10/2/17 – The controversy that erupted when many professional football players protested during the national anthem is misguided, an opinion writer says in the New York Times, adding that “we need a public argument clearly tethered to the two big policy questions raised by police misconduct and the broader crime and incarceration debate.” Addressing these questions, he says, “could point to a stable policy consensus around race and criminal justice, in a way that our present ‘Make America Great Again’ versus ‘You’re All White Supremacists’ culture war does not.” Well, Issues has provided a start, offering a series of articles by criminal justice experts that examine ways to reduce incarceration rates while protecting public safety, help current prisoners re-enter society, and ease the particularly damaging effects of incarceration on communities of color.
9/27/17 – Though Australia has been active in space for decades, and was among the first countries to launch a satellite, it has never had a national space agency—until now. In announcing the new agency, an official said it would help the nation keep up with the “global space industry” that is “growing rapidly.” In Issues, an analyst recently surveyed the worldwide expansion of space activities by governments and private companies, adding a caution that the United States will need to adjust its policies to changing conditions.
9/26/17 – Congress is investigating Russia’s alleged use of social media to influence the 2016 US presidential campaign, and Facebook has handed over more than 3,000 ads believed to have played a role. Attacks on the United States using such “weaponized narratives” are likely to expand, a researcher who studies emerging technologies recently explained in Issues, as adversaries experiment with new ways to undermine the nation’s beliefs and values.
9/20/17 – Two new scientific achievements illustrate the wide-ranging potential of the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9: the first-ever manipulation of a key gene in human embryos that yielded fundamental insight into how single cells transform into complex babies, and the laboratory creation of colorful butterfly wings that may offer clues in evolutionary biology. The advances also suggest the array of social concerns accompanying the new technology, as covered recently by Issues in a series of articles.
9/19/17 – Three environmental groups are now suing the US government for delaying higher fines for automakers whose new vehicles don’t meet fuel economy standards. The delay seemingly aligns with federal plans to consider lowering the standards for the 2021-2025 model years. But two leaders of a major energy study maintain in Issues that fuel economy standards, combined with carefully crafted fuel taxes, represent the nation’s most practical bet for cutting energy use and funding infrastructure in the transportation sector.
9/17/17 – In a report on efforts in Maine to grow a classically hybridized and healthy strain of the blight-devastated American chestnut tree, a Portland-based newspaper also examines the prospects of genetically modified versions that carry a useful gene taken from wheat. In Issues, a philosopher considers the genetically modified candidates from her camp, concluding that public debates about their value will likely turn on both metaphysical and practical considerations.
9/12/17 – As Texas and the Southeast still reel from hurricane waters, the primary focus remains on meeting residents’ immediate needs. But from a broader perspective, an environmentalist has explained in Issues his hope that flood events can serve as a “teachable moment” that spurs people and governments in coastal communities to fundamentally rethink how they make local land-use decisions in the face of predicted rising sea levels. And at the website The Conversation, two experienced analysts offer a set of practical rules for designing infrastructure to better cope with extreme weather events.
9/8/17 – A major US investment bank reported recently that China will soon catch up with the United States in developing and applying artificial intelligence to drive economic progress. In Issues, a scholar at a leading Chinese university has suggested that his country’s recent and continuing progress in various areas of science and technology is linked strongly to the support of large numbers of government officials at all levels who have some form of technical education.
9/5/17 – A city official in San Francisco has called for a tax on robots that automate jobs and put people out of work, saying that “it’s important to think now about how people will earn a living as more U.S. jobs are lost to automation.” In Issues, an economic analyst surveyed the kinds of jobs that robots and information technology might fill over the next two decades, but noted that with careful planning humans can find ways of interacting with their automated creations to the benefit of workers and society alike.
9/5/17 – As floodwaters still plague Houston after Hurricane Harvey, two water-resource specialists say that a report on the Great Flood of 1993 in the upper Midwest showed policy makers how to mitigate or prevent severe flooding, but the advice went largely unheeded. In Issues, another pair of experts commenting five years after that report pointed out a host of actions still needed—many of them missing even today—and stressed that the key would be adopting a more informed kind of flood management that involves working with the forces of nature instead of simply trying to eliminate them.
9/3/17 – To meaningfully reduce the number of people incarcerated in the United States, more attention should be paid to paroling inmates convicted of violent crimes “who may have been dangerous in the past” but “are no longer a threat to public safety,” a criminal justice scholar argues in the Atlantic. Two expert analysts recently made a similar case in Issues as part of their analysis of mass incarceration and what states have learned about reforming the correctional and judicial systems.
9/1/17 – Recent conflicts in the United States stirred by extreme right-wing protestors have been featured on social media recently as a Russia-based network cranked out alarmism and disinformation, according to a group that monitors such messages. In Issues, a scholar of emerging technologies says use of “weaponized narratives” is increasingly common, providing an ideal asymmetric strategy for adversaries to attack US beliefs and values that support the nation’s culture and resiliency.
8/25/17 – Even as negotiators have barely started talking about the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Trump declared at a recent rally in Arizona that he doubted the United States can reach a deal with Mexico and Canada. But in Issues, an expert on international economics has argued that NAFTA has been a boon for US industry, and by making some proposed improvements and expansions, the three partners can even increase their competitiveness in world markets.
8/24/17 – Two leading entrepreneurs are among investors backing a California-based start-up company that plans to make and sell meat on an industrial scale from self-producing animal cells, eliminating the need to raise and slaughter livestock or poultry. Looking toward such commercialization, two specialists in sustainable engineering explored in Issues how factory-grown meat “might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.”
8/22/17 – In a recent examination in Issues of whether artificial intelligence should be regulated, a technologist and a social scientist argued that the case for regulation is clear in one specific area: the development of autonomous weapons that employ AI to decide when to fire, how much force to apply, and on what targets. Now, leaders of AI companies worldwide have sent an open letter to the United Nations urging quick action “to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”
8/20/17 – To ensure that efforts to edit human genes progress in a safe and ethical manner, the public should be included in discussions about how—and whether—to proceed, an international panel of leaders in the field recently stated in Issues. Indeed, a new national US survey found that a majority of the people who responded think the public should be consulted before genome editing is used in humans.
8/15/17 – Roughly a dozen states are modifying their use of a legal process that sends juveniles charged with crimes directly into the adult justice system where rehabilitation may not be of highest priority. As a leading expert explains in Issues, accumulating scientific evidence is revealing that young people may be prone to making risky decisions because their brains are not fully developed and that this condition could well correct itself with time.
8/12/17 – The Food and Drug Administration has delayed regulations that would have nearly halted sales of electronic cigarettes and at the same time signaled a willingness to allow the devices to be marketed as smoking-cessation aids. The shift would leave room for a proposal offered recently in Issues by a community health specialist to conduct a series of policy experiments to assess the full health effects and possible benefits of e-cigarettes and other alternative products to identify the best ways to reduce the harm caused by conventional smoking.
8/10/17 – Scientists for the first time have successfully altered a specific gene in human embryos to remove a mutation known to cause a disease, in this case a common and potentially deadly heart condition. If the embryos were allowed to develop into babies, they would not only be disease-free but would not later transmit the mutation to descendants. Such work raises social, legal, ethical, and policy questions that were analyzed in a series of articles in Issues.
8/8/17 – The Trump administration’s recent proposal to halve the number of legal immigrants into the United States is exactly backward, says the head of a major education organization, calling instead for expansion of opportunities available to skilled foreign workers and promising students. Along these lines, a policy analyst has proposed in Issues comprehensive reforms of the federal visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers that will meet the nation’s scientific, educational, and economic needs while being fair to US workers and students.
8/3/17 – The Chemical Safety Board, which investigates chemical industry accidents and makes safety recommendations, is slated for elimination, but a labor activist argues against the move, citing the good it has done in his community. Even a former board member who resigned because of its bureaucratic fumblings gave it a nod recently in Issues, though emphasizing that the board will need to adopt a set of reforms centered primarily on making it more open and accountable to the public.
8/1/17 – A research team has demonstrated what reportedly may be an effective way to slow tree-cutting in the tropical forests of western Uganda and thereby protect endangered chimpanzees living there: pay local landowners small sums not to chop down their trees. Indeed, the concept of paying for ecosystem services is gaining attention. But an economist and former federal environmental official recently cautioned in Issues that relying on economic justifications for conservation could backfire and undermine other compelling arguments for protecting nature.
7/21/17 – In the next decade or so, electric vehicles (EVs) will become cheaper than conventional fossil-fueled cars and will outsell them even without government subsidies, says a New York Times editorial. But an analyst recently argued in Issues that simply getting more EVs on the road will not be enough to offset the climate-changing effects of carbon emissions from the transport sector. Electricity grids also must incorporate greater levels of clean renewable energy, and electricity providers must incentivize public recharging of EVs when renewable energy generation is at its peak.
7/20/17 – In yet another manifestation of the changing space enterprise portrayed recently in Issues, a new generation of powerful rockets built by private companies will soon head skyward, marking a shift from when development and launch of rockets capable of carrying massive loads or reaching deep space was the domain solely of government space agencies.
7/14/17 – In what may be “the beginning of something big,” a scientific advisory panel for the US Food and Drug Administration has recommended approval of a new type of therapy that genetically alters a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. The therapy draws fundamentally on a revolutionary technique, called CRISPR/Cas9, for editing genes precisely and with relative ease. As CRISPR/Cas9 was emerging from the laboratory, Issues published a series of articles based on an international summit that reviewed the technology’s backstory and examined the social, legal, ethical, and policy questions essential to understanding how (or whether) to move it into broader use.
7/13/17 – When and if Congress finally acts on its pledge to overhaul the federal tax code, a key step should be to expand the corporate tax credit for research and development, a nonpartisan think tank says in a new report, calling it a proven way to boost industry productivity and raise workers’ incomes. In a broader look in Issues, an experienced economic analyst similarly pointed to the need for technology-focused growth policies and proposed a four-part national investment strategy designed to yield steady productivity gains and create high-paying, high-skill jobs.
With an expanding roster of companies sending fleets of low-cost satellites into orbit, “You’ll have the space economy integrating with the terrestrial economy like it never did before,” a venture capitalist invested in the movement says in an expansive article, complete with a map of global launch facilities, in Bloomberg Businessweek. In Issues, a space analyst offered an early look at this unfolding revolution and detailed how the United States can reshape its space agencies and policies to capitalize on changing global trends.
7/5/17 – Two lawmakers recently introduced a bill in the US Senate authorizing the federal government to offer financial grants to states to encourage them to cut their prison populations. Toward this aim, state policy makers could draw on a decade’s worth of lessons, detailed in Issues, about what works for reducing incarceration levels while also protecting public safety, holding offenders accountable, and controlling corrections costs.
7/3/17 – A new study suggests that bats are especially likely to harbor viruses dangerous to humans, though the researchers caution that more needs to be learned and that there’s no reason to fear or fight these important flying mammals. In Issues, a long-time authority on bats recently presented his case on why bats have mistakenly been singled out as potential spreaders of viral diseases and how this caused problems for bats and humans alike.
6/27/17 – With many states facing an epidemic of opiate addiction accompanied by more people locked up for drug offenses, jails provide a natural place to provide treatment—maybe even “the best place to initiate addict recovery”—says an opinion article in the New York Times. In Issues, two medical and judicial experts have also cited the importance of treating incarcerated drug addicts, as part of a larger recommended effort to improve overall health care within correctional systems.