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The Freedom to Vote Act would boost voter participation and fulfill the goals of the March on Selma

In March 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and several other civil rights activists and leaders led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators on a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

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In March 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and several other civil rights activists and leaders led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators on a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This five-day, 54-mile march was conducted in an effort to register Black voters in the South safely and campaign for broader voting rights regardless of race and ethnicity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964—passed only a few months before—prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and public accommodations, and employment discrimination. However, the law was inadequately enforced and had done very little to ensure and protect Black people’s right to vote.

The culmination of literacy tests, economic retaliation, and racial terrorism prevented many Black people from registering to vote and fully participating in our democracy, particularly in Southern states. The inexplicable link between brutality and voter suppression is deeply entrenched in American history and has shaped many of the historical events within the civil rights era.

The racial violence and tension that many Black people had experienced daily reached a boiling point during the first attempt at marching from Selma to Montgomery where demonstrators, led by John Lewis and others, were beaten and tear-gassed by state troopers and Ku Klux Klan members, leaving them unable to progress forward.

Infamously known as “Bloody Sunday,” the events of this gruesome demonstration shocked the nation. The fierce outrage led to a federal court order permitting the voting right marchers to finish their journey while under the protection of the National Guard. The events in Selma and the growing public support for the protestors later motivated Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibiting racial discrimination in voting and barring voter registration loopholes like poll taxes and literacy tests. Following the passage of the Voting Rights Act, voter registration increased significantly as seen in Figure A.

Figure A

The legacy of the March on Selma is both inspiring and somber for several reasons. Without the sacrifice of so many brave civil protestors, activists, and demonstrators, we wouldn’t have many of the voting protections we have today. However, despite their valiant efforts, our country is still fighting to protect our basic right to vote over 50 years later. Currently, faith leaders and activists around the country are protesting through hunger strike to urge Congress to pass meaningful voting rights legislation to combat the threats against our democracy in the form of rampant voter suppression.

Across the country, state legislatures are cutting back on early voting, gerrymandering, narrowing voter identification requirements, and passing felony disenfranchisement laws. In the wake of the 2020 election, at least 19 states had passed 34 laws restricting access to voting, and more than 440 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in the 2021 legislative sessions. Figure B illustrates the states that have either enacted expansive voter protection bills, voter restrictive bills, or a mixture of both.

Figure B
Figure B

Most of the states that passed these restrictive voting laws have also implemented policies that contribute to growing economic inequality and undermine worker power. For example, of the 19 states that had passed restrictive voting laws, 16 of them have so-called “right-to-work” laws in place and 13 of the states use the meager federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Both of these policies contribute to lower wages and benefits while weakening workplace protections and the economic security of these workers and their families. These policies also disproportionately hurt workers of color and exacerbate the economic harm and disparities communities of color face. Without broader voting access and increased protections against voter suppression tactics, these policies will continue to maintain the long-standing history of racial segregation and economic oppression in this country.

Congress has the unique opportunity to address many of these obstacles by passing the Freedom to Vote Act, which would significantly bolster voter participation and access, promote racial justice and equity, and counter the ongoing assault on voting rights within state policy. Specifically, the Freedom to Vote Act would:

  • Set new federal standards protecting people’s voting rights.
  • Expand voting by mail and early voting.
  • Standardize automatic voter registration.
  • Make Election Day a legal public holiday.
  • Reinstate voting rights to all those with felony convictions who’ve completed their sentences.
  • Strengthen protections of election administration officials, combat gerrymandering practices, and bolster campaign finance laws.

The right to vote is a critical economic provision that enables people to have a voice in local, state, and federal decision making as well as how resources are allocated for their families and communities. Without protecting this right, the needs of voters and their families will be unmet and their economic well-being could be at risk.

Limited voting options—as seen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections—present even more challenges for voters who are exercising their right, and other forms of voter suppression make voting inaccessible to many of the least privileged members of society. For groups who have been historically disadvantaged, these implications are far more acute and sustain present inequities. Congress must pass this bill to invest in our democracy and safeguard our rights.

The Freedom to Vote Act embodies many of the sacrifices, hopes, and dreams that demonstrators fought for in the March on Selma. Fifty years later, our country is on the path of reconstructing those dreams into restorative policy. This comprehensive bill reform exemplifies the true goals of our democracy and strives to strengthen the voices of those who have been systematically excluded.

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Spread & Containment

A dog has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, highlighting risk of the virus infecting pets and wild animals

The monkeypox virus can easily spread between humans and animals. A veterinary virologist explains how the virus could go from people to wild animals in…

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A dog in Paris has become the first case of a pet contracting monkeypox from its owners. Cavan Images via Getty Images

A dog in Paris has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, both of whom were infected with the virus, according to a scientific paper published on Aug. 10, 2022. This is the first case of a dog contracting the monkeypox virus through direct contact with skin lesions on a human.

I am a veterinary pathologist and virologist who has been working with poxviruses for over 20 years. I study how these viruses evade the immune system and am working on modifying poxviruses to prevent infection as well as treat other diseases, including cancer.

With monkeypox spreading in humans throughout the world, my colleagues and I have begun to worry about the increased risk of monkeypox spreading from humans to animals. If monkeypox spreads to wildlife species in the U.S. and Europe, the virus could become endemic in these places – where it has historically been absent – resulting in more frequent outbreaks. The report of the infected dog shows that there is a decent chance these fears could become a reality.

A microscope image of a bunch blue circles in a brown-colored cell.
The monkeypox virus – the blue circles in this image of an infected cell – is a poxvirus similar to smallpox and cowpox and can easily infect many different species. NIAID/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

A species-jumping virus

Monkeypox is a poxvirus in the same family as variola – the virus that causes smallpox – and cowpox viruses and likely evolved in animals before jumping to humans. Monkeypox causes painful lesions in both humans and animals and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Researchers have found the monkeypox virus in several species of wild rodents, squirrels and primates in Africa, where the virus is endemic. Monkeypox does not need to mutate or evolve at all to be able to infect many different species. It can easily spread from animals to people and back again.

Though there is a fair bit of research on monkeypox, a lot more work has been done on cowpox, a similar zoonotic poxvirus that is endemic in Europe. Over the years, there have been several reports of cowpox infection spreading from animals to humans in Europe.

From people to animals

Until recently, most monkeypox infections occurred in specific areas of Africa where some wildlife species act as reservoirs for the virus. These outbreaks are usually contained quickly through isolation of infected individuals and vaccinating people around the infected individual. The current situation is very different though.

With nearly 40,000 cases globally as of Aug. 17, 2022 – and more than 12,500 cases in the U.S. alone – monkeypox is now widespread within the human population. The risk of any one person transmitting the virus to an animal – particularly a wild one – is small, but the more people are infected, the greater the chances. It’s a numbers game.

There are a number of ways viruses can transfer from animals to people – called spillover – and from people back to animals – called spillback. Since monkeypox is most easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, it is a bit more difficult to transmit between species than COVID-19, but certainly possible.

The case of the dog in Paris provides a clear example of how cuddling or being close to a pet can spread the virus. Previous studies on poxviruses like monkeypox have shown that they can stay active in fecal matter. This means that there is a risk of wild animals, likely rodents, catching it from human waste.

A grey rat.
There are a number of species that host monkeypox in Africa – like this gambian rat. Monkeypox can spread from humans to many other animals, including dogs and likely cats and other species of rodents. Louisvarley/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

The monkeypox virus is also present in saliva. While more research needs to be done, it is potentially possible that an infected person could discard food that would then be eaten by a rodent.

The chances of any one of these events happening is extremely low. But I and other virologists worry that with more people becoming infected, there is a greater risk that rodents or other animals will come into contact with urine, feces or saliva that is contaminated with the virus.

Finally, there is the risk of people giving monkeypox to a pet, which then passes it on to other animals. One case study in Germany described an outbreak of cowpox that was caused when someone took an infected cat to a veterinary clinic and four other cats were subsequently infected. It is feasible that an infected household pet could spread the virus to wild animals somehow.

How to help

One of the key reasons that the World Health Organization was able to eradicate smallpox is that it only infects people, so there were no animal reservoirs that could re-introduce the virus to human populations.

Monkeypox is zoonotic and already has several animal reservoirs, though these are currently limited to Africa. But if monkeypox escapes into wild animal populations in the U.S., Europe or other locations, there will be always be potential for animals to spread it back to humans. With this in mind, there are a number of things people can do to reduce the risks with regard to animals.

As with any infectious disease, be informed about the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and how it is transmitted. If you suspect you have the virus, contact a doctor and isolate from other people.

As a veterinarian, I strongly encourage anyone with monkeypox to protect your pets. The case in Paris shows that dogs can get infected from contact with their owners, and it is likely that many other species, including cats, are susceptible, too. If you have monkeypox, try to have other people take care of your animals for as long as lesions are present. And if you think your pet has a monkeypox infection, be sure to contact a veterinarian so they can test the lesion and provide care when needed.

Even though monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, it is unlikely to directly affect most people. Taking precautionary steps can protect you and your pets and will hopefully prevent monkeypox from getting into wildlife in the U.S., too.

Amy Macneill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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International

A-levels: A grades are up compared to pre-pandemic results

The pandemic has has a serious impact on school pupils – but a record number have applied to university.

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Fewer students are getting their first choice of university than in 2021. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The 2022 A-level results are in, and the number of students receiving A or A* grades has fallen – down by 8.4% on 2021.

For the first time since 2019, A-level results are being decided by formal exams. Students were warned that grades were likely to be lower than in 2020 and 2021, when cancelled exams and teacher assessments in A-levels led to record high results. Nevertheless, the proportion of students receiving A grades is up from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

A busy end to the admissions round is under way for universities and students, and the next steps for students still living with the impact of the pandemic are becoming clearer.

In 2021, some universities were over subscribed and had to offer significant incentives for students to defer their places. While the number of students in 2022 accepted on a UK university course – 425,830 – is higher than in 2019 and the second highest on record, it is 2% lower than in 2021. Just a few days before the results were out, thousands of students did not yet hold an offer of an university place.

Over the past two years, students studying qualifications, whether BTEC, T-level or A-level, have had to cope with the consequences of the pandemic for a significant proportion of their course. This has included school closures and remote lessons, social isolation, illness and increased levels of mental stress.

Highest number of applications

Nevertheless, 2022 has seen the highest ever numbers of applications to higher education, with 44% of 18 year olds applying. This number includes record numbers of students from areas of the country with historically low participation in higher education. It demonstrates that many young people believe higher education can make a difference to their future opportunities.

For the lucky ones who get the grades to gain a place at their first choice of university, planning for their degree course starts right away. A record number of Scottish students have already been accepted to their first choice of university.

The best advice for those students who don’t receive confirmation that they have been accepted by their first choice university is to ring the university, who will have staff on hand to explore their options.

For students who haven’t got a university place, it is still possible to explore options though clearing – which allows students without offers to find places on university courses that haven’t been fully subscribed. Students in this position should try to keep calm, write down their options and avoid quick decisions.

For those young people who do go to university, there will be challenges. With the cost of living for all rising rapidly, people on a lower income – as many students are – will feel the pinch of higher bills for food or rent.

Support from universities

The pandemic saw a serious and concerning rise in mental health issues affecting young people. Universities need to be ready to give holistic support to students as they transition into university and settle into undergraduate life. This means support for academic transition needs to be delivered in the context of good available support for mental health and wellbeing.

However, Universities UK, an advocacy groups for universities, has recently pointed out the wide range of benefits for those who study for a degree, including the £9,500 more per year on average graduates in England earn compared with non-graduates. It also draws attention to the value of degrees to improve the life chances of young people, to build skills and to contribute to society.

For many young people, getting a degree gives them access to a vocation such as teaching or working as a health professional. For others it is a path to travel and adventure. For many, the university journey is a place where young people find their tribe and begin to understand their identity.

For the class of 22, making it to university might mean life-changing opportunities. Given the challenges and restrictions of the last few years, this has never been more important.

Helena Gillespie receives funding from the European Union.

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Government

Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) To Acquire Global Blood Therapeutics For $5 Billion

According to sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was in advanced discussions to acquire pharmaceutical…

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According to sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was in advanced discussions to acquire pharmaceutical company Global Blood Therapeutics (NASDAQ: GBT) for $5 billion.

Pfizer, too, acquired Global Blood Therapeutics 

Pfizer wants to close a deal soon, but there are still other interested parties, according to the article.

Global Blood Therapeutics, which manufactures Oxbryta, the blood disorder medication, saw its shares jump 44%  on Friday afternoon to a two-year high. As of Thursday’s closing, the company’s market cap was $3.12 billion.

A spokesman for Global Blood stated the company does not “comment on market rumors or speculation,” while Pfizer declined to respond on the matter.

With plenty of cash left over after selling its COVID-19 vaccine, New York-based Pfizer is searching for deals that may generate billions of dollars annual sales by 2030.

Its $11.6 billion acquisition of migraine medication manufacturer Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding (NASDAQ: BHVN) in May was the most recent in a series of purchases that also included Trillium Therapeutics and Arena Pharmaceuticals in recent years.

Oxbryta received approval last year for sickle cell disease management 

In 2019, the US government approved Global Blood’s Oxbryta to manage sickle cell disease in individuals aged 12 and over. The oral medication was approved in December 2021 to treat the illness in younger children. The drug’s sales increased by almost 50% to $194.7 million in 2021.

After a gloomy start to the calendar year, when a lack of significant purchases and clinical-stage treatment failures lowered investor morale and restricted funding, the biotech dealmaking pace has recently picked up again.

Also, Amgen Inc (NASDAQ: AMGN) also decided to purchase ChemoCentryx Inc on Thursday for $3.7 billion to obtain access to a possible breakthrough medication for inflammatory illnesses. AstraZeneca’s $39 billion acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals in 2020 has put the realm of immune diseases in the limelight. The deal, which was announced before trading opened, will also give the corporation control of at least two investigational immune disorders medicines.

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The post Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) To Acquire Global Blood Therapeutics For $5 Billion appeared first on Wall Street PR.

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