Genetically engineered mosquitoes ready to assault disease

Genetically modified mosquitoes could prove effective in tackling dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases, a UK-based scientific team has shown. The male mosquitoes are modified so their offspring die before reproducing.

In a dengue-affected part of the Cayman Islands, researchers found the GM males mated successfully with wild females.

In Nature Biotechnology journal, they say such mating has not before been proven in the wild, and could cut the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Dengue is caused by a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito as it bites.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there may be 50 million cases each year, and the incidence is rising, with some countries reporting what the WHO terms “explosive” outbreaks. As yet, there is no vaccine…

When females breed with the sterile males rather than wild fertile ones, there will be no viable offspring, meaning there are fewer mosquitoes around to transmit the disease…

Oxitec, a company spun off from Oxford University, uses a genetic engineering approach. Offspring of their GM males live through the larval stage but die as pupae, before reaching adulthood…

“We don’t advocate [GM mosquitoes] as a ‘magic bullet’ that will solve all dengue in one go, so the question is how it fits in as part of an integrated programme – and for dengue, it would be a huge component of an integrated programme,” said Luke Alphey, Oxitec’s chief scientific officer…

The next step in the work is to demonstrate that deploying GM males does suppress the insect population enough that it is likely to have an impact on dengue incidence.

Dr Alphey said results from the project last year in the Cayman Islands suggested they’re already there. Seems so to me as well. But, real science demands multiple trials, evaluation by peer review in scientific journals.

We can count on the popular press to provide a predictable amount of cheerleading for those who panic if the words “genetic” and “modification” appear in the same sentence. The good news is that those capable of offering the range from suggestions to criticism based on sound science will certainly visit the work published for review. The know-nothings will restrict their noise to sources requiring no credentials or qualifications whatsoever.

70 arrested in Arizona, drug smugglers for Sinaloa cartel


Guns, marijuana and cocaine seized during Operation Pipeline Express
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

At least 70 suspected drug smugglers with alleged ties to the powerful Sinaloa cartel have been arrested in Arizona, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

The massive take-down of the drug trafficking network in Arizona included arrests of Mexican and U.S. suspects who allegedly smuggled more than 330 tons of illegal narcotics a year through Arizona.

More than 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were involved in the 17-month multiagency investigation called Operation Pipeline Express. Speaking at a news conference Monday in Phoenix, law enforcement officials said the organization was responsible for smuggling more than $33 million worth of drugs a month…

Officials say the ring, organized around cells based in the Arizona communities of Chandler, Stanfield and Maricopa, used backpackers and vehicles to move loads of marijuana and other drugs from the Arizona-Mexico border to a network of “stash” houses in the Phoenix area. After arriving in Phoenix, the contraband was sold to distributors from multiple states nationwide.

Law enforcement officials seized thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and heroin in a series of raids. They also seized more than 100 weapons, including multiple assault rifles and ammunition.

Authorities say the organization has been around for at least five years. According to a news release, officials say they “conservatively estimate the ring has smuggled more than 3.3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into to the United States, generating almost $2 billion in illicit proceeds.”

Most folks who feel – as I do – that drug use should be decriminalized, managed through price-fixed clinics still have nothing but contempt for the slimy gangsters who run the import business for American habits and addiction.

Throw away the key.

Copper sues deli over bagel sandwich seasoned with body hair

A police officer is suing a New Jersey delicatessen and its cook, who admitted stuffing body hair into the officer’s bagel sandwich in revenge for a traffic arrest.

The lawsuit filed by Patrolman Jeremy Merck of the Evesham, New Jersey, Police Department seeks unspecified damages from Good Foods to Go in Marlton, New Jersey, and its cook, Ryan Burke…

Merck ordered an egg, cheese and turkey bagel and after eating part of it, he found it “was adulterated with pubic, chest or other human hair,” the lawsuit said.

Merck sought medical help and was checked for communicable diseases at a hospital, his attorney, Bruce Zamost, said on Friday. None was detected.

Burke, who served Merck the sandwich, was later charged with aggravated assault, retaliation against a public servant and food tampering. He ultimately served 15 days in jail.

According to a police report from the criminal case, “Burke admitted to tearing out hairs from his chest and his pubic area and placing them on Ptl. Merck’s sandwich out of anger due to the fines and lawyers fees he had from the prior arrest in 2009…”

A woman who answered the phone at the headquarters of the restaurant chain declined to comment on reports Burke was fired after the sandwich incident. The restaurant’s lawyer, Mark Sander, could not be reached for comment…

Har.

I’m never surprised over what people will do for retaliation – nor am I ever surprised by how often these dodos are caught after choosing to do something truly stupid.

Palestinians awarded full membership in UNESCO


UNESCO delegates stand and cheer after approving Palestinian membership
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Palestine has become a full member of the UN cultural and educational agency in a move that the United States and other opponents say could harm renewed Middle East peace efforts.

The US had threatened to withhold roughly $80 million in annual funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) if it approved Palestinian membership. The United States provides about 22% of Unesco’s funding.

Which is about how the average mafia functions. Extortion doesn’t make for lasting politics.

Huge cheers went up in Unesco after delegates approved the membership by 107 votes to 14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval in a hall with 173 Unesco member delegations present.

“Long live Palestine!” shouted one delegate, in French, at the unusually tense and dramatic meeting of Unesco’s general conference.

While the vote has large symbolic meaning, the issues of borders of an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes that have thwarted Middle East peace for decades remain unresolved.

Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but that effort is still under examination and the US has said it will veto it unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based Unesco and other UN bodies…

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, last week called Unesco’s deliberation “inexplicable”, saying discussion of Palestinian membership of international organisations could not replace negotiations with Israel as a fast track towards Palestinian independence.

There is no “fast track” towards Palestinian independence if you think that honorable and ethical negotiations will be forthcoming from Israel’s ruling politicians. They hold power from a commitment to manifest destiny and lebensraum.

There is no “fast track” as long as the train dispatcher deals only in American dollars dedicated to short-term and long-term goals decided essentially by Israeli politicians. There is little or no attention paid to the needs of the displaced nation of Palestine.

History and historic decisions aren’t resolved in press releases from the State Department. Especially those offered in support of imperial occupying armies.

China unveils supercomputer based on their own chips

China has made its first supercomputer based on Chinese microprocessor chips, an advance that surprised high-performance computing specialists in the United States.

The announcement was made this week at a technical meeting held in Jinan, China, organized by industry and government organizations. The new machine, the Sunway BlueLight MPP, was installed in September at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province in eastern China.

The Sunway system, which can perform about 1,000 trillion calculations per second — a petaflop — will probably rank among the 20 fastest computers in the world. More significantly, it is composed of 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 microprocessors, designed at a Chinese computer institute and manufactured in Shanghai.

Currently, the Chinese are about three generations behind the state-of-art chip making technologies used by world leaders such as the United States, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan…

Dr. Jack Dongarra said the Sunway’s theoretical peak performance was about 74 percent as fast as the fastest United States computer — the Jaguar supercomputer at the Department of Energy facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, made by Cray. That machine is currently the third fastest on the list.

…Dr. Dongarra said it was intriguing that the power requirements of the new Chinese supercomputer were relatively modest — about one megawatt, according to reports from the technical conference. The Tianhe supercomputer consumes about four megawatts and the Jaguar about seven.

And as usual, an advancement in computer design in one nation prompts advancement in another. It’s what competition is about. When it’s an advancement from a surprising source – though why this is a surprise I don’t know – even better. It extends the number of competitors.

Only ideological fossils will be upset over the news.

And kudos to another wordpress.com blogger for beating everyone to the street with this story.

Coppers believe body in freezer is woman vanished 28 years ago


What – me worry?

A store owner who kept a woman’s body hidden in a storage unit in Lewiston refused a request to take a lie detector test 10 years after his girlfriend went missing, says a retired state police.

Frank Julian declined to take a polygraph test while discussing Kitty Wardwell’s 1983 disappearance and didn’t seem to be interested in what had happened to her, said Joe Zamboni, who retired from the Maine State Police in 2004…

Julian died this month at age 80 in Lewiston…in south-central Maine. His relatives found the body inside the storage unit he had rented in 1992. The medical examiner’s office and state police crime laboratory are using DNA to identify the remains, which police suspect are those of Wardell’s.

Zamboni picked up the case after the original investigator was promoted. He said Wednesday that there was never any doubt that Julian was the chief suspect in Wardwell’s disappearance 28 years ago…

Julian said the last time he saw Wardwell was on June 6, 1983. Over the years, the case remained open and was treated as an unsolved homicide…

The body was discovered last Friday by family members cleaning out the 10-by-10 storage unit, which the storage company owner said Julian paid for in advance every three months. The body was inside an unplugged freezer, which was stashed inside the unit along with stacks of boxes and household items…

DNA samples were obtained during an autopsy on Monday, but officials weren’t ready Wednesday to announce the identity of the body.

No doubt they will want a high percentage decision on the DNA analysis. And it looks like the oldest criminal stunt in the books – doing a great job of hiding the body – worked well enough for a probable killer to die of old age.