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Salmon Preparation Board

Salmon: Not Out of the Woods Yet

On December 21, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration published a draft environmental assessment for a new variety of salmon that promises to benefit the health and wallets of consumers, reduce dramatically the environmental impacts some have linked to conventionally farmed salmon, and reduce over-fishing pressure on wild salmon stocks. The publication of this EA is noteworthy because it marks at least a temporary elevation of facts, reason, and innovation-friendly policy over ignorance, mendacity, and what appears to have been ill-considered political interference with science-based and pro-innovation policies with a long history of strong, bipartisan support.

The document should have been published more than a year ago. But as is often the case with pathbreaking innovations, its road has been marked by unexpected bumps and potholes.  It finally looked as if the path to publication was clear last April, when movement suddenly stopped without explanation. The story is well told in SLATE , by Jon Entine, who has ferreted out indications that it was put on hold out of fears its publication might anger a portion of President Obama’s most fervent base, a calculation of elevated political significance in an

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New Year’s Resolution for the Federal Government: Make It Easy to Complete Federal Forms Electronically

The federal government maintains thousands of forms that citizens, businesses and state and local governments must fill out, but many of these forms are available only on paper. Case in point: the IRS. The start of a new year marks the beginning of tax season as businesses, non-profits and individuals must begin preparing a number of tax documents in advance of upcoming filing deadlines. Over the years completing tax forms has become easier as the IRS has implemented digital forms for filers and electronic filing options, including the very successful Free File program that partners with private tax service providers  to provide free software for online tax preparation and filing. But while the IRS has made a lot of progress in some areas, it remains woefully outdated in others. One example of this is the 1099-MISC form which businesses (including households who hire self-employed workers, like a housekeeper) must submit for all vendors, contractors, etc. to which they paid more than $600 per year. ... Read the rest

Pharmaceutical Innovation and Longevity

Recently, I wrote a piece outlining the big-benefits from big-pharma, and this last week another working paper hit the NBER stands highlighting even more starkly the real effect drug vintage is having on human life-expectancy.  No, we aren’t talking about immortality, but wouldn’t you like to have another 4 months to live with your friends and family? That is exactly what Frank Lichtenberg of Columbia University found was the increase in life-expectancy that can be directly attributed to the increases in drug vintage experienced between 1996 and 2003.

Lichtenberg, using exceptional data from individual patient records, “investigate[s] whether patients using newer drugs in a given year remain alive longer than patients using older drugs, controlling for many important patient characteristics.”

He finds that “between 1996 and 2003, the mean vintage of prescription drugs increased by 6.6 years. This is estimated to have increased life expectancy of elderly Americans by 0.41-0.47 years. This suggests that not less than two-thirds of the 0.6-year increase in the life expectancy of elderly Americans during 1996-2003 was due to the increase in drug vintage. The 1996-2003 increase in drug vintage is also

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Manufacturing Plant with American Flag

“The Atlantic” Story of American Manufacturing Renaissance? Think Again

The cover story of this month’s The Atlantic is titled “Comeback: Why the Future of Industry is In America.” The lead article by Charles Fishman argues that the outsourcing wave is largely over and now U.S. companies, exemplified by GE’s appliance division doing more work in the U.S., are seeing the light and moving work back to the U.S. Given the decimation of  U.S. manufacturing over the last decade,  I sincerely hope Fishman is right.

But I fear he is not. If he’s right, one would expect to see the results show up in the trade statistics. But according the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the quarterly trade deficit in goods is 22 percent higher than it was in the first quarter of 2010. But maybe appliances are the exception and are indeed coming back. Not so. In fact, the trade deficit in appliances (Household and kitchen appliances and other household goods) has grown even faster, up over one-third (34 percent) over the same period. Hardly evidence of a mass return of manufacturing to American shores.

To be sure Chinese wages are rising somewhat, their undervalued currency is up a

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Black and White Plant Cells Under Microscope

Carbon Fiber a Government Clean Tech Innovation Success Story

A microscopic look at the surface geometry of developmental carbon fiber. Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Ford and Dow Automotive Systems – a division of the Dow Chemical Company – recently announced that their respective engineers and researchers would collaborate to develop and produce products using low-cost carbon fiber, a polymer with a very high strength-to-weight ratio. While much of the interest in new automobile technology is directed at more efficient batteries for electric vehicles, low-cost carbon fiber has major implications for developing a low-carbon transportation sector as well. Using the material could cut the weight of future Ford cars and trucks by as much as 750 pounds while possibly increasing crash protection, making it “the holy grail of weight reduction,” as Autoblog put it. This could prove essential to not only making new gasoline-powered vehicles more fuel efficient, but also for increasing the performance of electric vehicles and other clean technologies. And although Ford and Dow’s agreement might seem like another run-of-the-mill corporate partnership, it is in fact the latest product of many years of strong public investment and vital public-private partnerships.

Carbon fiber composites have

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Spectrum News That’s Fit to Print and More

Last Wednesday (April 18th) I testified at a hearing of the House Technology and Innovation Subcommittee on the spectrum crunch, along with a panel of well-informed people (see webcast here.) When you testify at a Congressional hearing, you prepare some written testimony, you deliver an opening statement, and then the questions start. More than anything, the committee wanted to know if the spectrum crunch is real, and if so, what the consequences will be for innovation and what the government can do to help.

The notion of a capacity crunch in any kind of network scenario is actually a bit subtle. We use networks indirectly, as means to run applications, to get content, and to use services. When network capacity is constrained (which it always is in one way or another) we use the applications that work well, and have little awareness of things we might be doing if capacity were greater. Why would app developers pour resources into developing apps that nobody can use? Developers want to make money and have lots of people using their code, so they simply don’t waste their time on

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