Saturday: Hili dialogue

November 18, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to cat shabbos, Saturday, November 17, 2023, and National Apple Cider Day. I used to buy gallon jugs of the stuff and then let them start to ferment; cider is best when it’s slightly alcoholic and has a bit of fizz.

It’s also National Adoption Day, National Survivors of Suicide Day, Mickey Mouse Day (he made his debut in the cartoon “Steamboat Willie” on this day in 1928), and National Vichyssoise Day, and, in Morocco, Independence Day, celebrating the independence of Morocco from France and Spain in 1956.

Here’s “Steamboat Willie,” with Mickey appearing just 30 seconds into the cartoon. It’s good, too!

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 18 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Once again the NYT slants its reportage against Israel, pointing out that the IDF has not yet made a “definitive” case that Al-Shifa hospital and the tunnels under it were a Hamas commend center. Do they expect instant results? I predict that nearly every day the NYT will point out the lack of a smoking gun. Now if this proves to be the case (although we already know there was terrorist activity there), it will be a major failure of intelligence that resulted in needless Palestinian deaths, including those of patients. But let’s wait a couple of weeks before we start pointing fingers:

How much time could it take for Israel to provide a conclusive account?

It could take weeks, months, or could never come, American military officials said on Friday.

American and Israeli officials said that many of the tunnels could be booby-trapped with bombs either remotely triggered or set to explode when something crosses a tripwire. In 2013, six Israeli soldiers were wounded, and one was blinded, when a booby trap exploded as they tried to shove a camera into a Hamas tunnel.

Whether this is the case under Al-Shifa Hospital or not, Israeli forces will view sending soldiers down into the tunnels as a measure of last resort, one Pentagon official said Friday.

Col. Elad Tsury, commander of Israel’s Seventh Brigade, said it might be days before troops descended into the shaft.

. . .Senior U.S. officials said Friday that they remained confident that Hamas and Palestinian militants had been operating under the complex of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, even as the Israeli military has struggled to produce proof to back its assertion that Hamas was using the hospital and its patients as human shields.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. intelligence, said intercepted communications between fighters operating in Gaza showed that Hamas had been using hospitals as command centers and ammunition depots.

While the Biden administration has cautioned Israel not to use airstrikes against the hospital, where thousands of Palestinians have taken refuge, it has also backed Israel’s contention that the hospital has been used by Hamas. On Tuesday, John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, declined to provide details about the source of the U.S. intelligence, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

And the IDF is now moving to the south:

Israel signaled on Friday that it was expanding its offensive in Gaza to include the southern half of the territory, after claiming control of the north and taking over a Gaza City hospital it had identified as a priority in its military operation.

The Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said late Friday that its troops would continue their offensive “in every place that Hamas is, and it is in the south of the strip.” His remarks appeared to telegraph a new phase in Israel’s war on Hamas, three weeks into the ground invasion and less than three days after Israeli troops entered the grounds of Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, saying the armed group had been using it as a command center.


Here’s a screenshot of the front-page headlines:

*As I always say, if you’re going to subscribe to a site beyond a conventional newspaper, I’d recommend the Free Press, which has tons of good stuff. Have a look. But my favorite item is Nellie Bowles’s weekly “TGIF” news summary, which appears on Friday. Her snarky but heterodox liberal take on things is funny but also rings true. As always, I’ll steal three of Nellie’s items for this column; these come from her latest summary, “TGIF: Letter to America“:

→ Update on that clumsy old man: In L.A. last week, an Arab professor at a local community college smashed a bullhorn into a Jewish man’s face, knocking him onto the concrete and killing him. Well, that professor has finally been arrested. Sure, he’s charged only with involuntary manslaughter, but I’ll take it (I’m sure the original effort was to charge him with a parking ticket). Anyway, finally, an arrest in the killing of Paul Kessler. Or as CNN will tell you:

Sadly, the concrete and the bullhorn couldn’t be read their Miranda rights, so they went with the guy who allegedly did it.

→ Recess jihad: A Brooklyn parent group has been organizing students to protest the war. The teachers are on board. And so we have scenes out of Brooklyn this week of 700 students from some 100 schools marching, yelling pro-peace slogans like “Fuck the Jews.” Or there’s this great call and response the kids were doing as they marched. Call: Takbir! Response: Allahu Akbar! The kids stopped by some Jewish-owned businesses and did their chants. It was organized by the official parent advisory board, which is funded by taxpayers. I used to think “children are the future” was a hopeful phrase. . . anyway. Takbir!

→ The cops are being a little off, no? In England, the police seem very much to be on the side of pro-Palestine protesters. At one recent rally, they posed with a young boy who wore a keffiyeh across his face, showing only his eyes. They seem to clamp down only when the protesters are of the pro-England sort.

When the Home Secretary, a brave woman aptly named Suella Braverman, accused the police of “playing favorites,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired her.

Here’s someone speaking to a crowd, railing against Braverman for daring to criticize the protests: “When we call for freedom, we’re not being hateful. . . . You’re probably wondering, why does the UK believe this? Why does Suella Braverman—probably her Jewish husband, her Zionist husband—why does she believe that it’s hateful?” Good question. Jewish husbands—never a good sign. Surely something going on. Anyway, this protestor seems totally not hateful. No red flags were raised in those sentences.

Watch the great Konstantin Kisin with the best take: “Suella was sacked for being right.”

*In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Hamas’s barbarity heightens the crisis in higher education,” Michael Bloomberg (a Democrat, remember, as well as a long-time mayor of New York City), mentions the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report on institutional neutrality. Emphasis is mine:

One can support the Palestinian people and still denounce the intentional slaughter of civilians.

Why have so many students failed to do so? The answer begins where the buck stops—with college presidents. For years, they have allowed their campuses to become bastions of intolerance, by permitting students to shout down the voices of others. They have condoned “trigger warnings” that shield students from difficult ideas. They have refused to defend faculty who run afoul of student sentiment. And they have created “safe spaces” that discourage or exclude opposing views.

College presidents have also allowed campuses to become institutions of conformity. In a 2014 commencement speech at Harvard, I warned that many of America’s top colleges had become Soviet-like in their lack of viewpoint diversity. As I noted, 96% of donations from Ivy League faculty and staff in the 2012 presidential election went to Barack Obama, while only 4% went to another Harvard alumnus, Mitt Romney.

Over the past decade, this combination of campus conformity and intolerance has only gotten worse. It is no surprise that support for terrorism, dressed in the language of social justice, has emerged from this environment.

. . .Similarly, the public has wondered why some college presidents who were quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd were slow to condemn the murder of 1,200 Israeli citizens. Others might wonder why the presidents issued no statements on Sudan’s civil war or the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Instead of issuing statements on selective issues,

Similarly, the public has wondered why some college presidents who were quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd were slow to condemn the murder of 1,200 Israeli citizens. Others might wonder why the presidents issued no statements on Sudan’s civil war or the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Instead of issuing statements on selective issues, college presidents should adopt the policy the University of Chicago has stuck to since 1967, when it declared: “The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” Only a few other universities, including North Carolina and Vanderbilt, have adopted this policy.

*In medical news, the Associated Press Reports that doctors are about to embark on a gene-therapy treatment for sickle-cell disease and thalassemia,  genetic ailment caused by having two copies of a mutant gene that produces defective hemoglobin. The goal is to take out the defective gene, fix it in stem cells using CRISPR technology, and then inject the “normal” gene back into the bone marrow, where it can make non-mutant hemoglobin protein (h/t Steve):

Britain’s medicines regulator has authorized the world’s first gene therapy treatment for sickle cell disease, in a move that could offer relief to thousands of people with the crippling disease in the U.K.

In a statement Thursday, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said it approved Casgevy, the first medicine licensed using the gene editing tool CRISPR, which won its makers a Nobel prize in 2020.

The agency approved the treatment for patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia who are 12 years old and over. Casgevy is made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Europe) Ltd. and CRISPR Therapeutics. To date, bone marrow transplants, extremely arduous procedures that come with very unpleasant side effects, have been the only long-lasting treatment.

“The future of life-changing cures resides in CRISPR based (gene-editing) technology,” said Dr. Helen O’Neill of University College London.

Here’s how it’s done, and they’re doing it at the University of Chicago!

The new medicine, Casgevy, works by targeting the problematic gene in a patient’s bone marrow stem cells so that the body can make properly functioning hemoglobin.

Patients first receive a course of chemotherapy, before doctors take stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and use genetic editing techniques in a laboratory to fix the gene. The cells are then infused back into the patient for a permanent treatment. Patients must be hospitalized at least twice — once for the collection of the stem cells and then to receive the altered cells.

“This is so exciting. It’s a new wave of treatments that we can utilize for patients with sickle cell disease,” said Dr. James LaBelle, director of the pediatric stem cell and cellular therapy program at the University of Chicago. He said Britain’s approval suggested the U.S. authorization was likely “imminent.”

Casgevy is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; the agency is expected to make a decision early next month, before considering another sickle cell gene therapy.

LaBelle said officials at the University of Chicago are “already moving forward to build not only the clinical infrastructure but also the reimbursement infrastructure to get these patients this treatment.”

We know in both cases exactly what the mutation is causing the disease, and it’s due to a single nucleotide that can be reverted through CRISPR to the normal form. If this works it will be a huge step forward in dealing with genetic ailments (not all of them, of course; Down Syndrome, which is due to three copies of a small chromosome instead of the normal two, wouldn’t be fixable this way).

This is Matthew’s bailiwick, of course, and when I asked him if it would work, he simply said “yes.”

*The WaPo reports that seven universities or school districts in the U.S. are under federal investigation for either antisemitism or “Islamophobia” (I take that to mean anti-Muslim bigotry):

The Education Department opened civil rights investigations this week focused on a Kansas school district, three Ivy League universities and three other prominent colleges, all in response to reports of discrimination after last month’s eruption of war between Israel and Hamas.

“Hate has no place in our schools, period,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement Thursday announcing the investigations. “Schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn.”

The institutions under scrutiny, according to the department, are Cornell and Columbia universities; the University of Pennsylvania; Wellesley and Lafayette colleges; the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; and the Maize Unified School District near Wichita.

Five of the investigations relate to antisemitism and two to Islamophobia, a department spokeswoman said.

Launched Wednesday and Thursday, the probes will explore alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. That 1964 law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, including harassment based on a person’s shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, in programs receiving federal funds.

Federal officials declined Friday to release any further details what incidents at those institutions had prompted their investigation.

I’m guessing that the anti-semitic accusations were leveled at Cornell, Wellesley, Columbia, Cooper Union, and the University of Pennsylvania.

*In the NYT, columnist David Brooks argues that “Universities are failing at inclusion,” but proposes an inclusion that involves more than race, concentrating instead on ideas, especially heterodox ones. But he also says that “inclusiveness” hasn’t included Jews, something you don’t often read.

Universities are supposed to be centers of inquiry and curiosity — places where people are tolerant of difference and learn about other points of view. Instead, too many have become brutalizing ideological war zones, so today the most hostile place to be an American Jew is not at some formerly restricted country club but on a college campus.

How on earth did this happen? I’ve been teaching on college campuses off and on for 25 years. It’s become increasingly evident to me that American adolescence and young adulthood — especially for those who wind up at elite schools — now happen within a specific kind of ideological atmosphere.

It centers on a hard-edged ideological framework that has been spreading in high school and college, on social media, in diversity training seminars and in popular culture. The framework doesn’t have a good name yet. It draws on the thinking of intellectuals ranging from the French philosopher Michel Foucault to the critical race theorist Derrick Bell. (For a good intellectual history, I recommend Yascha Mounk’s recent book, “The Identity Trap.”)

The common ideas associated with this ideology are by now pretty familiar:

  • We shouldn’t emphasize what unites all human beings; we should emphasize what divides us.

  • Human relations are power struggles between oppressors and oppressed groups.

  • Human communication is limited. A person in one group can never really understand the experience of someone in another group.

  • The goal of rising above bigotry is naïve. Bigotry and racism are permanent and indestructible components of American society.

  • Seemingly neutral tenets of society — like free speech, academic freedom, academic integrity and the meritocracy — are tools the powerful use to preserve their power.

These are, of course, all tenets of critical social justice, and aren’t novel, but this still, along with what’s below, makes this column better than the usual anodyne lucubrations of Mr. Brooks.

. . . Students have gotten the message that they are not on campus to learn; they are there to express their certainties and to advance a rigid ideological formula.

The right intellectual framework for effective diversity work is pluralism. Pluralism starts with a celebration of the fact that we live in one of the most diverse societies in history. The job of the university is to help young people from different backgrounds learn to work and live together. (Would you really want to hire someone who spent his college years learning how to demonize, demean and divide?)

Pluralists seek to replace the demonizing, demeaning and dividing ethos with one that encourages respect, relationships and cooperation.

. . . Donors who are offended by what’s happening on campuses today shouldn’t stop funding universities. They should fund pluralistic programs that offer an alternative to and a critique of the currently prevailing ideology. There is a rich tradition of thinkers who explore diversity, identity and history from a pluralistic framework: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Danielle Allen, John Courtney Murray, Miroslav Volf, Jonathan Haidt. Whole courses could be built around these bodies of thought.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is interrupted while sharpening her claws.

Hili: You are distracting me.
Szaron: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.
In Polish:
Hili: Rozpraszasz mnie.
Szaron: Przepraszam, nie chciałem.


From Irena:

From Jon. Remember Astro Sam, with whom I was quite smitten?:

From Divy, for ailurophiles:

From Masih; these morality police are scary!

From Barry. Koalas sound like donkeys!

From Bryan; John Cleese talks to Helen Pluckrose, who is asked to pretend she’s a “woke person” to answer Cleese’s questions about wokeness.

From my “home” feed:

I noticed that this is the tweet pinned at the top of one of Ilhan Omar’s two feeds (the non-congressional one). Note that it was posted on October 7, the day of Hamas’s incursion into Israel and resultant slaughter of more than a thousand. Israel had not yet responded, but Omar was already calling for de-escation and a cease-fire! The whole text:

I condemn the horrific acts we are seeing unfold today in Israel against children, women, the elderly, and the unarmed people who are being slaughtered and taken hostage by Hamas. Such senseless violence will only repeat the back and forth cycle we’ve seen, which we cannot allow to continue. We need to call for deescalation and ceasefire. I will keep advocating for peace and justice throughout the Middle East.

I don’t believe for a minute that her “condemnation” is sincere.

From the Auschwitz Memorial; a survivor whose birthday was yesterday:

Tweets from Matthew. He loves the Mars helicopter “Dragonfly,” and here is a model demonstrating how it works:

Fruit bats!

24 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1302 – Pope Boniface VIII issues the Papal bull Unam sanctam, claiming spiritual supremacy for the papacy.

    1421 – St Elizabeth’s flood: A dike in the Grote Hollandse Waard in the Netherlands breaks, killing about 10,000 people.

    1493 – Christopher Columbus first sights the island now known as Puerto Rico.

    1803 – The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, is fought, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

    1872 – Susan B. Anthony and 14 other women are arrested for voting illegally in the United States presidential election of 1872.

    1883 – American and Canadian railroads institute five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.

    1903 – The Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty is signed by the United States and Panama, giving the United States exclusive rights over the Panama Canal Zone. [The British had formally withdrawn their objections to this on this day in 1901.]

    1910 – In their campaign for women’s voting rights, hundreds of suffragettes march to the British Parliament in London. Several are beaten by police, newspaper attention embarrasses the authorities, and the march is dubbed Black Friday.

    1916 – World War I: First Battle of the Somme: In France, British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig calls off the battle which started on July 1, 1916.

    1928 – Release of the animated short Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon.

    1947 – The Ballantyne’s Department Store fire in Christchurch, New Zealand, kills 41; it is the worst fire disaster in the history of New Zealand.

    1961 – United States President John F. Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam.

    1963 – The first push-button telephone goes into service.

    1978 – In Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones leads his Peoples Temple to a mass murder–suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children.

    1987 – King’s Cross fire: In London, 31 people die in a fire at the city’s busiest underground station, King’s Cross St Pancras.

    1991 – Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon release Anglican Church envoys Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland.

    1993 – In South Africa, 21 political parties approve a new constitution, expanding voting rights and ending white minority rule.

    2002 – Iraq disarmament crisis: United Nations weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix arrive in Iraq.

    2003 – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules 4–3 in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and gives the state legislature 180 days to change the law making Massachusetts the first state in the United States to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples.

    2013 – NASA launches the MAVEN probe to Mars.

    2020 – The Utah monolith, built sometime in 2016 is discovered by state biologists of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

    1787 – Louis Daguerre, French artist, photographer and inventor (d. 1851).

    1810 – Asa Gray, American botanist and academic (d. 1888).

    1836 – W. S. Gilbert, English playwright, poet, and illustrator (d. 1911).

    1882 – Wyndham Lewis, English painter and critic (d. 1957).

    1882 – Frances Gertrude McGill, pioneering Canadian forensic pathologist (d. 1959).

    1901 – George Gallup, American statistician (d. 1984).

    1906 – George Wald, American neurobiologist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1997).

    1907 – Compay Segundo, Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2003).

    1909 – Johnny Mercer, American singer-songwriter and producer, co-founded Capitol Records (d. 1976).

    1923 – Alan Shepard, American astronaut (d. 1998).

    1936 – Don Cherry, American trumpet player (d. 1995).

    1939 – Margaret Atwood, Canadian author.

    1939 – Amanda Lear, Hong Kong-French singer-songwriter and actress. [Lear’s origins are unclear. Contested facts include her birth date and place, the gender she was assigned at birth, names and nationalities of her parents, and the location of her upbringing. During a 2010 interview with French newspaper Libération, Lear presented her identity card to the journalist, and it read: “born 18 November 1950 in Saigon”. Georges Claude Guilbert claims, “Most biographers believe she was born in 1939, whatever she might declare to the contrary.”]

    1941 – David Hemmings, English actor and director (d. 2003).

    1944 – Ed Krupp, American astronomer, archaeoastronomer, author, Director Griffith Observatory.

    1950 – Graham Parker, English singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1953 – Alan Moore, English author.

    1960 – Kim Wilde, English singer-songwriter.

    1961 – Steven Moffat, Scottish screenwriter and producer.

    1962 – Kirk Hammett, American guitarist, songwriter, member of the thrash metal band Metallica.

    1968 – Owen Wilson, American actor.

    1970 – Megyn Kelly, American lawyer and journalist.

    1971 – Thérèse Coffey, English chemist and politician. [Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until earlier this week.]

    1975 – Anthony McPartlin, English comedian, actor, and producer. [One half of the ubiquitous Ant and Dec. He’s always the one standing on the left.]

    1979 – Nate Parker, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter.

    1980 – Hamza al-Ghamdi, Saudi Arabian terrorist, hijacker of United Airlines Flight 175 (d. 2001).

    For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one:
    1441 – Roger Bolingbroke, English cleric, astronomer, astrologer, magister and alleged necromancer.

    1814 – William Jessop, English engineer (b. 1745).

    1830 – Adam Weishaupt, German philosopher and academic, founded the Illuminati (b. 1748).

    1922 – Marcel Proust, French author and critic (b. 1871).

    1952 – Paul Éluard, French poet and author (b. 1895).

    1962 – Niels Bohr, Danish footballer, physicist, and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1885).

    1969 – Ted Heath, English trombonist and bandleader (b. 1902).

    1969 – Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., American businessman and diplomat, 44th United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom (b. 1888).

    1972 – Danny Whitten, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Crazy Horse) (b. 1943). [His most famous composition, “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”, was a hit for Rod Stewart and Everything but the Girl. Neil Young wrote “The Needle and the Damage Done” with direct references to Whitten’s addiction and its role in the destruction of his talent. Young’s album Tonight’s the Night was an expression of grief following the deaths through overdose of Whitten and Young’s friend and roadie Bruce Berry.]

    1976 – Man Ray, American-French photographer and painter (b. 1890).

    1994 – Cab Calloway, American singer-songwriter and bandleader (The Cab Calloway Orchestra) (b. 1907).

    1999 – Doug Sahm, American singer and guitarist (b. 1941).

    2002 – James Coburn, American actor (b. 1928).

    2003 – Michael Kamen, American composer and conductor (b. 1948).

    2004 – Cy Coleman, American pianist and composer (b. 1929).

    2014 – Dave Appell, American singer-songwriter and producer (b. 1922).

    2016 – Sharon Jones, American soul and funk singer (b. 1956).

    2017 – Malcolm Young, Scottish-Australian hard rock guitarist (b. 1953).

  2. cider is best when it’s slightly alcoholic
    When my sister first moved to the US and ordered a cider she was very disappointed to receive what was essentially apple juice. She swiftly learned that she needed to ask for “hard cider”. Yet another word that got lost in translation when crossing the Atlantic…

    1. Interesting

      Yes indeed, it can taste like raw apple juice .

      “Hard” can be taken too far though – ever try hard lemonade?

    2. The traditional Somerset recipe for cider – blood, iron and apples – is traditionally served by nailing a dead rat inside the brewing vat. That, and up to wine-strength alcohol levels is why “traditional” cider is called “loopy juice” in some parts of the country.

  3. Stella Braverman is not brave. She’s a would-be tyrant. The police do not have the power to ban peaceful demonstrations. She was literally attacking them for not ignoring the law to get the results she wants. See also her views on the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – solving the problem of legal challenges by ruling them out by law.

    1. Also she wasn’t sacked for these comments. The prime minister had lined up her successor several days before she made this statement.

    2. She is positioning herself to fight the post-election Tory leadership bloodbath, and is targetting that constituency (about 100,000 Conservative Party members), not the British public. She’ll be calling for execution-on-accusation before long.

  4. I would humbly submit that the bias that MSM is showing towards Hamas and against Israel is not new behavior on their part; that their coverage of many subjects has shown the same unthinking acceptance of any statements in favor of some topics and groups, as well as their demand for an enhanced level of proof when confronted with opposing evidence or views. We have seen their poor handling of wokery pokery (thanks, Sir Richard), as well as of child transdenderism. I would suggest that people consider all those things about which the MSM has been up in arms over the last decade, about which they have been agitated, and consider whether or not the information you’ve been getting has been complete or even true. These people clearly represent a side, and that is the side that is OK with some people getting massacred and children being mutilated in the name of diversity. Bias is their business.

    1. As a reference librarian, I advise my patrons that the principle of “caveat emptor” applies to news consumption, too. In the old days, this meant balancing the NY Times with the Wall Street Journal, TIME with Newsweek with US News and World Report, The Nation with National Review with Reason, the Chicago Tribune with the Daily News/Sun-Times. You get the idea. And I don’t need to tell you that in this Internet Age it’s more important than ever to know the biases and leanings of news and opinion sources. For example, I, like our host, read Bari Weiss regularly, and I balance this reading by regularly reading one of her fiercest critics, Tana Ganeva. You may also know about Ground News, which I use to get the bearings on which way lesser known news sources are heading.

  5. The sickle-cell treatment won’t fix gametes, tho, right? So anyone undergoing the treatment will still be strongly advised to undergo genetic testing on any future fetuses, I would expect.

    Also, does the treatment involved staying in isolated in a sterile chamber for a month? An old college classmate came down with (IIRC) leaf-cell myeloma and was cured after a stem-cell treatment that ended after a one-month stay in isolation in a stainless-steel chamber. If something like that is part of the treatment, it would explain the extraordinary cost, but I haven’t heard any details explaining the cost.

    1. The price (if not the cost) is usually set at the maximum that paying agencies are willing to pay, given the savings real and imagined that might result if the treatment works as advertised….and the bad optics from being stingy with a treatment that would be given almost exclusively to black people. Don’t know how it works in the UK, but the Pharma pretty much has America over a barrel on this one. The nightmare of the bean counters is an enormously expensive treatment for a common disease that you can’t say No to.

      Actual costs would be proprietary secrets. But this is essentially an autologous stem-cell transplant plus the cost of the CRISPR technique itself performed in vitro on the harvested stem cells. The pre-treatment chemotherapy doesn’t have to eradicate a malignant clone of white blood cells in the marrow, just most of the normal red cell precursors so the re-infused stem cells can engraft. While infection is acknowledged as a risk, it doesn’t seem that any patients have died. Sickle disease is not leukemia or myeloma. You don’t want your treatment to kill people. They seem to spend a lot of time in hospital during the treatment though, at this point on the learning curve.

      Since only the harvested stem cells are CRISPR’ed, the ones that remain in the marrow can continue to produce Hb S as before once they start to regrow after the chemo. Will the treatment be durable past one year? We don’t know yet. I don’t see anything in the method that would permanently shut down the un-CRISPR’ed Hb S-producing red cells.

      Most of the off-setting savings are likely illusory. The medical costs incurred currently by most patients with severe sickle disease — the target population for CRISPR-Casgevy — are uncompensated where no money changes hands (i.e., free) for the care delivered, or paid at low Medicaid rates. (Few survive to age 65 where they qualify for Medicare, workforce insurance participation is low, and none will be military veterans.) No one makes money off sickle disease…until now, maybe. Adding an enormous funding obligation to the state Medicaid budgets for one disease will result in lower reimbursement for the already unattractive bologna-and-potatoes care of indigent people for myriad other diseases. Universal single-payer systems have more people to spread the costs over but they won’t necessarily be enthusiastic about it.

  6. The sickle-cell treatment won’t fix gametes, tho, right?

    The stem cells being modified are not germ-line cells, so you’re correct.

    Also, does the treatment involved staying in isolated in a sterile chamber for a month?

    Hmmm, not sure about that. The cells they need to target are those that generate red blood cells (which have about an 80 day lifetime, not a month) not those that produce the many varieties of “white blood cells” (T-cells, B-cells … ; much longer lifetimes). But whether the chemotherapy can be that closely targetted, I don’t know.
    Also, they could take samples of the white blood cells before applying the chemotherapy, then re-perfuse the patient after the chemotherapy chemicals have decayed/ excreted. That should reduce the amount of “re-training” that the immune system would need after treatment.
    Since, in adults, red blood cell synthesis is limited to some “long bones” and ribs, while AIUI white blood cell synthesis is more distributed in lymph nodes and the thalamus, is there potential to circulate a chemotherapy precursor drug, but to activate it by targetted radiotherapy of the red blood cell generation sites. I’ve heard of such spatial targetting for cancer treatments, but not sure if it could be brought into this sort of treatment.

  7. What is the room in which Cleese is interviewing Pluckrose, the one with the wandering kitties and many wearing funny hats?

    1. That’s the set of Cleese’s TV show. I think he wanted to have something reminiscent of Monty Python. I’m eager to check out Dinosaur Hour but since I’m the US I’ll likely have to resort to internet downloads. Cleese’s politics are mostly centrist; he supported Brexit but is strongly anti-Tory and anti-Republican.

  8. I thought the new CRISPR sickle cell therapy was not done by correcting defective adult hemoglobin genes but rather by re-activating the fetal hemoglobin genes?

    1. Correct. It’s actually better just to re-activate fetal hemoglobin because then it works in any condition where you want to up-regulate fetal hemoglobin. Some people with sickle disease have other mutations in addition to Glu -> Val. There are double heterozygotes with Hb S and Hb C, and then there is thalassemia. You can have thal and sickle both! Instead of making a CRISPR for every one of these mutations, you just need a snipper to kill the fetal switch gene, which doesn’t care about mutations at all.

  9. I imagine the Israelies going into those tunnels are going to proceed with enormous, extraordinary and painfully deliberate caution. Booby traps could contain more than just explosives – things that could kill off every person present in the tunnels. Anthrax, Novichok, or Sarin. Sarin is probably most suspect since the Hamas is pals with Assad, and that’s what Assad has used before.

  10. Living out here in Thousand Oaks (and having attended Moorpark College where the arrested professor teaches/taught), I don’t see how the delay in arresting the culprit represents bias. There were apparently conflicting reports on what happened, and a lack of video evidence. Not wanting to mess things up, the authorities proceeded slowly. This area is hardly a hotbed of anti-Israel activity, IMO, or a woke liberal bastion.

    I realize some of this news account is meant hyperbolically, and I am not defending CNN’s headline, but it’s not like this area is pro-Hamas or even particularly pro-Palestinian.

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