Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Florida passes law fining social media companies for restricting the speech of politicians; critics call the measure unconstitutional, court challenge likely

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this week that bars social media companies like Twitter and Facebook from “knowingly” deplatforming politicians. The bill, SB 7072, was proposed in February, weeks after former President Donald Trump was banned from Facebook and Twitter after the deadly riot at the US Capitol on January 6th. The law bars social media platforms from banning Floridian political candidates and authorizes the Florida Election Commission to impose fines if these candidates were to be deplatformed. The fines range from $250,000 per day for statewide office candidates and $25,000 per day for non-statewide offices. “This will lead to more speech, not less speech,” Governor DeSantis said during a press conference at the Florida International University in Miami. “Because speech that’s inconvenient to the narrative will be protected.” The law includes a measure, added earlier this month, exempting any company that owns a large theme park or entertainment venue. (The Verge)


Southwest Airlines flight attendant loses two teeth after passenger assault

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth during an assault on a flight over the weekend, a union leader wrote in a letter to the airline’s CEO asking for support with increasingly unruly passengers. A statement from Southwest Airlines said a passenger on a Sunday morning flight from Sacramento to San Diego “repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing.” The passenger was met by law enforcement and taken into custody when the flight landed. “We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our Flight Crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers,” the statement said. This month, the FAA warned air travelers that there has been a spike in unruly or dangerous behavior aboard passenger planes. In a typical year, the agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior. Since the start of this year, that number has jumped to 2,500, including about 1,900 passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate, according to the FAA. (NBC News)


Gene from light-sensing algae helps blind patient regain partial vision

The vision of a completely blind man, in Brittany, France, has been partially restored using light-sensing proteins first found in algae. The man was treated with a type of therapy called optogenetics, which uses the proteins to control cells at the back of his eye. He first knew it was working when he realized he could see the painted stripes of a pedestrian crossing. He can now grab and count objects on a table. He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which leads to the death of light-sensing cells on the surface of the retina, 40 years ago. It affects more than two million people worldwide, and although complete blindness is rare, the man has had no vision for the past two decades. The man does not have perfect sight, but the difference between no vision and even limited vision can be life-changing. (Nature)


Combined blood and memory test predicts the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in patients with 90% accuracy within four years 

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed an algorithm that combines data from a simple blood test and brief memory tests, to predict with great accuracy who will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the future. Approximately 20-30% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease are wrongly diagnosed within specialist healthcare, and diagnostic work-up is even more difficult in primary care. Accuracy can be significantly improved by measuring the proteins tau and beta-amyloid via a spinal fluid sample, or PET scan. However, those methods are expensive and only available at a relatively few specialized memory clinics worldwide. A research group led by a Professor at Lund University have now shown that a combination of relatively easily accessible tests can be used for early and reliable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The study examined 340 patients with mild memory impairment in the Swedish BioFINDER Study, and the results were confirmed in a North American study of 543 people. A combination of a simple blood test (measuring a variant of the tau protein and a risk gene for Alzheimer’s) and three brief cognitive tests that only take 10 minutes to complete, predicted with over 90% certainty which patients would develop Alzheimer’s dementia within four years. One clear advantage of the algorithm is that it has been developed for use in clinics without access to advanced diagnostic instruments. In the future, the algorithm might therefore make a major difference in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s within primary healthcare. Simple diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s could also improve the development of drugs, as it is difficult to recruit the suitable study participants for drug trials in a time- and cost-effective manner. (Lund University)


Russia’s internet regulator gave Google 24 hours to delete “prohibited content,” including information about drugs and groups it considers extremist

Russia’s communications watchdog gave Google 24 hours to delete what it called prohibited content or be fined and said Moscow could eventually slow down the company’s traffic in the country. Russia has already placed a punitive slowdown on social network Twitter for not deleting banned content, part of a push by Moscow to rein in Western tech giants and beef up what it calls its internet “sovereignty”. The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said it had sent more than 26,000 calls to Google to remove illegal information, including videos containing information on drugs or violence and material from what it called extremist organizations. Google will be fined between $10,800 to $54,000 if it does not restrict access to the banned information, Roskomnadzor said. A repeat offense would be punishable by a fine of up to 10% of the company’s total annual revenue, it said. Google Russia did not respond to a request for comment about the watchdog’s deadline. (Yahoo Finance)


Law firm fires woman filmed climbing into spider monkey exhibit at El Paso Zoo

A Texas woman was filmed trying to feed spider monkeys after climbing into an exhibit at the El Paso Zoo. The video shows the unidentified woman sitting on a rock appearing to throw food at two monkeys. The smiling woman later climbs out of the exhibit. After footage surfaced on social media, the woman’s law firm released a statement saying that she had been fired. “We learned that the individual who was filmed trespassing in the spider monkey enclosure of the El Paso Zoo was an employee of Lovett Law Firm,” the company said. “She has been terminated.” The firm called her behavior “irresponsible and reckless.” Zoo officials say that they cannot let the woman’s dangerous stunt go unpunished and they plan on pressing charges against her. (El Paso Times)


Drug dealer jailed after sharing a photo of cheese that included his fingerprints

A 39-year-old drug dealer from Liverpool, northwestern England, whose fingerprints were analyzed by police when he shared a photo of his hand holding a block of cheese has been sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison. He sent the image on EncroChat, an encrypted messaging service used exclusively by criminals that was infiltrated by police in a major operation last year. The picture of a block of Stilton he had found in upmarket British grocery stores, but the photograph was discovered by police, who used it to analyze his fingerprints and identify the man. Authorities said his “love of Stilton cheese” led to his arrest. He was jailed on Friday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin, MDMA and ketamine, and to transferring criminal property, police said. EncroChat, which offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service, was a “criminal marketplace” used by 60,000 people worldwide for coordinating the distribution of illicit goods, money laundering and plotting to kill rivals, according to the UK’s National Crime Agency. (CNN)


Societal pressures fuel burnout

Burnout. It’s a term we’ve heard and read in abundance this past year, only eclipsed in use by, perhaps, pandemic, but if you think it’s a new plight, you’re wrong. The term “burnout” was named around 1973, though allusions to it exist even in the Bible. As more and more claimed to suffer from burnout, the World Health Organization officially recognized it as an “occupational phenomenon” in 2019. So what prompted burnout, often denoted by “exhaustion, cynicism, and loss of efficacy”? Some experts in the medical field blames, in part, a society that “requires people to strive to the point of self-destruction.” (The New Yorker)


Your boss doesn’t trust you

Although scores of workers continue to successfully toil away on tasks and maintain positive productivity levels from home, many bosses are adamant remote workers aren’t as committed as office dwellers. While some workers dread a return to commuting and $16 salads, managers fret about squandering the “creativity and spontaneous collaboration” they contend comes from workers sitting side-by-side. Researchers say despite data that indicates otherwise, most bosses maintain remote workers are not as driven or committed as office staff. (The Wall Street Journal)


A Great Rival Offer may be next

With a “Great Resignation” potentially looming as some employees reassess their working lives in the post-pandemic era, employers are preparing to make better offers to workers, or to let them go with the knowledge that there could be an upside. More than a quarter of employees plan to change jobs, according to a recent Prudential survey, as businesses reopen amid COVID-19 vaccinations. They cited more pay, remote-work options, flexible schedules and promotional opportunities as reasons to stay, but evaluating an employee’s impact and potential can help identify cases in which crafting a rival offer makes sense. (Prudential)


Re-using A Mask Could Cause Fungus

Amid rising cases of black fungus in Delhi, some medical experts feel that “unhygienic or re-using unwashed masks” and “poorly ventilated rooms” could be contributing factor. Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus infection, is a rare but fatal fungal infection. It is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. Cases of mucormycosis are rapidly rising among COVID-19 survivors, causing blindness or serious illness and even death in some cases, health officials have warned. Medical professionals of numerous leading hospitals have revealed that many patients who have been infected by mucormycosis had a history of exhibiting poor hygienic practices, including wearing unwashed masks for a long time. In many cases, doctors also found that people who had contracted black fungus had self-medicated themselves on steroids, after their oxygen concentration levels had dropped, making them susceptible to this ailment which is being found more in COVID patients under treatment or recovery than others. Experts are advising the preventive measures to be followed:

  • Cleaning and replacement of humidifiers (for those using Oxygen Concentrators)
  • Sterile normal saline should be used in the humidifier bottle and changed daily
  • Masks should be disinfected daily
  • Those who are taking steroids should also keep checking their blood sugar levels

(Zee News)


Ohio mother allegedly faked daughter’s terminal illness to obtain funding for trips and housing

An Ohio mother is facing an abuse and neglect complaint for allegedly fabricating her daughter’s terminal illness to “obtain funding for trips, housing, and other expenses of the last several years,” according to a complaint filed with the Stark County Family Court. According to the complaint filed May 14, investigators with the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services did a forensic interview with the child and determined that there was “no medical evidence” to support the mother’s claim that her daughter was physically ill. The child was then placed into the temporary custody of the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services, as her father is only allowed court-ordered visitations supervised by the mother, pursuant to their divorce. The complaint said the father claimed the mother did not allow him “to participate in any medical decisions” and that he “has no access to medical records.” The complaint also alleges that the mother had placed her daughter in counseling for the past three years “to learn how to ‘process her own death,'” telling the child’s counselor, who was going on maternity leave, that the child “may not be alive” when the counselor returned. According to the complaint, when police went to confront the mother with the allegation that she had fabricated her daughter’s medical condition, she told them, “We did not intentionally do that.” GoFundMe said that the fundraiser, set up by the mother to raise money for her daughter’s illness, is no longer active, and that more than $4,000 has been refunded to donors. “We are working with local law enforcement officials, and we will continue to support the investigation,” said the communications manager for GoFundMe. “Fundraisers with misuse are very rare, and if a misuse of funds takes place on GoFundMe, donors are protected, and their donations are refunded.” (CNN)


Doctor trying to figure out why some COVID-19 patients develop massively enlarged tongues

Doctors in Houston, Texas believe there might be something about the virus that is making certain people more prone to the rare condition and are trying to figure out why a handful of people hospitalized with COVID-19 develop massively enlarged tongues. The condition is called macroglossia. It makes it impossible for patients to eat and talk. Doctors with the UTHealth School of Dentistry have been doing a study to figure out if there’s a common link in those patients’ genes. If doctors can answer that question, they hope they can also figure out how to prevent it. Out of the nine cases, all had been intubated in a hospital. Eight out of the nine are Black. Two had suffered strokes and the other seven were hospitalized with COVID-19 prior to developing macroglossia. The patients who had survived COVID-19 had inflammatory cells in their tongue tissue, which means there’s something about the virus that is making certain people more prone to the rare condition. (KHOU)


Wednesday Be Sexy With:

  • Blueberry Cheesecake Day
  • Chardonnay Day
  • Day of Vesak
  • Paper Airplane Day
  • Senior Health & Fitness Day (Last Wednesday)
  • World Lindy Hop Day
  • World Otter Day


Historical Events

1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi division, is the last general of the Confederate Army to surrender, at Galveston, Texas.
1868 – The impeachment trial of U.S. President Andrew Johnson ends with Johnson being found not guilty by one vote.
1869 – Boston University is chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
1966 – British Guiana gains independence, becoming Guyana.
1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 10 returns to Earth after a successful eight-day test of all the components needed for the forthcoming first manned moon landing.
1970 – The Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 becomes the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2.
1972 – Willandra National Park is established in Australia.
1991 – Lauda Air Flight 004 crashes in rural Thailand, killing 223.
1991 – Zviad Gamsakhurdia becomes the first elected President of the Republic of Georgia in the post-Soviet era.
2008 – Severe flooding begins in eastern and southern China that will ultimately cause 148 deaths and force the evacuation of 1.3 million.