The week at a glance...United States
San Francisco Glass attack: In the latest backlash against Silicon Valley’s tech elites, a woman wearing Google Glass was attacked last week while showing off her new purchase at a San Francisco dive bar. According to tech writer Sarah Slocum—who uploaded a video of the incident, captured on her Google Glass, to YouTube, and also posted about it on Facebook and Twitter—she was in the middle of a friendly demonstration of the head-mounted computer when a group of patrons became upset about being filmed. One heckler threw a punch, before another ripped the device off her face and ran out of the bar. “I got verbally and physically assaulted” because of some “Google Glass haters,” posted Slocum. Over the last year, highly paid tech workers have been the target of several protests in the area, amid resentment over rising living costs and the gentrification of working-class neighborhoods.
Palo Alto, Calif. Paralysis scare: As many as 25 children across California have been paralyzed by a mysterious polio-like illness since 2012, state doctors said this week. The children, between ages 2 and 16, developed flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems before experiencing a sudden weakness in their limbs. “What we’re seeing now is bad,” said Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto. “The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs,” he said. “It’s like the old polio.” A highly infectious disease, polio peaked in the 1950s, paralyzing up to 20,000 Americans a year, before being virtually eradicated worldwide. A study found that affected children had been vaccinated against polio, and doctors now suspect a rare form of a human enterovirus.
New York CityDeath from bad air: One person was killed and another 27 people were hospitalized last week during a carbon monoxide leak at a restaurant in a Long Island mall. Authorities initially arrived at Legal Sea Foods at the Walt Whitman Shops to treat a woman who had fallen and hit her head in the basement. But when they started to feel sick themselves, the first responders suspected a carbon monoxide leak and immediately evacuated the restaurant and two nearby businesses. Restaurant manager Steven Nelson, found unconscious in the basement, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Around 430 people in the U.S. die each year of poisoning from the odorless, colorless gas, but most states, including New York, don’t require carbon monoxide detectors in restaurants or malls. Fire officials blamed last week’s leak on a water heater’s faulty flue.
Washington, D.C. Three-parent IVF: The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to allow three parents to combine their DNA to create embryos free of certain genetic defects. The ethically contentious in vitro fertilization procedure has been used in monkeys by researchers in Oregon and could potentially be used for women who carry DNA mutations for conditions such as epilepsy and blindness, and who don’t wish to pass these characteristics on to their children. But “three-parent IVF” has raised criticism that it will lead to the creation of “designer” babies whose characteristics are chosen by their parents. “What we’re talking about is radical experimentation on future children,” said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. “A decision of such profound magnitude should not be made behind the mostly closed doors of this agency.”
Washington, D.C. Emissions decision: A sharply divided Supreme Court signaled that it might rule that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority by trying to limit greenhouse gas emissions. During oral arguments this week, liberal justices said the EPA’s decision to adapt the 1970 Clean Air Act to control the emissions of power plants was fair. But conservative Justice Samuel Alito said the agency had “taken a statute with numbers,” crossed them out, “and written in the numbers that it likes.” With the court divided, the deciding vote could rest with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who appeared skeptical that the EPA could force large polluters to limit emissions while exempting smaller facilities like schools. “I couldn’t find a single precedent that strongly supports your position,” Kennedy told government lawyers.
Washington, D.C. Holder weighs in: Attorney General Eric Holder injected the Obama administration into the heated national debate over gay marriage this week by saying that state attorneys general don’t have to defend same-sex marriage bans. “If I were attorney general in Kansas in 1953, I would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities,” said Holder, comparing today’s campaign for gay rights to the civil rights movement. He made his comments as legal battles continue in several states, including Virginia and Kentucky, over the constitutionality of their same-sex marriage bans. Six state attorneys general—all Democrats—have refused to defend such prohibitions, but conservatives say they have a duty to stand by state law, whatever Holder’s personal opinion. “It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions,” said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.