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SCI COMMUN### Conservation A company seeking to build a controversial gold and copper mine in Alaska won a major victory on 24 July when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an environmental analysis saying the mine wouldn't endanger the world's most productive sockeye salmon fishery. The decision clears the way for the Corps to issue permits needed by promoters of the Pebble Mine, located at the headwaters of two major watersheds that form part of the Bristol Bay salmon runs, just north of the Aleutian Islands. Environmental and Native Alaskan groups and some salmon scientists blasted the new study, saying it understated risks by focusing on the mine's small, initial footprint over 20 years of mining rather than its potential impacts if it expands to become one of the world's largest gold and copper mines, as its promoters hope. Mine backers have said such an expansion would get a closer environmental review later if they pursue it. Scientists have raised concerns that even the smaller mine could have wide impacts, because the resilience of the salmon runs hinges on access to a wide variety of spawning habitats. Environmental groups have vowed to file lawsuits to block the project. 90% —Accuracy of a new artificial intelligence system trained to identify individual weaver birds, which human birders generally cannot tell apart unless they are tagged ( Methods in Ecology and Evolution ). ### Planetary science China's first independent mission to Mars blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 23 July. To arrive in February 2021, Tianwen-1, a “quest for heavenly truth,” comprises an orbiter, lander, and rover. Only the United States and the Soviet Union have successfully landed on Mars. Instruments on the three Tianwen-1 craft will study the planet's magnetic field and atmosphere, map its surface, and characterize its geology. Tianwen-1 is the second in a trio of fresh martian missions: The United Arab Emirates launched its Hope orbiter on 19 July, and NASA planned to launch its Perseverance rover as early as 30 July, after Science went to press. ### Funding A bill in France would increase research spending over the next 10 years and add tenure-track faculty positions, a novelty in France. But critics say the plan's increases would be too small and slow. By 2030, the annual public research budget would rise by about one-third, to €20 billion, toward a goal of lifting overall R&D spending from 2.2% of gross domestic product to 3%. The National Research Agency, which funds researchers through competitive calls, would get €1 billion more over 7 years, reaching about €1.7 billion in 2027, to help raise its grant success rates from 16% to a target of 30%. The new, nonpermanent tenure-track positions would complement the permanent entry-level research positions traditionally offered by the French system, but critics fear the growth may lead to a decline in the permanent ones. Parliament is expected to approve the bill. ### Drug trials A monoclonal antibody given to babies has strongly protected them from severe disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a leading cause of infant death. As reported this week in The New England Journal of Medicine , a placebo-controlled study of nearly 1500 babies born preterm—who are at higher risk of severe symptoms of RSV—in 23 countries found that a single injection of the antibody before RSV season starts in the fall led to 78.4% fewer hospitalizations for lower respiratory infections associated with the disease. The antibody, being developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi Pasteur, could replace one now on the market that is rarely used. (It is recommended only for infants at highest risk, requires five shots, and is very expensive.) The companies plan to seek regulatory approval of the new prophylaxis if larger studies now underway in preterm and full-term infants confirm that it is safe and effective. ### Graduate studies The American Astronomical Society last week launched the Astronomy Genealogy Project, which maps 5000 astronomers to their academic “descendants”—the 28,000 doctorate recipients they supervised. The discipline's family tree, at astrogen.aas.org, stretches back to 1766, but half of the listed doctorates were awarded since 2002. Organizers hope the data will help historians and sociologists of science analyze patterns across countries, universities, and subfields. U.S. universities awarded slightly more than half of the doctorates listed, and about two-thirds of the theses are online. ### Climate Environmental groups last week denounced as weak a plan announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft. The new standard would match an existing one adopted in 2016 by a U.N. body, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), that required emissions cuts by 2028. But recently manufactured planes already meet the standard, and EPA conceded its new rule would not reduce overall airplane emissions. Manufacturers have supported such a U.S. regulation to help them meet ICAO certification requirements. IACO has predicted that even under its standard, airplane emissions will grow by at least 3% a year globally. U.S. aviation accounts for 3% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. ### Extreme life Bacteria from seafloor sediments buried 101 million years ago have been grown in the lab, raising the possibility they are as old as their muddy home. They had somehow survived in an area of the Pacific Ocean almost devoid of organic matter or other nutrients most bacteria need, although the sediments recovered do contain oxygen, the researchers report in Nature Communications . The finding pushes back the documented age of bacteria living in marine sediment from 15 million years and provides new insights on the limits of life under extreme conditions. A team led by researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology harvested the microbes from core samples drilled up to 5700 meters below sea level and took precautions against contaminating them with modern bacteria. The group argues the microbes likely didn't have enough food to keep replicating, and instead may have survived for eons without dividing by repairing age-related cellular damage. The microbes identified are known members of more than eight bacterial groups, many of which are commonly found elsewhere on Earth. ### Biotechnology Scientists announced last week that they used CRISPR gene editing to modify a cow embryo so that the resulting calf, named Cosmo, should produce more offspring bearing male traits. Bulls are 15% more efficient than cows at converting feed into weight gain, so the new method may allow cattle farmers to raise fewer cattle, benefiting the environment, say the researchers at the University of California, Davis. The researchers inserted a gene called SRY , which initiates male development and is normally found on the male sex chromosome, into an embryo's chromosome 17. Next, the researchers plan to determine whether Cosmo's offspring that inherit the SRY gene look and grow like males. Fifty percent of the calf's progeny will naturally be male; another 25% will be genetically female but will carry the SRY gene. ### Conservation Florida's governor this month signed a bill to establish a 162,000-hectare marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico and protect one of the state's last remaining stretches of seagrass. Florida's coast boasts the most continuous expanse of seagrass beds in the United States, but these diverse habitats, home to blue crabs and manatees, have been damaged by nutrient-driven algal blooms and boat propellers. Authorities plan to create a management plan for the new Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve to balance protection with ecotourism, boating, and fishing. ### A magic ride for science In 1984, artist Bruce Degen met writer Joanna Cole at a publisher's office in New York City to discuss creating a children's book about science. They went on to collaborate and publish 13 colorful, zany books in The Magic School Bus series, featuring the ebullient, intrepid teacher Ms. Frizzle (above, right), who takes her students on fantastic adventures into the ocean, across the Solar System, and through the human body, for example. Cole died on 12 July at age 75. But the series continues to teach young readers and their parents about the natural world. > Q: Did you expect to create such a legacy? > A: I was in art school doing very serious art, and I realized that, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to do children's books. In the beginning, it was darn hard work. Some book sketch dummies have five layers of rewrites and reillustrations. The first book was a one-book contract to see if this would work. [The reception] was like the world was waiting for somebody to make this happen. People say, “[As a child,] I [used to] read these books, now I read them to my kids!” I could never have imagined it. > Q: Does scientific accuracy get in the way of storytelling? > A: Frequently. You have to tell kids what is true, but you can't give them all the truth—it's too much. For example, the evolution book goes from now [back] to the beginning of the Earth. I [initially] tried to show every era, year, and life form. It was too complicated. So it ended up as a nice, open spiral with a few representations of each era. > Q: Why use the format of adventures? > A: By following the story, it gave kids a mental filing system—they could retrieve and remember information because it was given to them in a memorable trip. ### Dispatches from the pandemic Read additional Science coverage of the pandemic at [sciencemag.org/tags/coronavirus][1]. #### U.S. vaccine efficacy trials begin The first large-scale efficacy trials of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States began last week. On 27 July, the National Institutes of Health, working with Moderna, announced the start of one that aims to recruit 30,000 people. Later that day, a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech announced separately it was launching a similarly sized study at sites in the United States and elsewhere. Both the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines contain messenger RNA that prompts cells to make a protein that studs the surface of the COVID-19 virus. If the vaccines work, this viral protein will safely teach the immune system how to battle the virus if a person later is exposed to it. Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration's push to accelerate development of a COVID-19 vaccine, has committed nearly $3 billion to these two R&D projects, about half its total investment. Other efficacy trials of various COVID-19 vaccines have begun in Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. Results are expected in late fall at the earliest. #### CDC slammed over school rules Guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week for safely reopening schools downplays risks that teachers, other staff members, and students will spread or contract COVID-19, many public health specialists say. Provoking claims that CDC's advice had been politicized, the agency revised an earlier draft that President Donald Trump had panned as “very tough and expensive.” The nonbinding recommendations, released 23 July, emphasize the social and developmental benefits of in-person schooling and highlight that young children are at low risk for contracting the disease and transmitting the virus that causes it. The document also recommends against screening students for symptoms. Nevertheless, the Trump administration did advise communities with high infection rates to consider not beginning in-person classes. Large school districts, such as those in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Diego, have already announced that they will begin the 2020–21 school year with online instruction only. #### Anti-Fauci TV segment canceled Following heavy criticism from scientists and others, Sinclair Broadcast Corp. this week canceled plans for its chain of local TV stations to air a segment featuring widely challenged accusations that Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, intentionally created the virus responsible for COVID-19 and sent it to China. Fauci has helped lead the U.S. effort to control the pandemic despite tangling with President Donald Trump. The allegation came from Judy Mikovits, a virologist and antivaccine activist who appears in a documentary about the coronavirus that was also widely debunked as false and misleading (). The Sinclair segment, a new interview with Mikovits, was available online until the company pulled it for review on 25 July, after Media Matters reported its existence. Sinclair announced on 27 July that it would not air the segment on the nearly 200 TV stations it owns or operates in 89 U.S. markets—but not before one in Charleston, West Virginia, had broadcast it. [1]: http://sciencemag.org/tags/coronavirus


Researchers eye tech wearables as coronavirus early-warning system

The Japan Times

Washington – Can your Fitbit or Apple Watch detect a coronavirus infection before the onset of symptoms? Researchers are increasingly looking at these devices and other such wearables as a possible early-warning system for the deadly virus. Last month, scientists at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute said they had created a digital platform that can detect COVID-19 symptoms up to three days before they show up using the Oura ring, a wearable fitness and activity tracker. An app developed by the researchers uses artificial intelligence to forecast the onset of COVID-19 related symptoms such as fever, coughing, breathing difficulties and fatigue, with over 90 percent accuracy, according to the university. The researchers said the system could offer clues of infection in people not yet showing symptoms -- helping address one of the problems in detection and containment of the deadly outbreak.


Dating app Grindr removes 'ethnicity filter' allowing users to search for potential partners by race

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Dating app Grindr has said it will remove its'ethnicity filter' that allows users to search potential matches by race. Singletons prepared to pay £12.99-a-month for the'premium' service are currently able to sort users based on their ethnicity, weight, height, and other characteristics. But less than 24 hours after its tweet supporting'Black Lives Matter' received widespread condemnation over the filter, the company has said it will delete it. Protests have rocked the US for six days following the death of George Floyd, who was filmed gasping'I can't breathe' as an officer knelt on his neck in Logan County, West Virginia. Writing on Twitter, the app said: 'As part of our commitment to (Black Lives Matter), we have decided to remove the ethnicity filter from our next release.


Researchers say Oura rings can predict COVID-19 symptoms three days early

Engadget

One of the challenges to curbing the spread of COVID-19 is that asymptomatic individuals, or carriers, can spread the virus before they realize they are infected. In April, researchers from West Virginia University's (WVU) Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) and WVU Medicine set out to predict symptoms before they appear using wearable rings by Oura and AI prediction models. Now, the researchers claim their digital platform can detect COVID-19 related symptoms up to three days early with over 90 percent accuracy. The approach is neuroscience-based, and it asks participants to track stress, anxiety, memory and other psychological and cognitive biometrics in the RNI app. Oura Ring collects physiological data, like body temperature, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, respiratory rate and sleep patterns.


How Documentary Theater Goes From Interviews to Final Production

Slate

This week, host Isaac Butler talks to documentary theater makers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, whose plays include The Exonerated, about the criminal justice system, and Coal Country, about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia. Blank and Jensen explain how documentary theater works, from interviews with subjects to the final product, where actors perform interview excerpts verbatim. After the interview, Isaac and co-host June Thomas discuss why documentary theater is such a great way to communicate important information to an audience. Send your questions about creativity and any other feedback to working@slate.com.


Red-state Dems worried Trump impeachment will hurt Senate chances; Giuliani considering lawsuits

FOX News

Here's what you need to know as you start your day ... Red-state Dems worried Trump impeachment push will kill hopes of retaking Senate in 2020 Some red-state Senate Democrats are fretting that the ongoing House impeachment inquiry could expand uncontrollably and become a "kitchen sink" of complaints about President Trump and hurt chances of regaining the Senate majority in 2020, Fox News has learned. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana specifically expressed concerns and have told Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that leadership cannot allow liberal Democrats to push for the inquiry to include allegations about Trump illegally using his office to enrich himself or relitigate findings from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election meddling in 2016. In other developments: Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday he's considering individual lawsuits against House Democrats for allegedly violating the constitutional and civil rights of the president and members of his administration amid new congressional inquiries and subpoenas resulting from a whistleblower's complaint. Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairmen of three House committees, informed the State Department in a letter late Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to have a "conflict of interest" and might now be a "fact witness" in their ongoing impeachment inquiry, after Pompeo accused Dems of trying to "bully" foreign service officers into testifying. Eric Holder says Barr is'paying a price' by spearheading a probe of the Russia investigation Former Attorney General Eric Holder told Fox News on Tuesday that current Attorney General William Barr "is paying a price" and sacrificing his credibility by spearheading U.S. Attorney John Durham's ongoing probe into possible misconduct by the intelligence community at the outset of the Russia investigation.


Doosan debuts collaborative robot at US trade show

#artificialintelligence

Doosan cobots have a track record in several markets worldwide including Germany, France and China, with capabilities such as a working radius of 900 to 1,700 millimetres and a load capacity of 6 to 15 kilograms. The company gave a demonstration of six cobots collaborating with two human workers to execute fine motor activities on an auto assembly line. The six cobots conducted nine different applications such as inspection, assembly, placement of parts and more, underlining the fact that cobots can be used in almost any production process. During Automate 2019, RG Industries signed a dealership agreement with Doosan Robotics to be their first distributor in the North American market. Through the partnership, Doosan plans to launch its cobots in nine U.S. states including Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware.


Robotic Surgery Now Common at West Virginia Hospital

U.S. News

During surgery, the da Vinci robot is docked over the patient and the instruments still typically enter through the abdomen, through much smaller incisions than a traditional laparotomy, which opens up the belly. The surgeon sits at a nearby control panel in the operating room where they can maneuver cameras and instruments with a range exceeding the human hand.


Should We Trust Artificial Intelligence Regulation by Congress If Facebook Supports It?

#artificialintelligence

Last week, several members of Congress began pushing the resolution with the aim of "supporting the development of guidelines for ethical development of artificial intelligence." It was introduced by Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna -- the latter of whom, crucially, represents Silicon Valley, which is to the ethical development of software what West Virginia is to the rollout of clean energy. This has helped make Khanna a national figure, in part because, far from being a tech industry cheerleader, he's publicly supported cracking down on the data Wild West his home district helped create. For example, he has criticized the wrist-slaps Google and Facebook receive in the wakes of their regular privacy scandals and called for congressional action against Amazon's labor practices.


West Virginia University at Parkersburg Adding Robotic Arms

U.S. News

Students at West Virginia University at Parkersburg will be able to learn automated manufacturing using high-tech robotic arm equipment, thanks to a grant from the West Virginia Community and Technical College System.