DAILY DOSE: Rampant corruption in the World Health Organization; Invasive species have killed off traditional baseball bats.

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DIRTY DEALING.

The World Health Organization is a mess. It really comes across as a massive bureaucracy rife with corruption and public health shadiness. Another day, another scandal. Per the Associated Press,

Staffers at the World Health Organization’s Syrian office have alleged that their boss mismanaged millions of dollars, plied government officials with gifts -- including computers, gold coins and cars -- and acted frivolously as COVID-19 swept the country.

More than 100 confidential documents, messages and other materials obtained by The Associated Press show WHO officials told investigators that the agency’s Syria representative, Dr. Akjemal Magtymova, engaged in abusive behavior, pressured WHO staff to sign contracts with high-ranking Syrian government politicians and consistently misspent WHO and donor funds.

Magtymova declined to respond to questions about the allegations, saying that she was “prohibited” from sharing information “due to (her) obligations as a WHO staff member.” She described the accusations as “defamatory.”

Complaints from at least a dozen personnel have triggered one of the biggest internal WHO probes in years, at times involving more than 20 investigators, according to staffers linked to the investigation.

The entire funding model of the organization needs a rethink. https://bit.ly/3goOFdA


RESPONSIBLE SCIENCE.

Science magazine’s editorial board has spoken out about the appointment of Joseph Ladapo to the surgeon general of Florida and a faculty member at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He has been a high-profile and outspoken proponent of all sorts of Covid-19 quakery, particularly with regards to hydroxychloroquine. They being up salient points about the responsibilities that comes with challenging consensus.

Unequal perspectives do not deserve equal time, and challenging scientific consensus requires evidence that has been subjected to peer review and published with all the data disclosed so that the scientific community can replicate the findings. Ladapo recently has been circulating an unattributed study apparently showing that the risk of heart complications from mRNA vaccines to COVID-19 makes them harmful for males under 40. To be taken seriously, such a major challenge to scientific consensus requires rigorous review and wide evaluation of the underlying data. Nothing like that happened. “Ladapo’s dissemination of flawed data that purports a risk of cardiac death among men age 18 to 39 after mRNA vaccines was baseless, reckless, and irresponsible,” said cardiologist Eric Topol. “The risk of myocarditis in this demographic is real and notable, but all studies with close follow-up have indicated it is typically mild and fully resolves in nearly all affected.”

They aren’t saying don’t do it. They are saying you need to back it up appropriately and in the proper places. Twitter ain’t it. https://bit.ly/3gdv0NK


HOME SCIENCE.

Science happens everywhere. Sometimes, it’s even truly groundbreaking stuff that stumps the experts. Look no further than fish hobbyists’ aquariums. Per the AP,

It took a broken air conditioner for Tom Bowling to figure out — after nearly eight months of failure — how to breed the coveted pink-yellow tropical fish known as blotched anthias.

Bowling, an ornamental fish breeder based in Palau, had kept the fish in cool water, trying to replicate the temperatures the deep-water creatures are usually found in. But when the air conditioner broke the water temperature rose by a few degrees overnight -- with surprising results. “They started spawning — they went crazy, laying eggs everywhere,” said Bowling.

Experts around the world tinker over water temperature, futz with lights, and try various mixes of microscopic food particles in hopes of happening upon the particular and peculiar set of conditions that will inspire ornamental fish to breed. Experts hope to steer the aquarium fish trade away from wild-caught fish, which are often caught with poisons that can hurt coral ecosystems.

Most salt water fish are caught in Southeast Asian reefs  in the Philippines and Indonesia. https://bit.ly/3sbRd1q


PLAGUE IN OUR GENES.

A recent study has suggested that the bubonic plague has left a lasting mark on the human genome. Per Ars Technica,

When the Black Death massacred up to 50 percent of the European population in the mid-14th century, it appears to have etched an enduring mark on human genetics, altering the frequency of genes that shape our immune systems—which may or may not be a good thing for modern humans.

That's according to a study out Wednesday in Nature from an international team of researchers led by anthropologists and geneticists at McMaster University in Canada and the University of Chicago.

The team dug deep into genetic data from over 200 people who died prior to the Black Death, during the deadly pandemic, and afterward in London and Denmark. Their findings suggest that the pandemic was a selective evolutionary pressure on humans, shifting the diversity of gene variants for at least four immune system-related genes. Subsequent petri-dish experiments with immune cells suggested that variants of the four genes were protective against the plague bacteria—Yersinia pestis—as well as other pathogens. But the authors also note that some of the genes have been associated with an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

"Perhaps this increased risk simply did not matter during the Black Death—the urgency of the pandemic might have made the trade-off an inevitable one," evolutionary biologist David Enard, of the University of Arizona, wrote in an accompanying commentary on the new study. Enard, who was not involved in the study, lauded the study's design.

It’s really fascinating how much our genes reflect our collective histories. https://bit.ly/3TUjvcT


INVASIVE SPECIES KILLS OFF BASEBALL BATS.

As the baseball world inches toward the Fall Classic, the New York Times has a really interesting article that documents how changes in the environment – in this case the emergence of an invasive species – can impact the game on the field. 

Among native tree species, ash represents a tiny fraction of the continental woodlands. But there is one arena where ash has historically reigned: in baseball.

Most of baseball history has been written with ash bats, from Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 to Roger Maris’s 61 home runs in 1961 to Mark McGwire’s 70 homers in 1998.

Babe Ruth swung ash bats weighing 46 ounces. Ty Cobb had his crafted for him by a coffin maker. Ted Williams used to travel to the factory of Hillerich & Bradsby, the maker of the Louisville Slugger, to select the lumber he wanted carved into his bats.

Today, however, ash has all but died out of baseball as the trees face beetle-driven extinction. This postseason, which stretches from early October to early November and began with 12 teams and more than 300 players, may be the first in generations that does not register a single plate appearance with an ash bat.

Like we said earlier, Science happens everywhere. https://nyti.ms/3MKaNeM

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: Sporting News.


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