Monday, June 14, 2021

Employers can require vaccinations

New guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) makes it clear that employers can require workers to be vaccinated if they’re entering a physical workspace, barring a medical or religious reason for refusal. The EEOC guidance also stipulates that employers can provide information and incentives to encourage workers to get inoculated. Requesting a worker’s vaccination status isn’t a HIPAA violation, though employers are prohibited from sharing that information. (United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)


FDA tells Johnson & Johnson to toss 60M COVID-19 vaccine doses over contamination concerns

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by the FDA to throw out 60 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine that was produced at a troubled Maryland facility over concerns of possible contamination. The report cited people familiar with the situation and comes as the FDA announced it authorized two batches of the vaccine produced at the Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore but found “several other batches” not suitable for use. The FDA also noted in a news release posted Friday that “additional batches are still under review and the agency will keep the public informed as those reviews are completed.” At this time, the agency stated that it is “not yet ready to include the Emergent BioSolutions plant in the Janssen EUA as an authorized manufacturing facility,” and continues to “work through issues there with Janssen and Emergent BioSolutions management.” It’s not the first time the company was told to discard doses from the troubled facility. The FDA has repeatedly cited Emergent for problems pertaining to poorly trained employees, cracked vials and mold issues. (Fox News)


Miners struggle to hire more women

Efforts to “rebalance their mostly male workforces” aren’t working in the mining industry. In recent years, mining giants have tried apprenticeships, direct recruiting and more flexible working practices to attract women workers, hoping to diversify workforces and fill vacant roles. The increases in female workers have plateaued and even dropped at some companies over the past decade, with women citing lack of flexibility, a “macho culture” and incidents of harassment as deterrents. Miners anticipate the “recruiting crisis” will worsen unless more young women are encouraged to study science and engineering. (The Wall Street Journal)


A 54-year-old man in Titusville, Florida ‘drunkenly stabs his friend with a medieval sword for “hogging the TV remote”‘

A Florida man allegedly stabbed another individual with a sword following an argument over a TV remote that suddenly turned medieval. They found the victim outside of the apartment with stab wounds to his left arm and leg. Officers offered first aid before taking the man to meet medical personnel. Investigators described his wounds as non-life threatening. Officers said the man was still inside the home when they arrived. They made contact with him through a landline and he advised officers that he was unable to walk out of the apartment due to a disability. Officers went into the apartment and said they found him sitting on a couch with a sword and a wooden scabbard next to him. He was cuffed and read his Miranda right, but, investigators said he then confessed to the stabbing, stating that if had better aim he would have “gut him (the victim).” Police said they spoke with the victim at the hospital who stated they had been drinking inside the apartment. The aggressor faces a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. (Click Orlando)


Laughing gas shows positive effects in patients with treatment-resistant depression

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Chicago have found that a single, one-hour treatment that involves breathing in a mixture of oxygen and the anesthetic drug nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, can significantly improve symptoms in people with treatment-resistant depression. In a phase 2 clinical trial, the researchers demonstrated that symptoms of depression improve rapidly following treatment with inhaled nitrous oxide. Further, they reported the benefits can last for several weeks. Standard antidepressant drugs affect norepinephrine and serotonin receptors in the brain, yet they often take weeks to improve a person’s symptoms. Nitrous oxide, however, interacts with different receptors on brain cells, NMDA glutamate receptors, and tends to improve symptoms within hours when effective. (Washington University School of Medicine)


Canadian telescope records 535 instances of mysterious fast radio bursts, quadrupling the total number of events recorded to date

A radio telescope in Canada has detected 535 fast radio bursts, quadrupling the known tally of these brief, highly energetic phenomena in one go. The long-awaited results show that these enigmatic events come in two distinct types, most bursts are one-off events, with a minority repeating periodically and lasting at least ten times longer on average. The findings strongly suggest that fast radio bursts could be the result of at least two distinct astrophysical phenomena. The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) collected the events in its first year of operation, between 2018 and 2019. The team announced its results during a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society recently. (Nature)


Israel has become the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur

The ban will be implemented in six months and was passed on moral grounds because “the fur industry causes the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals worldwide,” Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection said. Animals Now, the animal welfare organization, welcomed the move as a “historic milestone” that would “save countless animals from the hell of the fur industry.” The ban is the result of years of lobbying from animal welfare organizations. Working globally, organizations such as PETA and the International Anti-Fur Coalition (IAFC) have been working with local activists to push the Israeli government to ban the nationwide sale of fur. The new fur ban will not impact religious groups that wear fur in traditional clothing, such as the large fur hats called the “shtreimel” worn by Hasidic men, which will continue to be legal. The fur ban differs from other bans globally because it accounts for the imports and exports of the fur industry. Although some nations, including 15 European countries, have banned fur farming in recent months, the countries’ fashion industries are still importing fur products. Israel’s move to remove fur presents a significant historical marker for the fashion industry internationally. (The Beet)


El Salvador announced a state-owned geothermal bitcoin mining operation powered by a volcano

President Nayib Bukele has invited miners to use the facilities for zero-emission bitcoin mining. The mining facility will be powered by a geothermal energy plant that is said to have a production capacity of approximately 95 megawatts. The decision comes amid a widespread shutdown of bitcoin mining in China. President Bukele recently approved bitcoin as the second official currency of El Salvador after the U.S. dollar. (Bitcoin Magazine)


Child care’s dire need for staff

As more parents begin to return to the office and schools let out for the summer, the child care sector is in “an existential crisis,” warns one policy expert. What was already an underfunded sector with frequent staff turnover has worsened over the last year, with the workforce down 15% from pre-pandemic levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Industries across the U.S. have been struggling to find qualified staff amid a worker shortage, and child care employers are struggling to compete. For the 26.8 million people who depend on child care to work, the staffing “dilemma” means they have fewer options. (Bloomberg)


Houston Methodist Hospital suspends 178 employees over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

A total of 178 employees at Houston Methodist Hospital have been suspended for not complying with the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for workers. In a statement issued by Houston Methodist recently, 24,947 employees complied and are fully vaccinated. The 178 who did not comply were a mix of full- and part-time employees. They were not granted an exemption or deferral and have been suspended without pay for the next 14 days. Of those employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, and the hospital says they’re hopeful they will get their second doses soon. Plus, Houston Methodist said 285 workers received a medical or religious exemption, and 332 were granted deferrals for pregnancy and other reasons. On May 28th, a group of 117 Houston Methodist employees sued the hospital system for requiring the vaccine as a condition of employment. The medical giant gave workers a deadline of receiving the vaccine by June 7th. The lawsuit asks a federal court to prevent the hospital group from taking action against the employees. However, one of the nurses suing Houston Methodist led a walkout as she completed her shift. Several employees from different branches and many supporters met at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital in support of her efforts. The company says they support the rights of employees to peacefully gather, but they can’t allow patient care to suffer. Houston Methodist’s CEO has said it is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, that the vaccine is safe and the best option, and that he stands by the decision. (ABC 13)


Dad pays final child support with pennies, daughter donates it to domestic abuse victims

A Virginia man went to extreme measures to show he was not happy about paying child support. He dumped 80,000 pennies in front of his daughter’s home as his final payment. She took those pennies and turned his act of anger into a positive for families in need. If a penny is worth a thousand words, certainly 80,000 of the coins will help the daughter tell her side of the story. Never thinking she’d have to use a snow shovel in the summer to scoop up some domestic drama. Once the pennies were picked up, she and her mom decided to flip the script. Her mom is donating her daughter’s last child support payment, every penny to “Safe Harbor”, a domestic abuse shelter. A lesson, the teenager is teaching, she hasn’t spoken to her father in years. She says the penny incident proves she made the tough but right decision to stay clear and she has no interest in having a relationship with anyone who disrespects her mother. The high school senior will spend the summer at home before venturing to Virginia Tech for her freshman year. (WKRC)


U.S. Justice Dept says it will no longer seize reporters’ records in leak investigations

As the oldest members of the millennial generation (born in 1981) turn 40, many are struggling to build wealth at the rates of their generational predecessors. While baby boomers in the United States enjoyed an average of $113,000 in wealth (in today’s dollars) in their early 40s, millennials only had $91,000. What’s behind this wealth gap? Part of it is unfortunate timing, with millennials facing both the Great Recession and the pandemic’s economic shocks at key moments in their economic lives. Mounting student debt and skyrocketing housing costs have only made matters more challenging. (Bloomberg)


Cutting off the power on cancer

Researchers from the University of Salford in the UK have found that an already approved tuberculosis drug has the ability to cut off the “fuel supply” of metastatic cancer cells, all while leaving healthy cells unharmed. The drug in question, FDA-approved Sirturo, attacks the parts of the cancer cells that produce ATP, a molecule that transmits energy. Metastatic cancer cells have high amounts of ATP, making them particularly adept at resisting chemotherapy and spreading through the body. By cutting off their power source, Sirturo can potentially stop cancer in its tracks. The next step is clinical trials with humans. (New Atlas)


Monday Opens The Week With:

  • Army Birthday
  • Bourbon Day
  • Family History Day
  • Flag Day
  • Hydranencephaly Awareness Day
  • International Bath Day
  • New Mexico Day
  • No Mailing Children Day
  • Pause for the Pledge Day
  • Pop Goes the Weasel Day
  • Ride To Work Day (Motorcycles) (Third Monday)
  • Strawberry Shortcake Day
  • World Blood Donor Day


Historical Events

  • 1900 – Hawaii becomes a United States territory.
  • 1944 – World War II: After several failed attempts, the British Army abandons Operation Perch, its plan to capture the German-occupied town of Caen.
  • 1947 – Roswell UFO incident A supposed UFO crash lands in Roswell, New Mexico
  • 1952 – The keel is laid for the nuclear submarine USS Nautilus.
  • 1954 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a bill into law that places the words “under God” into the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.
  • 1955 – Chile becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.
  • 1959 – Disneyland Monorail System, the first daily operating monorail system in the Western Hemisphere, opens to the public in Anaheim, California.
  • 1962 – The European Space Research Organisation is established in Paris – later becoming the European Space Agency.
  • 1966 – The Vatican announces the abolition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (index of prohibited books), which was originally instituted in 1557.
  • 1967 – Mariner program: Mariner 5 is launched toward Venus.