Trump will nominate ExxonMobil’s CEO to run U.S. foreign policy.

Original article.

This may sound like a hyperbolic joke, but unfortunately it isn’t: Rex Tillerson will join Trump’s cabinet of corporate chieftains.

Much like Trump’s picks to run other key cabinet departments such as Treasury, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, Tillerson has no experience in government.

What he does have is 41 years of experience working at our largest oil company, including 12 years running it. Tillerson typically maxes out in donations to Republican candidates and he has a cozy relationship with Trump’s favorite petrostate kleptocrat, Vladimir Putin.

Like Trump himself, Tillerson brings an array of potential conflicts of interest to his future job. Green groups are already raising questions about some of them.

How does he feel about U.S. sanctions on Russia, which cost his company lucrative drilling contracts? And what about the Paris agreement, which the U.S. State Department led the way in negotiating and which set carbon emission reduction goals that would force ExxonMobil to keep much of its massive oil and gas reserves in the ground? Trump opposes the climate deal anyway, but how might Tillerson’s oil business background influence the administration’s global climate policies?

Then there’s the fact that Tillerson’s company is currently under investigation from state attorneys general for allegedly lying to the public about the science of climate change. As Executive Director May Boeve put it in a statement, “Tillerson deserves a federal investigation, not federal office.”

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Biology 2. 0: Camera observes plant growth

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In the past 70 years, the world’s population tripled to more than seven billion and average global temperature increased by nearly one degree Celsius. Population growth and climate change are associated with big challenges facing modern agriculture. New research combines computer science and biology to identify genes that make plants more resistant to stress factors, such as drought and saline soils.

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On climate change and the economy, we’re trapped in an idiotic netherworld | Greg Jericho

Original article.

The shrieks of horror that follow mentions of pricing carbon show politics remains wedded to the belief that economic growth trumps concerns of climate change

This week was a prime example of how economics and, by extension, politics doesn’t cope very well with the issue of climate change.

The news that Australia economy went backwards in the September quarter was greeted with alarm by politicians and then used as a reason to push their policy barrow. And most of the barrows were piled high with coal.

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Home Office forced to defend anti-fracking groups from extremism claims

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Government steps in after council and school identify campaigners as key risks under controversial Prevent programme

The Home Office has been forced to make it clear that anti-fracking campaigners should not be considered extremists after a council and a school in North Yorkshire used the government’s counter-terrorism programme to target environmental protesters.

City of York council included anti-fracking activists in its Prevent programme, the controversial centrepiece of the government’s strategy to tackle extremism and thwart terrorism. In response, the Home Office on Saturday issued a statement saying “support for anti-fracking is not an indicator of vulnerability” to extremism.

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New evidence shows how bacterium in undercooked chicken causes GBS

Original article.

A Michigan State University research team is the first to show how a common bacterium found in improperly cooked chicken causes Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS.

The federally funded research, now published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, not only demonstrates how this food-borne bacterium, known as Campylobacter jejuni, triggers GBS, but offers new information for a cure.

If chicken isn’t cooked to the proper minimum internal temperature, bacteria can still exist.

“What our work has told us is that it takes a certain genetic makeup combined with a certain Campylobacter strain to cause this disease,” said Linda Mansfield, lead author and MSU College of Veterinary Medicine professor. “The concerning thing is that many of these strains are resistant to antibiotics and our work shows that treatment with some antibiotics could actually make the disease worse.”

GBS is the world’s leading cause of acute neuromuscular paralysis in humans and despite much speculation, the exact mechanisms of how this autoimmune disease develops have been widely unknown.

“We have successfully produced three preclinical models of GBS that represent two different forms of the syndrome seen in humans,” Mansfield said. “Our models now provide a unique opportunity to understand how your personal genetic type may make you more susceptible to certain forms of GBS.”

Another area of concern more recently among scientists is related to an increase of the disease due to the Zika virus. Mansfield said there are many other bacteria and viruses associated with GBS and her models and data could be useful in studying these suspected causes, as well as finding better treatment and prevention options.

Despite the severity of GBS, treatments have been very limited and fail in many cases. In fact, the use of certain antibiotics in Mansfield’s study aggravated neurological signs, lesions and the number of immune antibodies that can mistakenly attack a patient’s own organs and tissues.

“These models hold great potential for discovery of new treatments for this paralysis,” Mansfield said. “Many patients with GBS are critically ill and they can’t participate in clinical trials. The models we identified can help solve this.”

Those suffering from GBS can initially experience vomiting and diarrhea, but can often write the symptoms off as eating bad food. One to three weeks later, they can begin to develop weakness and tingling in the feet and legs. Gradually, paralysis can spread to the upper body and arms, and even a respirator may be needed for breathing.

Mansfield now wants to move forward quickly to test drugs against GBS in her models.

“Of course new treatments would be wonderful,” she said, “but therapeutics to prevent GBS from developing in the first place would be the best strategy so that people don’t have to suffer with paralysis.”

Campylobacter jejuni infects more than a million people yearly in the United States and is also known to trigger other autoimmune disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Reiter’s arthritis.

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Materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Why can’t monkeys speak? Vocal anatomy is not the problem

Original article.

Monkeys and apes are unable to learn new vocalizations, and for decades it has been widely believed that this inability results from limitations of their vocal anatomy: larynx, tongue and lips.

But an international team of scientists, led by Tecumseh Fitch at the University of Vienna and Asif Ghazanfar at Princeton University, has now looked inside monkeys’ vocal tracts with x-rays, and found them to be much more flexible than thought before. The study indicates that the limitations that keep nonhuman primates from speaking are in their brains, rather than their vocal anatomy.

The scientists used x-ray video to see within the mouth and throat of macaque monkeys induced to vocalize, eat food, or make facial expressions. They then used these x-rays to build a computer model of a monkey vocal tract, allowing them to answer the question “what would monkey speech sound like, if a human brain were in control?” This showed that monkeys could easily produce many different sounds, enough to produce thousands of distinct words. Examples of synthesized monkey speech can be heard here:

This implies that a basic form of spoken language could have evolved at any time in human evolution, without requiring any changes in vocal anatomy.

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Materials provided by University of Vienna. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Capuchin monkeys produce sharp stone flakes similar to tools

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In addition to using rocks for various purposes, such as cracking open a seed or fruit to extract the edible part, the Bearded or Black-Striped Capuchin (Sapajus libidinosus), a species of wild monkey found in Serra da Capivara National Park in Piauí State, Brazil, makes sharp stone flakes by strongly and repeatedly hammering one rock against another embedded in an outcrop with a clear intent to smash it. Monkeys observed performing this activity then lick and sniff the quartz dust resulting from the fragmentation of the rock.

This behavior by S. libidinosus frequently produces sharp-edged conchoidal flakes with smooth rounded facets resembling the shape of a scallop shell. The flakes resulting from multiple percussions are left where they fall and are not used as tools by the monkeys.

Researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Psychology Institute (IP-USP) in Brazil, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oxford’s Archeology School and University College London’s Archeology Institute in the UK, analyzed the flakes inadvertently produced by S. libidinosus and found many that were similar to the lithic tools carved from rocks by hominins (human ancestors) during the Paleolithic era.

The research was conducted as part of the Thematic Project “Tool use by wild bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus),” for which Eduardo Ottoni is principal investigator. The findings were published in the online version of the journal Nature.

“We discovered that some of the stone flakes produced accidentally by these capuchin monkeys were very similar to Oldowan stone tools,” said Tiago Falótico, a postdoctoral fellow of IP-USP and one of the authors of the study.

Named for Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Africa, where they were first found in the mid-twentieth century, Oldowan tools are among the oldest stone tools ever found, dating as far back as 2.6 m years ago and usually associated with Homo habilis, one of the earliest species of the genus Homo, which includes modern humans.

Falótico and Ottoni have long studied the behavior of capuchin monkeys, specifically the use of tools by S. libidinosus in Serra da Capivara National Park.

They have frequently seen monkeys sniffing and licking the quartz dust left after they pounded the rocks, but cannot be sure why.

“Our observations suggest they may be seeking a dietary source of the trace element silicon or trying to remove lichen from the rocks,” Falótico said. He began collecting flakes and cores (rocks reduced by removal of flakes) during his PhD research.

The flakes, together with other material obtained by Falótico and Ottoni over a period of several years from digs conducted for research into primate archeology, were analyzed by Tomos Proffitt, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s Archeology School and an expert on Oldowan stone tools, and Michael Haslam, a researcher at University College London’s Archeology Institute, both of whom are collaborating on the project.

The results of their analysis showed that the stone flakes unintentionally produced by the capuchin monkeys have identical characteristics and morphology to intentionally produced hominin tools.

Around half of the flakes exhibited conchoidal fracture, which is typically associated with the hominin production of flakes. They had varying degrees of percussive damage across their surfaces, including small impact points surrounded by circular or crescent scars, as well as sharp edges.

“Paleoanthropologists use the characteristics of sharp-edged stone flakes both to distinguish them from naturally broken stones and to attribute them to the hominins that produced flakes with these shapes intentionally in order to use them as tools,” Falótico said.

The researchers point out in the Nature article that because these flakes are indistinguishable from many made intentionally by early hominins, the findings open up the possibility that flaked stones could be identified in the paleontological record of extinct apes and monkeys.

“When sharp-edged flakes are found at an archeological site, it’s usually easier to attribute them to hominins because the same digs generally also turn up many stone cores and signs of human occupation, such as fires,” Falótico said. “However, when they’re found in isolation with few or no other archeological artifacts, we should bear in mind that they might not necessarily have been produced by human ancestors.”

According to the researchers, other observations have been made of primates hammering rocks and producing fragments similar to flaked tools.

In 2007, for example, a group of researchers from Canada, Germany, the UK and the US found that the West African Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) used stone tools to crack nuts 4,300 years ago, in the Later Stone Age. The evidence came from the world’s only known prehistoric chimpanzee settlement, located in Côte d’Ivoire’s Taï National Park.

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Explosion hits central Istanbul, injuries reported

Original article.

An explosion occurred in Istanbul on Dec. 10 near Taksim neighborhood, private broadcaster CNN Türk has reported.

The explosion occurred near Beşiktaş’s Vodafone Arena stadium following a match between Bursaspor.

A number of ambulances were dispatched to the scene.

A CNN Türk reporter said the attack might have targeted riot police at the stadium.

According to initial reports, there were two explosions which were followed by gunshots.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said around 20 were injured in the explosion./IBNA

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