A cascade of seminal events in eight short days has underscored the country’s steady drift away from strains of ideological conservatism and complicated Republicans’ path to winning back the White House in 2016.
From twin Supreme Court rulings upholding President Barack Obama’s wide-reaching health care law and ratifying the right of gays to marry nationwide to the backlash against the Confederate flag and the pope’s June 18 encyclical on climate change, the right has taken a political beating.
“You could feel America turn a little bit on its axis,” said Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on Sunday, appearing on “Face the Nation” to assess the aftermath. “It’ll be a different country for these decisions.”
This may be remembered as a crushing two-week span for conservatism. w
But as Republican leaders wrestle with the fallout, there’s little evidence the GOP’s presidential candidates, or their supporters, are ready to move on. Instead, on many fronts, they’re showing outright, line-in-the-sand defiance.
The decision to fight, not switch, has left some in the party on edge as they ponder the consequences of prolonged fights on issues much of the country apparently considers settled.
While the nation remains largely divided on the concept of Obamacare, less than a third want the law repealed, according to a CBS/New York Times poll.
Yet every Republican presidential candidate vows to scrap the Affordable Care Act if they reach the White House, even if they don’t have a clearly-defined, viable alternative. Some are even going further with their rhetoric, elevating Obamacare to a national crisis.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, dubbed the decision “judicial tyranny.”
Until recently, buying a 3-D printer required a difficult choice: Get a heated-chamber system like the popular MakerBot, which prints durable, colorful pieces marred by ridges and pockmarks. Or go with a stereolithography printer, which produces seamless parts that fracture at the slightest application of force. Now Formlabs offers a third choice with Tough Resin, which creates smooth cyan chains strong enough to hoist cinder blocks.
Formlabs’ recently released its second-gen printer, the Form 1+, a $3,300 aluminum-and-plastic pillar that prints hi-res models using photosensitive resins and laser beams. It might look like a clone of the $2,550 Form 1, which raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter a few years ago, but the resin it uses is a primordial ooze from which almost anything can emerge. That’s a big deal in the low-cost 3-D-printing market.
The SLA technology Formlabs uses binds each layer chemically. “The key ingredient in the resin is a molecule that starts out as long semi-flexible chain of atoms,” says company research scientist Alex McCarthy. “When we cure the resin during the printing process, these chains link up to form a solid network that is hard and rigid under normal conditions.” When a blunt object strikes a part made from the tough resin, the energy is absorbed and the part doesn’t shatter.
The results are impressive, according to technical data provided by Formlabs: The resin has a higher yield strength than traditional ABS formulations. This is rare, but not unprecedented. Raney found some machines that could match or surpass the performance characteristics of the Tough Resin, but they cost well over $50,000.
Lina Moses sensed the ghost of Ebola as soon as her Land Cruiser entered the gate at Kenema Government Hospital. More than a hundred people had died in the treatment center here, an epicenter of the epidemic in Sierra Leone. A doctor who had treated them was buried on a hill overlooking the compound. When Ebola erupted in Kenema in May 2014, Moses was working here as an epidemiologist. She had never seen an Ebola patient. She could have fled home to New Orleans. Instead she stayed, fighting the outbreak and watching patients and friends die one by one.
Eventually Moses returned to the US. But now, two months later, she and one of the people she’d worked with, a physician named John Schieffelin, were back. Moses’ driver eased the Land Cruiser up to her old lab, a single-story building tucked in the corner of the hospital compound. Workers appeared and started to help unload supplies. Moses, meanwhile, stepped out into the searing midday heat and stretched her legs. She saw six people sitting on the concrete steps of an office across from her lab. Some had been nurses and researchers at Kenema; a couple were part of a newly formed survivors’ union. That’s how they’d heard about Moses’ mission.
All six had been infected with Ebola and survived. Hypothetically, that made them immune to the disease. That’s why Moses had returned—to harness that immunity to try to ensure Ebola never killed anyone again.
After getting set up, Moses beckoned the survivors into the lab. A technician slid needles into their veins. The survivors’ blood flowed dark red into purple-topped tubes. Moses watched in silence. Once that fluid had been a mortal danger; now it was a valuable commodity.
When the blood collection was over, Schieffelin passed a survivor outside who didn’t recognize his doctor. Schieffelin covered most of his face with his hand, imitating the mask he’d worn in the wards. “Do you remember me now?” he asked, smiling behind his palm.
Later, Moses’ boss, a virologist named Robert Garry, separated the cells they needed from the blood, washed them, and added a pink buffering liquid to each tube. Garry printed the date—January 12—and an ID number on each tube, then put the tubes into a Mr. Frosty-brand insulated container. Mr. Frosty, in turn, went into a portable freezer. Tucked safely inside, the samples chilled over the next four hours; it was crucial that they cooled slowly, so ice crystals wouldn’t destroy the cells.
Finally, at 11 that night, Moses and Garry donned purple disposable gloves, popped open the lid on Mr. Frosty, and loaded the little labeled tubes into metal cases cooled with liquid nitrogen. She handled each tube for no more than a few seconds. Even the tiny bit of heat from her fingers could warm the cells inside enough to kill them and destroy the knowledge they contained. She shut the case, ready for a journey to the United States.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against one of the Obama administration’s primary battle victories in the so-called war on coal. The court decided that the government hadn’t appropriately considered the economic cost to the coal industry of new rules designed to limit toxic mercury emissions. But buck up, environmentalists. The defeat for the Environmental Protection Agency probably won’t make much of a difference.
At the heart of the court’s decision was a dispute about the benefits of cracking down on mercury pollution from coal burning. From USA Today:
While the estimated annual cost of $9.6 billion is not widely disputed, the cost-benefit ratio is. Opponents said the benefits are as low as $4 million a year. Proponents said when all secondary pollutants are considered, they’re as high as $90 billion.
Under the Clean Air Act, regulations like this must be “appropriate and necessary.” The Supreme Court took the side of the opponents and ruled that the rules did not fit that mandate. “One would not say that it is even rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, in the majority opinion. “No regulation is ‘appropriate’ if it does significantly more harm than good.”
The ruling has been widely interpreted as a setback for Obama’s second-term focus on the environment, but a close reading of the ruling shows that not a whole lot will actually change. My Slate colleague Mark Stern has the main takeaway:
Amassing Power at Ballot Box and on the Battlefield
Recently, Kurds on each side of the Turkey-Syria border have made significant advances in their quest for autonomy. In Turkey, those gains were won at the ballot box, while in Syria they were won on the battlefield. After garnering global sympathy and the support of U.S. airpower with their defense of Kobani against a formidable siege by the Islamic State (also called ISIS), Syria’s Kurds went on to capture the strategic town of Tel Abyad from ISIS on June 15. And as a result of Turkey’s elections a week earlier, the Kurdish-led People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has entered parliament, irrevocably altering Turkey’s political landscape. Indeed, seating the first Kurdish-oriented party in parliament constitutes a milestone for civil rights in Turkey. But in the context of events on both sides of the border, the true winner is Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a party and militant group that initiated the HDP’s creation and whose Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD),is responsiblefor the recent victories against ISIS.
The HDP’s entrance into Turkey’s parliament and the PYD’s control of Syrian territory mark a new chapter in the PKK’s decadelong attempt to create a pan-Kurdish confederation that would bring together the Middle East’s 30 million Kurds.
The PKK leadership has already outlined a path for Kurdish autonomy that obviates the need for independence. The HDP, with whom the PKK shares its grassroots support, has made sufficient gains in Ankara to begin making the PKK’s vision for a pan-Kurdish confederation a reality. In March 2005, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan issued the Declaration of a Democratic Confederalism, which created a road map for establishing a confederation out of four autonomous Kurdish regions, each tied to its country of origin—Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Turkey—through federal relationships. Political advances like the HDP’s victory and military victories like the PYD’s advances in Syria are helping Ocalan’s plan become a reality. In other words, the PKK’s future has never looked brighter.