Wednesday, May 11, 2016

buying a neighborhood is the most important thing you can do for your kid...,

WaPo |  "We always think, well, we’re never going to have integrated schools as long as we have such highly segregated neighborhoods," she says. "I want to point out maybe we’ll never have integrated neighborhoods if we have segregated schools."

If we found ways to integrate schools — as former District Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) controversially proposed two years ago — that might take some of the exclusivity out of certain neighborhoods. School quality is capitalized into housing prices, making those neighborhoods unaffordable to many families. Imagine, for instance, if all the public schools in the District or the Washington region were integrated and of comparable quality. Families might pay more to live in Northwest to be near Rock Creek Park. But you'd see fewer home-bidding wars there just to access scarce school quality. More to the point, homes families already paid handsomely to buy might lose some of their value.

Politically, the two topics that most enrage voters are threats to property values and local schools.  So either of these ideas — wielding housing policy to affect schools, or school policy to affect housing — would be tough sells. Especially to anyone who has secured both the desirable address and a seat in the best kindergarten in town. Parents in Upper Northwest, for instance, deeply opposed the idea of ending neighborhood schools in Washington. And Gray's proposal never came to pass.

But, Owens says, "I feel more hopeful in studying these issues today than I did five years ago." At least, she says, we are all now talking more about inequality and segregation.

the urgent business of where 19 transexuals use the toilet trumps trade, jobs, criminal justice, etc...,

WaPo |  On Monday, there was a remarkable moment at the Department of Justice: two women of color who had personally experienced the pain of prejudice walked to the podium to announce the Justice Department’s discrimination lawsuit against the state of North Carolina.

The two top Justice Department officials – one the daughter of Indian immigrants and the other the granddaughter of a “dirt poor” sharecropper and minister in the deep South – linked the growing controversy over transgender access to restrooms in North Carolina to the civil rights battles of the 1960s.

“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, a native of North Carolina, in perhaps the most impassioned speech she has given since taking the reins of the Justice Department last year. “We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mr. Miracle easily outflanks Granny Goodness on the Left...,

WaPo |  At a campaign rally here in one of the most liberal towns in America, Donald Trump offered praise for an ­unusual party: avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

“Now, I’m no fan of Bernie Sanders, but he is 100 percent right,” Trump told a crowd here this weekend. “He is 100 percent right: Hillary Clinton is totally controlled by the people that put up her money. She’s totally controlled by Wall Street.”

That’s not the only area where the presumptive Republican nominee sounds like Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination. On a series of issues, including free trade and foreign military intervention, Trump is effectively running to the left not only of his own party but also of Clinton.

For weeks, Trump has openly praised Sanders, crediting the senator from Vermont for raising questions about the former secretary of state’s judgment on campaign finance, trade and foreign policy. He has also pointed to Sanders’s questioning of Clinton’s qualifications as a sign that the topic is fair game.

“NAFTA has been one of the great economic disasters. Who signed it? Clinton. Clinton,” Trump said Saturday at a rally in Lynden, Wash. He was referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was actually signed by George H.W. Bush but was implemented through legislation signed by Bill Clinton.

“It has destroyed, I’ll tell you what, it’s destroyed our country as we know it,” Trump said.
The line of attack poses an unusual and vexing challenge for the Democratic front-runner, who has spent months embracing increasingly liberal positions in her primary fight with Sanders. After jockeying to win over voters on the left, the Clinton campaign is now tasked with pinpointing the best way to attack Trump — an ideological moving target who sometimes switches positions within the space of a day — while also reaching out to moderates and disaffected conservatives.

identity politics is an emotional nose ring for weak minds...,

theatlantic |  The Democratic Party’s driving concern in 2016 is identity politics. This is unfortunate given how dire Americans’ bread-and-butter suffering has become since the Great Recession. For those who claim the party can and must do both, history shows that the two inevitably undermine one other.  Either we come together as workers or we move apart as identity groups.

Both Sanders and Trump have at least recognized the problem, but both candidates are flawed in the ways described by Gary and in some additional ones as well. With Trump, for instance, there’s a basic credibility gap as well as a philosophical problem. He has said many things which suggest he cares about regular Americans, but whether he means them or not is anyone’s guess.

Hillary Clinton is at this point completely unacceptable on bread-and-butter issues. She presided over the approach to government that led us to this point, all the while taking rich folks’ money for professional and personal gain.

The conflation of opposition to immigration and racism is wrong, unfair, and tragic given that American citizens need assistance now more than ever. For those who still believe illegal immigration is harmless or that free trade benefits U.S. workers, I struggle to see how they justify these positions other than by admitting that they are more concerned with the welfare of foreign workers than U.S. workers. That’s a defensible position, for sure, but not one on which you can win any kind of office in the United States.

Clintonian corruption is SO foul that it WILL kill the Democrat Party...,

HuffPo |  During my latest appearances on CNN International, I called Donald Trump a buffoon. Twice. Although I don’t want Trump or any Republican in the White House, there’s an even greater concern for Democrats. The prospect of electing Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders will likely result in political repercussions, among progressive voters searching for alternatives, and among a disenchanted base.

While many pundits believe Clinton is the most qualified person to lead Democrats for the next four years, they fail to see the writing on the wall. Not only will a Clinton presidency result in eight years of somebody like Ted Cruz, but the resentment of Democratic supredelegates, and a system viewed to be corrupt, will reach a boiling point.

When Vox publishes an article titled Neocons for Hillary, Democrats are heading in the wrong direction. From Wall Street to war and foreign policy, Democrats have capitulated to Republicans. The formation of a third political party is a near certainty if Clinton is nominated, even after an FBI criminal investigation, and even though Bernie Sanders defeats Trump by a wider margin.

I explain in my latest YouTube segment that superdelegates within the Democratic Party risk losing their influence, and power, if Bernie Sanders isn’t the nominee.

Remember, the smartest people in the room never imagined a contested Democratic convention. They never predicted Bernie Sanders would still be in the race, and they never believed the FBI email investigation was serious. None of theexperts predicted Trump (“Our emphatic prediction is simply that Trump will not win the nomination”), as illustrated by Nate Silver in a 2015 piece titled Donald Trump Is Winning The Polls — And Losing The Nomination.

For the record, Democrats have set the bar lower than ever before by championingWashington Post headlines like Officials: Scant evidence that Clinton had malicious intent in handling of emails. Scant evidence doesn’t mean “no evidence.” Malicious intent doesn’t erase other types of intent. Nothing in the article, or headline, quotes the FBI (only anonymous officials and sources are mentioned), or absolves Clinton of anything.

The FBI criminal investigation has entered a phase that should worry Hillary supporters, and Hillary Clinton will soon be “interviewed” by the FBI. This won’t be a job interview and I explain in this YouTube segment how Clinton and her staff feel about the FBI.

If anything, superdelegates exist to prevent a flawed candidate like Clinton from handing Republicans the White House. The risk of Espionage Act indictments is genuine, especially since nobody has yet been exonerated. Despite what you hear from people eager to ignore reality, the FBI email investigation is still ongoing.

Monday, May 09, 2016

black lives matter and racial tension in america

barna |  “Our research confirms the fear that the church (or the people in it) may be part of the problem in the hard work of racial reconciliation,” says Brooke Hempell, vice president of research at Barna Group. “If you’re a white, evangelical, Republican, you are less likely to think race is a problem, but more likely to think you are a victim of reverse racism. You are also less convinced that people of color are socially disadvantaged. Yet these same groups believe the church plays an important role in reconciliation. This dilemma demonstrates that those supposedly most equipped for reconciliation do not see the need for it.

“More than any other segment of the population, white evangelical Christians demonstrate a blindness to the struggle of their African American brothers and sisters,” Hempell continues. “This is a dangerous reality for the modern church. Jesus and his disciples actively sought to affirm and restore the marginalized and obliterate divisions between groups of people. Yet, our churches and ministries are still some of the most ethnically segregated institutions in the country.

“By failing to recognize the disadvantages that people of color face—and the inherent privileges that come from growing up in a ‘majority culture’—we perpetuate the racial divisions, inequalities and injustices that prevent African American communities from thriving,” Hempell says. “Research has shown that being cognizant of our biases leads to change in biased behavior. If white evangelical Christians genuinely care for the wellbeing of their African American brothers and sisters, the first step they must take is being honest about their own biases. History—and Jesus’ example—has shown that reconciliation comes from stepping out of our place of comfort and actively pursuing healing for those in need. We must do the same, if we really believe all lives matter.”

school segregation driving american financial hell?

theatlantic |  More than a half-century ago, Betty Friedan set out to call attention to “the problem that has no name,” by which she meant the dissatisfaction of millions of American housewives.

Today, many are suffering from another problem that has no name, and it’s manifested in the  bleak financial situations of millions of middle-class—and even upper-middle-class—American households.

Poverty doesn’t describe the situation of middle-class Americans, who by definition earn decent incomes and live in relative material comfort. Yet they are in financial distress. For people earning between $40,000 and $100,000 (i.e. not the very poorest), 44 percent said they could not come up with $400 in an emergency (either with cash or with a credit card whose bill they could pay off within a month). Even more astonishing, 27 percent of those making more than $100,000 also could not. This is not poverty. So what is it?

As people move up the income ladder, they escape material shortages and consume more. They have “things”—goods, houses, and, most importantly, education—to show for their higher earnings, but they do not have healthy finances. Having those “things” is of course an improvement over not having them, but only for the very, very rich (or the very, very unusual) is there any real escape from the pressure-cooker of American household finances.

At its core, this relentless drive to spend any money available comes not from a desire to consume more lattes and own nicer cars, but, largely, from the pressure people feel to provide their kids with access to the best schools they can afford (purchased, in most cases, not via tuition but via real estate in a specific public-school district). Breaking the bank for your kids’ education is, to an extent, perfectly reasonable: In a deeply unequal society, the gains to be made by being among the elite are enormous, and the consequences of not being among them are dire. When understood mainly as a consequence of this rush to provide for one’s children, the drive to maximize spending is not some bizarre mystery, nor a sign of massive irresponsibility, but a predictable consequence of severe inequality.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Where Hepatitis C is Involved Indian Lives Matter (you Uhmurkan peasants, not so much...,)

snopes |  ORIGIN: The high cost of medications in the United States has been a major topic of discussion since well before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010.  While it is possible to get extraordinarily good health care in the U.S., the price of such care — or any care — is often prohibitive, often far more than in any other developed country.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause progressive liver damage, and also increases the likelihood of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis. Because it is a bloodborne illness, hepatitis C often spread through sharing needles or receiving blood transfusions. Until very recently, the disease had no cure.

Enter Gilead Sciences, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that developed a pill called sofosbuvir (brand name: Sovaldi), which completely cures the disease over a twelve-week period.  It is more effective when combined with a newer drug, ledivaspir, to make a cocktail patented as Harvoni.

The treatment is hailed as a miracle drug, especially in parts of India that are dramatically affected by hepatitis, commonly spread there (as in other developing countries) by tainted needles used and re-used for injections and transfusions and exacerbated by impoverished and cramped living conditions.

When Gilead began to market Sovaldi in 2013, it set the price at $1,000 per pill and $84,000 for a full course of treatment — at least, in the United States.  Because Gilead entered a series of marketing agreements with generic drug companies in India, and because India is extremely strict in limiting what can and cannot be legally patented there, a month's worth of sofosbuvir treatment initially retailed there for the equivalent of USD$300 (or, as the meme says, $900 for the full course of treatment; the cost of treatment further dropped over time to about $4 a pill). Patents guarantee exclusive sales for at least a decade in the United States before competition from generic drugs is allowed.

This was excellent news for the estimated 12 to 18 million people who suffer from chronic hepatitis C inIndia, but a terrible blow to many of the 3.5 million sufferers in the U.S. to whom the far higher costs were prohibitive.

human conflict arising from natural resources

energyskeptic |  The special issue on Human Conflict (18 May, p. 818) largely ignores a central dimension of violent conflict: the complex role of natural resources in the onset (Ross 2004) and conduct of conflict, peacemaking, and recovery from conflict.

Grievances over access to land have been central to wars in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nepal (Macours 2011, Kay 2002). Inequitable distribution of oil and gas revenues drove secessionist conflicts in places such as Indonesia’s Aceh and southern Sudan (Collier 2012).

Since the end of the Cold War, conflicts based on resources have grown rapidly in number: Armed groups in at least 18 conflicts have relied on revenues from diamonds, timber, coltan, and a range of agricultural crops from cacao to coca (UN 2009). For centuries, armies have targeted natural resources and the environment to deprive enemies of cover, food, and support (Austin 2000), and the increased use of resources to finance conflicts has enhanced their value as a military objective (Autessere 2010).

Between 1946 and 2008, 40 to 60% of all intrastate conflicts were linked to natural resources. Resource-related conflicts are more likely to relapse, and do so twice as quickly compared with situations following conflicts without a link to natural resources (Rustad 2010).

Saturday, May 07, 2016

syndemic peasants, the power configuration is girding up its loins to slaughter you for profit...,

medium | The next five years will see the international market for ‘riot control systems’ boom to a value of more than $5 billion at an annual growth rate of 5%, according to a new report by a global business intelligence firm.

The report forecasts a dramatic rise in civil unrest across the world, including in North America and Europe, driven by an increase in Ferguson-style incidents and “extremist attacks.”

The Middle East, North Africa and Asia-Pacific regions will also experience a persistent rise in conflicts.

This increasing trend in instability promises billions of dollars of profits for global defence firms, concludes the report, published last month by Infiniti Research Ltd., a market intelligence firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies.

“Protests, riots, and demonstrations are major issues faced by the law enforcement agencies across the world,” said Abhay Singh, a lead defence technology analyst at the firm. “In addition the increase in incidents of civil wars in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt along with an increase in the global defence budget will generate demand for riot control systems.”

Europe, the Middle East and Africa will be the largest market, collectively experiencing a rate of growth at over 5%, exceeding $2 billion by 2020. Under the subheading, ‘EMEA: increase in extremist attacks to boost growth’, the report, priced at over $2,000, explains:
“Over the past years, Europe witnessed an increase in extremist attacks, which has raised concerns among the law enforcement and defense industries to equip themselves with modern equipment and protect civilians from external threats. In 2015, the Paris attacks and the killing of journalists in France are some of the examples of growing terrorism in Europe.”
The combination of intensifying conflict, terrorism, and civil unrest will lead to rocketing demand for riot control systems over the next 5 years “led by Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, Iran, and South African countries.”

Friday, May 06, 2016

America Can't Quit the Drug War Because the Deep State Won't Let It

rollingstone |  In March, the commander in chief of the War on Drugs stood in front of a crowd of policymakers, advocates and recovering addicts to declare that America has been doing it wrong.

Speaking at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta – focused on an overdose epidemic now killing some 30,000 Americans a year – President Barack Obama declared, "For too long we have viewed the problem of drug abuse ... through the lens of the criminal justice system," creating grave costs: "We end up with jails full of folks who can't function when they get out. We end up with people's lives being shattered."

Touting a plan to increase drug-treatment spending by more than $1 billion – the capstone to the administration's effort to double the federal drug-treatment budget – Obama insisted, "This is a straightforward proposition: How do we save lives once people are addicted, so that they have a chance to recover? It doesn't do us much good to talk about recovery after folks are dead."

Obama's speech underscored tactical and rhetorical shifts in the prosecution of the War on Drugs – the first durable course corrections in this failed 45-year war. The administration has enshrined three crucial policy reforms. First, health insurers must now cover drug treatment as a requirement of Obamacare. Second, draconian drug sentences have been scaled back, helping to reduce the number of federal drug prisoners by more than 15 percent. Third, over the screams of prohibitionists in its ranks, the White House is allowing marijuana's march out of the black market, with legalization expected to reach California and beyond in November.

The administration's change in rhetoric has been even more sweeping: Responding to opioid deaths, Obama appointed a new drug czar, Michael Botticelli, who previously ran point on drug treatment in Massachusetts. Botticelli has condemned the "failed policies and failed practices" of past drug czars, and refers not to heroin "junkies" or "addicts" but to Americans with "opioid-abuse disorders."

Austin Indiana the HIV Capital of America

medicalxpress |  Jessica and Darren McIntosh were too busy to see me when I arrived at their house one Sunday morning. When I returned later, I learned what they'd been busy with: arguing with a family member, also an addict, about a single pill of prescription painkiller she'd lost, and injecting meth to get by in its absence. Jessica, 30, and Darren, 24, were children when they started using drugs. Darren smoked his first joint when he was 12 and quickly moved on to snorting pills. "By the time I was 13, I was a full-blown pill addict, and I have been ever since," he said. By age 14, he'd quit school. When I asked where his care givers were when he started using drugs, he laughed. "They're the ones that was giving them to me," he alleged. "They're pill addicts, too."
Darren was 13 when he started taking pills, which he claims were given to him by an adult relative. "He used to feed them to me," Darren said. On fishing trips, they'd get high together. Jessica and Darren have never known a life of family dinners, board games and summer vacations. "This right here is normal to us," Darren told me. He sat in a burgundy recliner, scratching at his arms and pulling the leg rest up and down. Their house was in better shape than many others I'd seen, but nothing in it was theirs. Their bedrooms were bare. The kind of multigenerational drug use he was describing was not uncommon in their town, Austin, in southern Indiana. It's a tiny place, covering just two and a half square miles of the sliver of land that comprises Scott County. An incredible proportion of its 4,100 population – up to an estimated 500 – are shooting up. It was here, starting in December 2014, that the single largest HIV outbreak in US history took place. Austin went from having no more than three cases per year to 180 in 2015, a prevalence rate close to that seen in sub-Saharan Africa.

Exactly how this appalling human crisis happened here, in this particular town, has not been fully explained. I'd arrived in Scott County a week previously to find Austin not exactly desolate. Main Street had a few open businesses, including two pharmacies and a used-goods store, owned by a local police sergeant. The business with the briskest trade was the gas station, which sold $1 burritos and egg rolls. In the streets either side of it, though, modest ranch houses were interspersed among shacks and mobile homes. Some lawns were well-tended, but many more were not. On some streets, every other house had a warning sign: 'No Trespassing', 'Private Property', 'Keep Out'. Sheets served as window curtains. Many houses were boarded up. Others had porches filled with junk – washing machines, furniture, toys, stacks of old magazines. There were no sidewalks. Teenage and twenty-something girls walked the streets selling sex. I watched a young girl in a puffy silver coat get into a car with a grey-haired man. I met a father who always coordinates with his neighbour to make sure their children travel together, even between their homes, which are a block apart. Driving around for days, knocking on doors looking for who would speak with me was intimidating. I've never felt more scared than I did in Austin.

The mystery of Austin is only deepened by a visit to the neighbouring town of Scottsburg, the county seat, eight miles south. It's just a bit bigger than Austin, with a population of about 6,600, but it's vastly different. A coffee shop named Jeeves served sandwiches and tall slices of homemade pie, which you could eat while sitting in giant, cushiony chairs in front of a fireplace. A shop next door sold artisanal soap and jam. The town square had a war memorial and was decorated for Christmas. The library was populated. The sidewalks had people and the streets had traffic. There were drugs in Scottsburg, but the town did not reek of addiction. The people didn't look gaunt and drug-addled. No one I asked could explain why these two towns were so different, and no one could explain what had happened to Austin. But a new theory of public health might yet hold the answer. Known as syndemics, it may also be the one thing that can rescue Austin and its people.

The term syndemics was coined by Merrill Singer, a medical anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. Singer was working with injecting drug users in Hartford in the 1990s in an effort to find a public health model for preventing HIV among these individuals. As he chronicled the presence of not only HIV but also tuberculosis and hepatitis C among the hundreds of drug users he interviewed, Singer began wondering how those diseases interacted to the detriment of the person. He called this clustering of conditions a 'syndemic', a word intended to encapsulate the synergistic intertwining of certain problems. Describing HIV and hepatitis C as concurrent implies they are separable and independent. But Singer's work with the Hartford drug users suggested that such separation was impossible. The diseases couldn't be properly understood in isolation. They were not individual problems, but connected.

Singer quickly realised that syndemics was not just about the clustering of physical illnesses; it also encompassed nonbiological conditions like poverty, drug abuse, and other social, economic and political factors known to accompany poor health.

Hepatitis C is Curable, Just Not For You...,

CNN |  Hepatitis C-related deaths reached an all-time high in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday, surpassing total combined deaths from 60 other infectious diseases including HIV, pneumococcal disease and tuberculosis. The increase occurred despite recent advances in medications that can cure most infections within three months.

"Not everyone is getting tested and diagnosed, people don't get referred to care as fully as they should, and then they are not being placed on treatment," said Dr. John Ward, director of CDC's division of viral hepatitis. 
At the same time, surveillance data analyzed by the CDC shows an alarming uptick in new cases of hepatitis C, mainly among those with a history of using injectable drugs. From 2010 to 2014, new cases of hepatitis C infection more than doubled. Because hepatitis C has few noticeable symptoms, said Ward, the 2,194 cases reported in 2014 are likely only the tip of the iceberg.
"Due to limited screening and underreporting, we estimate the number of new infections is closer to 30,000 per year," Ward said. "So both deaths and new infections are on the rise." 
"These statistics represent the two battles that we are fighting. We must act now to diagnose and treat hidden infections before they become deadly, and to prevent new infections."

Thursday, May 05, 2016

it's always the monstrous overreach that conduces to the inevitable FAIL!!!

WaPo | The Labour Party has since suspended the offending councilors, but the comments have sparked fierce debates about anti-Semitism in Britain and look to be set to affect local elections taking place there Thursday.

A study into anti-Semitism by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry that was published Wednesday noted that although violent anti-Semitic incidents worldwide decreased in 2015 compared with previous years, Europe’s Jews are growing increasingly concerned about their future.

The research noted that “the number of verbal and visual anti-Semitic expressions, mainly on social media, turned more threatening and insulting” and that anti-Semitic language against Israel as a Jewish state often infiltrates the mainstream.

In Europe, researchers found that Jewish communities and individuals feel threatened by the radicalization of Muslim citizens and the influx of refugees. There are also concerns that the mass migration will strengthen right-wing nationalist parties.

the "big tent" of the democrat cathedral shriveling to a little fig leaf...,

observer |  DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is emblematic of the role big money plays in politics and, for the future of the Democratic party, it is vital for her to be replaced. Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s career has been in jeopardy since the beginning of the Democratic primaries, as a wave of resentful backlash over corrupt party politics has linked her to everything that is wrong with establishment practices. Her poor leadership and lack of impartiality as chair of the Democratic National Committee has disenfranchised millions of Democrats around the country, and has inspired thousands of progressive Independents to support Senator Bernie Sanders for president—no matter what.

An essential step in reuniting the Democratic party after the divisive presidential primaries will be to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz with a new DNC chair who can be trusted to remain impartial. What the party needs most at this critical moment is a leader who will reinstitute the ban on federal lobbyists and super PACs buying off the DNC and its members. The ability for Democrats to unite as one party is obstructed not only by the polarity between Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton, but in large part by Ms. Wasserman Schultz—who has favored Ms. Clinton and other candidates who court corporate and wealthy donors rather than their constituents.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz has little interest in growing the Democratic party, and is content on maintaining the status quo to ensure she and the candidates she sympathizes with remain in office. In a recent interview on MSNBC, Ms. Wasserman Schultz vocalized her support for closing off all Democratic primaries from anyone not registered as a Democrat.

“I believe that the party’s nominee should be chosen—this is Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s opinion—that the party’s nominee should be chosen by members of the party,” the DNC Chair said in an interview with MSNBC Live, according to the Washington Examiner.

the zionist power configuration

petras.lahaine |  From our discussion it is clear that there is a profound disparity between the stellar academic achievements of Israel-First officials in the US government and the disastrous consequences of their public policies in office.

The ethno-chauvinist claim of unique ‘merit’ to explain the overwhelming success of American Jews in public office and in other influential spheres is based on a superficial reputational analysis, bolstered on degrees from prestigious universities. But this reliance on reputation has not held up in terms of performance - the successful resolution of concrete problems and issues. Failures and disasters are not just ‘overlooked’; they are rewarded.

After examining the performance of top officials in foreign policy, we find that their ‘assumptions’ (often blatant manipulations and misrepresentations) about Iraq were completely wrong; their pursuit of war was disastrous and criminal; their ‘occupation blueprint’ led to prolonged conflict and the rise of terrorism; their pretext for war was a fabrication derived from their close ties to Israeli intelligence in opposition to the findings US intelligence. Their sanctions policy toward Iran has cost the US economy many billions while their pro-Israel policy cost the US Treasury (and taxpayers) over $110 billion over the last 30 years. Their one-sided ‘Israel-First’ policy has sabotaged any a ‘two-state’ resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and has left millions of Palestinians in abject misery. Meanwhile, the disproportionate number of high officials who have been accused of giving secret US documents to Israel (Wolfowitz, Feith, Indyke and Polland etc.) exposes what really constitutes the badge of “merit” in this critical area of US security policy.

The gulf between academic credentials and actual performance extends to economic policy. Neo-liberal policies favoring Wall Street speculators were adopted by such strategic policymakers as Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Lawrence Summers. Their ‘leadership’ rendered the country vulnerable to the biggest economic crash since the Great Depression with millions of Americans losing employment and homes. Despite their role in creating the conditions for the crisis, their ’solution’ compounded the disaster by transferring over a trillion dollars from the US Treasury to the investment banks, as a taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street. Under their economic leadership, class inequalities have deepened; the financial elite has grown many times richer. Meanwhile, wars in the Middle East have drained the US Treasury of funds, which should have been used to serve the social needs of Americans and finance an economic recovery program through massive domestic investments and repair of our collapsing infrastructure.

The trade policies under the leadership of this ‘meritocratic’ elite - formerly called the ‘Chosen People’ - have been an unmitigated disaster for the majority of industrial workers, resulting in huge trade deficits and the deskilling of low paid service employment - with profound implications for future generations of American workers. It is no longer a secret that an entire generation of working class Americans has descended into poverty with no prospects of escape - except through narcotics and other degradation. On the ‘flip side’ of the ‘winners and losers’, US finance capital has expanded overseas with acquisition and merger fees enriching the 0.1% and the meritocratic officials happily rotating from their Washington offices to Wall Street and back again.

If economic performance were to be measured in terms of the sustained growth, balanced budgets, reductions in inequalities and the creation of stable, well-paying jobs, the economic elite (despite their self-promoted merits) have been absolute failures.

However, if we adopt the alternative criteria for success, their performance looks pretty impressive: they bailed out their banking colleagues, implemented destructive ‘free’ trade agreements, and opened up overseas investments opportunities with higher rates of profits than might be made from investing in the domestic economy.

If we evaluate foreign policy ‘performance’ in terms of US political, economic and military interests, their policies have been costly in lives, financial losses and military defeats for the nation as a whole. They rate ’summa cum lousy’.

However if we consider their foreign policies in the alternative terms of Israel’s political, economic and military interests, they regain their ’summa cum laudes’! They have been well rewarded for their services: The war against Iraq destroyed an opponent of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The systematic destruction of the Iraqi civil society and state has eliminated any possibility of Iraq recovering as a modern secular, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state. Here, Israel made a major advance toward unopposed regional military dominance without losing a soldier or spending a shekel! The Iran sanctions authored and pushed by Levey and Cohen served to undermine another regional foe of Israeli land grabs in the West Bank even if it cost the US hundreds of billions in lost profits, markets and oil investments.

By re-setting the criteria for these officials, it is clear that their true academic ‘merit’ correlates with their success policies on behalf of the state Israel, regardless of how mediocre their performances have been for the United States as a state, nation and people. All this might raise questions about the nature of higher education and how performance is evaluated in terms of the larger spheres of the US economy, state and military.

secrecy equals parasitic toxicity - everything else is conversation...,

independent |  Today’s shock leak of the text of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) marks the beginning of the end for the hated EU-US trade deal, and a key moment in the Brexit debate. The unelected negotiators have kept the talks going until now by means of a fanatical level of secrecy, with threats of criminal prosecution for anyone divulging the treaty’s contents.

Now, for the first time, the people of Europe can see for themselves what the European Commission has been doing under cover of darkness - and it is not pretty.

The leaked TTIP documents, published by Greenpeace this morning, run to 248 pages and cover 13 of the 17 chapters where the final agreement has begun to take shape. The texts include highly controversial subjects such as EU food safety standards, already known to be at risk from TTIP, as well as details of specific threats such as the US plan to end Europe’s ban on genetically modified foods.

The documents show that US corporations will be granted unprecedented powers over any new public health or safety regulations to be introduced in future. If any European government does dare to bring in laws to raise social or environmental standards, TTIP will grant US investors the right to sue for loss of profits in their own corporate court system that is unavailable to domestic firms, governments or anyone else.

For all those who said that we were scaremongering and that the EU would never allow this to happen, we were right and you were wrong.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

cuba and puerto rico wonder who really won the cold war?

theguardian |  Two Caribbean islands are at a crossroads in their relationship with the US. One is plagued by corruption and debt, and dotted with crumbling homes, abandoned by families for the imperial power nearby. The other is Cuba.

Who won the cold war again?

Within 24 hours on Sunday, Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro García Padilla, announced that the American territory would default on nearly $370m of debt, after years of failure to put the island’s finances – or its relationship with the US – in order. The next morning a cruise ship full of tourists set sail for Havana, bringing American dreams, dollars and capitalist sense into Cuba’s future. Once seen as parallel case studies in cold war politics, the islands have seemingly switched roles.

For half a century, the US dominated Puerto Rico and Cuba after wrenching them away from Spain, but by the 1950s the islands parted ways. Cubans threw off a US-backed dictator, found new patrons in the Soviet Union and embraced communism. What nationalist fervor Puerto Rico had was quashed, and the colony stayed bound to US-controlled capitalism as a “free associated state”.
“When the cold war was going on they were like showcases for the world to see which system actually works,” said Harry Franqui-Rivera, a researcher at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. “A successful Cuba made the United States look bad and if Puerto Rico failed it would make the United States look worse.”

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, US textbooks usually say capitalism won and communism lost, and on a historic mission to Cuba last month Barack Obama said as much: “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the cold war in the Americas.”

But experts and activists say the cold war had a murky end, at least in the Caribbean, and that the future for Puerto Rico and Cuba remains far from certain. The day of Obama’s keynote speech in Havana, the mayor of San Juan tweeted: “Obama spoke of opening bonds of collaboration with the neighboring island of Cuba while he makes bonds of repression and control in Puerto Rico.”

looting on the rise as venezuela runs out of food and electricity...,

panampost |  Despair and violence is taking over Venezuela. The economic crisis sweeping the nation means people have to withstand widespread shortages of staple products, medicine, and food.

So when the Maduro administration began rationing electricity this week, leaving entire cities in the dark for up to 4 hours every day, discontent gave way to social unrest.

On April 26, people took to the streets in three Venezuelan states, looting stores to find food.

Maracaibo, in the western state of Zulia, is the epicenter of thefts: on Tuesday alone, Venezuelans raided pharmacies, shopping malls, supermarkets, and even trucks with food in seven different areas of the city.

Although at least nine people were arrested, and 2,000 security officers were deployed in the state, Zulia’s Secretary of Government Giovanny Villalobos asked citizens not to leave their homes. “There are violent people out there that can harm you,” he warned.

In Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, citizens reported looting in at least three areas of the city. Twitter users reported that thefts occurred throughout the night in the industrial zone of La California, Campo Rico, and Buena Vista.

They assured that several locals were robbed and that there were people on the street shouting “we are hungry!”

The same happened in Carabobo, a state in central Venezuela. Through Twitter, a journalist from Valencia reported the looting of a deli.

The crime took place on Tuesday evening amid a wave of protests against prolonged power rationing and outages in multiple parts of the country.

Food for 15 Days 
Supermarkets employees from Valencia told the PanAm Post that besides no longer receiving the same amount of food as before, they must deal with angry Venezuelans who come to the stores only to find out there’s little to buy.

Purchases in supermarkets are rationed through a fingerprint system that does not allow Venezuelans to acquire the same regulated food for two weeks.

venezuela nearing total collapse...,

miamiherald |  A recent International Monetary Fund report that Venezuela will reach a 720 percent inflation rate this year — the highest in the world — has drawn a lot of media attention, but what I heard from a senior IMF economist this week was even more dramatic.

Robert K. Rennhack, deputy director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere department, told me in an interview that Venezuela is on a path to hyperinflation — the stage where the economy reaches total chaos — and could reach a “total collapse of the economic system” in 12 to 18 months if there are no changes in economic policies.

“Inflation in Venezuela probably entered on a hyperinflationary path in 2015,” Rennhack says. He told me that he expects Venezuela’s inflation to reach 2.200 percent in 2017, and could balloon very fast to 13,000 a year, the stage that most academics define as full-blown hyper-inflation.

Although he didn’t get into that, no Latin American government in recent memory has been able to survive a hyper-inflationary crisis. When you reach five-digit inflation rates, governments either make a dramatic political u-turn, or they fall.

“Hyper-inflation means that the currency has lost its value, people have to go to the stores with bags full of money, and prices rise almost by the hour,” Rennhack said. “What we saw in previous cases of hyperinflation in Latin America is that there was a political consensus that policies had to change.”

Asked how he reached his 12-18 month projection for hyper-inflation in Venezuela, Rennhack said his team of economists looked at previous episodes of hyper-inflation in Bolivia (1982-1984,) Argentina (1989-1990) and Brazil (1989-1990.) From those experiences, they concluded that Venezuela is on a similar path as these countries were between 12 and 18 months before their hyper-inflationary crises.

President Nicolas Maduro’s term ends in 2019, although the opposition MUD coalition is considering launching a referendum to demand early elections.

Many Venezuelans believe the country will explode much sooner than in 12 to 18 months. Prices go up daily, supermarket shelves are near empty, there are growing electricity shortages — Maduro has declared every Friday in April and May a non-working holiday in order to save energy — and crime statistics are skyrocketing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

puerto rico must fail because it never produced anything but puerto ricans...,

ourfiniteworld |  There are many who believe that the use of energy is critical to the growth of the economy. In fact, I am among these people. The thing that is not as apparent is that growth in energy consumption is dependent on the growth of debt. Both energy and debt have characteristics that are close to “magic,” with respect to the growth of the economy. Economic growth can only take place when growing debt (or a very close substitute, such as company stock) is available to enable the use of energy products.

The reason why debt is important is because energy products enable the creation of many kinds of capital goods, and these goods are often bought with debt. Commercial examples would include metal tools, factories, refineries, pipelines, electricity generation plants, electricity transmission lines, schools, hospitals, roads, gold coins, and commercial vehicles. Consumers also benefit because energy products allow the production of houses and apartments, automobiles, busses, and passenger trains. In a sense, the creation of these capital goods is one form of “energy profit” that is obtained from the consumption of energy.

The reason debt is needed is because while energy products can indeed produce a large “energy profit,” this energy profit is spread over many years in the future. In order to actually be able to obtain the benefit of this energy profit in a timeframe where the economy can use it, the financial system needs to “bring forward  some or all of the energy profit to an earlier timeframe. It is only when businesses can do this, that they have money to pay workers. This time shifting also allows businesses to earn a financial profit themselves. Governments indirectly benefit as well, because they can then tax the higher wages of workers and businesses, so that  governmental services can be provided, including paved roads and good schools.

no american taxpayer bailout of puerto rico...,

utopiathecollapse |  Puerto Rico’s debt crisis moved into a more perilous phase for residents, lawmakers and bondholders Monday after the Government Development Bank failed to repay almost $400 million. The missed principal payment, the largest so far by the island, is widely viewed on Wall Street as foreshadowing additional defaults this summer, when more than $2 billion in bills are due.

Together with the spread of the Zika virus, the risk of cascading defaults is putting new urgency on bipartisan negotiations in Washington over legislation granting the U.S. territory new powers to restructure more than $70 billion in debt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week the first U.S. death related to the mosquito-borne Zika virus—a Puerto Rican man in his 70s who died in late February.

In a letter to Congress, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned on Monday that a U.S. “taxpayer-funded bailout may become the only legislative course available” if the proposed restructuring legislation isn’t approved. The island’s debt is held by mutual funds, hedge funds, bond insurers and individual investors, who were attracted in part by tax benefits and high yields. The default Monday casts serious doubt on the commonwealth’s ability to make other future payments, which “means that other defaults are very likely on other Puerto Rico credits,” said Paul Mansour, head of the municipal credit research group at investment management firm Conning.

Monday’s developments are the latest sign that a long-running economic crisis has reached an acute stage, embroiling financial markets and Congress. Benchmark Puerto Rican bond prices fell to near record lows Monday, with some investors paying less than 65 cents on the dollar for general obligation bonds maturing in 2035, an unusually low price.

Monday, May 02, 2016

not just harry anslinger, nixonian racism and bias put marijuana criminalization on steroids...,

WaPo |  Marijuana’s strict scheduling emerges from the cultural and racial apathy felt by Richard Nixon, the activist president who signed the Controlled Substances Act into law. Nixon’s aides suggested the war on marijuana was racially motivated, and Oval Office tapes highlight his contempt for the counterculture movement as well as racial minorities.
The tapes also make it clear that Nixon wanted to link marijuana use and its negative effects to two groups who he held in contempt: African Americans and hippies. Nixon even appointed a commission to look into the ills of marijuana — the Shafer Commission. When the group issued its report entitled, “Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding,” which explained that marijuana was not as dangerous or addictive as it had widely been perceived, Nixon called his handpicked chairman, former Republican Pennsylvania governor Ray Shafer, into the Oval Office to be chastised.

So, while marijuana’s placement in Schedule I was not a result of deep scientific expertise, that does not mean that the CSA is to blame for the continuing policy problems. The CSA has avenues to correct error or compensate for new information or data. Rescheduling is one such remedy. Under administrative rescheduling, the attorney general asks the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration to examine whether a substance is properly scheduled. The attorney general takes those recommendations and ultimately makes a determination. If a substance is determined to be improperly scheduled, a rulemaking process commences that ultimately reschedules the substance.

That the rescheduling process exists means that the architects of the CSA understood the need for legal flexibility and thought that avenues for revision should be built into the law. However, due to cultural biases and stigma that have been cemented into society, science and bureaucracy, those avenues have largely failed marijuana. The nearly century-long institutional effort by the U.S. government to paint marijuana as anathema to society, in all forms and under all circumstances, has been devastatingly successful.

How has that effort played out? Beyond promoting propaganda that stoked public, congressional and media fears of marijuana, the government also decided that it was of greater interest to fund research that focused on marijuana’s addictive properties rather than its possible medical efficacy. The government stifled the ability of the scientific community to build knowledge and expertise in as robust a way as research has explored the efficacy of other controlled substances, even as research came to discover the endocannabinoid system and developed an understanding of how cannabinoids impacted certain human systems and cellular processes.

The federal government set up a DEA-mandated monopoly through the National Institutes on Drug Abuse for the growth of research grade marijuana — not for all Schedule I drugs, just marijuana. For decades, the supply from that monopoly was often insufficient to meet clinical researchers’ needs. Until recently, all marijuana research proposals needed to go through an additional, unique review by the Public Health Service that added a bureaucratic layer, hindering research.

there's something missing from our drug laws: SCIENCE

WaPo |  Congress and President Obama are under pressure to reschedule marijuana. While rescheduling makes sense, it doesn’t solve the state/federal conflict over marijuana (de-scheduling would be better). But more important, it wouldn’t fix the broken scheduling system. Ideally, marijuana reform should be part of a broader bill rewriting the Controlled Substances Act.

The Controlled Substances Act created a five-category scheduling system for most legal and illegal drugs (although alcohol and tobacco were notably omitted). Depending on what category a drug is in, the drug is either subject to varying degrees of regulation and control (Schedules II through V) — or completely prohibited, otherwise unregulated and left to criminals to manufacture and distribute (Schedule I).  The scheduling of various drugs was decided largely by Congress and absent a scientific process — with some strange results.

For instance, while methamphetamine and cocaine are Schedule II drugs, making them available for medical use, marijuana is scheduled alongside PCP and heroin as a Schedule I drug, which prohibits any medical use. Making matters worse, the CSA gives law enforcement — not scientists or health officials — the final say on how new drugs should be scheduled and whether or not old drugs should be rescheduled. Unsurprisingly, law enforcement blocks reform.

Starting in 1972, the Drug Enforcement Administration obstructed a formal request to reschedule marijuana for 16 years. After being forced by the courts to make a decision, the agency held two years of hearings. The DEA chief administrative law judge who held the hearings and considered the issue concluded that marijuana in its natural form is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man” and should be made available for medical use. Similar hearings on MDMA, a.k.a. ecstasy, concluded that it also has important medical uses. In both cases, the DEA overruled its administrative law judge and kept the drugs in Schedule I, unavailable for medical use.

5 reasons marijuana is not medicine - if you believe in and make your livelihood from prohibition...,

WaPo |  Bertha Madras is a professor of psychobiology at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, with a research focus on how drugs affect the brain. She is former deputy director for demand reduction in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Data from 2015 indicate that 30 percent of current cannabis users harbor a use disorder — more Americans are dependent on cannabis than on any other illicit drug. Yet marijuana advocates have relentlessly pressured the federal government to shift marijuana from Schedule I — the most restrictive category of drug — to another schedule or to de-schedule it completely. Their rationale? “States have already approved medical marijuana”; “rescheduling will open the floodgates for research”; and “many people claim that marijuana alone alleviates their symptoms.” 

Yet unlike drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, “dispensary marijuana” has no quality control, no standardized composition or dosage for specific medical conditions. It has no prescribing information or no high-quality studies of effectiveness or long-term safety. While the FDA is not averse to approving cannabinoids as medicines and has approved two cannabinoid medications, the decision to keep marijuana in Schedule I was reaffirmed in a 2015 federal court ruling. That ruling was correct.

marijuana is a gateway drug - if you believe in prohibition...,

NYTimes |  It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of heroin users have used marijuana (and many other drugs) not only long before they used heroin but while they are using heroin. Like nearly all people with substance abuse problems, most heroin users initiated their drug use early in their teens, usually beginning with alcohol and marijuana. There is ample evidence that early initiation of drug use primes the brain for enhanced later responses to other drugs. These facts underscore the need for effective prevention to reduce adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana in order to turn back the heroin and opioid epidemic and to reduce burdens addiction in this country. 

Marijuana use is positively correlated with alcohol use and cigarette use, as well as illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. This does not mean that everyone who uses marijuana will transition to using heroin or other drugs, but it does mean that people who use marijuana also consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do people who do not use marijuana.

People who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin.
The legalization of marijuana increases availability of the drug and acceptability of its use. This is bad for public health and safety not only because marijuana use increases the risk of heroin use.

A better drug policy is one that actively discourages marijuana use as well as other recreational drug use, especially for youth.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

explorers, harvesters, makers, suppliers....,

foreignpolicy |  To evangelists of asteroid mining, the heavens are not just a frontier but a vast and resource-rich place teeming with opportunity. According to NASA, there are potentially 100,000 near-Earth objects — including asteroids and comets — in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars.

Kfir pitched me on the long-term plan. First, a fleet of satellites will be dispatched to outer space, fitted with probes that can measure the quality and quantity of water and minerals in nearby asteroids and comets. Later, armed with that information, mining companies like DSI will send out vessels to mechanically remove and refine the material extracted. In some cases, the take will be returned to Earth. But most of the time, it will be processed in space — for instance, to produce rocket fuel — and stored in container vessels that will serve as the equivalent of gas stations for outbound spacecraft.

This possibility isn’t so unrealistic, Kfir said. Consider the recent and seismic growth of the space industry, he suggested, as we climbed the stairs to DSI’s second-floor suite. Every year, the private spaceflight sector grows larger, and every year the goals become grander. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the space exploration company Blue Origin, has spoken of the day “when millions of people are living and working in space”; Elon Musk’s SpaceX is expected to reveal a Mars colonization plan this year.

“But how are they going to sustain this new space economy?” Kfir asked rhetorically. He nudged open DSI’s office door. “Easy: by mining asteroids.” Bezos, Musk, and the other billionaires who plan to be cruising around space in the near future won’t be able to do so without celestial pit stops.
In his book, Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy, John S. Lewis, professor emeritus of Cosmochemistry and Planetary Atmospheres at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and DSI’s chief scientist, envisions a future where “ever more remote and ever more massive reservoirs of resources” take astronauts farther and farther from our planet. “First to the Near Earth Asteroids and the moons of Mars, then to the asteroid belt, then to…[the] Trojan asteroids and the outer moons of Jupiter, then to the Saturn system and the Centaurs,” and so on, to infinity.

viralling supermen out is now an explicit national security threat...,

thebulletin |  Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper sent shock waves through the national security and biotechnology communities with his assertion, in his Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, that genome editing had become a global danger. He went so far as to include it in the report’s weapons of mass destruction section, alongside threats from North Korea, China’s nuclear modernization, and chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq. The new technology, he said, could open the door to “potentially harmful biological agents or products,” with “far-reaching economic and national security implications.”

So what has warranted this warning, and what can be done to mitigate the threat?

Since the discovery of the double helix in 1953, biotechnology has made progress exceeding that of arguably any other technology in human history. Genome editing is not a new process; it was the subject of the 1975 Asilomar Conference, convened to establish standards that would allow geneticists to conduct cutting-edge research without endangering public health. Since then, advances like the polymerase chain reaction process, the human genome project, and the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements project have fueled our understanding of the human genome, accelerated through advances in computing power, data storage, and big data algorithm development. Landmark results include the first synthesis of a virus in 2002 and the first synthetic cell in 2010. Now along comes clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats—Crispr for short—which is changing everything.

Other editing techniques have been around for more than a decade but they are laborious, less accurate, and quite expensive. Before that, previous traditional methods required generations to see results. While some techniques can recognize longer DNA sequences and have better specificity than Crispr, they are costly ($5,000 for each order versus $30 for Crispr) and difficult to engineer, sometimes requiring several tries to identify a sequence that works. Hence the rise of Crispr, which, along with Crispr associated proteins (Cas), provides a precise way to target, snip, and insert exact pieces of a genome. (The Crispr-Cas9 protein has received the most attention in this recent discussion, yet other enzymatic proteins such as the Crispr-Cpf1 use a different type of “scissors” and might be just as effective.)

The benefits of such technology are obvious. Because preferred traits can rapidly enter a species, test animals like mice can be designed more efficiently for biomedical experiments, mosquitoes can be engineered so they cannot reproduce (and therefore cannot spread malaria), plants can be developed for drought resistance and higher yields, and diseases can be eliminated by deactivating the responsible genes in a given host. The bioengineer and author Robert Carlson notes that genome editing shows great promise for next-generation plastics, agricultural products, bioremediation organisms, carbon-neutral fuels, novel enzymes, and better vaccines.