• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, June 23

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Republican Senators introduce their health-care bill. In its current form, the bill is at least 3 votes short of the 50 votes needed. Moving right to capture them could lose centrist Republicans.

    On the current vote count, here’s the Washington Post story.

    And the criticism from outside groups is fierce. Here’s one report on criticism by healthcare groups (Bloomberg)

    Surprisingly, Obama doesn’t like it, either. He posted on FB. I planned to quote it but it runs longer than a Fidel Castro speech.

    The best summary of the differences between the House bill (as passed) and the Senate bill (as introduced) is here at the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (link)

    Comment: Negotiations ahead in the Senate. Uncertain if Pres. Trump will get involved.

     Russian “Old Believer” Priest tells men to grow beards to “protect themselves from homosexuality”  (Moscow Times)

    Comment: I asked an expert, a Mr. W. Whitman,  . . . .

     Quick Tip: If you have a huge weapons stash, don’t get caught shoplifting ammo

    Ramadan Abdullah was arrested for theft in upstate New York (Binghamton Homepage)

    Police recovered:

    -4 loaded handguns
    -8 assault weapons
    -64 high-capacity ammunition feeding devices
    -1 loaded shotgun
    -2 rifles
    -thousands of rounds of ammunition for rifles, pistols, and assault weapons, including 50 caliber armor piercing incendiary rounds, numerous firearm parts, and flak jackets.

    Cornwell says subsequent search warrants executed at other properties tied to the suspect resulted in the seizure of:

    -numerous rounds of 38 caliber ammunition
    -high-capacity ammunition feeding devices and ammunition
    -an additional loaded firearm –Binghamton Homepage

    Comment: Mr. Abdullah said that being arrested during his namesake holiday was especially ironic.

     Trump’s infrastructure proposal includes expansion of rural broadband (Engadget)

    Comment: This could be a valuable expenditure, if it were done right and not too expensive.

     Qatar’s neighbors issue a long list of demands to end crisis (Associated Press)

    The Saudis, Egyptians, and others issued a 13-point list

    insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

    In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute. –Associated Press

    Comment: Getting the Turks out and keeping Iran out are the keys. They also want to shut Al Jazeera. 

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 20

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     American Otto Warmbier dies after being imprisoned in North Korea. Pres. Trump condemns it as “a brutal regime” and adds “we’ll be able to handle it.” (Fox News)

    Sec. of State Rex Tillerson referred to Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and called for the release of 3 other Americans held there.

    Now, China’s tour agency that takes Americans to North Korea says it will stop those tours. (Fox)

    Comment: The brutality of the North Korean regime is well known. The question is how to constrain the danger they pose to South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

    Russia Warns Washington after US fighter downs a Syrian Warplane. (New York Times)

    Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

    The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

    The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April. –New York Times

    That’s not the only major development.  

    The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war. –New York Times

    Comment: With so many factions fighting in close proximity, there is a huge risk of unintended engagement among the states backing different groups. That, of course, could lead to escalation.

     Theresa May’s weakness casts shadow over Brexit negotiations (Financial Times)

    Britain began the long process of leaving Europe on Monday, but many Conservative MPs are privately speculating whether Theresa May can make it as prime minister through the next few months. –Financial Times

    Comment: May is now deeply unpopular–she’s been called a “dead woman walking”–and leading Tories are trying to find a consensus candidate to replace her as Prime Minister.

    As far as Brexit goes, the PM has also replaced many of the negotiators; the new ones are in disarray. No one knows what Britain’s goal in the negotiations really are.

     Today in European terror: A car with an armed terrorist (he was on France’s watch list) rammed a police car on the Champs-Élysée in Paris. The terrorist’s car burst into flames on the busy street and he later died.  (CNN story here)

    According to the BBC:

    Police found a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns and gas bottles in the car.

    “Security forces have been targeted in France once again,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said, calling it an “attempted attack”. –BBC

    Comment: This problem goes beyond police and intelligence work, although it certainly calls for that. As long as Europe is filled large numbers of unassimilated Muslims, attracted to extreme ideologies, this problem will continue. The key is to work on assimilation, restrictions on new immigration, and more intense intel work.

     Well, at least she didn’t waste the money she stole  Report: Stolen city funds paid for her ‘Brazilian butt lift’ (Gainesville Sun)

    Natwaina Clark’s 177 bogus purchases — totaling more than $93,000 — included cosmetic surgery, SunPass and PayPal.

    An investigative report released Wednesday shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift. –Gainesville Sun

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  • This guy robs a bank in Kansas City. The judge puts him behind irony bars

    1 No tags Permalink 0

    The headline in the Kansas City paper:

    Remorseful husband who robbed bank to escape wife is sentenced to home confinement (Kansas City Star)

    After the teller gave [Lawrence John] Ripple $2,924, Ripple sat down in the bank lobby to wait for police, and later told authorities that he had written out a robbery note in front of his wife and told her he would rather be in jail than at home. –Kansas City Star

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    Hat tip to my son, Michael.

    This is more than a hat tip. To raise a son who sees that story and immediately thinks, “My Dad is going to love this…” well, that is concrete evidence of some fine parenting skills around my house.

     

  • News You Can Use: Bald People Should Watch Out for Witch Doctors, Mozambique Police Warn

    The story is in Newsweek, where I always turn for my news about witch doctors.

    Police in Mozambique have warned bald people they could be targeted by superstitious attackers, who believe their lack of hair denotes wealth, after two men were brutally murdered and their body parts reportedly used in witchcraft. –Newsweek

    The BBC is on the case, too, saying the attackers had previously killed albinos but were now switching to bald men.

    It added that 3 men, not 2, had been killed.

    According to another BBC report:

    “Their motivations come from superstition and culture – the local community thinks bald individuals are rich,” [the national police spokesman] said.

    The BBC’s Jose Tembe reports from Maputo that some people hold the false belief that bald people have gold in their heads.–BBC

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    Tip of the toupee to Patrick Augustine for this amazing story

    I am imagine bald guys in Mozambique are crowding the stores to buy these wigs.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday June 6, 2017

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ D-Day: 73 years ago today. The US, Britain, and Canada opened a second front against the Nazis.
    A young, low-level intelligence contractor is first person charged with leaking, re Russian interference in 2016 election 
    (New York Times)

    She’s a big Bernie Sanders supporter and may have thought this was part of the “Resistance,” which she has supported online.

    The case showed the department’s willingness to crack down on leaks, as Mr. Trump has called for in complaining that they are undermining his administration. His grievances have contributed to a sometimes tense relationship with the intelligence agencies he now oversees.

    The Justice Department announced the case against the contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, about an hour after the national-security news outlet The Intercept published the apparent document, a May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency. –New York Times

    Comment: Good. A first step.

    Now, go after the big boys and girls, who aren’t as careless as kids still on their parents’ insurance.

     Chicago’s free fire zone: 3 dead, 3 wounded in eight hours (Chicago Tribune)

    “I always see this on TV,” [the uncle of 23-year-old-victim Devonta Scott] said looking at frantic relatives holding each other splashed in strobing police lights. “I just never thought it would happen to me.” –Chicago Tribune

    And then, the most common ending to all this shootings in poor, black neighborhoods.

    Police reported no arrests. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: The problems are extremely serious and just as hard to manage.

    • The city needs a lot more police but cannot afford them.
    • The worst neighborhoods know who the criminals are, but they don’t cooperate with the police, either because they don’t trust the cops or they fear the bad guys, or both
    • The gangs have splintered, so dozens and dozens of gangs are fighting lethally for each street corner.
    • The gang members have no fathers, no education, and no jobs

    The headlines mislead outsiders in one important respect. The crime and killing is largely a product of–and confined to–very poor neighborhoods. Occasionally, it spills out as members try to escape their enemies or rob the rich, but that’s uncommon.

     The sanctions against Qatar are beginning to bite.  

    Qatar flight ban begins as Gulf crisis grows (BBC) The Saudis and Egyptians are leading this move.

    Several countries have cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism in the Gulf region.

    Qatari nationals in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been given two weeks to leave.

    Qatar denies backing militants and its foreign minister has called for “a dialogue of openness and honesty”.

    Egypt said it was closing off its airspace to Qatar from 04:00 GMT on Tuesday “until further notice”. –BBC

    Comment: The sanctions are a very good idea against a very bad actor, one the US has coddled for years because we have bases there. No more. And the shift in US policy made it easier for the Arab states to form this coalition.

    The question is whether it’s a first step or a showy diversion to avoid taking others, such as staunching the local donations to terrorists.

    Additional Reading:

    For a magazine-length piece on Qatar’s controversial history, this new article in The Atlantic is very good.

     Over 130 British Imams have refused to perform burial services for the attackers  (CBS)

    The ritual is normally carried out for every Muslim, regardless of their actions.

    In what is a highly unusual move, Muslim religious leaders from different schools of Islam — both Sunni and Shia — issued a statement late Monday saying their pain at the suffering of the victims of Saturday’s attacks had led to their decision, and they called on others imams to follow suit. –CBS

    Comment: Good. Also good: it seems like several Muslims who knew the attackers told the police about them, but the officials dropped the ball.

    One reason why important things slip through the cracks: the UK current has 500 active terror investigations, plus another 3000 top-tier subjects of interest, and 20,000 more one tier below that. Those numbers are overwhelming.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, June 2

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     The big news is President Trump announcing the US would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, with predictable reactions

    Analysis

    • All Democrats denounced Trump for two reasons: abdicating US leadership of a multilateral effort and weakening commitment to environmental protection
    • Centrist Republicans and virtually all big businesses opposed the withdrawal; Mitt Romney was very vocal about it, for instance
    • Trump’s base loved it and loved his dual rationale: jobs and America First.

    The arguments for the agreement are that America has isolated itself from a global movement, backed by scientists, that supports collective action to slow global warming, some of it man-made.

    The counter-argument is that the costs to the US are very high but positive effects on the climate are vanishingly small. There is also a fairness and effectiveness argument that China and India’s sweet deals (basically, they don’t have to do anything) mean that some of the world’s biggest polluters are unchecked by this deal.

     What is being overlooked in the furor over the withdrawal? That the process by which the US entered the accord. That created its own problems.

    The Paris deal was never a treaty, only a presidential agreement (like the Iran Deal). After all, treaties need ratification, and that’s a higher hurdle. Why not just let the President sign it himself, call it something besides a treaty, and skip that whole pesky ratification thingy?

    That’s just what President Obama did with the Paris Climate Agreement, and just what he did with the Iran nuclear deal. The US seems to be abandoning the quaint idea that its major commitments should be treaties, just as it has abandoned the idea that it should vote to declare wars. We’ve been at war repeatedly over the last few decades, but the last war the US declared was on December 8, 1941.

    Avoiding the treaty process comes at a price, however. What one president signs, the next one can undo. That’s what Pres. Trump did on Thursday.

    There is a second, less obvious problem that is also being overlooked. US environmental groups were planning lawsuits to compel the government to implement Obama’s promises under the Paris Accords. Of course, the environmental bureaucracies themselves would want to implement those promises, too. The substance of those actions might be good or bad, depending on your perspective, but no one could argue that they were determined by laws passed by Congress and signed by the President.

    Skirting these constitutionally-designed, democratic processes has become a standard feature of modern American government.

    It has been a hallmark of progressivism from the beginning, in the early 20th century. A core principle of the progressive movement, initially aimed at corrupt, big-city patronage machines, was decisionmaking by “disinterested” experts: technocrats. Today, that has morphed into rule by regulation, with regulations poured out of bureaucracies whose employees are immune from firing because of civil-service protections (a key feature of the progressive program, designed to block firings by partisan politicians).

    So, one hidden effect of the withdrawal is to slow the pace of new environmental regulations, which the EPA would issue to implement the Paris Accords, either of its own volition or because the courts required them.

     Trump administration asks Supreme Court to Reinstate its Travel Ban  (New York Times)

    Comment: We don’t know if the Court will take the case. If it doesn’t, the lower court decisions to block Trump’s order will stand.

     Mitch Daniels, the nation’s most innovative university leader, discusses Purdue’s purchase of for-profit Kaplan  (Indianapolis Star)

    Purdue President Mitch Daniels painted the move as Purdue’s ticket into the future.

    “None of us know how fast or in what direction online higher education will evolve, but we know its role will grow and we intend that Purdue be positioned to be a leader as that happens,” Daniels told the Education Writers Association.

    Daniels has been working to make a Purdue education more accessible since stepping onto the West Lafayette campus. Purdue’s been on a tuition freeze since 2013, became the first major U.S. research university to offer income-sharing agreements and struck a deal with Amazon to lower textbook costs for its students.

     

    The bid to acquire Kaplan, though, is taking innovation to a new level and was seen as a tectonic shift in the higher education landscape when it was announced unexpectedly in April. –Indianapolis Star

     Massachusetts judge denies defendant’s motion to juggle–yes, juggle–at his trial  (AP, via St. Mary Now, Louisiana)

    The defendant, who is representing himself, wanted to juggle to show “he was just clowning around when he allegedly tried to rob a convenience store with a toy gun.”

     

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, May 25

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Now, the Brits are hunting in Libya for some members of the Manchester terror cell.

    They’ve already made a half-dozen arrests, including the bomber’s brother, in the UK  (New York Times)

    Officials were looking into reports that people who knew Mr. Abedi — including an imam at his mosque — had contacted the authorities as early as 2015 with concerns that he may have been recruited by extremists. –New York Times

    Comment: The police, overwhelmed with tips, sometimes drop the ball. That’s always disturbing, but it would be more disturbing if they shied away for PC reasons. That’s been a problem for UK police. Here, for example, is the Manchester police apologizing for a 2016 training exercise that resembled an Islamist attack.

     Meanwhile, UK officials are furious that the NYT published secret information about the crime (BBC) The UK had shared it with the US. The Brits believes the leakers were US police, not the White House.

     Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter running circles around the MSM, this time on Obama Administration illegal spying on Americans

    How bad was it? Bad enough that the lap dog FISA court judges were infuriated by the deceit and illegal action.

     Congressional Budget Office says Trump-Ryan health plan will be budget neutral but leave 23 million more uninsured over a decade (Associated Press)

    The report said older people with lower income would disproportionately lose coverage. Over half of those becoming uninsured, 14 million people, would come from the bill’s $834 billion in cuts to Medicaid, which provides health coverage to poor and disabled people, over 10 years. –AP

    Comment: These numbers are disturbing but it compares this bill to Obamacare on the assumption that the ACA will survive. It won’t. It’s melting down and to save it would cost trillions.

     Mike Flynn has clammed up, but Paul Manafort has given Congressional investigators his documents related to Russian contacts (Washington Post)

    ◆ Richard Friedman on NATO’s purpose today (ZipDialog post)

     Who controls the South China Sea? China claims it, but it is an international waterway, and the US ensures it. The US navy sends occasional ships through to make sure it is open. Now, the US navy is conducting its first such operation of the Trump presidency. (CNN)

     Today in PC lunacy: White women’s burrito shop is forced to close after being hounded with accusations it was ‘culturally appropriating Mexican food and jobs’ (Daily Mail) In Portland, naturally.

    Comment: The city will give up Hindu-Arabic numerals when they discover they were invented in South Asia in the 6th or 7th century  and stolen from those poor folks. (Britannica)

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Fred Lawson
     for the Manchester police apology
    ◆ Tim Favero and Tom Elia for the burrito story; they clearly know me!

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 23

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ My comment on the vile terror bombing in Manchester is posted separately (here).

    May the innocents rest in peace.

    May the wounded recover fully, in body and mind.

    May the police be safe as they root out the terrorists who prepared and executed this heinous act.

    These prayers have been said far too many times. And we fear this will not be the last time.

     Academic malpractice: Highly-esteemed professor at Duke Divinity School resigns after being attacked for not attending the university’s re-education and training camp for diversity.

    The story is here at The Weekly Standard.

    When Prof. Paul Griffiths refused to attend the “Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training” (it must have been named by Orwell) and explained his reasons, the Dean of the Divinity school attacked with full fury. According to Griffiths, Dean Elaine Heath

    initiates financial and administrative reprisals against Griffiths. Those reprisals ban him from faculty meetings, and, thereby, from voting in faculty affairs; and promise (contra the conditions stated in his letter of appointment) to ban him from future access to research or travel funds. –The Weekly Standard

    The faculty member who runs the re-education and peasant labor camp “launched her own disciplinary proceeding against Griffiths with Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).”

    Griffiths’ refusal to attend and his explanation made her workplace “hostile,” naturally. If the PC deans and faculty had their way, Griffiths would be sent to the countryside to plant and harvest rice and learn from the honest peasants.

    The article concludes with a powerful comment by the author, Charlotte Allen:

    It’s hard to figure out what’s more appalling about this episode: the ease with which powerful faculty members can strip their colleagues of their ability to do their jobs just because those colleagues exercise free speech and don’t sign on to their ideological priorities—or the increasing power of bloated university bureaucracies, especially “diversity” bureaucracies over every facet of existence at a university that is supposed to be devoted to the life of the mind. –Charlotte Allen in The Weekly Standard

    Peter Berkowitz, another acute observer of academic follies, has an excellent piece on this Duke fiasco at the Wall Street Journal.

    Comment: Shame on Duke, a school repeatedly cloaked in politically-motivated misdeeds. They seem to learn nothing from their mistakes.

    Bravo to Paul Griffiths, distinguished professor of Catholic theology, who deserves a badge for his intellectual courage. I hope he retains counsel and goes after the malefactors.

     At Dartmouth, somewhat better news

    First the bad news: the university selected as its new dean of the faculty a professor (N. Bruce Duthu) who helped lead his professional association to boycott and sanction all Israeli universities and the professors who work there.

    This sort of thing passes virtually unnoticed among university administrators, who probably missed it when they reviewed Duthu’s qualifications.

    But outside the ivied walls, people did notice it. The university defended him, said he was a swell fellow, and, after some hesitation, he eventually said he had changed his mind about boycotting and sanctioning everything from Israel.

    The good news: after national publicity about his anti-Israel views, Duthu has decided that he shouldn’t take accept the Deanship after all.

    Here’s the story at the Observer.

    Comment: Kudos to Paul Miller and Haym Salomon Center for publicizing Duthu’s role in the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement. Ultimately, what Prof. Duthu did behind closed academic doors couldn’t be justified to a larger audience of Dartmouth faculty, alums, trustees, donors, and others. 

     World’s first operational robot-cop has started work in Dubai. They want them to make up about 1/3 of their police force by 2030. (Daily Mirror, UK)

    Fox News also has a report:

    The Robocop, five feet five inches tall and weighing 220 pounds, speaks six languages and reads facial expressions.

    “He can chat and interact, respond to public queries, shake hands and offer a military salute,” Brigadier-General Khalid Nasser Al Razzouqi, Director-General of Smart Services with the Dubai Police told the Mirror.

    Residents can use the Robocop to pay fines or report crimes, and it also can transmit and receive messages from police headquarters. –Fox News

     Chicago clinches spot as great food city: America’s first Nutella Cafe to open in City of Big Stomachs next week  (Chicago Eater)

     Metaphor alert: Huge sinkhole forms near Trump’s Mar-A-Lago (Forbes)

     The headlines about Betsy DeVos’ speech focused on her promise that “more school choice is coming.” That’s big, if vague.

    But she said something equally important: education should not be run from Washington (USA Today)

    Comment: Exactly right, she, Trump, and the Republicans are beginning to turn around decades of increasing centralization of educational decisionmaking in DC.

    Washington can help by allowing all kinds of experimentation. Let cities and states figure out what works and what fits best in different locales.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, May 8

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     The biggest story is Macron’s landslide election as President of France, less because of him than because Marine Le Pen would have blown up the current structure of Europe.

    Macron’s challenge is to pull France out of its economic stagnation (a hard task because of deeply entrenched interests) and stopping the assault on French culture and traditions from unassimilated Muslim migrants from North Africa.

    As CNN accurately puts it: “Paris breathes a sigh of relief as Macron takes center stage”

    Macron, France’s youngest incoming president, was once a political wild card. The 39-year-old centrist independent — a former investment banker turned government minister who entered the presidential race without the backing of any established party — garnered a solid footing through his pro-EU stance and promises to reform France’s welfare and pension systems. –CNN

     The other big story: Hillary is coming out of the woods.

    She will make speeches (for money, of course) and start a new PAC. And she will continue blaming everyone else for losing the 2016 election. She is taking a bow, for some reason, for Macron’s victory, too.

    Her new political group could launch as early as this week, says Politico.

    Comment: Her return is bad news for the Democrats, who need to look forward, not back, and to develop new leaders, not rely on retreads who are proven losers.

    Along the same lines, former President Obama is working hard to defeat Trump’s changes to the health-care bill. (New York Times) Again, the old leaders, the ones who decimated the party, want to stay in front, leading it forward.

     In other news that portends stability for Europe, Merkel’s party does very well in German local elections.  (Bloomberg)

    Comment: She also gained from supporting Macron. Le Pen directly attacked her and would have undercut the EU.

     Another day in Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods: 2 dead, 8 hurt in shooting at Brighton Park memorial for earlier rifle slaying  (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: This is a recurrent issue: gangs shoot up the funerals of rival gang members. What’s new is that they are now bringing high-powered rifles to these slaughters.

     FDA approves first new drug for ALS (Lew Gehrig’s Disease) in two decades (Medscape)

    Edaravone is a pyrazolone free-radical scavenger thought to lessen the effects of oxidative stress, which is a probable factor in ALS onset and progression.

    The drug was first approved to treat ALS in Japan and Korea in 2015. After learning about edaravone’s use in Japan, the FDA “rapidly engaged” the manufacturer to apply for approval in the United States. –Medscape

     Texas passes tough law against sanctuary cities (Texas Tribune)

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