Author Archives: Tom Burroughs

Counting What Matters in Science


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  10/19/17 – The reward system in biomedical research can lead scientists to overlook potential biases—often unconscious—and fool themselves into believing a study’s splashy but flawed findings, a longtime science reporter recently argued in Issues, adding that such distorted studies “pervade the biomedical literature” and contribute to what’s become known as the “reproducibility crisis.” Extending […]

NAFTA Works, but Can Work Even Better


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10/17/17 – Two former high-ranking officials in the United States and Mexico recently argued for keeping—and strengthening—the North American Free Trade Agreement, which may be edging toward collapse, saying it has boosted the US economy and transformed the three-nation region into a global powerhouse. A trade policy expert made this case earlier in Issues, while […]

Misguided Arguments about Carbon and Climate


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  10/14/17 – As part of its drive to overturn the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency recently released significantly lower estimates of the so-called social cost of carbon dioxide, a measure widely used to weigh the value of actions aimed at stopping climate change. Arguments about the numbers ensued. But in Issues, […]

Study Finds Vaping Safer Than Cigarettes


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10/12/17 – If every cigarette smoker switched to using e-cigarettes, the result would be “tremendous health benefits” and a “significant gain in years of life,” according to a new study said to be the first to examine the health outcomes of such a switch. The findings align with an idea proposed in Issues that states should “move […]

Old MacDonald Had a Factory


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  10/11/17 – Raising livestock in large numbers for food is an ethical failing and environmental disaster, a columnist recently argued in the Guardian, a British newspaper, adding that the solution will come “only with the advent of cheap artificial meat.” With such a day in mind, two Arizona-based analysts have said in Issues that […]

What’s Driving Measles Outbreaks?


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  10/9/17 – The steady increase in measles outbreaks in the United States is most likely due to people who choose not to vaccinate their children, a major new government study has found. But increasing vaccination rates will not be achieved “simply by pointing to the scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective,” a […]

Fighting Troublesome Algae Blooms


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  10/8/17 – A thick bloom of algae now covers a huge area of western Lake Erie, nourished by nutrients running off of agricultural and urban lands, and such algal explosions are projected to become increasingly common in waterways across much of the United States. In Issues, three researchers have presented a range of options […]

US Automakers Plan Electric Future


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  10/3/17 – General Motors “believes in an all-electric future,” an official said in announcing plans to greatly expand its lineup of electric vehicles, and Ford said it plans to do likewise. But to fully capitalize on the potential of electric vehicles for reducing climate-altering carbon emissions from the transport sector, an analyst recently explained […]

Addressing Core Questions of Criminal Justice and Race


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  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 […]

Aussies Launching Official Space Agency


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  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.” […]

Congress Probing Hostile Social Media Posts


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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 […]

Gene Editing Entering New Stage


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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 […]

Arguing for Fuel Economy Standards


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  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 […]

An Engineered Chestnut Tree


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  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, […]

Seizing the “Teachable Moment” of Flooding


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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 […]

Chinese Surge in Artificial Intelligence


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  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 […]

Taxing Robots


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  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 […]

Follow Nature’s Lessons on Floods


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  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 […]

Paroling Some Violent Offenders Makes Sense


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  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 […]

Red Alert: Weaponized Narratives


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  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 […]

President Seems Willing to Ax NAFTA


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  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 […]

Manufactured Meat Beefing Up


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  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 […]

Call for Action on Controlling AI Weapons


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  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 […]

Public Wants Say on Gene Editing in Humans


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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 […]

Fixing a Flaw in Criminal Justice


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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 […]

E-cigarettes Win a Round


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  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 […]

First Use of CRISPR on Human Embryos


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  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 […]

The Value of Immigrant Talent


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  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 […]

Improve, Don’t Cut, the Chemical Safety Board


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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, […]

Paying to Protect the Environment May Work–or Not


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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 […]