Treading Dangerous Waters

Grind for November 29th, 2018
“A true friend is the best possession.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I Don’t Like That

The Headline

Trump criticizes GM for cutting American jobs

The Grind

General Motors on Monday announced it would cut 15% of its salaried workers in North America and use that money to develop electric and hybrid vehicles.

The layoffs will put more than 8,000 people in states like Ohio and Michigan out of work.

An additional 6,700 employees will be out of work next year when GM closes three factories located in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario.

Vehicles to be dropped from GM’s US lineup include: the Volt, the Cruze compact car, the Buick LaCrosse, the Impala, and the Cadillac CT6.

The Details

With fewer workers to pay and fewer factories to operate, GM will save an estimated $4.5 billion over the next two years. The company plans to use this money to invest in electric, hybrid, and self-driving vehicles.

“This is what we’re doing to transform the company,” says GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, who received an unpleasant phone call from President Trump on Sunday. “We think it’s appropriate to get in front of it while the business and the economy are strong.”

Trump, who criticized GM last year for its work in Mexico, told Barra she should stop making cars in China and open a new plant in Ohio to replace the one that is closing in 2019.

Barra also received a phone call from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised his government would do everything possible to help families affected by the layoffs.

GM responded to the criticism by claiming to have created or preserved 17,600 American jobs over the past 4 years.

Barra says the goal is to make GM more efficient and invest more money into potentially industry-changing innovations. “This is about making sure GM is lean and agile to get in front and lead in autonomous and electric vehicles.”

Shares of GM stock jumped 4.8% on Monday to reach $37.65.

Breaking News

The Headline

China claims it modified the DNA of two human babies

The Grind

According to reports, Chinese scientist He Jiankui led a secret experiment to modify the DNA of two human embryos.

The two embryos – twin girls Lulu and Nana – were born earlier this month.

As stated in a YouTube video, He claims to have used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to remove a gene associated with HIV. “When Lulu and Nana were just a single cell, this surgery removed the doorway through which HIV enters to infect people,” said He. “The results indicated the surgery worked safely.”

The Details

University of Pennsylvania researcher Kiran Musunuru, who viewed a rough draft of He’s report, calls the experiment “abominable.”

According to Musunuru, the surgery led to mosaicism (mutations) and unexpected genetic changes. Musunuru says he isn’t “categorically against” the gene-editing of embryos, but believes such experiments require serious oversight. “This is the sort of situation where there should have been transparency from the start.”

“When this news first broke, I was appalled, but I was not totally surprised,” says Cornell University researcher and China native Yangyang Cheng, adding that she has no reason to believe the story is fake.

In the US, it is illegal to modify the DNA of human embryos. But in China, the “standards for research on the latest technological frontiers are being set by a government that has always prioritized power over ethics,” says Yangyang.

The experiment also represents China’s push to become the global leader in technology.

“There is a sense of science as a tool of national greatness,” continues Yangyang. He’s experiment “is very much a product of Chinese politics.”

Whether or not Beijing knew about the experiment, He is under investigation and has been suspended from work without pay. His institution denies knowledge of the experiment.

Did you know… There are glasses which allow a red-green color-blind person to see colors the way everyone else does.