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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Synthetic Biology Breakthrough Paves the Way for Cheaper Vaccines

We've gotten so much more creative with new vaccines


Vaccines save lives, as proven during the recent pandemic, but one component of most vaccines — including the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine — goes unheralded: a molecule or other compound that primes the immune system to mount a more robust defense against infection.

These so-called adjuvants are added in small quantities but have a big protective effect, particularly in infants with immature immune systems and older people with a declining immune response.

Yet, one of the strongest adjuvants, an extract of the Chilean soap bark plant, is so difficult to produce that it costs several hundred million dollars per kilogram (2.2 pounds).

TWO ARTICLES: First case of bird flu jumping from cow to human, first finding of H5N1 in New York City birds

FIRST ARTICLE: First case of highly pathogenic avian influenza transmitted from cow to human confirmed

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University's Biological Threat Research Laboratory (BTRL) played a key role in detecting the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) transmitted from a mammal (dairy cow) to a human.

The case was made public in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Steve Presley, the director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) and the BTRL, and Cynthia Reinoso Webb, the biological threat coordinator at TIEHH, were co-authors on the journal publication.

The journal article explains that in March a farm worker who reported no contact with sick or dead birds, but who was in contact with dairy cattle, began showing symptoms in the eye and samples were collected by the regional health department to test for potential influenza A.

Initial testing of the samples was performed at the BTRL, which is a component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory Response Network-Biological (LRN-B) located at TIEHH.

"It's a huge thing that the virus has jumped from birds to mammals, dairy cows in this case, and then to humans," Presley said. "That's why this paper in the New England Journal of Medicine is very significant. It's going to lay the foundation, I believe, for a lot of research in the future of how the virus is evolving."

The involvement of Texas Tech's BTRL is a continuation of the partnership between regional, state and federal public health partners.

"Being part of the CDC LRN-B, we have the standing capability to test for a lot of biological threats and some that are considered emergent," Reinoso Webb explained.

The lab's standby status allowed Reinoso Webb and the Texas Tech BTRL team to respond quickly to the needs of the regional public health authority. Knowing the potential dangers of the virus, Reinoso Webb pushed the testing into the safest laboratory available, and the team went to work.

Having received the samples in the early evening, results were being reported to regional, state and federal levels within hours. By the next day the samples were on their way to the CDC for further testing and confirmation.

"We were on the phone with the CDC until around midnight discussing different scenarios and follow up requirements," Reinoso Webb said. "There is a lot of federal reporting. It was a very complicated case, even though it was two samples and one patient.

"But we had this wonderful communication with the CDC and made sure we did everything by the book. This is how it's been structured, and this is how the communication was supposed to happen."

Materials provided by Texas Tech UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Continue to second article....

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Attacks on Social Security, Medicare Shows Who Wants Americans to Work Longer, Die Sooner

What ever happened to the idea of retiring with dignity and security?

LYNN PARRAMORE, Institute For New Economic Thinking

Shameful fact: the plight of U.S. retirees is a global exception. In their pursuit of lower taxes, America’s wealthiest individuals support policies that make it extremely difficult for seniors to manage the increasing costs of healthcare, housing, and basic necessities.

Not so in other rich countries like Germany, France, and Canada, where robust public pensions and healthcare systems offer retirees stability and dignity. After a lifetime of hard work, older citizens in the U.S. find their reward is merely scraping by, as savings diminish under the weight of soaring medical costs in the most expensive healthcare system in the developed world.

The solution from America’s elites? Suck it up and work longer.

An example of this mindset appeared in a New York Times op-ed by C. Eugene Steuerle of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and Glenn Kramon, a Stanford Business School lecturer. The two accused older folks of robbing economic resources from the young through Social Security and Medicare—never mind that workers fund these programs with their own lifelong payroll contributions.

They paint a picture of 65-year-old Americans jauntily playing “pickleball daily” and jet-setting “far and wide,” proposing to increase the age to collect Social Security and Medicare benefits, essentially forcing future retirees to work longer. (Curiously, they overlook how this move robs young people—too young to vote—of future retirement years. This echoes 1983, when the Reagan administration and Congress pushed the Social Security age from 65 to 67, impacting Gen X before they could even vote on it).

If he wins...

Trump's new hero. Seriously.

Don't Remove Fawns And Other Baby Animals From The Wild

Leave baby animals alone!

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is again cautioning the public not to assume that finding a baby animal means it needs to be rescued. A fawn (baby deer) lying on the ground hidden in grass or brush should not be considered abandoned – it should be left alone by people and pets because moving or handling it may permanently separate it from its mother and jeopardize its life.

White-tailed deer give birth to fawns in May and June. Each year, DEM receives many calls about fawns mistaken to have been abandoned by their mother. This is almost never the case.

“In nature, a doe gives birth and for the next five to seven days, the fawn is incapable of following the doe, so it is natural for the fawn to lie in a curled ‘freeze’ position on the ground hidden in grass or sparse brush,” said Dylan Ferreira, a wildlife biologist in DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). 

Revolutionary mRNA Cancer Vaccine Shows Immense Promise in First-Ever Human Clinical Trial

Cancer cure? Something else for RFK Jr. and the anti-vaxxers to rant about


In a first-ever human clinical trial of four adult patients, an mRNA cancer vaccine created at the University of Florida rapidly reprogrammed the immune system to target glioblastoma, the deadliest and most aggressive form of brain tumor.

The results mirror those in 10 pet dog patients suffering from naturally occurring brain tumors whose owners approved of their participation, as they had no other treatment options, as well as results from preclinical mouse models. The breakthrough now will be tested in a Phase 1 pediatric clinical trial for brain cancer.

Reported May 1 in the journal Cell, the discovery represents a potential new way to recruit the immune system to fight notoriously treatment-resistant cancers using an iteration of mRNA technology and lipid nanoparticles, similar to COVID-19 vaccines, but with two key differences: useFlorida, of a patient’s own tumor cells to create a personalized vaccine, and a newly engineered complex delivery mechanism within the vaccine.

Charlestown's MAGA state senator pushes the limits of stupid in hearing for new RI Health Department director

Morgan asks Dr. Jerome Larkin if he would order closures, masking when we are hit by another pandemic

By Alexander Castro, Rhode Island Current

Morgan, left, with ex-Charlestown state rep Blake "Flip" Filippi
After a small clinic’s worth of physicians showed up to testify in support of Gov. Dan McKee’s choice for the next director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services affirmed its support for Dr. Jerome “Jerry” Larkin at a hearing Thursday.

The committee voted 5-1 in favor of Larkin’s nomination, with Sen. Elaine Morgan, a Hopkinton/Charlestown Republican, serving the only nay vote. EDITOR'S NOTE: See Morgan's MAGA questions for Larkin below.

Greg Paré, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Senate, said in an email Thursday that Larkin’s appointment will hit the Senate floor on Tuesday, May 19.

The clinicians, many of them colleagues and former protégés of Larkin, came to say nice things about the doctor who serves as medical director of inpatient infectious diseases consultation services at Rhode Island Hospital and teaches clinical medicine as a professor at Brown University. The committee’s mailbox had also been stuffed with written testimonies.    

“We got many, many letters,” said Sen. Joshua Miller, who chairs the committee. “I don’t remember seeing a letter that was not in support.”

But the most memorable affirmation may have been from Dr. Sabina Holland, medical director of the pediatric HIV clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. 

“The highest compliment that a pediatrician can give another pediatrician is to entrust them with the care of their children,” Holland said. “He could have my children.” 

Friday, May 17, 2024

IRS Audit of Trump Could Cost Former President More Than $100 Million

Here's why Trump has refused to release his tax returns = he's a cheat (big surprise)

By Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Russ Buettner, The New York Times

By Dave Whamond
A massive trove of tax information obtained by ProPublica, covering thousands of America’s wealthiest individuals, reveals what’s inside the billionaires’ bag of tricks for minimizing their personal tax bills — sometimes to nothing.

Former President Donald Trump used a dubious accounting maneuver to claim improper tax breaks from his troubled Chicago tower, according to an IRS inquiry uncovered by ProPublica and The New York Times. Losing a years-long audit battle over the claim could mean a tax bill of more than $100 million.

The 92-story, glass-sheathed skyscraper along the Chicago River is the tallest and, at least for now, the last major construction project by Trump. Through a combination of cost overruns and the bad luck of opening in the teeth of the Great Recession, it was also a vast money loser.

But when Trump sought to reap tax benefits from his losses, the IRS has argued, he went too far and in effect wrote off the same losses twice.

An offer you can't refuse

Anjali Chandrashekar 

Rested and ready

Gotta love the bailiff standing behind him, cuffs at the ready

House OKs Rep. Tanzi’s bill to grant SK firefighters tax exemptions

Now Charlestown needs to take care of ITS firefighters

The House approved legislation from Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi to allow South Kingstown’s all-volunteer firefighting force to use a break on their district fire taxes to recruit and retain members.

“We are very fortunate in South Kingstown to have an all-volunteer force of firefighters who provide excellent service to our residents,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). 

“However, in recent years it has become more difficult for them to recruit volunteers. Allowing the district to grant tax exemptions will give them another important recruitment tool and show our community’s appreciation for the work that they do protecting us.”

Representative Tanzi’s bill (2024-H 7838) would allow the Union Fire District of South Kingstown to grant district fire tax exemptions or abatements to current and retired firefighters and their spouses.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which has already passed companion legislation (2024-S 2633) sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown).

Heavy Rains Forces Precautionary Shellfish Closure Of Harvesting Areas In South County Salt Ponds

No shellfish from Ninigret, Quonnie until next week

Photo by Will Collette
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is announcing that several shellfish areas along the south coast of Rhode Island have been closed due to inundating rainfall received in the Washington County area.

The following areas are currently closed to shellfish harvest and are scheduled to reopen to shellfishing at 12 PM on Thursday, May 23:

  • Pt. Judith Pond (10PJ, 10 PJ-N, and 10PJ-E)
  • Potter Pond (10PP)
  • Ninigret Pond (11N)
  • Quonochontaug Pond (11Q)
  • Winnapaug Pond (11W)

The heavy rain on Wednesday night dropped over four inches of rain in a 12-hour period in Washington County. Rainfall totaled 3.7” at Westerly Airport with higher localized totals in the Wakefield area. 

Why US offshore wind power is struggling

What's the fix?

Christopher NiezreckiUMass Lowell

The first U.S. offshore wind farm was built in 2016 off
Rhode Island’s Block Island. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
America’s first large-scale offshore wind farms began sending power to the Northeast in early 2024, but a wave of wind farm project cancellations and rising costs have left many people with doubts about the industry’s future in the U.S.

Several big hitters, including Ørsted, Equinor, BP and Avangrid, have canceled contracts or sought to renegotiate them in recent months. 

Pulling out meant the companies faced cancellation penalties ranging from US$16 million to several hundred million dollars per project. It also resulted in Siemens Energy, the world’s largest maker of offshore wind turbines, anticipating financial losses in 2024 of around $2.2 billion.

Altogether, projects that had been canceled by the end of 2023 were expected to total more than 12 gigawatts of power, representing more than half of the capacity in the project pipeline.

So, what happened, and can the U.S. offshore wind industry recover?

Thursday, May 16, 2024

MAGA-Lomaniac Justin Price wants his seat back

First, he needs to answer for what he did at Trump’s January 6 insurrection

By Will Collette

Ex state rep. Justin Price wants to win back his House District 39 seat from Megan Cotter (D) who beat him in 2022.

Price served 8 years in the State House and accomplished nothing. Seriously, nothing – and go look it up if you want to prove me wrong.

What Price did manage to do was embarrass himself, his district and the state of Rhode Island with his radical, Q-Anon style rantings about guns, conspiracies and just about every other far-right meme and cliché. And he was an active participant in the January 6 insurrection.

District 39 encompasses Richmond, Hopkinton and Exeter. It tends to be slightly more conservative than the rest of Rhode Island. Price thinks this is why he should run, telling WPRI I think it [District 39] should be represented by someone that’s conservative.

Further, he told WPRI “after watching my opponent [incumbent Megan Cotter] that ultimately won with a close margin, watching her, and what she’s doing while she’s up there and who she’s aligned with up there.”

What Megan is “doing up there” in the State House is working hard for the 39th District with a special emphasis on protecting the land and people of her district.

In her announcement for re-election, Megan highlighted funding for a van for Wood River Health, increasing access to affordable health care, bringing legislative grants in for non-profits in her district, and creating a Forest Management Commission, which she chairs.

That commission is addressing problems like the sharp uptick in wildfires in South County and clear-cutting woods for commercial-sized solar installations, rather than using more appropriate locations.

According to the official state Legislative Tracker, Megan worked on 130 bills and resolutions this year.

Justin Price’s crowning achievement in his 8 years was to create a special legislative commission to study “chem-trails.” That’s a right-wing conspiracy theory that some nefarious villains are putting mind-altering chemicals into jet contrails. I could find no record of this commission actually meeting or issuing any findings.

Nonetheless, Price told WPRI his priorities would be to focus on “representing my district” and “Focus on bringing the issues from my district up to the State House.” Except he did none of that in his prior eight years in office.

Use the Legislative Tracker to look up Price’s “achievements.” The last legislation he worked on as a minor (5th) co-sponsor was a resolution congratulating Charlestown’s former state rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi on his “service.”

Incidentally, state Republicans gave Price the second-highest vote total in the April 2 Presidential preference primary sending him to the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Trump.

Unanswered questions about his role in Jan. 6 insurrection

Price got himself into the history books by being one of a handful of elected state officials to take part in the January 6, 2021 insurrection directed by Donald Trump.

Price admitted he was there along with what he claimed were “the other 1 million people” though the official estimate is less than 15,000 on the Capitol grounds of whom 2,000 actually stormed the building.

Price claimed he did not enter the Capitol, though he has not disclosed his actual location. However, just being on the Capitol grounds that day means that Price admits to breaching police security lines set back a block or more from the actual Capitol grounds. That is a federal crime.

Price has not – at least not yet – drawn enough attention from the FBI to join the more than 1,200 who have been charged, though there’s still time. Around 900 of Price’s fellow insurrectionists have either been convicted or pleaded guilty. Only two were judged “not guilty.”

Price claims he was close enough to see it was Antifa attacking the building, not Trump supporters. That claim alone raises lots of questions including how he was able to identify them.

There is no actual Antifa organization and no uniforms, logos or other identifying marks – unlike the Oathkeepers, Proud Boys and other insurrectionists we all saw with our own eyes storming the capital, using chemical sprays, clubs, rocks and even American flags to beat Capitol and DC Police. The MAGA myths about who stormed the Capitol have been thoroughly debunked.

Then there’s a problem of simple logic: why would people that Price identified as Antifa want to storm the Capitol to block the election of Joe Biden?

More importantly, Price needs to reconcile his repeated oaths to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” with what he did on January 6. He took that oath as a United States Marine and again as a Rhode Island State legislator.

The US Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 3 states in whole:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

It was clearly a violation of his oaths for Price to have crossed police lines to join in the storming of the Capitol.

I hope RI Secretary of State Greg Amore will bar Price from running when by his own admission, he committed acts on January 6 that exactly fit the kind of person the 14th Amendment is intended to disbar.

Further, if we are to believe his claim that he saw Antifa mounting the attack, WTF did he do about it? Are we to believe that he simply watched “Antifa” beating the police and then smashing into the Capitol and did nothing?

Why didn't he help the DC and Capitol Police as his oath to “protect and defend” required? Well, either he lied when he claimed he saw Antifa attack the Capitol, or he was simply afraid of getting hurt.

Either way, there's nothing to be proud of. Unless your name is Justin Price and your political legacy amounts to nothing, and you want to be consistent. Mission accomplished.