Author Archives: Tom Burroughs

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Tesla!


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  2/7/18 – As a symbol of the private sector venturing into the space business, little might rise higher than Falcon Heavy, the giant rocket built and test-launched recently by SpaceX, a company owned by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, and carrying as payload a red electric sports car from another Musk company, Tesla. But this […]

Mass Incarceration Exacts Major Health Toll


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2/6/18 – Mass incarceration in the United States is a public health scourge that hits not only those locked up but also their family members and even the workers in detention settings, says a new review. In Issues, two correctional experts also recently examined the status of health care in prisons and jails, offering a […]

Coping with Fake News During Health Emergencies


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2/1/18 – As the flu continues to spread, false reports have also marched across the internet, including claims that a government doctor linked the epidemic to the flu vaccine itself. Indeed, an innovator in digital networks recently suggested in Issues that coping with major disease outbreaks will likely be complicated by misinformation magnified through the […]

Memo to Davos: Business Should Aim for a Better World


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1/29/18 – Reflecting on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a New York Times columnist declared that the most interesting participants were the entrepreneurs striving to use technology and other tools of business to address social problems. In Issues, a leading social thinker recently offered an even broader perspective, suggesting that society most needs […]

AI to Create New “Alternative Data” Jobs for Humans


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1/28/18 – In what he hoped would help drive an ongoing national analysis, an economic analyst examined in Issues the types of skills and jobs that are now or will soon become vulnerable to replacement by artificial intelligence and robotics, seeing possible problems for many current workers, but also potential for significant gains. In an […]

Even as Congress Dithers, Immigration Can Be Improved


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1/27/18 – A powerful Republican lawmaker is expected to introduce a bill in the US Senate that would more than double the number of temporary visas available to high-skilled workers from overseas, as other legislators call for reducing the number of visas offered. But even as arguments swirl, proposals are already available in Issues for […]

State Lessons on Reducing Incarceration


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1/26/18 – More than two-thirds of states significantly reduced their prison populations between 2008 and 2016, and all but one of them saw a simultaneous drop in crime rates, according to an analysis of new federal statistics. As part of a series on mass incarceration in Issues, two officials at the Council of State Governments […]

Twitter Users Reportedly Conned by Russia


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1/22/18 – The social media giant Twitter just disclosed thousands of accounts associated with the Russian government and a Kremlin-linked troll farm that collectively posted more than a million misleading messages preceding the 2016 US elections, adding that “such activity represents a challenge to democratic societies everywhere.” In Issues, a scholar who studies the ethical […]

China: Emerging Scientific Superpower


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1/20/18 – Voluminous data in two new federal reports suggest that China has become—or is on the verge of becoming—a scientific and technical superpower, says the economics columnist for the Washington Post. In Issues, a scholar at one of China’s leading universities recently provided something of an insider’s look at what may be fueling his […]

EV Credits Survive, but Much Work Remains


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  12/20/17 – Once tipped for elimination, federal income tax credits for buying electric vehicles (EVs) still remain under the newly adopted tax overhaul. But even if credits help put more EVs on the road, other policy and technology advances, described recently by an energy analyst in Issues, will be required to capitalize on their potential […]

Cognitive Dissonance: Republican Views of Climate Change


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  12/19/17 – Among registered Republicans nationwide, only about half say that climate change is happening and fewer than a third say humans are responsible, yet a majority in every congressional district say they support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, according to a new study. In such context, a trio of analysts has presented […]

Possible Health Risks from Fracking


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  12/17/17 – Pregnant women living near an oil or natural gas “fracking” well were more likely to give birth to worryingly small babies than were women living farther away, says a new study described here. In Issues, a team of analysts earlier expressed concern that the public lacks credible information on potential public health […]

California Considering Vehicle Mileage Tax


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  12/13/17 – California recently announced that it is studying ways to move from its conventional fuel tax that drivers pay at the pump to a system in which drivers will pay based on how many miles they drove since their last fill-up. This represents a type of vehicle mileage tax that an energy analyst […]

Older Smokers Vaping to Kick Their Habit


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  12/9/17 – States and municipalities can significantly aid public heath by working around reluctant federal agencies to establish programs to help smokers reduce the harm they face from cigarettes by switching to e-cigarettes, or vaping, a health behavior expert recently suggested in Issues. In fact, the New York Times reports that more smokers now […]

Anti-immigrant Policies Could Boost Crime


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  12/6/17 – Recent years have seen a steady merging of efforts to deal with crime and immigration—dubbed by some scholars “crimmigration”—and in Issues a leading sociologist has examined the ill effects this has had on the nation. From another perspective, the police chief in Tucson, Arizona, recently wrote in the New York Times that […]

Apprenticeships Have Room to Grow


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  12/4/17 – There is significant opportunity to expand apprenticeships in the United States, a new report finds, as the number of occupations commonly filled via apprenticeships could be nearly tripled and the number of job openings covered by this approach could be multiplied eightfold. Issues has also examined the potential of apprenticeships and ways […]

Robots Could Fill Third of US Jobs


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  12/2/17 – Over the next dozen or so years, automation will force roughly a third of workers in the United States to find other ways to make money, a new study reports. In an earlier take on the automated future, an economic analyst described in Issues the kinds of jobs that robots and information […]

UN Holds First Talks on Autonomous Weapons


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  11/27/17 – The United Nations recently held its first official discussions on how to prevent the use of fully autonomous lethal weapons that can identify and destroy targets without human control. But critics dinged the pace of progress, warning that a “killer robot” arms race is already under way. In Issues, two analysts have approached […]

Black Men Get Harsher Prison Sentences


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  11/25/17 – Black men are sentenced to far more time in prison than white men for committing similar crimes, says a new report from an independent agency of the US judicial branch, and racial disparities in sentencing appear to have increased over the past two decades. The findings seemingly align with observations that people of […]

Germany Boosting Solar but Still Digging Coal


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11/19/17 – Despite its stated goal of dramatically reducing carbon emissions by aggressively pursing clean energy technologies and phasing out fossil fuels, Germany is still burning lots of an especially dirty form of coal and is likely to badly miss its upcoming emission-reduction targets. In Issues, a renewable energy expert who worked as a manager […]

Ask for a Window Seat


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  10/18/17 – As one of a number of companies looking to provide fast and affordable access to space, Boeing is developing a “spaceplane” called the Phantom Express to carry satellites routinely into orbit while operating much like its passenger jet cousins. Indeed, Issues recently examined the increasing role of private companies in space activities […]

Cloud Brightening and Moral Character


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  11/16/17 – One idea for cooling the atmosphere and curbing climate change is to “brighten” marine clouds by seeding them with saltwater, thereby increasing their ability to reflect solar rays. Indeed, federal policy-makers recently examined how government might play a role in advancing the research. And from another perspective, a professor working on this […]

Geoengineering: Maybe, and Only as Part of a Larger Plan


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11/14/17 – A congressional subcommittee recently held hearings on the potential of geoengineering to keep climate change in check. But two dozen prominent thinkers in the field cautioned in a letter to the lawmakers that though this approach may hold promise, “Any consideration of a federally funded and coordinated research program into geoengineering must be in […]

Climate Changing, Humans Responsible, Action Possible


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  11/7/17 – Contrary to statements by President Trump and many of his advisers, the global climate has warmed considerably over the past century and it is “extremely likely” than human activities are the “dominant cause,” according to a major new report. But even as wrangling continues, there are practical climate-related policy and technology options […]

Taxing Vehicle Miles: A Better Way to Fund Highways


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  11/2/17 – The Trump administration is reportedly considering raising federal motor fuel taxes, perhaps by seven cents per gallon, to pay for its infrastructure investment plan. But a sustainable-energy analyst recently argued in Issues that it would be better to institute a tax based on vehicle miles traveled, which would more accurately track with […]

War of the Words


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11/1/17 – The increasing span of social media is raising dramatically the ability of adversaries of the United States to spread “weaponized narratives” aimed at undermining public faith in the nation’s culture and institutions, a scholar who studies the ethical and social dimensions of emerging technologies recently observed in Issues. Now comes new data on […]

Expanding Ocean Observations to Aid Climate Forecasting


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10/31/17 – The US government should mount a comprehensive effort to study the ocean on a sustained basis over 10 years to gain information essential for monitoring and forecasting changes in Earth’s climate, says a new report from an influential science advisory group. In the same spirit, a policy analyst has argued in Issues for paying […]

Looking Beyond Leaner Bacon


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10/30/17 – Scientists in China have now used the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas 9 to produce pigs that can better regulate their body temperatures by burning fat, resulting in leaner animals that can survive better in cold weather. But in a cautionary note, two researchers argued recently in Issues that society should not focus narrowly on […]

Canada Welcomes Skilled Immigrants


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  10/29/17 – In a bid to catalyze new high-tech companies, Canada is now marketing itself as more welcoming than the United States for skilled foreign workers looking to set up shop. Issues has examined this international action from various angles, exploring the outsized role of immigrants as entrepreneurs and inventors in the United States and detailing […]

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 […]