News 3’s Top Trends: May 16

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Scientists meet at Harvard to secretly discuss creating synthetic human DNA

Multiple sources announce a secret meeting was held at Harvard University on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of creating human life from scratch using chemicals.

Sources say the project was by invitation only for about 130 scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs and government officials from five continents. The invitation listed the project goal “would be to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of 10 years.”Co organizer of the meeting and Harvard Medical School genetics Professor George Church says the project does not yet have funding, though various companies and foundations would be invited to contribute and some have indicated interest. The federal government will also be asked, he says.Prominent Stanford scientist Drew Endy and Northwestern University bioethicist Laurie Zoloth denounce the secret meeting in a critical essay that says human genome synthesis is a scientific development with enormous moral implications, so discussions “should not occur in closed rooms.”

‘Finding Dory’ could damage fish populations, Australian scientists say

The release of the new Disney Pixar movie Finding Dory could lead to a decline in certain fish populations, say researchers at two prominent Australian Universities. Scientists from the University of Queensland and Flinders University say since the 2003 release of Finding Nemo, clown fish populations on coral reefs have been declining, due to the popularity of a ‘Nemo’ in household aquariums.

Now, researchers say Finding Dory could cause the same effect in people who want a ‘Dory’ in their aquarium and cause a decline in her fish — the blue tang.

The Saving Nemo Conservation Fund aims to provide education, awareness and captive breeding programs to protect popular marine ornamental species that are often captured on reefs for sale in pet shops.

UQ School of Biological Sciences PhD candidate and Saving Nemo Queensland Project Coordinator Carmen da Silva says the marine fish aquarium trade was a major cause of coral reef fish decline.

“What most people don’t realize is that about 90 per cent of marine fish found in aquarium shops come from the wild,” she says.

The Saving Nemo project encourages captive clown fish breeding in nurseries instead of snatching fish from the wild. Organizers say they are also hoping to get the attention of Ellen Degeneres, voice of Dory, and gain her support by using the hashtag #fishkiss4nemo.

Last surviving ‘Casablanca’ cast member dies

Madeleine LeBeau, widely believed to be the last surviving credited cast member from the classic film “Casablanca,” has died at 92, her stepson says.

LeBeau died May 1 in Spain after breaking her thigh bone, her stepson, Carlo Alberto Pinelli says.

LeBeau played Yvonne, the jilted mistress of Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick. LeBeau is best known for her role in the 1942 film when she cried “Vive la France!” as her eyes fill with tears and “The Marseillase” plays.

Sources say there were parallels between LeBeau’s role in “Casablanca” and her life. The French actress escaped Nazi-occupied France, fleeing with her then-husband, Marcel Dalio, who also had a role in “Casablanca.”

“While the plot of Casablanca traces the movements of European refugees through Morocco, a look at the actors involved in the production also tells a story of émigrés,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences notes in a 2014 article about LeBeau and other artists who fled Europe and appeared in the film.

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