Buried landmines can now be detected using bacteria engineered to sense explosive vapors, according to a new study in Nature Biotechnology.

Why it matters: There were more than 6,000 landmine-related casualties recorded in 2015. One of the biggest challenges in clearing landmines is finding them. Bacteria — along with plants and animals — have been proposed for detecting undetonated devices before, but this is the first demonstration of how bacterial sensors might work in the field.

How it works: Explosive vapors seep out of buried landmines and build up in the soil above them. Researchers genetically engineered bacteria that emit a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with vapors from the devices. They scattered the bacteria across a test field and then detected those that glowed with a laser. They searched for 18 landmine targets and only failed to detect four of them.

What's next: The researchers envision outfitting drones with the laser scanners, which would require a more compact design. They also caution they need to address how the bacteria can be removed after use and how to scale the technique so they can scan larger land areas.

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8 hours ago - World

China-Iran deal envisions massive investments from Beijing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China and Iran have negotiated a deal that would see massive investments flow into Iran, oil flow out, and collaboration increase on defense and intelligence.

Why it matters: If the proposals become reality, Chinese cash, telecom infrastructure, railways and ports could offer new life to Iran’s sanctions-choked economy — or, critics fear, leave it inescapably beholden to Beijing.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 13,048,249 — Total deaths: 571,685 — Total recoveries — 7,215,865Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,353,348— Total deaths: 135,524 — Total recoveries: 1,031,856 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. World: WHO head: There will be no return to the "old normal" for foreseeable future — Hong Kong Disneyland closing due to surge.
  4. States: Houston mayor calls for two-week shutdownCalifornia orders sweeping rollback of open businesses — Cuomo says New York will use formula to determine if reopening schools is safe.
  5. Education: Los Angeles schools' move to online learning could be a nationwide tipping point.

House Judiciary Committee releases transcript of Geoffrey Berman testimony

Geoffrey Berman. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday released the transcript of its closed-door interview with Geoffrey Berman, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who was forced out by Attorney General Bill Barr last month.

Why it matters: House Democrats have seized on Berman's testimony, in which he claimed the attorney general sought to "entice" him into resigning so that he could be replaced by SEC chairman Jay Clayton, to bolster allegations that the Justice Department has been politicized under Barr.