#99: Asps... very dangerous. You go first.

July 6, 2018

124 days to go

GREAT NEWS! EPA head and my own personal mortal enemy/snake Scott Pruitt resigned yesterday after 196 ethics scandals -- this all on top of making it his professional business to do exactly the opposite of what the EPA was intended to do.

LESS GREAT NEWS! The new head of the EPA is an actual coal lobbyist. That's right. A coal lobbyist.

So let's be thankful for a minute for all the excellent reporting that exposed Pruitt's bullshit, and then move on to the new fight. Wheeler won't be an ethics nightmare, which means we've got to focus on the actual anti-environmental work being done.

In other news -- newsletter #99! Holy cow. Thanks to everyone who got this baby off the ground, and everyone else who's joined along the way. 

We've got some fun stuff coming in the next couple weeks, and can't wait to share it.


This week's question was: When Will San Francisco Be Underwater?

Our guest was peerless journalist Molly Peterson. We discussed what parts of San Francisco are threatened in the coming decades, what the city's doing to fight sea level rise, and how the Bay Area compares to other waterfront cities. Check it out!

Subscribe now to get Tuesday's episode where we ask: "Middle school physics class. Lame, or the first step to becoming a superhero?"

Our guest: The Physics Girl herself, Dianna Cowern!



On to the news!

Climate Change 🔥🌊💨

Global Warming in South Asia: 800 Million at Risk

"Climate change could sharply diminish living conditions for up to 800 million people in South Asia, a region that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people, if nothing is done to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank warned Thursday in an ominous new study.

In some cases, cities like Karachi, Pakistan, emerge as hot spots because higher temperatures are forecast to lower labor productivity and worsen public health. In others cases, like the central belt of India, hotter days and changes in rainfall patterns are expected to sharply increase stress on farmers."

+ Once the vanguard of the European welcoming committee, Germany's pressuring Merkel to close their borders to refugees. The migration "crisis" of 2015 will be a drop in the ocean compared to what's coming

+ More climate:

      - The Atlantic Ocean is invading the Arctic — and winning

      - Pope says "fuck it, I'll do it myself", huddles to confront oil execs

      - ‘The New Normal’: Wildfires Roar Across the West, Again

      - Hot Planet: Adapting to Climate Change Will Take More Than Just Seawalls and Levees

      - Problem: Building clean energy wind farms requires a fuckton of cement. Cement = one of worst climate catalysts. What gives?

      - This week in Trump killing the earth: reducing ozone regulationsweakening smog standards




Young Leftist Candidates Are Breathing New Life Into Climate Politics


"“We need a Marshall Plan for renewable energy in the United States,” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said) last week, shortly before the election, suggesting that a massive $146 billion investment to rebuild Puerto Rico — per a proposal by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — could provide “an example for how we can approach the ravages of superstorms and climate change moving forward. … We can show the world what recovery in an era of extreme climate change looks like.”

Climate change hasn’t been a big part of the conversation about the blue wave. But if it’s successful, and the party finds itself with enough seats to push through ambitious legislation next January, what to date have been seen as minor differences between Democrats on climate could become the grounds for legislative battles. That is, if Ocasio-Cortez’s election marks a new era for the Democratic Party, what will that mean for its climate politics?"

+ More on Ocasio-Cortez's climate agenda here.



Fuck Cancer, Volume XCVIV 🖕

Blood test may predict cancer immunotherapy benefit

"Some cancers generate the seeds of their own destruction. Ten years ago, researchers discovered that certain random mutations that accumulate in rapidly dividing tumor cells can spur the immune system to attack the cancer. Lately, researchers have found that the extent of such mutations can predict whether a cancer will respond to new, powerful immune-based therapies. Cancer researchers can already gauge this tumor mutational burden (TMB) by sequencing a panel of select genes in biopsied tissue, an approach that recently demonstrated strong predictive power in a large lung cancer clinical trial. Some cancer physicians now even use tissue TMB tests in select cases. Now, a less-invasive blood test, which analyzes tumor DNA shed into a person's circulation, could reveal TMB in the many patients where tissue testing doesn't work."

+ This is big. Immunotherapy is incredible -- when it works. When it doesn't? It can kill. Screening candidates ahead of time (as we develop better treatments) will save lives, time, and money.



Biology 401 💉👾💊 

Measles case confirmed in Portland, about 500 people possibly exposed

"Of those 500 people, the Multnomah County Health Department Communicable Disease Services team is monitoring 40 people who were exposed and considered non-immune.

So far, no other cases have been identified.

Measles is an illness caused by a virus. It is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing and is highly contagious.

People with measles can spread the virus to others before they show symptoms. The virus can also linger in the air for minutes or hours after someone with measles leaves the area.

Measles is a serious disease that was basically eliminated in the United States thanks to routine childhood vaccination,’’ said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer. "

+ Remember measles? #MAGA

+ More on your body:

      - How Long Can We Live? The Limit Hasn’t Been Reached, Study Finds

      - How Will Trump Lead During the Next Global Pandemic? and 3 Reasons The US is Vulnerable During Big Disasters

      - Antibiotics before birth and in early life can affect long-term health

      - CRISPR vs. autism



The Final Frontier/Escape Hatch 🚀

Why haven’t we found aliens yet? (a no shit important update)

"In early June, Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, and Toby Ord of the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) released a paper that may solve the Fermi paradox — the discrepancy between our expected existence of alien signals and the universe’s apparent lack of them — once and for all. 

Using fresh statistical methods, the paper re-asks the question “Are we alone?” and draws some groundbreaking conclusions: We Earthlings are not only likely to be the sole intelligence in the Milky Way, but there is about a 50 percent chance we are alone in the entire observable universe. 

While the findings are helpful for thinking about the likelihood of aliens, they may be even more important for reframing our approach to the risk of extinction that life on Earth may face in the near future."

+ Here's the original paper.

+ This should be a damn fine wake-up call that the preservation of what may be our, well, singularly unique species, should be paramount. And that means both saving this rock, and finding a second one on which to summer/winter/live forever.



Clean Energy 💨☀️⚡️

Self Driving Cars Are Headed Towards An AI Roadblock

"On its face, full autonomy seems closer than ever. Waymo is already testing cars on limited-but-public roads in Arizona. Tesla and a host of other imitators already sell a limited form of Autopilot, counting on drivers to intervene if anything unexpected happens. There have been a few crashes, some deadly, but as long as the systems keep improving, the logic goes, we can’t be that far from not having to intervene at all.

But the dream of a fully autonomous car may be further than we realize. There’s growing concern among AI experts that it may be years, if not decades, before self-driving systems can reliably avoid accidents. As self-trained systems grapple with the chaos of the real world, experts like NYU’s Gary Marcus are bracing for a painful recalibration in expectations, a correction sometimes called “AI winter.” That delay could have disastrous consequences for companies banking on self-driving technology, putting full autonomy out of reach for an entire generation."

+ More clean energy:

      - The worst polluting airlines, ranked



The Highlight Reel