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Alex
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An experimental device that turns thoughts into text has allowed a man who was left paralyzed by an accident to construct sentences swiftly on a computer screen.

The man was able to type with 95% accuracy just by imagining he was handwriting letters on a sheet of paper, a team reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"What we found, surprisingly, is that [he] can type at about 90 characters per minute," says Krishna Shenoy of Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The device would be most useful to someone who could neither move nor speak, says Dr. Jaimie Henderson, a neurosurgeon at Stanford and co-director, with Shenoy, of the Stanford Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory.

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The Canadian government is talking to international partners about the development of COVID-19 vaccination certificate systems that might one day help facilitate travel across international borders but bureaucrats in Ottawa, as well as some politicians, wonder if such a system is the best way to proceed.

“We are working on it on a scientific basis and we will have more to announce when we have it to announce,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday. “Right now we’re focussed on getting through this pandemic and being prepared to come roaring back once we’re through it.”

The lack of enthusiasm in federal government circles to develop vaccination certificates is matched by the World Health Organization which argued in a paper it published in February that “national authorities and conveyance operators should not introduce requirements of proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry, given that there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.”

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As homeowners start to prep swimming pools for the season, they will face a widespread chlorine shortage.
In some parts of the country, pool supply stores have imposed quantity restrictions. In other areas, prices for chlorine tablets have already doubled from last year. A pandemic swimming pool boom created higher demand for chlorine, then a major chemical plant fire in Louisiana knocked some production offline, resulting in a shortage.

The worst chlorine shortage the country has ever seen is set to rock this summer’s pool season.

“It’s been a concern for us,” said Cody Saliture, owner of Texas Pool Professionals, which has been in business for 17 years.

The Rockwall, Texas-based company services 200 clients weekly, and Saliture said he recently began to stockpile chlorine tablets. He’s also been looking for different chemicals to keep pools sanitized and his customers happy.

“We’re looking for anything that we can get that we don’t have here in North Texas,” Saliture said. “We’ve been to about six states and 15 cities [for supplies].”

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The action would not remove menthol tobacco from stores immediately, but rather kick off the rule-making process to do so, which could take several years.

The Food and Drug Administration appears likely to move to ban menthol in cigarettes this week — a step, experts say, that has been years in the making and that could have a significant positive impact on the health of Black Americans.

The FDA's decision would not ban menthol immediately, but rather kick off the rule-making process to do so, which could take years.

"The winds are definitely in our favor," said Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health & Equity, citing both the decades of data that show that the cooling flavor in cigarettes makes it easier to start smoking combined with the current cultural momentum toward improving the lives of Black Americans.

When inhaled, menthol produces a cooling sensation in the throat, reducing the harsh taste of cigarettes and the irritation of nicotine. The vast majority of Black smokers — 85 percent — use menthol cigarettes. And Black men and women are much less likely than white Americans to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier, potentially more treatable stage. Black men have the highest lung cancer death rate in the country.

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Alex
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One of the last times I stepped outside my Brooklyn apartment without a mask on was in early spring 2020, just before the state issued a mask mandate. I remember because as my dog peed on a tree, a neighbor asked me pointedly where my mask was. Where I live, almost everyone wears a mask when they go outside. If a person sipping from an iced coffee with their mask pulled down approaches someone else on the sidewalk coming the other way, they will usually yank the mask back up, as if they’ve been caught partially dressed. The other day I noticed a woman sitting on a hill in the middle of a field with her face covered. There was no one near her.

For a while now, this has felt a little unnecessary, if understandable, given that we were still learning things about the virus and were trying to be as careful as possible. But now, as we’ve come to know more about the virus, as vaccinations are ramping up, and as we’re trying to figure out how to live with some level of COVID in a sustainable way, masking up outside when you’re at most briefly crossing paths with people is starting to feel barely understandable. Look: I believe masks (and even shaming) are indispensable in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Despite early waffling, public health experts are virtually unanimously in support of them and have remained so even as our early dedication to scrubbing surfaces and Cloroxing veggies wound down.

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The coronavirus pandemic has had the world fixated on viruses like no time in living memory, but new evidence reveals humans never even notice the vast extent of viral existence – even when it's inside us.

A new database project compiled by scientists has identified over 140,000 viral species that dwell in the human gut – a giant catalogue that's all the more stunning given over half of these viruses were previously unknown to science.

If tens of thousands of newly discovered viruses sounds like an alarming development, that's completely understandable. But we shouldn't misinterpret what these viruses within us actually represent, researchers say.

"It's important to remember that not all viruses are harmful, but represent an integral component of the gut ecosystem," explains biochemist Alexandre Almeida from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

"These samples came mainly from healthy individuals who didn't share any specific diseases."

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Researchers say two-way communication is possible with people who are asleep and dreaming.

Specifically, with people who are lucid dreaming — that is, dreaming while being aware you're dreaming.

In separate experiments, scientists in the U.S., France, Germany and the Netherlands asked people simple questions while they slept. Sleepers would respond by moving their eyes or twitching their faces in a certain way to indicate their answers.

"Since the '80s, we've known that lucid dreamers can communicate out of dreams by using these signals," says Karen Konkoly, a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University who is the first author on the study published this month in Current Biology.

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It will boil down to two predominant factors that control how a virus behaves in a population: the virus’s biology and the immunity of the host population.

Endemic viruses are those that have constant presence within a geographical area. Such viruses are all around us, though they vary by location. Examples in Europe and North America include the rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold) and influenza virus, while the dengue and chikungunya viruses are endemic in many Asian countries.

Endemic diseases are often milder, but it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Flu, for instance, is estimated to cause up to 810,000 hospitalizations and 61,000 deaths annually in the US.

There are currently four endemic coronaviruses that, for most people, just cause a cold. Whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will join them will be down to two predominant factors that control how a virus behaves in a population: the virus’s biology and the immunity of the host population.

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Drug makers are increasingly turning to monoclonal antibodies to protect the millions of people who can't use vaccines. But questions swirl about their cost and long-term viability.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gathers pace, a population is at risk of being left behind: the millions of people around the globe who lack fully functional immune systems.

While the exact number of the immunocompromised worldwide is unknown, estimates suggest that about 10 million live in the U.S. alone, or around 3 percent of the national population. The number encompasses a diverse range of vulnerabilities, including rare genetic immune deficiencies, chronic illnesses that impair the immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer and organ-transplant patients who must take immune-suppressing medications.

For them, vaccines will not be effective, because they are incapable of making their own antibodies to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Instead, pharmaceutical companies around the world are racing to develop alternative treatments that bypass the immune system altogether.

The most common option is called monoclonal antibody treatments. These artificially generated antibodies mimic the body’s natural immune response by binding to key sites on the virus’ spike protein, preventing it entering cells and reproducing. Companies including AstraZeneca, Regeneron, and Eli Lilly are currently testing whether monoclonal antibodies can protect immunocompromised people from SARS-CoV-2.

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Where does the mind 'meet' the brain? While there's no shortage of research into the effects of psychedelics, drugs like LSD still have much to teach us about the way the brain operates – and can shine a light on the mysterious interface between consciousness and neural physiology, research suggests.

In a new study investigating the effects of LSD on volunteers, scientists found that the psychedelic enables the brain to function in a way beyond what anatomy usually dictates, by altering states of dynamic integration and segregation in the human brain.

"The psychedelic compound LSD induces a profoundly altered state of consciousness," explains first author and neuroscience researcher Andrea Luppi from the University of Cambridge.

"Combining pharmacological interventions with non-invasive brain imaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) can provide insight into normal and abnormal brain function."

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COVID-19 could take a massive toll on the health of hearts across the world. New research has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause a wave of cardiovascular problems in the coming years. Not only are the researchers concerned with how the virus impacts the heart, but also how the lockdown might have affected peoples’ wider health.

Cardiovascular disease killed nearly 18.6 million people globally in 2019, a rate that has risen by over 17 percent from the decade previous. While this trend is set to continue regardless of the pandemic, researchers suspect that COVID-19 is likely to make things even worse. The new study, published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation, predicts the global burden of cardiovascular disease will grow exponentially over the next few years as a direct and indirect consequence of COVID-19.

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