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Wed, 23 Sep 2020
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Syringe

Darwin's Surprise; Why are evolutionary biologists bringing back extinct deadly viruses?



©New Yorker
Disabled retroviruses-fossils of molecular battles that raged for generations-make up eight per cent of the human genome.

Thierry Heidmann's office, adjacent to the laboratory he runs at the Institut Gustave Roussy, on the southern edge of Paris, could pass for a museum of genetic catastrophe. Files devoted to the world's most horrifying infectious diseases fill the cabinets and line the shelves. There are thick folders for smallpox, Ebola virus, and various forms of influenza. SARS is accounted for, as are more obscure pathogens, such as feline leukemia virus, Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, and simian foamy virus, which is endemic in African apes. H.I.V., the best-known and most insidious of the viruses at work today, has its own shelf of files. The lab's beakers, vials, and refrigerators, secured behind locked doors with double-paned windows, all teem with viruses. Heidmann, a meaty, middle-aged man with wild eyebrows and a beard heavily flecked with gray, has devoted his career to learning what viruses might tell us about AIDS and various forms of cancer. "This knowledge will help us treat terrible diseases," he told me, nodding briefly toward his lab. "Viruses can provide answers to questions we have never even asked."

Cloud Lightning

Caribbean hit by tropical storm

Tropical storm Olga, a rare December cyclone, has caused major floods and landslides in the Caribbean, killing at least eight people, officials say.

Hardest-hit was the Dominican Republic, where at least seven died and thousands were forced to flee their homes. One person died in Puerto Rico.

Cloud Lightning

"Madman" sees weekend "Superstorm"

Five days before the first flake falls, AccuWeather's Henry "Madman" Margusity has already loosed the words "blizzard" and "Superstorm" in connection with this weekend's storm. The extreme-weather blogger has even posted a snowmap that gives Baltimore 3 to 6 inches by Monday morning, while western counties sink beneath 6 to 12. He knows it's way too early to be that smart. But he posted it anyway.

Cloud Lightning

Malaysian flood death toll rises, thousands more evacuated

The death toll from widespread floods in Malaysia has risen to six and the number of people evacuated to relief centres increased sharply as heavy rains continued to fall, officials and reports said Tuesday.

A 15-year-old boy is thought to have drowned after he went swimming in a canal in north eastern Kelantan state, the official Bernama news agency reported.

Bernama on Sunday had reported five dead and three missing in the floods, which have hit three states in the peninsula.

More than 15,000 people in total are now housed in relief centres, compared with about 10,800 on Monday, Bernama said Tuesday.

©unknown

Stop

UK: Trafalgar pigeons 'starve to death'

Pigeons in Trafalgar Square are dying from hunger, say government scientists who have conducted post mortems.

Campaigners blame Mayor Ken Livingstone and Westminster council for banning feeding of the birds - a popular tourist pastime that used to provide a supply of food. Since September, feeding has been outlawed in the whole square.

Five pigeon corpses were sent by the Pigeon Action Group to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Suffolk in October.

©Unknown
Going hungry: pigeons found dead in Trafalgar Square had empty stomachs

Agency scientists, who also work for the Department of the Environment, found all five had empty stomachs and protruding bones.

Cloud Lightning

New Peer-Reviewed Study Finds 'Global Warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence'

Climate scientists at the University of Rochester, the University of Alabama, and the University of Virginia report that observed patterns of temperature changes ('fingerprints') over the last thirty years are not in accord with what greenhouse models predict and can better be explained by natural factors, such as solar variability. Therefore, climate change is 'unstoppable' and cannot be affected or modified by controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, as is proposed in current legislation.

Arrow Down

Greenland ice sheet melting at record rate

The Greenland ice sheet melted at a record rate this year, the largest ever since satellite measurements began in 1979, a top climate scientist reported on Monday.

Better Earth

Researchers Find New Deep Water Coral

HONOLULU - Researchers have discovered what they believe is a new deep water coral and sponge beds found several thousands of feet below the ocean surface, officials said Monday.

©AP Photo/Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
This photo released by Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument shows what is believed to be a lemon-yellow bamboo coral tree.

Bizarro Earth

US: Ice Storm Causes Blackouts, 15 Deaths

OKLAHOMA CITY - A wintry storm caked the center of the nation with a thick layer of ice Monday, blacking out more than 600,000 homes and businesses, and more icy weather was on the way. At least 15 deaths in Oklahoma and Missouri were blamed on the conditions, with 13 of them killed on slick highways.

Cloud Lightning

No hurricane, but still a monster

Pacific Northwest, USA
The West Coast seems to have all kinds of disasters: Wildfires. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Landslides.

One thing the West Coast doesn't have, though, is hurricanes.

The reason is simple. The primary ocean currents off the West Coast come from the north, bringing cold water down from Alaska. Any tropical systems that move northward from the Mexican coast lose energy as they move into colder and colder water.

Once in a great while, a tropical storm can make it close to San Diego, but none on record has made it farther north. But this past week, the Pacific Northwest experienced a storm that caused more destruction, death and hardship than many hurricanes have.