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2018-04-13 13:32:42 UTC
2018-04-14 11:41:58 UTC
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Gene therapy is showing promise for treating one of the most common genetic disorders. Results of a study published Wednesday show that 15 of 22 patients with beta-thalassemia who got gene therapy were able to stop or sharply reduce the regular blood transfusions they had needed to alleviate their life-threatening anemia. There were no serious side effects.
[...] The researchers stress, however, that more research is needed to fully evaluate how well the treatment works and how safe it is. Still, the company that's developing the treatment, Bluebird Bio of Cambridge, Mass., plans to seek approval of the treatment in Europe by the end of the year, a spokeswoman said in an email.
An estimated 288,000 people have beta-thalassemia worldwide, which makes the disease one of the most common genetic disorders. It's found most often in Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, Asia, India, and parts of Africa and South America. In the United States, about 10,000 to 15,000 patients have beta-thalassemia.
Also at BBC.
Gene Therapy in Patients with Transfusion-Dependent β-Thalassemia (DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1705342) (DX)
A Facebook job posting indicates the company is looking to design its own system-on-a-chip or Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC):
Facebook Inc. is building a team to design its own semiconductors, adding to a trend among technology companies to supply themselves and lower their dependence on chipmakers such as Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., according to job listings and people familiar with the matter.
The social media company is seeking to hire a manager to build an "end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization," according to a job listing on its corporate website, indicating the effort is still in its early stages.
The Menlo Park, California-based company would join other technology giants tackling the massive effort to develop chips. In 2010, Apple Inc. started shipping its own chips and now uses them across many of its major product lines. Alphabet Inc.'s Google has developed its own artificial intelligence chip as well.
Common Dreams reports
[April 17] the Food and Drug Administration issued a report[PDF] based on inspections of Rose Acre Farms from March 26-April 11, and a review of facility records from September 2017. On [April 13], Rose Acre Farms announced a recall of 206 million shell eggs after federal investigators found that illnesses in multiple states were linked to a strain of Salmonella that was found at the company's facility in North Carolina. The FDA report shows an "ongoing rodent infestation" at the facility and "insanitary conditions and poor employee practices" that allow for the spread of pathogens. The FDA had also previously found "alarmingly high rodent populations" and salmonella contamination at another facility owned by the company in 2011.
In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued [a statement which included}:
"This most recent Salmonella outbreak resulting in a massive recall is another example of how the ultra-consolidated factory farm system can have major consequences for food safety. That one facility can so quickly supply so many stores with tainted food shows that we need more regulation, not less, of our food supply. And repeated violations over the years show that the company continues to act recklessly where food safety protocols are concerned."
Note that the recall is for "shell eggs".
It appears that processed foods in which eggs from this source have been used are not covered.
Common Dreams reports
Election reform advocates on [April 18] praised a decision by Maine's Supreme Court, upholding the use of ranked-choice voting for the state's upcoming primary elections, saying the ruling demonstrated that the court heeded the demands of Maine voters.
[...]Unlike in traditional voting, in which the candidate with the largest share of votes wins--even if he or she is far from capturing a majority of the support--in ranked choice voting, voters rank each candidate in order of preference. If no candidate has a majority after the first count, the least-popular contender is eliminated, voters' ballots are added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are recounted. The eliminations and recounts continue until one candidate has a majority.
Supporters of the system say it increases voter turnout and proportional representation.
Maine's June 12 multi-party primary elections, in which voters will choose candidates for governor and congressional districts, will now make history as the first state election to use ranked-choice voting.
Fifty-two percent of Maine voters supported the system in a November 2016 ballot initiative, but lawmakers passed a bill last year delaying its implementation until December 2021 and argued that the state could not use a new voting system without direction from the legislature. The state Senate also threatened to repeal ranked-choice voting altogether if it could not pass a constitutional amendment by then.
More than 77,000 Maine residents signed a petition saying any repeal of the system by the legislature should be voided.
"The Maine legislature has changed or repealed all four of the initiatives passed by Maine voters in 2016", said Kyle Bailey of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in a statement on Tuesday. "Today's decision by the Maine Supreme Court confirms that the Maine people are sovereign and have the final say."
The Portland Press Herald, Maine's largest circulation daily newspaper, has extensive background details in their April 17th story: Ranked-choice voting will be used for June primaries, Maine supreme court rules.
One passenger died and several others were injured [April 18] when a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest en route from New York to Dallas suffered a serious engine blowout. Shrapnel broke a passenger window and penetrated the fuselage, forcing an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
[...] Southwest Flight 1380 [...] suffered a serious engine blowout 20 minutes into the flight at 32,500 feet
[...] The left engine exploded with such force that shrapnel penetrated the aircraft's fuselage and broke a window in the passenger cabin, causing depressurization and the deployment of oxygen masks.
The pilots--Capt. Tammie Jo Shults and an unidentified co-pilot--guided the plane carrying 144 passengers and five crew to a smooth landing. According to flight-tracking service FlightAware, the jet landed 20 minutes after the explosion.
Emergency vehicles drenched the damaged left engine in foam to prevent a fire as passengers exited the plane via stairs on the right side.
The woman who died was identified by Albuquerque TV news station KOAT as Jennifer Riordan, 43, a mother of two children and vice president of community relations at Wells Fargo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In preliminary briefings, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that inspection of the damaged engine revealed that one of the titanium blades on the big fan had broken off at the root, and that there was evidence of metal fatigue at the site where it broke.
He said metal fatigue is a major problem.
[...] Southwest CEO [Gary Kelly] said the airplane had undergone a routine maintenance inspection two days earlier, on April 15.
Fox Business notes
The engines [...] were built by CFM, a joint venture between U.S.-based General Electric and French company Safran Aircraft Engines.
[...] The CFM56-7B model is the exclusive engine of Boeing's "737 Next Generation" of aircraft--a partnership which began in July 1993 and includes the 700 series--and produces 19,500 to 27,300 pounds of thrust, the company said. The engines have been in use since 1997 and power more than 6,700 aircraft globally.
Another blackout hit Puerto Rico Wednesday morning [April 18], the Associated Press reported, cutting off electricity across the whole island and once again undermining the fragile progress made in restoring power in the [seven] months since Hurricane Maria struck.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said that it could be 24 to 36 hours before power is restored to the areas that had it. Its priorities are to get electricity back to hospitals, the San Juan Airport, water systems, and financial centers
The outage was caused by a bulldozer hitting a power line while trying to remove a collapsed transmission tower, according to El Nuevo Dia. The company responsible was D. Grimm, a subcontractor for Cobra Energy, which received a $200 million contract to repair Puerto Rico's devastated power grid.
Cobra was selected alongside Whitefish Energy Services in the aftermath of the hurricane, but the deals drew scrutiny from Congress because the companies had limited experience in grid repair on such a large scale.
[...] more than 61,000 utility customers[PDF] haven't had electricity since last September, the US Department of Energy reported earlier this month. Since "customer" typically refers to a household, which can encompass several people, estimates indicate that more than 100,000 people haven't had power since the storm.
[...] The blackout is the largest in US history and is now the second-largest in the world. Only Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest tropical storms ever to make landfall and the deadliest storm ever to hit the Philippines, had a bigger impact on electricity service.
 En Español
 As measured in millions of customer hours of lost electricity service.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
A flip-flop is one of the most basic digital electronic circuits. It can most easily be built from just two transistors, although they can and have been built out of vacuum tubes, NAND and NOR gates, and Minecraft redstone. Conventional wisdom says you can't build a flip-flop with just one transistor, but here we are. [roelh] has built a flip-flop circuit using only one transistor and some bizarre logic that's been slowly developing over on hackaday.io.
[...] The single-transistor flip-flop works just like any other flip-flop — there are set and reset pulses, and a feedback loop to keep the whatever state the output is in alive. The key difference here is the addition of a clock signal. This clock, along with a few capacitors and a pair of diodes, give this single transistor the ability to store a single bit of information, just like any other flip-flop.
That's damned nifty.
The World Socialist Web Site reports:
In spite of a continuous chorus in the media of a booming economy creating robust job numbers, General Motors is unleashing a new round of attacks on autoworkers in North America as part of a global cost-cutting offensive against the working class.
The corporation announced on [April 13] it will cut one of two operating shifts at its massive Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant, cutting as many as 1,500 jobs effective June 15. As recently as 2016, the plant was operating three shifts around the clock with nearly 4,000 workers. By the end of June only 1,500 will remain.
As sales for the compact Chevy Cruze, the only vehicle produced at the facility, began to slip, GM shuttered the third shift in January 2017, axing 800 jobs. Over the course of 2017, the plant was idled for weeks at a time and rumors began to circulate about the impending layoffs.
As an indication of the severity of the cuts, this is the first time since the recession of the 1980s that the plant will operate with only one shift.
[...] The company sold 450,000 fewer vehicles to dealers last year than they did in 2016, but because of aggressive cost-cutting attacks on the workers, imposed by the union, which include everything from an expansion of Temporary Part Time employees at less than half pay, widespread layoffs and shutdowns[,] GM pretax profits for 2017 topped $12.8 billion.
US passenger car sales are on track to decline for the fifth straight year while sales of light trucks are setting records. US sales of compact cars dropped 10 percent in the first quarter and 5.8 percent through 2017.
Lordstown is not the only plant affected by this shift. GM's Detroit-Hamtramck factory, for example, relies heavily on production of small and midsize sedans, including the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Impala, and the Chevrolet Volt. In October, the automaker announced plans to cut about 200 jobs there and halt production beginning November 20 through the Christmas break, affecting 1,500 jobs over the holidays. The second shift was eliminated in March 2017, eliminating 1,300 jobs.
[...] The same conditions are developing in [GM] factories everywhere as GM pursues its cost-cutting strategy with a vengeance.
Four baboons briefly escaped an enclosure at a biomedical research center by repositioning a barrel:
The barrels were in the enclosure because they are used as an enrichment tool for the animals, but after Saturday's escape, the barrels have been removed from the enclosure. Three of the baboons were recaptured within 20-30 minutes of escaping. The fourth baboon returned to the enclosure on his own.
KSAT viewers sent pictures and video of a baboon running along the road.
The Texas Biomedical Research Institute has congratulated itself on its response to the incident:
This incident occurred just before our nation highlights the critical role animal caretakers play in the advancement of treatments and cures for humans on Biomedical Research Awareness Day April 19.
"The actions of the animal care and capture team taken this weekend is just one example of the strong training and preparedness of animal care workers in biomedical research." Said John Bernal, DVM, attending veterinarian at SNPRC. "Our animal capture team and the entire animal care team acted diligently and followed protocol to locate, secure and account for the baboons."
Meanwhile, PETA has brought up past instances of abuse at the facility:
One of the world's most popular animal rights groups responded to the Saturday escape of four baboons from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute's Southwest National Primate Research Center, pointing to past violations and primate deaths at the facility. Several documents provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals show issues discovered during inspections of the facility by inspectors with the U.S.Department of Agriculture.
From 2010 to present, the USDA has required the Texas Biomedical Research Institute to make changes to various aspects of the facility's infrastructure and care for the animals. The facility was also required to pay a fine after it was found in violation of the Animal Welfare Act in 2011.
Emmanuel Macron has outlined his vision for the future of the European Union in Strasbourg. The 40-year-old, who secured the French Presidency in May on a pro-EU platform amid a populist surge in the bloc, delivered his highly anticipated speech to over 700 MEPs in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Macron challenged "inward-looking nationalist selfishness" amid populist sentiment in the bloc and pushed for a more united and reinvigorated Europe. "Nationalism will lead Europe into the abyss. We see authoritarianism rising all around us," he said. "The response should not be authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy."
Macron also sought to tackle the "poisoned debate" on migration, proposing the creation of a European programme that could subsidise local authorities which host and integrate refugees.
In a speech which touched on a range of issues, Macron recommended that copyright law be tightened to protect artists' "genius" and reiterated his support for tougher environmental legislation.
Meanwhile, Macron wants to "reform" Islam:
Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on "underground Islamism" and those who "indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily." The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to change Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also preventing radicalization.
He has said that in the coming months he will announce "a blueprint for the whole organization" of Islam. And those trying to anticipate what that will look like are turning their attention to Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture.
It's hard to miss that the man who appears to have Macron's ear on this most sensitive of subjects cuts a similar figure. Like the president, El Karoui is an ex-Rothschild investment banker with an elite social pedigree who favors well-tailored suits, crisp white shirts and the lofty province of big ideas. The latest of those ideas is this: that the best way to integrate Islam within French society is to promote a version of the religion "practiced in peace by believers who will not have the need to loudly proclaim their faith."
Also at BBC.
A promotional push by NVIDIA has apparently tied up PC builders, and raised the ire of its competitor AMD. The current leader in the graphics card market, NVIDIA has apparently developed a GeForce Partner Program (GPP) that it claims exists to "ensure that gamers have full transparency into the GPU platform and software they're being sold, and can confidently select products that carry the NVIDIA GeForce promise."
But according to AMD, that vague explanation hides an attempt to elbow competition out of high-profile system lines. A recent report by HardOCP suggests that for PC builders to be a part of the program (with access to combined marketing efforts, bundles and rebate offers) they have to exclusively align their gaming brand with NVIDIA's GeForce hardware (and not AMD's Radeon). Things came to a head yesterday when ASUS suddenly announced a new gaming line, AREZ, that apparently exists only to keep AMD Radeon-powered PCs out of its well-known ROG gaming equipment. With AMD out of the way, the ROG line can join NVIDIA's GPP.
Update 2: SpaceX's live coverage starts at 6:36 PM EDT (22:36 UTC).
Update 3: TESS successfully separated from Falcon 9 and was deployed into a highly elliptical orbit.
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission is set to launch
on April 16 at 6:32 PM ET (22:32 UTC) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The spacecraft was developed by MIT with seed funding in Google back in 2008. The spacecraft will perform an all-sky survey using four 24° × 24° wide field-of-view cameras that can image a total of 24° × 96° (2,304 square degrees) of sky every 30 minutes (the Sun and Moon are only about 0.2 deg2 to Earth-based observers).
TESS will use a unique "P/2" 2:1 lunar resonant orbit to image stars in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The survey will image 26 observation sectors of 24° × 96° each, with some overlap at the ecliptic poles. The total survey area will be about 400 times larger than the area searched by the Kepler mission.
TESS will study about 500,000 stars, including the nearest 1,000 red dwarfs, with the goal of finding at least 3,000 new transiting exoplanet candidates. The spacecraft will study F, G, K and M type stars (spanning from F5 to M5), some of which are 30-100 times brighter than stars surveyed by the Kepler spacecraft. Many of the stars will be much closer to Earth than stars surveyed by Kepler, allowing for easier confirmation and follow-up measurements of exoplanets. 30-minute full-frame exposures will be used to search for transient events such as supernovae, star flares, and gamma-ray bursts.
Each observation sector will only be viewed for 27 days (at least in the initial phase of the mission), which will limit the exoplanets seen to those with shorter orbital periods. Potentially habitable exoplanet candidates will likely be found around red dwarfs rather than Sun-like stars. However, TESS's own orbit should remain stable for decades, which could mean that its mission will be extended to allow for a greater variety of exoplanets to be found.
NASA's Kepler spacecraft is running out of fuel and may not be operational beyond 2018, leaving TESS to be Earth's premier exoplanet hunter in space. The European Space Agency's (ESA) CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) will launch in late 2018. It will provide precise radii for exoplanets with known masses, and can follow-up on TESS observations to provide suitable targets for the James Webb Space Telescope. In 2026, ESA will launch the PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) space observatory, which will search for planetary transits around 300,000 to 1 million stars. PLATO will study bright stars of magnitudes between 4 and 11, and will be rotated by 90 degrees every 3 months, allowing it to continuously survey a patch of sky and discover exoplanets with longer orbital periods than TESS will.
There is no direct link available yet, but live footage of the launch should be available through SpaceX's YouTube channel.
"With the news of Barbara Bush's passing on Tuesday, lawmakers and officials from around the world shared fond words about the former first lady."
Bush, described as "a relentless proponent of family literacy," died at the age of 92, a spokesman for the family confirmed.
The BBC adds:
She was a fierce advocate of civil rights and went against many of her husband's Republican party supporters with her more liberal view on abortion rights.
In a statement from the White House, President Donald Trump said Mrs Bush would be long remembered for her devotion to country and family, "both of which she served unfailingly well".
Barack and Michelle Obama described her as "the rock of a family dedicated to public service" and as "an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit".
Another former US president, Bill Clinton, said Mrs Bush was "feisty in support of her family and friends, her country and her causes".
A diamond-bearing space rock that exploded in Earth's atmosphere in 2008 was part of a lost planet from the early Solar System, a study suggests.
The parent "proto-planet" existed billions of years ago before breaking up in a collision and would have been about as large as Mercury or Mars.
A team has published their results in the journal Nature Communications.
They argue that the pressures necessary to produce diamonds of this kind could only occur in [a] planet of this size.
A large planetary body inferred from diamond inclusions in a ureilite meteorite (open, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03808-6) (DX)
Planetary formation models show that terrestrial planets are formed by the accretion of tens of Moon- to Mars-sized planetary embryos through energetic giant impacts. However, relics of these large proto-planets are yet to be found. Ureilites are one of the main families of achondritic meteorites and their parent body is believed to have been catastrophically disrupted by an impact during the first 10 million years of the solar system. Here we studied a section of the Almahata Sitta ureilite using transmission electron microscopy, where large diamonds were formed at high pressure inside the parent body. We discovered chromite, phosphate, and (Fe,Ni)-sulfide inclusions embedded in diamond. The composition and morphology of the inclusions can only be explained if the formation pressure was higher than 20 GPa. Such pressures suggest that the ureilite parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary embryo.
Research shows anti-hypertensive drugs improve heart rate more in patients who listen to music after taking medication. Among musical genres, classical music is the one with greatest efficiency at reducing arterial pressure; authors of the study speculate whether music acts on the patients' parasympathetic system, increasing their capability of absorbing medication.
In addition to remembering to take the medication prescribed by their cardiologists at the right times and going to the trouble of making healthy lifestyle changes, patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) can include a pleasing beneficial activity in routine treatment of the disease thanks to the discovery that listening to music significantly enhances the effect of anti-hypertensive drugs.
[...] "We've observed classical music activating the parasympathetic nervous system and reducing sympathetic activity," said the principal investigator of the FAPESP-funded project. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems constitute the autonomic nervous system, which maintains homeostasis. The sympathetic nervous system accelerates heart rate, constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body at rest, slowing the heart, lowering blood pressure, and stabilizing blood sugar and adrenaline.