For Ancient Megalodon, Killer Whale Would be a Snack, Research Says

Today’s sharks have nothing on their ancient cousins. A giant shark that roamed the oceans millions of years ago could have devoured a creature the size of a killer whale in just five bites, new research suggests.

For their study published Wednesday, researchers used fossil evidence to create a 3D model of the megalodon — one of the biggest predatory fish of all time — and find clues about its life.

At around 16 meters from nose to tail, the megalodon was bigger than a school bus, according to the study in the journal Science Advances. That’s about two to three times the size of today’s great white shark. The megalodon’s gaping jaw allowed it to feed on other big creatures. Once it filled its massive stomach, it could roam the oceans for months at a time, the researchers suggest.

The megalodon was a strong swimmer, too: Its average cruising speed was faster than sharks today and it could have migrated across multiple oceans with ease, they calculated.

“It would be a superpredator just dominating its ecosystem,” said co-author John Hutchinson, who studies the evolution of animal movement at England’s Royal Veterinary College. “There is nothing really matching it.

It’s been tough for scientists to get a clear picture of the megalodon, said study author Catalina Pimiento, a paleobiologist with the University of Zurich and Swansea University in Wales.

The skeleton is made of soft cartilage that doesn’t fossilize well, Pimiento said. So the scientists used what few fossils are available, including a rare collection of vertebrae that’s been at a Belgium museum since the 1860s.

Researchers also brought in a jaw’s worth of megalodon teeth, each as big as a human fist, Hutchinson said. Scans of modern great white sharks helped flesh out the rest.

Based on their digital creation, researchers calculated that the megalodon would have weighed around 70 tons, or as much as 10 elephants.

Even other high-level predators may have been lunch meat for the megalodon, which could open its jaw to almost 2 meters wide, Pimiento said.

Megalodons lived an estimated 23 million to 2.6 million years ago.

Since megalodon fossils are rare, these kinds of models require a “leap of imagination,” said Michael Gottfried, a paleontologist at Michigan State University who was not involved in the study. But he said the study’s findings are reasonable based on what is known about the giant shark. 

US Judge: Pharmacies Owe 2 Ohio Counties $650M in Opioids Suit

A federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650 million in damages Wednesday to two Ohio counties that won a landmark lawsuit against national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, claiming the way they distributed opioids to customers caused severe harm to communities and created a public nuisance.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling that the money will be used to abate a continuing opioid crisis in Lake and Trumbull counties, outside Cleveland. Attorneys for the counties put the total price tag at $3.3 billion for the damage done to the counties.

Lake County is to receive $306 million over 15 years. Trumbull County is to receive $344 million over the same period. Polster ordered the companies to immediately pay nearly $87 million to cover the first two years of the abatement plan.

In his ruling, Polster admonished the three companies, saying they “squandered the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to abate the nuisance” after a trial that considered what damages they might owe.

CVS, Walmart and Walgreens said they will appeal the ruling. It is unclear whether the companies will have to immediately pay the nearly $87 million during their appeals.

Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda praised the award in a statement, saying “the harms caused by this devastating epidemic” can now be addressed.

Lake County Commissioner John Hamercheck said in a statement: “Today marks the start of a new day in our fight to end the opioid epidemic.”

A jury returned a verdict in November in favor of the counties after a six-week trial. It was then left to Polster to decide how much the counties should receive from the three pharmacy companies. He heard testimony in May to determine damages.

The counties convinced the jury that the pharmacies played an outsized role in creating a public nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities.

It was the first time pharmacy companies completed a trial to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed a half-million Americans since 1999.

Attorneys for the pharmacy chains maintained they had policies to stem the flow of pills when their pharmacists had concerns and would notify authorities about suspicious orders from doctors. They also said it was doctors who controlled how many pills were prescribed for legitimate medical needs, not their pharmacies.

Walmart issued a statement Wednesday saying the counties’ attorneys “sued Walmart in search of deep pockets, and this judgment follows a trial that was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes.”

Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Engerman said, “The facts and the law did not support the jury verdict last fall, and they do not support the court’s decision now.

“The court committed significant legal errors in allowing the case to go before a jury on a flawed legal theory that is inconsistent with Ohio law and compounded those errors in reaching its ruling regarding damages.”

CVS spokesperson Michael DeAngelis said, “We strongly disagree with the court’s decision regarding the counties’ abatement plan, as well as last fall’s underlying verdict.”

CVS is based in Rhode Island, Walgreens in Illinois and Walmart in Arkansas.

Two chains — Rite Aid and Giant Eagle — settled lawsuits with the counties before trial. The amounts they paid have not been disclosed publicly.

Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties, said during the trial that the pharmacies were attempting to blame everyone but themselves.

The opioid crisis has overwhelmed courts, social services agencies and law enforcement in Ohio’s blue-collar corner east of Cleveland, leaving behind heartbroken families and babies born to addicted mothers, Lanier told jurors.

Roughly 80 million prescription painkillers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone between 2012 and 2016 — equivalent to 400 for every resident. In Lake County, 61 million pills were distributed during that period.

The rise in physicians prescribing pain medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone came as medical groups began recognizing that patients have the right to be treated for pain, Kaspar Stoffelmayr, an attorney for Walgreens, said at the opening of the trial.

The problem, he said, was “pharmaceutical manufacturers tricked doctors into writing way too many pills.”

The counties said pharmacies should be the last line of defense to prevent the pills from getting into the wrong hands.

The trial before Polster was part of a broader constellation of about 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits consolidated under his supervision. Other cases are moving ahead in state courts.

Kevin Roy, chief public policy officer at Shatterproof, an organization that advocates for solutions to addiction, said in November that the verdict could lead pharmacies to follow the path of major distribution companies and some drugmakers that have reached nationwide settlements of opioid cases worth billions. So far, no pharmacy has reached a nationwide settlement.

Also on Wednesday, attorneys general from numerous states announced they had reached an agreement with Endo International to pay as much as $450 million over 10 years to settle allegations the company used deceptive marketing practices “that downplayed the risk of addiction and overstated the benefits” of opioids it produced.

Based in Ireland, Endo’s U.S. headquarters are in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The company did not respond Wednesday to telephone and email requests for comment.

The agreement calls for the $450 million to be divided among participating states and communities. It also calls for Endo to put opioid-related documents online for public viewing and pay $2.75 million in expenses to publicly archive those documents.

Endo can never again market opioids, according to the agreement.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday night.

Endo produces generic opioids and name brands such as Percocet and Endocet. The company’s Opana ER opioid was withdrawn from the market in 2017. The attorneys general say Endo “falsely promoted the benefits” of Opana ER’s “so-called abuse deterrent formulation.” The attorneys general said the formulation did not deter abuse of the drug and led to deadly outbreaks of hepatitis and HIV resulting from people injecting the drug.

Studies Examining if Mutations Behind Monkeypox Spread, WHO Say

Studies are underway to see whether genetic changes in the monkeypox virus are driving the rapid spread of the disease, the World Health Organization told AFP on Wednesday.

The two distinct clades, or variants, of the virus were called the Congo Basin (Central African) and West African clades, after the two regions where they are each endemic.

On Friday, the WHO renamed the groupings as clade I and clade II respectively, to avoid geographic stigmatization.

It also announced that clade II had two sub-clades, IIa and IIb, with viruses within the latter identified as being behind the current global outbreak.

On Wednesday, the U.N. health agency specified that clades IIa and IIb are related and share a recent common ancestor, therefore IIb is not an offshoot of IIa.

Research into mutations

Clade IIb contains viruses collected in the 1970s, and from 2017 onward.

“Looking through the genome, indeed there are a few genetic differences between the viruses from the current outbreak and the older clade IIb viruses,” the WHO told AFP.

“However, nothing is known about the significance of these genetic changes, and research is ongoing to establish the effects (if any) of these mutations on transmission and disease severity.

“It is still early on in both the outbreak and laboratory studies to tell if the rise in infections could be driven by the observed genotypic changes in the virus or are due to host (human) factors.”

There is also no information yet on what the mutations mean in terms of how the virus interacts with the human immune response.

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the endemic African countries.

The WHO declared the situation an international public health emergency on July 23.

More than 35,000 cases in 92 countries, and 12 deaths, have now been reported to the WHO.

Almost all new cases are being reported from Europe and the Americas.

Experts have been studying samples from cases.

“The diversity between the viruses responsible for the current outbreak is minimal, and there is no obvious genotypic differences between the viruses from the non-endemic countries,” the WHO said.

Renaming monkeypox could take months

Meanwhile the WHO said its drive to rename monkeypox could take “a number of months.”

The organization has for weeks voiced concern about the name, with experts concerned that it is misleading.

Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958.

However, the disease is found most frequently in rodents, and the current outbreak is being spread through human-to-human close contact.

The WHO has called for help from the public in coming up with a new name, with a dedicated website where anyone can make suggestions.

“We will update the public by the end of the year,” the WHO said.

Malawi Cholera Cases Rise Despite Vaccination Campaign

Despite a nationwide vaccination campaign that started in May, Malawi is struggling to contain a cholera outbreak that has infected more than 1,073 people and caused 44 deaths. 

The figures from the Malawi Ministry of Health, updated as of Aug. 16, 2022, are triple the numbers recorded when the vaccination campaign was launched three months ago. 

 

The report also says the outbreak has spread to 10 districts from eight in May. The hardest hit districts include Blantyre with 489 cases, Neno with 128 cases, and Nsanje with 289 cases.  

 

George Mbotwa, spokesperson for a health office in Nsanje district, which borders Mozambique south of Malawi, said continued incidents of cholera in the district are largely because of movements of people between the two countries. 

 

“What is worrisome is that we have now continued to record the cases when by now we would have contained the situation,” he said. “It’s because some of these cases we are sharing with Mozambique. So, the cases will be coming from Mozambique and then reporting to health facilities in Nsanje, then being recorded as Nsanje cases.”

Mbotwa said the situation is slowly improving, after officials on the Mozambican side agreed during recent discussions to set up cholera treatment sites on their side of the border.  

“The Mozambican side by then didn’t have cholera treatment sites, and now they have them there, so people are able to report the cases right there, unlike coming with cases to Malawi,” he said. 

Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with bacteria. The disease affects both children and adults, and if untreated, it can kill within hours.  

 

Penjani Chunda, environmental health officer in Blantyre, said although Blantyre is largely an urban area, cholera cases are on the rise because most people fetch water from unprotected sources like rivers and streams. 

 

“In most parts of Blantyre, we don’t have portable water sources,” he said. “It might be like an urban setup, but it has no portable water sources, and we have got dry taps in some of the areas and [water] kiosks are not working at all.”  

The spokesperson for the Health Ministry, Adrian Chikumbe, said health authorities are currently distributing chlorine for water treatment, and providing public education on good hygiene.  

 

Chikumbe also hopes the second phase of the national oral cholera vaccination campaign, which is expected to start soon in the most-hit districts, will help contain the situation.     

 

CDC Chief Announces Agency Shake-Up Aimed at Improving Speed

The head of the top U.S. public health agency on Wednesday announced a shake-up of the organization, intended to make it more nimble.

The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC leaders call it a “reset”— come amid ongoing criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes on Wednesday. It’s a CDC initiative, and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.

“I feel like it’s my my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.

The CDC, with a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 employees, is an Atlanta-based federal agency charged with protecting Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health threats. It’s customary for each CDC director to do some reorganizing, but Walensky’s action comes amid a wider demand for change.

The agency has long been criticized as too ponderous, focusing on collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats. But public unhappiness with the agency grew dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts said the CDC was slow to recognize how much virus was entering the U.S. from Europe, to recommend people wear masks, to say the virus can spread through the air, and to ramp up systematic testing for new variants.

“We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary,” said Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health.

Walensky, who became director in January 2021, has long said the agency has to move faster and communicate better, but stumbles have continued during her tenure.

In April, she called for an in-depth review of the agency, which resulted in the announced changes. Her reorganization proposal must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services secretary. CDC officials say they hope to have a full package of changes finalized, approved, and underway by early next year.

Some changes still are being formulated, but steps announced Wednesday include:

—Increasing use of preprint scientific reports to get out actionable data, instead of waiting for research to go through peer review and publication by the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

—Restructuring the agency’s communications office and further revamping CDC websites to make the agency’s guidance for the public more clear and easier to find.

—Altering the length of time agency leaders are devoted to outbreak responses to a minimum of six months — an effort to address a turnover problem that at times caused knowledge gaps and affected the agency’s communications.

—Creation of a new executive council to help Walensky set strategy and priorities.

—Appointing Mary Wakefield as senior counselor to implement the changes. Wakefield headed the Health Resources and Services Administration during the Obama administration and also served as the No. 2 administrator at HHS. Wakefield, 68, started Monday.

—Altering the agency’s organization chart to undo some changes made during the Trump administration.

—Establishing an office of intergovernmental affairs to smooth partnerships with other agencies, as well as a higher-level office on health equity.

Walensky also said she intends to “get rid of some of the reporting layers that exist, and I’d like to work to break down some of the silos.” She did not say exactly what that may entail, but emphasized that the overall changes are less about redrawing the organization chart than rethinking how the CDC does business and motivates staff.

“This will not be simply moving boxes” on the organization chart, she said.

Schwartz said flaws in the federal response go beyond the CDC, because the White House and other agencies were heavily involved.

A CDC reorganization is a positive step but “I hope it’s not the end of the story,” Schwartz said. He would like to see “a broader accounting” of how the federal government handles health crises.

Офіцерський склад армії Росії залишає Херсонщину – Самойленко

«Вони потроху «розсмоктуються», як кажуть, або переправляються на лівий берег, де вважають, що більш безпечно, або рухаються в бік Запорізької області в місто Мелітополь»

У Дніпрі затвердили програму «лагідної українізації»

У місті планують організувати безкоштовні курси з вивчення української мови, розмовні клуби та уроки для дітей і дорослих, проводити тематичні флешмоби в соцмережах і офлайн

Serena Williams Falls in Generational Clash Against Raducanu in Cincinnati

Rising teenager Emma Raducanu came out on the winning side of a generational clash against tennis icon Serena Williams with a 6-4 6-0 win in their first-round meeting at the Cincinnati Open on Tuesday. 

After a sluggish start, the 23-time Grand Slam champion finally gave the supportive sold-out crowd something to cheer about when she crushed back-to-back aces to cut Raducanu’s lead to 4-3. 

But the English reigning U.S. Open champion fired an ace of her own to snag the first set and followed that up with a break of serve to open the second. 

Raducanu rolled from there, smacking an unreturnable serve on match point to end their first career meeting. 

“I think we all just need to honor Serena and her amazing career,” Raducanu said in an on-court interview. 

“I’m so grateful for the experience of getting to play her and for our careers to have crossed over. Everything she has achieved is so inspirational, and it was a true honor to get to share the court with her.” 

Williams, 40, was world number one and had already won four major titles when Raducanu was born in November 2002. 

Williams won her last major in 2017 while pregnant with her daughter Olympia, who was in attendance. 

With the loss, Williams has just one professional tournament remaining before she drops the curtain on her historic career – the U.S. Open, which begins August 29. 

Osaka out 

Earlier in the day, Naomi Osaka’s U.S. Open preparations suffered another setback as the former world number one was swept aside 6-4 7-5 by China’s Zhang Shuai. 

It was only Osaka’s third tournament back from an Achilles injury, and it has been a stuttering return to action for the twice U.S. Open champion, who also exited in the opening round in Toronto last week, retiring with lower back pain. 

For Zhang, doubles champion in Cincinnati last year, it was her first singles win at the event since 2014. 

“Naomi, she is amazing, but I don’t know she is maybe not really feeling good today,” said Zhang. “But for sure today – not her best today.” 

Gauff hurt, Venus Williams falls 

American teenager Coco Gauff rolled her left ankle late in the first set in her match against qualifier Marie Bouzkova, and she eventually retired from the match while trailing 7-5 1-0. 

The newly crowned world number one in doubles will look to recover ahead of the U.S. Open where she will hope to compete for a first Grand Slam title. 

This year’s major at Flushing Meadows starts August 29. 

Venus Williams was defeated by 14th seed Karolina Pliskova. 

Venus Williams was bidding for her first win over a top-20 ranked opponent since overcoming Kiki Bertens in Cincinnati three years ago. 

 

NASA to Roll Out Giant US Moon Rocket for Debut Launch

NASA’s gigantic Space Launch System moon rocket, topped with an uncrewed astronaut capsule, is set to begin an hourslong crawl to its launchpad Tuesday night ahead of the behemoth’s debut test flight later this month. 

The 98-meter-tall rocket is scheduled to embark on its first mission to space — without any humans — on August 29. It will be a crucial, long-delayed demonstration trip to the moon in NASA’s Artemis program, the United States’ multibillion-dollar effort to return humans to the lunar surface as practice for future missions to Mars. 

The Space Launch System, whose development in the past decade has been led by Boeing, is scheduled to emerge from its assembly building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday (0100 GMT on Wednesday) and begin the 6-km-long trek to its launchpad. Moving less than 1.6 km per hour, the rollout takes roughly 11 hours. 

Sitting atop the rocket is NASA’s Orion astronaut capsule, a pod built by Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N. It is designed to separate from the rocket in space, ferry humans toward the moon’s vicinity and rendezvous with a separate spacecraft that will take astronauts down to the lunar surface. 

But for the August 29 mission, called Artemis 1, the Orion capsule will launch atop the Space Launch System without any humans and orbit around the moon before returning to Earth for an ocean splashdown 42 days later. 

If bad launch weather or a minor technical issue triggers a delay from August 29, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has backup launch dates on September 2 and September 5. 

 

Wolfgang Petersen, Blockbuster Filmmaker of ‘Das Boot,’ Dies

Wolfgang Petersen, the German filmmaker whose World War II submarine epic “Das Boot” propelled him into a blockbuster Hollywood career that included the films “In the Line of Fire,” “Air Force One” and “The Perfect Storm,” has died. He was 81.

Petersen died Friday at his home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood after a battle with pancreatic cancer, said representative Michelle Bega.

Petersen, born in the north German port city of Emden, made two features before his 1982 breakthrough, “Das Boot,” then the most expensive movie in German film history. The 149-minute film (the original cut ran 210 minutes) chronicled the intense claustrophobia of life aboard a doomed German U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic, with Jürgen Prochnow as the submarine’s commander.

Heralded as an antiwar masterpiece, “Das Boot” was nominated for six Oscars, including for Petersen’s direction and his adaptation of Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s best-selling 1973 novel.

Petersen, born in 1941, recalled as a child running alongside American ships as they threw down food. In the confusion of postwar Germany, Petersen — who started out in theater before attending Berlin’s Film and Television Academy in the late 1960s — gravitated toward Hollywood films with clear clashes of good and evil. John Ford was a major influence.

“In school, they never talked about the time of Hitler. They just blocked it out of their minds and concentrated on rebuilding Germany,” Petersen told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “We kids were looking for more glamorous dreams than rebuilding a destroyed country, though, so we were really ready for it when American pop culture came to Germany. We all lived for American movies, and by the time I was 11, I’d decided I wanted to be a filmmaker.”

“Das Boot” launched Petersen as a filmmaker in Hollywood, where he became one of the top makers of cataclysmic action adventures in films spanning war (2004’s “Troy,” with Brad Pitt), pandemic (the 1995 ebola virus-inspired “Outbreak”) and other ocean-set disasters (2000’s “The Perfect Storm” and 2006’s “Poseidon,” a remake of “The Poseidon Adventure,” about the capsizing of an ocean liner).

But Petersen’s first foray in American moviemaking was child fantasy: the enchanting 1984 film “The NeverEnding Story.”

Arguably Petersen’s finest Hollywood film came almost a decade later in 1993’s “In the Line of Fire,” starring Clint Eastwood as a Secret Service agent protecting the president of the United States from John Malkovich’s assassin. In it, Petersen marshaled his substantial skill in building suspense for a more open-air but just as taut thriller that careened across rooftops and past Washington, D.C., monuments.

“In the Line of Fire” was a major hit, grossing $177 million worldwide and landing three Oscar nominations.

“You sometimes have seven-year cycles. You look at other directors; they don’t have the big successes all the time. Up to ‘NeverEnding Story,’ my career was one success after another,” Petersen told The Associated Press in 1993. “Then I came into the stormy international scene. I needed time to get a feeling for this work — it’s not Germany anymore.”

After “Outbreak,” with Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman, Petersen returned to the presidency in 1997’s “Air Force One.” Harrison Ford starred as a president forced into a fight with terrorists who hijack Air Force One.

“Air Force One,” with $315 million in global box office, was a hit, too, but Petersen went for something even bigger in 2000’s “The Perfect Storm,” the true-life tale of a Massachusetts fishing boat lost at sea. The cast included George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, but its main attraction was a 100-foot computer-generated wave. With a budget of $120 million, “The Perfect Storm” made $328.7 million.

For Peterson, who grew up on the northern coast of Germany, the sea long held his fascination.

“The power of water is unbelievable,” he said in a 2009 interview. “I was always impressed as a kid how strong it is, all the damage the water could do when it just turned within a couple of hours and smashed against the shore.”

Petersen followed “The Perfect Storm” with “Troy,” a sprawling epic based on Homer’s The Iliad that found less favor among critics but still made nearly $500 million worldwide. The big-budget “Poseidon,” a high-priced flop for Warner Bros., was Petersen’s last Hollywood film. His final film was 2016’s “Four Against the Bank,” a German film that remade Petersen’s own 1976 German TV movie.

Petersen was first married to German actress Ursula Sieg. When they divorced in 1978, he married Maria-Antoinette Borgel, a German script supervisor and assistant director. He’s survived by Borgel, son Daniel Petersen and two grandchildren.