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What's changed for Kevin McCarthy since he blew his last chance to be House speaker?

Washington Post - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:30
His 2015 campaign imploded after seven days. Now he's the front-runner again.

‘This has gone too far’: In some Senate primaries, Republicans air concerns about Mueller’s investigation

Washington Post - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:30
Many candidates are scrambling to win over GOP primary voters by attempting to appear more supportive of Trump’s presidency than their rivals.

Ice cliffs make these Himalayan glaciers melt faster

Futurity.org - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:26

Researchers have confirmed their suspicion that north-facing ice cliffs on debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas accelerate ice melt.

Glaciers in the high mountain regions of the Himalayas offer a different picture to those in the Alps: many of them are completely covered in debris, and steep ice walls—vertical cliffs up to 30 meters high—overlook many areas. From a distance, this makes their surface look like the bumpy skin of a toad.

Researchers had previously assumed that the insulating debris protects the ice from direct solar radiation, thereby slowing down the melting of the underlying ice. However, satellite measurements show that debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas might lose mass as quickly as those that are debris-free.

A glacier’s ice wall. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

Multiple studies suggest that ice cliffs could be responsible for a large part of the high volume loss, as another characteristic feature of high-altitude Himalayan glaciers, alongside the insulating debris, is steep ice walls. Researchers now suspect that these ice cliffs convey large quantities of atmospheric heat into the ice, contributing to glacier melt.

Former ETH doctoral student Pascal Buri went to the Langtang Valley in Nepal and used a computer model to closely examine the formation and decline of ice cliffs and their influence on the melting of debris-covered glaciers.

Buri’s simulations and measured data confirm the suspicion that ice cliffs do contribute significantly to the melting of debris-covered Himalayan glaciers, particularly north-facing ice cliffs.

Debris covers many glaciers in the Himalayas. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

This seems at first to be a paradox: south-facing cliffs receive much more direct solar radiation than north-facing ones. However, this increased exposure to sunlight means they disappear more quickly than north-facing ice cliffs. South-facing cliffs melt irregularly. The upper section, which receives more sunlight, melts quickly, while the more shaded lower section melts less and more slowly. The ice cliff thus becomes increasingly flat, and once it reaches a slope of about 35 degrees, debris reburies it, covering it, and gradually shielding it from the sun.

North-facing cliffs, however, melt at similar rates throughout, so the steep face remains for longer. Heat radiating from the surrounding debris and that of the air is transferred into the ice. This contributes significantly to the melting process.

These glaciers may team up and cause faster melting

These results are a first step towards large-scale evaluations of volume loss of debris-covered glaciers.

“There are many glaciers in Asia and worldwide with often extensive debris cover, so a better understanding of their persistence are very important,” says Buri. “We should also consider the fact that Himalayan glaciers provide water for millions of people, e.g., in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.”

The researchers report their findings in the journal PNAS.

Source: ETH Zurich

The post Ice cliffs make these Himalayan glaciers melt faster appeared first on Futurity.

Asia and Australia Edition: Starbucks, North Korea, Shinzo Abe: Your Wednesday Briefing

NY Times - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:22
Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Why scientists thought Ebola would mutate really fast

Futurity.org - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:20

At the start of the epidemic in West Africa, the Ebola virus did not change as rapidly as thought at the time. New research explains why scientists misjudged it.

The culprit is probably methodological biases, according to research led by Tanja Stadler, a professor in ETH Zurich’s department of biosystems science and engineering in Basel. The work appears in PNAS.

When Ebola developed into an epidemic in 2014, an international team of scientists estimated that the pathogen’s genome would change on average every 9.5 days, based on virus samples and computer simulations. This estimate marks an atypically high rate of change. Normally, the Ebola virus genome only mutates at just under half that speed. The high mutation rate led to fears at the time that if the virus rapidly altered, it could also quickly become more virulent.

However, in later studies, researchers evaluating much larger numbers of virus samples could not confirm the high rate. They showed that when viewed over the whole epidemic, the pathogen only changed at its typical slow speed.

The new research shows that the high estimated mutation rates at the start of the epidemic were due to the limited number of virus samples at the time in combination with the computer models scientists used, which calculate the estimates using genetic data from virus samples and from underlying assumptions.

“The smaller the amount of genetic data available for a model, the bigger the influence of the underlying model assumptions on the end result,” explains Stadler.

Ebola RNA lingers in semen longer than expected

Current computer models, however, do not simplify reality as much as those used a few years ago, and they are less heavily influenced by the underlying assumptions, says Stadler. For example, the new models no longer assume that everyone infected has the same probability of passing on the pathogen to other people; instead, they take into account different population structures.

While the new models—the Stadler group is developing some—are more complex and require a lot more computation, they provide more accurate results even at the start of an epidemic, when very little genetic data is available. New calculations by the ETH scientists with the genetic data from 2014 show this increase in accuracy.

Source: ETH Zurich

The post Why scientists thought Ebola would mutate really fast appeared first on Futurity.

IRS has glitch, extends tax deadline

CNN - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:19

Treating manure doesn’t remove all the antibiotics

Futurity.org - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:15

Two of the most elite waste treatment systems available today on farms do not fully remove antibiotics from manure, research finds.

“We were hoping that these advanced treatment technologies could remove antibiotics. As it turns out, they were not as effective as we thought they could be.”

Each year, farmers in the US purchase tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics for use in cows, pigs, fowl, and other livestock. But when the animals’ manure becomes fertilizer or bedding, traces of these medicines leach into the environment, raising concerns that agriculture may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

New research offers troublesome insights with regard to the scope of this problem.

Both technologies—advanced anaerobic digestion and reverse osmosis filtration—leave behind concerning levels of antibiotic residues, which can include both the drugs themselves and molecules that the drugs break down into.

In addition, the research uncovers new findings about solid excrement, which is often filtered out from raw, wet manure before the use of treatment technologies.

Two treatment options

To conduct the research, scientists visited two dairy farms in Upstate New York.

Both facilities extract much of the solid matter from cow manure before subjecting the remaining sludge to high-tech waste management techniques. To process the remaining goop, one farm uses advanced anaerobic digestion, which employs microorganisms and pasteurization to break down and convert organic matter into products that include biogas, while the other farm uses reverse osmosis, which passes the slurry through a series of membranes to purify water.

Researchers found that this solid matter may contain higher concentrations of antibiotics than unprocessed manure, a discovery that is particularly disturbing because this material often goes into the environment as animal bedding or fertilizer.

“We were hoping that these advanced treatment technologies could remove antibiotics. As it turns out, they were not as effective as we thought they could be,” says Diana Aga, professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo.

She does offer some hope, however: “On the positive side, I think that a multistep process that also includes composting at the end of the system could significantly reduce the levels of antibiotics. Our earlier studies on poultry litter demonstrated that up to 70 percent reduction in antibiotics called ionophores can be achieved after 150 days of composting. Testing this hypothesis on dairy farm manure is the next phase of our project, and we are seeing some positive results.”

The research on reverse osmosis filtration appears in the journal Chemosphere. The study on advanced anaerobic digestion—a collaboration between the University at Buffalo and Virginia Tech—appears in the journal Environmental Pollution.

It’s not just farms

Though the new research focuses on dairy farms, the findings point to a larger problem.

“Neither of the treatment systems we studied was designed to remove antibiotics from waste as the primary goal,” Aga says. “Advanced anaerobic digestion is used to reduce odors and produce biogas, and reverse osmosis is used to recycle water. They were not meant to address removal of antibiotic compounds.

Tons of gull poop mess up nearby water

“This problem is not limited to agriculture: Waste treatment systems today, including those designed to handle municipal wastewater, hospital wastes, and even waste from antibiotic manufacturing industries, do not have treatment of antibiotics in mind. This is an extremely important global issue because the rise of antibiotic resistance in the environment is unprecedented. We need to start thinking about this if we want to prevent the continued spread of resistance in the environment.”

Aga is a proponent of the “One Health” approach to fighting antimicrobial resistance, which encourages experts working in hospitals, agriculture, and other sectors related to both human and animal health to work together, as humans and animals often take the same or similar antibiotics.

Source: University at Buffalo

The post Treating manure doesn’t remove all the antibiotics appeared first on Futurity.

In Journalist’s Murder, a Test for Malta, and the European Union

NY Times - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:02
Three career criminals have been arrested in the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, but her family fears a cover-up because of the powerful interests involved.

Mnuchin seeks to explain Trump's mystifying Monday tweet on currency manipulation

Washington Post - Tue, 2018-04-17 18:00
The Treasury secretary said the president's words were intended as a “warning shot.”

Divides Over Trade Scramble Midterm Election Messaging

NY Times - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:59
A survey shows strong support for President Trump’s tariff moves among his backers, but not so much among those whose votes could be in play.

Nikki Haley strikes back at White House: 'With all due respect, I don't get confused'

CNN - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:57
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley got ahead of herself in announcing new sanctions on Russia, a top aide to President Donald Trump said on Tuesday.

Editorial: Scott Pruitt Has Become Ridiculous

NY Times - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:55
The E.P.A. administrator’s appalling environmental policies aside, his unethical and bullying behavior has sullied his agency and demoralized its employees.

Stormy Daniels releases sketch of man she says threatened her

CNN - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:46
Stormy Daniels released a composite sketch on Tuesday of the man she alleges threatened her in 2011 and is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who can identify the perpetrator.

Diamonds and quantum mechanics ‘light up’ MRI scans

Futurity.org - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:45

Researchers have figured out a way to improve MRI scans by “lighting up” certain parts of the body using thin layers of diamonds and quantum mechanics.

Imagine a harmless solution or gas containing sub-atomic particles manipulated by quantum technology that when injected or inhaled would “light up” your molecular insides, so they could be scanned at a detail hundreds of times that of the strongest MRI machine. It could lead to faster, cheaper, and more accurate diagnosis of certain tumors, for example, at a molecular level.

But this isn’t science fiction—it is theoretically possible and a group of quantum physicists have now shown how it can be done by using light shone through incredibly thin layers of synthetic diamond crystals containing quantum probes.

In results published in Nature Communications, the scientists were able to use the light shone through a diamond layer 100 microns thick to change the magnetic spin of nuclei (the particles at the heart of atoms) within molecules on the diamond surface so that they “hyperpolarize” or line up in the same way. By doing so, the different nuclei produce a stronger magnetic field among themselves.

If a solution or gas containing bio-molecules quantum mechanically adjusted like this were to be injected, it would temporarily generate stronger magnetic fields at corresponding locations in the body.

“One of the applications is that it could allow us to improve the production of molecular contrast agents that target certain parts of the body and ‘light’ up magnetically, significantly increasing the amount of detail that can be picked up by an MRI scan,” says University of Melbourne postdoctoral research physicist Liam Hall.

Beating ‘brute force’

“Hyperpolarized bio-molecules can be injected into patients and travel to tumor sites where they can be monitored in real-time using MRI, or hyperpolarized gases could be inhaled for MRI imaging of the lungs and their function.”

Research team leader Lloyd Hollenberg, the University of Melbourne’s chair of physics, says their quantum technology approach to hyperpolarization is relatively simple in terms of the equipment involved, and has the potential to produce clinically relevant amounts of contrast agents at very high polarization level.

Typical “brute force” approaches to hyperpolarization of the nuclear spins in contrast agent molecules involve placing the sample in very high magnetic fields at very low temperatures – the higher the field, the more spins line up. At room temperature in an MRI machine at the largest magnetic fields considered safe, the level of polarization is extremely low—perhaps 1 spin per million—and dictates the resolution limit of MRI.

“In our experiment, we achieved a polarization level of around 50 percent for polymer molecules on the diamond surface—this is the first time it has been achieved using the diamond-based quantum technology,” says Hollenberg.

“To put it in context, achieving the same level of polarization by brute force we’d need to increase the power of a typical MRI field by a factor of 100,000, and you’re only going to find fields like that in a neutron star.”

While other techniques for hyperpolarization do exist, Hollenberg says the required infrastructure can rival the cost of the MRI machine itself.

Indeed, team member and PhD student David Broadway says their technique “achieves excellent results using fridge magnets and some atomic-level quantum mechanics”.

Green NV systems

That bit of quantum mechanics refers to the remarkable quantum properties of a naturally occurring defect in the lattice of diamond crystals known as the nitrogen-vacancy center (NV). What makes the NV defect special is that the spin of electrons inside the defect are quantum mechanical and can be lined up, or polarized, by illuminating it with a green laser.

“We optimize how the polarized NV center talks to, and effectively transfers its spin state to, the nuclear spins of molecules outside the diamond to line them up.

“In a sense, the quantum probe extracts random spin disorder from the (“hot”) target molecules to produce a (“cold”) spin-aligned state,” say. Hall, who came up with the theoretical concept.

To create a better clock, apply this quantum ‘magic trick’

Hall says this quantum mechanical transfer, which was demonstrated using a single quantum NV defect, could be used for solutions of bio-molecules passed over a green-lit diamond sheet containing many of these NV systems.

“Because we don’t modify the contrast agents beyond the polarization of their nuclear spins, this process doesn’t affect the biology or the physiology of a person in any way,” says Hall.

The key challenge now is for the researchers to scale-up the “quantum hyperpolarization” system to create sufficient volumes of contrasting agent molecules without the hyperpolarizing quantum NV probes being too closely packed and disrupting each other.

“If we can tick that box, we can then think about polarizing volumes of MRI contrast agents to a high level for use in MRI scanners found in research labs and hospitals,” says Hollenberg.

Source: University of Melbourne

The post Diamonds and quantum mechanics ‘light up’ MRI scans appeared first on Futurity.

Are you eating plastic?

CNN - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:43
Each year we produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic and by 2050 there will be more of it than fish in our oceans. Here are five things you can do to help reduce your plastic use.

Trump's CIA pick faces growing Hill scrutiny

CNN - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:22
President Donald Trump's choice to run the CIA has privately faced a barrage of questions from senators over her role in the Bush-era destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, but she still hasn't alleviated a number of concerns about the matter ahead of her confirmation hearings.
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