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This Week in Nature: Jan 23, 2009

A news story looks at how President Obama's proposed $825-billion economic stimulus bill might pan out, if passed into law. On paper, it looks good: the bill includes new funding of more than $13 billion, with the NSF receiving an additional $3 billion, the NIH, $3.5 billion, and the DOE's Office of Science, $2 billion. Critics, including Elias Zerhouni, say the bill focuses too much on short-term fixes. It's "too timid and not strategic enough in addressing the long term. It's short-term wise but long-term ineffective," he says.

Aravinda Chakravarti penned an essay on how ideas of family, population, and race will need to change in the coming era of personal genomics. Scientists can now better discover relatedness among people, and "the current picture emerging from genetic studies is that we are all multiracial, related to each other only to a greater or lesser extent," he says.

There's a special insight section on RNA silencing. One article looks at how the molecular structures of Dicer and the Argonaute proteins influence the process, another explores the world of small RNAs, while another takes on the "promises and pitfalls of RNA-interference-based therapeutics."

Scientists led by Washington University researchers have characterized the gut microbiota of lean and obese adult female monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs and their mothers. They found that the human gut microbiome is shared among family members, but that each person's varies in the specific bacteria. They also found there to be "an extensive, identifiable 'core microbiome' at the gene, rather than at the organismal lineage, level" and that obesity is associated with changes in the bacteria species and reduced bacterial diversity, among other things.

The Scan

CDC Calls Delta "Variant of Concern"

CNN reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considers the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 to be a "variant of concern."

From FDA to Venture Capital

Former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is taking a position at a venture capital firm, leading some ethicists to raise eyebrows, according to the Washington Post.

Consent Questions

Nature News writes that there are questions whether informed consent was obtained for some submissions to a database of Y-chromosome profiles.

Cell Studies on Multimodal Single-Cell Analysis, Coronaviruses in Bats, Urban Microbiomes

In Cell this week: approach to analyze multimodal single-cell genomic data, analysis of bat coronaviruses, and more.