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They’re Now Editing Embryos Here In America

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MIT Technology Review has learned that the first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon.

The experiment, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.

To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. None of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and they claim that there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb—

Scientists claim their objective is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed “germline engineering” because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells—the egg and sperm.

Some critics say germline experiments could open the floodgates to a brave new world of “designer babies” engineered with genetic enhancements—a prospect bitterly opposed by a range of religious organizations, civil society groups, and biotech companies.The U.S. intelligence community last year called CRISPR a potential “weapon of mass destruction.”

Shoukhrat Mitalipov is the first U.S.-based scientist known to have edited the DNA of human embryos.

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A person familiar with the research says “many tens” of human IVF embryos were created for the experiment using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations.

Mitalipov’s group appears to have overcome earlier difficulties by “getting in early” and injecting CRISPR into the eggs at the same time they were fertilized with sperm.

Tony Perry of Bath University, Successfully edited the mouse gene for coat color, changing the fur of the offspring from the expected brown to white.

Somewhat prophetically, Perry’s paper on the research, published at the end of 2014, said, “This or analogous approaches may one day enable human genome targeting or editing during very early development.”

Mitalipov was Born in Kazakhstan when it was part of the former Soviet Union. In 2007, he unveiled the world’s first cloned monkeys. Then, in 2013, he created human embryos through cloning, as a way of creating patient-specific stem cells.

His team’s move into embryo editing coincides with a report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in February that was widely seen as providing a green light for lab research on germline modification.

The report also offered qualified support for the use of CRISPR for making gene-edited babies, but only if it were deployed for the elimination of serious diseases.

The advisory committee drew a red line at genetic enhancements—like higher intelligence. “Genome editing to enhance traits or abilities beyond ordinary health raises concerns about whether the benefits can outweigh the risks, and about fairness if available only to some people,” said Alta Charo, co-chair of the NAS’s study committee and professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

In the U.S., any effort to turn an edited IVF embryo into a baby has been blocked by Congress, which added language to the Department of Health and Human Services funding bill forbidding it from approving clinical trials of the concept.

 

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Should There Be Another Constitutional Convention in New York?

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New Yorkers have the chance to vote whether they want to hold a constitutional convention to amend, tweak or otherwise improve the founding document of the state every twenty years. Voters have demuurred for the past 50 years. Come November, however, academics, good-government groups and others believe the outcome of the ballot question may be different. But before voters confront the ballot question, they will no doubt be barraged by aka “Con-Con”,  campaigns for and against a constitutional convention. Nonprofit groups interested in issues including campaign finance reform, redistricting, term limits and the legalization of marijuana have come out in favor of a convention. At the same time, unions like the United Federation of Teachers and state legislative leaders have argued against a convention, saying it could repeal hallowed protections.

Speakers waiting their turn at the opening session of the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1967 included, seated from left, Senator Jacob K. Javits, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, Chief Justice Earl Warren and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Credit Bettmann, via Getty Images

Delegates assembled for the opening session of the 1938 constitutional convention in Albany. Credit The New York Times

If voters approve a convention, delegates would be elected in 2018, with the convention held the next year. It remains to be seen.

Researchers Study Inequality & Twitter

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Johnnatan Messias at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and a few pals began the study began by filtering the Twitter stream during the three months to September 2016. In total, they collected 341,457,982 tweets posted by 50,270,310 users.

They filtered this by time zone, geolocation, and those with a profile picture to leave them with 1.6 million users based in the U.S. They then fed the pictures through a state-of-the-art face recognition application called Face++, which reports the sex and race (black, white, or Asian) of each user. The overall makeup  of the group revealed that  53 percent were women and 47 percent men. It also revealed the race breakdown, which was 18 percent Asian, 14 percent black, and 68 percent white. Messias and co began by looking at the ratios of men and women who had the most followers on Twitter. Of the top 1 percent of Twitter users with the most followers, 57 percent were male and 43 percent female. Researchers say inequalities surfaced when the group studied the distribution of races among the most popular Twitter users. “At the highest levels of [Twitter] visibility, users perceived to be White come out on top position.”

The most privileged group turns out to be white males, who are overrepresented by 20 percent among popular Twitter users. White females are also more privileged albeit to much lesser extent, just 3 percent. The most underprivileged groups are Asian females and black females, who are underrepresented by 31 percent.

Moreover, The study reveals that there are significant biases in the way genders and races link to each other. This is an effect known as “homophily”—the tendency of people to seek out others like themselves.  White people tend to follow more white people than expected by a margin of 16 percent. Black people tend to follow more black people than expected by a very significant margin of over 200 percent. However, Asian people tend to follow fewer Asian people than expected by a margin of 10 percent.

The Wikipedia Text Adventure

 

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Created by Developer Kevan Davis

Wikipedia as a classic text adventure: A “game” Wikipedia: The Text Adventure generates a list of major landmarks, and clicking any of them takes you to a landing page with a basic location description as pulled from its Wikipedia article summary, along with a list of nearby locations marked off by cardinal directions. You’re restricted to a text box, and, appropriately, typing “help” into it brings up a list of commands you can type. (Mobile users can also tap on keywords in the summaries, which isn’t as cool, but it’s a welcome alternative.)

Wikipedia: The Text Adventure 

What Happened To The United States Of America ?

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This is Some Weird & Sick Mess!

 

 

The Obamas at their luxury $2,500-a-night Indonesian resort enjoy some rafting with the whole family

 

Making a splash: The Obamas enjoy whitewater rafting down the Ayung River- although Malia (front) looks a bit surprised

Ever no drama Obama, the former president looked typically relaxed as he enjoyed some family time on the island of Bali 

Ever no drama Obama, the former president looked typically relaxed as he enjoyed some family time on the island of Bali

Michele also kept it casual during their rafting expeditionYesterday the family had visited the Jatiluwih rice fieldsThe Obamas were spotted at the UNESCO World Heritage site during their luxury vacation to Indonesia on Sunday

Michelle (left), Barack (second from left) and their daughter Sasha (behind them, in yellow cap) took a walk through the fields, accompanied by their entourage

Barack - who used to live in Indonesia in the 1970s - kept things pretty casual in a blue polo top as he looked out over the fields

The Obamas like to keep active on their many vacations since Barack left the office. Michelle kept it casual in a baseball cap and vest, with her jacket tied round her waist

Obama appears to be chatting to Michelle (right) during the trip to the rice fields

Former US president Barack Obama (C) and his entourage take a break after a walk through the field while visiting Jatiluwih tourist site in Tabanan on Bali island on June 25 

The family arrived at a military airport via Guam on Friday evening, with Ngurah Rai Military Air Base commander Col. I Wayan Superman enforcing security measures along with scores of soldiers and police officers.

Prior to their landing, the commander told the Jakarta Post the Obamas’ private jet would have priority, although they would try to minimize any disruptions to the other flights.

Bump! The Obama's white water raft reaches land, as two guides help them dock  

The lush tropics of Bali and rich cultural heritage of Bali gives the Obamas plenty to do before their break

After leaving the White House Obama has enjoyed vacations in Hawaii, Polynesia, Scotland and Tuscany 

Soldiers fell into formation in Bali, Indonesia, on Friday in preparation for the Obamas' five-day vacation

Soldiers fell into formation in Bali, Indonesia, on Friday in preparation for the Obamas’ five-day vacation

The Obamas are enjoying some rest and relaxation at the Four Seasons, where freestanding villas come with a private pool and a spacious sun terrace overlooking the lush rice fields surrounding the Ayung River. Pictured, the Four Seasons spa

The Obamas are enjoying some rest and relaxation at the Four Seasons, where freestanding villas come with a private pool and a spacious sun terrace overlooking the lush rice fields surrounding the Ayung River. Pictured, the Four Seasons spa

With anti-gravity yoga classes, spa sessions and river rafting, the Obamas will have plenty to do for five days before the former president heads to the island of Java

With anti-gravity yoga classes, spa sessions and river rafting, the Obamas will have plenty to do for five days before the former president heads to the island of Java

Pictured, a pool overlooking tiered rice fields in the Ayung valley sanctuary, where villas can cost upwards of $2,500 a night

Obama's stepfather was from Indonesia, and he spent a few years living in the country in the late 1960s before he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents

 

Trump To Nominate A Democrat For FCC

President Donald Trump plans to nominate Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the Federal Communications Commission.

Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of 2016 when the Republican-led US Senate refused to reconfirm her for a second five-year term. The departure of Rosenworcel and former Chairman Tom Wheeler left the FCC with just three out of the typical five members, with Republicans holding a 2-1 majority. Republican senators didn’t want Rosenworcel to stay on the FCC at the time because it would have resulted in a 2-2 deadlock. Commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But no party can have more than a one-vote majority, so Trump has to nominate a Democrat and a Republican to fill the empty seats. When a president needs to nominate a commissioner from the opposing party, he takes suggestions from the opposing party’s leadership. Senate Democrats backed Rosenworcel for a return to the FCC, so Trump appears to be following longstanding tradition by nominating her.

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