John Fetterman has a 'secret weapon' to draw Pennsylvania voters to the polls: report

Recently in the news for having a widely-publicized stroke just days before the Pennsylvania primary, the current Democratic Party front runner for the state's contentious US Senate race, John Fetterman has at least one legislative priority that sets him far apart from his opponent, Conor Lamb: His unapologetic record for supporting marijuana legalization.

As Fetterman noted in a December 2020 op-ed in the Washington Post, many Democrats haven't kept up with public opinion on legalizing weed.

"Not only isn’t weed “taboo,” but everyone wants to talk about it. It might be the most hotly discussed public policy topic in our commonwealth over the past 50 years," Fetterman said.

"Yet one group doesn’t seem to be keeping up: the Democratic Party. Its platform on weed is now officially and politically to the right of the state of South Dakota. I’m in the camp that says that if you’re to the right of South Dakota on anything, you should use that as a moment to recalibrate your core values."

As Politico notes, "Fetterman is arguably the nation’s most outspoken pro-weed politician" and if you "head over to Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s website, or drop by one of his rallies, and that’s what you’ll find. 'It’s high time that we get our sh*t together and legalize weed in PA + USA. More justice, jobs, revenue, and freedom,' the top-selling T-shirt’s description reads."

Fetterman is betting his support for legal weed will help secure his spot on the ballot in November.

"Political strategists say a bold position on cannabis could be an important piece of a winning policy portfolio for both the primary and general elections in a race that will help determine control of the Senate. Progressives respond well to it — but even more than that, marijuana may do something very important in a state where election margins are razor-thin: bring new voters to the polls."

RELATED: Kathy Barnette slams Trump and his 'bad advisers' for 'unfortunate' robocall attacking her

Should Fetterman win the primary, it's thought he'd face off against Trump-endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz in November's general election.

In an April interview, Oz drew controversy by saying that he had "strong sentiments against the legalization of marijuana because we already have a problem with getting young people to work."

“And if you build a psychological addiction, right, that tells people you can’t get through the day unless you smoke a joint, which is what Fetterman is saying is okay, we’re going to have even fewer people engaged in life and they lose their dignity when that happens," Oz said.

Pennsylvanians go to the polls today, which close at 8 p.m. ET tonight.

'I am angry!': Elizabeth Warren unleashes in fiery speech against 'extremist' court

"I am angry because the United States Congress can change all of this," Sen. Elizabeth Warren declared with passion Tuesday on Capitol Hill as she responded to news that the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has voted in favor of a draft decision that, if finalized, would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Warren's fury was visible as she warned that the damage the high court is preparing to do will fall disproportionately "on the poorest women" and those who are most vulnerable.

"The United States Supreme Court thinks they can impose their extremist views on all the women in this country, and they are wrong," said the Massachusetts Democrat.

"This will fall on the young women who have been abused, who are victims of incest," she added. "This will fall on those who have been raped. This will fall on mothers who are already struggling to work three jobs to be able to support the children they have."

Warren has long advocated for Congress to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which was passed by the U.S. House last year but has been obstructed in the Senate by Republicans and right-wing Democrats including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who oppose eliminating the filibuster in order to pass a Democratic agenda.

The WHPA would codify the right to obtain and provide abortion care into federal law. As Common Dreams reported Monday, Republican senators are currently developing their own strategy to pass legislation regarding the right to an abortion; theirs would ban all abortion across the country after six weeks of pregnancy.

"They have been out there plotting, carefully cultivating the Supreme Court justices so they could have a majority on the bench who would accomplish something that the majority of Americans do not want," Warren told reporters after her speech.

Warren's call for federal lawmakers to "change all of this" contrasted with the comments made by other top Democrats on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the Senate would soon vote on codifying the right to abortion care into law, but did not comment on pressuring Sinema and Manchin to drop their opposition to killing the filibuster rule so the legislation can be passed.

"Every senator, now under the real glare of Roe v. Wade being repealed by the courts, is going to have to show which side they're on," Schumer told reporters.

President Joe Biden did not push for filibuster reform when asked whether it was needed to codify Roe, saying he was "not prepared to make those judgements now."

"I am angry and upset and determined," said Warren to a reporter. "The United States Congress can keep Roe v. Wade the law of the land, they just need to do it."

Guns, not roses – here’s the true story of penicillin’s first patient

Albert Alexander was dying. World War II was raging, and this police officer of the county of Oxford, England, had developed a severe case of sepsis after a cut on his face became badly infected. His blood was now teeming with deadly bacteria.

According to his physician, Charles Fletcher, Alexander was in tremendous pain, “desperately and pathetically ill.” The bacterial infection was eating him alive: He’d already lost one eye and had oozing abscesses all over his face and in his lungs.

man in 1940s police uniform

Albert Alexander in uniform.

Courtesy of Linda Willason, CC BY-ND

Since all known treatment options were exhausted and death appeared imminent, Fletcher decided that Alexander was the perfect candidate to try a new, experimental therapy. On Feb. 12, 1941, Alexander became the first known person to be treated with penicillin. Within days he began to make a stunning recovery.

I am a professor of pharmacology, and Alexander’s story is the prelude to my yearly lecture on antibiotics. Like many other microbiology instructors, I’d always told students that Alexander’s septicemia arose after he scratched his cheek on a thorn while pruning rosebushes. This popular account dominates the scientific literature as well as recent articles and books.

The problem is, while descriptions of the miraculous effect of penicillin in this case are accurate, the details of Alexander’s injury were muddled, likely by wartime propaganda.

Breaking the mold

man looking into microscope

Bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotic penicillin in 1928.

Daily Herald Archive/SSPL via Getty Images

The promise of penicillin as an antibiotic was first noted in 1928, when microbiologist Alexander Fleming noticed something funny in his petri dishes at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Fleming’s cultures of staphylococcal bacteria did not grow well on plates contaminated with a penicillium mold. Fleming discovered that the mold’s “juice” was lethal to some types of bacteria.

A decade later, a team of scientists led by Howard Florey at Oxford University began the arduous task of purifying the active substance from the “mold juice” and formally testing its antimicrobial properties. In August 1940, Florey and his colleagues published their striking findings that purified penicillin safely wiped out numerous bacterial infections in mice.

Florey then sought Fletcher’s help to try penicillin in a human patient. That patient would be Alexander, whose death seemed inevitable otherwise. As Fletcher stated, “There was all to gain for him in a trial of penicillin and nothing to lose.”

At the time, purified penicillin was extremely scarce, since the mold was slow to grow and yielded precious little of the drug. Despite recycling unprocessed penicillin from Alexander’s urine, there just wasn’t enough available to finish off the infection once and for all. After 10 days of improvement, Alexander gradually relapsed. He died on March 15, 1941, at the age of 43.

Despite the tragic outcome, Alexander’s case turbocharged interest in penicillin research. As Fletcher observed, “There was no doubt about the temporary clinical improvement, and, most importantly, there had been no sort of toxic effect during the five days of continuous administration of penicillin.”

magazine ad with drawing of wounded soldier

An ad promoting penicillin and its role in the war effort.

Schenley Laboratories, Inc. advertisement, 1944

Almost exactly a year later, on March 14, 1942, doctors in Connecticut administered the antibiotic to a woman named Anne Miller who was deathly ill with streptococcal septicemia. She made a full recovery and became the first patient cured with penicillin. Mass production of penicillin became a top priority of the U.S. War Department, second only to the Manhattan Project. It is widely believed that penicillin helped the Allies during World War II, preventing wound infections and helping soldiers diagnosed with gonorrhea to return to the battlefield.

The rosebush tale has been a thorn in their sides

Albert Alexander has earned a place in history as the first known person to be treated with penicillin for a clinical condition. Almost as famous as his name is the purported cause of death: sepsis due to a scratch from rosebushes.

However, an alternative explanation was revealed in a 2010 interview with Eric Sidebottom, a historian and author of “Oxford Medicine: A Walk Through Nine Centuries.” He claimed that Alexander was injured when his police station was hit during a German bombing raid on Nov. 30, 1940. Shrapnel from this attack caused the facial lacerations that led to Alexander’s fatal blood poisoning, he said.

elderly woman holds up a black and white photo

Sheila LeBlanc holding photo of her father, Albert Alexander, in 2012.

Courtesy of Linda Willason, CC BY-ND

Alexander’s daughter, Sheila LeBlanc, who moved to California and became an artist, confirmed Sidebottom’s account in a 2012 interview with a local newspaper. She also revealed the grim consequences Alexander’s death had on his family. Since they’d lived in a house provided by the village, for the village constable, his death forced them to move out. LeBlanc, who was seven at the time, and her older brother were sent to an orphanage, since their mother had to find work.

Michael Barrett, a professor of biochemical parasitology at the University of Glasgow, also spoke to LeBlanc about the cause of Alexander’s injury. Writing in 2018, Barrett stated that while LeBlanc recalled that the constable’s house did have a beautiful rose garden, her father’s fatal cut was sustained during the German blitz.

In February 2022, I contacted Alexander’s granddaughter, Linda Willason, who is also an artist in California, to help set the record straight. Willason validated the shrapnel account and suggested that the rosebush story was “a bit of wartime propaganda.” By downplaying bombing injuries, the government likely hoped to maintain the public’s stiff upper lip.

While the nature of Alexander’s injury may seem a trivial detail, correcting the historical record is important. Alexander died in the line of duty, and the apocryphal rosebush story obscures his honorable actions. His descendants are hopeful the true account of his injury will now eclipse the false one.

blue plaque with white text on brick wall

A plaque dedicated in 2021 shares the real story of Alexander’s injury.

Newbury Town Council/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

In 2021, a plaque commemorating Alexander was installed in Newbury that reads: “On war support duty in Southampton on 30th November 1940, Albert was injured in an air raid. Contracting staphylococcal and streptococcal septicaemia, he was transferred to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, where he was selected for the first clinical application of penicillin. … His place in the history of antibiotics is secure.”

[You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter.]The Conversation

Bill Sullivan, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How warfare and nuclear power are a volatile combination


The Conversation asked Najmedin Meshkati, a professor and nuclear safety expert at the University of Southern California, to explain the risks of warfare taking place in and around nuclear power plants.

How safe was the Zaporizhzhia power plant before the Russian attack?

The facility at Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear plant in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. It has six pressurized water reactors, which use water to both sustain the fission reaction and cool the reactor. These differ from the reaktor bolshoy moshchnosty kanalny reactors at Chernobyl, which used graphite instead of water to sustain the fission reaction. RBMK reactors are not seen as very safe, and there are only eight remaining in use in the world, all in Russia.

The reactors at Zaporizhzhia are of moderately good design. And the plant has a decent safety record, with a good operating background.

Ukraine authorities tried to keep the war away from the site by asking Russia to observe a 30-kilometer safety buffer. But Russian troops surrounded the facility and then seized it.

What are the risks to a nuclear plant in a conflict zone?

Nuclear power plants are built for peacetime operations, not wars.

The worst thing that could happen is if a site is deliberately or accidentally shelled and the containment building – which houses the nuclear reactor – is hit. These containment buildings are not designed or built for deliberate shelling. They are built to withstand a minor internal explosion of, say, a pressurized water pipe. But they are not designed to withstand a huge explosion.

It is not known whether the Russian forces deliberately shelled the Zaporizhzhia plant. It may have been inadvertent, caused by a stray missile. But we do know they wanted to capture the plant.

Tracer rounds and flames can be seen in this video of the fight for control of the nuclear power plant.

If a shell hit the plant’s spent fuel pool – which contains the still-radioactive spent fuel – or if fire spread to the spent fuel pool, it could release radiation. This spent fuel pool isn’t in the containment building, and as such is more vulnerable.

As to the reactors in the containment building, it depends on the weapons being used. The worst-case scenario is that a bunker-buster missile breaches the containment dome – consisting of a thick shell of reinforced concrete on top of the reactor – and explodes. That would badly damage the nuclear reactor and release radiation into the atmosphere. And because of any resulting fire, sending in firefighters would be difficult. It could be another Chernobyl.

What are the concerns going forward?

The biggest worry was not the fire at the facility. That did not affect the containment buildings and has been extinguished.

The safety problems I see now are twofold:

1) Human error

The workers at the facility are now working under incredible stress, reportedly at gunpoint. Stress increases the chance of error and poor performance.

One concern is that the workers will not be allowed to change shifts, meaning longer hours and tiredness. We know that a few days ago at Chernobyl, after the Russians took control of the site, they did not allow employees – who usually work in three shifts – to swap out. Instead, they took some workers hostage and didn’t allow the other workers to attend their shifts.

At Zaporizhzhia we may see the same.

There is a human element in running a nuclear power plant – operators are the first and last layers of defense for the facility and the public. They are the first people to detect any anomaly and to stop any incident. Or if there’s an accident, they will be the first to heroically try to contain it.

2) Power failure

The second problem is that the nuclear plant needs constant electricity, and that is harder to maintain in wartime.

Even if you shut down the reactors, the plant will need off-site power to run the huge cooling system to remove the residual heat in the reactor and bring it to what is called a “cold shutdown.” Water circulation is always needed to make sure the spent fuel doesn’t overheat.

Spent fuel pools also need constant circulation of water to keep them cool. And they need cooling for several years before being put in dry casks. One of the problems in the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan was the emergency generators, which replaced lost off-site power, got inundated with water and failed. In situations like that you get “station blackout” – and that is one of the worst things that could happen. It means no electricity to run the cooling system.

hundreds of square openings lie at the bottom of a large pool of water in an industrial building

Spent nuclear fuel rods are stored at the bottom of this pool, which requires constant circulation.

Guillaume Souvant/AFP via Getty Images

In that circumstance, the spent fuel overheats and its zirconium cladding can cause hydrogen bubbles. If you can’t vent these bubbles they will explode, spreading radiation.

If there is a loss of outside power, operators will have to rely on emergency generators. But emergency generators are huge machines – finicky, unreliable gas guzzlers. And you still need cooling waters for the generators themselves.

My biggest worry is that Ukraine suffers from a sustained power grid failure. The likelihood of this increases during a conflict, because pylons may come down under shelling or gas power plants might get damaged and cease to operate. And it is unlikely that Russian troops themselves will have fuel to keep these emergency generators going – they don’t seem to have enough fuel to run their own personnel carriers.

How else does a war affect the safety of nuclear plants?

One of the overarching concerns is that war degrades safety culture, which is crucial in running a plant. I believe that safety culture is analogous to the human body’s immune system, which protects against pathogens and diseases; and because of the pervasive nature of safety culture and its widespread impact, according to psychologist James Reason, “it can affect all elements in a system for good or ill.”

It is incumbent upon the leadership of the plant to strive for immunizing, protecting, maintaining and nurturing the healthy safety culture of the nuclear plant.

War adversely affects the safety culture in a number of ways. Operators are stressed and fatigued and may be scared to death to speak out if something is going wrong. Then there is the maintenance of a plant, which may be compromised by lack of staff or unavailability of spare parts. Governance, regulation and oversight – all crucial for the safe running of a nuclear industry – are also disrupted, as is local infrastructure, such as the capability of local firefighters. In normal times you might have been able to extinguish the fire at Zaporizhzhia in five minutes. But in war, everything is harder.

So what can be done to better protect Ukraine’s nuclear power plants?

This is an unprecedented and volatile situation. The only solution is a no-fight zone around nuclear plants. War, in my opinion, is the worst enemy of nuclear safety.

[Over 150,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletters to understand the world. Sign up today.]The Conversation

Najmedin Meshkati, Professor of Engineering and International Relations, University of Southern California

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.