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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,622

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To learn how COVID affects the ear, scientists turn to cadavers

n a narrow medical school hallway, Matt Stewart opened a large cabinet to reveal dozens of shelves stacked with wooden boxes and trays, some at least 100 years old.

Stewart, tall and silver-haired, pulled out one of the trays and showed off its contents: Thin slices of human skull bones and the organs of hearing and balance they contain, stained shades of pink. Affixed to microscope slides, the anatomical bits resembled abstract rubber stamp art, no bigger than thumbprints. "Our Johns Hopkins history," he said, referring to the university's collection of specimens from more than 5,000 patients.

Stewart's research team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore had a long, complicated journey to make slides like these in 2021. The researchers need these specimens, sliced from the portion of skull that houses the inner ear, to ask a fundamental question about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2: Does it directly invade the cells of tissues that enable hearing and balance?

Data on ear problems as they relate to Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is spotty. To date, case reports and small studies have found that some Covid-19 patients experience significant and rapid hearing loss, ringing in the ears called tinnitus, or balance issues. Estimates vary on the prevalence of these symptoms, but because the coronavirus has infected hundreds of millions of people, even a few percent of Covid patients experiencing hearing loss would add up to a large increase globally. Yet no causal link has been drawn between the novel coronavirus and auditory symptoms. Hearing problems aren't even on lists of Covid-19 symptoms, short or long-term, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are several possible explanations for why the disease might be associated with severe hearing problems, and scientists may never pinpoint all of the underlying mechanisms. But researchers like Stewart are pursuing the theory that the virus could be directly damaging inner ear cells. The coronavirus is already known to infect the cells of the upper nasal cavity, leading to loss of smell. A similar process might occur in the ear, explained Stewart, an associate chief medical officer who specializes in inner ear surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. .............(more)


Omicron surge shows signs of easing in states hit early by the fast-spreading variant

(CNBC) Following weeks of soaring infections, the latest Covid surge is showing signs of slowing in a handful of areas hit earliest by the omicron variant — offering a glimmer of hope that this wave is starting to ease.

The U.S. has reported an average of nearly 800,000 cases per day over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, more than three times the level seen during last winter’s previous record. But in a handful of states and cities, particularly on the East Coast, cases appear to have plateaued or fallen in recent days.

In New York, the seven-day average of daily new cases has been declining since hitting a record high of 85,000 per day on Jan. 9, according to Hopkins data. Cases there doubled during a number of seven-day periods in late December and early January, but are down sharply from last week to an average of 51,500. In New York City, average daily cases have fallen by 31% over the past week, state health department data shows.

“There will come a time when we can say it’s all over,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a press conference Friday. “We’re not there yet, but boy, it’s on the horizon and we’ve waited a long time for that.” ............(more)


Once again Republicans will try to claim MLK -- but if he were here, they'd despise him

Once again Republicans will try to claim MLK — but if he were here, they'd despise him
Dr. King's legacy is a formidable weapon against white supremacy — but not if we allow the right to reshape it


(Salon) Books possess great power. Those who own only a few, yet return to them like old friends for wisdom, comfort and knowledge, or to revisit a special memory, know this to be true. Those of us who have many books — who read and and reread them and carefully compile our collections — know this also.

Our books are a type of biography in themselves, an accounting of our lives. I take my books very seriously. People know not to ask if they can borrow any of my books.

The number of books a person owns reveals little about their understanding of the power of literacy and books. For too many people who have huge libraries, the whole project is one of social signaling and bourgeois habitus.

One of my most personally important books is an early edition of "The Black Book." This landmark work was edited by Middleton A. Harris, Ernest Smith, Morris Levitt and Roger Furman, with a foreword by Toni Morrison. My mother purchased "The Black Book" for a community college course and wanted to make sure that I read it. I was seven or eight years old at the time.


In many ways, America was built on white supremacist lies about Black and brown people. Those lies have not been exorcised; they still have great power and many people believe them today. The social institutions those lies helped create and legitimate still exist. The Jim Crow Republicans and other neofascists are empowered by racist and white supremacist lies.

On this holiday weekend set aside to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Freedom Struggle, Republicans and other "conservatives" will deploy their racist and white supremacist lies (as they have done for decades) to diminish the meaning of King's struggle and sacrifice. ..............(more)


Crunching the COVID-19 Numbers: NYC moving past the Omicron peak, as cases begin to tumble

The previous projections that Governor Kathy Hochul and health experts made about the current COVID-19 crisis appear to be coming true: the Omicron-fueled surge in cases in New York is starting to ebb as sharply as it rose around Christmas time.

The latest data from the New York City Health Department still shows “very high transmission” of COVID-19 across the city, with thousands of new cases being detected each day. But the number of infections and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are begin to decrease, signaling that the Five Boroughs are moving past the peak of the pandemic’s biggest wave.

Progress could be seen in the 7-day positivity rates across the Five boroughs. Fifty-two areas reported 30% or higher COVID-19 positivity between Jan. 5-11, but no areas of the city has rates exceeding 40%. But during the previous week, Dec. 29, 2021-Jan. 4, 2022, the city had 23 areas of the city with 40% or higher positivity rates.

The citywide 7-day positivity rate, as of Jan. 14, was 27.65%, down from 32.59% on Jan. 4.

The Bronx, which had been slammed hard by Omicron over the past two weeks, is also seeing improvement. Between Dec. 29-Jan. 4, 15 of the 23 NYC areas with 40% or higher were located int he Bronx, but by contrast, just one Bronx community — Hunts Point (10474) ranked among the 15 New York City areas with the highest 7-day positivity rates between Jan. 5-11. .............(more)


Robert Reich: Corporate sedition is more damaging to America than the Capitol attack

by Robert Reich

Capitalism and democracy are compatible only if democracy is in the driver’s seat.

That’s why I took some comfort just after the attack on the Capitol when many big corporations solemnly pledged they’d no longer finance the campaigns of the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn election results.

Well, those days are over. Turns out they were over the moment the public stopped paying attention.

A report published last week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington shows that over the past year, 717 companies and industry groups have donated more than $18m to 143 of those seditious lawmakers. Businesses that pledged to stop or pause their donations have given nearly $2.4m directly to their campaigns or political action committees (Pacs).


The Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema – whose vocal opposition to any change in the filibuster is on the verge of dooming voting rights – received almost $2m in campaign donations in 2021 even though she is not up for re-election until 2024. Most of it came from corporate donors outside Arizona, some of which have a history of donating largely to Republicans. .............(more)


"We're 15 years too late": Endocrine-disrupting plastic additive BPA is still in everything

(Salon) Shortly before 2021 came to a close, a little-known agency proposed some new safety standards that accidentally triggered serious questions about human health in the age of plastics.

More specifically, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) determined that a plastic additive called bisphenol A (BPA) needs to be dramatically reduced in our environment — that is, people should have their exposure to the chemical limited to no more than 0.018 nanograms per pound of body weight per day. This would decrease one's interactions with the pollutant by a factor of 100,000 from what they currently are.

In case you have been living in a part of the world that is untouched by plastic — which, it turns out, doesn't exist — BPA is everywhere, in all kinds of different plastics. Aside from some laws limiting its use in infant formula packaging and baby bottles, companies use it to make water bottles and food can liners, leftover containers and dishware, eyeglass lenses and household electronics, and even commercial receipts that come out of thermal printers. BPAs are in microplastics, or tiny plastic particles that you consume but rarely see because they are so small. And BPA is so ubiquitous that it gets inside our bodies before we are even born: one 2014 study detected the chemical in 75% of nursing mothers' breast milk, and in the urine of 93% of their infants.

This wouldn't be an issue if there weren't concerns about BPA affecting human health. (More on that later). Despite its ubiquity in the human body, and despite growing public awareness about plastic pollution, there are almost no meaningful regulations on BPA in the United States.

Many companies claim to be reducing their use of BPA, as observed in the recent trend of labeling cans and plastic bottles "BPA-free." Unfortunately, many of the replacements for BPA are equally bad, and some cause genetic defects, as Science previously reported. ...............................(more)


Florida man stops to charge ankle monitor while committing a crime, faces grand theft auto

Early Tuesday evening, the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office began receiving numerous calls about a person riding through homeowners’ properties on a red side-by-side.

The man, Joshua Shane Crider, even approached one caller and asked if he could use their electrical outlet to charge his ankle monitor.

A detective responded to the call and said he saw Crider near SW County Road 760 and Terrell St.

Det. Pacheco approached Crider who was allegedly behaving strangely. ............(more)


Halting progress and happy accidents: How mRNA vaccines were made

The New York Times

Thousands of miles from Dr. Barney Graham’s lab in Bethesda, Maryland, a frightening new coronavirus had jumped from camels to humans in the Middle East, killing 1 out of every 3 people infected. An expert on the world’s most intractable viruses, Graham had been working for months to develop a vaccine but had gotten nowhere.

Now he was terrified that the virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, had infected one of his lab’s own scientists, who was sick with a fever and a cough in fall 2013 after a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

A nose swab came back positive for a coronavirus, seeming to confirm Graham’s worst fears, only for a second test to deliver relief: It was a mild coronavirus, causing a common cold, not MERS.

Graham had a flash of intuition: Perhaps it would be worth taking a closer look at this humdrum cold virus.

The decision to study a colleague’s bad cold gave rise to critical discoveries. Together with other chance breakthroughs that seemed insignificant at the time, it would lead eventually to the mRNA vaccines now protecting hundreds of millions of people from COVID-19. ..........................(more)


Can any animal learn to speak with buttons like Bunny the "talking" dog does?

Can any animal learn to speak with buttons like Bunny the "talking" dog does?
Dogs and cats have taken to the buttons, but would a horse or iguana? Experts weigh in


It's no secret that the internet has been captivated by Bunny the Talking Dog.

In case you've been on a digital detox over the last couple of years, Bunny is TikTok's beloved "talking" Sheepadoodle who uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to communicate with her human parent. As Salon has reported, Bunny has stunned her followers by seemingly asking existential questions, recalling her dreams, and wondering about Uni, the cat she lived with who went missing. Indeed, it's not just Bunny anymore. There's also Billi, a 13-year-old domestic cat in Florida, who's captured the internet's attention by pressing buttons to communicate.

Both animals are enrolled in a project called TheyCanTalk, which is seeking to better understand if animals can use AAC systems to communicate with humans. The project consists of dogs, cats, a small cohort of horses, and one peahen. In the study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons. They usually start with easy words like "outside" and "play" linked to their buttons. Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they're in front of their boards, data which is sent to the lab where researchers examine what they say.

As popularity continues to rise by way of social media and these talking animals, some might be wondering: can any animal species learn how to talk using an AAC device?

"Certainly when we got started on this, my expectation was that we would see that dogs would do surprisingly well, but I didn't expect we would see that much in the way of a great performance from non-dogs," said Leo Trottier, cognitive scientist and founder of How.TheyCanTalk Research and developer of the FluentPet's system that Bunny and Billi use. "Dogs have famously evolved with us for thousands of years. We've engaged in aggressive selective breeding with them. Their behaviors are obvious; they are very interested in us, they look into our eyes routinely when we're talking to them, they can famously recognize pointing gestures that's been shown last, so I was surprised to see how cats ended up performing." ....................(more)


Urban Bees Face a Flower Deficit, Says Swiss Study

(Bloomberg CityLab) A recent upsurge in urban beekeeping is outstripping some cities’ abilities to provide for their growing ranks of pollinators, a new study of cities across Switzerland indicates.

The number of registered beehives in 14 Swiss cities expanded from 3,139 in 2012 to 9,370 in 2018, says a new paper published in NPJ Urban Sustainability, part of the Nature portfolio of publications. Yet none of those cities had adequate green space to support their bees, according to modeling by the paper’s authors, two ecologists from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research.

“We’re adding thousands of beehives in a city without any knowledge of the available resources,” said Joan Casanelles Abella, a Ph.D. student who co-authored the paper with senior scientist Marco Moretti. “We just assume the city can provide because bees eat floral resources, and we perceive that there are unlimited flowers in the city.”

The researchers characterized their study as “a first attempt to quantify the sustainability of urban beekeeping.” Their results add statistical heft to skepticism that has emerged alongside a recent trend — the proliferation of honeybee hives on urban rooftops, often installed by beekeeping firms whose clients are companies looking to burnish their green credentials. One concern with this arrangement, raised in an article earlier this week in CityLab, is whether the firms that install and maintain urban hives are taking adequate steps to make sure there’s enough forage for imported and native pollinators. The honeybees can outcompete wild bee species, butterflies and other local insects that depend on city trees and plantings for food. ....................(more)


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