Big worry for folks heading to the hospital: Who will care for my pet?

October 18, 2021

Many people fear checking into hospitals, for any of a number of reasons, from loss of control to claustrophobia, to fear of blood or germs, to qualms about doctors and medical professionals, to phobias about needles or fear of death.

But Dr. Tiffany Braley, a neurologist at University of Michigan Health/Michigan Medicine, in Ann Arbor who works with patients who have experienced strokes and other serious health conditions, says she has noticed a different, compelling motivation among patients who resist being admitted to or staying in the hospital: They just want to get home, because they have no one to care for their beloved pets, U.S. News reports.

“I was pretty struck by the experience. I realized at that point that I was discovering what I thought was likely an unrecognized need among the hospitalized patients,” said Braley,

“I knew there wasn’t a lot of information on this topic. So, I reached out to several colleagues here at Michigan Medicine from social work and from nursing who also love animals. They confirmed that, in general, hospital systems really don’t have formalized plans in place to assess pet care needs or to help provide assistance with pet care for patients who are in a hospital,” she said.

“I learned very quickly that it’s usually social work who’s called upon to handle this task, if they find out sometime during a hospitalization that a patient needs help with pet care, but often they’re not brought in to help until late in the hospital course. And, at that point, they usually don’t have many resources to offer patients,” Braley noted.

Working through their office of patient experience, Michigan Medicine researched the issue, reaching out to approximately 1,300 “patient advisors,” a network of former patients and family members who had previously offered to share experiences.

The team got responses from 113 people, 63% of whom said they had experienced difficulty when figuring out pet care during their own hospitalizations or the hospitalizations of a loved one.

About 33% said their decision or the decision of someone they knew about whether to stay in the hospital as recommended by the medical team was impacted by their pet care needs.

And about 16% of respondents said they knew someone who had left the hospital against medical advice to care for their pets.

“The overwhelming majority also really saw value in developing better systems, including foster care programs, maybe partnerships with foster care programs, to help address this need for patients who are hospitalized,” Braley told U.S. News.

It’s not an issue for everyone. Some patients do have family, friends or neighbors who quickly step in to care for a pet when someone is hospitalized, but for some patients their primary social network is their pet.

“We don’t know, are they at home without food? Are they all by themselves? Are they at risk while their owners are in the hospital?” Braley said.

Possible solutions, in addition to the first step of asking patients about their pets early in their care, could be creating partnerships between hospital systems and community pet care services, whether those are humane societies or other foster programs.

“We’ve been in preliminary discussions already with the Michigan Humane Society, [which] is very eager to help become a potential partner and scale up resources as necessary in order to address this need,” Braley said.

Michigan Humane Society already does some work through its compassionate foster care program offering foster care for pets that are  in situations similar to what Braley has described, said Matt Pepper, CEO and president of the Humane Society.

“The health care system obviously needs to recognize and be asking people when they’re scheduling critical treatments or for any type of hospitalization, ‘Do you have a pet and do you need help with your pet?’ And then it’s incumbent upon organizations like us to work collectively with them to create those solutions,” Pepper said.

The Humane Society’s program isn’t a huge network of foster homes, Pepper said, but could support several families who need pet care while seeking medical treatment.

“The other part of that is I think that we need to do a better job of not only making the healthcare system aware of this, but make the community aware that this is an opportunity for people to help and step in,” Pepper said. “The more awareness we bring to it, it elevates another opportunity for the community to get involved in not only helping animal welfare and the pets that are involved, but in helping their neighbors and … fellow residents of their communities.”

 Research contact: @usnews

To boldly go: William Shatner sets record in space with Blue Origin sub-orbital flight

October 14, 2021

William Shatner, the 90-year-old veteran of countless imaginary space voyages playing Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, blasted off for real Wednesday, October 13,—becoming the oldest person to reach the final frontier in a PR bonanza for Jeff Bezos and his rocket company Blue Origin, reports CBS News.

Over the course of about 11 minutes, Shatner and three crewmates took off atop a hydrogen-fueled rocket, climbed to edge of space more than 62 miles up and enjoyed three to four minutes of weightlessness, along with spectacular views of Earth, before plunging back to a gentle parachute-assisted touchdown.

“It was so moving to me,” Shatner said after landing. “This experience is something unbelievable.”

He said he was overwhelmed, and that Bezos has given him the most profound experience he can imagine. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened … it’s extraordinary,” he told Bezos.

“I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now,” he said. “I don’t want to lose it.”

The flight marked only the second crewed launch of a New Shepard capsule since Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen took off on July 20 on the company’s first such flight.

Shatner eclipsed Funk’s age record by eight years and John Glenn’s mark before that by 13.

“I want to see space, I want to see the Earth, I want to see what we need to do to save Earth,” Shatner told Gayle King on “CBS Mornings” before launch. “I want to have a perspective that hasn’t been shown to me before. That’s what I’m interested in seeing.”

Boshuizen and de Vries paid undisclosed sums for their seats aboard the New Shepard spacecraft, but Shatner was an invited guest of Blue Origin. Powers, a former NASA flight controller who is now Blue Origin vice president of flight operations, flew as a company representative.

While the New Shepard rocket and capsule are only capable of up-and-down sub-orbital flights, Shatner and his crewmates endured the same liftoff accelerations space shuttle astronauts once felt—about three times the normal force of gravity — and even higher “G loads” during descent back into the lower atmosphere.

Even so, Shatner and his crewmates were considered passengers, not astronauts, aboard the automated New Shepard. But professional astronauts nonetheless welcomed them to the brotherhood of space travelers.

I’m impressed. I mean, he’s 90 years old and showing that somebody at his age can actually fly to space,” Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency astronaut launching to the International Space Station at the end of the month, told CBS News.

“Even if it’s, let’s say, just a sub-orbital flight, I’m highly impressed, and I wish him all the best. Hopefully it will be the experience of a lifetime. And yeah, I hope many more people will follow his steps and also experience space.”

Blue Origin’s 18th New Shepard flight began at 10:49 a.m. (EDT) when the BE-3 engine powering the company’s 53-foot-tall booster ignited with a roar, throttled up to 110,000 pounds of thrust and lifted off from Launch Site One at the company’s West Texas launch site near Van Horn.

Climbing straight up, the booster quickly accelerated as it consumed propellant and lost weight, reaching a velocity of about 2,200 mph and an altitude of some 170,000 feet before engine shutdown.

The New Shepard capsule then separated from the booster at an altitude of about 45 miles and both continued climbing upward on ballistic trajectories, but rapidly slowing.

The onset of weightlessness began shortly after separation. All four passengers were free to unstrap and float about as the capsule reached the top of its trajectory and arced over for the long fall back to Earth. The New Shepard capsule is equipped with some of the largest windows in a currently flying spacecraft, giving Shatner, de Vries, Boshuizen and Powers picture-window views of Earth far below.

Plunging back into the dense lower atmosphere, the passengers, back in their padded, reclining seats, were briefly subjected to more than five times the normal force of gravity before three large parachutes deployed and inflated, slowing the craft to about 15 mph, CBS News reports.

An instant before touchdown, compressed-air thrusters were programmed to fire, slowing the ship to just 2 mph or so for landing.

A few minutes earlier, the New Shepard booster flew itself back to a pinpoint landing a few miles away, reigniting its BE-3 engine, deploying four landing legs and settling to a concrete landing pad. Assuming no problems are found, the rocket will be refurbished and prepared for another flight.

The mission marked the sixth piloted commercial, non-government sub-orbital spaceflight in a high-stakes competition between Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson.

Research contact: @CBSNews

What is ‘Squid Game’ and why is everyone watching it?

October 13, 2021

Released on September 17, a nine-episode Korean thriller named “Squid Game” has become more than just a runaway hit for Netflix. It’s also social media’s favorite show,: The hashtag #SquidGame on TikTok has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times, NBC News reports.

Released Sept. 17, the nine-episode Korean thriller is poised to become Netflix’s biggest “non-English-language show in the world,” said Sarandos.

“It’s only been out for nine days, and it’s a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever,” Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos told NBC last month.

And it’s not just popular in the USA: Flix Patrol, a website that tracks streaming statistics for the top platforms in the world, reports that “Squid Game” is the No. 1 show in dozens of countries, among them, the USA, the UK,  and South Korea.

Streaming numbers for Netflix aren’t independently verified, making a show’s popularity difficult to quantify. Netflix executives didn’t respond to requests for comment from NBC.

Julia Alexander, a senior strategy analyst at Parrot Analytics in Brooklyn, New York, said it’s clear that “Squid Game” has been a massive success, adding that she would use one word to describe how big a win it has been for Netflix.

“‘Unprecedented,'” Alexander said. “I’m assuming that the executives knew because of the talent they used, because of the region they released it in, that this was going to be a hit in South Korea. I would put good money that the executives had no idea this was going to be a global hit.”

The show follows Seong Gi-Hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, as he and hundreds of other desperate and deeply indebted contestants compete in a violent and often grotesque competition for about $38 million. Only one person can win the prize, and those who lose the series of children’s games pay with their lives.

On social media, users can’t stop talking about “Squid Game. “People hear about it, people talk about it, people love it, and there’s a very social aspect to that, which does help grow the show outside of what we do,” Netflix’s global TV head, Bela Bajaria, told Vulture.

Another reason “Squid Game” has become such a worldwide phenomenon is its accessibility. The show is filmed in Korean, but Netflix offers subtitles in 37 languages and dubs in 34 languages, allowing those who would rather not read subtitles to enjoy it, too.

Even the way the show is subtitled and dubbed has opened conversations online, where some say the translations miss crucial context.

“Not to sound snobby but i’m fluent in korean and i watched squid game with english subtitles and if you don’t understand korean you didn’t really watch the same show. translation was so bad. the dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved,” Twitter user Youngmi Mayer tweeted in a thread that has gone viral.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Pickleball: The most popular sport you’ve (probably) never heard of

October 12, 2021

There’s a wildly popular racket game that is easier than tennis and is drawing enthusiastic players of all ages and abilities—even former couch potatoes—nationwide: It’s called pickleball, but it doesn’t involve swatting around a small, briny vegetable, reports MetroWest Daily News in Massachusetts .

Created in the 1960s in Washington State, pickleball perhaps is best described as a combination of other sports.  Players wield a paddle similar to the one used in ping pong and a small sphere akin to a Wiffle Ball. The game is played on a badminton-sized court split by a net.

It’s not a test of who is the strongest or the tallest, it’s just a test of who could be the smartest while playing a game, using strategy as opposed to just strength,” John Pelaez who picked up the game three years ago, told MetroWest News. “It’s like chess, in a way. You’ve got to pick your shots, and make sure that each shot leads to the next.”

Pelaez picked up the game when he was trying to find something he and his sports-averse wife could play together. Now, he competes in tournaments in different states, coaches in towns like Millis (26 miles southwest of Boston) and senior centers, and is the pickleball coordinator at Kingsbury Club in Medfield. Being able to go from beginner to coach and competitor so quickly is a contributing factor to the game’s popularity. 

Pelaez said he’s played and coached many sports, and found pickleball to be the most unifying—creating communities of players wherever courts are available. There are also unique rules to the game that extend gameplay and even the playing field, so to speak, like the two-bounce rule.

When the ball is served, it needs to bounce once before it is returned, and then bounce again before players can rush forward to the net to try to return shots out of the air—but they can’t get too close.

The court is set up almost like a mirror image of a smaller version of a singles tennis court—meaning that the service boxes are at the far ends of the court, and a line runs parallel to the net on each side. Players cannot pass over that line into what is called the no volley zone or, informally, the kitchen.

“I actually love the kitchen—the no volley zone—because it keeps the game honest,” Pelaez said. “In pickleball, you can’t be very close to the net and just block every shot. You have to respect the boundary. And that makes the game a lot more fun.”

“It’s not like tennis where you spend years serving and chasing the ball. You actually start hitting a pickleball over the net the first time you practice,” said Dennis Pollard, the coordinator of the Marlborough Ward Pickleball Steering committee. “That’s what a lot of people find enjoyable. They’re having fun right away.”

Pelaez said that people who have played tennis or racquetball can usually pick up the game easily, but he’s also taught players who have never picked up a racquet before and went on to play competitively in just a few months.

The ball is large—about 3 inches in diameter—and easy to see.

Hitting is more about being strategic and practiced than being strong, and the court is small enough that sprinting long distances isn’t necessary, so people of all ages and abilities can play fairly competitively with each other—youths with seniors and entire families, for example.

“It’s kind of been stereotyped as an elderly sport. But I think that stigma is being dispelled,” said Bob Zalvan, of Millis, who puts out a weekly newsletter with information about open play times and clinics to almost 100 people.

Pelaez said Zalvan was key to helping the community of players grow, and he thought bringing the sport to different towns would “build enough momentum by itself that eventually, a Bob will come.”

Last Saturday, more than 20 people came out to play, exceeding the capacity of the seven outdoor courts in Millis—but it’s not just townies.

“The people here, I think, are coming from surrounding towns because they enjoy the group of people that they are playing with,” Zalvan said. “You go there to socialize and play. You’re getting exercise and getting your Vitamin D outside. The social aspect is big.”

Kris Fogarty, the recreation director for Millis, proposed putting in outdoor pickleball courts when the tennis courts at the elementary school were being redone after seeing the popularity of a single indoor court at town hall, made with a travel net and taped lines. The community of players has grown, in part because people play once and usually get hooked.

“I’m telling you, you drive by those courts at any time of day and people are there,” Fogarty said. “Like they say, If you build it, they will come. And they have.”

Research contact: @metrowestdailynews

Cub cam: Aussie zoo offers behind-the-scenes glimpse at new lion cubs

October 11, 2021

Taronga Zoo Sydney in Australia is celebrating the safe arrival of five African lion cubs with the launch of a new behind-the-scenes live stream, The New Daily reports.

The cubs are the first of their species to be born at the zoo in more than 18 years and, in a sweet coincidence, they arrived on their dad’s fourth birthday.

Mum and dad, Maya and Ato, welcomed the two male and three female offspring in August. And the zoo said the baby big cats are “absolutely puuuurfect” at five weeks old.

Carnivore Unit Supervisor Louise Ginman said the youngsters are doing well and the new pride is a joy to behold. “Maya is a very attentive, nurturing and relaxed mother. Her labor went off without a hitch and we couldn’t be happier with the maternal behaviors that we are observing,” Ginman told The New Daily.

“Now weighing between 5 kilograms and 6 kilograms, compared to approximately 1.5 kilograms at birth, each cub is growing and developing—with mum Maya ensuring each cub is suckling and feeding well.”

Due to coronavirus lockdowns, the public are not able to visit the youngsters in person, but the zoo has come up with a solution. The cubs, which are part of a vulnerable species, have been monitored via CCTV cameras since their birth and live with their mum in a special maternity den.

And for those who wish they could get a glimpse inside, Taronga Conservation Society Australia CEO Cameron Kerr has some good news: “In a first for Taronga, we are giving our community access to meet these five precious cubs and bringing them along on the journey from the very beginning,” Kerr said.

“With a donation of just $7, you are supporting our work at Taronga’s two zoos and our on-the-ground work in Northern Kenya—one of six native homelands of the African Lion.” And in more good news, the donation is tax-deductible.

The zoo said their lions are “important ambassadors for their species,” and help to raise money and awareness for their wild cousins.

Research contact: @TheNewDailyAu

Fire? Flood? Tornado? An all-in-one survival kit is designed to protect a family of four for 72 hours

October 8, 2021

Last year, if there was one thing most of us thought about a lot more than normal, it was survival. The pandemic turned out to be a wake-up call—demonstrating that everything can go south in a matter of days, if not hours, reports Futurism.

As a result, panic buying and hoarding—and photos of empty store shelves—began to appear in the news. And now that things have calmed down (relatively speaking), more people than ever have learned that, when it comes to disaster preparedness, you can’t wait until a disaster strikes.

But, now a New York city-based private company called Judy Kits, founded in 2019 by CEO Simon Huck, is marketing a variety of survival kits and products, such as portable power stations and survival go-bags, depending on your needs and circumstances.

Judy works by providing four levels of kits in addition to content—The Starter ($60), The Mover ($150), The Mover Max ($180), and The Safe ($250)—which are filled with items one may need in an emergency, including First Aid, Warmth, Safety, Food, Water and Tools. Once a Judy kit is registered, a customer receives safety-tips and advice through text communication. Customers can also text real-time emergency questions to Judy for real-time guidance, Forbes reports.

If you want to be prepared for nearly any disaster, the company suggests that The Mover Max could be just what you need. The Mover Max is described on the Judy Kit website as “a versatile, all-in-one kit that is ready to support up to four people for 72 hours.”

The company has packed a whopping 53 survival essentials into a waterproof, easy-to-transport backpack—among them:

  • Tools and first aid: The first section of the backpack includes a variety of essential tools, such as a 3-in-1 radio, charger, and flashlight, duct tape, multitool, biohazard bag, pocket tissues, and hand sanitizers.
  • Food and water: The second section contains 7 food bars and 14 water bottles—each of them boasting a five-year shelf life.
  • Safety and warmth: The backpack also contains a poncho, dust masks, gloves, a couple of emergency whistles, and more.

All of the tools are orange, so that they can be easily located in difficult environments.

“We aim to create a safety movement that empowers people with the tools, resources, and community to be prepared for the unexpected,” Huck said.

Among expert reviewers contacted by Business Insider, Thomas Coyne, a former Helitack firefighter and the founder of Coyne Survival Schools, said, “Getting a starter kit is better than nothing, but I still recommend building your own.”

Personalized kits would include medications, paperwork, and other individual and family necessities. It’s also worth mentioning that he suggested having at least 30 days’ worth of supplies.

Research contact: @futurism

Born again: Why scientists are cloning black-footed ferrets

October 7, 2021

In February, a group of scientists announced a major breakthrough in conservation: They had cloned a black-footed ferret, an endangered species native to the American West, reports Vox.

Elizabeth Ann, the clone, was delivered via C-section on December 10, 2020; and, as of this writing, is still thriving thanks to the work of the Sausolito, California-based nonprofit Revive & Restore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners. She is the first successful clone of an endangered species, and the culmination of years of cutting-edge work attempting to use cloning to rescue vulnerable populations.

The black-footed ferret is often the center of stories like this. Conservation specialist Kimberly Fraser told Vox that the rescue of the ferret some 40 years ago is “the greatest American story we have in conservation.”

Before September 26, 1981, the ferret—a 19- to 24-inch-long, 1.4- to 2.5-pound predator that mostly targets prairie dogs in America’s Western plains—was not just considered endangered; it was considered extinct.

Soon afterward, scientists found a small colony of 18 ferrets near a farm in Wyoming. They’ve been a conservation priority ever since.

Now, there’s a concerted effort by the Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Wellington, Colorado—run by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and supported by the government and some private partners—to reintroduce the species to the wild.

But, back in Sausolito, Elizabeth Ann will live out her days at the conservation center, soon to be joined by sisters and potential mates, The New York Times reports.

Researchers will monitor their health and watch them grow and scamper in the artificial burrows inside their cages. When the clones reach sexual maturity, they will breed, and then their offspring will be bred back with the wild black-footed ferrets.

It seems that the scientists have “ferreted out” a solution for a species that soon no longer will be endangered.

Research contact: @voxdotcom

Russian cat makes shocking impression, with 31K followers on Instagram

October 6, 2021

Fedya, who has his own Instagram account—@fedjakot—with 31,000 followers, was found in his owner’s backyard in Rostov, Russia, nearly two years ago, according to British news agency SWNS.

 According to The Toronto Sun, Natalia Zhdanova found the kitty when he was only one week old and struggling to survive and him in—noticing the misaligned eyes created a permanently shocked expression.

“We’re not sure if it’s a genetic deformity or if he was dropped by his mum as a kitten,” Zhdanova said.  “Now he is much healthier. He is a very sweet, gentle, playful, and intelligent cat. He purrs very loudly.”

The kitty, who is now 21 months old, was nursed back to health with the help of a neighbor’s cat, named Handsome, who came over daily.

“Handsome cleaned and licked Fedya and became like a father figure to him,” Zhdanova told SWNS.

 Zhdanova, who makes educational books for children in Rostov, added: “He is inseparable with Handsome. They are the best of friends.”

 Research contact: @TheTorontoSun

Size matters: Dog earns Guinness World Record for longest ears

October 5, 2021

This dog can definitely hear it when people say he’s a good boy. His name is Lou, and he recently earned set a Guinness World Record for having the longest ears on a living dog, reports Fox News.

Lou’s U.S.-based owner, Paige Olsen, told Guinness that she’s always known his ears were longer than average. According to a press release from the record-keeping organization, Paige only decided to measure them during the pandemic.

“Lou is a black and tan coonhound, and all of them should have ears that extend at least to the tip of their nose,” Paige, a veterinary technician, explained. “All black and tan coonhounds have beautiful, long ears; some are just longer than others. Their long ears drag on the ground and stir up scents when they are tracking out in the field. It makes them great at following long, very old, or ‘cold’ tracks that other breeds of dog may not pick up on.”

Lou’s ears each measure out to 13.38 inches.

TPaige said that while Lou’s ears are extraordinarily long, they don’t require much more cleaning than those of a normal dog. During the winter, however, she does wrap them in an ear-warmer to keep them from dragging in the snow.

“People always have questions about the breed. Coonhounds are not very common in this region so I get the opportunity to educate a lot of people on the breed,” Paige said. “Of course, everyone wants to touch the ears, they’re very easy to fall in love with after just one sighting.”

Research contact: @FoxNews

How many steps a day should you take? Study finds 7,000 can go a long way

October 4, 2021

The fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day is widely promoted, but a new study suggests that logging even 7,000 daily steps may go a long way toward better health and fitness, NBC News reports.

Indeed, the researchers founds, middle-aged people who walked at least 7,000 steps a day on average are 50% to 70% less likely to die of any cause over the next decade, compared with those who took fewer steps.

Lower risk of premature death was observed for both women and men, Black and white, who took 7,000 steps or more, according to results published this month in JAMA Network Open.

“We saw that you can get a lot of benefit from 7,000 steps,” said study author Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of Kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The study involved 2,110 adults, ages 38 to 50, who in 2005 and 2006 wore a device called an accelerometer for about a week to track their steps. During the follow-up period, which averaged almost 11 years, 72 of the participants died, most commonly from cancer or heart disease. In analyzing the data, the researchers controlled for body mass index, smoking, and other factors that could have affected the findings.

Results showed that people appeared to gain more health benefits the more steps they took, with the greatest statistically significant reduction in mortality risk between 7,000 and 10,000 steps, Paluch said. After that, the benefits leveled off. There was no relationship between step intensity, or speed, and mortality.

“So really, what we’re seeing is there’s an incremental risk reduction in mortality up to a certain point,” Paluch told NBC News. “So for those who are getting, say, 4,000 steps, getting to 5,000 steps could have a benefit and then working your way up.”

Paluch said the new findings are in line with other research that suggests significant health benefits below the often-cited 10,000-step mark—which was never an evidence-based magical number but rather a marketing tool for a Japanese pedometer that came out in the 1960s.

Dr. William Kraus, a professor of Medicine at Duke University, was a member of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee; which developed the current exercise guidelines for Americans, which are based on minutes of activity per week. He said he would like to see guidelines that include recommended daily steps.

“I’m all about steps, because it’s easy to measure, and people understand it,” he said.

When the 2018 guidelines were developed, the advisory committee didn’t have enough data to endorse an actual step-count range, Kraus said; but as more studies like the new one come out, they may allow public health officials to make specific recommendations.

For now, Kraus recommends that patients aim for 7,000 to 13,000 steps a day to get the full benefits that exercise can offer, including protecting against diseases like cancer and diabetes and helping with weight loss.

“I would like to emphasize that this is a range. It is not how little can I do,” he said. “People really should be striving for more rather than less.”

Research contact: @NBCNews