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10.06 Teachers vs. Prisons

10.05 The Shame of Yale's Calhoun College

10.05 America Needs to Let Go of Its Reverence for the Bachelor's Degree

10.04 The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

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Health Care & Environment

10.06 The 4 Kinds of People Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids

10.06 Seven practical steps to protect our cities from the effects of climate change

10.06 Chile to Create One of World’s Largest Marine Parks

10.06 Citigroup Becomes Third Major Bank to Cut Financing to Coal Industry

10.05 A story of hope: the Guardian launches phase II of its climate change campaign

10.05 Climate change is a global problem. Climate action is a local solution

10.05 Think dairy farming is benign? Our rivers tell a different story

10.04 Watch out for the MEGATSUNAMI: Scientists find evidence of 800ft wave caused by a collapsing volcano and say it could happen again

10.04 Most Efficient Commercial Solar Panels In USA To Come From SolarCity?

10.04 Air quality: governments woo the motor industry with dire results [The Big Issue: Letters to The Observer]

10.04 Car emissions test body receives 70% of cash from motor industry [It's the "conservative" model of regulation]

10.04 Right-wing hate can't kill widespread love for Planned Parenthood

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10.04 Robert Reich: The Washington Post’s new attack on Bernie Sanders is bunk

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US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

10.06 Stephen Colbert to Donald Trump: ‘There Is Zero Chance’ You’ll Be President [7:58 video]

10.06 Watch John Oliver Explain Broken U.S. Mental Health System [11:54 video]

10.05 Paul Krugman: “The GOP has become fossilized”

10.05 Hillary Clinton unveils plan for tougher checks in bid to reduce gun violence

10.05 Bernie Sanders thrills Boston with call to fight racism and reform gun law

10.03 Oregon shooting occurred in state that 'actually forces colleges to allow guns'

10.03 Oregon shooting: Jeb Bush says 'stuff happens' as left calls for gun control

10.03 Oregon shooting aftermath: eight ways to stop gun massacres in the US

10.03 'Thoughts and prayers are not enough': Why the US has so many mass shootings [Graphic: 994 mass shootings in 1,004 days]

10.03 Obama, Guns, and the Politics of Hopelessness

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10.06 U.S. General Says Afghans Requested Airstrike That Hit Kunduz Hospital

Economics, Crony Capitalism

10.06 Obama faces TPP deal balancing act as Congress considers approval

10.01 Gauis Publius: What Sanders Can Accomplish by Not Acting

10.01 Toys ‘R’ Us Brings Temporary Foreign Workers to U.S. to Move Jobs Overseas

10.01 How the banks ignored the lessons of the crash [the Long Read]

10.01 Senator Elizabeth Warren to Join Call to Alter Sales of Distressed Loans


10.06 Israel demolishes homes of Palestinian attackers as clashes escalate

10.05 Aided by Climate Change, ISIL wages Water war on Shiites of south Iraq

10.05 Civil War: Israeli troops shoot 96 Palestinians after 4 Israelis Killed

10.05 Binyamin Netanyahu vows 'harsh offensive' on Palestinian violence

10.05 Driverless robot taxis to be tested in Japanese town

10.05 Germany expects up to 1.5 million asylum seekers in 2015, says report

10.04 Nineteen feared dead amid heavy flooding in French Riviera

10.04 Paris’s first attempt at car-free day brings big drop in air and noise pollution

10.04 Inside the Indian village where a mob killed a man for eating beef

10.04 Gulf states plan military response as Putin raises the stakes in Syria

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  Obama Team Sets the Stage for Science
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Obama Team Sets the Stage for Science

Offers first glimpse of federal flu plan

by Jim Dawson
Inside Science News Service

Scientists say that so far there is no indication that the H1N1 virus will become more dangerous.

August 13, 2009 • Washington (ISNS)The 21 members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) crowded into a small conference center across the street from the White House last week to review the science that will be on the agenda of President Barack Obama's administration for the next several months.

The group covered a wide array of topics ranging from the federal government's response to the anticipated return of the swine flu virus this fall to changes in agricultural practices that might be required to deal with the effects of climate change.

The group covered a wide array of topics ranging from the federal government's response to the anticipated return of the swine flu virus this fall to changes in agricultural practices that might be required to deal with the effects of climate change.

First on the agenda was a summary of a quick two-week study done in late June to assess how prepared the country is for the expected return of the H1N1 virus.

The study will be released in the next few days and will provide "an integrated set of recommendations to aid in our response [to the flu's return]," said Eric Lander, a co-chair of PCAST. He said the report contains "strong suggestions for concrete scenario planning, a review of the current surveillance system [to detect outbreaks], and a look at what barriers to a rapid response might exist."

Harold Varmus, another PCAST co-chair and the former head of the National Institutes of Health, said studies of the H1N1 virus have found that only nine varieties out of hundreds are resistant to the vaccine under development. Varmus said that while there is concern that the H1N1 virus is following a pattern similar to the devastating 1918 Spanish flu virus—mild in the spring and deadly upon its return in the fall—so far there is no indication that the H1N1 virus will become more dangerous.

Langer said the scenarios used to forecast the flu's spread include the most likely events. The extreme possibilities have been discussed, but not developed in detail. Agencies across the federal government are working together, he said, "and lines of communication have been clarified. We want to engage the entire country." The goal, he said, is for federal, state, and local governments to "think this through and make sure we're all on the same page."

Next on the agenda was plant evolutionary biologist and PCAST member Barbara Schaal, who said her council subcommittee is focusing on agriculture in relation to global warming, obesity, and safety. As the climate changes, she said, researchers need to find a way to sustain agricultural output. To combat obesity, she said, the question that needs to be asked is, "can agriculture produce foods that are helpful?" She also discussed food safety issues such as reducing the amount of E. coli and other bacterial contamination in food.

University of Maryland physicist S. James Gates Jr. said his group is working on improving K-12 science and technology education, an area the U.S. has been neglecting for more than a decade. "But we don't want to replicate activities that have been done before," Gates said. "We're looking for unique opportunities." They are examining innovative schools that have good science programs in the hopes of modeling their success on a broader scale.

Other reports focused on energy and security, using robotics and nanotechnology to improve manufacturing, the impact of rapidly changing technology on the U.S. economy, and the role of science and technology in international security.

This article is provided courtesy of Inside Science News Service, which is supported by the American Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit publisher of scientific journals. Contact: Martha Heil, editor, 301-209-3086,

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This story was published on August 13, 2009.

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