U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced legislation Thursday that would create a U.S.-Israel Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Center to further collaborate in AI and contribute to the field's advancement. Specifically, the bill directs the U.S. Secretary of State to establish a joint U.S.-Israel AI Center in the United States to serve as a hub for research and development in AI across the public, private, and education sectors in both nations. "America, and the world, benefit immensely when we engage in joint cooperation and partnerships with Israel, a global technology leader and our most important ally in the Middle East," said Rubio, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. "I'm proud to lead this legislation to build on current, highly successful bilateral research ties between the U.S. and Israel, as well as help both nations stay ahead of China's ever-growing technology threat." The Senators said the bill would enable America to maintain its technological edge and enhance its competitiveness while leveraging the innovation advantages of its allies.
SCI COMMUN### COVID-19 Despite past safety concerns, the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) this week decided to allow the importation of 928,000 doses of Sputnik V, the Russian-made vaccine against the pandemic coronavirus. Brazil has one of the world's highest burdens of COVID-19, but only about 15% of its population has received a first dose of vaccine. In April, Anvisa had refused to allow the vaccine into the country, citing allegations that Sputnik V contained adenoviruses that could replicate and harm vaccinated people. But a Brazilian law enacted in March allows the country under certain conditions to selectively import vaccines that Anvisa has not yet authorized for emergency use. The agency will require the batches of vaccine to undergo a safety review by a Brazilian government lab. Anvisa lifted the import ban after pressure from 14 governors who had already made agreements to buy more than 67 million doses of Sputnik V, which more than 60 countries have approved for emergency use. > “It shows we are still fully on the wrong track.” > > Climate scientist Pieter Tans of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in The Washington Post, about May's atmospheric carbon dioxide reading of 419 parts per million, the highest in 63 years of modern recording despite pandemic lockdowns. ### Marine ecology Just 6 months into this year, an alarming 761 manatees have died on Florida's east coast—about 10% of the state's population of this unique vegetarian marine mammal. Most of this year's deaths, which already total more than all in 2020, occurred in the Indian River Lagoon, where about 2000 of these subtropical goliaths typically winter, basking in warm water discharged by a power plant. But increased concentrations of nutrient pollution have triggered algal blooms that block sunlight, decreasing the amount of seagrass, the manatees' main food there. They chose the warm water “even though they starved,” says Martine deWit, a veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2017, the administration of then-President Donald Trump downgraded the species from “endangered” to “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, citing its growing population. But conservationists have called the move premature. ### Racial justice The National Football League (NFL) said last week that in awarding players compensation for brain injuries under a 2013 legal settlement, it will drop a practice that critics have assailed as racist. Under the “race-norming” policy, a scoring algorithm for dementia that physicians employed in assessing players assumed that Black men started their careers with cognitive skills inferior to those of their white counterparts, making it harder for them to show the same amount of injury-induced cognitive decline as white players and to qualify for monetary awards. A majority of the NFL's roughly 20,000 retirees are Black. In a statement, the NFL noted that race-norming has been used for decades by neuropsychologists, who compare patients' scores with averages for their age, gender, education, and race. The NFL says no “off-the-shelf” alternative exists, so it is convening a panel of eight neuropsychologists, three of them Black, to develop a new algorithm. It will be applied going forward and also retrospectively for Black players who would have received an award had they been white. Previously, the NFL appealed some Black players' claims if their cognitive scores had not been adjusted for race. To date, more than 2000 former players have filed for awards, but fewer than 600 have received them. ### Infectious diseases ![Figure] CREDITS: (GRAPHIC) N. DESAI/ SCIENCE ; (DATA) UNAIDS The world has made great progress against AIDS, but ambitious targets have been missed, says an analysis issued last week on the 40th anniversary of the emergence of the disease. The report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) notes that 27.4 million of the 37.6 million people now living with HIV are receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. That's a tripling since 2010, but it falls short of a UNAIDS target, set in 2015, of 30 million in treatment by 2020. Because HIV-infected people who receive antiretrovirals rarely transmit the virus, hitting the treatment target would have averted 3.2 million infections and 1 million deaths over the past 5 years, the report says. And, it says, in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic disrupted treatments and supplies of antiretrovirals, with many countries reporting dips in new diagnoses. ### Publishing Days after publishing a letter alleging Israel's actions had threatened the health of Palestinians, The Lancet removed it from its website, fearing that supporters of Israel would boycott the journal, three of the letter's co-authors asserted last week. The letter, published in March 2020, is still accessible in the ScienceDirect database operated by The Lancet 's owner, publishing giant Elsevier. It argued that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were ill prepared to confront the COVID-19 pandemic because Israel's security operations had damaged Gaza's public health system. In a commentary last week in The BMJ , three authors—all of whom have worked with Palestinian aid organizations, and two of whom are physicians—said The Lancet 's editor-in-chief, Richard Horton, told them last year that a similar letter it published in 2014 had drawn boycott threats and taken a “traumatic” personal toll on its employees. The prestigious medical journal also published a letter in September 2020 that criticizes the removed letter; it remains on The Lancet 's website. The authors of the March 2020 letter praised other Lancet articles that focused on poor health conditions in Gaza. But they also complained of a double standard and called the letter's removal censorship and “a dangerous new precedent.” The Lancet did not respond before Science 's deadline to a request for comment. ### Public health A strategy for fighting dengue fever using bacteria-armed mosquitoes has passed its most rigorous test yet: a randomized controlled trial in Indonesia. Infecting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis renders them resistant to infection with the dengue virus and less likely to spread it to people. In previous studies, areas where Wolbachia -infected mosquitoes were released reported fewer cases of dengue than nearby untreated areas. In the new trial, conducted by the nonprofit World Mosquito Program, researchers divided a 26-kilometer area in Yogyakarta into 24 clusters and set out containers of Wolbachia -carrying mosquito eggs in 12 randomly selected clusters. Of people visiting primary care clinics with a fever, 2.3% of those living in the treated clusters tested positive for dengue virus, versus 9.4% of those from control areas—a 77% reduction in infections, the team reported this week in The New England Journal of Medicine . Researchers expect the bacterium will continue to reduce dengue incidence and may even eliminate it in the area: Infected insects pass Wolbachia to offspring, and it remains prevalent among the city's wild mosquitoes more than 3 years after the last egg release. ### Biodiversity An automated system that integrates robotics with machine learning, imaging, and a cutting-edge gene sequencer promises to help speed up the discovery of unknown species of insects, which make up an estimated 90% of all animal species yet to be cataloged. Scientists routinely collect thousands of animals in the field, then face long hours in the lab to identify the specimens. The new technology, called DiversityScanner, plucks individual insects from trays and compares their legs, antennae, and other features to known specimens to classify the insect into one of 14 types. An Oxford Nanopore Technologies sequencer then produces a species-identifying piece of DNA called a barcode. The data and an image of the insect are added to a database. Scientists still have to name and describe new species. Some researchers call the system, designed to be easy for labs to replicate with open-source technology and easily available parts, a potential game changer. The designers—Rudolf Meier, who is moving to Berlin's Museum of Natural History, and colleagues—described it in two preprints posted on bioRxiv in May. ### Anthropology Several people from Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, are stepping up pressure on Kyoto University to return the remains of 26 people from Okinawan burial caves and sites that were unearthed almost 100 years ago and taken to what was then Kyoto Imperial University for study. Some of the remains, a small portion of the 200 sets removed, are believed to be from the royal family of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was absorbed into the Japanese empire in 1872. A 2018 lawsuit by a group of five Okinawans against Kyoto University is still pending; frustrated by its slow pace and the university's refusal to cooperate, plaintiffs held an online briefing last week to make their case to the international press. Holding the remains violates Japanese law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says Yasukatsu Matsushima, an economist at Ryukoku University who leads the legal challenge. Very little research about the remains has been published, and nothing recently, Matsushima says. Kyoto University “does not consider that the bones were obtained illegally,” the institution wrote in a statement. ### Racial justice A prominent Black chemist withdrew from consideration for a professorship at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, after its trustees did not endorse giving a tenured position to a high-profile journalist whose reporting on the United States's history of racism has raised controversy. UNC faculty informed its chancellor last week that the chemist, Lisa Jones of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, wrote them that the trustees' decision “does not seem in line with a school that says it is interested in diversity.” Her decision came after UNC proposed in January to give the tenured position in journalism to Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times , winner of a Pulitzer Prize for her essay in the “1619 Project,” a 2019 series about slavery that she conceived. The trustees did not act on the proposal; some questioned her academic qualifications. UNC instead offered Hannah-Jones (who is not related to Lisa Jones) a nontenured, 5-year position. Faculty members protested and accused the trustees of submitting to criticism of Hannah-Jones by conservative voices. ### Astronomy In its first year of observations, from 2018 to 2019, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope in British Columbia detected 535 fast radio bursts (FRBs)—powerful flashes of radio waves from deep space—more than three times as many as were previously known, researchers announced this week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The bursts are just milliseconds long, which makes it challenging to pinpoint their source. But after CHIME helped trace a nearby FRB to its source in our Galaxy last year, highly magnetized stellar relics called magnetars have emerged as a prime suspect. CHIME catches many FRBs by sweeping the sky with a wide field of view as Earth rotates. Its deep catalog is already paying off: FRBs that flash more than once last slightly longer and have a narrower range of frequencies than one-offs, supporting the idea that the bursts are produced through different mechanisms. ### Planetary science NASA's InSight lander, a mission to study the interior of Mars, got a sorely needed energy boost last month after the agency dusted off its solar panels with a clever technique akin to sandblasting. After InSight's power declined, NASA tried knocking off the dust by jostling the panels with motors originally used to deploy them—without luck. Passing dust devils have also done nothing to clear off the material. So mission engineers had to get crafty. They had the lander's robotic arm scoop up sand and drizzle it above a panel as the wind swept past at up to 21 kilometers per hour. The falling grains bounced off the panel, picking up and carrying away the smaller dust particles, NASA said last week. Controllers noticed an immediate bump in power and a gain of about 30 watt-hours of energy per sol, or martian day. The extra power could help the lander survive aphelion in July, when Mars is farthest from the Sun, and extend the mission for a third full year of listening for tiny marsquakes. : pending:yes
The Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) operation against Hamas is called the world's first artificial intelligence (AI) war. Register for AWS ML Fridays and learn how to make a career in data science. "For the first time, artificial intelligence was a key component and power multiplier in fighting the enemy," an IDF Intelligence Corps senior officer said. He said this is a first-of-its-kind campaign for the IDF. In 2020, an Iranian nuclear scientist was killed using a satellite controlled weapon.
Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. The U.S. Navy announced Sunday it seized an arms shipment of thousands of assault weapons, machines guns and sniper rifles hidden aboard a ship in the Arabian Sea, apparently bound for Yemen to support the country's Houthi rebels. An American defense official told The Associated Press that the Navy's initial investigation found the vessel came from Iran, again tying the Islamic Republic to arming the Houthis despite a United Nations arms embargo. Iran's mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though Tehran has denied in the past giving the rebels weapons.
Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Israel shared three cell phone numbers used by Qasem Soleimani with U.S. intelligence in the hours before American drones unleashed Hellfire missiles on the Iranian general last year, Yahoo News reported Saturday. The revelation sheds new light on the role that Israel played in the killing of Soleimani, who the State Department says was responsible for hundreds of U.S. troop deaths as the head of the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force. The drone strike occurred shortly after midnight on Jan. 2, 2020, as Soleimani and his entourage were leaving Baghdad's international airport.
Big gaps between the U.S. and Iran over the measures needed to roll back and limit the Iranian nuclear program are stalling the Vienna talks, European diplomats and former U.S. officials briefed on the issue tell me. What's happening: The Biden administration has said any deal to restore the 2015 nuclear accord must include a return by Iran to full compliance with its previous commitments. But that's complicated by the fact that Iran's nuclear program has advanced since 2015.
Iran's foreign minister apologized Sunday for recorded comments that were leaked to the public last week that offered a blunt appraisal of the country's power struggles, sparking a political firestorm in Iran less than two months before presidential elections and apparently drawing the ire of Iran's supreme leader. The recordings of Mohammad Javad Zarif included frank comments about the powerful late Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq last year, as well as criticism of his polices in Syria and his relations with Russia. "I hope that the great people of Iran and all the lovers of General (Soleimani) and especially the great family of Soleimani, will forgive me," Zarif said in an Instagram post. In a speech broadcast later Sunday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to lambast Zarif for departing from the official line, although he didn't call him out by name. "It's a big mistake that must not be made by an official of the Islamic Republic," Khamenei said in veiled reference to the leaked comments.
Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Syria's oil ministry said a fire has erupted in a tanker on its coast after what it said was a suspected drone attack on Saturday. The official state news agency said the fire in the oil tanker outside Baniyas refinery has been extinguished. The oil ministry said the fire started after a suspected drone attack that originated from the Lebanese territorial waters. It provided no further details and did not specify where the tanker was arriving from.
SCI COMMUN### Planetary science The Wright brothers' storied flight at Kitty Hawk had a sequel this week more than 288 million kilometers away: Ingenuity, NASA's $80 million minihelicopter, took a 1-minute test hop on Mars, the first controlled flight of a powered aircraft on another planet. The autonomous 1.8-kilogram machine, the size of a tissue box, spun up its 1.2-meter rotors to more than 2500 revolutions per minute before ascending about 3 meters and hovering in the thin martian air. Ingenuity rotated and took a picture before alighting back on the surface. NASA plans to send Ingenuity, which first landed on Mars on 18 February with the Perseverance rover, on four more flights of increasing height and distance and to use the resulting data to build larger, more ambitious helicopters to explore the Red Planet. 14 of 15 —U.S. states not requiring people to wear masks in public recorded relatively high rates of new COVID-19 cases from May to October 2020. None of eight states with high mask wearing had high rates of infection. ( PLOS ONE ) ### Natural resources Just 19% of Earth's lands are truly wild, with no history of human impact, a new study shows. In other parts of the globe, however, biodiversity hot spots have survived even where humans thrived, thanks in part to millennia of beneficial land management practices by Indigenous people, these researchers conclude. By 10,000 years ago, humans had already spread across three-quarters of the globe, and their controlled burns, small-scale farming, and other practices may have sustained or even improved biodiversity, according to the analysis of past and present land use, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . The finding sheds light on a long debate between archaeologists, who cited evidence of this lengthy history, and conservationists, who have insisted that humans did not significantly affect biodiversity until intensive agriculture, urbanization, and deforestation began 200 years ago. Because of the present-day overlap between biodiversity hot spots and lands occupied by Indigenous people, the study bolsters the idea that the growing push to help them regain and retain control over their lands might help protect biodiversity. ### Astronomy The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, which in 2019 produced the first image of a black hole's shadow, this week completed another observing campaign, its first in 3 years. Organizers hope their network of radio telescopes will reveal more of the dark heart of the nearby M87 galaxy as well as the Milky Way's center and the quasar 3C 273. EHT must synchronize 10 observatories across the globe in good weather, so its observing window each year is short. Three observatories joined the network this year (including the Kitt Peak 12-meter telescope in Arizona, below), which will sharpen images. Researchers gathered data for more than seven full nights over 2 weeks this month, and EHT spokesperson Eduardo Ros called the results “excellent.” Now begins a long wait as recorded data are shipped to Boston and Bonn, Germany, for months of processing before an image might be revealed. ### Scientific societies The 90-year-old American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) has rechristened itself in order to separate today's association from the field's racist and colonial past. At AAPA's virtual annual meeting last week, an overwhelming majority of members voted to delete the word “physical” and become the American Association of Biological Anthropologists. They acknowledged that the old name has roots in the 19th century, when early anthropologists helped create damaging concepts of race by quantifying physical differences among people. The new name conveys that anthropology is now a multidisciplinary biological science that deals with the adaptations, variability, and evolution of humans and their living and fossil relatives, as well as their culture and behavior, according to a statement by the current and past AAPA presidents. “Importantly, the change allows us to reflect deeply on issues of racism and colonialism, which, at times, permeated the field of ‘physical anthropology,’” they wrote. ### Climate science California and its partners announced plans last week to launch two satellites by 2023 to spot plumes of planet-warming carbon dioxide and methane. The $100 million Carbon Mapper project, financed by publisher Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists, will advance efforts to track concentrated emissions of greenhouse gases that rise from sources such as fossil fuel power plants and leaky pipelines. Previous satellites have lacked the resolution, sensitivity, and focus to collect the data officials need in order to regulate the emissions effectively. The new spacecraft will rely on “hyperspectral” imaging spectrometers that can record more than 400 visible and infrared wavelengths, whose patterns can reveal the abundances of certain gases in the atmosphere below. ### Public health A tiny fraction of the U.S. residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 14 April have become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week. The agency said it expected some “breakthrough” infections and that the low numbers support the value of the inoculations. CDC said it received 5814 reports of such infections in 75 million people vaccinated in 43 U.S. states and territories. Of the infected people, 65% were female, 45% were 60 or older, and 29% were asymptomatic. Seven percent were hospitalized, and 1% died, some from causes unrelated to COVID-19. CDC cautioned that the data from the states reporting might be incomplete. Public health specialists say the infections were more likely to have resulted from weak immune responses to vaccination than to mutations in the virus that let it evade those defenses. ### COVID-19 Researchers at the University of Oxford will intentionally reinfect people previously infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 to study their immune responses and symptoms. The “human challenge trial,” announced on 19 April, will initially re-expose up to 64 volunteers who previously tested positive for the virus and measure what viral dose triggers new infections. A U.K. government ethics panel approved the study and a similar one led by Imperial College London scientists who are evaluating the performance of COVID-19 vaccines. Such experiments may provide results faster than other trial methods allow. ### Anthropology More than 1300 skulls held in a museum collection that was used to justify racism will now be available for return to communities of the people's descendants, the University of Pennsylvania said last week. Samuel Morton started the collection in the 19th century and used studies of its contents to support the idea of white superiority. Many of the crania belonged to enslaved Africans and Indigenous people. In a statement, Christopher Woods, director of the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where the Morton Cranial Collection is held, apologized for the “unethical possession of human remains.” The museum will work to identify descendant communities and accept requests for the return of any crania in the collection. Repatriation of human remains, especially Black and Indigenous ancestors, “is part of a cultural and social reckoning” about how to address anthropology's history of racism, Woods says. ### Scientific meetings A talk last week at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) sparked criticism for arguing against a key U.S. law giving Native Americans rights to the human remains and artifacts of their ancestors. Many society members were outraged that SAA gave a platform to what they considered a racist and anti-Indigenous presentation. Some note that this incident comes after a sexual harassment scandal at the organization's 2019 conference. In her talk, SAA member and anthropologist Elizabeth Weiss of San Jose State University said archaeologists “have let creationism into the heart of our discipline” because the law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), allows Indigenous communities to request repatriation of remains, which they may do partly because of religious beliefs. But archaeologists widely support the law, under which many tribes have collaborated with researchers. In response to the criticism, SAA issued a statement encouraging “the rigorous interrogation of diverse views.” SAA President Deborah Nichols later told Science the organization's board rejects the viewpoint of Weiss and her co-author and supports NAGPRA. ### Policy The relatively modest research investments outlined in Canada's new federal budget could make it difficult for the nation to recruit and retain scientific talent, Canadian science advocates fear. The multiyear spending plan, announced on 19 April, includes CA$2.2 billion in mostly new funding for life sciences, with much of the money aimed at boosting biomedical applications and vaccine development. (Canada will continue to provide other spending for research this year under multiyear budgets approved in 2018 and 2019.) But analysts worry the increases are too modest compared with much larger ones proposed for the United States by President Joe Biden, and that some Canadian scientists will look for work south of the border. Under Canada's budget, three main research councils will share CA$250 million for a new joint biomedical research program, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research will get an additional CA$250 million to fund clinical trials. Universities and research hospitals will get CA$500 million for infrastructure such as equipment and buildings. Three programs—an existing artificial intelligence program and two new ones in genomics and quantum science—will each receive CA$400 million in new funding. ### Publishing Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have boosted their share of scholarly articles in international journals and citations to those papers during the past 4 decades, the Clarivate analytics firm said this month. From 1981 to 2019, the region quadrupled its share of research articles and reviews to 8%; among regions and large countries, only China grew by more. Fifteen of the region's 19 countries had a citation score in 2019 higher than the world average, when adjusted for differences across disciplines; in 2000, almost all had scores well below average. ### Reckoning with climate blues Sustainability scientist Kimberly Nicholas of Lund University found herself struggling with feelings of grief as research by her and others revealed how much climate change will harm agriculture, ecosystems, and human communities. And she discovered she is not alone. In her new book, Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World , she offers insight into how people and institutions can respond to those feelings and the climate challenge. (A longer version of this interview is at .) > Q: How does your experience with grief inform your thinking about climate change? > A: Things are changing beyond recognition right now from climate change. To me, grieving is an important part of the process of acknowledging that. It does draw from my experience of losing a dear friend to cancer, who died at 37. It was a kind of wake-up call [that prompted me] to think about my core values and what matters. But it shouldn't take a terminal diagnosis for life on Earth to wake us up to the urgency of working for climate stability. > Q: Students come to you distraught about harm to ecosystems they hope to study. What do you tell them? > A: The main thing is not to shy away from those conversations. It's not really helpful to deny the reality or not equip them with the tools to face that reality. You have to acknowledge that they're running into a house that is on fire. > Q: You argue for a shift from what you call the “exploitation mindset.” What's an example? > A: A big wake-up moment for me came at a climate science conference. Pretty much everyone there, including me, had flown in. The presentations were a litany of depressing things happening because of climate change. I felt like I was at this conference of doctors puffing on cigarettes, but telling our patients to quit smoking! I realized we really have an obligation to model the change that we want to see. So, I have pretty much stopped flying for work. It hasn't meant I can't be a productive researcher.
Police in Texas investigating a Tesla car crash in which two men died will serve search warrants on the company to ascertain if the vehicle's autopilot mode was engaged at the time of the incident. However Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, has said the self-driving feature was not being used, based on an internal probe by the company. In the incident, two men, both in their 50s, were killed after their 2019 Tesla Model S crashed into a tree and caught fire. According to police reports, the car was travelling at a high speed and failed to negotiate a curve in the road. Texas police noted that nobody was at the driving seat at the time of impact, raising doubts about the involvement of the car's autopilot mode.