Seattle moves from soaking the rich to … soaking everyone else

As our friend Hugh Hewitt wonders, it’s tough to see why anyone does business in Seattle these days. Fresh off its imposition of a “head tax” on its most successful businesses, the city council has now begun an effort to raise the limit on property taxes on both businesses and homes, not long after the state of Washington already hiked their levies. The city wants to expand free preschool programs and offer free community college, but it will be anything but free to property owners and businesses:

People who own a home in King County are paying about 17% more in property taxes this year than last year to help pay for the state’s funding of public education.

But come November, Seattle leaders will be asking voters to approve a bit more of an increase for city dwellers.

City Council members say while the state funding property tax hike pays for basic education, the levy they want to be renewed will be an extra investment to ensure that kids from preschool to high school will have what it takes to succeed.

But don’t call it a tax hike, says one council member. It’s an enhancement!

In 2014, Seattle voters approved a $58 million levy allowing low-income kids to go to preschool for free. …

“So it’s just an enhancement of the property tax that people are currently paying and have been since 2011,” Gonzalez said.

The mayor’s office projects that it will cost Seattle homeowners an extra $5 a week, but that adds up — and it’s not the only tax enhancement they’ve faced over the last few years. Businesses will undoubtedly get hit harder, either on property they own directly or by increased lease costs from landlords. The Amazons of Seattle will likely be able to absorb it by passing costs on to their customers, as will the wealthier residents of the city so enamored of the idea of offering “free” services funded by others.

It’s the middle class that will get hammered with these tax hikes, and they’re already getting pummeled with all the tax hikes that came before it, as one resident explained:

“It’s not just homelessness. It’s the bike lanes and budget overruns, the Bertha tunnel, and the overruns on that, the First Ave streetcar and overruns on that,” Seattle resident Matt Dubin said. Dubin is a local attorney now running to become a state lawmaker this year. He says he is upset over city leaders squeezing out the middle class. “It’s making it impossible for the middle class to live in Seattle. If we keep going down this road nobody will be able to live in Seattle except for the very rich and the homeless,” Dubin said.

And it might not even stop there. The “very rich” have other options too, and they’ll eventually exercise them. That will leave the few middle-class residents and business owners remaining holding the bag. Better to get out now than get stuck with that bill. Or, better yet, elect city council members with a lick of economic sense and operational competency.

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Robots Cost an Arm and a Leg, But Can Grow Them Back For You

Scientists are growing thousands of miniature organs using fertilized embryos left over from IVF procedures.

The new system was developed at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

It’s a “new ‘secret weapon’ in our fight against disease,” says Benjamin Freedman, the assistant professor of medicine who led the research.

Freedman explained that, normally, biomedicine research grows cells in flat sheets. But, sheets of cells are too simple for use, and researchers have been working on ways to grows more three dimensional structures. These “organoids” are better for research, they’re very difficult to produce in the quantities needed for research.

So, the development of robot-assisted production is one of the most “exciting potential applications” of the technology. By producing thousands of mini organs on a large scale, researchers can work on the problem of organ regrowth before moving on to bigger versions.

“The value of this high-throughput platform is that we can now alter our procedure at any point, in many different ways, and quickly see which of these changes produces a better result.”

So far, this rapid approach using robots instead of human hands has contributed to the discovery of a way of expanding the blood vessel cells in the mini kidneys to make them more like the real deal.

As well, they’ve produced mutated kidneys like the ones involved with polycystic kidney disease. Through this method, they were able to identify one of the protein-related factors that was causing the cysts to spread.

How Does It Work?

The researchers started with microwells, which look like this:

These plates can contain hundreds of microwells. In this case, researchers used plates with up to 384 microwells each, and over the course of 21 days, used liquid-handling robots to create approximately ten miniature kidneys in each well.

The kidneys, shown magnified below, are “organoids.”

The organoids are built from stem cells.

According to the National Institutes of Health,

“Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions.”

Stem cells can come from only a few sources in humans, including embryos and umbilical cords.

The use of stem cells taken from embryos is the cause of controversy, because they’re humans, albeit in a very early stage of development. Between 3 and 5 days after fertilization, embryonic humans comprise around 150 stem cells.

Abandoned Embryos Feeding Stem Cell Research

Generally, most stem cells from embryos are taken from fertilized eggs from in vitro fertilization clinics that were never implanted. Sometimes you’ll hear a heart-warming story of a woman who chooses one of these fertilized eggs to be implanted in her own uterus, and bring to term a child with someone else’s genetic material.

[READ MORE: Video of the tiny spark at moment of conception]

But mostly, these abandoned eggs are donated by the parents to be chopped up for science.

According to the International Fertility Law Group, there are between 600,000 to 4 million frozen embryos abandoned embryos in the United States currently in storage.

With legal and ethical issues, some clinics store embryos for decades after they’ve been abandoned by parents. There are no federal laws strictly addressing the abandoned fertilized eggs, and so clinics must work through patchy state laws before deciding what to do.

In a recent, strange case, a mother was able to become pregnant after the death of her husband thanks to IVF:

“It turns out that before his death she and Sam had IVF treatments and she had two of the embryos left. Kristen made the decision to move ahead with an implant and give the embryos a chance at life and give the family the opportunity to celebrate Sam with a special gift.”

In related news a few years before that, two white lesbians sued a sperm bank for “damages” after one of them was impregnated with sperm from a black man.

“The birth mother, Jennifer Cramblett, was five months pregnant in 2012 when she and her partner learned that the Midwest Sperm Bank near Chicago had selected the wrong donor.

Never forget that every good news story may be hiding a price.

Sources: NIH, Science Daily, Mayo Clinic, International Fertility Law Group

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ACLU: Amazon shouldn’t sell face-recognition tech to police

Oh but it will.

(From ABC)

The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy activists are asking Amazon to stop marketing a powerful facial recognition tool to police, saying law enforcement agencies could use the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.”

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Get used to it, or fight it. This stuff is here.

But if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear right? Yeah, right.

Click here for the article.

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