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A loyal reader asked for some good news. Discovery.com has the first piece. Seems one disgusting American swamp filled with pestilence, is sinking and someday will disappear. We allude to Washington, DC.
Twelve feet of sea-level rise — right in the middle of several forecasts that report Antarctic glaciers are starting to collapse — would push water up to the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. A new study finds the region will also sink 6 inches, due to natural forces, in the next 100 years.
Washington has its fair share of problems. Summer humidity can be intolerable. The traffic is maddening. And it’s just crawling with mosquitoes and politicians. Now we can add “it’s sinking” to this unfortunate list. …
More good news, this time from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. In his USA Today column this week he compliments the administration for the stance they have taken on occupational licensing.
Last week, I wrote in these pages about how politicians use regulation and licensing to protect their supporters from competition at the expense of the public welfare.
A few days later, the White House essentially endorsed this point with a new report on how occupational licensing hurts the economy, and in particular the working poor. This isn’t a new point, of course. Libertarians (like me) have been making it for decades, and the Institute For Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, has been suing on behalf of licensing’s victims for many years. But it’s one thing for libertarian economists and lawyers to argue for a position, and it’s another for it to be endorsed by a Democratic White House.
The White House report, entitled Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers, raises some important points. First, “more than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with most of these workers licensed by the states. The share of workers licensed at the state level has risen fivefold since the 1950s.” Where a license used to be required only for unusual jobs, now licensing requirements take up a major part of the employment sphere — and not just for physicians, but also for florists or funeral attendants. …
NY Times brings more good news with a well reasoned and written article on “The Myth of Big Bad Gluten.”
AS many as one in three Americans tries to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten-free menus, gluten-free labels and gluten-free guests at summer dinners have proliferated.
Some of the anti-glutenists argue that we haven’t eaten wheat for long enough to adapt to it as a species. Agriculture began just 12,000 years ago, not enough time for our bodies, which evolved over millions of years, primarily in Africa, to adjust. According to this theory, we’re intrinsically hunter-gatherers, not bread-eaters. If exposed to gluten, some of us will develop celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or we’ll simply feel lousy.
Most of these assertions, however, are contradicted by significant evidence, and distract us from our actual problem: an immune system that has become overly sensitive.
Wheat was first domesticated in southeastern Anatolia perhaps 11,000 years ago. (An archaeological site in Israel, called Ohalo II, indicates that people have eaten wild grains, like barley and wheat, for much longer — about 23,000 years.)
Is this enough time to adapt? To answer that question, consider how some populations have adapted to milk consumption. We can digest lactose, a sugar in milk, as infants, but many stop producing the enzyme that breaks it down — called lactase — in adulthood. For these “lactose intolerant” people, drinking milk can cause bloating and diarrhea. To cope, milk-drinking populations have evolved a trait called “lactase persistence”: the lactase gene stays active into adulthood, allowing them to digest milk.
Milk-producing animals were first domesticated about the same time as wheat in the Middle East. As the custom of dairying spread, so did lactase persistence. What surprises scientists today, though, is just how recently, and how completely, that trait has spread in some populations. Few Scandinavian hunter-gatherers living 5,400 years ago had lactase persistence genes, for example. Today, most Scandinavians do.
Here’s the lesson: Adaptation to a new food stuff can occur quickly — in a few millenniums in this case. So if it happened with milk, why not with wheat? …
If you’ve been wondering how it is a dentist can spend $54,000 to bag a lion, Washington Post has answers.
At $54,000, the reported price of the trip that an American dentist took to Zimbabwe is nearly as shocking as the death of Cecil, the widely known and universally beloved lion he killed while he was there.
The neighborhood dentist seems far removed from the upper echelons of medicine, someone who comes in for a few minutes at the end of a cleaning to check your teeth and ask about your kids, occasionally doing a filling or root canal. No doubt these services are critical to patients and our overall health, but some might be surprised to learn that a dentist could afford to spend $50,000 on a hunting expedition.
It turns out, however, that dentists are quite well paid. According to official government statistics, the median dentist in the U.S. in 2012 earned $149,310 per year. But that median figure obscures variation around the country and among dentists with different specialties. In some high-priced cities, dentists make a lot of money with non-medical, cosmetic procedures from teeth whitening to botox. And according to the American Dental Association, the average dental specialist earned $283,900 in 2013.
Dentists in some places are so well compensated that they earn more than the average doctor. According to a 2012 report in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the average hourly wage of a dentist in America is $69.60 vs. $67.30 for a physician. As recently as 1996, dentists were making less than doctors. Meanwhile, the average general dental practitioner took in $181,000 in 2013, according to the dental association, compared to $175,000 for a family doctor, according to WebMD Medscape’s annual compensation report. …
And if you’ve been wondering how the Mexican Sinaloa cartel digs mile long tunnels, The New Yorker has answers.
At 8:52 P.M. on July 11th, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug kingpin known as El Chapo, sat on the bed of his cell in Altiplano, Mexico’s only super-maximum-security prison. Surveillance footage appears to show a small screen glowing on a table nearby—inmates are not allowed cell phones, but this rule is not always enforced. Guzmán changed his shoes, walked to a shower area in the corner of the cell, and knelt behind a waist-high concrete partition, out of view of security cameras. Six seconds later, he was gone.
A rough-edged opening, about twenty inches square, had been cut into the floor. According to Mexico’s national-security commissioner, Guzmán climbed into the hole and down a ladder, entering a 4,921-foot-long tunnel. Fluorescent lights hung from a ceiling-mounted PVC pipe, which also brought fresh air into the passageway. Metal tracks had been bolted to the ground, allowing an ad-hoc vehicle—a railcar rigged to the frame of a small motorcycle—to be driven from one end of the tunnel to the other. The gray stone walls, about thirty inches apart, were scored with jagged marks made by electric spades; Guzmán’s shoulders probably brushed the walls as he passed.
The tunnel ended beneath a small cinder-block house in an open field. As Guzmán climbed a wooden ladder toward ground level, he passed the evidence of what seemed to be a months-long engineering project: a generator, which had powered the tools that workmen used to build the tunnel; a heavy-duty electric winch, to lower machinery into the pit; gallons of hydraulic fluid; coils of steel mesh.
Guzmán’s method of escape should have surprised no one. Last year, in Culiacán, he evaded Mexican marines by disappearing into a network of subterranean passageways connecting seven houses. He did not invent smuggling tunnels—bank robbers, rumrunners, and guerrillas had used them for decades—but his criminal enterprise, the Sinaloa drug cartel, built the first cross-border narcotúnel, in 1989. Since then, Sinaloa has refined the art of underground construction and has used tunnels more effectively than any criminal group in history.
In the past quarter century, officials have discovered a hundred and eighty-one illicit passages under the U.S.-Mexico border. Most have been short, narrow “gopher holes” just big enough for a person to crawl through. Sinaloa specializes instead in infrastructural marvels that federal agents call supertunnels. Agents estimate that a single supertunnel takes several months and more than a million dollars to build. Many include elevators, electric lights, ventilation ducts, and cleverly disguised entry and exit shafts. They can reach as deep as seventy feet, and they tend to be tall enough for an adult to walk or ride through. …