Slouching Toward Gattaca?
The United States' Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act takes effect on Saturday. Subsequently, it will be illegal for employers to use genetic test results to make decisions about their employees, or even to gather genetic information on people. That includes family histories of heart trouble, stroke, and other common maladies—which means that businesses' frequently-used "health risk" assessment forms will have to lose their intrusive questions about people's ancestors and relatives.
These new protections acknowledge that there are people whose genes might put them at a disadvantage compared to others with run-of-the-mill DNA. What about the opposite case, though? What happens if there are a few people who have a genetic advantage relative to the rest of us, because they have been artificially enhanced? (Don't assume they're in the same position as people who are naturally gifted. Today, you can't identify a genius musician with a DNA test; you have to listen to people playing their instruments. But if, in the future, there are people with a gene supposed—rightly or wrongly—to be good for music, then it will be possible to pick them out by a blood test.)
It's widely assumed that this kind of enhancement will soon be possible. And this fall researchers announced what might be another step in that direction: By genetically manipulating a rat embryo, they created a rodent whose NR2B gene is far more active than normal. That gene codes for a protein involved in the kind of communication in brain cells that's associated with learning and memory. Result: A rat that's much better than normal at learning things and remembering them.
Biotech companies are interested in this research in part because memory-enhancing treatments could stave off the effects of Alzheimers disease and other forms of memory loss. But once a treatment is around for impaired people, "off-label" uses will pop up faster than you can say "Adderall." For a serious consideration of the ethical quandaries that brings up, this is the book. If you have less time, there's always the splendidly creepy Gattaca, about a world divided between genetically enhanced elites and mongrels made the old-fashioned way. Which, by the way, looks set to become a TV series in a couple of years.
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
A plan to forgive almost a trillion dollars in debt would solve the student loan debt crisis, but can it work?
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just proposed a bold education reform plan that would forgive billions in student debt.
- The plan would forgive the debt held by more than 30 million Americans.
- The debt forgiveness program is one part of a larger program to make higher education more accessible.
America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.
- Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
- Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
- Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.
- The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
- The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
- Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
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