U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s controversial comments have put him at odds with the majority of scientists and even many of his predecessors at the federal agency.
While a big majority of scientists have been blaming human activities like burning of fossil fuels for the global warming and climate change, Pruitt said in a TV show that there is not robust evidence showing a link between human activities and climate change. He also argued that there is a need to continue the debate as well as continue the analysis.
His controversial comments triggered an immediate pushback from the scientific community as well as environment groups. Some of his predecessors at the agency also criticized him.
Gina McCarthy, the agency’s most recent chief, said, “The world of science is about empirical evidence, not beliefs. When it comes to climate change, the evidence is robust and overwhelmingly clear that the cost of inaction is unacceptably high.”
Phone calls from angry constituents to Pruitt’s main line, 202-564-4700, hit so high volume by the recently past Friday that EPA officials were reportedly forced to create an impromptu call center. However, agency officials declined to confirm the creation of the impromptu call center.General: Science NewsCompanies: NASAEPA
Google Inc. parent firm Alphabet-owned Waymo has asked a federal court to block Uber’s self-driving car project, arguing that Uber is using its stolen technology.
Filing testimonies from its employees and a security engineer in a San Francisco court, Waymo described how former Google executive Anthony Levandowski stole proprietary company documents.
The lawsuit alleges that Levandowski stole nearly fourteen thousand digital files around a month before resigning from his job at Waymo to start his own company called Otto, a self-driving car technology provider.
Otto was later bought by Uber for $680 million, and Levandowski became the chief of the ride-hailing company’s autonomous car business.
Waymo spokesperson Johnny Luu said, “Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs … we are asking the court step in to protect intellectual property developed by our engineers over thousands of hours and to prevent any use of that stolen IP.”
Waymo requested the federal court to issue a preliminary injunction against both Otto and Uber. A hearing on the injunction motion is slated for April 27, 2017.Technology: Technology NewsCompanies: UberOtto
The health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in ‘uncharted territory’ as the reef is experiencing an unprecedented year of mass coral bleaching for the second year in a row, climate scientists have warned.
The 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef suffered its most severe bleaching in the recorded history during March and April last year. Scientists blamed warming sea temperatures for the problem.
Following an aerial survey off Australia’s eastern coast, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority warned on Thursday that coral bleaching is occurring again this year.
Reef recovery director David Wachenfeld said, “Regrettably, the temperatures have been high on the Great Barrier Reef this summer as well and unfortunately (we) are here to confirm... a mass coral bleaching event for the second consecutive year.”
Wachenfeld stressed that it is the first time on record that the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing coral bleaching for two years in sequence.
The Australian arm of the wildlife conservation group WWF stressed on the urgency of tackling climate change in Australia -- one of the worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters in the world.General: Science NewsRegion: Australia
The Google Cloud Platform announced on Wednesday that it has acquired the world’s largest community for data scientists and machine learning nerds, called Kaggle.
Kaggle allows AI enthusiasts to explore and analyze a large compilation of high quality datasets, in addition to running code in the cloud and receiving community feedback on work, among other things.
Fei-Fei Li, Google Cloud AI’s chief scientist, confirmed the acquisition and added that it would provide Kaggle members with direct access to Google’s advanced cloud machine learning milieu.
Speaking on the topic, Li added, “We must lower the barriers of entry to AI and make it available to the largest community of developers, users and enterprises, so they can apply it to their own unique needs. With Kaggle joining the Google Cloud team, we can accelerate this mission.”
Under the terms of the acquisition deal, the Kaggle will keep on operating as its own brand within the Google Cloud Platform.
The Silicon Valley powerhouse has been busy with its aim to create self-teaching technology for years. In a letter to shareholders last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that the company will soon move from “mobile first” to an “AI first” in the world.Technology: Technology NewsCompanies: Google
Following the recent leak of a trove of confidential documents by Wikileaks purporting CIA’s ability to hack into Apple products, the iPhone-maker has claimed that it has fixed the bugs allegedly used by the U.S. intelligence agency to hack into its products.
Apple also claimed it is deeply committed to safeguard its customers’ privacy as well as security, claiming that the iPhone technology represents the best data security accessible to consumers.
In a newly released statement, Apple added, “While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”
The statement followed Wikileaks documents that claimed that the federal government’s intelligence agency had security holes or exploits that could work on iOS that is considered as a more secure option than Android.
Those exploits or bugs are commonly called “zero days,” a name given to security holes in a piece of technology that even the original producer does not know about.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant also urged users of iOS-based products to download the latest version of iOS to ensure that they get the most recent security updates.Technology: TechnologyCompanies: Apple
A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has made the shocking revelation that environmental pollution is killing as many as 1.7 million children under age of 5 years every year.
The global organization blamed unsafe water, poor hygiene practices, and lack of sanitation as well as indoor and outdoor pollution for the killing of nearly two million lives. The estimated figure is equivalent to these pollutants being the cause of 25 per cent of kids 1 month to 5 years old.
WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said, “A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
The organization also highlighted the increased risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer from exposure to air pollution. It also warned that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population due to breathing air that violates the global body’s quality guidelines.
Experts also suggested that the most common causes of child deaths, including malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, can be prevented through interventions like improved access to clean water, use of insecticide-treated bed nets, and clean cooking fuels.General: HealthCompanies: WHO
Attaining a new breakthrough in the field of medical science, French doctors have successfully cured a sickle cell anemia patient using an experimental gene therapy.
Doctors at Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris reported that a teenager suffering from sickle cell disease achieved full remission in wake of the experimental gene therapy. The patient started the therapy at the age of 13 years.
Individuals with sickle cell disease have abnormal hemoglobin in their red blood cells, which leads the blood to clog in the minute vessels and organs of the body.
After a period of fifteen months since treatment, the patient no longer needed medication as his blood cells showed no signs of the sickle-cell disease.
Dr. Philippe Leboulch, a professor of medicine at the University of Paris, said, “Since therapy was applied, he hasn’t had any pain, any complications. He is free of any transfusions. He plays sports and goes to school. So we are quite pleased with the results.”
The successful use of the experimental gene therapy for curing sickle cell anemia patients was detailed in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.General: HealthRegion: Paris
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) may suffer significant cuts to its research and satellite programs as President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly proposed slashing the budget for the climate science agency.
The Washington Post (WP) has reported that the Trump administration has recommended a cut of almost 20 per cent in budget for the NOAA, which may affect the agency’s research and satellite programs.
According to the report, 4-page budget memo sketches how the agency would lose 17 per cent of its budget. The affected areas would include programs like research on coastal management, which may suffer a cut of $126 million or 26 per cent of its $500 million research budget.
The National Environmental Satellite, Data & Information Service that monitors weather and gathers climate data would see the biggest monetary budget cut, of $513 million or 22 per cent of its current funding.
Jane Lubchenco, the agency former administrator, said, “NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public.”
President Trump has long been a vocal critic of global warming and the resultant climate change. During his election campaign in 2016, he repeatedly called manmade global warming a “hoax” created by China to undermine the United States’ economic power.Companies: NOAAGeneral: SciencePeople: Donald Trump
American space agency NASA released a treasure trove of space and science programs, which includes a broad swath of applications ranging from the highly technological Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems File Delivery Protocol to the fanciful like the Spacewalk game.
The treasure trove, which also includes autonomous control packages to life-support system programs, is available free of charge for anyone.
It also offers a number of tools that one can apply to Earth-based photography, such as the Video Image Stabilization & Registration program or JPL’s Stereo Vision Software Suite to calibrate stereoscopic camera setups.
In addition, the newly released catalog offers 3D models and textures. For drone fans, it offers the Autonomous Precision Landing Navigation System that was originally designed for using in cruise missiles and the Formation Flying System for UAVs.
Releasing the software catalog, NASA officials said it is way of supporting the innovation economy by providing entrepreneurs, businesses, academia and the space industry with access to tools used by modern aerospace engineers.General: Science NewsCompanies: NASA
Herbal medications remain popular among individuals with heart disease despite the fact that there is scant evidence suggesting herbal medications are effective or safe to treat such conditions, according to a new review.
Senior review author Dr. Graziano Onder warned that natural doesn’t always mean safe, and there is need to improve knowledge of herbal medications in order to sufficiently weigh the clinical implications of their use.
In a press release from the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Onder said, “Physicians should improve their knowledge of herbal medications in order to adequately weigh the clinical implications related to their use. Physicians should explain that natural does not always mean safe.”
Onder is an assistant professor in the department of geriatrics, neurosciences & orthopedics at Rome, Italy-based Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.
There is little evidence of herbal medications’ safety or effectiveness as such medications are sold in the United States without being tested in strict clinical trials. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) can declare that an herbal medication is unsafe only after it has already hurt somebody.
The review was detailed in the most recent (Feb. 27th) edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.General: HealthCompanies: FDA
Eating ten portions of fruit and vegetables daily significantly reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer and prevent premature deaths, a new study suggested.
A tem of researchers, led by Dr. Dagfinn Aune of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, reviewed a total of 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake, and found that one can reap the greatest benefit by eating 800g or 10 portions of fruit or vegetables per day.
The study included nearly 2 million individuals, and the researchers assessed 43,000 heart disease cases, 47,000 stroke cases, 112,000 cancer cases, along with 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease.
They estimated that nearly 7.8 million premature deaths globally could potentially be prevented every year if individuals ate 10 portions or 800 g of fruit and vegetables daily.
Lead researcher Dr. Dagfinn Aune said, “We need more research … However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.”
The researchers reported their findings in the most recent edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology.General: HealthResearchRegion: London
Congressional Republicans are reportedly mulling a proposal to temporarily keep federal funds flowing to cover medical costs of millions of Americans already have insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but block that federal aid for any new participants.
President Donald Trump and many other high-profile Republicans have been vocal opponents of the ACA, which is also known as Obamacare. During his election campaign last year, Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal it.
However, the Republicans have thus far filed to find an efficient alterative to the ACA. Thus, the reported proposal is apparently a compromise as it will allow existing ACA participants to continue to gain federal aid, while no new participants will have access to it.
But Gov. John Kasich, a Republican from Ohio, said in a recent interview that he didn’t believe that the current compromise is adequate.
Speaking on the topic, he said, “I don’t think that paying hospitals for uncompensated care results with a healthier population. Where are they [people struggling with addiction and mental illness] supposed to go?”
Details of how the proposal’s dual elements would be implemented and their specific time frames are still under consideration by a key committee of the U.S. Congress.General: HealthPeople: Donald Trump
A new study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina has linked high-intensity workouts to a low sex drive, and possibly infertility, in men.
The researchers polled more than one thousand active American men on their workouts as well as sex lives. Participating men were divided into groups by duration and intensity of workout/exercise and libido levels.
A comparison of results from the groups revealed that those who underwent moderate or light exercise/workouts were more likely to report moderate/high libidos than those who underwent intense workouts.
The researchers wrote in the study report, “Exposure to higher levels of chronic intense and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis are significantly associated with ... decreased libido scores in men.”
They concluded that workouts improve your sex life and overall health, but if you are feeling so worn out after an intense workout that you can not perform in the bedroom, then it is the time to tone it down.
The researchers reported their study in the most recent edition of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.General: HealthResearch
Amid growing outrage over soaring drug prices, David Mitchell has launched a new advocacy group called “Patients For Affordable Drugs” to lobby for new ways to drag down the high prices that patients are forced to pay for drugs.
Mitchell said he put $75,000 of his own savings into the initiative and received a grant of $500,000 from the Laura & John Arnold Foundation to establish a website and start lobbying for dragging down drug prices.
Speaking on the topic, Mitchell said, “It has become increasingly clear that patients are getting killed by high drug prices. They are losing their homes. They are spending their kids’ education money. They are depleting their 401ks.”
Hefty drug prices have become a major concern among patients as well as politicians. Recently, several members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to Kaleo Pharmaceuticals CEO Spencer Williamson, expressing their concerns over the company’s decision of increasing the price for Evzio by a whopping 600 percent.
Turing Pharma is being criticized for increasing the price of anti-parasitic pills from $13.50 to a whopping $750 apiece, making it just impossible for many poor patients to afford it.
Taking an aim at pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and pharmacy benefit managers, Mitchell stressed that the new advocacy group will fight for policies that could lower the prices of life-saving drugs.General: HealthCompanies: Kaleo Pharmaceuticals
Stem cell transplants should be performed in young multiple sclerosis (MS) patients before they go through rounds of other treatments as the procedure is most effective if done in the early stage of the disease, a new study suggested.
The researchers also found in the study that patients with relapsing MS enjoy more long-term benefits from stem cell transplants than those suffering secondary progressive MS.
Long-term outcomes after Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT) were found to be good, with roughly half of all MS patients free of the devastating disease progression at 5 years.
Dr. Sorrel Bickley, the chief of Biomedical Research at the UK-based MS Society, said, “It shows that AHSCT can slow or stop progression for many years, and [that] the treatment is most effective in people with MS who have ‘active inflammation’ in their brain and spinal cord.”
The researchers reached the conclusion after the observational study tracked a total of 281 MS patients who underwent the procedure of AHSCT across 25 centers worldwide between 1995 and 2006.
The new research was detailed in the most recent (Feb. 21st) edition of the journal JAMA Neurology.General: HealthResearch
Fewer American teens attempted suicide after same-sex marriage became legal and the biggest impact was seen among gay, lesbian and bisexual kids, a new study revealed.
As per available data, suicide is the second-biggest cause of death among American teens, and suicidal behavior is more common among gay, lesbian and bisexual children and adults. A report suggested that nearly 29 per cent of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens reported attempting suicide as compared with 6 per cent of straight teenagers.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health found declines in teen suicide rates in states that approved measured and made laws to allow gays to marry before the U.S. Supreme Court made legalized gay marriage nationwide.
They analyzed data on nearly 700,000 public high school students who took part in government surveys on risky behavior among teens between 1999 and 2015. Around 230,000 of them admitted being gay, lesbian or bisexual. In 32 states, which enacted same-sex marriage laws, overall suicide attempts among teens and gay teens fell 7 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.
Lead author Julia Raifman added, “There is a need for further research to understand the association between sexual minority rights, stigma and sexual minority health.”
The researchers reported their findings in the most recent edition of the JAMA Pediatrics.General: Health
In a bid to combat frequent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, South Korea is mulling a plan to set up a manufacturing facility to locally develop a vaccine to cure animals hit by the viral infection.
South Korea currently relies on imported vaccines from foreign manufacturers like Merial to repeatedly inoculate its farm animals and to bolster inventories during foot-and-mouth outbreaks.
Vice agriculture minister Lee Junwon said the fourth-largest economy of Asia has plans to set up the foot-and-mouth vaccine production plant in 2020.
Making the announcement, Junwon said, “After securing original vaccine production technology by 2017 based on our six-year research result... we plan to operate a foot-and-mouth vaccine plant in 2020.”
For the time being, the Asian country has plans to import 32 million doses to tackle the most recent foot-and-mouth outbreak, in which nine cases of the viral disease have already been confirmed.
The latest outbreak forced authorities to cull more than 1,400 cattle to prevent the viral animal infection from spreading and hitting more animals.General: HealthRegion: South Korea
Billions of dollars have already been spent on the fight against the Alzheimer's disease, but a cure for the disease remains elusive.
No new treatment for Alzheimer’s has won the FDA’s approval since 2003, and clinical trials for the disease has 99 per cent failure rate. Merely five drugs have gained the FDA’s approval to treat the disease, and those drugs just alleviate symptoms.
In December last year, U.S. Congress passed a measure to set aside additional $3 billion to fund research of brain diseases and precision medicine to tackle disease like Alzheimer's over the next 10 years.
The effort, part of the 21st Century Cures Act, also offers prize money to egg on research and experiments on Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer's disease remains a major killer in the U.S., and the number of patients is on the rise. Some experts have warned that the disease will probably continue to grow as the U.S. population is aging rapidly.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys the patient’s memory and other key mental functions. It develops when brain cell connections degenerate and die, which destroys memory and other mental functions.General: HealthCompanies: FDA
Following years of struggle with infertility, a couple in Texas is finally expecting twins. Sharing their excitement on social media, Lauren and Garyt Walker also revealed their grueling struggle that forced them to go through hundreds of needles and thousands of tears.
In a recent social media post, Lauren and Garyt Walker described that they prayed for 953 days and went through 452 needles, and faced failed in-vitro fertilization (IVF) rounds and transfers.
Posting the joyous update, they wrote, “We prayed for 953 days...452 Needles, 1000's of tears,1 corrective surgery, 4 clomid/letrozole attempts, 2 IVF rounds, 3 failed transfers & 1 Amazing GOD.”
The couple also shared a photo showing two onesies surrounded by hundreds of needles used during Lauren’s IVF treatments.
After Lauren and Garyt Walker started attempting to have a child, Lauren suffered five miscarriages. They spent more than $30,000 on treatment before 2014, when Lauren suffered her last miscarriage.
In 2016, they took a loan, and made one more attempt, which proved to be fruitful. Just before Christmas, they were learnt that they were expecting. Lauren is due in August, and the couple has already named their twins Diana and Duke.General: HealthRegion: Texas
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