(University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center) The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and 4D pharma today announced a strategic collaboration to evaluate 4D’s live biotherapeutic oncology pipeline across a range of cancer settings.
So far, this flu season has claimed 42 lives in California alone, The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.
Cancerous tumors trick myeloid cells, an important part of the immune system, into perceiving them as a damaged part of the body; the tumors actually put myeloid cells to work helping them grow and metastasize (spread). Researchers have now discovered a potential therapy that can disrupt this recruitment and abnormal function of myeloid cells in laboratory mice.
Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance. The week at Retraction Watch featured the retraction of a paper by a journalist in Australia … Continue reading Weekend reads: Conflict of interest debate roils on; fake peer review scams; amateur hour at journals
Well, this is no way to run a railroad.
In a press conference on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo surprised New York City by cancelling the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan to close the subway’s L train tunnel for 15 months of repairs, a much-dreaded infrastructure fix that promised to aggravate commuters with untold delays and stress. If all goes according to a hastily sketched plan that MTA board members must still approve, the tunnel will remain mostly open throughout the construction period, which remains set to begin in April.
First: the details. The L train tunnel connects Manhattan to Brooklyn starting in Williamsburg, and it was badly damaged by flooding from Superstorm Sandy. After extensive deliberation, in 2016 the MTA announced plans to shutter the tunnel completely for 15 months, starting in 2019. This was chosen over an alternative, partial shutdown plan which would have dragged out the repair timeline further.
The impending shutdown has since been a boogeyman for any New Yorker who commutes. The L line moves a mid-sized city’s worth of people every weekday—about 400,000 passenger trips. Even if your commute isn’t one of them, the overflow from the displaced masses was destined to effect every subway line in the vicinity, plus surface traffic, plus ferries.
City and state officials had spent years planning for this misery, arguing bitterly for new bike lanes, bus routes, and protected bus corridors to help absorb the victims of L-pocalypse. New private mobility services (including a van shuttle service dubbed “The New L”) appeared to pick up deep-pocketed subway refugees. And the anticipated gap in transportation to and from Williamsburg, a famous neighborhood with hefty economic clout, seemed to depress market rents as home-seekers looked to other parts of Brooklyn and Queens. The business community there has been trying to mitigate the effects of the neighborhood’s “perceived loss of accessibility,” according to Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a local interest group for the city’s private sector employers. “[They’ve offered] reduced rents, special offers, and deals on for-hire vehicles to compensate for what was perceived to be a huge economic threat,” she told CityLab.
Through it all, the MTA had defended, again and again, its decision to move forward with a full shutdown, arguing that this was the best of all possible options.
Now, less than four months before the shutdown was due to take effect, Governor Cuomo has stepped in with a plan that was developed by a panel of academic engineering experts, reportedly in a matter of weeks. Now, instead of 15 months of total L-train blackout, commuters can expect 15 to 20 months of construction requiring only night and weekend service outages, with regular service during peak hours on weekdays, MTA officials said. (Cuomo later told reporters that promising a concrete timeline would be “silly.”)
What’s different? Based on the details presented thus far, the game-changer in this new plan is that a concrete “bench wall” will no longer need to be torn down to replace old power cables. Now, new cables will be attached directly to the wall in a special fireproof fiberglass pipes. It sounds simple enough, but this is a process that has never been used in a tunnel rehabilitation project in the United States, according to Cuomo, who touted the plan as using “many new innovations that are new to the rail industry in this country.”
The MTA had previously argued that the structural integrity of the subway tunnel required that the wall in question be fully replaced. But on Thursday, officials made no such claim. MTA board members still need to approve the changes; Cuomo is now calling for an emergency public meeting for the board to review the new plan. But at Thursday’s press conference, MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer boosted the new plan alongside Cuomo.
“You might ask, ‘Well why wasn’t this approach considered earlier?’” Ferrer said at the presser. “The answer is that the integration of these approaches—there are several—and the technology had not previously been applied in the context of a rehabilitation project. It’s innovative, creative, and we deem it a sound plan.”
Certainly, throwing the L-train shutdown plans out the window should come as a relief for the city’s commuters and employers. “It’s hard to fathom how disruptive this was going to be,” Jon Orcutt, the policy and communications director of TransitCenter, a local transportation advocacy group, told CityLab. “So to not have that facing us for more than a year is great.”
But this abrupt reversal raises new and troubling questions. Having an MTA official approve a plan that appears to have been devised over the holidays by two external researchers—at the bidding of a powerful leader known for his micro-managerial tendencies on infrastructure projects and keen sense of political opportunism—doesn’t read as good governance. It could undermine what public trust in the MTA as an authority on transit still remained, after so many years of declining service and inadequate excuses from the agency. Why weren’t MTA engineers aware of a relatively straightforward-sounding idea for using different construction materials that have been implemented in Europe and other parts of the world? Or if anyone knew about them, why hadn’t they been seriously proposed?
“From a policy and institutional point of view, there are a lot of questions and strangenesses that this raises,” Orcutt said. It’s a bad look for the MTA, and disconcerting for riders, that Cuomo has jumped in and called an audible on the MTA’s hard-fought plan, he added. But it’s not out of line with what’s known about the agency’s culture of decision-making, where the status quo tends to be prioritized. In that way, Orcutt said, “it is a good outcome to blow the lid off that.”
Adam Rahbee, a researcher and consultant who’s gone deep into the weeds of institutional culture and decision-making at transit agencies around the world, including at the MTA, agreed that this twist in the L-train story comes as little surprise. In mid-level management at large bureaucracies, workers can be disincentivized to present ideas that go against accepted wisdom and inherited processes, he said. The proposed changes to the L train’s construction plan “don’t sound like rocket science,” Rahbee said. “But someone just had to say it.” Within the MTA, that might have been the hard part.
More details about Cuomo’s new engineering plan still need to surface to vet its reliability, and to determine whether it will in fact produce a better commuting experience. But the L-train shutdown-shutdown will surely be remembered as a watershed moment in the recent decline of New York’s subway system. It may be difficult to expect New Yorkers, or their elected representatives, to accept at face value construction plans devised by the MTA in the near future.
Whether that’s good or bad for the agency’s progress on billions of dollars in needed upgrades remains to be seen. But if bolting fireproof pipes to tunnel walls were all that stood between millions of commuters and 15-plus months of hellacious inconvenience, the city deserved to know. But it also deserves to know why this savior-train of an idea has arrived so late.
Yes, China recently landed there, but you’re kind of asking the wrong question.
An 8-year-old North Carolina boy hoping to spend a peaceful Christmas with his family in Utah instead received a devastating and unexpected diagnosis of Glioblastoma, an aggressive and cancerous tumor found in the brain or spine.
Our Season 10 Premiere features Neil deGrasse Tyson’s interview with Anthony Bourdain, recorded before his death in 2018. With co-host Sasheer Zamata, food scientist Guy Crosby, Natalia Reagan, hot sauce guru Noah Chaimberg, and “SciBabe” Yvette d’Entremont.
NOTE: StarTalk All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free.
Photo Credit: Brandon Royal
Health officials in Tennessee are urging customers who dined at an Outback Steakhouse restaurant in Rivergate in late December to receive a hepatitis A vaccine after an employee there tested positive for it.
As the partial government shutdown continues – with President Trump and Democrats seemingly at a standstill over funding for a border wall – organizations dedicated to helping sexual violence survivors are beginning to worry.
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What We’re Following
Housing is 2020: On New Year’s Eve, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she plans to enter the 2020 race for the White House. Even several months before that, she had hinted as much by releasing a slew of ambitious legislative proposals outlining her platform, and one of those bills could put the nation’s affordability crisis center stage in the next presidential election. Warren’s bill, the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, would establish funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the deep racial disparities left by redlining and to help borrowers in communities hit hard by foreclosures. CityLab’s Kriston Capps has the rundown on the housing policy that, by any other name, might be called reparations.
It also looks like Senator Warren won’t be running alone for long. Julián Castro, who served as HUD secretary for President Obama, is set to make a campaign announcement next Saturday in San Antonio, where he was born, raised, and served as mayor from 2009 to 2014. Meanwhile, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti is contemplating whether he can govern America’s second-largest city while running for president. Throw in other prospective candidates like South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg, New Orleans’s Mitch Landrieu, Newark’s Cory Booker, and New York’s Michael Bloomberg and the 2020 Democratic field could be packed with current and former mayors.
More on CityLab
What We’re Reading
Uber is boring now (Quartz)
These rural panhandle towns should be shrinking. But thanks to immigrants, they’re booming (Texas Observer)
Seattle made a dead-end street into a basketball court (Streetsblog)
Video: Why fixing the U.S. bail system is tricky (Vox)
Nearly two dozen people are running to be New York City’s public advocate (New York Times)
On New Year’s Eve, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she plans to enter the 2020 race for the White House. She hinted as much several months back by releasing a slew of ambitious legislative proposals outlining her likely platform, including reform packages to retool capitalism and roll back corruption.
One of those bills could put the nation’s housing affordability crisis center stage in the next presidential election. The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which Warren introduced in the Senate this fall, features detailed strategies for attacking the housing crisis from a number of angles. There are policy prescriptions for building more housing in markets where demand has lapped supply. There are also answers for homeowners who are still underwater on their mortgages in the wake of the financial crisis.
Warren’s bill drives at two distinct housing crises: one marked by not enough homes, the other by homes with too little value. Those two features alone would signify a sweeping effort to speak to worries in rural and urban America alike. The bill goes further, however: Warren’s act includes a provision to use federal funds to help bridge the wealth gap between black and white families.
A policy by any other name might be called reparations.
“It sounds very close to reparations,” says Jenny Schuetz, the David M. Rubenstein fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It sounds as close as you can go to reparations without making this explicitly funding contingent on the race of the applicant.”
But other experts in the field aren’t as convinced that Warren’s bill tiptoes anywhere near a proper definition of this term, which has tangled previous lefty Democratic presidential candidates in controversy. Warren’s bill tries to solve a problem that is explicitly rooted in race, but without mentioning race. That’s a strategy that could either narrow the gap or blur the issue.
Here’s how it works: Title II of Warren’s proposed bill establishes a new fund within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This to-be-determined purse would provide down-payment assistance to first-time homebuyers in communities that were once subject to redlining. Redlining refers to the notorious practice under the New Deal by which the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation marked up residential maps to indicate risk for lenders, often assigning black communities failing grades. Legal redlining by lenders persisted into the 1970s (and discriminatory maps still surface from time to time). Formerly redlined neighborhoods are sites of deep racial disparities in home value and lending activity.
Under the new dispensation, homes in low-income census tracts that are within areas once graded as “hazardous” by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation—or areas that were otherwise zoned for minority residents—would qualify for the down-payment program. To be eligible to receive the assistance (3.5 percent, good enough for a Federal Housing Administration loan), an individual would need to be a first-time buyer, a resident of the area for four years, and earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income.
So this part of Warren’s plan—titled “Reversing the Legacy of Housing Discrimination and Government Negligence”—is an effort to identify communities segregated by law and provide cash assistance to home-buyers in these areas. But the filters can only do so much. This formula cannot guarantee that white gentrifiers never qualify for a program intended for African-American and other minority buyers, although the bill seems to bear them in mind.
“She’s trying to target reparations to groups that have been harmed without writing them in such a way that they’re open to abuse or exploitation by people who moved into a neighborhood recently,” Schuetz says. “Those are often hard policies to get right.”
The bill raises questions about how thorough the program could be in screening white home-buyers from receiving cash compensation for historical legal discrimination. As a discussion of reparations, this is where William Darity, director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, taps out. The professor of public policy says that down-payment assistance might not be a bad idea, but it falls way short of addressing historical reparations.
“The project doesn’t actually target the people who have been subject to the victimization,” Darity says. “By avoiding making it a program that’s directed specifically at the families that either were living in neighborhoods subject to redlining, or families that indirectly lost income as a consequence of the impact of redlining given the existence of segregated residential areas, the bill is not designed to provide resources specifically to those families that were victimized. It actually gives resources to current residents.”
Darity outlines several flaws with the provision. One is practical: Families who do not deserve compensation for historical structural discrimination could nevertheless qualify for the funds (whose overall levels are not specified in Warren’s bill). That—beyond being a truly noxious unintended outcome—could be counterproductive.
“Under dint of gentrification, you may have a host of current residents who are first-time homebuyers whose income levels, because of their age, are low enough for them to meet the threshold,” Darity says. “But they definitely were not from families who were victims of redlining.”
The provision falls short of a policy to level the effects of housing discrimination, he adds, because it recommends a compensatory action connected to home buying. It neglects other dimensions of the racial wealth gap created or reinforced by segregation.
Worse still, the provision could even negatively impact its intended recipients, according to Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. The filters set forward by Warren’s provision—which Rice describes as a good starting point—would not prevent gentrification and displacement of African-American and other minority residents.
“A lot of African Americans and Latinos who live in areas that were previously redlined or are currently redlined are not in a category of a first-time homebuyer,” she says. “They have owned a home. They are current homeowners. They may have been a victim of the predatory lending crisis. They may have owned a home and experienced foreclosure. That foreclosure may have occurred within the past three years.”
“These are things that need to be addressed and fixed in the bill,” Rice adds.
Even just focusing on racial disparities in home mortgages, redlining maps may be the wrong place to start. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the original maps did not lead to fewer conventional loans for majority black communities in the 1930s or decades after, as researchers Richard Sander, Yana Kucheva, and Jonathan Zasloff demonstrate in Moving Toward Integration: The Past and Future of Fair Housing. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation was progressive in its lending policies, even—although the effects of redlining, compounded over decades, did drastic and irreparable damage to black home equity and residential segregation.
“To some historians and other writers, the [Home Owners’ Loan Corporation] maps are a smoking gun that reveals the federal government’s inside role in fostering racial segregation,” reads a passage in Moving Toward Integration. “The maps, it is said, provided the original inspiration for bank ‘redlining’ of minority neighborhoods. By choking off credit to minority homebuyers, [Home Owners’ Loan Corporation] led the way in pauperizing inner-city blacks and effectively containing them in ghettos.”
To which the researchers add: “Some of these claims are plainly nonsense. . . . The [Home Owners’ Loan Corporation] maps were clearly not simply a scheme of racial classification.”
Warren’s provision neglects to mention race but seeks to address an historical racial injustice by proxy. Making such a policy work efficiently would inevitably mean raising an authentic discussion about what a reparations program could and should look like. While Darity says that would be welcome, he also says that passing legislation that only narrowly addresses historical housing injustice could end up setting back this particular cause.
“The more negative possibility is that people will say, ‘That is reparations—you don’t have to do anything more.’ I’m not sure which direction people will take if a program like this is adopted,” Darity says. “My caution is that I think it is problematic if a program like this is labeled as a reparations project. In the classic American phrase: Let’s move on.”
Warren’s bill offers aid to many communities stung by federal housing policy. It assigns $2 billion to borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, which means funds designated for rural and suburban communities hit especially hard by the foreclosure crisis. The law would generate $445 billion for the Housing Trust Fund (which the Trump administration has sought to wipe out) in order to support the construction and rehabilitation of some 2.1 million affordable homes. It would increase HUD funds for tribal grants and rural housing programs. All this spending would be paid for by dialing back exemptions to the estate tax; an analysis by Moody’s Analytics finds that Warren’s bill would be deficit neutral.
Support for Warren’s bill has come from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, and other organizations. Representative Cedric Richmond and three other members of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced companion legislation in the House. But the package has virtually no chance of passing Congress while Republicans control the Senate.
Does that mean that her housing package is an exercise in virtue signaling? At 70 pages, it’s a detailed one, if so. Emily Cadik, executive director of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, says that elements of the bill would supplement the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, currently the nation’s best mechanism for producing homes for vulnerable families. “Were the [Housing] Trust Fund expanded, that would provide more gap financing for tax-credit developments, which has been drying up at the federal, state, and local level for recent years,” she says. “Changes to zoning could help as well.”
So Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act features some gestures at visionary policy side-by-side with narrowly tailored solutions. Big-picture look: It creates some $10 billion in incentives for local governments to lift restrictive land-use policies in order to encourage new affordable housing and break the iron grip of single-family zoning, along the lines of what Minneapolis has just done. More narrowly, the bill also strengthens and renews the Community Reinvestment Act to make sure that lenders are working for their communities even as banks move online.
Does the down-payment grant program count as galaxy-brain thinking or a narrowly construed solution? As it currently stands, perhaps neither. But Warren’s bill is rooted in language that has been missing from presidential debates—racial injustice—about a topic that has not recently surfaced as a presidential issue—fair housing. That in itself could be powerful.
“One of the things that I like about her bill is that she goes through and identifies places where past policies have created harm,” Schuetz says. “The foreclosure crisis, redlining that limited access to capital, exclusion of minorities from the mortgage market—[she] essentially says, ‘We’ve created disparities with past policies. Here’s an attempt to try to fix that.’”
Astonishing images show a teenager who had his entire leg removed to get rid of a massive 4 stone (approx. 55 pounds) tumor.
Many people slouch or strain their necks while working at the computer. A new study shows how jutting the head forward to read more closely compresses the neck and leads to neck and shoulder problems.
A male patient is being treated in isolation at a hospital in Sweden as medical personnel wait for test results for possible Ebola.