Top Stories

Grid List

At what point does a craft spirit no longer qualify as craft?

Read more …Inside the grogue wars of Cabo Verde

Black-and-white photo of six women wearing headphones and wearing old-fashioned clothing plugging cables into sockets

APIs, or application programming interfaces, are the gateways to the digital world. They link a wide array of software applications and systems. APIs facilitate communication between different software systems, and so power everything from social media – think of the share buttons on webpages – to e-commerce transactions.

At a simple level, APIs are like electrical sockets. A software application that you’re using, say the playback controls for a video on a webpage, is like an appliance. The system that provides data or services that the application needs, say YouTube, is like the electrical grid. The API, in this example the YouTube Player API[1], is like the standard electrical outlet that lets any appliance plug in to the grid.

APIs are not really so simple, though. Another analogy is a restaurant. The customer is the software application, the chef is the data or service, and the waiter is the API. The waiter brings the customer the menu, which lists available dishes – i.e., options for accessing data or service – and then brings the customer’s request to the chef.

APIs rely on defined rules and protocols that ensure accurate data exchange and effective collaboration. There are APIs for specific uses and software developer preferences.

APIs power various applications and services across many diverse industries. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, now rebranded as X, let users share their content across these social media platforms. By leveraging their social media credentials, users can log into websites, weather apps and games to simplify their online experiences. Amazon and PayPal depend on APIs for secure payment processing and efficient order fulfillment. Navigation services like Google Maps leverage APIs to provide real-time location data and accurate directions. Even voice-activated smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant use APIs to manage and control smart home devices.

A widely used API is critical for most mobile and web apps.

Who has access to an API also matters. For example, in March 2023, X began charging a wider range of users for access to its data API[2], which lets users collect large numbers of tweets to see what people are tweeting about. Businesses use the API for market and competitive research. But many people with limited resources, like developers of some free apps and social science researchers[3], also rely on it.

APIs are also playing a role in making artificial intelligence widely available. For example, Google[4], Microsoft[5] and OpenAI[6] provide APIs for software developers to incorporate AI in their products.

As APIs continue to shape the digital landscape, developers face challenges. Ensuring the security and privacy of data exchanged through APIs is paramount, given their integration into critical systems. As APIs evolve, managing their complex ecosystems and making sure old programs can use new APIs will be a considerable task.

Read more

Biomedical implants – such as pacemakers, breast implants and orthopedic hardware like screws and plates to replace broken bones – have improved patient outcomes across a wide range of diseases. However, many implants fail[1] because the body rejects them, and they need to be removed because they no longer function and can cause pain or discomfort.

An immune reaction called the foreign body response[2] – where the body encapsulates the implant in sometimes painful scar tissue – is a key driver of implant rejection. Developing treatments that target the mechanisms driving foreign body responses could improve the design and safety of biomedical implants.

I am a biomedical engineer[3] who studies why the body forms scar tissue around medical devices. Along with my colleagues Dharshan Sivaraj[4], Jagan Padmanabhan[5] and Geoffrey Gurtner[6], we wanted to learn more about what causes foreign body responses. In our research, recently published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, we identified a gene[7] that appears to drive this reaction because of the increased stress implants put on the tissues surrounding them.

Many implants need to be replaced because the immune system damages them over time.

Mechanics of implant rejection

Researchers hypothesize that foreign body responses are triggered by the chemical and material composition of the implant. Just as a person can tell the difference between touching something soft like a pillow versus something hard like a table, cells can tell when there are changes to the softness or stiffness of the tissues surrounding them as a result of an implant.

The increased mechanical stress[8] on those cells sends a signal to the immune system that there is a foreign body present. Immune cells activated by mechanical pressure respond by building a capsule made of scar tissue around the implant in an attempt to shield it off. The more severe the immune reaction, the thicker the capsule. This protects the body from getting an infection from injuries like a splinter in your finger.

All biomedical implants cause some level of foreign body response and are surrounded by at least a small capsule. Some people have very strong reactions that result in a large, thick capsule that constricts around the implant, impeding its function and causing pain. Between 10% to 30% of implants[9] need to be removed because of this scar tissue. For example, a neurostimulator could trigger the formation of a dense capsule of scar tissue that inhibits electrical stimulation[10] from properly reaching the nervous system.

To understand why the immune systems of some people build thick capsules around implants while others do not, we gathered capsule samples from 20 patients whose breast implants were removed – 10 who had severe reactions, and 10 who had mild reactions. By genetically analyzing the samples, we found that a gene called RAC2[11] was highly expressed in samples taken from patients with severe reactions but not in those with mild reactions. This gene is found only in immune cells[12], and it codes for a member of a family of proteins[13] involved in cell growth and structure.

Because this protein seemed to be linked to a lot of the downstream reactions that lead to foreign body responses, we decided to explore how RAC2 affects the formation of capsules. We found that immune cells activate RAC2 along with other proteins in response to mechanical stress[14] from implants. These proteins summon additional immune cells to the area that combine into a massive clump[15] to attack a large invader. These combined cells spit out fibrous proteins like collagen that form scar tissue.

Clinician holding a silicone breast implant
The mechanical stress that medical devices like breast implants place on surrounding tissues can trigger a foreign body response. megaflopp/iStock via Getty Images Plus[16]

To confirm RAC2’s role in foreign body responses, we artificially stimulated the mechanical signaling proteins surrounding silicone implants surgically placed in mice. This stimulation produced a severe and humanlike foreign body response in the mice. In contrast, blocking RAC2 resulted in an up to threefold reduction[17] in foreign body responses.

These findings suggest that activating mechanical stress pathways triggers immune cells with RAC2 to generate severe foreign body responses. Blocking RAC2 in immune cells may significantly reduce this reaction.

Developing new treatments

Implant failure is conventionally treated by using biocompatible materials[18] that the body can better tolerate, such as certain polymers. These don’t completely remove the risk of foreign body reactions, however.

My colleagues and I believe that treatments that target the pathways associated with RAC2 could potentially mitigate or prevent free body responses. Heading off this reaction would help improve the effectiveness and safety of medical implants.

Because only immune cells express RAC2[19], a drug designed to block only that gene would theoretically target only immune cells without affecting other cells in the body. Such a drug could also be administered via injection or even coated onto an implant to minimize side effects.

A complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving foreign body responses would be the final frontier in developing truly bio-integrative medical devices that could integrate with the body with no problems for the recipient’s entire life span.

Read more

Microscopy image of Vibrio vulnificus

Flesh-eating bacteria sounds like the premise of a bad horror movie, but it’s a growing – and potentially fatal – threat to people.

In September 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory[1] alerting doctors and public health officials of an increase in flesh-eating bacteria cases that can cause serious wound infections.

I’m a professor[2] at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where my laboratory[3] studies microbiology and infectious disease[4]. Here’s why the CDC is so concerned about this deadly infection – and ways to avoid contracting it.

What does ‘flesh-eating’ mean?

There are several types of bacteria that can infect open wounds and cause a rare condition called necrotizing fasciitis[5]. These bacteria do not merely damage the surface of the skin – they release toxins that destroy the underlying tissue, including muscles, nerves and blood vessels. Once the bacteria reach the bloodstream, they gain ready access to additional tissues and organ systems. If left untreated, necrotizing fasciitis can be fatal, sometimes within 48 hours.

The bacterial species group A Streptococcus[6], or group A strep, is the most common culprit behind necrotizing fasciitis. But the CDC’s latest warning points to an additional suspect, a type of bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus[7]. There are only 150 to 200 cases[8] of Vibrio vulnificus in the U.S. each year, but the mortality rate is high, with 1 in 5 people succumbing to the infection.

Climate change may be driving the rise in flesh-eating bacteria infections in the U.S.

How do you catch flesh-eating bacteria?

Vibrio vulnificus primarily lives in warm seawater but can also be found in brackish water – areas where the ocean mixes with freshwater. Most infections in the U.S. occur in the warmer months, between May and October[9]. People who swim, fish or wade in these bodies of water can contract the bacteria through an open wound or sore.

Vibrio vulnificus can also get into seafood harvested from these waters, especially shellfish like oysters. Eating such foods raw or undercooked can lead to food poisoning[10], and handling them while having an open wound can provide an entry point for the bacteria to cause necrotizing fasciitis. In the U.S., Vibrio vulnificus is a leading cause of seafood-associated fatality[11].

Why are flesh-eating bacteria infections rising?

Vibrio vulnificus is found in warm coastal waters around the world. In the U.S., this includes southern Gulf Coast states. But rising ocean temperatures due to global warming are creating new habitats for this type of bacteria, which can now be found along the East Coast as far north as New York and Connecticut[12]. A recent study[13] noted that Vibrio vulnificus wound infections increased eightfold between 1988 and 2018 in the eastern U.S.

Climate change[14] is also fueling stronger hurricanes and storm surges, which have been associated with spikes in flesh-eating bacteria infection cases.

Aside from increasing water temperatures, the number of people who are most vulnerable to severe infection[15], including those with diabetes[16] and those taking medications that suppress immunity, is on the rise.

What are symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis? How is it treated?

Early symptoms[17] of an infected wound include fever, redness, intense pain or swelling at the site of injury. If you have these symptoms, seek medical attention without delay. Necrotizing fasciitis can progress quickly[18], producing ulcers, blisters, skin discoloration and pus.

Treating flesh-eating bacteria[19] is a race against time. Clinicians administer antibiotics directly into the bloodstream to kill the bacteria. In many cases, damaged tissue needs to be surgically removed to stop the rapid spread of the infection. This sometimes results in amputation[20] of affected limbs.

Researchers are concerned that an increasing number of cases are becoming impossible to treat because Vibrio vulnificus has evolved resistance to certain antibiotics[21].

Necrotizing fasciitis is rare but deadly.

How do I protect myself?

The CDC offers several recommendations to help prevent infection[22].

People who have a fresh cut, including a new piercing or tattoo, are advised to stay out of water that could be home to Vibrio vulnificus. Otherwise, the wound should be completely covered with a waterproof bandage.

People with an open wound should also avoid handling raw seafood or fish. Wounds that occur while fishing, preparing seafood or swimming should be washed immediately and thoroughly with soap and water.

Anyone can contract necrotizing fasciitis, but people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to severe disease[23]. This includes people taking immunosuppressive medications or those who have pre-existing conditions such as liver disease, cancer, HIV or diabetes.

It is important to bear in mind that necrotizing fasciitis presently remains very rare[24]. But given its severity, it is beneficial to stay informed.

Read more

Stock investors punish companies caught doing something unethical a lot more when when these businesses also have a record of portraying themselves as virtuous. This hypocrisy penalty is the main finding of a study we recently published in the Journal of Management.

Read more …Hypocrisy penalty: Investors especially hate companies that say they’re good then behave badly –...

After a recent meeting between U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and officials in Beijing, China released a statement demanding “practical action” over the issue of sanctions. The implication was that the punitive measures – imposed by the U.S. government on hundreds of Chinese individuals and entities over the past few years – impede any alleviation of the strained relations between the two economic giants.

Read more …Here’s how China is responding to US sanctions – with blocking laws and other countermeasures

British Columbia, Canada. (June 30, 2023): In this photo by Tech. Sgt. Betty R. Chevalier, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Harbeck, 824th Base Defense Squadron fire team member, discusses Puma Unmanned Aerial System operations with members of the Royal Canadian Navy during exercise Agile Blizzard-Unified Vision 2023. Both the U.S. and Canadian Air Forces operate the Puma UAS and the exercise gave technicians a chance to share techniques and tactics.


Bridgeport, California. (July 6, 2023): This quote from America’s most famous author accurately describes the relationship between man and mule.


Arabian Gulf. (July 5, 2023):The Iranian Navy tried a little bullying this week, only to flee at the sight of the USS McFaul, a guided missile destroyer patrolling international waters near the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is a narrow waterway between the Persian Gulf and Oman through which flows a third of the world's liquefied natural gas and almost 25% of total global oil consumption. It is one of the most important commercial choke points in the world.


Jada Pinkett Smith’s new Netflix documentary series on Cleopatra aims to spotlight powerful African queens. “We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them,” the Hollywood star and producer told a Netflix interviewer.

The show casts a biracial Black British actress as the famed queen, whose race has stirred debate for decades. Cleopatra descended from an ancient Greek-Macedonian ruling dynasty known as the Ptolemies, but some speculate that her mother may have been an Indigenous Egyptian. In the trailer, Black classics scholar Shelley Haley recalls her grandmother telling her, “I don’t care what they tell you in school, Cleopatra was Black.”

These ideas provoked commentary and even outrage in Egypt, Cleopatra’s birthplace. Some of the reactions have been unabashedly racist, mocking the actress’s curly hair and skin color.

Egyptian archaeologists like Monica Hanna have criticized this racism. Yet they also caution that projecting modern American racial categories onto Egypt’s ancient past is inaccurate. At worst, critics argue, U.S. discussions about Cleopatra’s identity overlook Egyptians entirely.

In Western media, she is commonly depicted as white – most famously, perhaps, by screen icon Elizabeth Taylor. Yet claims by American Afrocentrists that current-day Egyptians are descendants of “Arab invaders” also ignore the complicated histories that characterize this diverse part of the world.

A stone engraving depicts a woman standing with her arms raised.
A relief depicting the Nubian Kandake Amanitore in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Sven-Steffen Arndt/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Some U.S. scholars counter that ultimately what matters is to “recognize Cleopatra as culturally Black,” representing a long history of oppressing Black women. Portraying Cleopatra with a Black actress was a “political act,” as the show’s director put it.

Ironically, however, the show misses an opportunity to educate both American and Egyptian audiences about the unambiguously Black queens of ancient Nubia, a civilization whose history is intertwined with Egypt’s. As an anthropologist of Egypt who has Nubian heritage, I research how the stories of these queens continue to inspire Nubians, who creatively retell them for new generations today.

The one-eyed queen

Nubians in modern Egypt once lived mainly along the Nile but lost their villages when the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s. Today, members of the minority group live alongside other Egyptians all over the country, as well as in a resettlement district near the southern city of Aswan.

Growing up in Cairo’s Nubian community, we children didn’t hear about Cleopatra, but about Amanirenas: a warrior queen who ruled the Kingdom of Kush during the first century B.C.E. Queens in that ancient kingdom, encompassing what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan, were referred to as “kandake” – the root of the English name “Candace.”

A comic book cover showing a Black woman in brilliant blue robes and gold jewelry in front of pyramids.
A comic inspired by the story of Amanirenas. Chris Walker, Creative Director, Lymari Media/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Like Cleopatra, Amanirenas knew Roman generals up close. But while Cleopatra romanced them – strategically – Amanirenas fought them. She led an army up the Nile about 25 B.C.E. to wage battle against Roman conquerors encroaching on her kingdom.

My own favorite part of this story of Indigenous struggle against foreign imperialism involves what can only be characterized as a power move. After beating back the invading Romans, Queen Amanirenas brought back the bronze head of a statue of the emperor Augustus and had it buried under a temple doorway. Each time they entered the temple, her people could literally walk over a symbol of Roman power.

That colorful tidbit illustrates those queens’ determination to defend their autonomy and territory. Amanirenas personally engaged in combat and earned the moniker “the one-eyed queen,” according to an ancient chronicler of the Roman Empire named Strabo. The kandakes were also spiritual leaders and patrons of the arts, and they supported the construction of grand monuments and temples, including pyramids.


Interwoven cultures and histories

When people today say “Nubia,” they are often referring to the Kingdom of Kush, one of several empires that emerged in ancient Nubia. Archaeologists have recently started to bring Kush to broader public attention, arguing that its achievements deserve as much attention as ancient Egypt’s.

Indeed, those two civilizations are entwined. Kushite royals adapted many Egyptian cultural and religious practices to their own ends. What’s more, a Kushite dynasty ruled Egypt itself for close to a century.

Contemporary Nubian heritage reflects that historical complexity and richness. While their traditions and languages remain distinctive, Nubians have been intermarrying with other communities in Egypt for generations. Nubians like my mother are proudly Egyptian, yet hurtful stereotypes persist.

Two women with their heads covered and colorful robes sit on a blanket, holding a laptop and an open notebook.
Hafsa Amberkab, right, and Fatma Addar, Nubian Egyptian women who compiled a dictionary, show off a Nubian lexical chart near Aswan in upper Egypt. Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

Today, some Black Americans embrace Cleopatra as a powerful symbol of Black pride. But the idea of ancient Nubia as a powerful African civilization also plays a symbolic role in contemporary Black culture, inspiring images in everything from cosmetics to comics.

Egyptian voices

Researchers do argue about Cleopatra’s heritage. U.S. conversations about her, however, sometimes reveal more about Western racial politics than about Egyptian history.

In the 19th century, for example, Western interest in ancient Egypt took off amid colonization – a fascination called “Egyptomania.” Americans’ fixation with the ancient civilization reflected their own culture’s anxieties about race in the decades after slavery was abolished, as scholar Scott Trafton has argued.

A century later, a 1990s advertisement for a pale-colored doll of queen Nefertiti sparked debate in the U.S. about how to represent her race.

Nefertiti’s bust – one of the most famous artifacts from ancient Egypt – is on display at a German museum. Egypt has called for the artifact’s return for close to a hundred years, to no avail. Even Hitler took a personal interest in the bust, declaring that he “will not renounce the queen’s head,” according to archaeologist Joyce Tyldesley.

Even today, contemporary Egyptian perspectives are almost absent in Western depictions of ancient Egypt. Only one Egyptian scholar is interviewed in the new Netflix series’ four episodes, as he himself notes, and he is employed not by an Egyptian university, but by a British one.

For many Egyptians, this lack of representation rehashes troubling colonial dynamics about who is considered an “expert” about their past. The Netflix series “was made and produced without the involvement of the owners of this history,” argues the Egyptian journalist Sara Khorshed in a review of the series.

To be sure, there is anti-Black bias in Egyptian culture, and some of the social media reaction has been slur-filled and racist. Educating people about the stories of Nubian queens like Amarinenas might be a way to encourage a more inclusive understanding of who is Egyptian.

Yet I believe Egyptians’ frustrations about portrayals of Cleopatra also reflect long-standing concerns that their own understandings of their past are not taken seriously.

That includes Black Egyptians, like my mother. When I asked her if she planned to see the Cleopatra series, she shrugged. She already knows that queen’s story well from its many portrayals on screen, whether in Hollywood films or Egyptian ones.

“I will wait for the series on Amanirenas,” she said.The Conversation

Yasmin Moll, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The song “Be Healthy” from the 2000 album by hip-hop duo dead prez, “Let’s Get Free,” is a rare rap anthem dedicated to diet, exercise and temperance:

Read more …Hip-hop and health – why so many rap artists die young

Adults and kids love Bluey. This Australian animated show – hugely popular in the U.S. as well – focuses on a family of blue heeler dogs living in Brisbane. The seven-minute episodes feature 6-year-old Bluey; her 4-year-old sister, Bingo; her mom, Chilli; and her dad, Bandit. They depict the beauty of childhood and portray the realities of being a parent in our current age.

Read more …Bluey teaches children and parents alike about how play supports creativity – and other life lessons

Political campaign ads and donor solicitations have long been deceptive. In 2004, for example, U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, a Democrat, aired an ad stating that Republican opponent George W. Bush “says sending jobs overseas ‘makes sense’ for America.”

Read more …6 ways AI can make political campaigns more deceptive than ever

(The Center Square) – Nine months into fiscal 2023, more known or suspected terrorists have been apprehended at the northern and southwest borders than in all of fiscal 2022.

Read more …525 known, suspected terrorists apprehended attempting to illegally enter U.S. in 9 months

The federal trial for former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents is scheduled to start on May 20, 2024, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon announced on July 21, 2023.

This trial date should be entered into calendars with a pencil, because Cannon’s order leaves open the possibility that the trial could be delayed. Reasons for such a delay could involve either the defense or prosecution filing various requests that draw the process out.

Federal prosecutors wanted the trial to begin as early as December 2023. Trump’s legal team had pushed to delay his trial until after the election. Cannon took a middle ground by setting the May 2024 trial date. The trial is scheduled to happen after most of the Republican primaries are held, but before the November 2024 presidential election.

Critics have scrutinized Cannon, whom Trump appointed to the bench in 2020, questioning whether her previous rulings and nature of her appointment indicate bias in favor of Trump. These observers called for Cannon to remove herself from the Justice Department’s case against Trump.

I am a scholar of legal ethics and trials. The fact that Trump appointed Cannon to the bench is not a good enough reason for her to recuse herself from the case.

A shadow over the trial

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 37 felony counts related to the mishandling of national security information and obstruction of justice. This case was randomly assigned to Cannon in June 2023, not because anyone personally selected her for the job.

Some argue that Trump’s appointment of Cannon – and a ruling Cannon made in Trump’s favor in earlier stages of the case – are reasons to remove her from the case. Legal experts have said that her previous rulings “cast a shadow over the proceedings,” especially since they fall “well outside of the judicial norm.”

In an earlier ruling, Cannon stopped the FBI in September 2022 from reviewing documents seized from Mar-a-Lago until after a special master, whom she appointed, reviewed them. This was a very unusual decision, and the court of appeals quickly reversed her order, finding that Cannon exceeded her authority.

Still, federal law states that mandatory recusal, or disqualification of a judge, is required only under limited circumstances in which “the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Impartiality is required so that every person will receive a fair trial, free from bias.

Judges have stepped away from cases in circumstances in which they had personal knowledge of disputed facts or had a potential financial interest in the matter. For example, Mark Walker, the federal judge in Florida originally assigned to Disney’s case against Gov. Ron DeSantis, recused himself in June 2023 when he learned that a relative owned stock in Disney.

Little outside interference

Federal judges generally decide for themselves whether to step down from a case or not.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, for example, did not take part in cases decided in the lower court by his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused himself in 2022 from a case in which the Supreme Court gave a US$2 billion verdict in favor of women who claimed they developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson talc products. Kavanaugh’s father had headed a trade association that lobbied against warning labels on talc products.

There are also many cases of judges not recusing themselves despite calls to do so.

If either the defense or prosecution does not think that a particular judge can be fair, they can file a motion before the trial begins to have the judge disqualified. The judge in question usually decides the motion, and, if the judge does not voluntarily step down, the petitioner may appeal the decision to the court of appeals. The court of appeals rarely second-guesses the trial judge’s decision to stay on a case over a party’s objection.The Conversation

Peter A. Joy, Professor of law, Washington University in St Louis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ever go to the movies or a rock concert and been blasted by the sound? You may not realize it while it’s happening, but ongoing exposure to loud sounds at these venues can damage your hearing.

Our ears are highly sensitive to loud noise. Even very short exposures to high-level sounds – that’s anything above 132 decibels – can cause permanent hearing loss for some people[1]. That’s true even if it’s just a brief blast; a single gunshot or fireworks explosion can cause immediate damage to the ear.

Even lower-level sounds – around 85 decibels – can injure the ear[2] if heard for extended periods of time. Listening to a lawn mower for eight hours a day, for example, can put a person at risk for hearing loss.

Simply put, as the sound gets louder, safe exposure times get shorter. And whether from movies or concerts, fireworks or lawn mowers, about 40 million Americans have hearing problems from loud noise exposure[3]. The unfortunate part is that it’s all preventable.

A multicolored chart that shows the decibel levels where hearing loss occurs.
Some rock concerts can cause hearing damage within two minutes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[4]

How hearing damage happens

As an audiologist and scientist[5] who studies hearing loss[6], I spend a lot of time talking to my patients and the public about preserving their hearing for a lifetime.

What many people do not know is that exposure to loud sounds over time can damage the tiny hair cells[7] of the inner ear. These cells pick up sound and turn them into neural impulses that travel to the hearing centers of the brain.

Injuries to the ear from loud sound can cause difficulty hearing[8], decreased tolerance of loud sounds – also known as hyperacusis[9] – and tinnitus[10], a constant ringing in the ears.

I’m particularly concerned about recreational noise exposure. While we commonly think about potential harms from loud noises in factories, construction sites or other loud workplaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 53% of people ages 20 to 69 who have hearing loss from loud noise report no workplace noise exposure[11].

That means these people choose loud hobbies or recreational activities without being aware of the risks. It’s not just movies, concerts and sporting events; power tools, motorcycles, off-road vehicles and firearms can all be hazardous to the ear.

Concerts and movies

Concerts regularly exceed 105 decibels, where sound exposure is safe for only about four minutes. Some shows can be even louder. And these levels of sound usually last for long periods of time – two or three hours. This clearly puts listeners at risk for hearing loss. The same also applies to other music-dominated events, like nightclubs[12].

Movie theaters can exceed 100 decibels, though usually not for extended periods of time. Generally, most people are safe when going to movies[13], though many moviegoers may find some louder sounds uncomfortable – like music or over-the-top sound effects, along with the explosions and gunshots. Extended watching of movies, such as a double feature, can increase a viewer’s risk.

How to fix the sound when watching a movie on your laptop.

Protecting yourself

Using a sound meter app can estimate how loud the environment is, and then you can decide if you need to protect your hearing.

For iPhones, the NIOSH SLM app[14] is good; for Android, the Decibel X app[15] works well. Apple Watches come with an already installed Noise app[16].

Here are some other tips to protect your ears[17]:

First, if you can control the volume, turn it down. For headphones, use the 80-90 rule[18], which means you can listen at 80% of the maximum volume for 90 minutes per day. Turning it down gives you more time; turning it up gives you less time.

If you can’t control the volume, move farther away from the sound source. Standing next to big speakers at a concert, for instance, is often louder than being in the middle of the crowd. Taking breaks from the sound also helps.

So will earplugs or earmuffs. Although foam or rubber earplugs work, they block high frequencies, which sometimes muffles the sound. But specialty earplugs[19] are designed to reduce loud music levels without muffling the sound. That said, for children, earmuffs are usually the easiest and safest choice.

Injury from loud sound results in premature aging of the ears. The ears of a 30-year-old with damage from loud sound may hear more like the ears of a 50-year-old[20]. But remember, it’s largely preventable. Taking action today can help you protect and preserve your hearing for a lifetime.

Read more …Loud sounds at movies and concerts can cause hearing loss, but there are ways to protect your ears

Vaccine bottlesThe UK Health Security Agency's agreement enables the production of millions of influenza vaccines.

Read more

Doctor writing letter about a patientThe healthcare regulator seeks urgent assurances over patient safety at Newcastle Hospitals.

Read more

This year’s Formula One season has been dominated by one driver, Max Verstappen, and one team, Red Bull. A sport once financed by tobacco sponsorship, now has its fastest car bankrolled by an energy drink.

Read more …Red Bull’s F1 dominance showcases the extreme power of sports marketing

What would sport be like if performance-enhancing drugs were allowed? How fast could the fastest athletes run? How high could they jump? How heavy could they lift? The Enhanced Games seeks to answer these questions by removing all restrictions on doping.

Read more …The Enhanced Games: letting athletes use drugs could lead to worse problems than cheating

Few would doubt Lionel Messi’s impact on European football. The scorer of 474 goals during his long career at Barcelona, he has been named the best footballer in the world a record seven times.

Read more …Lionel Messi: move to the US is a creative deal which follows in the bootsteps of David Beckham

On Sept. 3, 1973, a fire swept through the baghouse of the Bunker Hill mine in Idaho’s Silver Valley. The building was designed to filter pollutants produced by smelting, the melting of rocks that separates metal from its ore. The gases produced in this process carried poisons, including lead.

Read more …50 years after the Bunker Hill mine fire caused one of the largest lead-poisoning cases in US...

Canada’s seemingly endless wildfires in 2023 introduced millions of people across North America to the health hazards of wildfire smoke. While Western states have contended with smoky fire seasons for years, the air quality alerts across the U.S. Midwest and Northeast this summer reached levels never seen there before.

Read more …North America’s summer of wildfire smoke: 2023 was only the beginning

Hurricane Idalia inundated parts of Tarpon Springs, Fla., and other coastal communities on Aug. 30, 2023. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As questions loom over the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to fund disaster recovery efforts, people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by recent wildfires and storms are trying to make their way through the difficult process of securing financial aid.

Residents in communities hit by Hurricane Idalia, the Maui fires or other recent disasters have a long, tough journey ahead. Early estimates suggest Idalia caused US$12 billion to $20 billion in losses, primarily in property damage, acccording to Moody’s Analytics. And rebuilding Lahaina, Hawaii, has been forecast at over $5.5 billion.

How well the initial disaster response meets residents’ needs has far-reaching consequences for community resilience, especially for vulnerable residents, as we saw after Hurricanes Katrina and Maria.

I am a law professor who focuses on disaster recovery and preparedness and has created several legal clinics to assist survivors. Here’s what anyone facing losses after a federally declared disaster needs to know.

Declaring a disaster

The road to recovery starts with state and federal governments identifying damages – both property damage and economic damage. These assessments will shape the scope of federal assistance and how resources are allocated for each community and survivor. The level of damage will determine whether the president approves a major disaster declaration or simply an emergency declaration.

FEMA created a survey tool, released in May 2023, to make these assessments more consistent. It is now used by officials to collect information about damage to residences, whether owners or renters live there, and the amount of insurance coverage, among other details. That information is then used to determine the extent of the disaster, its impact on infrastructure and the type of aid needed in the request for a federal disaster declaration.

A man wearing a T-shirt with the state seal of Hawaii speaks with reporters, standing next to a woman with 'FEMA' on her cap and shirt.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (center) and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell (right) speak to reporters in Lahaina on Aug. 12, 2023, while surveying the wildfire damage there. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Once the federal government issues an emergency or major disaster declaration, individuals can apply for disaster recovery funding.

Documenting the damage

Step 2 is determining individual damages.

Amid the grief and the rush to find temporary housing and rebuild lives, it can be hard to focus on meticulously documenting what was lost and dealing with insurance. But federal aid has relatively short deadlines – people have 30 days from the formal disaster declaration to apply for disaster unemployment assistance and 60 days for individual and household assistance, such as aid for housing, though that deadline is often extended.

As soon as possible, disaster survivors should take photos of the damage and record every affected area of their property. That includes capturing details of damage to structures, personal belongings, vehicles and any medical equipment. This documentation will help provide the evidence for insurance claims, requests for government assistance and potential tax savings.

A woman wearing shorts, a T-shirt and face mask uses a pitch fork to dig through the ash of a home in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Even when everything is gone, as many homeowners discovered in Maui after the fires, there are ways to document the losses. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Internal Revenue Service has a helpful guide for reconstructing records after catastrophic disasters that destroy everything. Government agencies can recover lost driving records, mortgage records, wills and vehicle sales records. Most of the costs for these searches can be waived after a disaster.

There are other sources, too. Title companies, property tax assessors and real estate brokers will have many documents related to a home’s value and possibly photos. Insurance policies typically list major assets. Credit card companies may have statements showing major purchases. Mobile phones, friends and social media accounts may have more photos of the property.

Keeping records such as repair invoices, receipts, leases, canceled checks and money orders can also help provide an overview of the losses. FEMA recently amended its policy to also allow affidavits to prove ownership of homes passed down through generations, known as heirship property.

Finding disaster aid

People generally have four options for aid: insurance coverage, FEMA benefits, community or nonprofit funding, and private funding, including loans. Navigating this complex landscape can be hard.

Start with your insurance – homeowners insurance, renters insurance and insurance for vehicles, as well as medical, dental and health. Disaster survivors must apply for their relevant insurance payouts before FEMA will pay benefits. President Joe Biden made an exception to this rule to offer a one-time $700 payment for Maui residents to assist with critical needs, including shelter and transportation.

In cases where insurance coverage is denied or the person doesn’t have insurance, FEMA can become a lifeline.

FEMA’s Individual Assistance program offers benefits that include coverage for temporary lodging, home repair, transportation and medical needs. The agency provides up to $41,000 for housing assistance after emergencies or disaster declarations. FEMA’s disaster relief fund is close to depleted, however, after several multibillion-dollar disasters. Without additional funding from Congress soon, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said some recovery funding may be delayed to the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

A man looks out a door that is blocked at the bottom. A sump pump is running next to it. The water is nearly up to the windows.
A store owner uses a sump pump to try to keep Hurricane Idalia’s rain and storm surge from flooding the building in Tarpon Springs, Fla., on Aug. 30, 2023. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

To cover the costs that go beyond FEMA’s limits, survivors may need to secure private loans or disaster loans, such as Small Business Administration disaster loans, to bridge the gap. Homeowners can apply for SBA loans to replace or repair their primary residence or personal property, including cars, furniture and other items. Additionally, SBA loans can also cover business losses.

For those unwilling or unable to resort to loans, state and local governments often create housing recovery centers using Community Development Block Grants. These grants can help survivors reestablish housing, but the funding also takes much longer to arrive. A CBDG grant in Baton Rouge provided funding for rebuilding housing and to mitigate future flood damage in housing and rental programs after the area flooded in 2016.

Community partnerships are crucial

Amid the complexities of disaster recovery, the importance of community planning and collaboration cannot be overstated.

A coordinated approach that involves local governments, relief organizations and community leaders serves as a catalyst for effective recovery and also makes it easier to identify vulnerable populations and ensure the equitable distribution of resources so no one is left behind.

Communities often set up centers where residents can find and speak to advisers from insurance companies, FEMA and other sources of support. These disaster recovery centers can be the cornerstone for long-term recovery groups that help a community both recover and build resilience.

Five years after Hurricane Maria, community groups were still on the ground in Puerto Rico providing aid and resources to the local community. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, local housing groups were still providing support to New Orleans residents, especially those employed in the hospitality industry.

In the midst of this formidable journey to recovery, the indomitable spirit of communities banding together, combined with the concerted efforts of government agencies and organizations, can be uplifting. Each step forward represents a collective stride toward healing, renewal and a future marked by greater unity.

This articled was updated Sept. 1, 2023, with early damage estimates.

The point of having a nation of laws is twofold: (a) you know how to prosper, and (b) you know how to stay out of jail.

Read more …Fake Laws - The Threat of After-The-Fact Laws in America

Boy was it sad when we walked into Lowes Home Improvement  in mid-July and collided with Halloween, which isn’t until October 31st.   Three and one-half months early.   So much for Christmas in July.   Or Summer.  Or Fall.  Workers at Home Depot say they will be launching early-August.  Costco has theirs out at the same time.  Universal Studios is saturating the video-waves with horror night ghouls to come. 

Read more …A Sad, Spooky Day at Lowes

Let’s look at the Communist Chinese game board as of July 2023.

Read more …The China Game

As scorching heat grips large swaths of the Earth, a lot of people are trying to put the extreme temperatures into context and asking: When was it ever this hot before?

Read more …Is it really hotter now than any time in 100,000 years?

The arduous task of cleaning up from catastrophic flooding is underway across the Northeast after storms stretched the region’s flood control systems nearly to the breaking point.

Read more …How well-managed dams and smart forecasting can limit flooding as extreme storms become more...

Scorching temperatures have put millions of Americans in danger this summer, with heat extremes stretching from coast to coast in the Southern U.S.

Read more …Extreme heat is particularly hard on older adults, and an aging population and climate change are...




26 September 2023