—A with T and C with G—to form DNA’s double helix. Base editing, which uses a modified version of CRISPR, is able to change a single one of these letters at a time without making breaks to DNA’s structure.

That’s useful because sometimes just one base pair in a long strand of DNA gets swapped, deleted, or inserted—a phenomenon called a point mutation. Point mutations make up 32,000 of the 50,000 changes in the human genome known to be associated with diseases.

In the Nature study, researchers led by David Liu, a Harvard chemistry professor and member of the Broad Institute, were able to change an A into a G. Such a change would address about half the 32,000 known point mutations that cause disease."

With the inevitable NEXT level being this:

Eugenics 2.0, or: Is This Bad?

"Using a combination of computer models and DNA tests, the startup company he’s working with, Genomic Prediction, thinks it has a way of predicting which IVF embryos in a laboratory dish would be most likely to develop type 1 diabetes or other complex diseases. Armed with such statistical scorecards, doctors and parents could huddle and choose to avoid embryos with failing grades.

IVF clinics already test the DNA of embryos to spot rare diseases, like cystic fibrosis, caused by defects in a single gene. But these “preimplantation” tests are poised for a dramatic leap forward as it becomes possible to peer more deeply at an embryo’s genome and create broad statistical forecasts about the person it would become.

The advance is occurring, say scientists, thanks to a growing flood of genetic data collected from large population studies. As statistical models known as predictors gobble up DNA and health information about hundreds of thousands of people, they’re getting more accurate at spotting the genetic patterns that foreshadow disease risk. But they have a controversial side, since the same techniques can be used to project the eventual height, weight, skin tone, and even intelligence of an IVF embryo."

+ Definitely not endorsing this. Solve disease? Sure. Designer babies? Juuuuust a bit more controversial (but are they inevitable?).


Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation: Hindering the Spread of a New Class of Weapons

"Hypersonic missiles — specifically hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles — are a new class of threat because they are capable both of maneuvering and of flying faster than 5,000 kilometers per hour. These features enable such missiles to penetrate most missile defenses and to further compress the timelines for a response by a nation under attack.

Hypersonic missiles are being developed by the United States, Russia, and China. Their proliferation beyond these three could result in other powers setting their strategic forces on hair-trigger states of readiness. And such proliferation could enable other powers to more credibly threaten attacks on major powers."


Despite dangerously low birthrates, we're going to need a metric fuck-ton of people in the coming decades. Maybe we should stop wasting so much food.

"The researchers divided trashed food into three categories: stuff that is typically edible, questionably edible (including peels and cores), and inedible (such as pits, bones, and egg shells). They then tallied up findings from the bin digs and kitchen diaries to gauge how much is going to waste in each city. In Denver and New York, residents trashed the majority of the wasted food; in Nashville, the residential and restaurant sectors were neck and neck.

Denverites trashed the most edible food—about 7.5 pounds per household each week—followed by New York (5.4 pounds) and then Nashville (4.6 pounds). Overall, these sums are lower than previous estimates from ReFED, a consortium of food-centric organizations, which placed the weekly figure around 11.6 pounds per household.

Across all three cities, coffee and grounds were the goods most often pitched in the trash, trailed by bananas (in Nashville and New York) and chicken (in Denver). Apples, bread, oranges, and potatoes also topped the list, as did discarded dairy products."


The Historic Black Town Gradually Being Washed Away

"The town of Princeville, North Carolina, is 31 miles from my office. Originally named Freedom Hill, Princeville has a population count of less than 2,100. But it carries the history of being the first municipality in the United States incorporated in 1885 entirely by free black people. Since major flooding was first recorded there more than a century before, Princeville has also had the distinction of being one of the most notorious locations for severe flooding in the country. Because it is situated in the underlying region of the Tar River, the entire town is uniquely vulnerable to flooding after heavy or prolonged rain.

For the most part, U.S. municipalities at high risk for flooding have a higher proportion of low-income and black residents. In Houston, Texas, for example, a history of redlining and socio-economic inequality also rendered the east side of the city, most residents of whom are of color, least safe-guarded against Hurricane Harvey. Racial and economic segregation in parts of coastal Florida and in Puerto Rico, where the death toll exceeds 400, distributed the vast amount of devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria among already vulnerable populations. As explained in a memo published by Brookings in September, factors such as substandard infrastructure in low-income housing and a lack of homeowners or flood insurance place black, Latinx, and low income residents at a much greater risk for loss during natural disasters than their more affluent counterparts."

The Uninhabitable Village: hotter temps in southern India have people asking, can we survive here?

This Huge Rail Company Is Spewing Coal Dust All Over a Low-Income Community

"Each day, Norfolk Southern, a large transportation company, ships coal nearly 2,000 miles acrossVirginia to Lambert’s Point—a low-income and predominantly black community on the Elizabeth River in the city of Norfolk. When the coal arrives at Lambert’s Point, a coal exporting facility, it’s dumped into shiploaders before being sent off to different parts of the world. In one year the facility can handle up to 48 millions tons of coal in its 200,000 coal cars.

When coal is being transported, hazardous particles of dust routinely fly off the rail cars into the surrounding communities. The Sierra Club reports that those who are exposed are vulnerable to increased rates of childhood bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, heart disease, and reduced lung capacity. They also note that coal cars release 90,000 pounds of coal dust into nearby Virginia towns and cities every year.

The Norfolk Southern coal terminal on the Elizabeth River began operations in 1885 and never had a permit regulating coal emissions because it predated the Clean Air Act of 1970. In 1992, the Virginia Department of Air Pollution Control granted the company its first air pollution permit—but regulations only involved new construction, not the uncovered rail cars transporting coal from other parts of Virginia to the coast. The only limit on how much coal dust the company can emit is that it cannot exceed the amount of coal that has passed through the terminal.

Although Norfolk Southern’s terminal has been operating in the community for more than 100 years, many residents were unaware that the substance coating their homes and cars was coal dust. “I thought it was just normal pollution,” Anita Newsome says. “We weren’t aware of what we were breathing in.” Coal dust contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals.

One solution would be to cover coal trains to reduce their effect of the dust on the environment and protect the health of communities where they operate. In 2013, seven groups in Washington state sued the large rail company, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, for spilling coal dust into public waterways.  Last year, a settlement was reached in which BNSF agreed to study the use of physical covers for its coal trains. “We’ll have to work through the study and see what comes from that and how it would impact not only BNSF but the industry,” a company spokeswoman said at the time.

Industries have their reasons for not covering their coal cars. In 1991, state lawmakers considered a law that would force Norfolk Southern to cover their rail cars. The company pushed back, arguing that it would be cost prohibitive. According to the Sierra Club, the cost of covering the rail cars is less than one percent of the company’s annual income."

+ If you're wondering "Is he gonna start a ridiculous flame war online about this? The answer is yes. Yes. Very much so."


Researchers go after the biggest problem with self-driving cars: who to kill

A Decade after DARPA: Our View on the State of the Art in Self-Driving Cars

China’s Elon Musk Is Ready for His Star Turn

Ancient storms could have hurled huge boulders, scientists say – raising new fears of rising seas

Are you aware that Botox is made from the deadliest substance on the planet?