CDC Threat Report: ‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era’


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just published a first-of-its-kind assessment of the threat the country faces from antibiotic-resistant organisms, ranking them by the number of illnesses and deaths they cause each year and outlining urgent steps that need to be taken to roll back the trend.

The agency’s overall — and, it stressed, conservative — assessment of the problem:

Each year, in the U.S., 2,049,442 illnesses caused by bacteria and fungi that are resistant to at least some classes of antibiotics;
Each year, out of those illnesses, 23,000 deaths;
Because of those illnesses and deaths, $20 billion each year in additional healthcare spending;
And beyond the direct healthcare costs, an additional $35 billion lost to society in foregone productivity.
“If we are not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, said in a media briefing. “And for some patients and for some microbes, we are already there.”


Why Debunk Climate Change Deniers?

By Phil Plait | Posted Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at 7:30 AM

I recently posted yet another debunking of a climate change denial post. The claims made by the writer, David Rose, were not just flatly wrong, but actually ridiculous. He quoted scientist Myles Allen grossly out of context (confirmed by Allen himself), making it seems as if Allen were saying something he wasn’t. He compared two measurements that were not at all comparable, making it seem like other scientists didn’t know what they were doing. And he made a pile of other easily disproven statements that didn’t come within a glancing blow of reality.

I’ll admit: It’s no fun writing about this kind of thing. I hate it. I hate having to do it. I’d much rather be writing about galaxies and Saturn and supernovae, and it’s depressing to wake up in the morning and see yet another nonsensical article that I know will get repeated endlessly in the deny-o-sphere echo chamber.

But that’s precisely why I have to slog through it. The more people who can show these claims for what they are — wrong, willfully or otherwise — the better.

Why? Because, sadly, the people who deny the reality around them have a very large megaphone, and in some cases have a lot of motivation to use it. Money, power, riling up the electorate, or, perhaps worst of all, pure zealotry. Nothing is as impenetrable as an armor wrought from fervent ideology.


How Detroit went broke: The answers may surprise you – and don’t blame Coleman Young

By Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher/Detroit Free Press Business Writers | FILED UNDER – Local News / City of Detroit | 1:10 AM, Sep. 15, 2013 |

Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.

Instead, amid a huge exodus of residents, plummeting tax revenues and skyrocketing home abandonment, Detroit’s leaders engaged in a billion-dollar borrowing binge, created new taxes and failed to cut expenses when they needed to. Simultaneously, they gifted workers and retirees with generous bonuses. And under pressure from unions and, sometimes, arbitrators, they failed to cut health care benefits — saddling the city with staggering costs that today threaten the safety and quality of life of people who live here.

The numbers, most from records deeply buried in the public library, lay waste to misconceptions about the roots of Detroit’s economic crisis. For critics who want to blame Mayor Coleman Young for starting this mess, think again. The mayor’s sometimes fiery rhetoric may have contributed to metro Detroit’s racial divide, but he was an astute money manager who recognized, early on, the challenges the city faced and began slashing staff and spending to address them.

And Wall Street types who applauded Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s financial acumen following his 2005 deal to restructure city pension debt should consider this: The numbers prove that his plan devastated the city’s finances and was a key factor that drove Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July.

The State of Michigan also bears some blame. Lansing politicians reduced Detroit’s state-shared revenue by 48% from 1998 to 2012, withholding $172 million from the city, according to state records.


A Scarier Bird Flu: CDC Chief Warns of Looming H7N9 Threat

by Eliza Shapiro Sep 16, 2013 5:45 AM EDT
Daily Beast

It was not an event for germophobes, as the CDC’s director described the crises Americans may soon face: an uncontainable virus, killer measles, and even the plague.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

While the U.S. public-health system has made major strides in stopping smoking and preventing HIV/AIDS, there is still a slew of infectious diseases, new and old, that all Americans need to start thinking about.

Centers for Disease Control director Thomas Frieden outlined the looming crises in a talk this week, focusing on awareness and prevention while still name dropping a lot of scary stuff: the plague, bird flu, and killer measles. It was not a day for germophobes.

Never heard of H7N9 flu? Well, you might soon. It’s a recently discovered form of bird flu that Frieden said “is acting quite a bit like SARS,” the viral respiratory infection that has killed more than 8,000 people and created a worldwide panic in 2003.

H7N9 is lethal and spreads faster than any other identified strain of bird flu. It moves from animals to humans, but, unlike previous versions of bird flu, doesn’t make animals sick. As a result, infected flocks can’t be contained, and there’s no effective vaccine.


Lifelines for Poor Children

By JAMES J. HECKMAN September 14, 2013, 6:33 pm

What’s missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5. This is not a big government boondoggle policy that would require a huge redistribution of wealth. Acting on it would, however, require us to rethink long-held notions of how we develop productive people and promote shared prosperity.

Everyone knows that education boosts productivity and enlarges opportunities, so it is natural that proposals for reducing inequality emphasize effective education for all. But these proposals are too timid. They ignore a powerful body of research in the economics of human development that tells us which skills matter for producing successful lives. They ignore the role of families in producing the relevant skills They also ignore or play down the critical gap in skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children that emerges long before they enter school.

While education is a great equalizer of opportunity when done right, American policy is going about it all wrong: current programs don’t start early enough, nor do they produce the skills that matter most for personal and societal prosperity.


Report Suggests Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Vulnerable to Computerization

Aviva Hope Rutkin MIT Technology Review
September 12, 2013

Oxford researchers say that 45 percent of America’s occupations will be automated within the next 20 years.

Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.

A recent report (which is not online, but summarized here) from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology attempts to quantify the extent of that threat. It concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage. Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

The authors note that the rate of computerization depends on several other factors, including regulation of new technology and access to cheap labor.


Report offers field guide to the climate change denial industry

Posted on Thursday 12 September 2013 00.58 EDT

Greenpeace report documents the who, what, when and how of a long-running campaign to block action on climate change

It writes boilerplate legislation, runs extensive PR campaigns, puffs CVs with fake credibility, facilitates or promotes the intimidation of climate scientists and advocates, publishes books, organises speaking tours and conferences, gets on the telly and radio a lot, uses Freedom of Information laws as a surveillance tool, pays scientists to speak and – crucially – it manufactures doubt and confusion among policy makers, politicians and the public about climate change.

To get this work done, it has accepted many millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests or ideologically-driven conservative donors who funnel their cash through anonymous trust funds because they are too cowardly to put their mouths and their money in the same place.

We’re talking about the international climate science denial industry. Now it has a field guide, of sorts, courtesy of researchers at environment group Greenpeace.

Published this week, Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Machine Vs Climate Science recounts the history of efforts to underplay the risks of human-caused climate change, to deny the scientific evidence and to misrepresent the state of the collective knowledge of genuine scientists on the issue.


Occupy Wall Street Legacy

Published: September 13, 2013 NYTimes

When Occupy Wall Street sprang up in parks and under tents, one of the many issues the protesters pressed was economic inequality. Then, as winter began to set in, the police swept the protesters away. All across the country the crowds thinned and enthusiasm waned, and eventually the movement all but dissipated.

But one of its catchphrases remained, simmering on a back burner: “We are the 99 percent.” The 99 percent were the lower-income people in this country — the rest of us — struggling to make a change, make a difference and just make a living while the stiff, arthritic grip of the top 1 percent sought to manipulate the social, political and economic levers of powers.

This idea of the tiny top against the broad bottom even became a running theme in last year’s presidential election. In his January 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama said, “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

The president went on to rail against tax breaks for the “wealthiest 2 percent of Americans” and about how tax loopholes and shelter allow many millionaires to pay less than “millions of middle-class households.”

Then he invoked a line that he would repeat often: “Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.”


First vaccine against MERS virus developed

Kounteya Sinha, TNN | Sep 11, 2013, 06.38 AM IST
Imes of India

LONDON: Scientists have taken a big leap towards making the world’s first vaccine against the new SARSlike virus that WHO fears is capable of causing a global pandemic.

A strain of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV ) has been created by scientists that could be used as a vaccine against the disease.

The lab-engineered MERS virus has a mutation in its envelope protein that makes it capable of infecting a cell and replicating its genetic material, but deprives it of the ability to spread to other tissues and cause disease . The authors say once additional safe guards are engineered into the deadly virus it will be used to create a safe and effective live-attenuated vaccine against MERS. The fatality rate for this infection at present remains as high as 60%.

Luis Enjuanes from the Autonomous University of Madrid says the breakthrough was a result of a combination of synthetic biology and genetic engineering . “The injected vaccine will only replicate in a reduced number of cells and produce enough antigen to immunize the host. It therefore cannot infect other people , even those in close contact with a vaccinated person,” Enjuanes said.


Can the Government Actually Do Anything About Inequality?

By THOMAS B. EDSALL September 10, 2013, 11:22 pm

For a moment, let’s forget the central debate of our political period — how much of a role government should play in our lives — and ask a different question: can government policies counteract inequality in any meaningful way?

Four political scientists – Adam Bonica of Stanford, Nolan McCarty of Princeton, Keith T. Poole of the University of Georgia and Howard Rosenthal of New York University – take this issue head on in their paper, “Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” published earlier this year in Journal of Economic Perspectives.

During the past two generations, democratic forms have coexisted with massive increases in economic inequality in the United States and many other advanced democracies. Moreover, these new inequalities have primarily benefited the top 1 percent and even the top .01 percent. These groups seem sufficiently small that economic inequality could be held in check by political equality in the form of “one person, one vote.”

Bonica, McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal argue that politics can be an effective tool to restore economic fairness — that government can, and should, correct imbalances the market produces, providing for those who cannot compete, ensuring opportunity for those who can and blocking those who would appropriate to themselves what the authors see as an excessive share of our national prosperity.

The four political scientists offer five “possible reasons why the U.S. political system has, during the last few decades, failed to counterbalance rising inequality”: