Henrietta Lacks Estate Sues Thermo Fisher Scientific for Using Stolen Cells

The estate of Henrietta Lacks alleges that a biotech company, Thermo Fisher Scientific, made conscious choices to sell and mass-produce the living tissues of Lacks despite the lack of her consent. 

Those cells are given the nickname of the HeLa line, clearly indicating that they came from Henrietta Lacks. They’ve been one of the most utilized tools in modern medical research, responsible for advances in everything from gene mapping to the polio vaccine. 

The lawsuit seeks the total amount of the biotech company’s net profits from selling the HeLa cells. It also asks the company to stop using them without the estate’s permission.

Thermo Fisher Scientific estimates annual revenues at $35 billion. 

Who Was Henrietta Lacks?

Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer and a mother of five. In 1951, she arrived at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore with a bleeding issue. Doctors diagnosed her with cervical cancer, but even with treatment, she passed away at the age of 31.

Cell samples were retrieved and sent to a tissue lab. The hospital states that this practice was standard at the time.

Unlike other cell samples that died in the lab, Lack’s doubled about once per day. That made them exceptionally valuable to researchers. 

The lawsuit from the estate alleges that the HeLa cells embrace a legacy of American racial injustice. When viewed in light of the events of the Tuskegee study, which started in 1932 when 600 rural black men from Alabama had syphilis and were never told their diagnosis or given treatment, it’s another black eye for the United States.

Results of the lawsuit are still pending. 

China Faces Energy Shortages as Government Enacts Environmental Goals

Power outages have been affecting China since at least September. It’s a problem that is shutting down factories, eliminating jobs, and causing candle sales to skyrocket.

In Jilin, the state-owned water utility sent messages to customers warning that power cuts could happen of “indeterminate length” without plan or warning. They told people to be prepared for this problem to last until March, although it was later deleted – or censored. 

With all the confusion of what is to blame, many commentators are turning to China’s carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. Their concerns are creating fears for environmental advocates that a return to high coal consumption will continue. 

China Says That Rising Prices Are the Problem

COVID-19 has caused numerous supply chain shortages across multiple industries. China says that the problem isn’t that, but the cost of coal combined with higher electricity demands from factories.

Reduced mining activities have happened in China because of recent safety problems. The government also imported coal from Australia, but those purchases have been blocked since 2020 over diplomatic issues.

The coal-fired power plants refuse to operate at a loss, and they’ve been below their total capacity for several years.

That means supply and demand is likely the primary problem driving the energy shortages. Even then, some government statements suggest that the choice is between economic growth and hitting emissions targets

Many of the goals were set years ago. No recent enhancements have been made. If anything, the problem is that China became a carbon-intensive economy while it was working to make cutbacks.

Cuba Sets 90% COVID Inoculation Rate by December

Most states are struggling to reach their vaccination goals. It’s unusual for cities to be above 70%, and some areas aren’t even getting close to 50%.

We know that it’s imperative to take care of ourselves during this pandemic. When your immune system is strong with the help of products from Terry Naturally, it feels like you can stay healthy.

Cuba intends to reinforce that perspective by setting a 90% vaccination rate for the island nation by the end of 2021.  

Cuba Started Giving Shots to Young Children in October

The primary reason why the 90% goal is potentially achievable for Cuba is that the government started administrating vaccines to young children early. They were one of the first countries to begin administering shots to kids under the age of 12. 

COVID cases skyrocketed across the island as the Delta variant spread through the population. Cuba reported an average of 70 new infections per 100,000 residents in September 2021, one of the hemisphere’s highest rates.

Cuba is using the Soberana 2 and Soperana Plus vaccines to achieve this goal, both of which were domestically developed. Clinical trials found that the combination of those two products was more than 90% effective at protecting against infection.

The information from those trials has not been published in any peer-reviewed journals. 

Early trials have shown only common side effects. Cuba hopes that this effort will help schools reopen, especially since high internet costs make it almost impossible for kids to have online learning.

International Space Station Faces Deteriorating Conditions

It took 42 launches to get the International Space Station to its current state. It won’t last forever, and the deteriorating conditions it faces today suggest that it might be coming down sooner rather than later. 

The massive orbiting laboratory was launched to great acclaim in 2000. It was seen as being at the pinnacle of international cooperation at the time. It needs regular boosts or fuel injection from the spacecraft that visit to keep it up there.

If those activities stop or something goes wrong, the space station will eventually fall. It is currently scheduled to continue operating until the end of 2024. NASA says they have cleared it to remain operational through at least 2028.

The ISS Offers the Same Amount of Space as a Six Bedroom Home

The space station planning process began in the 1980s. When NASA had Skylab fall out of orbit, their goal was to bring it down through the atmosphere with controlled destruction. As solar activity increased, ballooning the atmosphere to higher levels, the 80-ton lab accelerated itself toward the planet. 

Skylab chunks littered Australia, with the largest surviving piece being an oxygen tank. If the ISS were to have a similar fate, lives could be put at stake with the descent. It wouldn’t be like a nuclear catastrophe, but the debris would spread over a significant area. 

New station modules are under development as commercial interest in accessing orbital moments grows. They might solve the problem of aging space technology, but for now, we should all be thinking about how much maintenance is still needed to keep the International Space Station flying.

Farm Labor Shortages Lead to Food Giveaways

Since dealing with the pandemic isn’t enough for everyone this year, companies in the food production industry have dealt with unprecedented labor shortages. Of course, they are not the only companies struggling to find workers.

The data shows that a significant labor loss has occurred for various reasons. Farmers have increased their acreage, fewer young people are entering into the industry, and border closings have made it harder to hire workers from overseas.

It’s the fourth consecutive year of this issue, with many crops lying in the fields unharvested because no one is around to get them. That’s made American agricultural products uncompetitive in the global market and requires the United States to import more items to meet demand. 

Innovation Could Solve the Food Shortage Issue

The food production industry is turning to robotics and artificial intelligence to speed up the harvesting and delivery process. Although produce growers still rely on human hands, mechanization is helping to solve some of the problems.

That includes truck drivers and warehouse employees who process the food products. 

Pick-and-place technology can speed up the delivery process. Drones are headed out to the fields to conduct surveys, save data, and apply chemicals. 

When human labor is necessary, today’s employers are going to great lengths to offer benefits and competitive wages to ensure the work gets finished. 

It’s hard work to be in the fields all day. When you need sustained energy, it is vital to supply your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs. That’s why having your shelves stocked with items from brands like Douglas Laboratories and Premier Research Labs is helpful.

You’ll build each day with a firm foundation that lets you do some incredible stuff!

Zoom Settles Privacy Lawsuit for $86 Million

Zoom agreed to pay $86 million to settle a class-action privacy lawsuit that originated in the United States. The plaintiffs argued that the video conferencing software company shared personal data with LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook without permission.

The lawsuit also accused Zoom of misstating how it offers encryption while failing to prevent hackers from gaining access to video conferencing sessions.

As part of the settlement, Zoom denies any wrongdoing while agreeing to boost its overall security practices. In March, the company had even asked the court to dismiss, but the judge only granted a partial dismissal.

Free Users Might Not Receive Much in the Settlement

People must prove they received harm because of Zoom’s inaction with its software or the information it sold to others.

If the settlement proceeds as expected, paid subscribers can expect about a 15% refund or $25, whichever is larger. Free users who can show Zoom’s actions harmed them might qualify for a payment of up to $15.

Lawyers in the case are seeking over $21 million in legal fees, a figure not included with the final settlement numbers initially reported. 

The primary issue involves the security flaws that users encountered while operating with Zoom, especially during the lockdown pandemic months. Mac users were sometimes forced into calls without their knowledge, while attackers could remove people from meetings, spoof messages, or hijack a shared screen. 

Since 2020, Zoom has introduced more than 100 features to improve security, privacy, and safety.

Once approved, qualifying individuals will receive notice of their status.

Last Soviet Soldier Who Helped at Auschwitz Dies

During the final days of World War II, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia were united against a common enemy. Although the three superpowers didn’t trust each other, they knew that Nazi Germany was a foe that needed to get stopped.

David Dushman was a Soviet soldier serving on the front lines of that conflict. He was the last surviving member involved with the liberation of Auschwitz for his country.

Dushman was driving a T-34 tank on January 27, 1945. He drove it into the massive electric fence that surrounded the death camp, flattening it to stop the atrocities once and for all.

Dushman Didn’t Realize the Magnitude of What Happened

When Dushman and his fellow soldiers came upon Auschwitz, they didn’t know the full magnitude of their discovery for some time.

During a 2015 interview with a Munich newspaper, Dushman said that he saw living skeletons coming from everywhere. They stumbled out of their barracks, too exhausted to stand from that exertion, laying among the dead.

The Soviet soldiers didn’t stop. After flattening the fences, they continued “hunting for the fascists.” Dushman says that they handed the prisoners in Auschwitz all the canned food they had to help.

Over one million people, most of them Jews, were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940-1945. The Nazis murdered the vast majority of them.

Dushman’s service is particularly notable because he fought in Stalingrad and Kursk. He was one of only 69 soldiers in his 12,000-man division to survive, and he was wounded seriously three times.

Mega-Droughts in West Begin Earlier Than Normal

On June 29, 2021, Lytton set the Canadian record for the all-time highest temperature ever recorded. The small community in British Columbia experienced a daytime high of 49.6°C, or 121.3°F.

That record beat the temperatures from the previous all-time high set the day before by several degrees.

The town of 250 people was forced to evacuate because wildfires engulfed the community soon after the massive heat descended. Winds of more than 70 kph were fueling the flames, destroying everything in their path.

This event is only one of several scientists fear could happen as the West enters a potential mega-drought.

Ancient Weather Cycles Offer Dire Warnings

Western North America has dealt with drought for about two decades. It has drained rivers, destroyed crops, and fueled massive wildfires.

Scientists fear that this trend could be the start of something that has never happened in recorded history before. Part of the reason for its resilience is artificial climate change, responsible for up to 50% of its destructive impact.

No one knows why the Anasazi people left Chaco Canyon in the 12th century or Mesa Verde a century later. The 16th century megadrought in Mexico could have amplified the cocoliztli epidemics that killed up to half of the indigenous population.

In 2016, researchers found computer models suggesting a 90% risk of a 35-year drought happening by 2100 if climate change remained unabated. The data from 2000 to 2018 already shows that it was the region’s second-driest period of the past 1,200 years.

Although other notable events have occurred in the West, including a drought that lasted for nearly a century in the 1400s, current affairs show that times are changing. If we’re unable to adapt, the future could look bleak a few decades from now—not only for humans, but for fish and wildlife as well.

Companies Begin Widespread COVID Vaccine Testing in Children

John* celebrated his 12th birthday by getting his first COVID-19 vaccine. Although it took more than an hour to make his way with his parents through the mass vaccination site, he said the experience was worthwhile.

“Even if I need to wear a mask at school still, I can start hanging out with my friends and play soccer without having it on,” John said. “That makes the vaccine worth it to me.”

As more kids 12 and up get the vaccine, Moderna, Pfizer, and others are studying the effects of the COVID shot in pediatric participants. In March, over 6,750 healthy participants under the age of 12 were enrolled in an American and Canadian study on the effectiveness of mRNA therapeutics.

No Timetable Is Available for Under-12 Vaccine Distribution

American authorities hope that children under the age of 12 can start getting their COVID vaccines by Thanksgiving 2021. The results of the clinical research into pediatric inoculations will dictate how soon an authorization will occur.

While waiting for the results of these studies, parents can take steps today to help their children have a stronger immune system.

That process starts by getting enough sleep at night. Most children need at least nine hours of rest, with younger kids needing 11-12 hours.

It also helps to eat a healthy diet. Try to limit sugars that can cause immune system depression while adding dark, leafy greens to at least one meal per day.

A final step is to supplement the nutrients that kids aren’t getting from diet alone. That means working with brands like QuickSilver Scientific, Sovereign Silver, and Argentyn 23 to fill in the gaps that the immune system needs to stay strong.

COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon. That’s why it is up to each of us to stay healthy in manageable ways.

*Name changed for privacy

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Get Released in New Mexico

Mosquito bites are often more of an annoyance than something sinister in the United States. Although the threat of Zika and West Nile is rising, Americans don’t have issues with malaria and other problems found elsewhere.

Instead of spraying insecticides to control mosquito populations, researchers released genetically modified insects for the first time. Up to 750 million altered mosquitoes are part of the project.

This release aims to remove an invasive species called Aedes aegypti, which can bring dengue, yellow fever, and the Zika virus. When pregnant women get infected with the latter, it can cause their child to be born with microcephaly, or an abnormally small head.

Only 144,000 male mosquitoes were released during the initial three-month trial period for this project.

Male Mosquitoes Are Not Disease Carriers

Female insects bite for blood because they need it to help their eggs mature. Male mosquitoes feed on nectar and don’t bite people, which means the release doesn’t increase the risk for more disease-causing agents.

Most mosquitoes like to live in fields and grasses. The Aedes aegypti is different, preferring to prey on humans.

These insects can breed in receptacles as small as a shower drain or flower vase. If there’s a forgotten container outside with stagnant water, you’ll get mosquitoes.

The Aedes aegypti don’t swarm like other mosquitoes. They hide under a chair, wait for the right time to attack, and then deposit the virus after taking a couple of sips of blood. Instead of being active at dawn or dusk, these incidents happen during the day.

Scientists hope that a lethal gene that only kills females gets passed along with the genetically modified mosquitoes looking for breeding options. Over the next few years, the goal is to reduce the overall threat to virus exposure.

The public reaction to the idea is currently mixed. It might not be until 2022 before the results of this work get released.

The public reaction to the idea is currently mixed. It might not be until 2022 before the results of this work get released.