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Here’s a real-life, slimy example of Uber’s regulator-evading software

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Enlarge (credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images)

We reported back in May that the Justice Department had commenced a criminal investigation into Uber's use of a software tool that helped drivers evade picking up local officials in places where the service had not been approved.

Portland, Oregon, was one of the cities we mentioned where Uber employed the so-called "Greyball" tool. The city has now released a scathing report detailing that Uber evaded picking up 16 local officials for a ride before April 2015, when the service finally won approval by Portland regulators.

The Greyball software employs a dozen data points on a new user in a given market, including whether a rider's Uber app is opened repeatedly in or around municipal offices, which credit card is linked to the account, and any publicly available information about the new user on social media. If the data suggests the new user is a regulator in a market where Uber is not permitted, the company would present that user with false information about where Uber rides are. This includes showing ghost cars or no cars in the area.

The city concluded that, when Uber started operating in the city in December 2014 without Portland's authorization, the Greyball tool blocked 17 rider accounts. Sixteen of those were government employees. In all, Greyball denied 29 ride requests by city transportation enforcement officers.

"In using Greyball, Uber has sullied its own reputation," the Portland Bureau of Transportation said.

Greyball is just one of myriad scandals confronting Uber. There are too many for a comprehensive list here, but one scandal concerns whether Uber stole trade secrets for a self-driving vehicle venture. Another centers around whether the company used software to defraud both drivers and riders out of money.

The Greyball report released this week was produced after the Portland City Council subpoenaed Uber for documents concerning its use of Greyball in the city. The city did not issue any penalties or fines against Uber.

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See jerkface bacteria hiding in tumors and gobbling chemotherapy drugs

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Of all the kinds of bacteria, some are charming and beneficial, others are malicious and dangerous—and then there are the ones that are just plain turds.

That’s the case for Mycoplasma hyorhinis and its ilk.

Researchers caught the little jerks hiding out among cancer cells, gobbling up chemotherapy drugs intended to demolish their tumorous digs. The findings, reported this week in Science, explain how some otherwise treatable cancers can thwart powerful therapies.

Drug resistance among cancers is a “foremost challenge,” according to the study’s authors, led by Ravid Straussman at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Yet the new data suggest that certain types of drug-resistant cancers could be defeated with a simple dollop of antibiotics alongside a chemotherapy regimen.

That said, the findings are still mostly from lab and animal experiments. It will be a while before the results are repeated and confirmed in human cancer cases, then possibly translated into new clinical practices for treating certain types and cases of cancers.

Dr. Straussman and his colleagues got a hunch to look for the bacteria after noticing that, when they grew certain types of human cancer cells together in lab, the cells all became more resistant to a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine. This is a drug used to treat pancreatic, lung, breast, and bladder cancers and is often sold under the brand name Gemzar.

The researchers suspected that some of the cells may secrete a drug-busting molecule. So they tried filtering the cell cultures to see if they could catch it. Instead, they found that the cells lost their resistance after being passed through a pretty large filter—0.45 micrometers. This would catch large particles—like bacteria—but not small molecules, as the researchers were expecting.

Looking closer, the researchers noticed that some of their cancer cells were contaminated with M. hyorhinis. And these bacteria could metabolize gemcitabine, rendering the drug useless. When the researchers transplanted treatable cancer cells into the flanks of mice—some with and some without M. hyorhinis—the bacteria-toting tumors were resistant to gemcitabine treatment.

  • Bacteria (in green) inside a pancreatic cancer cell of the AsPC1 pancreatic cancer cell line. The nucleus of the cancer cell is in blue.

    Leore Geller

  • Bacteria (in green) inside a pancreatic cancer cell of the AsPC1 pancreatic cancer cell line. The nucleus of the cancer cell is in blue.

    Leore Geller

  • Bacteria (in green) inside a pancreatic cancer cell of the AsPC1 pancreatic cancer cell line. The nucleus of the cancer cell is in blue.

    Leore Geller

  • An example of an experiment where bacteria (green) and cancer cells (red) are co-cultured.

And it’s not just M. hyorhinis that can turn tumors resistant. When the researchers pinpointed the gene that encodes the molecular machinery for disarming gemcitabine in M. hyorhinis—a gene called CDDL—they found that it’s quite common in other bacteria. In initial testing of 27 bacterial species, 13 could knock out gemcitabine. When the researchers searched through the genetics of nearly 2,700 bacteria, they found that hundreds also had the gene for defeating gemcitabine. Most of those bacteria were in the Gammaproteobacteria class, a giant group of bacteria that includes E. coli and Salmonella.

To see if this may be a real problem in humans, the researchers gathered 113 cell samples from human pancreatic cancers (a cancer type called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma). These were all collected during cancer surgeries. The researchers also assembled 20 samples from organ donors that had non-cancerous pancreases (or “pancreata,” if we're being persnickety). Of the 113 cancer samples, 86 had signs of bacteria present—mostly Gammaproteobacteria—while only three of the 20 non-cancerous samples had bacteria.

The researchers speculate that bacteria may invade pancreatic tumors by migrating from the duodenum, the top section of the small intestine.

To put all their findings together, the researchers engineered an E. coli strain to carry CDDL—a gene it didn’t carry before—then injected the strain into tumor-riddled mice. The researchers used fluorescent markers to track both the bacteria and the tumors. When they treated the mice with either gemcitabine and an antibiotic or just gemcitabine alone, they saw bacteria disappear and tumors shrink in the mice that got the antibiotic-chemotherapy combo. But in the mice with just chemotherapy, the researches saw rapid tumor progression.

The role of bacteria in drug-resistant cancers and the potential for using antibiotics with chemotherapies “merit additional exploration,” the authors conclude.

Science, 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5043  (About DOIs).

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If you read one sci-fi series this year, it should be The Broken Earth

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The final book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, just came out. It completes an incredibly satisfying exploration of the overlap between scifi and fantasy.

I don't make absolutist statements like the one in this headline very often, but sometimes a book series is so important that you just want people to put everything aside and just read it. I'm not the only one who feels this way about N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. The first and second novels in Jemisin's trilogy, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate won the prestigious Hugo Award for the past two years in a row—the first time this has happened since Ender's Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead won sequential Hugos in 1986 and 87. Now the final Broken Earth book, The Stone Sky, is out. You can gobble up the whole series without interruption.

There are very light spoilers ahead.

A mesmerizing world

There are a lot of reasons why this series has been hailed as a masterpiece. There are unexpected twists which, in retrospect, you realize have been carefully plotted, skillfully hinted at, and well-earned. There are characters who feel like human beings, with problems that range from the mundane (raising kids in a risky world) to the extraordinary (learning to control earthquakes with your mind). The main characters are called orogenes, and they have the ability to control geophysics with their minds, quelling and starting earthquakes. Somehow the orogenes are connected with the lost technologies of a dead civilization, whose machines still orbit the planet in the form of mysterious giant crystals called obelisks. To most people on the planet, the orogenes are known by the derogatory term "rogga," and they're the victims of vicious prejudice.

A few, very special orogenes are allowed to train at the Citadel, becoming masters at stopping earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters. They're still treated like second class citizens, and aren't permitted to live outside the Citadel for very long. But they are permitted some freedoms, and watching their powers emerge is a major part of what makes the first novel in the series so compelling.

But Jemisin is hardly retelling The X-men, only with orogenes instead of mutants. She's created a sociologically complex world, and the more we read, the more we understand how the orogenes fit into it. As we travel with our protagonists across the planet's single megacontinent, we discover the place is full of many cultures, often at odds with one another. The brown urbanites from the tropics think the pale, rural people of the poles are ugly idiots; the coastal people aren't too sure about the inland people; and of course everybody hates the orogenes. These tensions are part of a long and complex history that we learn more about as the series develops. There are a number of mysteries to unravel in this series, but one of them is understanding the devastating origin of prejudice against orogenes.

Combining the powers of science fiction and fantasy

Another mystery is what exactly powers the orogenes, the obelisks, and several other strange creatures with connections to the dead civilization. And this is where Jemisin's series has been a game changer, because she's deftly woven together the tropes of fantasy and science fiction so well that she makes it impossible to separate the two genres. Though Jemisin is hardly the first writer to do this, she's one of the leading lights in a movement among speculative writers to break down the boundaries between magic and science in their storytelling. In The Broken Earth, the results will surprise you with their devious complexity.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but rest assured that Jemisin's goal is not to cheapen science, nor to create some kind of pseudo-rational magic system. Instead, she is exploring what you might call the common ancestor of both science and magic: the urge to exert our will over nature. Some call it sorcery; some call it geophysics; some call it whatever will allow them to manipulate the largest number of people.

One of the greatest pleasures of The Broken Earth is the way Jemisin uses geology as the cornerstone of her world-building. We get to explore a planet with a single megacontinent that's rifting apart in a series of catastrophic eruptions which are entirely plausible—indeed, it wasn't too long ago (in geological time) that Earth itself went through a similar process. And this planet has a rich geological history too, with multiple mass extinction events that have shaped the various ecosystems we encounter. It's rare to find an author who can convey both cultural and scientific nuance in a single story, but Jemisin has done it effortlessly. That's why she's been invited to speak at MIT as well as countless science fiction conventions.

Incredible storytelling

Jemisin wrote a number of critically-acclaimed novels before The Broken Earth trilogy, including the incredible Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. She is obviously at the top of her game. Her prose in the trilogy is gorgeous, disturbing, and often quite funny. The whole series is told in the second person, addressed to the main characters, which is incredibly difficult to pull off. Not only does Jemisin make it work, but her stylistic choice has the eerie effect of making it feel as if the novels are addressed directly to us, the audience. By the third novel, we get a satisfactory explanation for why the story had to be told this way, but not before it contributes to several fascinating plot twists.

The Broken Earth is exciting, full of incredible technology, and powered by a dark historical mystery. It's something you can read to escape, or to ponder philosophical questions in our own world. In short, it's that rare series that appeals to a love of adventure, and to the urge to reflect on the unseen forces that drive our civilizations.

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Catalog of visualization types to find the one that fits your dataset

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There are a lot of visualization methods to choose from, and it can be daunting finding the right visual for your data, especially for those just starting out. The Data Viz Project by ferdio is a work-in-progress catalog that aims to make the picking process a bit easier. Start with a bunch of chart types and filter by things like shape, purpose, and data format. If you’re stuck, this should help get the juices going.

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Top or Bottom: How do we desire?

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In June 2017, TNI’s Lou Cornum brought together three writers to discuss what’s really going on in queer lamentations of a top shortage. The conversation has been edited for length.

• • •

LOU CORNUM. Is there actually a top shortage? If there isn’t a top shortage, why do queers talk about it? What do capitalism, racial capitalism in particular, and colonialism have to do with sexual roles and orders of desire?

KAY GABRIEL. I think on the one hand “top shortage” doesn’t actually name a numerical situation so much as a general disidentification from “top” as an avowed sexual position; and that this tendency derives from a highly overdetermined disavowal of desire. Being (or avowing oneself to be) a bottom allows one to assume an apparent passivity with respect to one’s desires, at least according to the ideologeme whereby bottoming means “taking” and topping means “giving.” I should clarify here that I’m using top and bottom in their robust sense of sexual roles, rather than the (I think equally illustrative and somewhat clearer, if also clearly curtailed) sense of who’s the insertive and who’s the receptive partner, who’s fucking whom.

BILLY-RAY BELCOURT. However tenuous its relation to statistical truth, a “top shortage” does take up queer attention. This bubbles up everywhere: a local drag queen recently joked that Edmonton was a city of bottoms. Might we want to think about a top shortage as something of a crisis in normative masculinity? If we follow this line of inquiry, then it holds that the so-called top shortage is caught up in the pathos of mourning, that something—a sexual identity, a mode of being in the world—disappears as tops disappear. In a homonormative semiotics of sex, topping is an enactment of gender; it is a performance of masculinity, which is bound up in the erotic life of whiteness. In Blackpentacostal Breath, Ashon Crawley reminds us that whiteness is a way of thinking the world. Topping is thus entangled in this mode of thought. So, as tops become fewer in numbers, the racial-sexual subject morphs too. Perhaps, then, the “top shortage” gives name to the affective rhythms of this shift in available forms of subjectification and desire. Desire needs to be redirected, and this is always a taxing process. We have to joke about it.

But, I think a more interesting question is, if there is a top shortage, is there also a “bottom surplus?” “Bottom surplus” might be a concept with which to begin thinking about the structure of feeling that bottoming ropes one into. It might nod to why more queers want to hoard that kind of pleasure. “The body” is a conceptual trapdoor of sorts for racialized and queered populations; it is a catch-22, something we don’t always “have.” To face up to the coloniality of the world is to come to terms with the shoddy form of embodiment that “the body” shores up. I have written elsewhere that getting fucked is like disappearing into someone else for a little while. It is how one unbecomes a body; it is how we give into the precarity of the concept of the self. I don’t think we have to sensationalize bottoming to agree that it works differently than topping. In A View from the Bottom, Nguyen Tan Hoang insists that bottoming “reveals an inescapable exposure,” that it demands that we reach out to others. To extend this language, reaching out to others is an ethics. In this day and age, we are more beholden to others for our survivability. Bottoming is one way we knot ourselves to something other than the fragility of “the body.”

KAY GABRIEL. Reframing the top shortage as a bottom surplus points up the question of what desires bottoming actually canvasses—both consciously and unconsciously, which is why I am actually highly unenthusiastic about bottoming as a suddenly widespread site of identification. It strikes me that bottoming is heavily coded as absenting oneself of responsibility for or complicity with social power, which has at minimum the potential to join up with certain pernicious raced and gendered scripts. In this capacity, bottoming is the sexual correlative of the dissimulation of complicity with dominant structures that marks certain urban upwardly-mobile queer social scenes, whereby sounding off (say) anarchist principles can act as a fig-leaf disguising a de facto complicity with capital, real estate developers, and cops.


But “shortage” and “surplus” both carry the rhetoric of the market, where sex is transactional, a form of consumption. The true kernel that this rhetoric discloses is the relationship between gay sex practices and the commodity form, which mediates even the most utopian forms of gay promiscuity. This assertion can too easily be framed by the homophobic trope whereby gay men are just vapid consumers; The apparent alliance between capital and gay men is belied in the policing and crackdown on public sex that has proceeded apace with the gentrification of North American cities in the past three decades (which is one reason why criticizing gay culture for its focus on sex by and large constitutes a political alignment with cops). But where gay sex practices do bear a particular relationship towards the commodity form I think it’s largely for the reasons Bruce Boone suggests in his instructive essay “Towards a Gay Theory for the 80’s,” that “the commodification that characterizes the gay community takes place as a general demand for the introduction of subjective relations into the public sphere itself.” Boone’s assertion reframes bottoming and topping as precisely these commodified positions introduced from the private into the public sphere. This substantially reframes the problem at hand: not which sexual position produces a more liberatory affect or enlightened relationship towards power, but rather what liberatory potential is contained in this introduction of the private into the public, however mediated by the tyranny of the commodity form.

The cruising site has a capacity to function as a locus of gay public life—a public that does not simply reproduce the scrutiny of cops or the state or the street. This is in my understanding the co-theory of Samuel Delany’s tender evocation of sex in the old Times Square porn theatres in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. Delany deploys a personal narrative of cruising in the theatres as a mediation of historical transition, the gentrification of New York City. This immanent polemic points up the social formations across racial and class lines enabled or foreclosed by specific urban geographies, and thus in Delany’s insightful account the sexual offers the coordinates for solidarity and political movement.

THEL SERAPHIM. To answer the original question: no, there is not a top shortage. I think I’d first offer a more psychological read on the “top shortage” non-phenomenon, or the phenomenon of talking about it. If I talk about a “top shortage” what I am saying is “nobody is fucking me the way I want, and I have no agency in that.” It’s overwriting a perhaps real situation of unmet need with a false narrative of scarcity. I think what is going on is that people have illusions and uncalibrated expectations about the frequency and ease of casual sex for other queers, how much negotiation and take-it-as-it-comes there really is. I frequently hear this language from people who are very inexperienced, who use this language to establish distinction for themselves: as worldly, as passive and innocent, as having conquered hang-ups, as having a disciplined body, as having a longer sweep of historical consciousness, etc. As long as it’s all talk, bottoming is positioned as a virtuous sexuality, though things of course get messier when it gets real. But commonly this is a way for people with no cruising culture and no cruising skills to assert a conditionally virtuous sexuality in public. As for *where* this sexuality is positioned as virtuous, things get interesting.

To get a start on that problem, I’ll suggest that top/bottom mirrors the animal/human distinction, that it’s a gradient of dehumanization. The top isn’t afforded innocence or subjectivity. The top is the brute. In this dynamic, one would expect to look for tops down the ladder from you on already-existing gradients of dehumanization, whether that means class, blackness, sleaze, or pariah status.

But when I see it this way I think that everybody must experience a top shortage because no one can really conceive of topping within their social order or being topped by someone from it, you have to look down a link or two on the great chain of being in order to find a sufficiently charged interaction. So this might play out as a feeling that there is a shortage among men I consider human, all of whom consider me inhuman and are therefore looking to be topped by me. That’s a standoff. But the gradient of coarseness or animality seems key to understanding where people are stuck. This is a hideous lens, but I think this is the lens people are seeing through.

Ultimately, I think queers who complain about a top shortage are usually people who’ve written themselves into social roles that exclude the kind of sex they want and who refuse their agency in doing so. Or they’re trying to wheel and deal about it, to have their desires met without making changes in their own lives or accepting the compromise of social position that would come from immersion in a world where people actually fuck.

LOU CORNUM. This phrase “a world where people actually fuck” speaks to how this world seems absent or past for many queers. In this Samuel Delany piece from the Boston Review, I describe the care practices between older men at a sex party and Kay, you had mentioned Delany’s evocations in Time Square Red, Times Square Blue as tender. I have a feeling both of us are using “care” and “tender” in ways meant to be differently coded than how they are currently taken up by many queers. Is the rise of the “tenderqueer” identity correlated to the distancing from power that is wrapped up in disavowing topping?

THEL SERAPHIM. I think that “tenderqueer” is the queer equivalent of “nice guy” and everything that goes with that. As in “nice guys finish last,” which isn’t at all true but there’s a type of guy who always says that. The critique of the nice guy, which everyone understands, applies here.

Somehow, just as we find a culture of tender non-aggression, we find a corresponding investment in a mythic pre-AIDS free-for-all past. Perhaps we start carrying handkerchiefs. And there’s something very strange about that, like we accept a kind of periodization and a kind of distancing, like “that’s how they did it back then” or “that’s how it goes with rough trade” but contribute to the myth of a total division between the things Delany is talking about and the things you and your friends may actually be doing, in the nineties or right now.

Tangentially, I think the tendency to cite Delany only through his theoretical work, and to avoid engaging the black gay writers who were and are his contemporaries, is not only tokenizing but bluffing.

BILLY-RAY BELCOURT. In “Friendship as a Way of Life,” Foucault turns his attention away from a “neat image of homosexuality” that is about seductive looks, ass grabbing, and fucking in the streets and toward a more troubling form of affection, a way of life, he says, that exceeds the sex act and because of this sneaks past the watchful eye of the law. This mode of life is un-institutional, it churns out a culture and an ethics that rend the fabric of the social. It is not shocking to point out that gay publics chronically fail to manifest this way of life. Relations between gay men are stuck in the rut of the sexual.

Grindr’s category of the “tribe” is setter-colonial evidence of this. That sociality is wired through unstable categories like the “bear” or the “twink” is symptomatic of our inability to work in the direction of a new way of life. Tribe coheres here only if we organize time as that which is post-Indigenous genocide. Desire is made out of the corpses of Indigenous peoples. The “top shortage” is likely indicative of this. We have been socialized into a “neat image of homosexuality,” and if sexual positions like top and bottom cease to rope us into relations with other men, then we are at a loss for how to go about making something of a romantic life. Maybe that’s what makes the top shortage so scary.

Foucault’s way of life is less about the precarities of life made under the gaze of the law and the threat of juridical violence and more about the precarities of reaching out to others. To resist categorical capture, to build a livable world undergirded by a shared ethical investment in the flourishing of those we love; this is to take seriously Foucault’s thinking in “Friendship as a Way of Life.” This is complicated too when we account for the raciality of desire, how indigeneity is calibrated as that which is love’s antithesis.

Demian DinéYazhi’ is a transdisciplinary Diné artist who makes art by way of a collective called Radical Indigenous Survivance and Empowerment. One of his works is an image captioned “PRE-AIDS” and “PRE-GAY MARRIAGE,” and sandwiched between these two captions is a sexually non-normative and gender non-conforming Indigenous couple either pre-contact or shortly after contact (though this is of course language that I am sloppily taking from the present to talk about the past). I’m not sure it’s worth it to temporalize indigeneity by way of a pre-aids/post-aids binary; if nothing else, this works up a cruel nostalgia for a past we can never get back. I think what DinéYahzí’does get at here though is the semantic pliability of the discourse that is “sexuality”—how we, Indigenous peoples, don’t need to ring queer life through the institutions of homonormativity or through the death drive that marks mainstream AIDS activism.

But, this mode of conceptualizing queer life is also a trapdoor of sorts for Indigenous peoples. We see everywhere how it stomps us into the anarchic past in order to animate white queer desires. Think not only to my earlier discussion of tribal intimacies, but also of the practices of groups like the radical fairies (see Morgensen 2011), who made recourse to a bloated idea of indigeneity to try to wish themselves outside of the horrors of the heteronormative present. Think also of a recent episode of the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race in which the contestant Alexis Michelle was required to produce a costume that orbited around the figure of the “native american.” Here, indigeneity is made into an empty signifier, unmoored from place and from living polities who govern a peoples who also go about the tricky work of making an animated life in the face of colonial governmentality. Indigeneity becomes a flimsy thing that settlers can mimic and put to use to intimate a racial-sexual-gender subject in the theatres of queer media.

KAY GABRIEL. I think utopia again is a productive framework for suturing together these disparate strands: the—as I think we’re coming to some consensus on—misplaced and suspect desire to occupy a virtuous sexual position or excuse oneself from an objectionable one, which in absenting oneself of complicity with domination opens the possibility of the dehumanizations attendant upon the historical structure of feeling that is desire for trade; the reification of racial and sexual positions contained in both the colonial and racial histories that subtend uneven development in North American gay socialities; the back-to-the-land desire to circumvent this history that manifests as settler pretensions to indigeneity; and the dialectic of public and private that characterizes gay cruising, even as mediated and however commodified in the sex app. Let me then be clear: “bottom” and “top” are highly reified and socially overdetermined categories that we are here pursuing as a mediation of these processes, scenes, and histories, practices, and desires; and this is more or less my answer to Thel’s provocations above to think these desires in psychoanalytic terms, which ultimately need to be returned to and grounded in the social.

But the genuine utopian kernel in these practices and affinities is not to be discovered in the settler fantasy of a land or space set apart from homophobic violence. Rather, this utopian kernel is contained in the cruising space in which a heterogeneity of desires is quilted into a commonality, producing a space of mutual commitment among subjects whose names you do not know; and this appears as the sexual and social obverse of political movement. Further, cruising marks out a space of social reproduction that, as against the nuclear family, takes place in public; and in superseding the public/private distinction contains the seeds of refusing and overcoming one of the central distinctions that allows for capitalist accumulation, that between production and reproduction. If this refusal stalls out at the level of the sexual—or, in fact, the affective—this utopian gesture risks turning into a hollow optimism, but I am committed to linking together the desires and practices enabled here with, at minimum, the form of politics they enable in turn.

BILLY-RAY BELCOURT. To do away with “the top” is to make us scavenge for new modes of subjectification. Few want to take on the turbulence of that process; even fewer want to tackle that their whole lives. Stability is addicting. But now that we might be done with “the top” and, in this, the “top shortage,” we can open ourselves up to new sex talk, to new categorical tongues. This will inevitably expose the degree to which whiteness has been deposited into the crevices of everyday life vis-a-vis the sexual.

THEL SERAPHIM. Guy Hocquenghem’s The Screwball Asses has a really sharp take on French queers who run after Arabs. Americans maybe have a model of this kind of acquisitive sexual racism in William Burroughs or Kathy Acker or, like, 90% of pornography. Here’s a quote:

What the young gay man says to the Arab is still an avowal of guilt: ” The bourgeoisie exploits you, my father exploits you, so fuck me!” … Class struggle, class masochism, what hides beneath this artificial appropriation of the primitive? In “Arabs and Us,” some homosexual boys explain to us that their desire is looking for the primitive and the oppressed. But what they are looking for, instead, is someone that is the least capable of exerting power over them, and yet this social victim is the most male chauvinist of all.

It’s not a top shortage, it’s a brute shortage. This is the dynamic people are crying out for. And maybe that helps explain why this supposed shortage seems to be a completely white phenomenon. Anyone who gets interpellated into this interaction as a top is going to be more critical of it.

KAY GABRIEL. I think Hocquenghem offers, in the context of the various gross displacements of the ‘top shortage,’ a gesture against the reifications of gay desire that subtend this peculiar discourse—which at this point we probably all agree can be dispensed with. In Hocquenghem’s treatise:

We shall not count and index all those old domestic machines that have domesticated desire: sewing machines of desire, freezers of desire, brake presses of desire, paper cutters, riveters, grinding machines and plows of desire, irons of desire, routers and rolling-mills. They are all rattling and hissing inside until we end up crying: “I am free! I only desire what I like!” What I like, myself, is to desire all bodies that can produce joy and revolution.

Here the machine appears as a figure for the operations of desire, and while I don’t want to push this metaphor too far there’s a co-theory to be derived here whereby, just as the worker in industrial production is in a classical Marxian account employed by the machine, Hocquenghem’s subject of desire is set in motion as a kind of conscious automaton that only desires “what it likes.” Hocquenghem’s coy “what I like, myself, is to desire all bodies that can produce joy and revolution” resummons the “desire to desire” that he stakes out elsewhere in the essay as a negation of this historical process of reification. This assertion predicates desire as the suture that binds political commitment to revolutionary practice. Instead of tarrying with the top shortage, I think the urgent question for the gay left is to ask how to seize on this incitement anew.

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Two-step process leads to cell immortalization and cancer

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From Phys.Org:

TelomeresA mutation that helps make cells immortal is critical to the development of a tumor, but new research at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that becoming immortal is a more complicated process than originally thought. The key to immortalization is an enzyme called , which keeps chromosomes healthy in cells that divide frequently. The enzyme lengthens the caps, or telomeres, on the ends of chromosomes, which wear off during each cell division.

...Hockemeyer and his UC Berkeley colleagues, in collaboration with dermatopathologistBoris Bastian and his colleagues at UCSF, found that immortalization is a two-step process, driven initially by a mutation that turns telomerase on, but at a very low level. That mutation is in a , a region upstream of the - referred to as TERT - that regulates how much telomerase is produced. Four years ago, researchers reported that some 70 percent of malignant melanomas have this identical mutation in the TERT promoter. The TERT promoter mutation does not generate enough telomerase to immortalize the pre-cancerous cells, but does delay normal cellular aging, Hockemeyer said, allowing more time for additional changes that turns telomerase up. He suspects that the telomerase levels are sufficient to lengthen the shortest telomeres, but not keep them all long and healthy. If cells fail to turn up telomerase, they also fail to immortalize, and eventually die from short telomeres because chromosomes stick together and then shatter when the cell divides. Cells with the TERT promoter mutation are more likely to up-regulate telomerase, which allows them to continue to grow despite very short telomeres. Yet, Hockemeyer says, telomerase levels are marginal, resulting is some unprotected chromosome ends in the surviving mutant cells, which could cause and further fuel tumor formation. "Before our paper, people could have assumed that the acquisition of just this one mutation in the TERT promoter was sufficient to immortalize a cell; that any time when that happens, the telomere shortening is taken out of the equation," Hockemeyer said. "We are showing that the TERT promoter mutation is not immediately sufficient to stop telomeres from shortening." It is still unclear, however, what causes the eventual up-regulation of telomerase that immortalizes the cell. Hockemeyer says that it's unlikely to be another mutation, but rather an epigenetic change that affects expression of the telomerase gene, or a change in the expression of a transcription factor or other regulatory proteins that binds to the promoter upstream of the telomerase gene.

More here.

 

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sarcozona
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