Rebecca Zisser / Axios

CRISPR has been used to alter genes in many plant and animal species, adult humans and recently human embryos. Continued successful studies may lead to a time when we can "fix" genetic problems before birth. But as the scientific studies of gene editing progress, we have to answer some questions:

  • Genetic changes to a human embryo are "germ-line" changes that can be passed on to future generations. While that means we wouldn't have to treat a disease in each subsequent generation, scientists are naturally wary of these types of interventions because we don't yet understand the long-term repercussions of making a genetic change that will affect more than the original entity.
  • Gene editing raises the specter of parents manipulating their children, and a Gattaca-type future of haves and have-nots. But these first experiments involved only a change to a single gene in an embryo in a petri dish. Most characteristics parents are likely to want to design involve multiple genes, and environmental interactions. If we can eventually tailor those traits, should we? What things are permissible to alter? And who should control access to this new technology?
  • Before we implant modified embryos we'll have to address whether this is acceptable experimentation on pregnant women or the subsequently born child.

The bottom line: Science does not translate immediately into practice. We won't have "designer babies" anytime soon but these are important early studies, and they raise a number of ethical questions. We should consider those questions carefully.

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Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 20,412,501 — Total deaths: 744,649— Total recoveries: 12,629,465Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 5,163,509 — Total deaths: 164,994 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi on state of coronavirus stimulus talks: "It's a chasm"
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: Gallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.

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Democrats and the Trump administration remain "miles apart" on negotiations over a coronavirus stimulus deal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday.

Driving the news, via Axios' Dion Rabouin: Congress' failure to renew enhanced unemployment measures for millions of Americans at the end of July is already affecting consumer spending patterns, holding down retail purchases and foot traffic, economists at Deutsche Bank say.

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U.S. threatens to veto UN peacekeeping in Lebanon over Hezbollah concerns

Peacekeepers with Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty

The Trump administration is threatening to veto a resolution to extend the UN's long-standing peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon if its mandate isn't changed, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.S. is the main funder of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has an annual budget of $250 million. The veto threat is a tactical move, and part of a broader effort to put pressure on Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah.