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A large-scale rescue effort is underway after the heaviest rainfall in a century caused flash floods to devastate parts of Western Europe

Fast moving torrents of water inundated entire towns and villages in western and southern Germany, causing buildings to collapse and leaving residents stranded, police said Thursday. At least 55 people have died in the severe flooding but authorities said that number is expected to rise.
Germany is worst hit with 49 dead, while six people died in Belgium. Luxembourg and the Netherlands are also affected.
In Germany’s worst hit Rhineland-Palatinate state, 1,300 people are “assumed” missing in the district of Ahrweiler, the local government said.
“In some areas we have not seen this much rainfall in 100 years,” Andreas Friedrich, a German weather service spokesman, told CNN. He added that “in some areas we’ve seen more than double the amount of rainfall which has caused flooding and unfortunately some building structures to collapse.”
Along with Rhineland-Palatinate, the German regions of North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland were worst affected, Friedrich added.
Extreme rainfall totals were observed Wednesday into Thursday morning across much of western Germany and the Benelux region, with North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate seeing the highest rainfall totals, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Widespread swaths of these states saw 24-hour rainfall totals between 100 and 150 millimeters (3.9-5.9 inches), which represent more than a month’s worth of rainfall in this region.
Cologne recorded 154 millimeters (6 inches) of rainfall in only 24 hours ending Thursday morning, which is nearly double its monthly average for July of 87 millimeters (3.45 inches).
Locally heavier downpours resulted in extreme flash flooding. In Reifferscheid, an incredible 207 millimeters (8.1 inches) of rain fell in only nine hours, according to the European Severe Weather Database.

At least 30 dead in one German state

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, 30 people have been found dead, a spokesman for the state government told CNN. According to the spokesman, at least 50 people were also injured in the floods and the number of people missing is unclear.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, at least 19 people were found dead, but “that number is expected to rise,” a spokesman for police in Koblenz told CNN.
On Thursday morning in the district of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, more than 1,000 police and emergency workers were called in, the local government said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on her swansong visit to Washington, DC, described the deadly floods as a “catastrophe.”
“Here in Washington, my thoughts are also always with the people in our homeland,” Merkel said at a news conference on Thursday ahead of her meeting with President Joe Biden.
“Peaceful places are going through a catastrophe in these hours, one can say a tragedy. Heavy rainfall and floods are very inadequate words to describe this — it is therefore really a catastrophe.”
Merkel said the focus is on the rescue and immediate response to those affected by the floods, but added that she was in close contact with her country’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, to work on a strategy for longer-term financial aid to help with recovery.
“I mourn for those who have lost their lives in this catastrophe — we do not yet know these numbers but there will be many,” she added.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert offered condolences to the families of the victims. “I am shocked by the disaster that so many people in the flood areas have to endure. My sympathies go out to the families of the dead and missing,” Seibert wrote on Twitter.
A woman tries to move in a flooded street following heavy rains in Liege, Belgium.
Merkel’s visit is likely her last to the US before stepping down as Chancellor in the fall after 16 years in power.
Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Conservatives’ candidate to succeed Merkel, visited affected parts of the region on Thursday.
“We will be faced with such events over and over, and that means we need to speed up climate protection measures, on European, federal and global levels, because climate change isn’t confined to one state,” Laschet said.

Six deaths in Belgium

In neighboring Belgium, at least six people died in floods in the southern region of Wallonia, CNN affiliate RTBF reported Thursday, citing the magistrate on duty at the Verviers prosecutor’s office and the governor of the Liège province.
The Wallonia region borders North Rhine-Westphalia. The floods have also disrupted Belgium’s national railway network, Infrabel, stopping services in the French-speaking south of the country, the company said Thursday in a press release.
People ride on a trailer as the Dutch fire brigade evacuate people from their homes in South Limburg.
Italy has begun sending search crews and vehicles to Wallonia, the Italian Civil Protection agency said in a statement.
King Philippe of Belgium visited the town of Chaudfontaine, in the province of Liège, after it was hit by severe flooding.
“We are really touched by the severity of the catastrophe,” Philippe said in an on-camera statement. “Our thoughts go to the victims, their families, and all the people who had to be evacuated in emergency from disaster areas.”
Workers from France’s Civil Protection Agency arrived in the Belgium province of Liege to assist with recovery and rescue efforts.
“Rescuers from the instruction and intervention unit of the (French) Civil Protection carry out the first reconnaissance operations,” the French Civil Protection agency said in a post on Twitter, shortly after their arrival. “They will be joined this evening by firefighters, divers and lifeguards.”
The European Union also activated the civil emergency response mechanism to help areas of Belgium affected by floods, the EU Commission said Thursday in a statement.
“Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany you can count on the EU’s help to face these dramatic floods. My thoughts are with the victims of these tragic events and with all who will have to rebuild what they have lost. I want to thank all rescue teams for their invaluable help and relentless efforts,” EU Council president Charles Michel tweeted Thursday.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted an offer of support on Thursday.
“Shocking to see the devastating flooding across Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium,” Johnson tweeted.
“My thoughts are with the families of the victims and all those affected. The UK is ready to provide any support needed in the rescue and recovery effort.”
Shipping was also suspended on the River Rhine, one of Germany’s longest and most important arteries of industrial transport, according to NTV news.
Weather service spokesman Friedrich said the downpours were caused by cooler and warmer rainfall mixing. “It came from France at the beginning of the week to Germany and has been sitting over Germany for the last 48 hours,” he said.
“For now we predict the worst of the torrential rainfall is over, though more heavy rain is due in southwestern Germany on the upper reaches of the Rhine, (Thursday) and Friday,” he added.

Dutch city calls for two neighborhoods to evacuate

The city of Maastricht in the Netherlands has called on residents of the Heugem and Randwyck districts to leave their homes “as soon as possible” due to rising water in the river Meuse.
“The water in the Meuse is rising rapidly. We expect it to cross the quays at Randwyck/Heugem around 3 a.m.,” a news release from the city council of Maastricht said. “This means water will end up in the streets and homes.”
According to the Dutch statistics office, the population of the two neighborhoods is more than 9,000.

With climate change comes warmer air holding more water vapor

The extreme rainfall was the result of a slow-moving area of low pressure, which allowed a conveyor belt of warm and moist air to fuel powerful thunderstorms and bring heavy, long-lasting rainfall, according to the German national weather service, DWD.
Intense rainfall rates are becoming more common in the warming climate, as warmer air can hold more water vapor that is available to fall as rain.
“These kind of high-energy, sudden summer torrents of rain are exactly what we expect in our rapidly heating climate,” according to Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the University of Reading.
“The fact that other parts of the northern hemisphere are currently suffering record-breaking heatwaves and fires should serve as a reminder of just how much more dangerous our weather could become in an ever-warmer world,” Cloke said.
This story has been updated.

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This post originally posted here CNN.com – RSS Channel – HP Hero

Extreme heat and wildfires have caused literal firestorms across Canada

As things start to seemingly settle down weather-wise in some parts of the world, elsewhere, the weather is getting even more dangerous. In western Canada, wildfires have spread across the country, leading to some seriously dangerous weather—including what appears to be “firestorms.”

If boiling heat and drought weren’t enough, the fires brimming around the corners of the Pacific Northwest are contributing to a threatening storm system. When temperatures are hot enough, rising smoke from the fires can quickly accumulate into raging pyrocumulonibus clouds. These clouds then form thunderstorms, allowing lightning strikes to wreak even more havoc by brewing new fires. In some cases, you may even see “fire tornados.”

[Related: What is wet-bulb globe temperature]

NASA has nicknamed these horrifying events “fire-breathing dragon of clouds.” And while they happen more often than you’d think, including extreme recent examples in California last August and Australia in late 2019, some scientists are calling the Canadian firestorm the worst ever seen. 

“I’ve watched a lot of wildfire-associated pyroconvective events during the satellite era, and I think this might be the singularly most extreme I’ve ever seen,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, tweeted on Wednesday. “This is a literal firestorm, producing *thousands* of lightning strikes and almost certainly countless new fires.”

[Related: Wildfires could hit your hometown. Here’s how to prepare.]

Between June 30 and July 1, there have already been 710,117 lightning strikes across British Columbia, a whopping five percent of Canada’s average yearly amount. The unbearable heat in one town in particular, which had been experiencing temperatures of 121 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this week (for reference, that’s four degrees higher than Las Vegas’ all-time record), forced the over 1,000 residents of Lytton, BC to evacuate on virtually no notice earlier this week. 

“The town burnt down,” Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman told Canadian news source CBC. “I noticed some white smoke at the south end of town, and within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole town was engulfed in flame.”

For many towns in fire zones, the conditions are on the precipice of some of the most wildfire-friendly conditions in recent history—thanks to increasingly dry weather, longer summers, leftover flammable trees and grasses from centuries of wildfire prevention strategies, and more people moving into risky areas. Wildfires and volcanic activity have killed around 2400 people directly over the past 20 years, but the lasting impact and indirect death count could be significantly higher even from just one event. 

Swain told Earther that these firestorms are also a nightmare for the atmosphere. Not only did the Australian bushfires warm the atmosphere for six months after the fact, but the forests currently burning in Canada store billions of tons of carbon dioxide that are at risk of being released. 

“I suspect it will get a lot worse,” Swain told Earther, “and it’s already quite bad.”

Sara Kiley Watson

Sara Kiley Watsonis an assistant editor at PopSci. Her work has also been featured in NPR and Business Insider. Contact the author here.

Author: Sara Kiley Watson
Read more here >>> Science – Popular Science

3 COVID-19 cases caused by Delta variant confirmed in Williamson County

3 COVID-19 cases caused by Delta variant confirmed in Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Delta COVID-19 variant, a strain of the virus that’s spread more easily, is in Williamson County.

The Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) confirmed Friday that testing identified three cases of the Delta variant, the first ones officially reported in the Austin area.

“It is not surprising to see the Delta variant in our community given how rapidly it spreads,” said WCCHD Lead Epidemiologist Allison Stewart in a statement. “The good news is that the mRNA vaccines have been proven to be highly effective against this variant. The concern locally is that we have more than half the county that isn’t vaccinated and whom are still highly susceptible to this variant.”

Delta is a version of the coronavirus that has been found in more than 80 countries since it was first detected in India. It got its name from the World Health Organization, which names notable variants after letters of the Greek alphabet. Officials say it’s approximately 60% more transmissible than variant B.1.1.7 found in the United Kingdom in late 2020.

WCCHD noted that the current scientific evidence states the variant may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization, but mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer are still highly effective against it.

Earlier this week, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported only 25 cases of the variant in Texas. It is thought to be responsible for only a small proportion of the current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States, but the proportion of cases is growing quickly and is estimated to be the dominant strain in the U.S. as early as August.

Dr. Rodney Young with Texas Tech Physicians told KXAN’s Maggie Glynn that because it’s easier to transmit, it could potentially become the dominant strain of the virus in “weeks.”

On Tuesday, Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes told Travis County Commissioners there were no known Delta variant cases in the county. KXAN has reached out to confirm that is still the case.

Author: Will DuPree
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

‘Fugitive dust’ seems to have caused last summer’s salmonella outbreak from peaches

What caused last summer’s national recall of peaches? According to recent findings from the Food and Drug Administration, dust blown into orchards from nearby livestock.

From late June to August of last year, 101 people ended up sick with salmonella, a food-borne bacteria more commonly associated with raw cookie dough, eggs, and reptiles. No one died, but 28 were hospitalized. (Different types of salmonella cause different diseases, including typhoid fever. This outbreak involved the more common presentation colloquially known as salmonella, which involves several days of diarrhea and fever.)

About half of all salmonella outbreaks are linked to produce, as we’ve written before—but peaches are, according to the FDA, a new source. Before last year, peaches had been the culprit in three national food-borne outbreaks, including a 2014 listeria outbreak that led to national recalls. Still, none involved salmonella, the second-most common cause of food poisoning.

But fruit, and especially frozen fruits, have increasingly been linked to food borne disease, including hepatitis A outbreaks from strawberries and pomegranates.

Peaches and other fruit might seem like surprising sources of bacteria, says Alida Sorenson, a food safety supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture who has tracked fruit outbreaks before. “But it can happen. We had a weird one where we had listeria growing on caramel apples.”

The national investigation began last August, as dozens fell ill. Interviews with about 60 poisoned people showed that about 50 of them had eaten fresh peaches soon before getting sick, and the FDA issued a recall that hit everything from Kroger to Food Lion to Walmart.

From there, FDA investigators traced peaches up the supply chain, which led to the California grower and packer Prima-Wawona that had supplied “the majority of peaches associated with points of service during the timeframe.” A parallel Canadian investigation pointed in the same direction.

[Related: Don’t worry about eggs—these other foods are way more likely to give you Salmonella]

But that investigation also leaves some outstanding questions: the investigators didn’t actually find evidence of the guilty strain of salmonella on the leaves or fruits of the orchard. Much as epidemiologists have used genetic sequencing to trace the spread of COVID variants across the US, it’s become commonplace to hunt for a specific lineage of a food-borne illness using a DNA trail. 

No traces showed up on the orchard itself, but that doesn’t mean that investigators didn’t find any salmonella. As it turns out, there’s a poultry plant and a dairy farm adjacent to several of the fields.

Investigators found salmonella strains on trees facing both of those sites. And, tellingly, the type found near the poultry barns was almost identical to previously identified chicken diseases, while those near the dairy matched cattle diseases, indicating that the bacteria had spread from each animal to nearby trees.

The running theory, according to the FDA, is that “fugitive dust” from those livestock operations blew in on the wind, carrying bacteria with it.

That’s not exactly surprising, Sorenson says. “With any produce grown outside, it’s kind of unavoidable. We’ve seen [E. coli] outbreaks before associated with deer walking through the area, or birds that poop on the produce or in the lettuce as they fly over. In the Southeast, we’ll see a lot of salmonella associated with reptiles.”

Dust has been a research focus since the early 2000s because chick-raising operations are known to produce tons of salmonella-laden detritus. This type of interaction between large-scale produce and animal farming has also led to E. coli outbreaks when animal-contaminated water has been used to irrigate crops like spinach. The FDA findings themselves recommend that “all farms… be cognizant of and assess risks that may be posed by adjacent and nearby land uses.” But beyond monitoring for that contamination, it doesn’t suggest that there’s a lot to be done.

“There are way more outbreaks going on than we detect or know about,” says Sorenson. “Smaller ones, associated with smaller farms, where only a few people get sick. It’s just a matter of when there’s a big company with a lot of product and a lot of people get sick.”

(The CDC estimates that for every reported case of salmonella, seven go undetected.)

Land use, along with the increasing global reach of those potentially contaminated crops, is one reason that these surprising outbreaks are becoming more common. The other, more hopeful reason, says Sorenson, is that public health officials have gotten better at detecting outbreaks.

According to a 2017 research survey on salmonella epidemiology, open-ended interviews have made investigators better at catching surprise culprits, like peaches. And genetic surveillance allows investigators to quickly connect new outbreaks to previous sources of contamination. “We’re finding things that we wouldn’t have found before,” Sorenson says. “We can say, ‘oh, we tested this chicken, and then we looked back at historical data, and there was an outbreak that matched this. Wow, maybe this chicken was why that outbreak happened.’ We can look at things in reverse and say, oh, that might be an ongoing issue.”

Philip Kiefer

Author: Sara Chodosh
This post originally appeared on Science – Popular Science

Stomach bloating: Condition could be caused by intestinal pseudo-obstruction – what is it

Stomach bloating: Condition could be caused by intestinal pseudo-obstruction – what is it

Dietary decisions are normally the culprit and solution to stomach bloating because the food and drink we consume can either clog up or facilitate the passage of items through the gastrointestinal tract (GI). However, sometimes your bloating could be caused by a condition known as intestinal pseudo-obstruction.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), intestinal pseudo-obstruction is a rare condition with symptoms that resemble those caused by a blockage, or obstruction, of the intestines, also called the bowel.

“However, when a health care provider examines the intestines, no blockage exists,” the NIDDK explains.

The symptoms are due to nerve or muscle problems that affect the movement of food, fluid, and air through the intestines, says the health body.

In addition to bloating and abdominal pain, other tell-tale signs of intestinal pseudo-obstruction include nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea.

READ MORE: Princess Beatrice on ‘challenging’ moments with dyslexia – ‘Why am I not like others?’

How to diagnose intestinal pseudo-obstruction?

Abdominal x-ray and a CT scan of the bowel

Manometry (pressure studies)

Blood tests


Other underlying causes of bloating

According to Harvard Health, any of these disorders can cause bloating:

Irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterised by a combination of symptoms (bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or constipation) that last for three or more months.

Inflammatory bowel disease, an inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the small intestine. It’s triggered by a protein called gluten that’s found in wheat, barley, and rye.

Constipation, a condition defined by fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard or dry stools, the need to strain to move the bowels, and a sense of incomplete evacuation.

Gastroparesis, a sluggish emptying of food from the stomach into the small intestine.

Cancer. Colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancer are among the cancers that can have bloating as a symptom.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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Paris Jackson says paparazzi caused her long-term trauma

Paris Jackson says paparazzi caused her long-term trauma

The daughter of Michael Jackson has a one-on-one discussion with fellow paparazzi target and friend Willow Smith on Wednesday’s edition of “Red Table Talk.”

NEW YORK — Paris Jackson, stopping by “Red Table Talk” for a frank discussion about living under the media glare, reveals she suffers long-term anxiety and trauma from enduring countless camera clicks by paparazzi since she was a child.

“I experience auditory hallucinations sometimes with camera clicks and severe paranoia and have been going to therapy for a lot of things but that included,” Jackson says. “I’ll hear a trash bag rustling and flinch in panic.” She adds: “I think it’s standard PTSD.”

Jackson, the daughter of Michael Jackson, has a one-on-one discussion with fellow paparazzi target and friend Willow Smith on Wednesday’s edition of the online talk show that airs on Facebook Watch at 9 a.m. PDT/noon EDT.

During the show’s introduction, Smith says she met Jackson on the set of mom Jada Pinkett Smith’s TV show “Hawthorne.” Smith and Jackson soon forged a bond over growing up with parents in the spotlight, and over love of music, modeling, and issues like mental health, sexuality and body image. One way Jackson says she keeps some privacy is by asking people in her home to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Jackson, who has dated men and women, tells Smith that while there is tension with some of her family members over her sexuality, she has leaned on her brothers — Prince and Prince Michael II — and longtime family friend Omer Bhatti.

“They’ve always been super-supportive,” she says, noting that to better connect with his sister, Prince Jackson in high school joined a student-run club that unites LGBTQ+ and allied youth. “Not a lot of people can say they have siblings that support them like that.”

In 2020, Paris Jackson and then-boyfriend Gabriel Glenn — who formed the acoustic duo The Soundflowers — had a docu-series on Facebook Watch called “Unfiltered,” which provided a glimpse into her private life. Jackson revealed self-harm and suicide attempts in her testimonials, and said music was a way to channel her pain. She released her debut solo album “Wilted” in November.

“Red Table Talk” has recently made headlines with interviews with Olivia Jade Gianulli, Kelly Osbourne, and when Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith, discussed their marriage.

This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Entertainment

Statins side effects: The painful and embarrassing symptoms caused by drug use

Statins side effects: The painful and embarrassing symptoms caused by drug use

Chronic constipation

In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, possible association between statin use and bowel dysmotility was further investigated.

The study noted: “The side effects of statins include diarrhoea and constipation, although no pathophysiological explanation is provided by the manufacturer.

“There are various mechanisms that have been postulated by which statins are thought to induce myotoxicity.

“Such theories include blocking mevalonic acid production, depleting coenzyme Q10 and inducing selenoprotein dysfunction.

“Another possible mechanism by which statins can have this effect may be related to nitric oxide levels.

“There is some evidence to imply that nitric oxide acts on inhibitory nerves in the colon to produce impaired motility.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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'I'm out to get justice': Woman remembers partner killed in crash caused by San Marcos officer

'I'm out to get justice': Woman remembers partner killed in crash caused by San Marcos officer

CALDWELL COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — It’s been nearly one year since a San Marcos police officer — who was off-duty at the time — killed a woman in a crash in Caldwell County. 

Police who responded found an open can of beer in his truck.

Jennifer Miller was killed June 10, 2020. Her life partner, Pamela Watts, was also hurt in the crash but survived.

The San Marcos officer, Ryan Hartman, initially refused a blood test after the beer was found. Investigators got a warrant for a blood draw, and the results came back clean later that day. 

But Watts is questioning why he’s still on the police force.

“I want people to know, [Jennifer] was an angel,” Watts said.

Photo of Jennifer Miller, held up by her surviving life partner, Pamela Watts (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)
Photo of Jennifer Miller, held up by her surviving life partner, Pamela Watts (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)

Watts keeps a folder of newspaper clippings, photos and letters written seeking justice now that Jennifer is gone.

“My brother came in [to my hospital room] and said, ‘Jennifer is gone,’ and everything else after that is just a blur,” Watts said.

This is the last memory Watts has from her hospital bed, recovering from her own injuries in the wreck an intersection in Caldwell County.

“At that intersection, he had two stop signs,” Watts said. “He sped past all of those at 16 miles per hour, over the posted speed, ignoring all warning signs, and actually accelerated through the intersection, hitting us,” Watts said.

Intersection where the crash happened (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)
Intersection where the crash happened (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)

The crash report shows there was an open container of beer in Hartman’s truck but states officers didn’t smell any alcohol on him, and he didn’t appear to be drunk. Still, Hartman refused a blood alcohol test.

“He knew what protocol was going to be,” Watts said. “He knew that by refusing the blood draw, they would have to get a search warrant. He was waiting out and letting the clock tick.”

The Lockhart Police Department, which responded to the crash, recommended criminally negligent homicide charges.

The Caldwell County district attorney passed the case to Bastrop County because he knows Hartman.

“The facts here did not support a prosecution for criminally negligent homicide,” Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said.

Goertz said he thinks this was more of a distracted driving incident and presented that to a grand jury, which decided not indict Hartman.  

“I sympathize with Ms. Watts… but just because someone is killed in a motor vehicle accident doesn’t mean that someone necessarily committed a crime,” Goertz said.

According to Goertz, he did look into other possible charges related to distracted driving but did not find anything to make a strong enough case. Goertz said he also accessed Hartman’s phone records and said he was not texting at the time of the crash.

However, evidence obtained by KXAN from Watts’ attorney said Hartman admitted he killed someone by “not paying attention.”

Watts still wants accountability, posting fliers all over town. 

Fliers posted by Pamela Watts demanding justice (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)
Fliers posted by Pamela Watts demanding justice (KXAN Photo/Jala Washington)

She feels because Hartman is a police officer, he’s being protected.

“I’m out to get justice,” Watts said. “I want his badge.”

Goertz said he was objective in this case.

“The fact that Mr. Hartman was or wasn’t a police officer… didn’t have anything to do with my evaluation of the case,” Goertz said.

Watts said this has been an eye-opening experience. As she mourns the loss of the woman she was planning to marry, she feels the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.

“We want to live in our nice, comfy world and create our happiness bubble, but I can’t do that anymore,” Watts said.

Lockhart PD did give Hartman a ticket for running a stop sign. He was placed on paid administrative leave and went back to active duty in November.

In a letter to San Marcos City Council, Police Chief Stand Standridge said he spoke to investigators before bringing Hartman back. 

Police Chief Stand Standridge's letter about Ryan Hartman
Police Chief Stand Standridge’s letter about Ryan Hartman

The City of San Marcos declined our request for an interview with the officer or a spokesperson.

Watts is planning a protest and memorial at city hall on the anniversary date of Jennifer’s death on June 10.

Author: Jala Washington
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

DarkSide hackers claim they wanted cash – not economic havoc caused by cyberattack on US pipeline

DarkSide hackers claim they wanted cash – not economic havoc caused by cyberattack on US pipeline

The cyberattack on a critical US oil hub that forced the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline wasn’t aimed at causing a gas shortage chaos. The ransomware gang claims financial benefit was the only goal.

Last Friday, the IT systems of the pipeline’s vital infrastructure, which transits various oil products, including diesel, gasoline and jet fuel between the US Gulf Coast and the New York Harbor area, were attacked with ransomware, forcing Colonial Pipeline to temporarily halt all operations.
Also on rt.com Gas stations run dry and motorists queue for fuel in US, as ransomware attack on pipeline leads to shortages (VIDEOS)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) blamed a cyber-criminal group DarkSide, which had previously attacked a number of corporations with ransomware – software that encrypts a victim’s files, holding them hostage until a ransom is paid.

“About the latest news, our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society,” a brief news release posted to DarkSide’s website claims, providing no details on how much money the hackers were seeking.

The statement doesn’t directly mention Colonial Pipeline. So far, the company hasn’t provided any comment on the hackers’ statement, while US officials said they were not involved in negotiations over the ransom.
Also on rt.com Traders scramble to buy gasoline from Europe after US pipeline outage
The incident raised deep concerns about fuel shortages and price spikes at service stations. On Tuesday, multiple states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Florida declared a state of emergency, as more than 1,000 such outlets across the eastern US are reportedly running out of fuel.

Colonial Pipeline provides fuel for 45% of the US East Coast, transporting some 2.5 million barrels a day of refined oil.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

COVID-19 Confinement May Have Caused Myopia in Kids

COVID-19 Confinement May Have Caused Myopia in Kids

The COVID-19 pandemic may have increased the prevalence of myopia by confining young children indoors, researchers say.

Spending more time inside focused on computer screens appears to have most affected the eyesight of the youngest school children, said Xuehan Qian, MD, PhD, of Tianjin Medical University Eye Hospital in Tianjin, China.

“We should be worried about the eye problems of COVID-19, not from the virus itself, but from the potential outcomes of anti-virus measures on visual health.”

Qian presented the finding at the virtual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 annual meeting, and with his colleagues published it in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Myopia has been spreading around the world for decades; the World Health Organization estimates that half the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.

Researchers have identified time spent indoors and the duration and intensity of near work as risk factors for myopia. The quality of light under these conditions apparently influences the way the eye develops, particularly in children, said Jeffrey Cooper, OD, MS, professor emeritus at the State University of New York, College of Optometry in New York City.

While people with myopia can see well though glasses or contacts or after surgery, myopia increases the risk of high myopia later in life, which in turn can lead to retinal detachment, retinal tears, myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma, and blindness, Cooper told Medscape Medical News.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit at the end of January 2020, China imposed a strict lockdown, shutting an estimated 220 million school-aged children and adolescents in their homes where they were offered online courses until schools reopened in June.

To calculate the effect on myopia, Qian and his colleagues analyzed data from screenings that were conducted annually on children from 10 elementary schools in Shandong, China, from 2015 to 2020 using the Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener.

Held at 1 m distance from the child, the screener measures the spherical equivalent refraction (SER) for both eyes. The screener’s range is ±7.50 diopters (D). If the refraction is out of that range, the screener flags the subject for referral for a complete eye examination.

From 2015 to 2019, the screenings took place in September, but in 2020 they were done soon after school reopened in June.

Over the 6 years, the examiners conducted 194,904 tests on 123,535 children 6 to 13 years of age.

Table. Prevalence of Myopia by Age in Years

Age 2018, % 2019, % 2020, % P value
6, n = 22,082





7, n = 27,979





8, n = 25,877





9, n = 23,591





From 2015 to 2019, the mean SER held steady, but in 2020 it decreased sharply in the youngest children: by 0.32 D in children age 6, 0.28 D in age 7, and 0.29 D for age 8. In older children the shift was minor.

Similarly, the prevalence of myopia, defined as SER less than -0.5 D, shot up in 2020 for 6- 7- and 8-year-olds, but in older children the change was not significant.

A difference in the amount of time spent on near work probably doesn’t explain the difference between younger and older children, Qian said. The children in grades 1 and 2 got 1 hour per day of online assignments, while children in grades 3 to 6 were given 2.5 hours of online assignments per day.

Starting at age 8, girls in the study developed myopia at a younger mean age than boys, a finding consistent with previous research. Right eyes were more often myopic than left eyes.

A similar rise in myopia probably occurred in the United States and wherever else children have been confined at home, said Cooper. “I think everyone is aware that the COVID pandemic also contributed to the myopia pandemic,” he said.

With the pandemic “far from over,” public health authorities should take these findings into consideration, Qian said. “An intelligent lockdown might need to be considered carefully, planning for indoor life and not restricting outdoor play in younger children.”

Another possibility might be to use video projectors, allowing children to view their schoolwork at a distance of a couple of meters, suggested co-author Jiaxing Wang, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Emory Eye Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in the comments section of the online presentation.

The researchers plan a follow-up study to see whether the prevalence of myopia declines as children return to outdoor play. “We do hope that some of the myopia are due to accommodative excess and easily reversible,” said Wang.

Evidence from other studies suggests that programs encouraging young children to spend more time outdoors can reduce their myopia risk.

In one such study, also presented at this meeting, researchers from Changhua Show Chwan Hospital in Changua, Taiwan, screened school children for myopia before and after a program discouraging prolonged near work and encouraging outdoor activities for 120 minutes a day. The prevalence of myopia decreased from 15.4% to 9.1% from 2014 to 2019 in children aged 5 and 6 years. In older children, the effect was more modest.

For older children, prescribing atropine or orthokeratology may be more effective than increasing outdoor time, said Yu-Chieh Yang, an ophthalmology resident who presented the finding.

Qian, Wang, Yang, or Cooper have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting: “The critical period of myopia, insight from the myopic shift in school age children after COVID-19 home confinement,” and “The critical period of myopia, insight from the myopic shift in school age children after COVID-19 home confinement.”
Both presented May 3, 2021.

Laird Harrison writes about science, health and culture. His work has appeared in national magazines, in newspapers, on public radio and on websites. He is at work on a novel about alternate realities in physics. Harrison teaches writing at the Writers GrottoVisit him at www. lairdharrison.com or follow him on  Twitter: @LairdH

This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines