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Pound of flesh buys less prison time


Pound of flesh buys less prison time

We should all have more Shakespeare in our lives. Yeah, yeah, Shakespeare is meant to be played, not read, and it can be a struggle to herd teenagers through the Bard’s interesting and bloody tragedies, but even a perfunctory reading of “The Merchant of Venice” would hopefully have prevented the dystopian nightmare Massachusetts has presented us with today.

Ye Jinghan/Unsplash

The United States has a massive shortage of donor organs. This is an unfortunate truth. So, to combat this issue, a pair of Massachusetts congresspeople have proposed HD 3822, which would allow prisoners to donate organs and/or bone marrow (a pound of flesh, so to speak) in exchange for up to a year in reduced prison time. Yes, that’s right. Give up pieces of yourself and the state of Massachusetts will deign to reduce your long prison sentence.

Oh, and before you dismiss this as typical Republican antics, the bill was sponsored by two Democrats, and in a statement one of them hoped to address racial disparities in organ donation, as people of color are much less likely to receive organs. Never mind that Black people are imprisoned at a much higher rate than Whites.

Yeah, this whole thing is what people in the business like to call an ethical disaster.

Fortunately, the bill will likely never be passed and it’s probably illegal anyway. A federal law from 1984 (how’s that for a coincidence) prevents people from donating organs for use in human transplantation in exchange for “valuable consideration.” In other words, you can’t sell your organs for profit, and in this case, reducing prison time would probably count as valuable consideration in the eyes of the courts.

Oh, and in case you’ve never read Merchant of Venice, Shylock, the character looking for the pound of flesh as payment for a debt? He’s the villain. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that anyone looking to extract payment from human dismemberment is probably the bad guy of the story. Apparently that wasn’t clear.

How do you stop a fungi? With a deadly guy

Thanks to the new HBO series “The Last of Us,” there’s been a lot of talk about the upcoming fungi-pocalypse, as the show depicts the real-life “zombie fungus” Cordyceps turning humans into, you know, zombies.

Liane Hentscher/HBO

No need to worry, ladies and gentleman, because science has discovered a way to turn back the fungal horde. A heroic, and environmentally friendly, alternative to chemical pesticides “in the fight against resistant fungi [that] are now resistant to antimycotics – partly because they are used in large quantities in agricultural fields,” investigators at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Jena, Germany, said in a written statement.

We are, of course, talking about Keanu Reeves. Wait a second. He’s not even in “The Last of Us.” Sorry folks, we are being told that it really is Keanu Reeves. Our champion in the inevitable fungal pandemic is movie star Keanu Reeves. Sort of. It’s actually keanumycin, a substance produced by bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas.

Really? Keanumycin? “The lipopeptides kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles,” lead author Sebastian Götze, PhD, explained.

Dr. Götze and his associates had been working with pseudomonads for quite a while before they were able to isolate the toxins responsible for their ability to kill amoebae, which resemble fungi in some characteristics. When then finally tried the keanumycin against gray mold rot on hydrangea leaves, the intensely contemplative star of “The Matrix” and “John Wick” – sorry, wrong Keanu – the bacterial derivative significantly inhibited growth of the fungus, they said.

Additional testing has shown that keanumycin is not highly toxic to human cells and is effective against fungi such as Candida albicans in very low concentrations, which makes it a good candidate for future pharmaceutical development.

To that news there can be only one response from the substance’s namesake.


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