Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - July 13 Edition

Health, Cancer

A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease.

If the F.D.A. accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market. Others are expected: Researchers and drug companies have been engaged in intense competition for decades to reach this milestone. Novartis is now poised to be the first. Its treatment is for a type of leukemia, and it is working on similar types of treatments in hundreds of patients for another form of the disease, as well as multiple myeloma and an aggressive brain tumor.

To use the technique, a separate treatment must be created for each patient — their cells removed at an approved medical center, frozen, shipped to a Novartis plant for thawing and processing, frozen again and shipped back to the treatment center.

A single dose of the resulting product has brought long remissions, and possibly cures, to scores of patients in studies who were facing death because every other treatment had failed. The panel recommended approving the treatment for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia that has resisted treatment, or relapsed, in children and young adults aged 3 to 25.

Economy, Women

Women represent 49 percent of the labor force, 44 percent of hours worked, and 37 percent of earnings. Yet, many economic models of government policy ignore gender differences and use data on men only. This would not matter if women’s behavior and outcomes were the same as men’s. But they are not.

Our research highlights significant differences based on gender and marital status in labor participation rates, hours worked, earnings and saving. Economic models that account for these differences will likely yield more reliable predictions of how people react to changes in the economic environment, such as changes in wages and taxes.

Economic models are an important tool in government policymaking. They are used extensively to examine the effects of government policies and programs that have far-reaching impacts — including Social Security, taxation and welfare programs. As such, these models have real, albeit indirect, effects on our lives. We all stand to benefit from models that use meaningful and comprehensive data to represent the labor force accurately and support sound government decisionmaking.


In thinking and talking about change, I (and many others) have always focused on the positives — what change could bring about and enable. I and others spoke about the importance of educational risk-taking, even when those efforts were not a success. I and others made the case repeatedly that deciding to not change was an action in itself — namely choosing to stay put or in fact, fall behind.

What the quoted statement suggests that this focus on the positives of change is flawed; instead of encouraging change for its own sake and the sake of the institutions served by change, we need to focus on the trade-offs. If change is actually about loss, we need to address loss and how to make loss more acceptable.


Referring to this “myth of the market economy,” William Lazonick, an economist now at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told me that most Americans, including many economists and politicians, misunderstand or neglect the true history of how the United States built its economy. The lone, visionary entrepreneur and the audacious industrialist are not the originators of the economic system, but rather the products of a system fostered by the collective efforts of the people through their government.

The railroads may have been the product of private enterprise, he pointed out, but they relied on government land grants to help finance construction. And the government gave states federal land to sell so that they could finance the creation of top-flight universities, such as Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue, that promoted innovation and business across the interior of the country. “Aviation doesn’t happen without the government being involved,” via air-mail subsidies and airplane-design subsidies, Lazonick notes. Hoover Dam, the TVA, the California and Colorado River Aqueducts, the internet—the list of infrastructure projects that grew the economy and nurtured individual business success is very long. “So the government is everywhere, but the ideology is that government is not there,” he says.

Today, cities, states, and some in the federal government insist that there’s no money to pay for projects. The billions being lined up by investors says otherwise. One way or another, Americans will pay, either through taxes and tolls paid to their government, or through tolls, fees and rates paid to equity investors. “There’s no free lunch,” Gordon, of the Tax Policy Center, said. The Great Depression, when money was much scarcer than it is today, was an era of intense infrastructure investment. As Gordon spoke, she happened to be driving over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Homelessness, Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts troop established in February at a homeless shelter in Queens will expand to 14 additional shelters throughout New York City and is expected to serve about 500 girls.

In the stately Blue Room at City Hall, five members of Troop 6000 announced the expansion during a news conference on Wednesday. (The girls spoke at the lectern, although a couple did so in a near whisper.)

With a portrait of Alexander Hamilton as a backdrop, Karina, Sanaa, Christina, Nayalynn and Tanae — ages 5 to 11 — talked about the troop’s origins, its expansion and what the Girl Scouts meant to them.

What did Tanae, 5, like most about Girl Scouts? After a long pause and a little help reaching the microphone, she said, “Everything.”

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