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Weird ‘New’ Fruit Could Become as Common as a Strawberry

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There’s a fruit out there called a groundcherry, and scientists are trying to use CRISPR genetic modification techniques to turn it into a staple fruit sold at supermarkets.

Scientists chose the fruit to try and turn them into examples for why CRISPR genome editing can help plants. It’s a fruit that isn’t very rich in flavor or large in size, kind of like what fruit was like before humans domesticated the plants and helped them become strong and fruitful in the natural way. The findings were published in the journal Nature Plants.

According to to Science Alert, “scientists have used the groundcherry as an experimental test case to illustrate just how quickly CRISPR genome editing can speed up the domestication of wild, unruly plants.”

“Things tend to move a bit faster with CRISPR. In a new study, researchers have demonstrated that the same domestication process can take place in only a few years, thanks to the incredible control afforded by precise genetic editing.”

(Image credit: nicholsgardennursery.)

The groundcherry, Physalis pruinosa, is a fairly obscure crop. Also known as a husk cherry, they are native to Central and South America. One article notes that it would be a “long, hard road to acceptance within mainstream agriculture without the helping hand of scientists.”

Unfortunately these people don’t seem open to the not as interesting possibility that maybe shortcuts aren’t meant to be taken with nature.

The crop in its current form certainly isn’t very full of ripe, fruity flesh or easy to grow, but those characteristics are exactly what human beings naturally bred out of other fruits, like watermelons or bananas or any other fruit, through simply picking the best new seed to grow and harvest the next year, “domestication” of plants.

(Image credit: unbelievable-facts)

This ground cherry is difficult to grow, and the fruits quite sporadically drop from the vine to the ground before they are ripe, making large-scale agriculture not so viable.

It would take decades or even centuries to develop the desirable traits of a ground cherry and turn it something as delicious as perhaps a regular cherry, but many would argue that’s the only way to do it. This article is of course being written from a perspective skeptical of CRISPR and genetic engineering, but if you want to take it from the people promoting this, lead researcher and plant scientist of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Zachary Lippman said:

“I firmly believe that with the right approach, the groundcherry could become a major berry crop. I think we’re now at a place where the technology allows us to reach.”

Working with researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Lippman sequenced a little bit of the groundcherry’s genome and used CRISPR to conduct genetic manipulation on it.

(Image credit: etsy)

He tried to influence a hormone involved in the regulation of flowering, which may encourage the plant to become more compact and produce fruit in clusters instead of with individual fruits.

They claim to have made the fruit denser, with a third modification making the fruit larger.

Next, the team is trying to modify the color and flavor of the fruit. The groundcherry is said to taste sour and a little bit like a tropical fruit with vanilla overtones. They want to use what they know about the tomato genome to make the fruit different.

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Corruption

Man Who Spent Decades in Prison Gets $6 Million After Cop Found to Have Faked Evidence

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A North Carolina man who spent decades in prison was awarded $6 million in damages by a federal jury after it was found that he was wrongfully convicted thanks to evidence fabricated by a detective.

Darryl Howard languished in prison for over 20 years on double murder and arson charges in 1995 for killing a woman and her teen daughter in 1991. Last Wednesday, a jury in Winston-Salem found that former Durham police detective Darryl Dowdy simply faked the evidence that resulted in his conviction.

In 2016, Howard’s 80-year sentence was stricken down by a Durham County judge who cited the misconduct of police and prosecutors. The $6 million award was the result of a 2017 federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Howard, reports the News & Observer.

Dowdy, 65, denied the accusations in the lawsuit. The former detective was a 36-year veteran of the Durham Police Department before he retired in 2007.

Howard and his legal team have expressed satisfaction that the jury recognized the grave injustice he faced, but are disappointed that the $6 million is a mere fraction of the $48 million in damages they requested.

Attorney Nick Brustin, who represented Howard, said that Dowdy’s defense attacked Howard for his past gunshot wounds and history of selling and using drugs.

“I think to some extent the racist defense that they have been implementing since the beginning of the ligation has in some ways succeeded,” Brustin said. “I think the verdict doesn’t value the suffering that Darryl went through.”

Howard himself noted that the heavy damage dealt by his long incarceration have completely altered his life.

“I am happy about the verdict, but I am kind of upset about the damages,” Howard told the News & Reporter.

“Just imagine, 23 years I stayed in prison,” he added.

Brustin also highlighted the systemic nature of the injustice his client suffered as a result of Dowdy’s police work.

“The kinds of misconduct are pattern misconduct,” he noted, adding that Durham police need to review other cases handled by the crooked cop.

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Happy Holidays? Billionaire CEO Fires 900 Workers in Zoom Call

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The boss of an online mortgage lending company has come under fire as callous and heartless after he unceremoniously fired about 900 staff members in the run-up to the holidays – all on one single Zoom call.

Vishal Garg, the chief executive of New York-based mortgage firm Better.com, didn’t mince words in the call, telling employees:

“This isn’t news that you’re going to want to hear … If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

Adding that he did “not want to do this,” he explained that “this is the second time in my career I’m doing this … The last time I did it, I cried.” 

While the 43-year-old CEO claimed that the mass sacking was a painful ordeal, he also noted that the “market has changed” and the company required streamlining to deal with the cool-off in the recent housing boom.

However, Garg neglected to mention that the company recently received $750 million from investors just last week.

According to Fortune, the chief executive also was the anonymous author of a blistering blog post to professional network Build that put his own employees on blast.

“You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system?” Garg wrote, adding that “they were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated.”

Garg also has come under fire for his poor management approach and history of abusing workers after an email he sent to employees was published by Forbes last year.

“You are TOO DAMN SLOW,” the CEO wrote. “You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS… SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”

Regardless of his personal frustrations with employees, social media users were stunned by news of the mass firing, calling the move “cold,” “a horrible move,” and “harsh” – especially with Christmas around the corner.

Employment law and business experts have also lambasted Garg’s actions, noting that such mass firings run counter to the law in most countries, and are not only abusive but destructive toward morale, despite being perfectly legal in the United States.

“Existing employees will look to how the company treats people as a signal to how it will treat them in the future,” Gemma Dale of the Liverpool John Moores University in the UK told the BBC.

“There are ways to do these things which, even in difficult conditions, are empathetic and decent,” she added. “There is a right way to do these things both morally and legally.”

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Environment

China Was Just Caught Literally Changing The Weather For Communist Party Celebration: Study

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In recent years, China has made a number of head-turning and downright dazzling technological advances. Now, according to a new study, the East Asian giant has successfully managed to literally change the weather.

According to a recent report from the South China Morning Post, scientists at Tsinghua University say that during the 100-year anniversary of the Communist Party of China, authorities succeeded in modifying the weather in Beijing to clear the sky and improve air quality for the masses gathered to celebrate the party’s centenary in Tiananmen Square.

The large-scale operation involved lacing the clouds above the capital with chemicals to usher in rainfall over suburban parts of Beijing before the July 1 centennial event. According to the Tsinghua researchers, eyewitnesses report rockets being launched from mountains outside the city in the run-up to the event.

The Beijing researchers claim that the artificial rain managed to reduce the level of PM2.5 air pollutants by over two-thirds, bringing air quality to “good” conditions from “moderate” levels per World Health Organization Standards.

The use of chemicals to modify weather conditions is a practice that dates back to at least the 18th century, when European states used gunfire to shoot at storms in hopes to prevent hail from harming crops.

By the turn of the 20th century, dozens of hail cannons were deployed for commercial purposes despite the unproven nature of such primitive geo-engineering methods.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and the People’s Republic of China has reportedly invested vast resources into weather modification programs that will be tested in a region spanning 5.5 million square miles by the year 2025. The impact of such geo-engineering efforts could lead to regional tensions with China’s increasingly nervous neighbors.

Meanwhile, as the potential for a new cold war with the people’s republic continues to grow, professional China skeptics have stoked fears that the ruling Communist Party could use its newfound ability to manipulate the weather for military purposes. However, it’s worth noting that the United States military has been hoping to weaponize the rain since at least 1967.

However, with arid conditions and extreme drought threatening the food security of populations across the globe, the ability to literally make rain fall may not be as frightening as some make it out to be.

Additionally, some researchers have claimed that geoengineering could play a role in mitigating the impact of rampant climate change. However, it remains far too early to know the long-term impact of lacing skies with chemicals on a widespread, regular basis.

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