Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cow dung cakes found in baggage of Indian passenger at US airport, destroyed

In the US, cow dung cakes are prohibited as they are considered to be potential carriers of the highly contagious foot and mouth disease. The US Customs and Border Protection agents discovered cow dung cakes in a leftover baggage of a passenger from India at an international airport in the suburb of Washington DC, according to officials. Cow dung cakes are prohibited in the US as they are considered to be potential carriers of the highly contagious foot and mouth disease. They were destroyed, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said. Cow dung is reported to be a vital energy and cooking source in some parts of the world. Cow dung has also been reportedly used as a skin detoxifier, an antimicrobial and as fertilizer. Despite these alleged benefits, cow dung from India is prohibited due to the potential introduction of Foot and Mouth disease, the CBP said. According to the US Department of Agriculture, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a worldwide concern as it can spread widely and rapidly and causes significant economic losses to livestock populations. A single detection of FMD will likely stop international livestock trade completely until authorities can eradicate the disease threat. The US has been FMD free since 1929, according to a statement. (Hindustan Times)


McDonald’s franchisees blame hiring challenges on unemployment benefits and say an ‘inflationary time bomb’ will force them to hike Big Mac prices

Some McDonald’s franchisees say enhanced unemployment benefits are driving a struggle to find and hire workers. The National Owners Association, an independent group of McDonald’s franchisees, sent a letter to its members recently blaming hiring challenges on the “perverse effects of the current unemployment benefits.” The NOA’s board pointed to last week’s dismal job report, which said the US added just 266,000 jobs in April, far short of expectations. The board said employers were countering with higher pay, signing bonuses, and other incentives, all “of which is good for the American Worker.” (Business Insider)


NASA craft carrying 4.5 Billion-year-old asteroid dust begins long trek home

A time capsule containing a sample of rock and dirt as old as the Solar System will drop from outer space into the Utah desert on 24 September 2023. That is what NASA has planned for its historic Osiris-Rex asteroid probe, which began its trek home earlier this week. Its precious cargo of 60g of ancient debris from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu is the largest sample collected since the Apollo Moon missions. Scientists believe it may provide clues on the formation of the Solar System. The spacecraft launched in 2016 off the Florida coastline. Its destination: the asteroid Bennu, some 185m miles away. The probe has been mapping the surface of Bennu since 2018, breaking the record for the closest ever orbit of a planetary body by a spacecraft. Its historic “touch-and-go” sample grab from the ancient asteroid’s surface in October 2020 lasted only a few seconds but left scientists “exuberant”. They hope the debris from this very primitive object will tell them more about the chemistry that brought the Sun and the planets into being more than 4.5 Billion years ago. (BBC)


Golden Globes 2022 Canceled On NBC As HFPA Struggles To Reform

There will be no Golden Globes on NBC in 2022, as the besieged Hollywood Foreign Press Association continues to falter in reforming itself to the satisfaction of Hollywood studios and stakeholders. “We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform,” the Comcast-owned network said this morning. “However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right. As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.” In the fog of upheaval right now, it is unclear whether NBC will be paying the HFPA the $60 million annual fee for the 2022 right to air Globes. (Deadline)


Covid-19 Infections Complicated By Deadly Fungus

Ophthalmologists (eye surgeons) and otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat surgeons) in Mumbai are reporting magnitudes higher numbers of mucormycosis patients who have been seen and treated in the past few weeks compared to those treated in the past several years combined. Many of the patients were two weeks out from their recovery from Covid-19 infections. Many are either diabetic or had been treated with high-dose steroids to treat Covid-19. Mucormycosis is a rare, potentially deadly, invasive fungal infection, usually involving the sinuses, face, and eyes. Typically this infection, known as mucor, is seen in diabetic patients with poorly controlled glucose levels, or in patients who are immunosuppressed, due to either medications or to an illness leading to a weakened immune system. When not caught and treated aggressively in its early stages, this fungal infection can invade the brain. Mortality from mucor infections is in the greater than 50% range. Covid-19 infections, especially those in the current disastrous surge in India, have led to a sharp rise in cases of mucor in many hospitals throughout India. (BBC)


‘Mind control’ warning as smartphone apps will be used to shape world views

People are being hooked on smartphone apps that can change our personalities and perform “mind control”, experts say. Therapists warned “harmless” looking apps could be used to “subtly” shape our world views and pose a bigger threat than fake news on social media. The risk was “huge” as we become increasingly dependent on our phones which many already see as an “extension of ourselves”. Researchers at Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy say that getting better sleep or more exercise may seem harmless if that is what an app is doing for us, but it may be that we increasingly hand over control of what we do and what we actually want to apps making us feel more disconnected from ourselves and more and more dependent on this robotic parent. Unlike a real parent, apps do not intrinsically have our best interests at heart – this is where the risk of conflicting interests comes into the picture and possibly the risk of some degree of mind control. (Daily Star)


Is a ‘Great Resignation’ coming?

Has the prospect of returning to the office got you thinking about leaving your job? You’re not alone, with some heralding the onset of a “Great Resignation.” Vaccinations have begun to lift some of the uncertainty around the pandemic, leaving those still employed freer to consider their options for the first time in months. Do they want to return to an office? Can they work remotely? What else has emerged as important to them during the shutdown? Whatever the decision, employees will want to avoid burning any bridges if they leave. (Bloomberg)


‘Low-skill’ job titles have to go

Business leaders and policymakers alike need to rethink the “low-skill” job title, particularly after the pandemic revealed just how essential those jobs are. The negative connotations of “low-skilled” are perpetuated by our own biases against what is considered a “good job.” The phrase obscures the fact that many workers in jobs that don’t pay well may indeed have skills, they could just be so young that they lack training and/or experience. In addition, “low-skilled” also devalues the work of many and justifies massive wage gaps between professions. (The Atlantic)


Voyager 1 detects ‘hum’ while in interstellar space

Voyager 1, which is the farthest human-made object from Earth and the first to enter interstellar space, has been detecting a “faint, persistent hum” that scientists have attributed to interstellar gas. A professor of astronomy at Cornell University, reportedly described the sound as a “quiet or gentle rain.” “In the case of a solar outburst, it’s like detecting a lightning burst in a thunderstorm and then it’s back to a gentle rain,” he said. Voyager 1′s odyssey began in 1977 when the spacecraft and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a tour of the gas giant planets of the solar system. After beaming back dazzling postcard views of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s shimmering rings, Voyager 2 hopscotched to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto. It is now about 15 billion miles from Earth. (Fox News)


Brain implant allows scientists to trigger instant social bonds between mice; social engagement could also be deprogrammed in real time 

Northwestern University researchers are building social bonds with beams of light. For the first time ever, Northwestern engineers and neurobiologists have wirelessly programmed and then deprogrammed mice to socially interact with one another in real time. The advancement is thanks to a first-of-its-kind ultraminiature, wireless, battery-free and fully implantable device that uses light to activate neurons. This study is the first optogenetics (a method for controlling neurons with light) paper exploring social interactions within groups of animals, which was previously impossible with current technologies. The thin, flexible, wireless nature of the implant allows the mice to look normal and behave normally in realistic environments, enabling researchers to observe them under natural conditions. Previous research using optogenetics required fiberoptic wires, which restrained mouse movements and caused them to become entangled during social interactions or in complex environments. (Northwestern Now)


China’s population growth slows, rising by 72 million people since 2010 to 1.41 billion

The number of working-age people in China fell over the past decade as its aging population barely grew, a census showed, complicating Chinese leaders’ efforts to create a more prosperous and influential nation. The total population rose to 1.411 billion people last year, up 72 million from 2010. Slow growth fell closer to zero as fewer couples had children. That adds to challenges for Chinese leaders who want to create a richer society and increase its global influence by developing technology industries and self-sustaining economic growth based on consumer spending. The population of potential workers aged 15 to 59 fell to 894 million last year, the National Bureau of Statistics reported. That would be down 5% from a 2011 peak of 925 million. The percentage of children in the population edged up compared with 2010, but the group aged 60 and older grew faster. Changes in birth limits and other policies “promoted a rebound in the birth population,” the bureau director said at a news conference. 12 million babies were born last year, which would be down 18% from 2019’s 14.6 million. China, along with Thailand and some other developing Asian countries that are aging fast, faces what economists call the challenge of whether it can grow rich before it grows old. Some warn China faces a “demographic time bomb.” (Associated Press)


More than 40 attorneys general urge Facebook to stop plans for an Instagram for kids

44 attorneys general have urged Facebook to scrap plans for a version of Instagram targeted at teenagers, saying the platform will be detrimental to the mental health of young users. Facebook responded by arguing that children are already online and the tools being developed by the company will give parents more control over the way their kids use social media. It also said the future platform will have no ads. The letter contends that scientific research shows social media can be detrimental to “the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children.” It says teenagers are too young to understand the complexities of social media in regards to privacy, the permanency of content, and the fact that posts can potentially be seen by a wide audience. The attorneys general are also concerned about cyberbullying, adult content, and the targeting of teens by sexual predators. Facebook is working on a platform for teenagers because it considers younger users a promising new market. (CNN)


Wednesday Slaps Back With:

  • Donate A Day’s Wages To Charity (Second Wednesday)
  • Eid-Al-Fitr (Begins at Sundown)
  • Fibromyalgia Awareness Day
  • International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases
  • International Nurses Day
  • Limerick Day
  • Native American Rights Day
  • Night Shift Workers Day or Third Shift Workers Day (Second Wednesday)
  • Nutty Fudge Day
  • Odometer Day
  • Receptionists Day (Second Wednesday)
  • School Nurse Day


Historical Events

254 – Pope Stephen I succeeds Pope Lucius I as the 23rd pope.

1821 – The first big battle of the Greek War of Independence against the Turks occurs in Valtetsi.

1865 – American Civil War: the Battle of Palmito Ranch: the first day of the last major land action to take place during the Civil War, resulting in a Confederate victory.

1873 – Oscar II is crowned King of Sweden.

1885 – North-West Rebellion: the four-day Battle of Batoche, pitting rebel Métis against the Canadian government, comes to an end with a decisive rebel defeat.

1942 – Holocaust: 1,500 Jews are sent to gas chambers in Auschwitz.

1955 – Austria regains its independence as the Allied occupation following World War II ends.

1962 – Douglas MacArthur delivers his Duty, Honor, Country valedictory speech at the United States Military Academy.

2008 – An earthquake (measuring around 8.0 magnitude) occurs in Sichuan, China, killing over 69,000 people.

2008 – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducts the largest-ever raid of workplace and arrests nearly 400 immigrants for identity theft and document fraud.