Researchers find first evidence of acquired immunity to rabies

American scientists studying remote communities in the Peruvian Amazon ravaged by vampire bats have found the first evidence of humans immune to rabies.

The team from the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that six of 63 people tested had rabies anti-bodies in their blood, without ever having been vaccinated for the disease…

It remains unclear whether the six were born with the anti-bodies or developed them after being infected with rabies and surviving despite the lack of medical facilities in villages rarely visited by doctors.

Either way, the discovery, revealed in this month’s American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, turns on its head the traditional notion that without immediate treatment, exposure to rabies means a certain hideous death.

Amy Gilbert, the lead researcher, said that death was still the nearly inevitable fate for anyone developing rabies symptoms, even with the best medical care. However, the new research indicates that some people exposed to the disease may never develop those symptoms…

The CDC discovery is now expected to pave the way for pioneering research to develop both new kinds of vaccinations and treatment for rabies. That could even involve genome sequencing.

Astounding. Though I’m never surprised at what genetic changes may resolve themselves in isolated communities. The likelihood of useful mutations, adaptations, evolved changes is pretty small given the possible short timespan involved.

6 worshippers murdered at Sikh temple in Wisconsin – Shooter killed by police – UPDATED


Amardeep Kaleka waiting for word of his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Temple

Gunman killed by police after killing 6 worshippers at Sikh temple…

A police spokesman said that three dead bodies had been found outside the temple – one of whom was the shooter – while another four were discovered inside…

The shooting comes just two weeks after 10 people were killed when gunman James Holmes opened fire at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado. …Barack Obama was informed of the latest massacre. The President has been urged to address gun control as an issue ahead of this year’s election.

In the latest incident, which took place nine miles outside of Milwaulkee, police spokesman Brad Wentlandt said that a police officer who tried to engage the suspect was shot several times. The injured officer is a 20 year police veteran and was taken to hospital.

Mr Wentlandt said: “An officer arrived and engaged a suspect. That officer was shot multiple times. He is expected to survive,” he said. “The officer exchanged fire with the shooter. That shooter was put down. He is down at the scene and is presumed deceased…”

The temple was preparing for a meal which was scheduled to take place later in the day. Up to 400 guests were expected but not that many people had arrived when the gunman opened fire.

Witnesses suggested that women and children would have been at the temple preparing for the meal. Children’s classes were due to begin at 11.30am…

Ven Boba Ri, a member of the temple’s committee, said the man started shooting after he walked up to a priest who was standing outside, and shot him. Then he went inside and started shooting.

“We have no idea,” he said of the motive. “It’s pretty much a hate crime. It’s not an insider.”

Hate crimes are part of our all-American heritage. From lynchings to massacres, we have a world-class history of murdering numbers of people for reasons of race, religion and ethnicity. The gun culture fostered by nutballs like the NRA only makes it worse.

They will be on the political scene ASAP declaiming the usual rationales. They will not address principled points of access to guns managed in a principled and stringent manner – which does in practice make a difference. Which is why the United States leads the Western World in gun deaths.

UPDATE: The killer, Wade Michael Page, was a white supremacist – busted out of the Army after 6 years in 1998, reduced in rank.

Reject Cold War politics opposing Chinese investment in the US

In a rare act of bipartisanship, the United States Congress recently passed legislation to encourage more inward foreign direct investment. Democrats and Republicans agree that FDI, or “insourcing,” is important to US jobs and competitiveness. They are right.

But, even as they propose new measures to court foreign investors, many members of Congress in both parties harbor deep concerns about FDI from China, on both national-security and economic grounds. These concerns are unwarranted, and discriminatory policies to restrict such investment are ill-advised.

Not that I expect good economic sense to make an impression on egregious and out-of-date politicians.

The US government already has adequate controls in place to review and block FDI from all countries, including China, that pose anti-competitive and national-security risks. Investments that clear these controls benefit the US economy in numerous ways and should be welcomed.

Foreign-owned firms in the US account for 5% of private-sector employment, 17% of manufacturing jobs, 21% of exports, 14% of research and development, and 17% of corporate-income taxes…

To be sure, the US remains the world’s leading destination for FDI, accounting for 15% of global flows. But its share is declining, while China…has become the second-largest destination…

An increase in FDI outflows is a priority in China for two reasons. First, China has an understandable interest in diversifying its substantial holdings of foreign-exchange reserves away from low-yielding US Treasuries to real productive assets with higher returns. That is why China established its sovereign-wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, and why CIC decision-makers are seeking more FDI opportunities…

Of course, alongside the potential economic benefits of attracting a much larger share of Chinese FDI, legitimate competitive and national-security concerns do need to be addressed…

We have idiots in Congress who think selling copies of Microsoft Office to Chinese companies is a security threat. Well, maybe it is – to China.

Feeding this perception, some members of Congress are now exhorting CFIUS to block CNOOC’s proposed acquisition of Nexen, a Canadian energy company with holdings in the Gulf of Mexico, until China resolves ongoing disputes with the US over preferential government procurement policies and barriers to FDI by US companies in China. Heeding these calls would be a costly mistake that would undermine the objective, non-discriminatory CFIUS process and encourage Chinese companies to look elsewhere at a time when Chinese FDI is poised to explode and the US economy sorely needs the jobs, capital, and trade benefits that it would bring.

Congress is no stranger to costly mistakes. Our history of imperial arrogance, invading nations on behalf of Big Oil and any year’s White House ignoranus-in-residence, has been consistent for all the decades of the Cold War.

That Cold War continues with China the focus of xenophobic politicians and equally ignorant voters who return these economic Sluggos to office.

Turning down an opportunity for economic growth to spite foreign capital – regardless of nation of origin – is about as self-destructive as it gets. Because those investments are going elsewhere to compete with our economy. A double-edged commercial sword.

Mars probe heading for self-guided descent to planet — tonight –UPDATE: Safe Landing

By the time the robotic Mars laboratory dubbed Curiosity streaks into the thin Martian atmosphere at hypersonic speed tonight, the spacecraft will be in charge of its own seven-minute final approach to the surface of the Red Planet.

With a 14-minute delay in the time it takes for radio waves from Earth to reach Mars 154 million miles away, NASA engineers will already have given Curiosity the last commands of its eight-month voyage through space.

At that point, the mission control team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles will have little more to do than anxiously track the spacecraft’s progress – and wait.

Curiosity’s fate will then hinge on the performance of its pre-programmed directions, a new self-guided flight system and a complex, seemingly far-fetched landing sequence that includes a giant parachute and a never-before-used, jet-powered “sky crane” that must descend to the right spot over the planet, lower Curiosity to the ground on a tether, cut the cords and fly away…

Curiosity, billed as the first full-fledged analytical laboratory on wheels ever sent to another world, is designed primarily to search for evidence that Mars may have once harbored conditions favorable to microbial life…

If all goes as planned, NASA’s team expects to receive a radio signal by just after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time confirming that Curiosity has touched down safely in its target zone near the foot of a towering mountain on the floor of a vast impact crater named Gale Crater.

If no landing signal comes, it could take hours or days for scientists to learn if radio communications with the rover were merely disrupted or that it crashed or burned up during descent.

“It looks a little crazy, but I promise you it’s the least crazy of the methods you could use to land a rover the size of Curiosity on Mars, and we’ve become quite fond of it,” Steltzner told reporters at a JPL briefing on Thursday.

RTFA for details. Join science and space fans around the world and be ready to celebrate a safe landing.

UPDATE: Safe Landing — first “rear dashcam” photo

Half of those arrested over riots were busted again in past year

Nearly half of those held over riots arrested again in past year…As the anniversary of the violence and looting approaches, the data reveals that 44% of riot suspects have been arrested on suspicion of committing further offences in the last 12 months.

More than half of suspects who were locked up over the disorder have since been freed while thousands more who took part evaded justice.

The statistics, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed police in Nottingham made 143 arrests following last August’s disorder, of whom 86 were charged…

But in the last year, 72 of those suspects – half the total arrested – were held again for crimes including rape, arson, robbery, threats to kill and breaching bail or parole conditions, and some even arrested for multiple crimes…

The true number across the country could be even higher, with some of the largest forces including the Metropolitan Police unable to calculate the proportion of reoffending due to the sheer number of cases it had to deal with, the Daily Mail reported

Dr David Green, of the think-tank Civitas, told the newspaper: “This is a reminder that in this country we do not punish our career criminals properly.

They are allowed to go in and out of jail and this just reaffirms that we are continuing the same bad practice. If you punish them lightly you will get more crime…”

I have no problem with warehousing violent criminals, those whose property crimes endanger a peaceful life for ordinary citizens. It’s no different from jailing drivers who continually risk killing others on the road with their drinking addiction.

Yes, we can treat causes, we can effect the delivery of appropriate counseling – while offenders are on the inside. Removing unnecessary risk is at least as important as catching criminals and preventing crime in the first place. In my neck of the prairie it’s not unusual to read of DWI offenders with arrests in double figures. The same for junkies who support their addiction with burglary.