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New Fossils Reveal Giant Rhinos Were Once The Largest Land Mammals To Walk The Earth 

It’s been a widely known fact in the science community that giant rhinos once roamed the Earth some 25 million years ago. While they have long been considered one of the largest land mammals that ever lived, experts were still confused as to how they were able to evolve into the rhinos we more commonly see today.

Additionally, scientists had little to no information about how these rhinos travelled throughout Asia and ended up in the parts of the world where rhinos are most commonly found now. 

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Now, paleontologists have found new fossils that are finally answering some of these questions. The fossils were specifically a part of a new, sixth species of extinct giant rhino, Paraceratherium linxiaense, and where they were discovered has given experts a greater insight into how these giants move across China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan. 

The team of researchers was led by Deng Tao from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. 

The researchers uncovered one fossil of a completely preserved skull, jawbone, and teeth with their associated atlas; the part of the body where the head meets the spine. Another discovered fossil has three preserved vertebrae. 

The remains gave the team enough information to create a digital 3D model of this new species so that they can compare them to other giant rhinos. The team was able to determine this newest discovery was a newer rhino species due to its longer and more flexible neck. 

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The fossils were found in Gansu Province, China right at the northeastern border of the Tibetan Plateau. The fossils were likely from the Late Oligocene period which lasted from about 34 million years ago to about 23 million years ago. These rhinos were significantly larger than the rhinos of today, with an estimated shoulder height of 16 feet and a weight of over 40,000 pounds. These rhinos also lacked horns. 

“The Tibetan region likely hosted some areas with low elevation, possibly under 2,000 meters during Oligocene, and the lineage of giant rhinos could have dispersed freely along the eastern coast of the Tethys Ocean and perhaps through some lowlands of this region,” researchers wrote in the study

Researchers determined that, “in the Early Oligocene, the animal dispersed westward to Kazakhstan, with a descendant expanded to South Asia, then returning north to cross the Tibetan area to eventually produce P. linxiaense to the east in the Linxia Basin.”

“Late Oligocene tropical conditions allowed the giant rhino to return northward to Central Asia, implying that the Tibetan region was still not uplifted as a high-elevation plateau,” Deng said.

World Health Organization

WHO Says New Covid-19 Cases Continuing To Outpace Vaccination Efforts 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced this week that the Covid-19 virus is still spreading at a faster rate than the vaccines are being distributed. With the recent creation of the G7 vaccine, the WHO is hoping to share a billion doses with poorer nations who haven’t had access the way that the US has. 

“This is a big help, but we need more, and we need them faster. Right now, the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines. More than 10,000 people are dying every day … These communities need vaccines, and they need them now, not next year,”  World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists.

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The Group of Seven (G7) industrialized powers did pledge to exceed their promise of more than one billion doses considering the world needs more than 11 billion to get every single citizen fully vaccinated. 

Covax, a global body that is responsible for vaccine distribution throughout the world, is filtering a majority of the G7 vaccines. “WHO wants at least 70% of the world’s population vaccinated by the next G7 meeting in Germany next year. To do that, we need 11bn doses. The G7 and G20 can make this happen,” said Tedros.

“We need to see more clarity around the actual number of doses donated, and exactly how long it’s going to take to translate their pledges into real impact and access,” Hu Yuanqiong, of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, stated.

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Many critics have pointed out that the existence of Covid vaccine patent protections is the main reason the entire world isn’t producing effective vaccines everywhere right now. Instead of sharing the treatment for this illness that has killed millions all around the world, wealthier countries are hoarding the patents and selling them at high prices for poor countries that can’t afford it and are continuing to watch their people die. 

“Fully-fledged negotiations towards a possible suspension of intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines, as well as other medical tools needed to battle the pandemic, have just begun at the World Trade Organization after months of contentious debate.”  said Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of inequity policy.

“G7 leaders say they want to vaccinate the world by the end of next year, but their actions show they care more about protecting the monopolies and patents of pharmaceutical giants.”

Human Rights Watch agreed, stating that:  “Focusing on vaccines and making charitable donations are not enough. The G7’s failure to unequivocally support a temporary waiver of global intellectual property rules is a deadly status quo.”

Currently, more than $16 billion is necessary to fully fund the efforts currently in place to speed up vaccine production, and overall access to Covid-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.

Syrigne of Covid Vaccine

US Must Vaccinate More People To Avoid Covid Variant From Becoming Dominant, Fauci Says 

US health officials are trying to get more and more Americans vaccinated everyday to keep Delta, a Covid-19 variant first identified in India, from proliferating and becoming the dominant strain infecting individuals across the country. 

The variant has already become the most dominant strain in the United Kingdom, accounting for about 60% of the active cases in the UK. Initially, scientists were worried about the Alpha strain, formerly known as the B117 strain, from becoming dominant, but the Delta strain is showing to be more prevalent in those aged from 12 to 20-years-old. 

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In the US currently the Delta variant accounts for about 6% of the cases that scientists have been able to genetically sequence, but the actual number is likely much higher as it takes time to sequence the DNA in each new case. 

“In the UK the Delta variant is rapidly emerging as the dominant variant. We cannot let that happen in the United States.” 

President Joe Biden previously laid out a plan to get 70% of Americans vaccinated with at least one of their doses by the fourth of July. Currently about 63.7% of America’s adult population has received their first dose for those who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated. 

The Delta variant is already thought to be present in 62 countries according to the World Health Organization. 

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“We continue to observe significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant.”

The Delta strain in India has caused the healthcare system to practically crumble due to how overwhelmed they’ve become. The Indian government announced this week that the nation would be providing free Covid-19 vaccines to all adults in the country soon. 

Fauci also warned that the Delta variant, like most of the new variants that have appeared, is much more contagious than the initial variant that was spreading throughout the world last March. It also has become associated with a higher risk of hospitalization.

Studies have luckily shown that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are effective against the Delta strain, according to the National Institutes of Health. According to their data two doses of the Pfizer vaccine proved to be 88% effective against the Delta variant while two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine proved to be 60% effective. 

German Scientists Claim They Can Improve Covid Vaccines To Further Prevent Blood Clots 

A team of scientists in Germany believe that they have figured out why an increased number of individuals have experienced blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines. 

The scientists also believe that they can tell the manufacturers how to improve the vaccine itself to avoid clots. Rolf Marschalek, a professor at Goethe university in Frankfurt, and colleagues spoke with the media recently about their discovery. 

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“The key is in the adenovirus – the common cold virus that is used to deliver the spike protein of the coronavirus into the body. The mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna do not use this delivery system and there have been no blood clotting cases linked to them.”

The blood clots have been very rare, as with any vaccine, however, many parents are concerned about the younger age groups receiving their vaccines as there’s already less of a chance that they’ll develop severe Covid illness, but an increased risk that they would experience a blood clot. 

Currently the UK is offering vaccines to anyone under the age of 40 wherever vaccines are available. There have been 309 blood clotting cases in the UK out of 33 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine. The scientists in a preprint analysis claim that they believe the “problem lies in the entry of the adenovirus into the nucleus of the cell rather than just the cellular fluid, where the virus normally makes proteins.” 

“The adenovirus life cycle includes the infection of cells entry of the adenoviral DNA into the nucleus, and subsequently gene transcription by the host transcription machinery. Here lies the problem: the viral piece of DNA is not optimised to be transcribed inside of the nucleus.”

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Inside of the cell’s nucleus, parts of the spike protein splice, or split apart. These sliced pieces can then become mutant protein pieces that free float throughout your body, and lead to an increased risk of blood clots; although it’s extremely rare that that will occur. 

Professor Marschalek claims that Johnson & Johnson are already in discussions with him, as he’s only continued to emphasize that “the vaccines can be redesigned to avoid the problem.” 

“Johnson & Johnson is trying to optimize its vaccine now. With the data we have in our hands we can tell the companies how to mutate these sequences, coding for the spike protein in a way that prevents unintended splice reactions.”

No word on whether or not AstraZeneca has been contacted or not, and the research presented still needs to go through a peer review in order for it to gain more national credibility throughout the United Kingdom.

NASA SpaceX Launch

US Space Force Launches Satellite That Can Detect Missiles

The US Space Force launched a billion-dollar missile-detection satellite into orbit this week. After a minor 24-hour delay due to faulty temperature checks, the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 1:37 p.m. E.T. on Tuesday. 

The rocket is equipped with two small rideshare payloads as well as a Russian-build RD-180 main engine and strap-on solid-fuel boosters.  

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“Separation confirmed! The United Launch Alliance #AtlasV rocket has deployed the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (#SBIRSGEO5) satellite to save lives through early warning missile detection,” ULA announced in a tweet.

“Thank you to our mission partners for the tremendous teamwork as we processed and launched this asset that provides powerful surveillance and critical capabilities to protect our warfighters. We are proud to work with the U.S. Space Force to continue to meet the national security needs of our country,” ULA Vice President of Government and Commercial Programs Gary Wentz said in a statement.

The launch took approximately 10-and-a-half minutes, and marked the fifth launch in a series of space-based infrared system satellite meant to replace the US’s current Defense Support Program constellation of surveillance satellites. 

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This also marked the 87th launch of the 194-foot-tall Atlas 5 rocket and the 72ns Atlas 5 to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 specifically. Space News reported Tuesday that “the spacecraft’s ‘Technology Demonstration Orbiter’ payloads – TDO-3 and TDO-4 – were successfully deployed and released from the 950,000-pound rocket’s Centaur upper stage around 16 and a half minutes after liftoff.”

“Nearly 43 minutes after liftoff, the satellite separated and deployed as well to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. A geosynchronous orbit is a high Earth orbit that allows satellites to match the rotation of the Earth,” according to Space.com.

According to the Associated Press, “Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1.86 billion contract for the newly improved satellite in addition to one slated to launch in 2022.” The satellites work by using infrared payloads to detect heat signatures from missile exhaust, all around the world. The first satellites of their kind were launched back in 2011, and the next launch is set to occur on June 23rd this year. 

Abstract Outer Space

Why ‘Space Junk’ Is A Growing And Dangerous Problem 

China’s space agency made headlines this month after debris from a rocket launched by them crashed harmlessly into the Indian Ocean this past weekend, however, the 20-ton section of the rocket originally was thought to land in a major city and cause severe damage. The section of the rocket burned up when it reentered the atmosphere. 

The incident itself created a much larger discourse about the concept of “space junk” and how dangerous it actually is. The size of the rocket section and confusion over its potential trajectory has many wondering how we can trust our world’s scientists to avoid future incidents such as this from occurring.

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The risk of rocket parts falling into populated areas has never been a bigger issue due to the fact that many countries have private companies that can expand space ambitions, which poses a major risk for existing satellite infrastructure and space exploration missions.  

According to reports there are about 6,000 satellites currently orbiting the Earth, and more than half of them are non-functional. If any of these satellites collide, they can break off and splinter into thousands of pieces that could strike other objects in orbit, and set off a massive chain reaction of complete space station destruction. 

NASA estimates there are at least 26,000 pieces of debris the size of a softball or larger that could destroy satellites or entire spacecraft simply due to the speed they’re travelling at. 

Andreas Kluth is a contributor to Bloomberg who believes that all of the world’s nations need to work together to clean up space: “The major powers must elevate space governance to the level of other threats to humanity, from climate change to nuclear proliferation. They should publicly label the problem a tragedy of the commons and signal their readiness to begin negotiations, regardless of other conflicts they have with one another. The U.S. is the obvious nation to take the lead. China, Russia and others should reciprocate.”

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Steven Freeland agrees with Kluth’s point, and added that beyond just laws, the world needs to create a concrete plan for cleaning up the mess of debris that currently exists as well. 

“Beyond the legal technicalities, debris removal raises complex policy, geopolitical, economic, and social challenges. Whose responsibility is it to remove debris? Who should pay? What rights do non-space faring nations have in discussions? Which debris should be preserved as heritage?”

Others also believe that the nation’s responsible for the debris need to be held accountable for the extreme damage that’s being done in space, as well as the amount of lives they put at risk on Earth when they can’t predict the trajectory of these falling debris. 

“Why is it possible for China, or any other space-faring nation, to launch massive rockets and let them fall to earth willy-nilly? The answer to that is policy failure: Despite regulations on space flight and conduct, the issue of rocket reentry is loosely and poorly regulated, so countries cut corners and take their chances that a falling rocket won’t hit anything major,” explained Alex Ward of Vox Magazine.

Pfizer Building

FDA Permits Use Of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine For Kids 12 And Up 

The Food and Drug Administration announced this week that they approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for kids aged 12 and up; previously the vaccine was only approved for individuals 16 and older. 

The administration’s approval will ideally get all middle and high school students vaccinated before the fall semester. The FDA is also hoping that the approval will accelerate America’s effort to drive down new infections and reach herd immunity. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet this Wednesday to review the shot completely for use in kids. If approved by the CDC, as it is expected too, adolescents can begin receiving their shots as early as this week. 

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Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said “the decision brings us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. I want to assure parents that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data before clearing it for use in the teens.”

The companies expressed how in late March the vaccine was found to be 100% effective in a clinical trial of more than 2,000 adolescents, as well as activated a “robust” antibody response in younger children. All apparent side effects were also consistent with those seen in adults. 

Health experts have long claimed that vaccinating children is an essential step to ending the pandemic, and is the only way America has a shot at reaching herd immunity. According to government data children make up 20% of the total U.S. population. “Between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated against Covid to achieve herd immunity, and some adults may refuse to get the shots. Though more experts now say herd immunity is looking increasingly unlikely as variants spread,” experts claim.

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The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said in April that “the US could begin vaccinating older kids against Covid-19 by the fall while elementary-age children may start getting their shots by early next year.” 

Approval by the FDA for kids under the age of 12 could potentially come in the second half of the year, according to Fauci. Pfizer claims that it expects to apply for authorization for its vaccine to be given to toddlers and younger children in September, and infants in November. Pfizer has also become the first vaccine manufacturer to begin the submission process to get full FDA approval for its use of the vaccine in people 16 and older. 

Pfizer and BioNTech reported that they began a clinical trial for their vaccine in healthy 6-month to 11-year-old children. 

This will also be a major step in President Biden’s efforts to bring back full in-person learning for America’s kids in the fall. The administration even announced plans to invest $10 billion into Covid-19 testing for schools specifically.

Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine

Restaurant Workers Are Wearing Bracelets To Prove They’ve Been Vaccinated 

One restaurant in Philadelphia is attempting to make its customers feel more comfortable about returning to normalcy by requiring its vaccinated employees to wear a bracelet that makes it clear they’ve received their immunizations. 

El Merkury is the restaurant that’s having most of its employees wear a blue silicone bracelet with a QR code on the side of it that links directly to their proof of Covid-19 vaccination. The overall goal of this is to not only give the customers a greater peace of mind, but staff members as well. 

Sofia Deleon is the owner of El Merkury who spoke to local journalists this week regarding the new bracelets and how it’s providing staff and customers with an extra sense of security.

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“It was really important for me to have everybody vaccinated so that they could come back to work and really feel safe.”

The bracelets work by having the wearers upload their vaccination cards for review before they can receive the band itself. The documentation is stored on a server that is in compliance with medical privacy laws so users don;t have to worry about their information being shared. The process is end-to-end encrypted, providing the most security for users. 

ImmunaBand is the brand responsible for making these bracelets, and the company makes two types of bands. One of them just has the QR code while the other has the QR code plus the wearer’s name and type of vaccine they received. That code can easily be scanned by any smartphone’s camera for proof of vaccination. 

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Tashof Bernton is the president of ImmunaBand and recently spoke to CNN about how restaurants in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania specifically are buying the bands the most currently. 

“I hope the use of our bands will become more widespread to help demonstrate support for the vaccination program and help people feel more comfortable as the economy continues to reopen.”

Berton explained how the bracelets are simply a “way of saying ‘look I’m safe,’ and try to deescalate some of the tension and fear that people feel after a year in lockdown.” 

Even better, a portion of profits from the bands go directly to Covid relief and recover funds. Berton discussed how ImmunaBand “is a business, but it also really is about showing support for the vaccination program and doing what we can to bring us back together again as a society.”

Girl Vaping

Scientific Paper That Claimed Smokers Are Less Likely To Get Covid Retracted 

A scientific paper that claimed current smokers are 23% less likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 when compared to non-smokers has been retracted by a medical journal after it was revealed that the studies authors had financial links to the tobacco industry.

The World Health Organization has warned the exact opposite, in fact, claiming that because smoking impairs lung function there is actually an increased risk of severe symptoms if one gets a respiratory infection, like the Covid-19 virus. 

The paper was initially published in July last year by the European Respiratory Journal, and it claimed to have “found that current smoking was not associated with adverse outcome in patients admitted to the hospital with Covid. Smokers are at a significantly lower risk of acquiring the virus.” 

The latest edition of the European Respiratory Journal published a retraction notice for the paper, stating: “It was brought to the editors’ attention that two of the authors had failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest at the time of the manuscript’s submission.” 

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That is, one of the authors (José M. Mier) at the time had a current and ongoing role in providing consultancy to the tobacco industry on tobacco harm reduction; and another (Konstantinos Poulas) at the time was a principal investigator for the Greek company NOSMOKE … a science and innovation hub that has received funding from the Foundation for a Smoke Free World (an organisation funded by the tobacco industry).”

NOSMOKE is based in Greece and develops vaping products as well as promotes e-cigarette research from the tobacco industry. In the paper itself, Mier, Poulas and their co-authors claimed they had no conflict of interest when it came to their role in the study. 

The retraction notice also claimed that the authors of the original study did not agree with the decision. “While failure to disclose a potential conflict of interest was not normally sufficient grounds for retraction, the editors felt the decision was justified based on the nature of the undisclosed relationship, and in the context of the sensitive subject matter presented”.

“The editors also acknowledge that at no point was there a question of any scientific misconduct on the part of any of the authors, aside from the failure of two contributing authors to disclose their conflicts of interest relating to the tobacco industry.”

Konstantinos Farsalinos is the senior author of the original paper who released a statement in which he claimed that the conflicts of interest were “irrelevant to the study’s main aims and objectives.” 

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“Additionally, I proposed to publicly release the full dataset and the statistical script so that all findings could be independently verified. The editors declined. I requested my proposal to be mentioned in the retraction letter, but that was also rejected by the editors. I disagree with the retraction and I consider it unfair and unsubstantiated.”

Dr. Sarah White, who is also the director of the Quit Victoria program, disagreed, claiming that the retraction was the right decision. 

“We really rely on research in being able to take a dispassionate look at the data but also the interpretation of that data. The reader needs to know that the authors have some potential or actual conflict of interest, or they’ve actually been involved with the industry. There was no strong evidence to support the claim that smokers are less likely to get Covid. 

The review of the original study found that “In the context of smoking and Covid-19, poor data collection can lead to several erroneous conclusions. If patients with missing smoking data are not eliminated from the total pool, smokers may be wrongly underrepresented. Furthermore, it is difficult to get accurate history from patients who are either intubated or in respiratory failure.

“If data from these patients are missing, and these patients are not removed from the denominator, it can give a false impression that smokers are less likely to develop severe disease. Second, it must be noted that most published studies have not reported the duration (years) or frequency (number of cigarettes) of smoking, hence these cannot be accounted for.”

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

CDC Expected To Meet About J&J Vaccine Pause

The CDC and FDA are meeting to discuss the six blood clotting cases among people who received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.