Newsworthy – January 24th, 2020

New research explains how stress causes gray hair, a virus originating from China has begun to spread globally, FICO credit scores to change, democracy could be under threat.

These, and more, are the newsworthy stories from this past week.

Science and Environment

  • Study reveals a link between the nervous system and stem cells that regenerate pigment in hair follicles.

    When stressed, norepinephrine from the sympathetic nervous system causes melanocyte stem cells to activate excessively. The stem cells all convert into pigment-producing cells, prematurely depleting the reservoir.

    The findings explain the cellular and molecular links between stress and premature hair graying.

    – Neuroscience News
  • Scotland generated 9,831,320 megawatt-hours (MWh) of wind energy between January and July of 2019. That could power 182% of all the 4.4 million Scottish homes, or 100% of the homes in Scotland and the North of England.

    – ZME Science
  • Earth’s oldest glacial ice is located in the Tibetan Plateau of China. A team of scientists found 33 groups of viruses in the ice cores, of which 28 were completely new to science. In a worst-case scenario, ice melt could release the pathogens into the environment.

    – ZME Science

Health and Society

  • A newly identified virus originating in central China has spread between humans.

    The prospect of human-to-human transmission comes as tens of millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year holiday—commonly called the world’s largest annual human migration.

    – The Wall Street Journal
  • Short bouts of aerobic exercise can improve working memory as much as caffeine can. Additionally, exercise can help curb the negative effects of caffeine withdrawal, such as fatigue, headaches, and bad moods.

    – Neuroscience News
  • The keepers of the Doomsday Clock moved the symbolic countdown to global disaster to the closest point to midnight in its 73-year history, citing “existential danger” from nuclear war and climate change.

    – AP
  • Tinder plans to start offering users of the dating app an option to receive check-ins to make sure they feel safe, and even summon authorities to their location.

    – The Wall Street Journal

Business and Economics

  • Fair Isaac, creator of FICO credit scores, is making changes. It will soon start scoring consumers with rising debt levels and those who fall behind on loan payments more harshly. It will also flag certain consumers who sign up for personal loans. The changes in how the most widely used credit score in the U.S. is calculated will likely make it harder for many Americans to get loans.

    – The Wall Street Journal
  • A survey of CEO sentiment kicked off this year’s World Economic Forum on a somber note. Consulting firm PwC found that 53% of those it surveyed predict a slowdown in economic growth in 2020, up sharply from 29% in 2019 and 5% in 2018. It was the highest level of pessimism since 2012, the first year of the survey.

    – The Wall Street Journal

Government and Politics

  • UN investigators conclude that a WhatsApp account belonging to the Saudi crown prince sent an infected video to Jeff Bezos, triggering a gigantic extraction of data and fueling a concerted campaign against the billionaire, Amazon and The Washington Post.

    – Washington Post
  • Today, democracies around the world seem to have become more messy and less functional than usual. Authoritarian leaders are crowing at the trend and seeking to take advantage, while their democratic counterparts are left wondering whether something has gone off the rails.

    “Democracy is under threat and its promise needs revival.”

    —International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

    – The Wall Street Journal

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