Friday, May 28, 2021

American workers reaching new high

The number of American workers testing positive for marijuana use continues to rise. About 2.7% of the roughly seven million drug tests the testing giant Quest Diagnostics performed for employers in 2020 were positive for marijuana, compared to 2.5% in 2019 and 2% in 2016. Drug tests, while less prevalent than in previous decades thanks to a “shifting legal backdrop and changing cultural attitudes,” are still standard in some industries for new-hires. However, employers say removing marijuana testing is one way to “more easily recruit workers” in 2021. (The Wall Street Journal)


Remote job postings skyrocket

Job postings that offer “remote work” have skyrocketed over the past year, according to an analysis by LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team. As of May 20, the percentage of paid remote job postings on LinkedIn grew 457% from the year-earlier share. The media and communications industry holds the highest percentage (26.8% of all paid postings mention “remote work”), followed by software and IT (21.8%). Overall, 9.7% of listings across all industries now involve remote work, up from barely 2% a year earlier. (LinkedIn)


Children selling explicit videos on OnlyFans

British subscription site OnlyFans is failing to prevent underage users from selling and appearing in explicit videos, an investigation has found. Under-18s have used fake identification to set up accounts, and police say a 14-year-old used a grandmother’s passport. The UK’s most senior police officer for child protection also says children are being “exploited” on the platform. OnlyFans says its age verification systems go over and above regulatory requirements. The platform has more than a million “creators” who share video clips, photos, and messages directly with subscribers for a monthly fee. In return for hosting the material, OnlyFans takes a 20% share of all payments. There is a range of content on the site, but it is best known for pornography, and requires users to be over 18. OnlyFans was a big winner during the pandemic, exploding in popularity as much of the world was housebound. The social media platform has grown nearly 10-fold since 2019, and now has more than 120 million users. Some creators have become millionaires from their accounts, yet for most it has been a lifeline or a second income during the pandemic. (BBC)


A giant tortoise that was thought to have gone extinct over 100 years ago has been found living in the Galapagos Islands

The tortoise was found two years ago on Fernandina Island and this week Ecuador confirmed that genetic tests show the tortoise is of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species, which has thought to have gone extinct in the early 1900s. Researchers plan to carry out an expedition on Fernandina with the hope of finding more tortoises of the same species. (CNN)


Google has struck a deal with healthcare giant HCA to develop healthcare algorithms

The two will tap hospital chain HCA’s private patient records to train machine learning models, which could help monitor patients, improve operations, and guide doctors’ decision-making. The multi-year strategic partnership aims to develop a secure data analytics platform for HCA, which will advance AI models that improve workflows and provide new insights. While HCA will supply the records, Google will use its AI, Cloud Healthcare API, analytics, and BigQuery database to build custom tools for the healthcare provider. This includes workflow tools, analysis, and alerts that clinicians will be able to access on their mobile devices. HCA says it will strip its patient records of identifying information before sharing it with Google data scientists. Its data comes from roughly 32 million annual patient visits. The deal comes as more hospitals are pursuing data-driven care, including AI-based clinical decision support tools. (Market Watch)


US health officials release data estimating that out of more than 100 million people vaccinated, 10,262 reinfections have been reported, or roughly 0.01%; of the breakthrough cases, 995 patients were hospitalized and 160 deaths were reported, primarily in those aged 80 and older

CDC is working with state and territorial health departments to investigate SARS-CoV-2 infections among persons who are fully vaccinated and to monitor trends in case characteristics and SARS-CoV-2 variants identified from persons with these infections. A total of 10,262 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine breakthrough infections had been reported from 46 U.S. states and territories as of April 30, 2021. Among these cases:

  • 6,446 (63%) occurred in females, and the median patient age was 58 years (interquartile range = 40–74 years),
  • 2,725 (27%) vaccine breakthrough infections were asymptomatic,
  • 995 (10%) patients were known to be hospitalized,
  • 160 (2%) patients died.

Among the 995 hospitalized patients:

  • 289 (29%) were asymptomatic or hospitalized for a reason unrelated to COVID-19
  • The median age of patients who died was 82 years (interquartile range = 71–89 years);
  • 28 (18%) decedents were asymptomatic or died from a cause unrelated to COVID-19.

As of April 30, 2021, approximately 101 million persons in the United States had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Center For Disease Control And Prevention)


At least 26 outposts and bases in rural areas of Afghanistan have surrendered to the Taliban as the country’s military loses resources amid a U.S. withdrawal

Four of the surrenders were in district centers, which house local intelligence officers and government officials. Many of these surrenders occurred without the use of violence, as smaller outposts had run out of ammunition and food. The Taliban has offered to spare the lives of those defending the outposts should they surrender and turn over any supplies. A Taliban “Invitation and Guidance Committee” frequently gives soldiers money and clothes to return home, but threatens them and their families should they rejoin the military. The U.S. faces other challenges as troops and NATO allies are set to completely leave Afghanistan by mid-July. The Biden administration overruled it’s military advisors by ordering a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many in the administration argued that a residual ground force could help protect rural outposts from the Taliban. The U.S. and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in early 2020. The U.S. agreed to a withdrawal of U.S. troops if militants prevented extremist groups from operating in their territories. (The New York Times)


California Governor No Longer Allowed To Restrict Houses Of Worship, Ordered To Pay $1.35M Settlement To Church Over Lockdown

California Governor Gavin Newsom was ordered by a federal judge to pay a $1.35 million settlement to a Los Angeles-area church in his capacity as governor because of the state’s onerous lockdown rules against houses of worship. In addition to paying Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena, California, U.S. District Court Judge also ruled that state restrictions on houses of worship would be permitted only if child infections rose 100%, statewide cases are at least 26 per 100,000 people, or available ICU hospital bed capacity falls below 20%. The ruling marks the first statewide permanent injunction against COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship in the country. (The Washington Examiner)


German researchers believe they have discovered the cause of rare blood clots that can occur as a side effect of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Studies at Goethe University in Frankfurt suggest that adenovirus vectors, used in the vaccines to deliver information about the coronavirus’s spike protein, can cause “floating mutant proteins” that will induce blood clots in roughly one in 100,000 people who receive the vaccine. The researchers believe if the makers of the vaccines modify a specific gene sequence, it will prevent the code for the spike protein from splitting apart, and the risk of blood clots will vanish. (The Wall Street Journal)


Nintendo is planning to release an upgraded Switch console by September or October

The console is likely to be officially announced ahead of the E3 conference, which opens June 12th. The new Switch has the official name being kept under wraps and will likely be priced higher than the current $299 Nintendo Switch, which will be phased out over time. The $199 Switch Lite will remain available. Production of the new console is expected to start in July, despite a global semiconductor shortage that has stalled production of Sony’s rival PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. The new Switch will reportedly have an upgraded 7-inch Samsung OLED display and be capable of 4K output when connected to a television. (Bloomberg)


UPDATE: The woman who was fired from her job after being featured in a viral video calling the police on a Black man in Manhattan’s Central Park, is suing her former employer for wrongful termination and discrimination

Amy Cooper filed a federal lawsuit this week against Franklin Templeton, saying the company never investigated the incident that led to her firing, the confrontation between her and Christian Cooper. Her lawsuit claims that her employer discriminated against her because of her race and gender. Much of the encounter was captured on video by Christian Cooper, who is not related to Amy Cooper, after he said he asked her to put a leash on her dog to comply with the rules in that area of the park. The video, which went viral, shows Amy Cooper calling the police, saying the emergency dispatcher “I’m in The Ramble, and there’s a man, African American, he’s got a bicycle helmet. He’s recording me and threatening me and my dog”. The bird-watcher does not appear to come closer to her and remains calm as Amy Cooper grows agitated and starts to scream. He was not threatening her in the video. Amy Cooper’s lawsuit states that she did not call the police because she was racist, but “because she was alone in the park and frightened to death after being selected as the next target of Christian Cooper, an overzealous birdwatcher engaged in Central Park’s ongoing feud between birdwatchers and dog owners.” She is seeking “back pay and bonus, loss of unvested funds and other benefits, front pay or reinstatements, emotional distress damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and interest and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.” (NPR)


A “thumb palm test” could indicate patients at risk of ascending aortic aneurysm, according to researchers at Yale University

A simple “thumb palm test” may indicate whether someone has an ascending aortic aneurysm, or a potentially fatal ballooning of a large artery in the heart, researchers say, suggesting the test be included in standard physical exams, especially for those with a family history of aortic aneurysm. Experts affiliated with the Yale-New Haven Hospital aortic institute published their results from 305 patients undergoing heart surgery. The patients had varying disorders including ascending aneurysm, valve repair and coronary artery bypass grafting. Researchers found that positive “thumb palm tests,” or the “thumb crossing beyond the edge of the palm” often correlated with diagnosis of an aortic aneurysm. According to a related release posted by Yale University, “being able to move the thumb in that way is an indication that a patient’s long bones are excessive and their joints are lax — possible signs of connective tissue disease throughout the body, including the aorta.” (Fox News)


Scientists have created the largest-ever map of dark matter, the substance that makes up 27% of the universe

We can’t see it, barely understand it, but know that it exists because of the powerful influence it exerts on space. Dark matter makes up about 27% of the universe, and its gravitational force is enough to mesh entire galaxies together in a structure known as the cosmic web. Now, scientists have created the largest ever map of this mysterious substance and it could imply that there’s something wrong with Einstein’s theory of relativity. They have also mapped the location of vast cosmic voids where the conventional laws of physics may not apply. Astronomers are able to map the existence of dark matter by looking at light traveling to Earth from distant galaxies; if the light has been distorted, this means there is matter in the foreground, bending the light as it comes towards us. Using artificial intelligence methods to analyze images of 100 million galaxies, members of the international Dark Energy Survey (DES) team, a collaborative effort to reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is driving the expansion of our universe, have created a map that covers a quarter of the sky of the southern hemisphere (an eighth of the total night sky visible from Earth). Visualised as a pink, purple and black-mottled patch, clustered inside a pale ring (a superimposed image of the Milky Way), the brightest areas of the map show the densest areas of dark matter, corresponding to super-clusters of galaxies, while the black patches are cosmic voids. Scientists are interested in these structures because they suspect that gravity may behave very differently inside them. By identifying their shapes and locations, the map could therefore provide a starting point for further study. (The Guardian)


Friday Be Flashing With:

  • Amnesty International Founders Day
  • Ascension of Baha’U’llah
  • Beef Burger Day
  • Brisket Day
  • Cooler Day (Friday Before Memorial Day)
  • Don’t Fry Day (Friday Before Memorial Day)
  • Hamburger Day
  • Heat Awareness Day (Last Friday)
  • Menstrual Hygiene Day
  • Polka Day (Always Memorial Day weekend)
  • Road Trip Day (Friday Before Memorial Day Weekend)
  • Title Track Day (4th Friday)
  • Wig Out Day (Friday Before Memorial Day)
  • Sierra Club Day
  • Slugs Return From Capistrano Day


Historical Events

1754 – French and Indian War: in the first engagement of the war, Virginia militia under 22-year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington defeat a French reconnaissance party in the Battle of Jumonville Glen in what is now Fayette County in southwestern Pennsylvania.

1798 – The United States Congress empowers president John Adams to enlist 10,000 men for service in case of a declaration of war or invasion of the country’s domain. It also authorizes Adams to instruct commanders of ships-of-war to seize armed French vessels preying upon or attacking American merchantmen about the coast.

1905 – Russo-Japanese War: The Battle of Tsushima ends with the destruction of the Russian Baltic Fleet by Admiral Togo Heihachiro and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

1940 – World War II: Norwegian, French, Polish and British forces recapture Narvik in Norway. This is the first allied infantry victory of the War.

1942 – World War II: in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Nazis in Czechoslovakia kill over 1,800 people.

1952 – The women of Greece are given the right to vote.

1961 – Peter Benenson’s article The Forgotten Prisoners is published in several internationally read newspapers. This will later be thought of as the founding of the human rights organization Amnesty International.

1964 – The Palestine Liberation Organization is formed.

1982 – Falklands War: British forces defeat the Argentines at the Battle of Goose Green.

2010 – In West Bengal, India, a train derailment and subsequent collision kills 141 passengers.