Category Archives: General News
By Chrissie Wilkins
Related: Synthetic-biology firms shift focus
“Synthetic biology” (or “synbio”) refers to the design and fabrication of novel biological parts, devices and systems that do not otherwise occur in nature. Many see it as an extreme version of genetic engineering. But unlike genetic engineering, whereby genetic information with certain desirable traits is inserted from one organism into another, synbio uses computers and chemicals to create entirely new organisms.
Proponents of synbio — which include familiar players such as Cargill, BP, Chevron and DuPont — tout its potential benefits. According to the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, a consortium of leading U.S. researchers in the field, some promising applications of synthetic biology include alternatives to rubber for tires, tumor-seeking microbes for treating cancer, and photosynthetic energy systems. Other potential applications include using synbio to detect and remove environmental contaminants, monitor and respond to disease and develop new drugs and vaccines.
While these and other applications may not be widely available for years, synthetic biology is already in use for creating food additives that will start to show up in products on grocery shelves later this year. Switzerland-based Evolva is using synthetic biology techniques to produce alternatives to resveratrol, stevia, saffron and vanilla.
Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross of California has agreed to a two-month extension of about 104,000 individual policies after failing to give the required 90-day cancellation notice, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Tuesday.
The policies had been set to expire on Dec. 31 but will be extended until Feb. 28 for those who choose to re-enroll. Notices informing customers of the extension will be sent out this week, Anthem said.
Jones said the company notified the Department of Insurance that it failed to give enough notice because of a computer glitch and voluntarily offered to extend the policies.
By Paul Joseph Watson
The head of the Pennsylvania’s largest food bank has warned that demand for groceries following a $5 billion dollar cut in the food stamp program cannot be met.
Joe Arthur of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank “says the donor network for the food banks is already stretched too thin to quickly expand,” according to an Associated Press report.
From November 1st, $5 billion was wiped off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a result of a planned stimulus withdrawal. Almost 50 million Americans who are supported by the program face an average loss of $36 dollars a month, which is a significant amount for those living near the poverty line.
Food pantry organizers will be “unable to plug the hole being left by a reduction in federal funding for food stamps,” which will leave families of four in Pennsylvania facing the prospect of 20 fewer meals per month, according to Arthur.
The Association of Arizona Food Banks sounds a similar warning, noting that the 5 per cent cut, although appearing minor on the surface, equates to about half a week’s budget for someone whose primary source of food is SNAP.
Spokesman Brian Simpson illustrated how the massive surge in demand for food was linked to the struggling economy.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a veiled threat against media organizations, calling on The Guardian and other outlets to stop publishing the disclosures leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Guardian first began its ongoing series based on the Snowden leaks in June, when far-reaching clandestine activity of the American NSA and British Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) were made public. UK lawmakers have not yet been “heavy handed,” the prime minister said, but if media does not cease such publication soon the government could soon crack down.
He suggested the government may employ D-Notices, official requests asking editors not to publish news items for national security reasons, if the coverage goes on.
By Bruce Japsen
While politicians and pundits alike inside the beltway beat up the White House over computer system glitches, health insurance companies still project robust revenue growth and profits from a boom in business from newly insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
Take this week’s third-quarter earnings report and financial projections of Wellpoint (WLP), one of the nation’s largest health insurers, which earlier this week raised its earnings guidance for the third time this year. Amid a flurry of stories about the troubled launch of the federal health insurance marketplace web site known as healthcare.gov, Wellpointsaid its improved outlook is due in part to gains from the Affordable Care Act. On Friday, the Obama administration named a contractor to fix the site, saying it should be fixed by the end of November.