Scientists hope microbots will revolutionize medicine - Axios
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Scientists hope microbots will revolutionize medicine

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A group of scientists is calling for more aggressive research on microrobots (or micromotors) that they hope can be used in the human body to perform certain medical functions, like administering drugs, transporting cells, and even carrying sperm to a fertilized egg, per an essay in the science journal Nature.

There are three types of medical micromotors scientists hope can carry out these functions: chemical, physical, and biohybrid.

How they're different:

  • Chemical micromotors react to the liquids around them by using platinum or silver as a catalyst.
  • Physical micromotors manifest as a magnetic helix that act like cargo mules for the body and could perform biopsies or microsurgeries.
  • Biohybrid micromotors are bacteria-driven — they follow bacteria and can be controlled through an external force (think: magnetism) to control and move things around in the body.

Why it matters: "With a coordinated push, microbots could usher in an era of non-invasive therapies within a decade," said Mariana Medina-Sánchez and Oliver G. Schmidt, the researchers behind the essay. Furthermore, the emergence of medical micromotors could revolutionize the types of medicines able to be administered throughout the body, as well as give surgical access to people in more rural areas.

The challenges:

  • Most are currently fueled by toxic chemicals like hydrogen peroxide.
  • Navigating the human body - this is more difficult than making it around a Petri dish.
  • Safety - researchers will have to demonstrate microbots can be removed or breakdown in the body.
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Sanders advocates foreign policy of "global engagement"

Bernie Sanders at a Capitol Hill hearing. Photo: Jose Luis Magana / AP

At Westminster College in Missouri, the same location that Winston Churchill delivered his famous "Iron Curtain" speech in 1946, Sen. Bernie Sanders outlined his vision for American foreign policy today, stating that the objective should be "global engagement based on partnership" rather than dominance or withdrawal.

His bottom line: "In my view the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world, with 'all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands,' as Churchill said right here, 70 years ago."

Sanders' three key areas of global engagement: Climate change, economic inequality, and the promotion of human rights and dignity.

A successful example: Sanders cited the Iran nuclear deal as "real leadership" and "real power" that allowed the U.S. to make the world safer by diplomatic mean. He said that walking away would be a "mistake" that could damage the nation's standing in the world, asking, "Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?"

His next target: He views North Korea as the next target for international cooperation via diplomacy, advocating coordinated sanctions over a military option: "This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, not to be solved by any one country alone but by the international community working together."

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Agriculture Dept. staffed with ex-Trump campaign workers

Trump's campaign slogan appears on a truck by a California farm. Photo: Scott Smith / AP

A number of political appointees at the Department of Agriculture have little agricultural experience — or policy experience at all — but worked on President Trump's campaign, per Politico. A review of 42 resumes revealed that 22 appointees at the USDA worked on the campaign, and some appeared "to lack credentials, such as a college degree, required to qualify for higher government salaries."

Why it matters: It's customary for campaign staff to earn positions in the administrations of the presidents they worked for, but "sources familiar with the department's inner workings" told Politico the lack of experience among Agriculture Dept. appointees is unusual.

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In California, bail could be $75 or $10,000 — for the same crime

An inmate stands at his cell door. Photo: Matt York/AP

California allows counties to set their own bail policies, leading to major differences in how misdemeanors are handled across the state. For example, the bail recommended for public intoxication is $75 in Fresno and $10,000 in Mariposa, according to the Guardian.

Why it matters: It's not just California. Bail reform is an issue in several states, and was introduced in a bill by Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul. In a New York Times op-ed, the two senators argue that the current system "wastes taxpayer dollars," and "disproportionately harms people from low-income communities and communities of color." While the suggested bail amount "bears little resemblance to the final decision," Bill Sheppard, a Florida attorney, told the Guardian, "it coerces people to plead guilty."

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"Devastating" Hurricane Maria intensifies

Power lines lay toppled on the road after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico Wednesday. Photo: Carlos Giusti / AP

Hurricane Maria continued to dump torrential rain on Puerto Rico Thursday morning as it regained strength and marched toward the Dominican Republic. The Category 3 storm, with winds up to 115 mph, is expected to strengthen further as it travels over warm waters today toward Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas.

In Puerto Rico, electricity has been knocked out across the entire island, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló warned that restoring power to could take months. "[Maria is] the most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history," said Rosselló.

Live updates:

  • Forecasters say Puerto Rico will see roughly two feet of rain by Friday. Meanwhile, storm surges are expected to raise water levels as much as six feet in the Dominican Republic, per the NYT.
  • President Trump signed a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico early Thursday morning, and said he plans to visit Puerto Rico soon. Late Wednesday night he tweeted: "Governor @RicardoRossello- We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe! #PRStrong."
  • Gov. Rosselló has declared a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew from Wednesday to Saturday. "The damage is very extensive," he told CNN Wednesday. "It is nothing short of a major disaster."
  • Prime minister of Dominica says at least 15 people are dead, and 20 are missing on the island, per AP.
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Walmart won't hire extra holiday workers in 2017

A shopper looks at Walmart merchandise in Salem, N.H. Photo: Elise Amendola / AP

Walmart isn't hiring seasonal workers this holiday season, and will instead increase existing employees' hours, a decision that underscores the American consumer's strengthening preference for online rather than in-store shopping.

Why it matters: According to retail consultant Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, seasonal retail employment grew last holiday season at the smallest rate since 2009. Seasonal jobs in warehousing and transportation of goods sold online are partly making up for the loss of in-store employment, but those jobs tend to be less evenly distributed geographically than traditional retail gigs.

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Cargill CEO: Ripping up NAFTA would cost us $11 billion

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Cargill chairman and CEO Dave MacLennan has not been shy about his support of global trade, and his confusion over whether President Trump's rhetoric on the subject is a negotiating tactic or a legitimate threat. Axios caught up with MacLennan on the sidelines of the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York. Some takeaways:
Top-line loss: Cargill believes that the dissolution of NAFTA – sans replacement – would result in a 10% haircut to company revenue, which totaled around $110 billion in the most recent fiscal year. For context, Forbes lists Cargill as America's largest privately-held company.
Communication: MacLennan had his first-ever meeting with Commerce Sec. Ross yesterday, and only has had a phoner with Ag Sec. Perdue. He has still not met or spoken with the U.S. Trade Rep. Lighthizer.
New rival: He keeps a close eye on Amazon. Not only because of its move into the food space – now competing with major Cargill clients like Costco and Walmart – but also because he could see it moving into areas like freight (Cargill is the world's largest charterer of dry freight).
Private vs. public: MacLennan says that while Cargill is a major adopter of automation technologies, he believes that the company can be slightly less aggressive because it isn't publicly-traded. "Sometimes I ask at a location why we have people doing a job that maybe seems more efficient and safer to use a machine, and I hear about the importance of creating jobs in that local community, or about the cultural importance of keeping certain people. I'm not sure those arguments would work as well if we had to meet quarterly analyst estimates."
M&A: He declined to comment on reports that Cargill has interest in buying poultry producer Pilgrim's Pride, but did say that the decision is unlikely to be impacted by that company's recent $1.3 billion purchase of Britain's Moy Park. "Both companies are owned by JBS, so I view it as less of a deal and more of an accounting change."
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Spicer: I didn’t “knowingly” lie

Sean Spicer told ABC News' Paula Faris that he knows he "made mistakes" while serving under the Trump administration, but said some people have gone too far in criticizing him for them, such as by "questioning his integrity" and calling him a liar.

More quotes from the interview:

  • On his infamous statement on inauguration crowd size: "I could've probably had more facts at hand and been more articulate in describing... the entirety of what that day was about."
  • On the Russia probe: "There's an issue of executive privilege. And as long as that's not invoked, I will do everything to further... to do my part to further... this investigation coming to a swift conclusion."
  • On his Emmy performance: President Trump was "very supportive." "He thought I did a great job...It was very reassuring."
  • On media criticism: "I know that there are some folks that, no matter what we say or do...some folks in the media that wanted...[to] think that, you know, everything that we did was wrong and want some blanket apology — that's not happening."

Go deeper:

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Pence: "We have options" on North Korea

From Pence's interview:

  • Pence: "There was some talk two, three weeks ago by some commentators that the most powerful military on Earth doesn't have the ability to take action to defend our people. That's wrong."
  • CBS host: "I think it was Steve Bannon who ... was quoted saying that."
  • Pence: "We have options... The president desires a peaceful resolution ... It all begins when the Kim regime announces their willingness to abandon their nuclear and ballistics program."
Flashback: In an August interview, Bannon told the American Prospect, "There's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it ... there's no military solution here, they got us."
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71% support Trump's debt limit deal with Chuck & Nancy

Trump speaking with Republican and Democratic leaders. Photo Evan Vucci / AP

A new NBC News/WSJ poll finds that 71% of Americans support President Trump's deal with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, which tied Hurricane Harvey relief to raising the debt ceiling for three months, instead of Republican leaders' preferred 18 months.

Why it matters: Republicans on the Hill were floored by Trump's decision to side with Democrats, but his voters seem to approve of the president's bipartisan negotiation.

The poll, which was conducted Sept. 14-18, found:

  • Trump's overall approval rating is 43%.
  • His approval ticked up amongst all parties: Since August, approval of Trump's performance rose to 83% of Republicans (from 80%), 41% of Independents (from 32%), and 10% of Democrats (from 8%).
  • Fewer than 30% of Americans support Trump's Twitter use and how the president has handled health care legislation and race relations after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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The incredible, disappearing home down payment

Newly built single-family homes in Las Vegas. Photo: Jae Hong / AP

Many real estate markets across the U.S. are in the midst of an affordability crisis because of rising home prices, tight access to credit, and a homebuilding industry that has been slow to build new homes. That's made it hard for renting millennials — the oldest of whom are well into the prime homebuyers years of their mid-thirties – to afford down payments. 70% of them in a recent survey by real estate data company Zillow said that saving a down payment was the single biggest factor preventing them from buying,

Why this matters: Entrepreneurs across the country are recognizing the opportunity to profit from a broken real estate finance industry that is failing to serve many prospective homebuyers. Startups like Unison and Loftium are looking to profit by investing money upfront with real estate shoppers.

Homeownership has been becoming more expensive for decadesthe median price of a new home in 1974 cost 1.7 times the median income, today that figure is at 2.6. This trend, however, was papered over by the explosion of easy mortgage lending that began nearly twenty years ago and culminated in the bursting of the real estate bubble in 2006.

Since that time, homeownership rates have been depressed, and those who do buy homes are increasingly relying on mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which allow homebuyers to put as little as 3.5% down. This arrangement can be more costly for homeowners, however, because it requires them to pay monthly mortgage insurance fees, and potentially puts the taxpayer at risk if the FHA miscalculates its risks — the agency required a $1.3 billion bailout in 2013 for this reason.

Two approaches

James Riccitelli, CEO of Unison Home Ownership Investors, says in an interview with Axios that he is consistently surprised that nobody in the decades-long history of U.S. housing finance had thought of the company's business model. Unison co-invests with prospective homebuyers — typically putting 10% down along with a bidder's own 10%, helping them qualify for a standard 20% down home loan. Depending on the lender Unison partners with, a homebuyer can end up putting as little as 5%:

  • Unison's investors — who Riccitelli says are typically large pension funds with long investment time horizons — realize a profit only when the home is sold. The product is attractive to such investors because they need assets that match their liabilities, i.e. pension payments sometimes 30 or 40 years away.
  • Other than a few private equity funds that bought up cheap single family homes at the housing market's bottom between 2010-2012, there are few ways for investors to own a diversified pool of residential real estate, a market that at $30 trillion is more valuable than the U.S. stock market
  • A homeowner can buy Unison out at any point after three years — as long it recoups its original investment. A homeowner can sell the home to another party at any point, however, even if it results in Unison taking a loss.
Loftium has an alternative strategy. It will will contribute $50,000 for a down payment, as long as the owner will continuously list an extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share most of the income with Loftium.
  • This strategy might be particularly appealing in booming markets like Seattle, where rent prices are rising even faster than home values themselves, and which are popular tourist destinations.
The bottom line: There is no replacement for good public policy, like expanding the affordable housing tax credit, or rationalizing zoning restrictions in a way that allows homebuilding to meet rising demand. But these business innovations are an important step too, as both startups will enable homeowners to take on less debt, all else equal.
  • Less debt makes government regulators happy, who are keen to expand homeownership without also encouraging reckless lending standards and ballooning debt that led to the last crisis.
  • In both cases, however, a prospective homeowner is selling some upside of home appreciation (or potential revenue from airbnb) in exchange for this reduced risk.