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Surgeon General Warns of Mental Health Challenges Confronting Youth



(The Hill) – U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has issued a public health advisory about mental health challenges young people are grappling with especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” Murthy said in the advisory’s introduction.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are treatable, and often preventable,” he added.

The Office of the Surgeon General also noted that the pandemic had caused anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns to increase in young people. Additionally, it is estimated that over 140,000 children in the U.S. lost a parent or grandparent caregiver as a result of the pandemic.

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“As we learn the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, and start recovering and rebuilding, we have an opportunity to offer a more comprehensive, more fulfilling, and more inclusive vision of what constitutes public health. And for a generation of children facing unprecedented pressures and stresses, day in and day out, change can’t come soon enough,” the advisory concluded.

In a tweet announcing the advisory, Murthy added that “mental health is no less important than physical health.”

The Children’s Hospital Association, which represents 220 children’s hospitals nationwide, praised Murthy’s actions. 

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“The Surgeon General’s commitment to confronting the mental health crisis in children shines a light on why we, as a nation, must take immediate and sustained action,” Amy Wimpey Knight, the president of the Children’s Hospital Association, said. “The advisory outlines concrete steps and actions to address this ongoing crisis for our kids. We will work alongside Dr. Murthy and other leaders to better support the mental health of our nation’s youth.”

Apart from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns for social media’s negative impact on young people’s mental health have recently heightened after a Facebook whistleblower leaked internal documents that showed research about the negative impact of the platform on young people. 

State attorneys general announced last month that they were investigating whether Instagram’s parent company acted in violation of certain consumer protection laws by promoting the app to young users despite knowing its use is associated with harming their health. 



Study Illustrates Links Between DNA Repair and a Rare Neurodegenerative Disease



Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have pieced together genetic and molecular changes that lead to a rare progressive neurodegenerative condition called ataxia with oculomotor apraxia 2.

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Doomsday Clock Remains at Closest Point to Midnight



(The Hill) – Like the sands of the hourglass, the world is slipping toward self-destruction one second at a time, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists concluded Thursday, once again setting the hands of the famed Doomsday clock at 100 seconds to midnight. 

For the third year in a row, the clock was set in seconds, not minutes, to show urgency behind the metaphor of how close the Earth is to annihilation. 

“Steady is not good news. In fact, it reflects the judgment of the board that we are stuck in a perilous moment, one that brings neither stability nor security,” Sharon Squassoni, co-chair of the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin and a professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, said at a press conference.

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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists created the clock in 1947 to represent how close the planet was to annihilation by nuclear weapons. In more recent years, the journal has also weighed the effects of climate change and other emerging threats in setting the clock. 

On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the clock, the bulletin’s experts outlined a host of threats facing the world, from disinformation stoking division, an increase in global tensions fueling a nuclear arms race, a pandemic highlighting the nation’s inability to battle increasingly frequent outbreaks, and climate change exacerbating natural disasters and global instability. 

The group noted that power struggles continue to exacerbate the world’s risk of destruction, with the extension of the New START nuclear treaty offset by nuclear ambitions in Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan, while competition between the U.S., China and Russia only adds to instability on a security front.   

“The Doomsday Clock is not set by good intentions, but rather by evidence of action, or in this case inaction,” Scott D. Sagan, a Stanford University professor, told reporters. “Signs of nuclear arms races are clear.” 

Disinformation also played a particularly notable role in keeping the clock at the closest point to midnight in history, with experts noting its impact on democracy, climate change, and the pandemic, with an increasing number of people falsely believing in widespread voter fraud, skeptical of vaccination, and disinterested in curbing behavior that warms the planet.  

“The resulting factors mean a world in which different and antagonistic political tribes each live in their own factual universes. This is not a world governed by reason or reality and is itself an existential threat to modern civilization as we have come to know it,” said Herb Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. 

Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin, noted that global challenges had changed little since 2021, when the clock stayed at 100 seconds to midnight in a reflection of optimism over the election of President Biden and pronouncements to address the threat of nuclear weapons, through the New START missile treaty with Russia and an intention to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.   

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“We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology even in times of crisis. But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe, one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen, national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science and cooperating to diminish global risks,” she said. 

“The COVID 19 pandemic serves as a historic wake up call, a vivid illustration, that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage complex and dangerous challenges like those of nuclear weapons and climate change, which currently puts existential threat to humanity, or other dangers including more virulent pandemics [or] next generation warfare that could threaten civilization in the near future.” 

2020 marked the first time the doomsday clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to the endpoint for destruction and the first time it was measured in seconds rather than minutes, reflecting the urgency of the moment. 

The announcement reflected an increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iran that came in January of that year with the U.S.’ targeted killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and the growing dangers of failing to address climate change. 

The 2020 announcement, made in January, occurred ahead of the World Health Organization declaring the quickly circulating coronavirus a global pandemic. 


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Judge Halts Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors Nationwide



(The Hill) — A federal judge in Georgia on Tuesday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors across the country.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for President Joe Biden as his administration seeks to blunt the effects of a global pandemic that has killed more than 788,000 people in the U.S.

“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” Baker wrote in a 28-page ruling. “However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”

Baker, whose order blocks the mandate while the case plays out in court, said the challengers were likely to prevail on their claim that Biden exceeded his authority with the public health measure.

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Federal contractors were facing a Jan. 18 deadline to be fully vaccinated.

Late last month, a Kentucky-based federal judge issued a narrower ruling that blocked the federal contractor mandate in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Tuesday’s ruling effectively extended the freeze nationwide.

Federal courts have presented a major obstacle to the Biden administration’s pandemic response, particularly when presided over by Republican-appointed judges.

Biden’s vaccine rules for private businesses, health care workers and federal contractors have all been tied up in court challenges from Republican officials.

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