Friday, February 3, 2023



The same biotech startup that plans to “resurrect” the woolly mammoth announced a fresh round of funding that’s aimed at de-extinction the famously extinct dodo

Colossal Biosciences, the biotech company in question, said Tuesday that it raised $150 million at a $1.5 billion valuation, bringing its total funding since 2021 to $225 million. The last dodo was killed in 1681, according to Portuguese sailors discovered the dodo on the island of Mauritius, which is off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, more than five centuries ago. The birds, which were larger than turkeys, were killed for food, the site says. Pigs and other animals brought to the island ate dodo eggs. “The dodo is a prime example of a species that became extinct because we – people – made it impossible for them to survive in their native habitat,” said lead paleogeneticist and a member of Colossal’s scientific advisory board, in the announcement. Colossal’s biotech and genetic engineering teams are combining woolly mammoth and elephant DNA to recreate a next-generation mammoth capable of surviving in the Arctic and helping restore that ecosystem. “These embryos will be implanted into healthy female elephant surrogates with our first calves expected in 5 years,” accounting for the 22-month gestation period, said the co-founder and CEO of Colossal. A similar process is being used with the Tasmanian tiger’s genome and similar mammal DNA to bring back that predator – exterminated in the early 20th century – to the island off the southeast tip of Australia. Colossal is creating an Avian Genomics Group to bring back the dodo and, eventually, other extinct bird species “through genetic rescue techniques and its de-extinction toolkit,” the company said in its announcement. Colossal also announced $150 million in investments, boosting to $225 million its funding since the company’s September 2021 debut. (MSN)


The 2 missing Dallas Zoo monkeys have been found

Two emperor tamarin monkeys that went missing earlier this week have been found. Lancaster, Texas Police said they received a tip the monkeys were in an abandoned home. Dallas and Lancaster law enforcement found the animals in a closet inside the empty home. Dallas police believe the monkeys were taken from their enclosure. There have been no arrests, but police say they’ve identified a man they want to speak with “in regard to” the incident. The monkeys were returned to the zoo, where a spokesperson said they will be evaluated by veterinarians. The zoo and police will provide updates on the tamarins and how they were recovered. The monkeys’ disappearance was just the latest in a string of mysterious and suspicious incidents at the zoo, where earlier this month an endangered male lappet-faced vulture named Pin was found dead with an unspecified wound. A week earlier, a 25-pound clouded leopard named Nova went missing from its cage for hours after police and zoo officials said its mesh enclosure was intentionally slashed open. It was later revealed that an enclosure for langur monkeys also appeared to have been cut open at the time, though the animals did not escape. Police believe all three alleged crimes may be connected, and a $10,000 reward has been offered for any information leading to an arrest and prosecution in those cases. (KERA)


PayPal to lay off 2,000 employees in coming weeks, about 7% of workforce

PayPal has announced plans to lay off 2,000 employees, or around 7% of its workforce, according to a release posted to the company’s website. The company President and CEO wrote in the release that PayPal is working to address the “challenging macroeconomic environment.” He said the company has made progress focusing resources on core priorities and rightsizing its cost structure, but that there is more work to be done. “Change can be difficult – particularly when it includes valued colleagues and friends departing,” he wrote about the layoffs. “We will face this head-on together, drawing on the unparalleled scale of our global platform, the strategic investments we have made to strengthen our core capabilities, and the trust and loyalty of our customers.” The company’s layoffs announcement marks the latest round of job cuts in the tech industry, as Workday also announced plans to cut 525 jobs. Last month, Google announced plans to lay off more than 12,000 workers, Microsoft announced plans to cut 10,000 employees and Salesforce announced plans to lay off 7,000 workers. (CNBC)


Whole Foods reportedly asked its suppliers to help it bring down prices

Whole Foods asked suppliers in a recent meeting to lower prices on packaged foods. In a recording of a meeting in December between Whole Foods and its suppliers in which the Amazon-owned company said it wanted its suppliers to lower its prices so that it could lower its own prices. Grocery prices at Whole Foods and other markets have increased over the past year as inflation has risen. Supplies bought by grocery stores can increase due to a number of factors, including rising fuel, feed and transport costs. Whole Foods center store Senior Vice President of Merchandising argued that suppliers needed to lower their costs so that Whole Foods could lure in customers considering other options given the price hikes over the last year-plus, but even with overall inflation rates starting to trend downward, grocery prices still continue to climb, rising 11.8 percent in December from a year ago compared to 12 percent in November and 12.4 percent in October, according to the Labor Department. That does show a decline, but the overall price hike for groceries has been steeper than the general rate of inflation. The rate of inflation stood at 6.5 percent in December. (The Hill)


Wage increases are cooling

Wages and benefits rose at a slower pace in the fourth quarter — the latest sign of cooling inflation. Compensation climbed 1% after notching a 1.2% rise in the third quarter, according to the Labor Department’s employment cost index. That slowdown has reinforced the view among economists and investors that the Federal Reserve will slacken the pace at which it has been hiking interest rates to curb price rises. Employment costs rose 5.1% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, compared with 5.7% in mid-2022 — the fastest advance since 1984. (Financial Post)


‘Dr. Phil’ show ending after more than two decades on air

Popular daytime TV show “Dr. Phil” is coming to an end after more than two decades on air. Its host, former psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, has said he is stepping back from the daytime slot because “there is so much more I wish to do.” McGraw, who began his TV career on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the late 1990s, said in a statement issued by CBS Media Ventures that he had been “blessed” with a career in daytime television spanning more than 25 years. While the 72-year-old did not give concrete details of his plans, retirement does not appear to be in the cards. The network said that in the immediate future he “will focus on prime-time programming and plans to announce a strategic prime-time partnership, scheduled for an early 2024 launch.” Original episodes will continue to be shown during the 2022-2023 season, while the network plans to sell reruns for “2023-24 and beyond.” The broadcaster said the “classic library episodes will include new content such as wrap-arounds and introductions by McGraw, as well as guest updates.” (USA Today)


Fed raises rates by quarter point

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by a quarter point, the smallest amount in almost a year, amid mounting evidence of slowing inflation. Policy makers nevertheless noted that consumer price increases “remain elevated” as they lifted the target range for the benchmark federal funds rate to between 4.5 percent and 4.75 percent. The move is the eighth straight rise since the central bank began ratcheting up rates in March from near zero to beat back the fastest inflation in four decades. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he thinks it’s possible to bring inflation down to a 2% annual goal without a significant increase in unemployment, but Powell also said a rebalancing between supply and demand in an “extremely tight” labor market would be required for disinflation. The U.S. consumer price index fell for a sixth straight month in December, to an annual rate of 6.5%. (Fox Business)


McDonald’s readies major expansion

McDonald’s is set to open 1,900 new restaurants in the coming year, with a significant number in the United States, the fast food chain’s first major push to grow American locations since 2014. Of the planned stores, 400 will service the U.S. and internationally operated markets, including Canada, and 1,500 will open in developmental licensee and affiliate markets, including 900 in China. McDonald’s CEO said global same store sales were up 12% despite inflation concerns, prompting the plans for further expansion. (Yahoo News)


FedEx cuts 10% of management jobs

FedEx is laying off more than 10% of its managers worldwide, as the shipping giant tries to cut costs amid mounting economic worries and declining demand for package deliveries. The Memphis-based company, which employed some 550,000 people worldwide as of December, did not say how many jobs will be cut. FedEx has already reduced its U.S.-based workforce by 12,000 since June through attrition, a hiring freeze and other measures. FedEx CEO said the cuts are “necessary” to align “the size of our network with customer demand.” (Free Press Journal)


US woman detained in Russia after walking calf on Red Square

A 34-year-old woman from the United States was detained and fined by a Russian court earlier this week for walking a calf on Moscow’s Red Square that she said she had bought to save from slaughter. The woman was fined 20,000 roubles ($285) for obstructing pedestrians in an unauthorized protest and sentenced to 13 days of “administrative arrest” on a separate charge of disobeying police orders. “I bought the calf so that it wouldn’t be eaten,” the woman said. Video shared by state media showed the woman explaining that she had got a driver to bring the calf to Red Square by car. “I wanted to show it a beautiful place in our beautiful country,” she said. She had been living in a suburb of Moscow on a tourist visa and had carried out similar acts of protest before in other countries. In 2019, she had “rescued” a pig she named Jixy Pixy from slaughter in western England, brought it to London by taxi and taken it for walks and restaurant meals, but had to hand it to an animal welfare charity after her landlord discovered she was keeping it in a small apartment. (The Jerusalem Post)


Boy playing hide-and-seek found in another country six days later

A 15-year-old boy accidentally locked himself inside a shipping container during a game of hide-and-seek and was discovered a week later in another country. The teen from Bangladesh was playing with friends in the port city of Chittagong when he hid inside the container and fell asleep last month. The container was then loaded on a commercial ship headed to Malaysia, where the boy was discovered in West Port six days later. “The boy was just believed to have entered the container, fell asleep, and found himself here,” Malaysian Home Minister said. A starved and dehydrated teen was seen in a video feebly emerging from the shipping container after it landed in the country roughly 2,300 miles away. Officials said he had a fever and was taken to a nearby hospital for examination. After an investigation, officials said the teen had wandered into the container during a game of hide-and-seek. Police had initially suspected the boy had been entangled in a human trafficking scheme. (India Times)


Supernova reveals rare pair of stars in the Milky Way

An unusual star system created more of a fizz and less of a bang when it exploded in a supernova. The lackluster explosion, known as an “ultra-stripped” supernova, led researchers to discover the two stars 11,000 light-years away from Earth. It’s the first confirmed detection of a star system that will one day create a kilonova – when neutron stars collide and explode, releasing gold and other heavy elements into space. The rare stellar pair is believed to be one of only about 10 like it in the Milky Way galaxy. The discovery was a long time coming. The two stars, a larger one and a smaller one, were whirling around one another in a very close orbit. Over time, the larger star had begun to shed its hydrogen, releasing material onto the smaller star, which grow from 8 or 9 times the mass of our sun to 18 or 19 times the mass of our sun, Richardson said. For comparison’s sake, our sun’s mass is 333,000 times that of Earth. The main star became smaller and smaller while building up the secondary star and by the time it had exhausted all of its fuel, there wasn’t enough to create a massive, energetic supernova to release its remaining material into space. Next, the researchers want to work on learning more about the Be star itself, and hope to conduct follow-up observations using the Hubble Space Telescope. (CNN)


Survey finds people still taking food safety risks to save money

People’s dangerous food safety behaviors related to reducing energy bills and saving money have stayed largely the same as the previous month, according to a survey. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Consumer Insights Tracker found 15 percent of participants turned off a fridge and/or freezer containing food in December compared to 13 percent in November. People were asked about steps they had taken at least once in the past month to reduce energy bills and save money. Overall, 23 percent of participants changed settings on their fridge or freezer so that food was kept at a warmer temperature. This was 21 percent in November. Around a quarter lowered cooking temperatures and reduced the length of time food was cooked for, which was similar to the month before. Also, 61 percent of respondents used cheaper cooking methods such as a microwave, air fryer or slow cooker instead of an oven to heat or cook food. Up slightly from 58 percent in November. The latest monthly survey was done online from Dec. 16 to 19, 2022, with 2,000 adults in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. More than 1 in 5 reported that they had eaten cold food as they could not afford to cook hot food, which is up from 18 percent in November 2022. A total of 29 percent of participants said they had eaten food past its use-by date because they couldn’t afford to buy more. This is up from 26 percent in November. In December 2022, people were asked about their level of concern when doing food shopping. Half felt concerned about the quality of food, which is significantly higher than 35 percent in December 2021 and 43 percent were worried about the safety of food, which is up from 32 percent in December 2021. Other behaviors included buying reduced food items that are close to their use-by date and purchasing more long-life and fewer fresh items. In the latest survey, 38 percent of participants felt concerned about the safety of food produced in the UK, compared to 52 percent concerned about the safety of imported food. Also, 42 percent felt concerned about the quality of food produced in the UK, compared to 52 percent worried about the quality of food from outside the UK. (Food Safety News)


Friday Is Freaky With:

  • Bubble Gum Day (First Friday)
  • Cake Day
  • Feed The Birds Day
  • Four Chaplains Memorial Day
  • Give Kids A Smile Day (First Friday)
  • Missing Person’s Day
  • The Day The Music Died
  • Veterinary Pharmacists Day
  • Wear Red Day (First Friday)
  • Women’s Physicians Day
  • Working Naked Day (First Friday)


Historical Events

1787 – Shays’ Rebellion is crushed.

1943 – The USAT Dorchester is sunk by a German U-boat. Only 230 of 902 men aboard survived. The Chapel of the Four Chaplains, dedicated by President Harry Truman, is one of many memorials established to commemorate the Four Chaplains story.

1957 – Senegalese political party Democratic Rally merges into the Senegalese Party of Socialist Action (PSAS).

1961 – The United States Air Forces begins Operation Looking Glass, and over the next 30 years, a “Doomsday Plane” is always in the air, with the capability of taking direct control of the United States’ bombers and missiles in the event of the destruction of the SAC’s command post.

1966 – Luna 9 touches down on the Moon. The unmanned Soviet spacecraft was the first to achieve a soft landing there.

1969 – Yasser Arafat becomes leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Even after his death in 2011, Arafat remained a highly controversial figure, many Arabs praising him as a freedom fighter while many Israelis denouncing him as a terrorist.

1972 – The deadliest snowstorm in history kills 4000. The Iran Blizzard lasted a week and left whole villages without survivors.

1984 – Space Shuttle program: STS-41-B is launched using Space Shuttle Challenger.

1989 – After a stroke two weeks previous, South African President P. W. Botha resigns as leader of the National Party, but stays on as president for six more months.

1989 – Paraguay’s dictator, Alfredo Stroessner, is overthrown. Stroessner had come to power in 1954 with a military coup.

1998 – 20 people die in the Cavalese cable car disaster. The wings of a low-flying U.S. military aircraft cut the aerial tramway’s cables, causing the cabin to plunge 80 meters.

2008 – The New York Giants defeated the heavily favored and previously undefeated 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14, in what is known to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

2011 – All available blocks of IPv4 internet addresses are officially distributed to regional authorities.