During a hearing held by the US House of Representatives, Republican members accused scientists Kristian Andersen and Robert Garry, authors of a 2020 commentary in Nature Medicine, of colluding with government officials to suppress discussions on the origins of COVID-19. The authors, however, categorically denied the allegations. The commentary by Andersen, Garry, and their co-authors examined genomic data to determine if the virus showed signs of genetic engineering and concluded that a laboratory-based scenario was implausible. While the US intelligence community remains divided on the pandemic’s origin, the scientists reaffirmed their original assessment during the hearing, stating that the available scientific data support a natural origin. The hearing showcased the polarization of US politics, with Republicans raising allegations of conflicts of interest and collusion, and Democrats praising the scientists’ work while accusing Republicans of hindering efforts to uncover the truth. Researchers note that the accusatory tone of the hearing is detrimental to collaboration and learning from the pandemic response, emphasizing the need for international support to investigate ambiguous origins in future outbreaks. (Nature)
The head of the United Nations’ climate talks, Sultan al-Jaber of the United Arab Emirates, called for urgent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the planet from exceeding the temperature limit agreed upon in the 2015 Paris climate accord. Al-Jaber emphasized the need to tackle emissions in all sectors, including those resulting from consumer use of fossil fuels. He plans to bring together governments, major energy producers, and heavy emitting industries to develop a practical plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Achieving this target requires halving global emissions by 2030, which is currently off track. Al-Jaber stressed the importance of utilizing all available emission-reducing technologies, including nuclear power, battery storage, and carbon capture and removal. He also called for increased renewable energy production and financial support for developing countries to transition away from polluting fuels. The EU’s top climate official, Frans Timmermans, warned of the need for a credible plan to address the climate crisis and urged a shift in spending from fossil fuels to climate action. (Associated Press)
The book “Equity for Women in Science” by Cassidy Sugimoto and Vincent Larivière presents scientometric and bibliometric analyses that explore the influence of gender on academic outcomes. The authors examine publication rates, citation disparities, collaborations, mobility, and funding to shed light on gender inequities in the scientific community. Their analyses reveal that while gender inequity exists globally, there are variations among countries. Women tend to publish fewer papers on average compared to men, but this gap narrows among younger researchers. The authors investigate the role of parenting and find that the time spent actively parenting affects productivity more than the number of children. Disparities in citation rates are also explored, with men receiving more citations on average than women. The book highlights institutional practices and provides examples of the experiences of women in science, emphasizing the need for continued efforts to address gender disparities. (Nature)
Chinese startup Chipuller’s acquisition of patents related to chiplet technology from struggling Silicon Valley startup zGlue has raised concerns about technology transfer. Chiplet technology involves packaging groups of small semiconductors to form a powerful chip. The acquisition coincides with China’s push for chiplet technology, which has gained importance due to US restrictions on advanced chip-making equipment. China sees chiplets as a way to achieve self-reliance in semiconductor manufacturing. The technology is being applied in various fields, including artificial intelligence and self-driving cars. China has increased its investments in chip packaging equipment, and state-run institutions and companies are exploring chiplets. The acquisition highlights the need to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to prevent the transfer of IP to China. (Reuters)
Despite many other wealthy countries having ceased the forced sterilization of Indigenous women, Canada continues to face allegations and evidence that the practice persists. Activists, doctors, politicians, and multiple class-action lawsuits assert that forced sterilization is ongoing in the country. A Senate report from the previous year affirmed that the practice is not a thing of the past but is still prevalent today. Indigenous leaders argue that Canada has yet to fully acknowledge its troubled colonial history or take measures to halt this practice, which is viewed as a form of genocide. While the exact number of women affected remains uncertain, Indigenous experts regularly hear complaints about forced sterilization. Senator Yvonne Boyer, who is collecting available data, estimates that at least 12,000 women have been impacted since the 1970s. Recent cases have shed light on the issue, such as the penalization of a doctor in May 2023 for forcibly sterilizing an Indigenous woman in 2019. The Canadian government has condemned reports of forced sterilization elsewhere but acknowledges the allegations within the country and states its commitment to ending the practice. (Associated Press)
Researchers at North Carolina State University and UNC-Greensboro have detected a bacterium that causes scrub typhus, a previously unreported disease in the United States. The bacterium, Orientia, was found at a high frequency in larval trombiculid mites, commonly known as chiggers, in recreational parks in North Carolina. Although scrub typhus can be fatal if left untreated, the disease has not been detected in animals or humans in the state. The study aims to determine if chiggers in the United States carry Orientia and how prevalent the bacterium is. The researchers collected chiggers from various parks and conducted microbiome studies to analyze the bacteria. Some parks showed high positivity rates, indicating the presence of Orientia in the chiggers. The researchers are conducting further studies to understand the implications of the findings and whether the infected chiggers can cause disease. (EurekAlert)
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