Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

The weatherman seems finally to be onboard with the notion that we’re only  a couple of weeks shy of Spring Break. We won’t be sending out this Friday Newsletter on March 14 and 21, so we’ll be trying to give you some early warning about post-spring break events in the next couple of issues. High on the list is the March 27 talk by Thaddeus Pope (Law, Hamline), sponsored by the Medical School’s Program in Biomedical Ethics. Details in the link. We’re trying to set up an additional talk by Thad on the other side of the highway; stay tuned for more. 

In the shorter run, a week from today our Technology and Ethics group will be screening Doug Wolens’ new film, “The Singularity.” The film will be shown on Friday, February 28 at 7:30 PM in the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium, 53 Wall St. After the film, there’ll be a discussion with the director.

Congratulations to Bioethics Summer Institute alum Michael Young on his publication in the New England Journal of Medicine of a co-authored article entitled “Undocumented Injustice? Medical Repatriation and the Ends of Health Care (subscription required).”

Enjoy the melt! If there’s anything you’d like to see listed in this Newsletter, send it along to me at Stephen.Latham@Yale.edu with the word “Frimail” in your subject-line.

  Friday, February 28 at 7:30 PM
Technology & Ethics Film Screening
Location: Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium, 53 Wall St
Film: The Singularity
Discussion with director Doug Wolens.

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Conferences & Off Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs

Calls for Papers & Nominations

Other Items



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Associate Director Carol Pollard

*Congratulations to Paul Young who has recently become a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK)!  Paul had to pass a series of exams that allows him to train towards becoming a consultant (Attending in USA terms) psychiatrist.

*Jessie DeWeese writes: “Things are very busy in Chicago!  I'm officially halfway through law school, and I will be receiving a certificate in health law, AND I'm over a third of the way done with my Master's in bioethics and health policy!  Prya Murad and I are still very close, and we often talk about how much we miss our Yale family.  I'm guessing it is about that time of year for you to have picked your new summer students, and it makes me miss you guys even more!  I have attached a picture of Prya and me that we took together after we ran the Color Run in Chicago - go Team Bioethics!  The Color Run is a 5k run, and at each kilometer you get covered in a different color of paint powder.  So when the race ends everyone just looks like a giant rainbow! It is an absolute blast!”  (Congratulations to you and Prya on all your accomplishments!)

*Christian Krautkramer and Allison Grady write: “We are both now two and a half years into our respective jobs (Alli is a pediatric nurse practitioner at the MACC Fund Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin; Christian is a lawyer in Global Compliance at GE Healthcare).  We're both trying to keep at least a toe in the bioethics world!  Alli is an active member of the hospital's bioethics committee and serves on the education enrichment committee.  In December, she delivered a talk at an end-of-life care conference sponsored by the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, and this month she will moderate a second-year medical student ethics seminar on end-of-life issues at MCW.  Christian was just appointed as an assistant adjunct professor at the MCW Center for Bioethics and will teach a course this summer on ethics of biotechnology.  He's also delivering a lecture in another MCW bioethics course on regulatory issues and will be delivering two talks in the next few weeks on issues in US health care transparency -- one at a health care industry conference in Chicago and one to the Milwaukee Bar Association.  And, we can't forget...we're expecting a baby boy at the end of March.  Hope you're well!” (Congratulations to you both!!  Wow!  What an update!!)

*Sam Garner, bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, has sent information for a funding opportunity: “Empirical Research on Ethical Issues Related to Central IRBs and Consent for Research Using Clinical Records and Data.”  Here is a link to the announcement.  (Thanks Sam!)

Of Note:

*Unite For Sight is hosting a free webinar on “Careers in Global Health” on Wednesday, February 26, 4-5 pm EST.  This webinar is ideal for students and professionals interested in global health, as well as university Advisors and faculty.  You can register online at: http://slate.uniteforsight.org. Information on their Innovators Forum (March 14) and their Global health & Innovation Conference at Yale (April 12-13) is also available on this website.

Articles of Interest:

*Bioethics and the Dogma of “Brain Death”, Franklin G. Miller and Robert D. Truog, Bioethics Forum Blog, The Hastings Center, February 10, 2014
*De-Extinction: could technology save nature?, Gregory E. Kaebnick, Bioethics Forum Blog, The Hastings Center, February 2, 2014
*Love, Actually: Teaching Generation Y the Basics of a Strong Relationship, Andrew Reiner, The New York Times, February 7, 2014
*Education: Embed social awareness in science curricula, Erin A. Cech, Nature, January 22, 2014
*Speaking up about the dangers of the hidden curriculum, Joshua M. Liao, Eric J. Thomas, nd Sigall K. Bell, Health Affairs, January 15, 2014
*Abortion: a polarizing, emotional debate 41 years after court ruling, Leigh Ann Caldwell, CNN Politics, January 22, 2014


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This Week on Campus

Monday, February 24

Zigler Center Lecture
Time: 9 AM
Location: 230 S Frontage Rd, Cohen Auditorium
Speaker: Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary & Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services 
Topic: Current Federal Initiatives in Early Education & Care

Tuesday, February 25

Mars Lecture in Business Ethics
Time: 12:10 PM
Location: 127 Wall St, room 122
Speaker: Michael Posner, Professor of Business and Society at NYU Stern School of Business 
Topic: Human Rights in a Changing World: The Decline of the State and the Rise of Multinational Business and Civil Society

School of Forestry Lecture
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, room 319
Topic: Climate Change & Health Programming: Lessons from RI Dept of Health

Wednesday, February 26

American Politics Lecture
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: 127 Wall St, Levinson Auditorium
Speaker: Fareed Zakaria, television host, editor, columnist, author
Topic: Is the American dream dead?

Thursday, February 27

Human Rights Workshop
Time: 12:15 PM
Location: 127 Wall St, room 129
Speaker: Luis Moreno Ocampo, Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University
Topic: Global Order through Law:  Learning from Darfur, Gaddafi, Kenya, Colombia, Korea and Palestine Situation

Humanities in Medicine Lecture
Time: 5 PM
Location: 230 S Frontage Rd, Cohen Auditorium
Speaker: Alita Anderson, artist writer in residence at YSM
Topic: Conversations with Caregivers to Future Caregivers

Friday, February 28

Climate & Energy Lecture
Time: 2:30 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, Burke Auditorium
Speaker: Professor Hideaki Shiroyama, University of Tokyo
Topic: Nuclear Energy's Role in the Energy Mix of the Future

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Conferences & Off Campus Events

New Directions in Palliative Care
Saturday, April 12th, 2014 | 8 am - 5:30 pm
Yale Conference Center, 100 West Campus Drive Orange, CT
This conference will explore cultural and ethical aspects of end-of-life care, innovative systems solutions, and resolutions to difficult decision making. Continuing education credits will be provided. Nurses, physicians and residents, PAs, social workers, chaplains, and healthcare administrators are encouraged to attend. Keynote Speaker: Timothy M. Quill, MD, "Navigating the Shoals of Palliative Care: Partnership & Non-Abandonment". Plenary Speakers: Angelo Volandes, MD, MPH, "Advanced Care Planning Using Video Tools" and Christina Puchalski, MD, MS, "Spirituality: An Essential Part of Palliative Care". Click here to view the Conference Agenda.

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Announcing the Disability Rights Leadership Institute on Bioethics, a groundbreaking event for disability rights advocates to advance the disability rights perspective on bioethics issues
A‌‌pril 25 and 26, 2‌‌014, 8‌‌:45 AM to 5‌‌:30 PM
Arlington, VA
Join us for this exciting and first–ever Disability Rights Leadership Institute on Bioethics (DRLIB), where disability rights advocates will gather for two focused days of learning, discussion, and honing our advocacy skills on the key bioethics issues facing the disability community in the United States (some speakers will provide an international perspective as well). Speakers will include: Liz Carr, Comedian, Actor in a BBC drama series, and NDY activist from the United Kingdom; Diane Coleman, President, Not Dead Yet (NDY); Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, Executive Director, Center for Genetics and Society (CGS); Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick, Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Europe (EPC Europe); Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF); Ari Ne'eman, President and co–founder, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).  Participants are requested to stay for the full two–day Institute, to be held at the Crystal City Marriott, 1‌‌999 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Arlington, VA 2‌‌2202. (7‌‌03) 4‌‌13-5‌‌500 Space is limited! Please register ASAP. The Institute registration deadline is M‌‌arch 28. The deadline for hotel registration at the Crystal City Marriott is A‌‌pril 3. Costs: Registration for the Institute itself: $175, which will help cover a number of meals (see below) as well as other DRLIB expenses including meeting space, speaker costs, and disability accommodations. Participants must pay their own travel & lodging costs. Participants must pay for dinners on both days, and S‌‌aturday's lunch. The Institute will cover 2 continental breakfasts, 4 breaks, and F‌‌riday's lunch. Participants will receive written materials in advance and be expected to read them before the Institute. All participants will be expected to avoid wearing perfume, cologne, or other fragrances, and to use unscented personal care products in order to promote a fragrance-free environment. How to register for the DRLIB: First, register on-line for the Institute itself Note: This event is intended for disability rights activists and people who identify with the disability rights movement. We want to get a sense of who the participants are, so please help us out when you register, by responding to a question about your background or history in disability issues and/or organizations. You will see this question on the on-line registration form. Thank you! Second, if you need a hotel room at the Crystal City Marriott, you must book your own hotel reservation. The hotel deadline is April 3. Call (703) 413-5500 and mention our group name, the Disability Rights Leadership Institute on Bioethics. Hotel room rate is $139 per night plus tax.  The hotel is wheelchair–accessible and is across from an accessible Metro stop. For accommodation needs other than hotel rooms: when you register, there will be an opportunity to specify your disability accommodation needs. Contact Tim Fuchs (see contact information below). NOTE: The DRLIB registration deadline of Friday, March 28 is also the deadline for requesting accessibility accommodations. Participants are advised to use Reagan National Airport if possible—it has an accessible Metro stop, and is closer to the Institute site than the two other airports in the Washington DC area, Dulles and Baltimore. For accessible taxis from National Airport: Call Red Top Cab of Arlington, in advance, at 703-522-3333. Questions? Contact Tim Fuchs: E-mail: tim@ncil.org, Voice (202) 207-0334, Toll-free (877) 525-3400 TTY (202) 207-0340. Visit the DRLIB website at www.dredf.org/drlib

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Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

In connection with our work on a sponsored research project with the National Football League Players Association, the Petrie-Flom Center seeks to hire a Senior Law and Ethics Associate immediately; please note that this is a distinct position from the one we recently advertised working with Harvard Catalyst on clinical and translational research.   We are seeking a full-time doctoral-level hire (J.D., M.D., Ph.D., etc. in law, ethics, public health, social science, or other relevant discipline) with extensive knowledge of and interest in legal and ethical issues related to the health and welfare of professional athletes.  The position will be funded for at least two years, with renewal likely for an additional year or more. Apply here.  

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Calls for Papers & Nominations

Second Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy, and Ethics
May 27-29, 2014, Scottsdale, Arizona
Call for abstracts: The co-sponsors invite submission of abstracts for proposed presentations. The deadline for abstracts is March 1, 2014, and successful applicants will be notified by April 1, 2014. Information on the papers and topics covered at last year’s conference is available at conferences.asucollegeoflaw.com/emergingtechnologies2013.  For each abstract selected for presentation at the conference, the co-sponsors will provide one complimentary registration for its author (or one of its authors) to attend the entire conference; registration includes admission to all conference sessions, meals, and social events. Depending on final funding availability, some participants may also apply for and receive additional funding for travel and/or hotel accommodations. Any such additional funding will be awarded based on the strength of the abstract, demonstration of financial need, and/or the potential to encourage student authors and early-career scholars. Accepted presenters for whom conference funding is not available will need to pay their own transportation and hotel costs. Abstracts for proposed presentations should be submitted by March 1, 2014 – in PDF format. The abstract should not exceed 500 words. Authors wishing to apply for additional funding may do so when submitting their abstract through the online form. Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified, and decisions on additional funding will be made, by April 1, 2014. Draft full papers are encouraged but not required by the conference date, and will be circulated to all conference participants. We plan to submit sets of conference papers (optional) for publication in one or more special issues of journals. Click here to submit abstract.

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TuftScope: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Health, Ethics, & Policy is currently accepting submissions for the Spring 2014 issue from undergraduates, graduate students, and all other individuals who wish to submit work. This special spring edition of the journal is focused on the topic of One Health and the intersection of health care for humans, animals, and the environment. Additionally, TuftScope accepts original articles on bioethics, healthcare policy, public/community health, medical education, biomedicine, and research in these fields. PLEASE NOTE THAT ORIGINAL RESEARCH WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED. Detailed submissions guidelines and descriptions of the submission types may be found at www.tuftscopejournal.org under the “Guidelines” section. We welcome early submissions. All submissions should be uploaded to the submissions system on the website by March 3rd, 2014. TuftScope is a student journal at Tufts University founded in 2001 to provide an academic forum for discussion of the pertinent healthcare and biosocial debates in today's world. It addresses different aspects of healthcare, bioethics, public health, and active citizenship. The journal, as well as the online edition at www.tuftscopejournal.org, is edited and operated by students at Tufts University and is advised by an Editorial Board composed of undergraduates and faculty. The principle objective of TuftScope is to bring together a variety of viewpoints on the health sciences to transform thoughts and ideas into active citizenship and working policies.

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Other Items of Interest

*The Sao Paulo Advanced School of Biotechnology, Biosocialities and the Governance of Life Sciences is hosting a five-day summer school  (August 4 to August 8, 2014) to examine the rapid developments in the life and medical sciences in the fields of genomics and biotechnology that have raised important social, political, legal and ethical issues across global and in transnational contexts.  Areas covered include: genetic medicine, stem cell research, data banking, reproductive technologies, epigenetics and synthetic biology.  The focus will be on challenges regarding the appropriate implementation, likely impact, and consequences for both science and society.   Please click here for further details.

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*Summer School at Oxford University (UK) on Religion and Animals: The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is presenting more than forty international scholars who will be speaking at the Summer School at Oxford in July 2014 to address the role of religion in furthering animal protection.  Please click on this link to see the list of presenters and more information or contact Clair at depdirector@oxfordanimalethics.com.

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Articles of Interest

To read the full text of an article, click on its link and it will open in a new window.  

Some sites may require free registration; others may require that you or your organization have a paid subscription.

In the News

Animal Ethics

Mintz, Zoe. Elephants Feel Empathy? ‘First Exploration’ Shows How Elephants Console Each Other. International Business Times. 18 February 2014.
Elephants are capable of empathy, a new study suggests. The findings, published in the journal PeerJ, describe how the animals reassure one another by touching and talking to each other when in distress. The study involved studying the behavior of 26 captive elephants in Thailand over a period of one year. When stressful periods arose – such as a dog walking nearby, a snake rustling in the grass, or the presence of an unfriendly elephant – elephants showed telltale distress signals such as flared ears, erect tail and trumpeting or roaring. Researchers noticed that nearby elephants responded by “adopting the same emotion,” Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, said. Continue reading...

Barclay, Eliza. ‘Piglet Smoothie’ Fed to Sows To Prevent Disease; Activists Outraged. NPR. 20 February 2014.
Undercover footage shows a hog farm feeding sows ground-up piglets that succumbed to a deadly virus. Veterinarians say it’s the only method they have to protect herds against a fast-spreading disease. Continue reading...

Health Care

Andrew, Michelle. Despite Law, Health Plans Refuse Medical Claims Related to Suicide. NPR. 18 February 2014.
Dealing with the aftermath of a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. But some health plans make a harrowing experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide, even though the federal health law doesn't allow such exclusions, legal and government analysts say. Yet patients or their loved ones often don't realize that. Continue reading...

Varney, Sarah. Insurance, Not Injuries, May Determine Who Goes To Trauma Centers. NPR. 19 February 2014.
When private hospitals transfer patients who don't have insurance to public hospitals, it's called "patient dumping." But a study from Stanford University published Wednesday suggests a twist: Hospitals, it seems, are less likely to transfer critically injured patients to trauma centers if the patients have health insurance. Continue reading...

Cooper, Charlie. Shock Toll of Austerity in Greece Is Revealed. The Independent. 21 February 2014.
The austerity measures imposed by the Greek government have inflicted shocking harm on the population, leaving nearly a million people without access to healthcare, experts have said. In a damning report on the impact of cuts in the Greek health system, academics found evidence of rising infant mortality rates, soaring levels of HIV infection among drug users, and the return of malaria. Continue reading...

Law and Bioethics

Bender, Kristin and DeBolt, David. Jahi McMath ‘Much Better,’ Her Mother Says. San Jose Mercury News. 19 February 2014.
More than six weeks after her brain-dead daughter was moved from Children's Hospital Oakland to an undisclosed location, the mother of Jahi McMath broke her silence in a letter released Wednesday on Twitter. The 13-year-old Oakland girl was declared brain-dead Dec. 12 after when she developed complications following a Dec. 9 tonsil, nose and throat surgery for sleep apnea and went into cardiac arrest. The case drew international attention as the family battled with hospital officials for weeks and then went to court, seeking to keep the girl on a ventilator and to have breathing and feeding tubes surgically inserted. Continue reading...


Werdigier, Julia. Cigarette Ads Come Back To British TV. The New York Times. 17 February 2014.
About 50 years after Britain banned television advertisements for cigarettes, they are back. Except this time they are for the electronic kind. British American Tobacco, one of Europe’s biggest tobacco companies, said it would start showing television ads for its Vype electronic cigarettes in Britain Monday evening. The ads, which will also run online, are made possible by a loophole in the British advertising code written years before e-cigarettes came into widespread use. Continue reading...

Medical Ethics

Ornstein, Charles. Doctors Court Controversy In Ad For Surgical Robot. NPR. 14 February 2014.
Flipping through The New York Times magazine a few Sundays ago, former hospital executive Paul Levy was taken aback by a full-page ad for the da Vinci surgical robot. It wasn't that Levy hadn't seen advertising before for the robot, which is used for minimally invasive surgeries. It was that the ad prominently featured a dozen members of the surgery team at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System. "We believe in da Vinci surgery because our patients benefit," read the ad's headline. As Levy scanned the ad further, he noticed that at the bottom the ad bore a copyright for Intuitive Surgical Inc., the maker of the da Vinci system. It included this line: "Some surgeons who appear in this ad have received compensation from the company for providing educational services to other surgeons and patients." Continue reading...


Harris, Gardiner. Medicines Made In India Set Off Safety Worries. The New York Times. 14 February 2014.
India, the second-largest exporter of over-the-counter and prescription drugs to the United States, is coming under increased scrutiny by American regulators for safety lapses, falsified drug test results and selling fake medicines. Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, arrived in India this week to express her growing unease with the safety of Indian medicines because of “recent lapses in quality at a handful of pharmaceutical firms.” India’s pharmaceutical industry supplies 40 percent of over-the-counter and generic prescription drugs consumed in the United States, so the increased scrutiny could have profound implications for American consumers. Continue reading...

Cheng, Cheri. Drug Companies Set To Fight New FDA Regulations on Generic Drugs. Counsel & Heal. 18 February 2014.
The United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) latest regulations for generic drugs will mandate drug-manufacturing companies to inform consumers of every single known health risk involved with every drug product that they sell. The drug companies are planning on fighting these newly proposed rules stating that they "would be nothing short of catastrophic" and would only "create dangerous confusion." Continue reading...

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In the Journals

Mitka, Mike. Bioethicists issue guidance on handling incidental findings. JAMA. February 2014.
Consider 2 true stories described in a recent report: in one case, a dangerous mass is unexpectedly discovered in the brain of a healthy young medical student participating in a research study, leading to lifesaving surgery. In the other, a marathon runner who collapses from overhydration learns in an emergency department evaluation that she has an unrelated condition, a small brain tumor that might never affect her health but sentences her to years of anxious “watchful waiting.” Continue reading…

Pugh, Jonathan. Autonomy, Natality, and Freedom: A Liberal Re-examination of Habermas in the Enhancement Decade. Bioethics. February 2014.
Jurgen Habermas has argued that carrying out pre-natal germline enhancements would be inimical to the future child's autonomy. In this article, I suggest that many of the objections that have been made against Habermas' arguments by liberals in the enhancement debate misconstrue his claims. To explain why, I begin by explaining how Habermas' view of personal autonomy confers particular importance to the agent's embodiment and social environment. In view of this, I explain that it is possible to draw two arguments against germline enhancements from Habermas' thought. I call these arguments 'the argument from negative freedom' and 'the argument from natality'. Although I argue that many of the common liberal objections to Habermas are not applicable when his arguments are properly understood, I go on to suggest ways in which supporters of enhancement might appropriately respond to Habermas' arguments. Continue reading…

Voo, Teck Chuan. Altruism and Reward: Motivational Compatibility in Deceased Organ Donation. Bioethics. February 2014.
Acts of helping others are often based on mixed motivations. Based on this claim, it has been argued that the use of a financial reward to incentivize organ donation is compatible with promoting altruism in organ donation. In its report Human Bodies: Donation for Medicine and Research, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics uses this argument to justify its suggestion to pilot a funeral payment scheme to incentivize people to register for deceased organ donation in the UK. In this article, I cast a sceptical eye on the above Nuffield report's argument that its proposed funeral payment scheme would prompt deceased organ donations that remain altruistic (as defined by and valued the report). Specifically, I illustrate how this scheme may prompt various forms of mixed motivations which would not satisfy the report's definition of altruism. Insofar as the scheme produces an expectation of the reward, it stands diametrical to promoting an 'altruistic perspective'. My minimal goal in this article is to argue that altruism is not motivationally compatible with reward as an incentive for donation. My broader goal is to argue that if a financial reward is used to incentivize organ donation, then we should recognize that the donation system is no longer aiming to promote altruism. Rewarded donation would not be altruistic but it may be ethical given a persistent organ shortage situation. Continue reading…

Wall, Jesse. Human Rights Reasoning and Medical Law: A Sceptical Essay. Bioethics. February 2014.
I am sceptical as to the contribution that human rights can make to our evaluation of medical law. I will argue here that viewing medical law through a human rights framework provides no greater clarity, insight or focus. If anything, human rights reasoning clouds any bioethical or evaluative analysis. In Section 1 of this article, I outline the general structure of human rights reasoning. I will describe human rights reasoning as (a) reasoning from rights that each person has 'by virtue of their humanity', (b) reasoning from rights that provide 'hard to defeat' reasons for action and (c) reasoning from abstract norms to specified duties. I will then argue in Section 2 that, unless we (a) re-conceive of human rights as narrow categories of liberties, it becomes (b) necessary for our human rights reasoning to gauge the normative force of each claim or liberty. When we apply this approach to disputes in medical law, we (in the best case scenario) end up (c) 'looking straight through' the human right to the (disagreement about) values and features that each person has by virtue of their humanity. Continue reading…

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Ars Technica

Timmer, John. Santa’s revenge: melting Arctic ice may be driving this winter’s chill. February 17, 2014.
CHICAGO—The US is freezing. The UK is flooding. Alaska and Scandinavia are unusually warm. And, most remarkably, all of that has been going on for roughly the entire winter. It's not just unusual weather; it's consistently unusual. Continue reading…

Timmer, John. Is it time to move away from silicon-based solar? February 17, 2014.
CHICAGO—Currently, the world has the capacity to manufacture over 40 Gigawatts of solar panels each year, the vast majority of them silicon-based. And it's easy to see why: our expertise with processing the material has led to a staggering drop in costs, making photovoltaics (PVs) much more cost-competitive than just about anyone had predicted. Continue reading…

Toshida, Kate Shaw. Who needs sunlight? In Arizona, solar power never sleeps. February 18, 2014.
GILA BEND, ARIZONA—Every afternoon during the summer, millions of people across the American Southwest come home from work and switch on their air conditioners, straining the power grid in states like Arizona. Traditional solar power—although perfectly suited to the sunny climes of this region—can’t meet this demand since the surge in use peaks just as the day’s sun is disappearing. Continue reading…

Timmer, John. Questions arise about stem cell breakthrough. February 19, 2014.
At the end of January, scientists announced a stunning finding: they'd developed a seemingly simple technique that could convert just about any cell to a stem cell using a brief time in acidic conditions. Now, Nature News is reporting that one of the researchers involved is under investigation. Continue reading…

Johnston, Casey. Politician wants to raise greenhouse gas limits, for the plants.
A Utah politician is angling to prevent his state from regulating greenhouse gas emissions because, he claims, we need more CO2 in the atmosphere, and not less. Rep. Jerry Anderson (R), who is, troublingly, a former science teacher, stated that plants need the extra carbon dioxide and that he "think[s] we could double the carbon dioxide and not have any adverse effects." Continue reading…

The Economist

Science and Technology. Jet set. February 22, 2014.
Climate change is supposed to unfold slowly, over decades. But that is not true up in the great white north, as those attending this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science were reminded in the session on climate change in the Arctic. Temperatures there are 2°C higher than their long-term average (around twice the increase in the rest of the world), and the upper layers of parts of the Arctic Ocean are hotter than they have been for at least 2,000 years. Summer sea ice has been vanishing faster than even the gloomiest researchers thought likely, with some now predicting the first completely ice-free summer as soon as the 2020s. Continue reading…

Science and Technology. Stacking the deck. February 22, 2014.
Sunlight is free, but that is no reason to waste it. Yet even the best silicon solar cells—by far the most common sort—convert only a quarter of the light that falls on them. Silicon has the merit of being cheap: manufacturing improvements have brought its price to a point where it is snapping at the heels of fossil fuels. But many scientists would like to replace it with something fundamentally better. Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times

Editorial. The wrong way to fix Obamacare. February 17, 2014.

The sprawling 2010 Affordable Care Act has proved so hard to implement that the Obama administration has delayed or waived multiple provisions of the law in the hope of avoiding even more breakdowns and confusion. Last week the administration put off for another year the requirement that larger employers provide coverage for some or all of their workers. It's also reportedly considering a longer delay in implementing the law's minimum standards for insurance policies. Although the administration may have the right motives, its aggressive use of executive power to change deadlines and weaken requirements sets an unwelcome precedent. It also risks subverting some of the goals of the law the president is trying to protect. Continue reading…

New Scientist

Cooper, David. Strengthening Europe’s patent laws will weaken them. February 17, 2014.
Effective patent laws are critical to high-tech economies. Patents are a contract between an inventor and society: the inventor makes an idea public, and in return the state allows the inventor exclusive rights for 20 or more years. Continue reading…

New York Times

Lahey, Tim. A Watchful Eye in Hospitals. February 16, 2014.
HANOVER, N.H. — Despite the intensely personal moments that happen in hospitals, patient privacy can be elusive. Hospitals are multimillion-dollar corporations that look like shopping malls and function like factories. Doctors knock on exam room doors to signal they are about to enter — not to ask permission. The curtain that encircles the hospital bed always lets in a crack of light. Continue reading…

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