4 December
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One of many breathtaking images taken by NASA’s Cassini. Tomorrow, the little probe will swing dangerously close to one of those rings as it begins the suicidal portion of its long mission.


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4 December
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Today is World AIDS Day, and three neighboring countries in southern Africa that have been hard-hit by HIV received remarkably good news.

As part of a massive, first-of-its-kind survey, researchers randomly visited households in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and tested about 80,000 people for HIV. In each country, more than 86% of the people receiving antiretroviral treatment had fully suppressed HIV, which means viral levels are so low they are not detectable on standard blood tests. This not only staves off AIDS, but makes it highly unlikely that they will infect others. The rate of new infections has also plummeted by more than 50% in the region since 2003. “We were amazed when we saw this,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist who heads an international health-strengthening program called ICAP at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, which led the survey. “It’s really a credit to these countries—and they’re not the world’s richest places.”


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4 December
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Representative Andy Harris (R–MD), an anesthesiologist who has shown a keen interest in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) while in Congress, has put his hat in the ring for NIH director in the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, he told ScienceInsider today. Harris says he knows that some biomedical scientists would view him as a controversial choice, but argues that his blend of research and political experience would make him a good advocate for addressing NIH’s flaws and for growing the agency’s budget in a time of fiscal restraint.


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4 December
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The number of tornadoes pounding the United States during the most extreme outbreaks has roughly doubled over the past 50 years, a new analysis shows. But the study also yields a big surprise: The increased severity of such tornado outbreaks, at least at first glance, doesn’t seem to be related to climate change.


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4 December
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Norm Nelson is interested in what makes the oceans tick. As a biological oceanographer at UC Santa Barbara, his research draws connections between sunlight and phytoplankton, the tiny green microbes that power the marine carbon cycle. There are plenty of outstanding questions Nelson wants to pursue—but after 30 productive years, his days as a scientist may be numbered.


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3 December
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When Fredrik Jutfelt and Josefin Sundin read a paper on a hot environmental issue in the 3 June issue of Science, the two researchers immediately felt that something was very wrong. Both knew Oona Lönnstedt,  the research fellow at Sweden’s Uppsala University (UU) who had conducted the study, and both had been at the Ar research station on the island of Gotland around the time that Lönnstedt says she carried out the experiments, which showed that tiny particles called microplastics can harm fish larvae. Jutfelt, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and Sundin, a UU postdoc, believed there was no way that Lönnstedt had been able to carry out the elaborate study.


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3 December
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Representative Tom Price (R–GA), the physician and congressman who is Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), represents a wealthy suburban district just north of Atlanta that is regularly ranked by Forbes and others as one of the best places to live in the country.


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3 December
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Europe’s ExoMars 2020 lander will go ahead as scheduled, despite the failure of the test-run Schiaparelli lander this past October, the European Space Agency (ESA) said today at the end of a council meeting at which government ministers from its 22 member states agreed on budgets for the next several years. ESA won a total of €10.3 billion for a wide range of projects extending into next decade but because the agency had requested €11 billion, some belt tightening will be required. And there was one notable casualty: the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which planned to study in detail and land on a near-Earth asteroid in 2022, did not win enough support from member governments to proceed.


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3 December
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An article casting doubt on climate change that was promoted in a tweet from the U.S. House of Representatives’ science committee is “extremely misleading” and “disgraceful,” climate scientists told Live Science.

The article in question, written by a staffer at the far-right website Breitbart, contains cherry-picked data that makes it appear as though global temperatures are decreasing, when in reality, 2016 is expected to be the hottest year on record, climate experts said.


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3 December
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