WASHINGTON — Several common chemicals, including pesticides, ingredients in consumer products, food additives, and drinking water contaminants, could increase the risk of breast cancer, a new study reveals.
These chemicals cause cells in breast tissue to produce more of the hormones estrogen or progesterone.
Every day, people are exposed to a variety of synthetic chemicals through the products they use or the food they eat. For many of these chemicals, the health effects are unknown.
However, this study has found the adverse effects of these chemicals and how they may increase the risk of breast cancer.
“The connection between estrogen and progesterone and breast cancer is well established,” said co-author Ruthann Rudel, a toxicologist and research director at Silent Spring Institute.
“So, we should be extremely cautious about chemicals in products that increase levels of these hormones in the body.”
For instance, in 2002, when the Women’s Health Initiative study found combination hormone replacement therapy to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, women stopped taking the drugs, and incidence rates went down.
“Not surprisingly, one of the most common therapies for treating breast cancer is a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors,” said Rudel.
“It lowers the levels of estrogen in the body, depriving breast cancer cells of the hormones they need to grow.”
To identify these chemical risk factors, Rudel and Silent Spring scientist Bethsaida Cardona combed through data on more than 2000 chemicals generated by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s ToxCast program.
ToxCast aims to improve scientists’ ability to predict whether a chemical will be harmful or not.
The program uses automated chemical screening technologies to expose living cells to chemicals and then examine the different biological changes they cause.
Reporting in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Rudel and Cardona identified 296 chemicals that were found to increase estradiol (a form of estrogen) or progesterone in cells in the laboratory.
Seventy-one chemicals were found to increase levels of both hormones.
The chemicals included ingredients in personal care products such as hair dye, chemical flame retardants in building materials and furnishings, and a number of pesticides.
The researchers don’t yet know how these chemicals are causing cells to produce more hormones.
“It could be that the chemicals are acting as aromatase activators, for instance, which would lead to higher levels of estrogen,” said Cardona.
“What we do know is that women are exposed to multiple chemicals from multiple sources on a daily basis and that these exposures add up.”
The researchers hope this study will be a wake-up call for regulators and manufacturers in how they test chemicals for safety.
For instance, current safety tests in animals fail to look at changes in hormone levels in the animal’s mammary glands in response to chemical exposure.
Although high throughput testing in cells has been used to identify chemicals that activate the estrogen receptor, mimicking estrogen, the testing has not been used to identify chemicals that increase estrogen or progesterone synthesis.
“This study shows that a number of chemicals currently in use have the ability to manipulate hormones known to adversely affect breast cancer risk,” said Sue Fenton, associate editor for the study and an expert in mammary gland development at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
“Especially concerning is the number of chemicals that alter progesterone, the potential bad actor in hormone replacement therapy. Chemicals that elevate progesterone levels in the breast should be minimized,” said Fenton.
The researchers outlined a number of recommendations in their study for improving chemical safety testing to help identify potential breast carcinogens before they end up in products, and suggest finding ways to reduce people’s exposures, particularly during critical periods of development, such as during puberty or pregnancy when the breast undergoes important changes.
India reported its first death due to bird flu on July 12. The 11-year-old deceased boy succumbed to H5N1 at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Delhi, where he was undergoing treatment.
Bird flu is caused by a type of influenza virus that rarely infects humans. Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds or H5N1-contaminated environments.
Following his death, the National Centre for Disease Control launched a probe into contact tracing for the infection and issued a report, which said that none of the close contacts of the deceased have so far displayed any symptoms of the disease.
The child was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the pediatrics department of All India Institute Of Medical Science in June 2021. He was admitted to the hospital on July 2 and died on July 12, as per a press release issued by the Union Health Ministry.
The child developed symptoms of fever, cough, coryza, and breathing difficulty, soon after induction therapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
“He was diagnosed with Acute myeloid leukemia with febrile neutropenia, pneumonia, and shock, which progressed to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The boy suffered from multi-organ dysfunction and died on July 12, 2021,” said the release.
“None of the close contacts have any symptoms. Contact tracing, an active search for any symptomatic case has been carried out in the hospital and area where the case resided. Information, Education, and Communication activities were carried out for the public with advice to report any symptomatic case to the health authorities. There are no symptomatic individuals in the area at present.”
“The sample had tested positive for both Influenza A and Influenza B. It was negative for SARS-COV-2 and other respiratory viruses. Subtyping for Influenza A remained inconclusive with available reagents for H1N1 and H3N2 at All India Institute Of Medical Science. So, the samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology on July 13, 2021,” said the release.
“AtNational Institute of Virology, the result showed that the sample is positive for A/H5 and Type B Victoria lineage. Whole-genome sequencing and virus isolation are in process,” the release said.
The experts said that the virus does not infect humans easily and spreads from person to person appears to be unusual. Infected birds shed the avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous, and feces.
Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled.
“The monitoring of the doctors and nurses treating the patient was started from July 16 onwards for development of any influenza-like symptoms. Contact tracing was undertaken and family members, close contacts, and health care workers are under close surveillance,” the National Centre for Disease Control said.
Further, an epidemiological investigation by the National Centre for Disease Control, involving the animal husbandry department and state government surveillance unit, is underway, and appropriate public health measures have been instituted.
“Symptoms vary from nasal discharge, sneezing, and body aches. They do result in respiratory failure. Human transmission is rare,” said Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant pulmonology and critical care at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi.
(With inputs from ANI)
(Edited by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Praveen Pramod Tewari)
A push by Senate Democrats to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level for the first time since it was effectively prohibited 84 years ago has little chance of succeeding, but cracks a door open for reform amid changing public opinion, experts told Zenger.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Ron L. Wyden (D-Ore.) released draft legislation on July 14 to remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and instead allow each state to decide its legality.
Proponents say they remain optimistic of it passing despite strong opposition from the GOP — and even from President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has opposed legalization.
“Stranger things have happened in American history than this passing,” said Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Strekal’s group is one of many advocacy groups that have applauded the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which was designed to appeal to both progressive Democrats and “states rights” Republicans and is the first bill of its kind in the Senate.
In addition to removing all federal penalties on cannabis, Sen. Schumer’s bill would expunge all nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the federal books and allow people who are currently serving time for such crimes to petition for re-sentencing. It also includes grant programs to assist those negatively affected by criminalization.
However, the bill also explicitly allows states to prohibit marijuana, and includes funding to research public health concerns held by conservatives, such as alleged links to crime.
“This is monumental,” Sen. Schumer said at a press conference last week. “At long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed War on Drugs.”
However, the Democrats, who introduced and successfully passed similar legislation in the House last year, are sure to face an uphill battle in passing the bill through the Senate.
Given the makeup of the chamber, Sen. Schumer, who pledged to make headway on the issue this term, would need to win all his 49 party colleagues as well as a further 10 Republicans to pass a 60-vote threshold when the bill is formally introduced in September.
That presents a huge challenge.
Republican voters are still far more wary than Democrats about marijuana legalization, even if the number of supporters has been steadily growing over the years.
In fact, 87 percent of adults who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning independents say either that cannabis should be legal for recreational and medical use (47 percent) or should be permitted only for medical purposes (a further 40 percent), according to a 2021 Pew Research poll.
Divides still exist within the GOP, though, with only 39 percent of “conservative” Republicans supporting legal recreational and medical marijuana compared to 60 percent of “moderate” or “liberal” Republicans. Additionally, while 63 percent of GOP voters aged 18 to 29 favor legalizing cannabis for either use, only 27 percent of those 65 or older agree.
Still, even while Republican voters are starting to come around to the idea, GOP lawmakers have been slower to get on board. No Republican senators have endorsed Sen. Schumer’s proposal, even though a few have in the past indicated support for easing restrictions.
Sen. Cory S. Gardner (R-Colo.), for instance, was elected to Congress in 2014, in the same year that his state’s recreational marijuana industry was launched. Since then, he has been one of the largest conservative champions of cannabis on Capitol Hill, introducing several bills to ease restrictions and even convincing Trump not to meddle with legal states.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is another potential affirmative vote, as he has long advocated for marijuana reform, including cosponsoring the STATES Act, which aimed to let states craft their own cannabis policies, much like the Democratic Party’s bill now aims to do.
Others like Sens. Lisa A. Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Kevin J. Cramer (R-N.D.) have also in the past indicated an openness to considering removing federal marijuana penalties.
Hesitation from other Republicans to embrace the issue is two-fold, according to Trevor Burrus, a senior research fellow for constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.
“Some Republicans from southern states in particular could fear a backlash from voting for this bill. But it’s only really in the South that marijuana legalization on the federal level or on a state level is at all controversial or even unpopular,” Burrus told Zenger.
Voters in South Dakota also approved a legalization measure in November that is now held up before the courts. If it stands, its two GOP senators — Senate Minority Whip John R. Thune and Sen. Mike Rounds — would represent legal markets, too.
Burrus said this calculus should, on its face, make the bill seem almost passable.
“And so the question is, are ten Republican senators from the northeast or the northwest or the Midwest … going to really suffer electoral backlash from this?” he said. “How much can they really suffer electoral consequences from voting for marijuana legalization on a federal level when it does not mean that they’re voting for legalization on a state level?”
But a preference by legislators in Washington to “play it safe” by avoiding action where it’s not seen as absolutely necessary could still hold many back from voting, he added.
“You hope that the behavior of the legislator and the behavior of your electorate somewhat mirror each other, but I think that mostly it’s been that politicians in D.C. will not take a vote … if they don’t feel like they have to, on almost anything,” Burrus said.
“The question here is whether or not that equilibrium will change and some Republican senators might feel like they will have to take a vote.”
Even if GOP support is forthcoming, though, it faces a challenge from Democrats, too.
A handful of Senate Democrats have opposed legalization, such as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and would be unlikely to back this latest measure.
“We do not foresee it passing the Senate,” said Colton Grace, a representative for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group. “There have already been no less than six Democrats express their unwillingness to legalize marijuana, and Sen. Schumer needs every single Democrat plus at least ten Republicans to sign on this bill in order for it to pass. Knowing this, it’s not even a matter of getting Republicans on board.”
“Underscoring even further the point that legalization is not universally accepted among Democrats, President Biden has repeatedly made it clear he is not in support of this effort.”
It is unclear whether Biden would sign the bill into law if it ever passed Congress.
Even though he has come out in support of decriminalization, Biden remains a marijuana-legalization skeptic. White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently said she had not discussed with the president the latest proposed legislation from Sen. Schumer, which ultimately leaves the question of cannabis legalization up to each individual states.
In any case, with the 2022 midterms, and the GOP vying to win back Congress, around the corner, the legislation is going to struggle to get onto Biden’s desk in the first place.
The Biden administration has touted a series of major wins since the president took office in January, which have included reaching a deal with Republicans on an infrastructure package and signing into law a bipartisan coronavirus economic relief package. Republicans concerned about reelection and winning back power will be unwilling to hand the Democrats a legislative victory ahead of the midterms, Burrus noted.
“The other factor here is of course whether or not the overriding goal is to prevent Biden from having any wins before the midterm elections,” he said. “So, that could be what McConnell is telling the senators in the backroom, like, ‘Don’t give this to Biden. We’re going to take the Senate in 2022, and then we can do a compromise or wait until 2024.’”
“That kind of electoral calculus is always important,” he said.
BEIRUT — Lebanese protesters are getting busy these days. Almost a year since the August 4, 2020, explosion at a Beirut port killed 210 people and injured more than 6,000 others, the families of the many victims as well as the survivors still have not found justice.
Families of the victims now take to the streets every other day to demand accountability after the explosion. However, the Lebanese Parliament has shown reluctance to strip away immunity from officials and former ministers implicated in the deadly mismanagement of ammonium nitrate that started the blast and forcibly displaced 300,000 people.
Protesters gathered in front of the Ministry of Justice on July 14 demanding justice for their dear ones. Relatives, parents, and friends, showed up with photo frames of the people who lost their lives during the explosions. The relatives spoke out about how their quest for justice has been hampered by a corrupted political system in Lebanon.
For the protestors, the politicians are trying to avoid accountability for the blast.
“We are here to protest against politicians who don’t want to lift immunity. We are here to support the families of the Beirut port explosion’s victims. I came here to protest to say that we are all one family. Politicians don’t know what is humanity,” demonstrator Muhammad Roustum, 40, who led some of the chants during the protests, told Zenger.
Following speeches, protesters cut off roads near the ministry by setting fire to car tires, causing a temporary traffic jam. Some stopped the cars and forced them to back away.
Unlike the previous days, when Lebanese riot police clashed with families of Beirut port blast, police officers allowed them to protest in the middle of the street.
The protestors are not only demanding justice for the Beirut port victims, they have also been outspoken about the government’s handling of economic crisis that started in 2019. The collapse led the Lebanese currency to lose around 90 percent of its value.
It also left more than half of Lebanon’s population trapped in poverty.
“Everything changed after the economic crisis,” Roustum said.
“We have no fuel, no medicine, no milk for kids. Politicians don’t know what politics is. They know politics only for robbing people. We came here to demand a fair life. We don’t want a situation like a war. Our government doesn’t care about humans but themselves.”
When asked if this situation may change with the next election scheduled later this year, Roustum cried out that there was no longer any more time to wait for change.
“We cannot wait for elections. How can we live for one year in this situation? Kids are dying. Some days ago, a kid on oxygen support died in Tripoli after his machine stopped working and generators were turned off due to the shortage of diesel,” he said.
WASHINGTON — Microblogging platform Twitter is planning to roll out a feature that will enable its users to sign in to the platform through Google accounts.
Twitter currently gives its users the option of choosing between their email IDs and phone numbers to sign in, followed by a password. But Twitter will soon let users sign in through their Google account, as per a media report.
Reportedly, the feature has already been enabled on Twitter’s beta app for Android users.
The beta version of the Twitter app currently lets users sign in with Google as one of the options, but it is speculated that for the iOS version of the app, an additional option could be added that will let users sign in with Apple accounts.
Twitter has not officially commented on the speculation yet. There is no word on when these new sign-in options will be rolled out to users, but since it is in beta, it might not be too long until users start seeing it on the main app, as per a media report.
“Twitter is working on Google Sign-In integration,”tweeted tech blogger Jane Manchun Wong on June 25.
If a user is already a part of Twitter’s beta program, then an updated version of the Twitter app “v9.3.0-beta.04”, which is rolling out via the Google Play Store, can help enable the feature.
“The one downside to allowing Google sign-in or using another service to sign in to Twitter is the possibility of a data breach on one service which may indirectly impact linked accounts,” a user tweeted.
Users who want to join the Twitter beta cycle can sign up for the tester program. This will provide early access to some of Twitter’s test features.
Twitter has been recently making several changes to the platform. It announced the end of Fleets, its disappearing story feature similar to that of Snapchat and Instagram. The feature will end in August.
“We built Fleets as a lower-pressure, ephemeral way for people to share their fleeting thoughts,” said Ilya Brown, Twitter’s Vice President of product in ablog.
“We hoped Fleets would help more people feel comfortable joining the conversation on Twitter. But, in the time since weintroduced Fleets to everyone, we haven’t seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation with Fleets as we hoped.”
Twitter also recentlyannounced a new feature that uses security keys as the only method of two-factor authentication on its web and mobile logins to keep accounts protected and secure.
(With inputs from ANI)
(Edited by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Praveen Pramod Tewari)
WASHINGTON — Streaming giantNetflix announced that it is expanding into the domain of video games, starting with ad-free games for mobile devices like phones and tablets. Netflix’s users will be offered the service with existing subscriptions at no additional cost.
The company announced the expansion during its second-quarter earningsreport for 2021. The announcement comes just days after the company said it hired former Electronic Arts and Oculus executive Mike Verdu to head up its gaming category.
“We’re also in the early stages of further expanding into games, building on our earlier efforts around interactivity (e.g., Black Mirror Bandersnatch) and our Stranger Things games,” Netflix said in the earnings report.
“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation, and unscripted television. Games will be included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost, similar to films and series. Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices.”
The streaming service said it will continue to increase investment in its movie and TV series offerings, but “since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”
There are currently no details on what types of games will be available, though Netflix recently extended its television deal with American screenwriter and producer Shonda Rhimes to include feature films and gaming content.
There is also no word on how the games will be delivered to Netflix subscribers.
Netflix’s co-Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings has previously said that the company competes with video games more than television shows.
“We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” Hastings said in 2019.
“We’re trying to figure out what are all these different ways that we can increase those points of connection, we can deepen that fandom,” said Netflix’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters in the company’s first-quarter earningsreport for 2021.
“Certainly, games are a really interesting component of that. So whether it’s gamifying some of the linear storytelling, we’re doing like interactive, Bandersnatch, and the kids’ interactive programs, that’s been super interesting.”
“We’re going to continue working in that space for sure,” Peters said.
“We’ve actually launched games themselves. It’s part of our licensing and merchandising effort, and we’re happy with what we’ve seen so far. And there’s no doubt that games are going to be an important form of entertainment and an important sort of modality to deepen that fan experience.”
Netflix recentlyannounced that it is venturing into podcasts and has hired N’Jeri Eaton, a former Apple, and NPR executive, as the company’s first head of the new business.
(With inputs from ANI)
(Edited by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Praveen Pramod Tewari)