Rright-wing politics The backlash against National Infectious Disease Chief Anthony Fauci escalated this week over an unexpected problem: beagle puppies.
The dispute was sparked last Friday by a letter to Fauci from a bipartisan group of 24 lawmakers. Lawmakers criticized the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci runs, for commissioning “expensive, cruel and unnecessary taxpayer-funded experiments” on some 40 dogs. Within days, the problem had electric blanket on the celebrity gossip site TMZ, Warning of the right-wing press (as well as on the Washington Post review page), and comment prominent Republican lawmakers, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who demand why Fauci still has a job after the beagle incident and other perceived transgressions.
The outcry over the beagles has reignited long-standing debates about the use of animal models in research – and also highlighted how, more than 18 months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fauci and federal agencies health care systems come under continuous and intense scrutiny in the midst of a fierce, polarized political climate.
The organization behind the fury is the White Coat Waste Project, an animal rights group that aims to to finish federal spending on animal research. Formed in 2013 by Conservative political strategist Anthony Bellotti, the group targeted Veterans Affairs research and shut down a Food and Drug Administration study on nicotine addiction, arguing that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund research involving animal subjects. One of his senior executives worked at PETA.
“We are building a broad left-right coalition on an issue we can all agree on – libertarian, vegetarian,” Bellotti told Undark in 2018. He insisted the private sector would step in to undertake any research. life-saving biomedicine that his organization has helped. pic, framing the group’s work as advocacy for taxpayer rights, not animal rights activism.
Many researchers say that animal models to stay a crucial part of vital biomedical research, cancer studies to the development Covid-19 vaccines. As for the research on the beagle supported by the NIAID, the most recent group documents that have caught the attention of lawmakers show that the study aimed to assess toxicity unnamed antiretroviral drugs. (These drugs are used to fight pathogens like HIV.) Other dog research supported by NIAID, according to documents recently obtained by the White Coat Waste Project as part of a request for public records, aimed to develop a vaccine against lymphatic filariasis. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mosquito-borne parasite infected more than 120 million people, sometimes causing debilitating swelling called elephantiasis. Most victims live in low-income countries, which makes it precisely the kind of research that the private sector often has. little incentive to chase.
The White Coat Waste Project has released some of its canine experimentation papers for month. The renewed attention now may have less to do with the dogs, and more to do with political wrangling over the role of Fauci, a leader in the U.S. Covid-19 response, including statements about government funding for research on high-risk pathogens have recently come under renewed control legislators.
Also in the news:
• When a new variant of the coronavirus pandemic appeared this summer – nicknamed Delta Plus because it descends from the highly contagious Delta variant – scientists immediately put it on their watch list. First detected in the UK in June, the variant, technically known as Delta AY.4.2, has shown the first signs that it may be even more transmissible than Delta. As researchers confirmed this week, that turns out to be true – but not, so far, a game changer. Delta Plus appears to be only about 10-15% more transmissible than its parent. On the other hand, the Delta variant is considered at least twice as transmissible as the original (Alpha) version of the coronavirus which causes Covid-19. Still, scientists say that even the slight increase in transmissibility makes the new variant worth following. The World Health Organization has identified Delta Plus in 42 countries, including the United States, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Recount NBC’s Meet the Press this week as the agency is monitoring the variant “very carefully.” Scientists are rushing to figure out what exactly causes the increased transmissibility and quantify the possible risks. A clear message, experts say, is that this coronavirus continues to evolve as it seeks new benefits, and additional variants are likely to emerge. (STAT)
• Leaked internal research papers and documents from Facebook show how the social media giant “monitors and manipulates” its users while constantly experimenting with their data, according to CNN. Documents – part of a treasure double “The Facebook Papers” – show that at the end of 2017, user engagement on Facebook posts was dropping significantly. To boost engagement, the company has devised a plan to adjust its news feed algorithm with a new metric: “Meaningful Social Interactions” or MSI – a scale for ranking likes, comments, reshars, and RSVPs. events and assess which actions were most meaningful to different types of people. The company tested MSI by conducting user surveys. The MSI rollout helped Facebook solve its engagement problem, and the company announced that the tool will foster meaningful interactions on the platform by shaping what shows up in users’ news feeds. But, as the new documents show, Facebook employees quickly realized that MSI could actually encourage negative posts. In an internal memo from November 2018, employees wrote that the new measure could cause some publishers to “take the path that maximizes profits at the expense of the well-being of their audiences.” Facebook continued to tweak MSI, but didn’t take it down. In a blog Publish earlier this month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that after the change in MSI, the platform “shows fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family,” and asked if such a change was really the sort of thing “a profit-driven business on people would do.” (CNN Affairs)
• A study published Monday in the journal Current Biology reports that one of the largest lemurs on the planet, called the indri lemur, appears to be able to produce vocal songs with rhythmic structure, something that was previously only seen in nightingale thrushes and humans. While many animals possess musical rhythm, the ability to sing a song with a categorical rhythm, that is, to maintain pauses between beats that are exactly the same length, is much rarer. To discern if the lemurs really possessed a categorical rhythm, scientists at the University of Turin, along with local primate researchers in Madagascar, recorded vocalizations heard in 20 different groups of lemurs, sung by 39 individual animals. The recordings were then analyzed by biomusicologist Andrea Ravignani at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. The downy songs of tree primates were found to have rhythmic categories of 1: 1 and 1: 2. The songs of the male and female lemurs had the same matching rhythms but different tempos. The researchers say they hope their work could lead to a better understanding of the evolutionary origin of human songs. And the techniques used to map the songs of lemurs can potentially be used to study rhythmic patterns in other animals. (Science)
• And finally: American technologist Carl Malamud has launched the latest volley in his effort to free paid scientific literature from the clutches of the publishing industry. The public domain voice advocate launched “General index», A database of text extracts from over 100 million journal articles. Because each snippet is no longer than five words, Malamud says, the freely available index circumvents copyright law, even though many articles themselves are behind pay walls. Researchers say the new treasure could be a boon to scientists who use automated text mining to search and analyze academic literature. They say this will essentially allow them to tap into the body of science with fewer restrictions than they would encounter with search engines such as Google Scholar. The project has got approvals leading figures in science and technology, including Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf. But questions still swirl about its legality. Malamud had to obtain copies of 107 million articles to create the index, and he refuses to say how he obtained them. In a statement, publishing giant Springer Nature said it supports some open research initiatives, but “has seen some initiatives run into problems, however, when the necessary rights have not been secured for allow their sustainability “. (Nature)
Also in the News articles are compiled and written by Undark staff. Deborah Blum, Lucas Haugen, Sudhi Oberoi and Ashley Smart contributed to this roundup.