#88: Great Scott!

Scott Pruitt is a super-villain sent from another dimension who, honestly, is so very corrupt, that, should I create a character exactly like him for a movie, I would be instructed to "dial it back".

Quick summary of the last two weeks for the man in the position most able to either save or murder the planet: rented a house for $50 a night from an energy lobbyist, dropped new car fuel standards, implemented draconian new rules on scientific studies at the EPA, and told EPA workers to lie about climate change.

He is, and will forever be, my archnemesis.


We were unexpectedly off last week as this is basically a 1.5 man shop and we've got a bunch of big projects underway. Apologies. 

Here's our off-days for the rest of the year:

April 20
July 20
November 23
December 28


This week's guest was David Hawkins, climate director for the National Resources Defense Council. We talked carbon capture and yodeling. Must listen.

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode with Dr. Sam Scarpino, when we talk forecasting and modeling infectious diseases. Yay!


On to the news!

Biology 401 💉👾💊 

At Hamburger Central, Antibiotics for Cattle That Aren’t Sick

"Dr. Holland is the director of research at Cactus Feeders, a feedlot giant. During a recent visit, I found myself surrounded by men with Ph.D.s and cowboy hats like Dr. Holland. Several wore jackets bearing drug company logos that were sure to smell of steamed corn and flatulent cattle by day’s end. 

Behind Dr. Holland, antibiotics were stacked in large bags rising to his shoulders. Every day, cattle here, whether sick or healthy, are given antibiotics in their feed. 

But it’s an increasingly debated practice on industrial farms. 

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics turn up in turkey, pork chops and ground beef in the United States; in grocery store chickens in Britain; and at poultry farms in China. Antibiotic residues are found in groundwater, drinking water and streams, and in feedlot manure used as fertilizer.

Some 70 percent to 80 percent of American antibiotic sales go to livestock. In addition to the emergence of resistant disease strains, some microbiologists worry that the proliferation of antibiotics, despite their miraculous health benefits, is having a chaotic impact on microbes in the human gut."

+ Lawmakers are continually getting pushed to do something about this, because eventually you get headlines like this: 

Unusual forms of 'nightmare' antibiotic-resistant bacteria detected in 27 states

+ For more, check out our podcast episode with Dr. Nahid Bhadelia.


Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

The good news: The Netherlands is building the world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farms

"The Dutch government awarded contracts to Swedish energy firm Vattenfall to build two wind farms in the North Sea. The power they create will be sold on the open market and not subsidized by public funds.

But: It’s worth noting that the government will absorb some costs for the facility, such as the expense of connecting the farms to the grid, according to the Maritime Executive."

+ The not-great news we seriously need to do something about: at this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system.


Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Indiana lawmaker's proposed tax credit could save coal industry billions

There's so many items we could lead with for climate change, but this two-hander really seems to explain the shit we're up against: 

"A new bill introduced by U.S. Congressman Larry Bucshon could provide over $3 billion in tax breaks to owners of coal-fired power plants in its first year, according to an IndyStar analysis.

Rep. Bucshon, a Republican who represents Southwest Indiana, introduced the Electricity Reliability and Fuel Security Act earlier this month. The bill would give owners of coal-fired power plants a tax credit for 30 percent of their operation and maintenance costs or $13 multiplied by the nameplate capacity of the plant, whichever is lesser. Nameplate capacity is a measure of a plant's maximum output. The tax credit would be in place for five years."

+ Ok. So. Got it? These are the people and ideas we're dealing with. Ready for the turn?


New reports: Contaminants from coal ash at levels 40 times above safe drinking water standards

"Near many of Indiana's coal-fired power plants, the ground water is a toxic mix of arsenic, boron, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, radium and thallium, new Environmental Protection Agency data reveal.

Recently released reports, using data collected for the first time, raises questions about groundwater safety and is likely to prompt a debate about how the state with the nation's highest concentration of coal ash pits will react.

How far such pollutants have migrated from the power plants that created them, and the possible effects on neighboring residential wells have not been determined."



Fuck Cancer, Volume LXXXVII 🖕

Gradual release of immunotherapy at site of tumor surgery prevents tumors from returning

"A new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists suggests it may be possible to prevent tumors from recurring and to eradicate metastatic growths by implanting a gel containing immunotherapy during surgical removal of a tumor."


War 🚀🌎🔥

Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming the art of war

"Several months ago, Vladimir Putin said, “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind ... whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its sister technologies will be the engine behind the fourth industrial revolution, which the World Economic Forum described as “unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

These technologies are capturing people’s imagination. However, one area remains in the shadow of public discourse: AI’s implications for national security and future warfare.

AI’s promise, in the context of national security and armed conflicts, is rooted in three main fields: improving efficiency through automation and optimization; automation of human activities; and the ability to influence human behavior by personalizing information and changing the way information is shared."


Robots & AI 🤖🧠⚡️

A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder

"Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations."


Waymo Isn’t Going to Slow Down Now

"For (John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, the self-driving car company), the Uber crash video validated the philosophy Waymo had been following long before he joined, back when it was still part of Google: Never trust humans in cars."

+ Just a reminder that human drivers are averaging 1.3 million people dead in road crashes each year. That's 3,287 deaths a day.

+ More on AI: 

      - Artificial-intelligence tool that has digested nearly every reaction everperformed could transform chemistry


The Highlight Reel