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March 2013 Briefing Memo



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PLANT BIOLOGY
A devastating disease could wipe out the entire U.S. citrus industry. The affliction, huanglongbing (HLB), is killing citrus trees from Florida to California, the two biggest producers of citrus fruits in the U.S. Between 2006 and 2011, HLB cost Florida $4.54 billion and more than 8,200 jobs. Scientists are seeking ways to combat this disease, including using wasps to kill the insects that transmit it. The best long-term prospect may lie with genetic modification. See: Plant Biology: The End of Orange Juice

SAFETY
We need evidence-based research studies that look into gun violence. In January, President Barack Obama instructed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume studying the causes and prevention of gun violence—research that has been on hold since 1996. President Obama has also asked for $10 million to support this gun safety research, a request Congress needs to consider. See: Science Agenda: Ready. Aim. Investigate

FORENSICS
The collection, storage and use of citizens’ DNA by U.S. law enforcement agencies could threaten civil liberties. The U.S. has extensive databases of DNA not only from convicted criminals, but also from those who were not charged with or convicted of an offense. There are no limits to how long such DNA samples can be stored or tested, opening the door for wide breaches of privacy. See: Forensics: The Government Wants Your DNA

WEATHER
New observatories may help predict flooding from Pacific Ocean storms. A weather sensor network for California, to be completed in 2014, could provide a model warning system for flooding on continental western coasts internationally. See: Advances:
Before the Deluge

EMERGING DISEASES
Cases of monkeypox and cowpox, the viral cousins to smallpox, are on the rise. Should either poxvirus become adept at plaguing humans, new drugs and vaccines, and the resources necessary to use them, will be needed to contain the threat. See: Emerging Diseases: New Threat From Poxviruses

HEALTH CARE
Medical devices and data-monitoring systems that can track a patient’s heart rate or how often they use their asthma inhaler hold great promise for the future of health care. By combining traditional medical record keeping and public health surveillance with technologies readily available—such as a special app on a mobile phone—physicians can procure thorough and up-to-date reports of their patients. See: The Science of Health: The New Age of Medical Monitoring

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