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Giant algae blob targets Florida and Mexico beaches



Giant swarms of kelp could soon settle along beaches in Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico, scientists warn, polluting popular tourist destinations for months.

Seaweed is a type of leafy floating algae called sargassum — typically spends most of the year swinging in a 5,000-mile-wide mass across the Atlantic Ocean. Sargassum is generally helpful while at sea, providing food and breeding grounds for a variety of species, including fish, sea turtles, and seabirds.

The real danger of the Sargassum comes when it is washed ashore. Seaweed begins to rot after a few days on land, releasing hydrogen sulfide gas that smells like rotten eggs and leaving behind a brown sludge that can contaminate beaches for weeks. Hydrogen sulfide can threaten human health, and the sheer amount of seaweed could be too much for local crews.

Parts of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico were enveloped by approximately 200 tons sargassum earlier in March, prompting warnings of “surplusAlgae levels near the popular Playa del Carmen. Officials have warned that some beaches are at risk of up to 3 feet of seaweed a week, with no signs of sargassum decreasing as summer approaches.

A worker shovels Sargassum off the coast of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

The media in Key West also reported much earlier than usual. sargasso floods last week.

Past flowers prompted state of emergency in the Virgin Islands and polluted islands in the caribbeanAnd every year there are only more of them.

For the first time scientists noted supercharged seaweed rafts in 2011. Some researchers suggest that they may increase as the runoff of fertilizers and agricultural waste flows into the ocean in large quantities.

“These flowers are getting bigger and bigger, and this year looks set to be the biggest on record.” – Brian Lapointe, research professor at Florida Atlantic University said New York Times. “It’s pretty early to see so much, so soon.”

Large areas of sargassum are currently floating in the northern Caribbean and near the east of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

University of South Florida, which monitors annual seaweed bloom, predicts that 2023 will be “mainSargassum year, upcoming tourist plans and the threat to coastal ecosystems.

scientists they said they were expecting Sargassum scourge has become the new normal.

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Los Angeles healthcare operators charged with 14 COVID-19 deaths



On Tuesday, operators at a high-profile dementia care facility in Los Angeles were charged with elder abuse and other felony charges related to the death of an employee and 13 residents in the early days of the pandemic.

The Silverado Beverly Place Memory Care Community, near the Fairfax area, specializes in caring for older residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia and was the site of the March 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.

An employee and residents died during the outbreak, when 45 employees and 60 residents were infected, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. The operators of the facility were sued in civil court by the family of several residents and the deceased employee. The object was the subject of a 2020 Times investigation.

The facility was supposed to be closed to visitors, prosecutors said, when a patient from a New York psychiatric ward was admitted there. Silverado Beverly Place’s own protocols required it to keep anyone out of a high-risk area like New York City, which at the time was considered the epicenter of COVID-19.

Prosecutors say the patient was not tested for coronavirus when he was admitted to the hospital and developed symptoms the next morning. But after they tested positive, they were not placed in quarantine, according to the criminal charge.

The prosecutor’s office claims that the institution’s management did not block visitors who traveled within the country or abroad for 14 days to areas where cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.

“These careless decisions created conditions that unnecessarily exposed Silverado personnel and residents to serious injury and, unfortunately, death,” Dist. Atti This is stated in the statement of George Gascon.

The three managers were charged with 13 counts of felony endangering the elderly and five counts of misdemeanor resulting in death. The latest charges were brought in connection with the management of the company’s health and safety of employees. Lauren Bernard Shook, Jason Michael Russo, and Kimberly Cheryl Batrum were charged, along with Irvine-based Silverado Senior Living Management Inc.

Prosecutors say the New York City patient was admitted to Silverado Beverly Place for financial reasons.

Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health conducted a two-and-a-half-year investigation at Silverado Beverly Place, whose parent company operates several nursing facilities across the country. According to Cal/OSHA, Silverado Beverly Place was cited for violating the airborne disease standard, which is designed to protect “employees who are at increased risk of contracting certain airborne infections due to their work activities. “.

The facility listed $114,500 in proposed fines for violations, the unit said, but it appealed the fines.

Email Silverado Senior Living Management Inc. asking for comment on the allegations was not immediately resolved.

Gascon also read out the names of the 14 dead during a press conference in downtown Los Angeles. These nurses are Brittany Bruner-Ringo, Elizabeth Cohen, Joseph Manduke, Catherine Apotaker, Jake Khorsandi, Albert Sarnoff, Dolores Sarnoff, Myrna Frank, Frank Piumetti, Jay Tedeman, Luba Paz, Kay Kiddu, Richard Herman and Michael Horn.

Bruner-Ringo told her mother that the newly admitted patient was showing signs of illness – profuse sweating, a “productive” cough and a temperature close to 103 degrees, her mother told The Times.

“I said, ‘It’s definitely problematic,’” recalls Kim Bruner-Ringo, an experienced nurse in Oklahoma City.

The patient was so ill that Brittany Bruner-Ringo called 911 for an ambulance, but it was too late. In the days and weeks that followed, the virus spread throughout the facility.

According to her family, Bruner-Ringo stopped breathing on April 20, 2020 in the intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. she was 32

“Every day I just prayed that Brittany could tell her own story,” her sister Breanna Hurd said.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Alan Eisner, who is not involved in the case, said the allegations are unique because they concern decisions made by senior care facility leaders in the early days of the pandemic.

“This is a once-in-a-generation pandemic,” Eisner said. “I don’t want to ignore all the people who died. But this is a high bar that prosecutors must prove and show that the institution is responsible for the death of all other patients and even a nurse.”

Jody Moore, an attorney representing seven clients who either became ill with COVID-19 or died in Silverado, said that by early 2020, the federal government had provided guidance to long-term care facilities on how to protect older residents, including screening and testing policies. .

“It doesn’t make sense to say loved ones can’t get in, private caregivers can’t get in because their paperwork says we’re putting residents at significant risk by exposing them to what can enter through the front door.” Moore said. “What they let in through the front door was someone with dollars attached. And that’s what’s really egregious misconduct here.”

Helena Apotaker received an email from the institution in the early days of the pandemic informing her that she would not be able to visit her mother Katherine. The announcement said the facility is being closed for the safety of elderly residents.

“No one was allowed in,” Apotaker told The Times. “They were going to protect our loved ones. This was their top priority. Well, not 30 days later, I think they lost their top priority.”

According to Apotaker, her mother had early stages of Alzheimer’s but was generally in good health. After her mother tested positive for COVID-19, Apotaker placed her in a hospice and was finally allowed to visit in person.

“I was in the building with my mother for a week when she died,” Apotaker said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for everyone who had to watch their parents die through a window or watch their loved ones die on FaceTime.”

Upon hearing the news that Silverado Beverly Place was under criminal investigation, Apohacker was filled with a sense of justice because it seems that people have forgotten about the pandemic and the people who have died.

“But I remember that my mother died,” she said. “The only thing I had to hold on to was the thought that maybe one day I would get justice.”

Times Staff Writer Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.

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New covid lineage data links raccoon dogs to pandemic



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The long-running and bitter debate about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic has added a small but potentially significant data point: A sample taken from a market in Wuhan in early 2020 showed genetic traces of both the coronavirus and a raccoon dog, according to scientists who analyzed recent findings. data from China.

Like many elements of the mystery, new data first reported Atlantic Oceandoes not prove how, where and when people first contracted the virus. But it does support the theory that the pandemic started naturally from animals rather than originating in a laboratory, a theory that some researchers support.

This was stated by the Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. resumed his call for China to share scientific data on the origin of the pandemic.

“We continue to call on China to be transparent in data sharing, and to carry out the necessary investigations and share results,” Tedros said. “Understanding how the pandemic began remains both a moral and a scientific imperative.”

The new evidence comes from swabs taken from animal stalls at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. Investigators collected them at the beginning of 2020, when the market was closed and all the animals were taken away. One the smear contained a mixture of genetic material, including a large number of a raccoon dog along with traces from the coronavirus, said Stephen Goldstein, a virologist at the University of Utah who was part of the team that analyzed the data.

“We can’t definitively prove that there were infected raccoon dogs that were the first source of the virus to enter humans,” Goldstein said, “but it’s very suggestive.”

What you need to know about raccoon dogs that may be linked to the origin of the coronavirus

According to Goldstein, the data came from Chinese scientists who submitted a paper to a scientific journal that has yet to be published. The scientists involved in the new analysis, which has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal, said they plan to publish their work online within the next few days.

“I would love to see their paper come out before news of our analysis is out,” said Michael Sparrow, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Arizona who took part in the new analysis.

“We would like to collaborate with Chinese scientists and this is still our intention going forward,” Goldstein said.

Other animals that are likely to have been sold on the market may also be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But the new data “raises raccoon dogs to the top of the list of pandemic-causing animals,” Robert Gurry, a virologist at Tulane University who took part in the new analysis and a longtime proponent of market theory, said in an email Friday. .

“It’s just another brick on a huge wall of evidence that fits together,” Sparrow said. “If it wasn’t so politicized, it would be one of the most glaring sets of evidence we’ve ever had on how the pandemic came about.”

But David A. Relman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University who said both origin scenarios are plausible, called the new data “very inconclusive” in an email. “Honestly, the breathlessness and zeal with which stories like this are pushed forward in the face of very incomplete and confusing ‘data’ leaves me frustrated and worried,” he said.

The debate about the origin of the virus has become highly politicized, and this latest data from scientists who have long advocated a market origin is unlikely to change the views of those who support the lab leak theory.

“There are no smoking guns in this case,” said Peter Hotez, co-director Texas Children’s Hospital Vaccine Development Center. “But if you look collectively at the evidence available to date, so far it all points to a natural origin for covid.” Addressing the origin question will be critical to preparing scientists for any future coronavirus outbreak, he said.

House Republicans are holding hearings on the origin of the pandemic, and Republican lawmakers are pushing the theory of a lab leak and the possible blame of American scientists and government officials. Robert Redfield, director of the Trump administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified on March 8 that the pandemic most likely began with a lab leak.

President Biden asked his intelligence agencies to look into the origin of the virus two years ago, and they failed to reach consensus, although they agreed that it was not a bioweapon. Four agencies and the National Intelligence Council favored natural origin with “low confidence”. The FBI approved the lab leak with “moderate confidence”.

But shortly before the opening of the pandemic hearings in the GOP-led House of Representatives, an updated report from the intelligence community showed that the Energy Department had moved from neutral to concluding, again with “low confidence”, that a laboratory origin was most likely. probably. This decision was not accompanied by new data or an explanation of why the researchers began to favor the theory of laboratory leaks.

Geography has played a huge role in the debate. The Covid outbreak started in Wuhan, home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has done extensive research on coronaviruses. There has long been a debate in the scientific community about the relative risks and benefits of experiments that, in an attempt to understand viruses, manipulate them in ways that make them more transmissible or virulent.

But since the outbreak began in Wuhan, the Huanan Seafood Market has been in the spotlight. Many of the first documented human cases of the virus were concentrated in and around the market. Among the sick were sellers. And environmental samples showed the presence of the virus mainly in that part of the vast market where animals were sold and butchered.

“The market is like a bull’s-eye,” Sparrow said. “Clearly, in December, the first cases in the community were freshly bled from ground zero in the market.”

Goldstein said he believes animals with the virus likely contracted it on a farm or elsewhere before they were brought to market.

China has long denied that the virus came from the market or a lab, and instead speculated that it originated overseas. Chinese scientists and lab leakers said the cluster of cases in Huanan could be explained as a superspreading case caused by an infected person shopping in a crowded market.

Last summer, the journal Science published two papers written by many the same scientists who did this new analysis, who claimed there were at least two separate side effects from the animals in the Wuhan market. But the authors of the papers acknowledged that their report did not resolve many questions about the spills, including what animal or animals were involved, who sold them, or where they came from.

The new study still doesn’t. But it raises the possibility that a raccoon dog or some other animal contracted the virus in late 2019.

“The bottom line is that there were animals on the market and they are right where the virus was,” Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan who took part in the new analysis, said in an email. “We can’t say for sure if they were infected, but this is very strong evidence that live animals in the Huanan market were the cause of the pandemic.”

Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University who was not involved in the new analysis, said the origin of the pandemic may forever remain unclear.

“As with any cold case, the evidence is unlikely to get stronger over time, so aside from the time machine, this may be the closest we have ever come to an origin,” Neumann said in an email. “We still don’t have definitive evidence of animal-to-human transmission of the virus, but this is a big step in that direction.”

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NASA awards advanced 3D printing and quantum technologies for climate research



New technologies are key to helping NASA achieve its long-term research goals for the benefit of all. To support its efforts, the agency announced on Thursday that it will create two new institutes to develop technologies in the critical fields of engineering and climate research.

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