Author Archives: Tom Burroughs

Mixed Winds Buffeting Manufacturing


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  10/3/16 – In an examination of jobs losses in the United States, a New York Times article says that 13% can be explained by changing trade practices, with the rest being casualties of automation or tweaks to factory operations that have enabled more production with less labor. In Issues, a leading scholar who examines […]


Welcome to New Space


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  10/1/16 – A massive change is occurring in the space industry—a move from “Old Space” to “New Space”—as out-of-the-box thinking increasingly pushes against heritage and convention, an Australian space innovator reports in The Conversation. In Issues, an observer of the scene has detailed this “major transformation” as more countries and private companies expand their […]


Savings Workers from Robots


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  9/30/16 – Based on an analysis of how artificial intelligence and robotics are transforming the workplace, an economist has argued in Issues that society must begin paying more attention to potential disruptive changes over the next few decades. The chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers foresees a period of transition that […]


Time to Restructure Energy R&D


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  9/23/16 – Human-caused climate change is real, and solving it will require massively increasing government support for research and development aimed at “breakthrough technologies cheap enough to outcompete fossil fuels,” says the leader of a Danish think tank. In Issues, a longtime energy analyst has also called for more energy innovation, but rather than […]


Finding Work for Former Prisoners


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  9/22/16 – Unwinding mass incarceration in the United States will require helping the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society, two authorities on prison reform have said in Issues. Reflecting this idea, the federal government is planning to award $5 million in new grants to fund job centers […]


The Potential of Green Finance


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  9/21/16 – In one corporate quest to develop a new type of fusion reactor, venture capitalists are playing a key role, described in Issues by a financial backer involved. In the New York Times, Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former Treasury secretary and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, expands on the wider need for […]


Science Looks at Communicating Science


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  9/20/16 – In a recent survey, 270 scientists identified “the biggest problems facing science.” Of the seven major items named, number 6 was that “science is poorly communicated to the public.” In Issues, several articles (here and here) have examined this concern from various perspectives and offered possible solutions, with the most recent focusing […]


Scientists Seek Action on Climate Change


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  9/20/16 – Three hundred and seventy five leading scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, have published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change, warning especially about potential dangers from political resistance to action. Issues has examined some of the political divides and laid out a clean-energy blueprint that may […]


Canada Imposes Carbon Taxes


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9/19/16 – Taxing carbon released from burning fossil fuels could be a key part of a comprehensive effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to human-caused climate change, two economists have argued in Issues. Although policy makers in the United States have largely resisted this option, Canada’s federal government will soon begin […]


Progress for Marine Sanctuaries


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  9/16/16 – An idea explored years ago in Issues—establishing marine protected areas to help protect ocean biodiversity—has resurfaced on several fronts. On September 15, President Obama designated the first fully protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, designating nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of Massachusetts as a marine national monument. And just a […]


Human Gene Editing Research Could Begin Soon


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  7/5/16 – Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have gained approval from a federal ethics panel to use, for the first time ever, the gene-editing tool called CRISPR to alter the immune systems of cancer patients to aid in their treatment. If the Food and Drug Administration grants its approval, research can begin. Issues […]


A New Type of Mileage Program


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  6/28/16 – A group of states along the East Coast wants to explore ways to overhaul how the nation pays for its decaying roads, proposing pilot programs in four states to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel. A noted transportation analyst writing in Issues has been […]


Prison Reform Taking Root


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  6/25/16 – The largest county in Mississippi has agreed to a first-of-its-kind settlement with the federal government to reduce mass incarceration by offering alternatives to jail, providing re-entry services for inmates leaving incarceration, and sentencing fewer people to jail for failure to pay court-ordered fines and fees, among other actions. The agreement reflects recent […]


Targeting Technology for Good


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  6/23/16 – Spurred by a technology proposal gone controversial, a media scholar at MIT examined in the Atlantic the challenge of ensuring that technology “address social problems in ways that make the world better, not worse.” In Issues, a longtime observer of the interplay between technology and society sharpens this aim, suggesting that the […]


Seeking Environmental Accord


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  6/15/16 – When facing environmental challenges, success will come best by talking persuasively, not confrontationally, a well-known author who specializes in human and animal behavior recently suggested in the New York Times. One success he cited, the use of “catch shares” to protect fisheries, was explored early on in Issues (here and here). On […]


Reducing Mass Incarceration Safely


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  6/10/16 – Roughly 2.3 million people are locked up in prisons and jails in the United States today, a 500% increase over the past 40 years. In Issues, analysts have identified ways to shrink the incarcerated population while still protecting the public. Reinforcing the safety factor, a new study finds that reducing the number […]


Progress, but Not Success, on High School Graduation


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  6/9/16 – The on-time graduation rate for public high schools in the United States has reached an all-time high, according to the latest federal data reported in Education Week. But progress has been far from uniform, and critical gaps remain. In Issues, two analysts have previously presented a slate of carrot-and-stick actions that policymakers […]


Teen Obesity Rates Still Rising


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  6/8/16 – More teens are obese than ever before in the United States, and obesity rates among younger children also remain troublingly high, according to the latest federal data described here. A decade ago in Issues, several of the authors of a landmark report on childhood obesity presented a comprehensive set of recommendations that […]


I’ll Have the Lab Burger, Rare


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  6/7/16 – Several companies are getting closer in the quest to move “cultured meat” from the laboratory to the marketplace, responding to practical and ethical forces, as reported here and here. In anticipation of such a shift, two specialists in sustainable engineering have said in Issues that society should “start thinking about how factory-grown […]


Sharing Robot Rewards


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  6/6/16 – Advances in robotics and information technology will transform the workplace over the next several decades, and it seems unlikely that the labor market can change as quickly as the technology is advancing, an economic analyst has projected in Issues. Seeing similar trends, another economist recently suggested that society should worry less about […]


Emerging Help for Nuclear Power


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  6/6/16 – As global agreements are putting pressure on the United States to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases, some state and federal officials are looking for ways to help nuclear power plants, especially older ones, remain operating in the face of financial pressures. In Issues, a nuclear energy stalwart has offered a set […]


Minorities Still Lag in STEM


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  6/1/16 – Little if any progress is being made in engaging underrepresented minority groups, including African Americans and Hispanics, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the United States, according to a recent report. In Issues, two analysts have previously noted this gap, pointing out contributing structural barriers in education and proposing steps that […]


States Lead in Reducing Mass Incarceration


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  5/31/16 – Efforts by some states to reduce their incarceration rates reveal lessons that may help policymakers in other state and federal jurisdicitons reach this aim, analysts who have studied justice reform said in Issues. Indeed, a new report described in a New York Times editorial shows that states, which house nine in 10 […]


Leniency for the Adolescent Brain


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  5/30/16 – The science of adolescent brain development is making its way into the national conversation, an early researcher in the field said in Issues. This is reflected in the recent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that juveniles who commit even the most serious crimes cannot be sentenced to life in prison without […]


Destigmatizing Former Prisoners


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  5/10/16 – As part of a series of articles in Issues on the problems of and solutions to mass incarceration in the United States, one pair of authors proposed an array of ways to help the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society. In a new approach described […]


Helping Science Speak Clearly


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  5/2/16 – A recent weather forecast for the Great Plains prompted widespread public fears of huge tornados—that never occurred. According to the Washington Post, the problem was not the basics of the forecast, but the way it was communicated, without proper balance between uncertainty and risk. This points to a key challenge identified by […]


How Safe Are E-cigarettes?


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  5/1/16 – With the use of electronic cigarettes increasing, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce plans to regulate them just like traditional tobacco products, including setting firm age limits for purchase. But not everyone agrees with this hardline approach. In Issues, a community health specialist said it would now be better […]


Japanese Hunt Whales for “Research”


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  4/26/16 – Japan has launched a fleet of ships to harvest up to 51 minke whales off the country’s northeastern coast, following an earlier harvest of 333 minke whales off Antarctica, and the hunts are reigniting concerns that current whaling regulations are failing. In Issues, two environmental scientists from Arizona State University have proposed […]


Mass Incarceration Doesn’t Pay


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  4/21/16 – Two leading economists with often-differing views jointly argue in the New York Times that mass incarceration in the United States fails financially as well as socially, calling on Congress to rationalize criminal justice policies and reform sentencing for individuals who pose the least risk. As part of a broader exploration in Issues […]


Beasts of the Urban Wild


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  4/18/16 – As part of an emerging debate on conservation science, described in Issues, one side holds that the spread of human-dominated environments will endanger biological biodiversity, while the other side foresees creative bursts of expanding diversity. In what may provide at least a small base for measurement, a museum in Los Angeles is […]