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.

Pentagon Confirms Leaked UFO Photos and Video Are Real

Ever since the 1947 Roswell incident, the American public has had a fascination with unidentified flying objects. People have reported seeing strange things in the sky in the decades since. Some have even said that they have lost time episodes or abduction stories that involve direct alien contact.

What hasn’t been as clear about UFOs is the government’s response to them. That all changed in 2021 when leaked photos and a video taken by Navy personnel were confirmed as real.

The information comes from a 2019 incident when a blinking triangular object was seen in the sky. Other UFOs from the incident are described as be acorn-shaped, spheres, or like a metallic blimp.

The Defense Department didn’t have an official comment in response to the leaked information.

Several Military Encounters with UFOs Have Happened

In April 2020, the Pentagon released three videos of UFOs taken between 2004 and 2015. One of them includes responses from pilots in the air as they’re watching the items. They even described the object as “rotating.”

This footage release started the higher levels of national interest in investigating this phenomenon. Congressional lawmakers put pressure on the Defense Department to create a task force to study these objects. In December’s funding bill, a directive to the national intelligence director requires a report in six months.

John Ratcliffe teased the report’s contents to the media recently, stating that they were investigating sightings from all over the world. Officials say that there are many more sightings than get released to the public.

At the height of the Cold War, over 12,000 UFO sightings were reported from coast to coast in the United States. Although the real number is unknown, we know that nine UFOs were spotted near Mount Rainier in Washington in the weeks before Roswell.

More information from the UFO investigation is expected to get released in the summer of 2021.

Fast Food Struggling to Find Workers

Although unemployment applications were still above 500,000 per week at the start of May 2021, a significant labor shortage was developing in the economy. Several fast-food chains, including Subway and McDonalds, were forced to close dining rooms, cut hours, and ask their workers to push themselves even harder.

Over 40% of small business owners say that they have job openings today that they cannot fill. The industries with entry-level positions tend to struggle the most because unemployment and stimulus have had influences on the job market.

It’s caused some franchisees to make the rare move of cutting late-night service and breakfast.

What Is This Issue Doing to the Workers?

The labor shortage is putting more pressure on the existing workers to do more tasks or work longer hours. This issue is resulting in more mistakes, burnout, and resignations. Managers are covering more shifts because there aren’t enough people to cover everything, creating sleep disruptions that impact the overall quality even more.

It’s not unusual to have people working multiple 16-hour days in some communities.

Customers are also feeling the pinch of these worker shortages throughout the fast-food industry. It’s resulting in longer wait times and more mistakes, which turns into higher complaint numbers.

Analysts say that the stimulus and unemployment reasoning is only a scapegoat for industry-wide problems. Restaurants face higher rates of assault on the job, sexual harassment, and below-average wages.

With businesses outside of the fast-food industry offering $15 per hour guaranteed, it’s easy to leave the $11 per hour behind – especially if there is less consumer abuse.

When you add the fear element of COVID-19 exposures to that equation, there’s no incentive to work in the fast-food industry. That means chains will be forced to pay workers and managers more to compete with other community businesses.

WHO Suggest Pandemic Will Continue Past 2021

When March 2021 came around, the world half-heartedly celebrated surviving a year with COVID-19. Although China went into lockdown earlier, most of the planet started dealing with the coronavirus a week or two before April.

After we got through the winter, many people expected that vaccine therapies and continued PPE use would keep COVID-19 levels low. The opposite effect seems to be occurring. At the start of April 2021, France is entering a four-week lockdown for the third time.

The United States wants a return to normalcy by Independence Day. In the UK, Boris Johnson is staging a reopening plan another time, hoping that this one will work.

WHO warns that we can make progress with the coronavirus this year, but the pandemic will almost certainly continue beyond 2021.

What Does Dr. Anthony Fauci Say About the Pandemic?

Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the world’s leading experts on contagious diseases. He disagrees with WHO’s assessment slightly, saying that herd immunity could be reached by the end of summer if the vaccination programs go well.

That means we could reach a level of normality close to what we had before COVID-19 before the end of the year.

What will it take to achieve that goal? Fauci says that at least 75% of Americans must receive a vaccination. If the rate is at 50% or lower, it could take a long time to reach the protection levels needed to stay safe against exposure.

The most significant gains are likely to come from the developed countries with the most access to vaccines.

That means saving lives right now must be a priority. Although the vaccines’ efficacy rates are quite high, we must continue wearing facial coverings, practice social distancing, and take care of each other. Hope is on the horizon if we continue working hard to achieve the goals we want to see with our health.

On the other hand, we cannot afford to overlook some of the negative consequences of pandemic-related shutdowns.

Atlantic Ocean Circulation Weakens to Raise More Climate Change Fears

Ocean scientists believe that the Atlantic is experiencing its weakest circulation levels in almost 1,000 years. The decline in this systemic movement could lead to higher sea levels in the United States and more extreme weather events in Europe.

The reason why weak circulation creates potential weather issues involves the Gulf Stream. This event brings the mild weather to Europe, preventing heatwaves and droughts from impacting the continent.

If nothing changes with the current structure, the Gulf Stream could experience up to a 45% reduction in strength by 2100.

Circulation Has Already Slowed About 15%

Researchers believe that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is already down by 15% from its average rate. That’s why we already see weather impacts that include more heatwaves in Europe and more hurricanes along the Americas.

It’s expected to continue weakening over the next two or three decades. Researchers studied sediments, ice cores, and other proxy data to reach these conclusions.

The issue is notable because the AMOC has only been studied since 20004. That means researchers are seeing a 1% average decline each year.

Why Is the AMOC Important to Global Health?

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation carries the warm surface water from the Gulf of Mexico further north into the Atlantic. It becomes colder and saltier until it reaches north of Iceland, where it can pull more warmth from the Caribbean.

That pattern is why wet and mild weather often comes to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and western Europe.

Researchers say that the risks of having the AMOC wind down further are so significant that we must consider making adjustments immediately. If global warming issues cannot be reversed, unprecedented changes could be waiting for us in the future.

Although the AMOC won’t collapse soon, the goal is to prevent instability by the end of the century by starting the work today.

Freshwater Fish Populations Continue Decline

Although we often think of commercial fishing as an offshore task, freshwater fish account for more than 50% of the world’s species. We need them as a resource to take care of our wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Without freshwater fish, the well-being of our economy and society becomes unbalanced. Although we recognize this fact, about one-third of our current species are endangered and threatened with extinction.

Diversity Is Declining at Twice the Rate of Marine Species

Whether the problem is from over-fishing, global warming, or population expansion, the fact is that freshwater biodiversity is declined at double the speed of marine and terrestrial species. Even though offshore commercial fishing presents its own set of challenges, it’s the inland waters that offer a primary protein source for over 200 million people.

Freshwater fish also create jobs and livelihoods for about 60 million people in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Why is diversity declining at such a tremendous rate? It’s because we undervalue this resource, so we end up overlooking the problems.

Migratory freshwater fish populations have declined by 76% since 1970. For the larger species, such as catfish, that rate increases to 94%.

That means our wetlands, lakes, and rivers are in a crisis state already. If we don’t take action now, the world could be a very different place in the next 20 years.

Solutions Are Always Available When We Look for Them

A team of global scientists from several organizations, including IUCN, WWF, and Cardiff University, has come together to create the Emergency Recovery Plan.

It launched in February 2020 to provide a roadmap to protect freshwater habitats and restore population levels.

The group delivers six points to consider, ranging from letting rivers flow naturally to controlling invasive species.

Without this natural resource, we might lose a valuable part of our society. It goes beyond hunger to the very survival of the planet.