Friday, July 23, 2021

US life expectancy falls by more than a year due to Covid-19 pandemic

Life expectancy in the United States fell by a year and a half in 2020 primarily due to increases in death due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to early data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “U.S. life expectancy at birth for 2020, based on nearly final data, was 77.3 years, the lowest it has been since 2003,” researchers at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics wrote in a new report. US life expectancy declined from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020, the researchers reported, and Covid-19 deaths contributed to 73.8% of that decline. The report was based on provisional data from death and birth records for the year 2020, processed by the National Center for Health Statistics. The researchers found that life expectancy for men fell from 76.3 years in 2019 to 74.5 in 2020 and life expectancy for women dropped from 81.4 years in 2019 to 80.2 in 2020. There also were some racial disparities that emerged in the data. (CNN)


Cooking oil can be used as tool to reduce child marriage in Bangladesh, US study finds

A multi-year study in Bangladesh showed that giving cooking oil as an incentive to girls and their families can persuade them to postpone marriage. According to research by Stanford University and Duke University titled ‘A Signal to End Child Marriage: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Bangladesh’, the cooking oil incentive reduced child marriage under the age of 18 by 17% and by 18% for those under the age of 16. This conclusion is based on the distribution of oil to families of 15-17 year old girls on the condition that they would not marry before they turn 18. Cooking oil was chosen because of its value in a Bangladeshi family, according to the researchers. They said, it “has to be purchased regularly by every family in Bangladesh and thus is a close substitute to cash”, and it “also has a high value to volume ratio, which minimized transport costs”. The study took place 2007 and 2017. Currently, Bangladesh has the second highest rate of child marriage after Niger. According to a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report from April 2020, 29% of women aged 20-24 years in south Asia were married before they turned 18. For Bangladesh, UNICEF estimates the figure to be 51%. (The Business Standard)


China Unveils Maglev Train, “Fastest Ground Vehicle Globally”

China’s new maglev train, revealed this week, can achieve a top speed of 373 mph, making it the fastest ground vehicle in the world. With that speed, it would take just over two hours to travel from New York City to Chicago. The maximum speed would make the train, self-developed by China and manufactured in the coastal city of Qingdao, the fastest ground vehicle globally. Using electro-magnetic force, the maglev train “levitates” above the track with no contact between body and rail. China has been using the technology for almost two decades on a very limited scale. Shanghai has a short maglev line running from one of its airports to town. While there are no inter-city or inter-province maglev lines yet in China that could make good use of the higher speeds, some cities including Shanghai and Chengdu have started to conduct research. Countries from Japan to Germany are also looking to build maglev networks, although high costs and incompatibility with current track infrastructure remain hurdles to rapid development. (NDTV)


Researchers use snakes to monitor and map residual radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster

Ten years after one of the largest nuclear accidents in history spewed radioactive contamination over the landscape in Fukushima, Japan, a University of Georgia study has shown that radioactive contamination in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone can be measured through its resident snakes. The team’s findings report that rat snakes are an effective bioindicator of residual radioactivity. Like canaries in a coal mine, bioindicators are organisms that can signal an ecosystem’s health. An abundant species in Japan, rat snakes travel short distances and can accumulate high levels of radionuclides. To determine where the snakes were spending their time and how far they were moving, the team tracked nine rat snakes using a combination of GPS transmitters and manual very-high frequency tracking. VHF transmitters allowed the team to physically locate a snake every few days to identify if it was underground or in arboreal habitat. According to the researchers, the snakes’ limited movement and close contact with contaminated soil are key factors in their ability to reflect the varying levels of contamination in the zone. “Snakes are good indicators of environmental contamination because they spend a lot of time in and on soil,” said an associate professor at SREL and Warnell. The team identified 1,718 locations of the snakes while tracking them for over a month in the Abukuma Highlands, approximately 15 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. (University of Georgia)


Authorities in Nigeria freed 100 women and children who had been held hostage by heavily armed gangs for 42 days

The local government said they were released without “giving any financial or material gain.” The hostages will now be “medically checked and debriefed” before returning home to their families. More than 1,000 people have been kidnapped in the Zamfara state, in northwest Nigeria, since late 2020. Authorities say that armed militias that often seek ransoms are behind the abductions. Authorities have blamed the incidents on bandits, a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely motivated by money. (BBC)


New Bill Would Help Save Bighorn Sheep, Golden Eagles

A bill just introduced in the U.S, Senate would help thousands of species stay off the Endangered Species List – including bighorn sheep, golden eagles and the Lahontan cutthroat trout in Nevada. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would put $1.4 billion a year toward conservation efforts. Almost 25 million of that would go to Nevada. The bill was introduced in the U.S, House of Representatives in April but has yet to receive a hearing or a vote. (Public News Service)


Homebuyers opt for longer commutes

More house hunters are trading longer work commutes for lower home prices. New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles are among cities that have seen home prices rise faster in farther-flung neighborhoods compared to those closer to business centers, according to a recent analysis. It’s a sign that the appeal of being close to the workplace is waning as employees embrace remote work and come to expect more flexibility in their work schedules. (Zillow)


States reach $26 Billion Dollar opioid settlement

Johnson & Johnson, along with America’s three biggest drug distributors, have agreed to pay $26 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits related to the epidemic in opioid addiction. Attorneys general from states including Tennessee, North Carolina and Pennsylvania announced the deal, which if completed could see communities getting funds next year to address the crisis. McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen also agreed to pay New York up to $1.18 billion for their role in the crisis. (CNBC)


‘Bachelor’s degree bias’ hurts us

Two-thirds of Americans don’t possess a college degree, yet almost three-quarters of jobs created from 2007 to 2016 required one, according to Census Bureau research. “College-degree discrimination,” often for jobs that don’t rely on higher education, has proliferated in the digital job-search era, as employers cut and paste work requirements, and devise ways to screen an applicant surge. Yet, the practice is harmful to everyone, especially in a post-pandemic recovery. (Washington Post)


Alien abduction claims may be based on lucid dreams

A trio of researchers at the Phase Research Center in Moscow has found some evidence that suggests people who claim to have seen or been abducted by aliens may have instead simply dreamed about the experience. Researchers describe experiments they conducted with lucid dreamer volunteers and what they found. For many years, people have reported that they have seen UFOs or aliens, or have been abducted by them. To date, none of these reports have been substantiated. In this new effort, the researchers suggest that such events may come about in dreams that seem so real that people believe they happened in the real world. The researchers began their study by noting that many people who report such encounters also report feeling as if in a dreamlike state—and many reported feeling paralyzed as well. Such reports suggest that these events may be happing in people’s dreams. The researchers enlisted the assistance of 152 adult volunteers who described themselves as lucid dreamers—people who can control the action in their dreams. They asked each of the volunteers to try to dream about alien encounters. After each of the volunteers awoke, they were quizzed about their dreams. The researchers found that 114 of the volunteers were successful in dreaming about an alien encounter. They also noted that 61% of the volunteers reported that the alien in their dreams resembled aliens they had seen in movies or on television and 19% of them encountered aliens that looked just like human beings. They also found that 12% of the volunteers had a conversation with an alien in their dreams. Also, UFOs appeared in 28% of the dreams, with 10% of dreamers visiting the alien spacecraft. Perhaps more importantly, the researchers found that 24% of those describing their dream as realistic also experienced paralysis and great fear, very similar to the language used by many people reporting alien encounters. The researchers suggest that such feelings may be so vivid that the person experiencing them believes they truly happened. (Medical Xpress)


Cocaine disguised as cake seized from vehicle in Maine

A New York man and a Maine woman are facing charges over cocaine disguised as a cake that was seized from their vehicle, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said. Acting on a tip, police stopped the car on Interstate 295 in Gardiner, Maine, and a drug-sniffing dog found 4 pounds of cocaine worth $200,000 on the street and seized was $1,900 in cash. About 2 pounds of the cocaine was disguised as a marble cake with coffee grounds used to cover up the scent, officials said. The two were released on bail. (Associated Press)


Surgeons successfully complete the first transplant of a total artificial heart in North America

Surgeons at the Duke University Hospital recently transplanted a total artificial heart (TAH) into a 39-year-old man who experienced sudden heart failure. Unlike conventional artificial hearts, this TAH mimics the human heart and provides the recipient more independence after the surgery, the university said in a press release. The TAH has been developed by the French company, CARMAT, and consists of two ventricular chambers and four biological valves ensuring that the prosthetic not only resembles the human heart but also functions like one. The heartbeat is created by an actuator fluid that the patient carries in the bag outside the body and the heart is pumped using micropumps in response to the patient’s needs as determined by the sensors and microprocessors on the heart itself. Two outlets connect the artificial heart to the aorta, which is a major artery in the body, as well as the pulmonary artery that carries blood to the lungs to oxygenate it. The device has already been approved for use in Europe but is only intended as a bridge for patients who are diagnosed with end-stage biventricular heart failure and are likely to undergo a heart transplant in the next 180 days. (Interesting Engineering)


The show director for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was fired because of a joke he made about the Holocaust in 1998

He is the fourth official to resign over offensive remarks. Kentaro Kobayashi, a popular entertainer, had performed a sketch in which he joked about a game he called “let’s play massacre the Jews.” A video of the skit resurfaced online. He apologized, saying he was searching for “cheap laughs” early in his career. It is unclear how the dismissal will affect the event, which only 950 people will attend due to the pandemic. (BBC)


Friday Gets Paid With:

  • Gorgeous Grandma Day
  • Hot Enough For Ya Day
  • Lumberjack Day (Last Friday of the Last Full Weekend)
  • Pajama Day
  • Vanilla Ice Cream Day


Historical Events

  • 1874 – Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos is appointed the Archbishop of the Portuguese colonial enclave of Goa.
  • 1903 – The Ford Motor Company sells its first car.
  • 1914 – Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia demanding Serbia to allow the Austrians to determine who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Serbia will reject those demands and Austria will declare war on July 28.
  • 1926 – Fox Film buys the patents of the Movietone sound system for recording sound onto film.
  • 1942 – World War II: The German offensives Operation Edelweiss and Operation Braunschweig begin.
  • 1952 – The European Coal and Steel community is established.
  • 1968 – The only successful hijacking of an El Al aircraft takes place when a Boeing 707 carrying 10 crew and 38 passengers is taken over by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The aircraft was en route from Rome, Italy, to Lod, Israel.
  • 1992 – A Vatican commission, led by Joseph Ratzinger, establishes that it is necessary to limit rights of homosexual people and non-married couples.
  • 1995 – Comet Hale-Bopp is discovered; it will become visible to the naked eye nearly a year later.
  • 1999 – ANA Flight 61 is hijacked in Tokyo, Japan by Yuji Nishizawa.