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Melbourne, Australia — Nearly 100 years after its extinction, the Tasmanian tiger could live again. Scientists want to resurrect the striped carnivorous marsupial, officially known as the thylacine, which once roamed the Australian bush.
The ambitious project will harness advances in genetics, ancient DNA recovery and artificial breeding to bring the animal back.
“We strongly advocate that we must first and foremost protect our biodiversity from further extinctions, but unfortunately we are not seeing a slowdown in species loss,” said University of Melbourne professor Andrew Pask. and head of its Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research Lab, which leads the initiative.
“This technology offers a chance to correct this and could be applied in exceptional circumstances where fundamental species have been lost,” he added.
The project is a collaboration with Colossal Biosciences, founded by tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm and Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church, who are working on an equally ambitious, if not bolder, $15 million project to bring back the mammoth. woolly in a modified form.
About the size of a coyote, the thylacine disappeared about 2,000 years ago almost everywhere except on the Australian island of Tasmania. As the only marsupial apex predator that lived in modern times, it played a key role in its ecosystem, but that also made it unpopular with humans.
European settlers on the island in the 1800s blamed thylacines for livestock losses (although in most cases wild dogs and poor human habitat management were actually the culprits), and they hunted the shy, semi-nocturnal Tasmanian tigers to the point of extinction.
The last living thylacine in captivity, named Benjamin, died of exposure in 1936 at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, Tasmania. This monumental loss occurred shortly after the thylacines were granted protected status, but it was too late to save the species.
The project involves several complicated steps that incorporate advanced science and technology, such as gene editing and the construction of artificial wombs.
First, the team will build a detailed genome of the extinct animal and compare it to that of its closest living relative – a mouse-sized carnivorous marsupial called the fat-tailed dunnart – to identify the differences.
“We then take live cells from our dunnart and edit their DNA wherever it differs from the thylacine. We basically design our dunnart cell to become a Tasmanian tiger cell,” Pask explained.
Once the team successfully programmed a cell, Pask said stem cells and breeding techniques involving dunnarts as surrogates would “turn that cell into a living animal.”
“Our ultimate goal with this technology is to restore these species to the wild, where they have played an absolutely essential role in the ecosystem. So our ultimate hope is that you will see them again someday in the Tasmanian bush,” he said. -he declares.
The fat-tailed dunnart is much smaller than an adult Tasmanian tiger, but Pask said all marsupials give birth to tiny cubs, sometimes as small as a grain of rice. This means that even a mouse-sized marsupial could act as a surrogate mother for a much larger adult animal like the thylacine, at least in the early stages.
Reintroducing the thylacine to its old habit should be done very carefully, Pask added.
“Any release like this requires studying the animal and its interaction in the ecosystem over many seasons and in large areas of closed land before considering a full reseeding,” he said.
The team did not set a timeline for the project, but Lamm said he believed progress would be faster than efforts to bring back the woolly mammoth, noting that elephants take much longer to gestate than animals. dunnarts.
The techniques could also help living marsupials, such as the Tasmanian devil, avoid the fate of the thylacine as they grapple with intensifying bushfires in the wake of the climate crisis.
“The technologies we are developing to extinguish the thylacine all have immediate conservation benefits – right now – to protect marsupial species. Biobanks of frozen tissue from living marsupial populations have been collected to protect against extinction fires,” Pask said via email.
“However, we still don’t have the technology to take that tissue – create marsupial stem cells – and then turn those cells into a living animal. That’s the technology we will be developing in this project.”
The way forward, however, is unclear. Tom Gilbert, a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s GLOBE Institute, said there are significant limits to deextinction.
Recreating the complete genome of a lost animal from DNA contained in ancient thylacine skeletons is extremely difficult, and therefore some genetic information will be missing, explained Gilbert, who is also director of the Center for Evolutionary Hologenomics at the Danish National Research Foundation. He studied the resurrection of the extinct Christmas Island rat, also known as Maclear’s rat, but is not involved in the thylacine project. The team won’t be able to recreate the thylacine exactly, but will eventually create a hybrid animal, a modified form of the thylacine.
“It’s unlikely that we’ll get the full genome sequence of the extinct species, so we’ll never be able to completely recreate the genome of the lost form. There will always be parts that can’t be changed,” Gilbert said. by email.
“They will have to choose which changes to make. And so the result will be a hybrid.”
It’s possible, he said, that a genetically flawed hybrid thylacine has health problems and won’t survive without lots of help from humans. Other experts question the very concept of spending tens of millions of dollars on de-extinction attempts when so many living animals are on the verge of extinction.
“To me, the real benefit of any de-extinction project like this is how awesome it is. Doing it just feels right to me just because it will get people excited about science, nature, conservation,” Gilbert said.
“And we certainly need that in the wonderful citizens of our world if we are to survive into the future. But… do the stakeholders realize that what they will get will not be the thylacine but an imperfect hybrid? This that we don’t need is even more disappointed people [or] feeling cheated by science.”
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has confirmed that a US airstrike killed more than a dozen al-Shabab militants in Somalia this week, the deadliest strike against the terror group in months.
VOA first reported the strike on Monday.
AFRICOM said in a press statement on Wednesday that it struck al-Shabab terrorists who were “actively attacking Somali National Army forces” on Sunday at a remote location near Teedaan, Somalia.
“Command’s initial assessment is that the strike killed 13 Al-Shabaab terrorists and no civilians were injured or killed,” AFRICOM said.
Military officials in central Somalia told VOA by telephone on Monday that the US airstrike killed 14 al-Shabab fighters in Somalia’s central Hiran region.
The Somali army added that it had captured the group’s main stronghold in the region, located outside the town of Mahas, and had also destroyed its hiding places.
Last week, AFRICOM said it carried out an airstrike outside Beledweyne, the capital of the Hiran region that borders Ethiopia. AFRICOM said the airstrike, also carried out in support of the Somali National Army, killed four al-Shabab terrorists.
Abdurahman Sheikh Azhari, director of the Mogadishu-based Center for Strategic Analysis and Studies, told VOA that the US is again increasing its role in Somalia as part of “ongoing US strategic policy and the interest in the region,” noting that President Joe Biden has pledged to return the small US troop presence that was withdrawn by former President Donald Trump.
The recent airstrikes follow the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as Somalia’s new president and Mohamud’s pledge to fight al-Shabab on all fronts.
Daniel Furnad, associate director of the Nairobi-based Farsight Africa Group, said AFRICOM selects its targets carefully and only participates in actions that are unlikely to cause civilian collateral damage, while eliminating resources from great value for al-Shabab.
He added that Washington was concerned that al-Shabab would widen its scope of operations to include Ethiopia, but added that he did not believe the airstrikes in Somalia were linked to recent al-Shabab incursions into the territory. Ethiopian.
All the animals were found in plastic baskets, hidden under snacks. (Representational)
An Indian man was arrested at Thailand’s main airport while trying to smuggle out a menagerie of living creatures, including a desert white fox and a raccoon, officials said on Wednesday.
The Southeast Asian kingdom is a major hub for wildlife smugglers – who often sell the animals to China and Vietnam – although recent months have seen an increase in trafficking to India.
Abilash Annaduri, 21, was found with 17 living creatures from six species, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Flora said in a statement.
He said his loot included a white desert fox, a raccoon, two iguanas and a pair of white pythons – as well as three monitor lizards and eight marmoset monkeys.
All the animals were found in plastic baskets, hidden under snacks and packed in luggage, as he passed through x-ray machines at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday evening en route to Chennai.
“Thai authorities have arrested a man who was trying to smuggle animals to India,” said Prasert Sonsatapornkul, division director at the conservation department, adding that he had noted an increase in trafficking to India. India.
Officials estimated the creatures to be worth around 98,000 baht ($2,760).
But they were puzzled as to how the animals arrived in Thailand.
“We can’t find microchips on these animals, so we don’t know where they came from,” Prasert said.
Annaduri was charged with wildlife smuggling and detained for questioning by police.
BEIRUT – The stabbing attack on author Salman Rushdie has exposed divisions within Lebanon’s Shia Muslim community, with some decrying violence against staunch supporters of the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah who welcomed the attack. A Rushdie defender has received death threats.
The attack struck close to home among Lebanon’s Shiites. The attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, has dual Lebanese-American citizenship, and his father lives in a Hezbollah-dominated village in southern Lebanon. Matar’s mother said she believed her son’s visit to the village of Yaroun in 2018 turned him into a religious fanatic.
The religious edict, or fatwa, urging Muslims to kill Rushdie was issued in 1989 by then-Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who accused the author of blasphemy for his portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in the novel “The Satanic Verses”.
Iran, a close Hezbollah ally, welcomed Friday’s attack but denied any direct involvement. Hezbollah officials have been keeping a low profile since the attack on Rushdie, 75, as he prepared to give a talk in western New York. A Hezbollah official declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Most Lebanese Shiites back Hezbollah and the more secular Amal movement allied with parliament speaker Nabih, which won all 27 seats allocated to the sect in this year’s parliamentary elections. Seats in Parliament and Cabinet are divided in Lebanon according to religious affiliations.
Yet there is a vocal minority of critics of Hezbollah among Shiites. Several were attacked and one was shot last year.
As the controversy swirled, an old video of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah resurfaced on social media. In it, Nasrallah said that “no one would have dared to attack the Prophet of Islam Muhammad again” if Rushdie had been killed immediately after the fatwa.
Some Hezbollah critics have accused the group and its supporters of teaching their children to kill in the name of religion,
Matar’s mother, Silvana Fardos, told local Al-Jadeed television on Tuesday night that her son had lived his entire life in the United States until he visited Lebanon for the first and last time in 2018. This trip changed him forever, she said.
“After he came back from Lebanon, he was a different human being (…) I knew he was suffering from a long depression and I expected to wake up one day and find that he had committed suicide “, Fardos said, alleging that his son was abused by his father.
When asked if she wondered if she raised a terrorist or an extremist, the mother replied, “No. I raised an angel.
Journalists were barred from entering Yaroun and Matar’s father did not speak to the media.
Despite Hezbollah’s official silence, the group’s supporters on social media are praising the attack.
Some have issued threats against prominent journalist Dima Sadek after he posted on his Twitter account a photo of Khomeini and General Qassim Soleimani, a senior Iranian general killed in a US strike in 2020, describing the two as “verses Satanic”.
Since then, death threats on social media and through messages on his mobile phone have not stopped, with one man warning him: “I will rape you in public” and another saying that “his blood should be paid”. She received an SMS in which the sender told her where she lives.
Sadek said that despite public threats, she has not been contacted by authorities with offers of protection.
“It’s the first time I feel I’m in danger,” Sadek, a harsh critic of Hezbollah for years, told the AP. She alleged that the social media campaign against her was orchestrated by Nasrallah’s son, Jawad.
She said she was restricting her movements for the first time.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Lebanese authorities to investigate and protect Sadek.
Shiite journalist Mohamad Barakat, editor of news site Asas Media, was also attacked after writing that in stabbing Rushdie, Matar “stabbed Shiites who live in Europe and America”.
On the other side, Lebanese journalist Radwan Akil of the famous local daily An-Nahar said in seemingly contradictory remarks that he tolerated the fatwa against Rushdie, but not the killing of anyone, including writers.
“I am of course in favor of political freedoms and freedom of expression… but I am not for criticizing the greatest man in history, the Prophet Muhammad, and I also reject the criticism of Jesus Christ” , Akil said in a TV interview with Lebanese. media.
An-Nahar released a statement, titled “Adopting a call for murder contradicts our policies.” He said that Akil’s opinions were his own. Two journalists who had worked for the paper and were openly critical of Hezbollah and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, another Iranian ally, were killed in car bombings in 2005.
The debate could eventually die out as most Lebanese are concerned about the country’s economic collapse and lack of services. “They have a lot of other concerns,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut.
Lebanese political leaders have not commented on Rushdie’s attack.
However, Acting Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada denounced Rushdie’s portrayal of the prophet.
“Free speech should be polite,” tweeted Mortada, a Shiite minister close to Hezbollah allies. “Insults or black grudges have nothing to do with morality.”
Associated Press writer Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
Highland Park’s visit to Chicago Bears training camp on July 27 was more than a thrill for junior linebacker Tyler Gleyzer.
The opportunity to see professional players work provided a valuable lesson for him.
“They go full-out all the time,” Gleyzer said. “I felt like we have to mirror this. This is something we have to do.”
The Giants plan to use what they learned at Halas Hall in Lake Forest and the experience they gained a year ago, when 12 sophomores started, to pursue the Central Suburban North title and more this season.
“We’re going to win conference, make the playoffs and beat Deerfield,” Gleyzer said, referring to Highland Park’s Township High School District 113 rival.
Deerfield beat the Giants 35-6 and won the Central Suburban North last season. The teams will meet in Deerfield on Sept. 30.
Highland Park’s season starts with a home game against Leyden on Aug. 26, not quite two months after the mass shooting at the city’s Fourth of July parade. School administration limited discussion for this story to football.
First-year coach Anthony Kopp, a former Highland Park quarterback who was promoted from offensive coordinator in June, also took note of how the Bears practice and intends to implement that into the Giants’ workouts. He has high expectations for this season.
“We’re going to push them every day to work like the Bears,” Kopp said. “If we strive for that, we can do anything. We want to be one of the final eight teams at state.”
The Giants’ work began long before Bears training camp, however. Since the 2021 season ended, Gleyzer and his teammates spent time in the weight room getting stronger and quicker.
“Now the juniors are ready to step up as leaders,” senior wide receiver Emmet Pulte said. “They learned a lot as sophomores. We’ve all gotten better and stronger.”
Among those juniors is quarterback David Finfer. At this point last year, Finfer didn’t anticipate starting at quarterback, but he moved into the role as the season progressed. He said he’s ready to lead the offense.
“That experienced really helped,” Finfer said. “Now I am much more vocal as a leader. We’re going to hit the ground running.”
Other juniors whom Kopp expects to contribute include wide receiver/defensive back Nicholas Blumer, wide receiver/defensive back Andrew Cortes, two-way lineman Larry Jenkins, running back/cornerback Nikko Rosenbloom and offensive lineman Eli Secher.
Kopp said all elements of Gleyzer’s play have improved. He is “bigger, stronger, faster and smarter” than he was a year ago, Kopp said.
Pulte and junior quarterback David Finfer said they like how Gleyzer dissects offenses, gets to the ball and makes tackles with an exclamation point.
“You get free, and everything feels great,” Gleyzer said. “It’s what we have to do to win the battle.”
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.