Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced new, “easy-to-say” labels for SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern

New variants will be assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet according to when the discovery took place. The WHO will use Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta to refer to variants first detected in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, and India, respectively. The move is an attempt to reduce the stigma associated with countries where new variants emerge. The WHO hopes to create “easy to say and remember” labels that will help in public discussion. The new labels will not replace existing scientific names, such as the U.K.’s B.1.1.7 or South Africa’s B.1.351, which will continue to be used in research. If all 24 letters of the Greek alphabet are used, a new series will be announced. (STAT News)


Lung Cancer Breakthrough

United States regulators have approved a drug to treat one of the most common mutations found in lung cancers. Scientists have long known about the specific mutation, which causes overactive cell growth, but have been unable to target it directly, leading some to call it “undruggable.” KRAS (pronounced as “K-raz”) mutations appear in roughly 13% of non-small-cell lung cancers, or about 25,000 cases per year in the United States. Biotech giant Amgen won approval after demonstrating 80% of patients receiving the drug saw an average of 10 months without tumor progression after other treatments had failed. Roughly 36% saw a significant decrease in tumor size. (Fierce Pharma)


Cosmologists produce the most detailed 3D map of the universe to date

A survey of the southern sky has reconstructed how mass is spread across space and time, in the biggest study of its kind. The data provide striking evidence that dark energy, the force that appears to be pushing the Universe to accelerate its expansion, has been constant throughout cosmic history. The Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration observed the sky between 2013 and 2019 using a 570-megapixel camera at the Víctor M. Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The survey covered one-quarter of the southern sky, and its exposures included 300 million galaxies. (Nature)


Amazon set to launch trials of its Sidewalk wireless mesh network in select US cities June 8

If you use Alexa, Echo, or any other Amazon device, you have only 10 days to opt out of an experiment that leaves your personal privacy and security hanging in the balance. On June 8, the merchant, Web host, and entertainment behemoth will automatically enroll the devices in Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless mesh service will share a small slice of your Internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don’t have connectivity and help you to their bandwidth when you don’t have a connection. By default, Amazon devices including Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers will enroll in the system. And since only a tiny fraction of people take the time to change default settings, that means millions of people will be co-opted into the program whether they know anything about it or not. Amazon says Sidewalk “is currently only available in the US.” (Amazon)


Could Millions Risk Eviction This Month?

With more than 11 million Americans behind on their rent, many could be forced from their homes when the national eviction ban expires on June 30. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium, which was enforced in September, has reduced the normal number of eviction filings over the same time period by at least half. Experts warn the number of evictions could skyrocket once the ban lifts, which housing advocates say is coming at a particularly difficult time with states still struggling to distribute Congress’s $45 billion in rental assistance. (CNBC)


Teens are in luck for summer jobs

As the economy continues to reopen, employers are scrambling to hire service workers to meet surging demand, and those taking advantage of open roles are teenagers. The share of 16- to 19-year-olds in the workforce has not been this high since 2008, with nearly 256,000 teens in that age group gaining employment in April. After taking a hit at the beginning of the pandemic, the rise in teen employment is bringing on higher wages. (The New York Times)


A Florida woman donated a kidney to her husband’s ex-wife two days after they were married

The donor woman wasn’t particularly close to her new husband’s ex-wife, though they’d been friendly at family gatherings. When the ex-wife was admitted to the hospital with kidney functionality of only 8%, the current wife knew she wanted to find out if she was a match, and tests later proved that to be the case. Due to COVID-related delays, the transplant was scheduled for two days after her wedding to the husband. The “kidney sisters” are now celebrating the ex’s recovery as well as the birth of her first grandchild. (AP News)


A robotic arm connected to the International Space Station has been damaged by space junk, though it continues to function normally

A robotic arm located outside of the International Space Station has been hit by orbital debris, but it’s still functioning. The impact was first noticed by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency during a routine inspection on May 12th, punched a hole in the arm boom and its thermal blanket. “Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected,” according to a release by the Canadian Space Agency. While the exact object responsible for this damage is unknown, the space station is at risk of impact from objects too small to be tracked as it orbits the Earth from 220 nautical miles away. These tiny objects could be pieces of rock, micrometeorites, dust particles or even flecks of paint that chip off of satellites. (CNN)

Authorities in China have confirmed the first human case of H10N3 bird flu, but they say “the risk of large-scale transmission is low”

A man in eastern China has contracted what might be the world’s first human case of the H10N3 strain of bird flu, but the risk of large-scale spread is low, the government said. The 41-year-old man in Jiangsu province, northwest of Shanghai, was hospitalized April 28th and is in stable condition, the National Health Commission said on its website. No human case of H10N3 has been reported elsewhere, the commission said. (ABC News)


Where do we go from here?

Following a mad dash for many employees to adapt to working remotely, could the future of work be even more complicated? Many companies are trying to adapt to the new hybrid working world: Some are ruling out WFH on Mondays or Fridays, while others are concerned about offices being too crowded on Thursdays. Meanwhile, recruiters say they’re having difficulty finding workers who are willing to work five days in the office. Other workers are complaining about vague WFH policies, or pandemic-era work promises that have not been held. (The Wall Street Journal)


Pandemic pet boom entices startups

Newly acquired pandemic pets are fueling a boom in animal care services and startups are taking notice. Though they make up a small percentage of the nation’s 28,000 pet care practices, startups, often funded by venture capital firms, are making their presence felt. Millennials made up the majority of new pet owners during the pandemic. (The New York Times)


Fed inches toward a digital currency

Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell says the central bank will release research this summer that explores developing a digital currency of its own. The discussion paper would break down the Fed’s “current thinking on digital payments, with a particular focus on the benefits and risks associated,” then seek public comment. Powell said the digital currency, which won’t be a cryptocurrency, would need to be efficient, safe to use and offer “broad benefits to American households and businesses.” Fed officials say they’re focused on getting it right, though China’s creation of a digital yuan has raised the stakes. (CNBC)



Woman suing fertility doctor, accusing him of impregnating her with his own sperm

A 75-year-old New Jersey woman accused a doctor of “medical rape” by secretly using his own sperm to impregnate her nearly 40 years ago, she said in a federal lawsuit filed recently. She paid her New York City OB-GYN $100 to secure sperm from an anonymous donor at a sperm bank in 1983, according to her civil complaint filed in New York. The procedure led to a successful pregnancy and birth of her daughter in 1984. It wasn’t until the daughter purchased a DNA kit from 23andMe in the fall of 2020 that she discovered her biological father was a man born in 1943 and now living in Florida. “The Doctor inserted his own sperm into this patient. He did so without her consent and against her wishes,” according to the complaint by the daughters attorney. The DNA bombshell has left her, who lived in Manhattan’s Upper West Side at the time of her pregnancy, feeling “victimized” and has led to “debilitating anxiety and emotional pain,” the lawsuit said. There’s no way the mother would have signed off on the doctor being the sperm donor, according to the lawsuit. The mother did not place any restrictions on who the donor could be, according to another one of her attorneys. (NBC News)


Wednesday Blows By With:

  • Rotisserie Chicken Day
  • Rocky Road Day
  • Bubba Day
  • First Ladies Day
  • Leave The Office Early Day
  • Running Day


Historical Events

  • 1763 – Pontiac’s Rebellion: At what is now Mackinaw City, Michigan, Chippewas capture Fort Michilimackinac by diverting the garrison’s attention with a game of lacrosse, then chasing a ball into the fort.
  • 1774 – Intolerable Acts: The Quartering Act is enacted, allowing a governor in colonial America to house British soldiers in uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings if suitable quarters are not provided.
  • 1896 – Guglielmo Marconi applies for a patent for his newest invention: the radio.
  • 1941 – World War II: German paratoopers murder Greek civilians in the village of Kondomari.
  • 1946 – Birth of the Italian Republic: In a referendum, Italians vote to turn Italy from a monarchy into a Republic. After the referendum the king of Italy Umberto II di Savoia is exiled.
  • 1966 – Surveyor program: Surveyor 1 lands in Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon, becoming the first U.S. spacecraft to soft land on another world.
  • 1983 – After an emergency landing because of an in-flight fire, twenty-three passengers aboard Air Canada Flight 797 are killed when a flashover occurs as the plane’s doors open. Because of this incident, numerous new safety regulations are put in place.
  • 1995 – United States Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady’s F-16 is shot down over Bosnia while patrolling the NATO no-fly zone.
  • 1999 – The Bhutan Broadcasting Service brings television transmissions to the Kingdom for the first time.
  • 2010 – Derrick Bird goes on a killing spree in Cumbria, killing 13 and injuring 11, see Cumbria shootings.