• New surgical goggles to see hidden cancer . . . based on a butterfly’s eye

    love these kinds of science/tech/medical stories, where an innovation makes life better.

    A new infrared goggle for cancer surgeons helps them see all the cancerous cells. It is based on a butterfly’s eye! (link) Cool short video with it.

    Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis have developed a surgical camera inspired by the eye of the morpho butterfly. The tiny camera, connected to the goggles a surgeon wears, sees infrared signals given off by tumor-binding dyes so that the surgeon can find and remove all of the cancerous tissue.

    The camera was tested in mice and in human patients with breast cancer. The study was published in the journal Optica.

    Eureka Alert

    There’s another report on this news at CNET (link).

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, September 22

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ North Korea was sufficiently flummoxed by Trump’s speech that it postponed its own UN speech til Saturday

    The official NK media called Trump names normally heard only at Antifa rallies: “Mentally Deranged U.S. Dotard” (New York Times).

    The word itself is sufficiently odd that the Washington Post had to run an article explaining it. (Link here) Short definition: A person in his dotage.

    His latest threat is an H-Bomb test over the Pacific (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Comment: Expect fire and brimstone from the North Koreans at the UN on Saturday.

    This is not going to end well.

    The really big news is that China’s Central Bank has told all the country’s banks to stop all dealings with North Korea. That’s a major step, one Trump himself called unexpected (Reuters)

    It does not mean all banks will comply, but the penalty (from the US and perhaps China) will be severe for cheating.

    North Korea will undoubtedly try to utilize other currency streams: British Pounds, Euros, Gold, Bitcoins, whatever, but I expect London and Frankfurt will follow Washington’s lead on this.

    Comments:

    1. North Korea is very canny in finding and hiding new sources of financing. The US and others will have to monitor transactions very carefully and punish violators harshly.
    2. It is quite likely that Pres. Trump’s very strong speech to the UN and the credibility of US military threats moved China to take measures against North Korea it clearly did not wish to take and has avoided for two decades.

    Raging Bull Jake LaMotta dead at 95. Champion fighter in the early post-war years was subject of Scorsese movie(New York Times)

    Obama Presidential Library getting lots of pushback from black neighborhood (Chicago Tribune)

    Now that Obama is about to build his presidential center in Woodlawn’s Jackson Park, some residents are wary of his ability to transform neighborhoods without doing harm to longtime residents who could end up displaced by gentrification.

    A nasty fight over a community benefits agreement with the Obama Foundation has exposed an unexpected rift between the former president and some of the South Side residents who helped lift him to prominence. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: Part of the issue is “rent seeking.” Locals want a cut of the action, and Obama won’t sign an agreement with them.

    Another part is that the whole complex, including a fancy golf course, is an upscale project on the lakefront. Pres. Obama had a chance to build it two miles away, in an area with much better transportation and a neighborhood that really needed it.  He preferred the more prestigious site instead. Finally, a lot of the pushback is that activists claim his presidency “didn’t do enough for black people.”

    According to the Tribune:

    At a community forum Wednesday night, a discussion about the proposed agreement morphed into a shouting match over whether Obama actually loves black people. One man in the audience yelled, “No,” while others said he wasn’t necessarily “their brother.” –Chicago Tribune

    ◆ Paging Alex Haley

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, June 29

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Sex charges against top Vatican official (Fox)

    Cardinal George Pell, head of Vatican finances and the most senior Catholic in Australia, has been charged with sex offenses. He will return to Australia’s state of Victoria and vows to fight the charges. He calls them “relentless character assassination.”

    Comment: This is grim, sad stuff, if the charges can be proven.

     Closing in on the leakers who are giving highly-classified materials to the media to sink the Trump administration and prove the Obama administration was effective in dealing with Russia, Iran, and other problems

    In a very important story, Adam Kredo says the latest wave of leaks is very serious

    A new wave of leaks targeting the Trump administration has actively endangered ongoing intelligence and military operations being conducted by the United States and its allies, sparking anger and concern inside and outside the White House. –Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon

    So, who was it?

    The leaks have been traced to a number of former Obama administration officials, including Ben Rhodes—the former National Security Council official responsible for creating an in-house ‘echo chamber’ meant to mislead reporters and the public about the landmark nuclear deal with Iran—and Colin Kahl, former Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

    Another source, this one a senior administration official who is also intimately familiar with the situation, confirmed the assessment to the Washington Free Beacon. –Kredo in Washington Free Beacon

    Comment: Kredo has done superb reporting on this story for months. The nation’s most prominent papers have done no investigating because, of course, they are the recipients of these leaks.

    I had always suspected Rhodes was one of the culprits. After all, it was Rhodes who bragged about his ability to manipulate the media, creating “an echo chamber” among journalists who didn’t really know anything about Iran or the nuclear deal.

    Now, the goals are different: undermine Trump and defend the great achievements of the Obama Administration.

    The FBI should be investigating this. Whoever did it should be fitted for prison garb. There are echo chambers there, too: concrete walls.

     Georgetown’s new dean of their Doha campus has written openly of his support for Hezbollah

    The former head of Islamic studies on Georgetown’s Washington campus, Ahmad Dallal

    signed a 2006 petition declaring his “conscious support for the Lebanese national resistance [Hezbollah] as it wages a war” against Israel, adding

     that it is “a war to safeguard the dignity of the Lebanese and Arab people.” The statement declared Hezbollah’s murderous campaign a “heroic operation.”

    In his previous position as provost of American University of Beirut, Dallal slammed one of his colleagues for collaborating with Israeli scholars, declaring that the school would boycott the Jewish state. –Conservative Review, link here

    Comment: His graduate education came at ground zero for the decline and fall of Middle East Studies: Edward Said’s Columbia. Dallal has carried that torch forward and now reaches a very prominent position.

    There is a Yiddish word for what Georgetown has done: Shonda. It means shameful.

    I can only hope Prof. Dallal will pardon me for using such a word. 

     Venezuela is mired in conflict, suffering food shortages, and may be sliding into civil war (Washington Post)

    If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian Revolution destroyed, we would go to combat,” Maduro said to a crowd of supporters, referring to the socialist, populist platform that transformed Venezuela under his charismatic predecessor, Hugo Chávez. “We would never give up, and what couldn’t be done with votes, we would do with weapons. We would liberate the fatherland with weapons.” –Washington Post

    Comment: There was a saying about East Germany: it takes a really, really bad political structure to get the Germans to build a bad car. But East Germany was up to the task. 

    That applies to Venezuela, which has the world’s largest supply of oil underground, but cannot afford bread.

     Chair of EPA’s outside Board of Scientific Counselors says she was pressed by a Trump EPA official to change her Congressional testimony. The pressure came from the EPA’s chief of staff.

    Swackhamer said she “felt intimidated” but refused to change her testimony.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Dan Pipes and Gregg Roman
     for the Georgetown-Doha story
    ◆ Cheryl Brownstein for the EPA story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 27

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump goes BIG with proposed tax cuts

    New York Times: “Trump Proposes Sharply Cutting Tax Rates for Individuals”

    The plan is still broad strokes, rather than details, but the strokes are bold.  The point men are Steven Mnuchin at Treasury and Gary Cohn at the National Economic Council.

    The proposal envisions slashing the tax rate paid by businesses large and small to 15 percent. The number of individual income tax brackets would shrink from seven to three — 10, 25 and 35 percent — easing the tax burden on most Americans, including the president, although aides did not offer the income ranges for each bracket.

    Individual tax rates currently have a ceiling of 39.6 percent and a floor of 10 percent. Most Americans pay taxes somewhere between the two.

    The president would eliminate the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, a parallel system that primarily hits wealthier people by effectively limiting the deductions and other benefits available to them. –New York Times

    The Times also has a perceptive story: Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Reckoning for Republican Deficit Hawks

    The White House insists that economic growth will cover the cost, which could be as high as $7 trillion over a decade. But the question will dog Republicans and could fracture their party as they face the prospect of endorsing a plan that many economists and budget analysts warn will increase the deficit. –New York Times

    Comment: The main story on tax cuts is riddled with editorial attacks on Trump and often personal ones. The opening line of the lead story is that the tax cuts benefit the rich. And all the stories emphasize the NYT’s speculation–and that is all it is–that the cuts will benefit Trump personally. The implications are that he is self-dealing and that this plan is just another “favor-the-rich, Republican plutocrat” idea. They also love to follow the “benefit the rich” with the words “like Donald Trump.” They have given up all pretense of distinguishing their hard-news reporting from their editorial stance. The difference is the first thing student journalists learn.

     US THAAD anti-missile system, sent to South Korea, to be active within days  (CNN)

    Comment: The US has also sent major naval assets to the area, while China and Russia have deployed significant land forces, possibly fearing an influx of refugees if the Kim regime collapse. But also a signal to Kim Jong Un that he is facing pressure on multiple fronts. 

     Obamacare repeal: House GOP factions making progress, Senate Republicans still an obstacle.  Politico reports: GOP senators not so keen on House’s Obamacare repeal

    The House may finally be on its way to scrapping Obamacare, but don’t expect the Senate to go along: Any plan sent over will undergo major surgery — and survival is far from assured.

    The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate. –Politico

    Comment: The pressure to get this done will be enormous. The GOP knows that they face electoral disaster if they don’t pass their biggest promise of the past seven years.

     How good is the economy in Austin, Texas? “Employers struggling to find workers who will take less than $15 an hour” (KXAN)

    The story also notes, oddly, that unemployment there has crept up slightly in the past few months.

    Comment: When I was in Austin this winter, I asked some workers at a fast-food chain what the starting wage was. “$12 an hour.” I often ask that question when I travel since the starting wage at a McDonald’s or Dairy Queen is the effective minimum wage in the area. 

    I draw two lessons from the Austin story.

    First, the only lasting way to raise the minimum wage is to strengthen business demand for workers, which means making it easier for them to do business and prosper. That’s the Texas story, in a nutshell.

    Second, if unemployment is creeping up (though still very low in Austin) but businesses cannot find workers, then something is wrong. Either people don’t have the right skills or there are disincentives to work. Either way, those are problems that need solutions.

     First settlers came to America 130,000 years ago, long before previous estimates, according to a new study.  (Science News)

    An unidentified Homo species used stone tools to crack apart mastodon bones, teeth and tusks approximately 130,700 years ago at a site near what’s now San Diego. This unsettling claim upending the scientific debate over the settling of the Americas comes from a team led by archaeologist Steven Holen of the Center for American Paleolithic Research in Hot Springs, South Dakota, and paleontologist Thomas Deméré of the San Diego Natural History Museum. If true, it means the Cerutti Mastodon site contains the oldest known evidence, by more than 100,000 years, of human or humanlike colonists in the New World, the researchers report online April 26 in Nature. –Science News

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Michael Lipson
     for the Austin, Texas, story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, March 27

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

    Blame game for health care continues. WaPo reports Trump blames Freedom Caucus and far right.  One member of the caucus, Ted Poe of Texas, resigns over health care failure.

    Comment: No news here, IMO. Everybody blames everybody. But the main things to notice are (a) how little of the blame is attaching to Trump and (b) how unprepared the R’s were to govern after 7 years of making this issue their top priority.

     Jared Kushner selected to lead a White House team to overhaul the federal bureaucracy  (Washington Post)

    The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements. –Washington Post

    Comment: Kushner, age 36 and Trump’s son-in-law, is a rising power in the White House. Taking on an arteriosclerotic bureaucracy, where almost everyone has civil-service protections, will be an enormous challenge.

     After months of political difficulty, Germany’s Angela Merkel gets very good news from a state election, which her party won easily  (New York Times)

    Ms. Merkel is seeking a fourth term in national elections on Sept. 24, a race that has grown more challenging in recent weeks after her center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, unanimously selected a new candidate, Martin Schulz, to lead them into the fight. –New York Times

    Comment: Merkel’s long tenure as German leader has lent stability to Europe and the EU. 

     Uber suspends its self-driving car program until it figures out why one crashed in Arizona  (CNBC)

    The accident occurred when the driver of a second vehicle “failed to yield” to the Uber vehicle while making a turn, said Josie Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the Tempe Police Department.

    “The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side,” she said in an email. “There were no serious injuries.” –CNBC

    Comment: Sounds like the Uber vehicles did not initiate the crashes, and it is unclear to me whether better tech and programming could have avoided them. That, I assume, is what Uber wants to figure out.

     Cities and monuments switch off electricity for “Earth Hour”  (Phys.org)

    Comment: And they all get to pin “I’m Virtuous” Merit Badges on themselves.

     Scientists Turn Spinach Leaves into Beating-Heart Tissue  (Science Alert)

    Current bioengineering techniques, like 3-D printing, can’t build the intricate, branching network of blood vessels that makes up the heart tissue. However, a team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arkansas Sate University-Jonesboro have successfully turned to plants. –Science Alert

    Comment: Popeye smiles.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 10

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     “Scientists Closer to Creating a Fully Synthetic Yeast Genome” (NPR)

    An international research consortium reports Thursday that it has figured out an efficient method for synthesizing a substantial part of the genetic code of yeast. . . .

    The milestone is the latest development in the intensifying quest to create living, complex organisms from scratch in the lab. This group previously reported it had completely synthesized one of yeast’s 16 chromosomes, which are the molecular structures that carry all of an organism’s genes. –NPR

    Comment: THIS IS ASTOUNDING.

     South Korean president removed from office after impeachment by parliament is upheld by Constitutional Court

    New elections to replace Park Geun-hye must be held within 60 days. The leader, far and away, is a leftist who wants to pursue more accommodation with North Korea and might well ask the US to remove its newly arrived anti-missile system. (Washington Post)

    Comment: Beijing and Pyongyang would welcome such an appeasement policy toward the increasingly aggressive and erratic regime in North Korea. Indeed, Chinese pressure on Seoul to do just that has been ratcheting up.

     Students at Wellesley College: Transgender Woman Can’t Be Diversity Officer Because She’s a White Man Now (National Review Online)

    Timothy Boatwright was born a girl, and checked off the “female” box when applying to the Massachusetts all-women’s school, according to an article in the New York Times.

    But when he got there, he introduced himself as a “masculine-of-center genderqueer” person named “Timothy” (the name he picked for himself) and asked them to use male pronouns when referring to him.

    And, by all accounts, Boatwright felt welcome on campus — until the day he announced that he wanted to run for the school’s office of multicultural affairs coordinator, whose job is to promote a “culture of diversity” on campus.  –National Review Online

    Comment: You have to watch with fascination the world of “diversity politics” when Wellesley students reject–as insufficiently diverse–what could be planet earth’s only self-identified female who uses the descriptor, “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” 

    At Wellesley’s diversity carnival, the prime attraction seems to be an ancient mythical symbol, the Ouroboros. This serpent is eating its own tail.

     More evidence for those who think the end is near:
    “Toxic wild boars reportedly stalk Fukushima residents”
      (Fox News)

    Hundreds of boars carrying highly radioactive material are reportedly stalking residents hoping the Japanese town of Fukushima six years after the meltdown of the nuclear plant. –Fox News

     NYT: “After halting start, Trump plunges into Effort to Repeal Health Law”  (New York Times)

    There are East Room meetings, evening dinners and sumptuous lunches — even a White House bowling soiree. Mr. Trump is deploying the salesman tactics he sharpened over several decades in New York real estate. His pitch: He is fully behind the bill to scotch President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, but he is open to negotiations on the details. –New York Times

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ A friend who forwarded the Wellesley story
     

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, January 28

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles are in bold purple

     Annual “March for Life” receives unprecedented attention from incumbent administration  For the first time, a Vice President addressed the crowd in person. Beside VP Pence, Trump’s campaign manager and now senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, addressed the crowd. (Washington Post) Attendees reportedly optimistic that Pres. Trump’s judicial appointments will favor their anti-abortion agenda.

    USA Today adds “March for Life attendees upset their voices were left out at [last weekend’s] Women’s March”

    Comment: The March received more media attention this year, partly because the Trump Administration pounded the media’s bias in not covering it in previous years.

     Trump issues Executive Order temporarily limiting refugees to US from 7 countries with significant terrorist problems  The text of Trump’s order is here. The news story is here. He also ordered that Christians fleeing persecution be given priority in refugee admissions. (New York Times)

    The seven countries are:

    • Iraq
    • Syria
    • Iran
    • Sudan
    • Libya
    • Somalia
    • Yemen

    The leader of Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer, calls the Trump action “backward and nasty.” (The Hill)

     Head of Chicago organization to help survivors of priest abuse resigns. Says it is unrelated to lawsuit claiming he is receiving kickbacks from attorneys  (Catholic News Agency via Crux)

    CHICAGO- A longtime leader of a controversial advocacy group for clergy sex abuse victims resigned weeks before a former employee filed a lawsuit charging the group was receiving kickbacks from attorneys who filed sex abuse cases, the group has said.

    The [former leader, David Clohessy] said the lawsuit’s claim that SNAP was getting kickbacks from attorneys was “utterly preposterous.”–Crux

     Very slow economic growth in final quarter of 2016: 1.6%  (CNN Money) The low numbers were unexpected.

     Two Burger King employees arrested for selling marijuana at the drive-thru window  (AP via Hutchinson News) 

    Drive-thru buyers would ask for “Nasty Boy,” then for extra crispy fries. –AP

    Comment: And then get extra fried themselves. 

     Gravitational Waves, predicted by Einstein, may have been detected for the first time  (Economist)

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  • The Best News Story of the Day: —Paralyzed Monkeys Walk Again, thanks to Wireless Brain Implants

    0 No tags Permalink

    The technological progress is stunning: sending them wireless signals to implanted devices in monkey brains–and then seeing the paralyzed animals walk again.

    The Popular Science story is here.

    When a person becomes paralyzed, most – but not all – of the neurons that help signal muscles to move are broken. This keeps the brain from being able to send signals to certain muscle groups telling them to move. But if the body had a way of strengthening the few intact neurons, they might be able to do the heavy lifting themselves and restore the ability to move.

    In the new study, researchers implanted tiny wireless devices into the brains of two monkeys that had been purposefully paralyzed — each lost the use of a hind leg. The device recorded electrical signals from the brain’s motor cortex, which controls movement, and sent them to a computer. The computer then translated those signals into a language that electrodes — connected to a group of neurons in the spinal cord — could understand. –Popular Science

    Scientists are developing a far-better understanding of the brain’s electrical signals. As they do, their knowledge will translate from proof-of-concept studies in animals to real-life improvements for people.

    This is a proof-of-concept animal study relating only to large muscles, a long way from fine motor control but a vital (and literal) step along the way.