Farm animals are big drug users.
“Seventy percent of all antibiotics produced in this country, by weight, go to animals,” says Stuart Levy, a professor at Tufts University and president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. He says almost all of those are feed additives. “Do we need all this antibiotic usage?" he asks. "The answer is no.”
The FDA, concerned about bacteria in humans becoming resistant to antibiotics, agrees -- no more using antibiotics to fatten animals. It’s asking drug companies to voluntarily change their labels, technically restricting use by farmers and potentially raising their costs.
Gay Miller is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A decade ago she estimated removing antibiotics to encourage growth might cost farmers a little more than a dollar a pig. Today, she says, it’s less clear what it might cost. Farmers, she says, want to “produce a pig that is healthy and high quality as efficiently as possible.”
“Certainly it is not something that’ll make the price of meat go down,” says Scott Hurd, a professor at Iowa State University and former USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety. He says the ag industry is ready for the change. But the rules aren’t going to stop farmers from giving drugs to their animals to keep them healthy.
“We’re raising babies here," he says, "and the important thing about antibiotics is to raise those babies in a healthy way.”
The pharma companies don’t seem all that worried they’re about to lose a big customer.
“We think the implications will be pretty minor, at least in the near term,” says David Krempa, an analyst at Morningstar. He thinks without a tougher ban, farmers are going to keep doing what they do.
Instagram, the social media photo sharing site, has introduced a new feature -- Instagram Direct. Normally, if you post a video or photo with the service, anyone (and I mean anyone) can see it. Starting today, you can share your snapshots and comments back-and-forth in real time -- only with the users you want.
If you’re wondering if Instagram’s new private feature was motivated by concerns about privacy...the answer is, not so much.
“I really believe that this new feature that Instagram has released is about competition,” says Brian Blau, research director in consumer technologies with Gartner, a technology research firm, "It's about 'me too.'"
Blau points out that Facebook, which owns Instagram, had tried to buy Snapchat, a photo and messaging service, for billions of dollars. So if you can't buy 'em -- build the same features on your site so your users don't leave.
"They’re all starting to look the same. These services are really starting to be homogenous, starting to look like one big pile of goop," Blau says. "That probably isn’t good for them."
Instagram’s game of copycat, says Julie Ask, a principal analyst with Forrester research, is actually part of a larger phenomenon.
"What's happening now is there's lot of applications that want to become platforms," she says. "They want to become that interface between the consumer and the phone-that-does-all-things."
Ask says in order to reach 'platform' status, companies are willing to take some risks -- like offering similar features.
"It's a very powerful thing, it's something that they can monetize if they can achieve it and so the stakes are very high. So while there is a chance that all of these services begin to seem the same, you've got to take a shot," she says.
Ask notes that while Instagram has 80 million users, WeChat, an app popular in Asia, has attracted hundreds of millions and in the process gained coveted 'platform' status.
"I used WeChat in Beijing a month ago," she says, "and we ordered takeout food from a micro app within WeChat."
Ask says the Americans needs to catch up with the global market for mobile technology.
"We don’t write about it because we don’t see it and live it every day," says Ask. "But if you go to Korea, or Indonesia, or the Philippines or China, that’s where you’re engaging everyday. That’s your environment, that’s where your friends are."
While there is a lot that is not in the House-approved budget deal crafted by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), it does take most of the sting out of "the sequester” -- the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts aimed at trimming the deficit. The second round of those is supposed to kick in next month.
Sequestration came to life on March 1, with cuts to the tune of $85 billion dollars. According to Bruce Cain, a political science professor at Stanford University, it was designed to be unappealing to lawmakers in both parties.
“The idea was that it would be so unpalatable that eventually they would come to the table,” he says.
But that took a while. Some programs were exempt, and Congress passed exceptions for air traffic controllers and FBI agents. So, for many Americans, that first round of cuts seemed abstract, Cain says.
“It didn’t ripple out to the public in the same way that, say, cuts at the local government level and the state level do,” he says.
Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, wonders if we will see more sequesters in the future, because politicians might now see it as a viable way to reduce spending.
The fear of more cuts next year is what finally got negotiators to compromise. But according to Alice Rivlin, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, it is too soon to do a postmortem.
“The sequester is not dead,” she says, noting Ryan and Murray’s deal is just a partial replacement for only two of the sequester’s remaining eight years.
“This sequester is still moving,” says Paul Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at New York University. “It’s still alive. This is going to come up over and over again.”
By law -- until Fiscal Year 2021.
The communications agency's commissioners voted 3-2 to consider new rules allowing voice calls while jetliners are in the air — something that's been forbidden on U.S. flights. But the head of the Department of Transportation says he's "concerned" by the prospect of such calls.
He defied a military dictator, sacked a prime minister, and persistently called generals and intelligence chiefs to account. Now, Iftikhar Chaudhry has retired after a tenure that changed the balance of power in his turbulent nation.
The giant cutter is designed to bore through rock and soil without a problem. But it has hit something that has brought work on a highway tunnel to a stop. Officials say it may take a couple weeks to figure out what's going on. Theories, anyone?
The former Price Is Right host is backing Republican David Jolly in a special election next month for a St. Petersburg-area congressional seat. The 90-year-old tells voters, "When you get to be as young as I am, you call it like you see it."
The world needs new antibiotics because so many of the existing drugs are losing their punch. Some people are already talking about a "post-antibiotic era," when bacteria can defeat all the drugs doctors have at their disposal. Two scientists are crowdfunding a campaign to get everyone digging for new antibiotics.