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Happy Friday, everyone!
Memorial Day occurs on Monday, May 29 this year to honor U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. We hope you have a fun and safe weekend while remembering our fallen citizens.
This week's edition features pieces on AI antibiotic discoveries, an update on Florida's upcoming hurricane season and climate-related insurance concerns, a recent Supreme Court decision affecting the Clean Water Act, and other recent happenings in the Sunshine State and across the country.
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AI Discovers Superbug-killing Antibiotic
Artificial intelligence assisted scientists in discovering a new antibiotic. Researchers were attempting to find an antibiotic for Acinetobacter baumannii, a species of bacteria that infects wounds and causes pneumonia. Acinetobacter baumannii is resistant to numerous antibiotics and is problematic in care homes and medical facilities. World Health Organization (WHO) considers Acinetobacter baumannii a "critical threat." Finding the new antibiotic began with feeding the AI information on drugs that could kill or slow down the bacterium. This information led to nine possible antibiotics that could be created. The next step is to perform clinical trials, after which AI drugs could become available around 2030. This discovery has shown that AI can rapidly accelerate the search for antibiotics. Read more here.
NOAA and NSF to Create Research Center in Response to Insurance Industry Climate Needs The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation have partnered to create an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center focused on modeling catastrophic impacts and assessing risks associated with climate change to support insurance sector needs. Catastrophe models combine science, historical data, building code and physical asset information to estimate damages from extreme weather events but have not traditionally included climate projections. The center’s objectives include understanding and predicting changes in climate and weather, including the role of human behavior; communicating information; and developing a skilled workforce to address these challenges. Read more here.
Washington’s Wetlands Laws and Supreme Court Ruling A Supreme Court Ruling this week provides that the Clean Water Act extends only to “those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are 'waters of the United States' in their own right, so that they are 'indistinguishable' from those waters.” This ruling has the potential to open up half of wetlands across the U.S. to unregulated development, lowering the bar for states who rely on CWA standards to protect wetlands. Fortunately, the state of Washington has stringent laws safeguarding wetlands. State law requires those pursuing projects that could impact wetlands under state definitions must coordinate with state wetland staff, undergo evaluation of effects, apply for permits, and even in some cases, restore or pay to improve those wetlands. However, some WA tribes are concerned about the ruling impacts to salmon and trout, both listed species under the Endangered Species Act. Seattle Times.
Building Green Careers and Equitable Tree Cover in Baltimore The Baltimore Tree Trust is tackling the unequal distribution of trees in Baltimore by employing and training residents from minority neighborhood as neighborhood forestry technicians. These technicians play a crucial role in planting trees and maintaining the urban forest, particularly in areas that have historically lacked tree canopy cover. By empowering residents who have witnessed disparities between neighborhoods, the initiative aims to create positive change and promote environmental equity. Furthermore, the program offers career advancement opportunities, allowing technicians to transition into specialized positions or pursue other jobs in urban forestry, ultimately fostering a greener and cooler city. Read the full article here.
Brightline Connects the Two Fastest Growing Regions in Florida Earlier this year, Brightline, an eco-friendly rail company, made news as the fastest train in the Southeast. The rail company announced their new plans to connect South Florida to Orlando, gaining speeds near 130 mph and taking just a little over 3 hours to get from place to place. The expansion of the Brightline to Orlando is expected to boost tourism and personal travel, and it will reconfigure Florida’s transportation industry as newer and faster methods of travel are unlocked. Considering the amount of traffic and congestion both in Central and South Florida, this is a transformative innovation. The Brightline Orlando Station will be located in Orlando International Airport’s brand-new designated train facility. Tickets are already on sale from now until 2024 and Brightline Orlando is expected to launch later this fall. Read more here.
Lawsuit Announced Against the State of Florida for Restricting Foreigners from Buying Property A new law taking effect on July 1 will make it a felony for citizens of some foreign nations to buy property in restricted areas of the state of Florida, including people from China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea. The penalty is a misdemeanor for buyers and sellers. The restricted areas apply to properties within 10 miles of military installations and critical infrastructure such as airports, seaports, wastewater and water treatment plants, and powerplants. The American Civil Liberties Union announced a lawsuit against the state stating the law codifies and expands housing discrimination against people of Asian descent in violation of the Constitution and Fair Housing Act. Associated Press.
Data Visualization of the Week
NOAA Releases Hurricane Outlook for 2023
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released timely projections for the 2023 hurricane season, which looks to be an average season with five to nine hurricanes projected. The last three seasons experienced a La Niña weather pattern, which boosts hurricane activity by cooling Pacific waters, weakening high-altitude atmospheric winds, and creating warm air pockets. NOAA scientists predict El Niño to occur this season, which results in the opposite and suppresses hurricane activity. Of the projected five to nine hurricanes, one to four could be major with a category of 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity. Stay updated with local news regarding hurricanes in the coming season and follow emergency orders as it is vital to everyone’s safety. Read more here.