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DAILY DOSE: Hacktivists on both sides of Hamas-Israel conflict are currently active; U.S. prepares for the use of fentanyl in a potential WMD attack.


Following a Hamas assault on Israel, hacktivist groups globally initiated digital attacks targeting both Israeli and Palestinian online infrastructure. Hackers conducted DDoS attacks, defacement, and data theft, targeting government and media websites, including Israel’s missile alert service, Red Alert. Notable among these groups are AnonGhost, supporting Palestine, and ThreatSec, which targeted a Gaza-based ISP. The conflict saw a mix of established and new hacktivist factions, often aligning with preexisting ideological inclinations, showcasing a broader trend of digital warfare augmenting physical conflicts. Additionally, the broader repercussions of hacktivism include fostering disinformation and panic, with some actors seeking just to create unpredictability. Despite the rising digital interference, experts believe it won’t significantly alter the ground realities of the ongoing conflict. The evolving landscape of hacktivism reflects a new norm where digital disruptions become a regular facet of geopolitical conflicts, as observed in recent Russia-Ukraine confrontations, indicating a long-term presence of hacktivism in international discord. (Wired)


Last year, a proposal to designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) was rejected by the White House, despite support from Republican lawmakers. Despite the non-approval, federal agencies like the Department of Defense and the FBI had been preparing for potential fentanyl WMD threats since 2018. Documents revealed that these agencies have been advancing a narrative of fentanyl as a WMD threat, even conducting military exercises for such scenarios. This stance has been beneficial for federal agencies’ budgets but hasn’t evidently contributed to addressing the fentanyl overdose crisis. The hyped threat of fentanyl as a WMD has led to misinformation and panic among first responders and the public, exacerbated by incidents misattributed to fentanyl exposure. Despite lobbying efforts and some political support for labeling fentanyl a WMD to harness more resources for its management, the proposal has been dismissed by the administration. Meanwhile, military units have engaged in exercises to prepare for hypothetical fentanyl WMD attacks, reflecting a continued, albeit controversial, perception of fentanyl as a potential large-scale threat. (The Intercept)

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China’s National Bureau of Statistics will conduct a nationwide sample survey in November to assist in planning population policies amidst the country’s declining birthrate and aging population. Beijing is implementing various measures including financial incentives and enhancing childcare facilities to reverse the trend. The upcoming survey, covering urban and rural areas, aims to provide data for the Communist Party and government to devise relevant economic, social, and population policies. This move follows the 2020 decennial census, which highlighted the slowest population growth since the 1950s. Commencing on 1 November, the survey will either visit households for data collection or have respondents fill out online questionnaires. Amidst declining birthrates, high childcare costs, career sacrifices, and persistent gender stereotypes dissuade many women from having more or any children. Despite a slight shift in rhetoric towards shared child-rearing responsibilities, paternity leave remains limited in most regions. In 2022, China reported its first population drop since 1961, with a decrease of about 850,000 people, underscoring the urgency of addressing population development issues. (The Guardian)


The 1918-19 influenza pandemic was notable for the unusually high mortality among young, healthy individuals, a feature that has puzzled researchers for decades. A new study challenges this notion, suggesting that individuals who were already frail were more likely to succumb, aligning with the patterns observed in most pandemics. The research analyzed skeletons of 81 people who died during the period when the pandemic hit Cleveland, Ohio. The skeletal analysis revealed that individuals with active lesions indicative of malnutrition, injury, or illness were nearly three times more likely to die compared to those with healing lesions. The study doesn’t refute the observed high mortality among young individuals but suggests that many young people might have been frail due to other factors, possibly tuberculosis which was common at the time. The findings underscore the importance of understanding historical mortality patterns to better prepare for future pandemics, drawing parallels with how underlying health issues have also affected COVID-19 mortality rates. (Science)

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Renowned chef Michael Chiarello, famous for his Italian-inspired Californian restaurants and an Emmy Award-winning host, passed away at 61 due to an allergic reaction causing anaphylactic shock. Chiarello was being treated at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa when he died. The chef, known for his appearances on “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters,” had a long and illustrious career since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. He opened multiple eateries in Napa Valley and San Francisco, and owned Chiarello Family Vineyards. His restaurant Bottega received accolades from Zagat, Forbes, and Esquire. In 1985, he was named Chef of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine, and received similar honors from the Culinary Institute of America in 1995 and Esquire magazine in 2013. Besides his culinary achievements, Chiarello authored several cookbooks. His passing is mourned by his restaurant group, Gruppo Chiarello, which celebrated his culinary legacy and emphasized the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones. Chiarello is survived by his wife, Eileen, and four children. (Associated Press)


The Northern Hemisphere experienced record-breaking heatwaves this summer, with devastating effects across countries. For instance, Mexicali in Mexico saw temperatures of 47°C, and a June-July heatwave killed at least 167 people across the country. Similarly, extreme temperatures were recorded in China, California, and Iran. Such extreme heat events, exacerbated by climate change, pose significant health risks, including kidney dysfunction, heat stroke, and exacerbated chronic conditions, especially among vulnerable populations like the elderly, infants, and outdoor workers. Heat’s impact is also being linked to higher rates of chronic kidney disease in hot, humid countries. While some regions have implemented early-warning systems and heat-adaptation approaches to mitigate risks, the global south faces challenges due to lack of healthcare data. Meanwhile, researchers are striving to understand human tolerance to heat and develop effective adaptation strategies, emphasizing that addressing these heat-related challenges is becoming increasingly crucial in a warming world. (Nature)


The UN warns that only a third of countries include sexual and reproductive health in their climate crisis plans. Out of 119 countries with published plans, only 38 have included aspects like contraception and maternal health services, and a mere 15 reference violence against women. The report, by the UN Population Fund and Queen Mary University of London, urges countries to acknowledge the climate crisis’s disproportionate impact on women and girls. Rising temperatures can lead to pregnancy complications and earlier deliveries, while extreme weather events disrupt healthcare access and increase gender-based violence and child marriage risks. Examples of positive action include Paraguay, Seychelles, and Benin, aiming to build climate-resilient health systems, and nine countries like El Salvador and Sierra Leone addressing gender-based violence. The report calls for climate policies to consider the differential impact on women and integrate measures to ensure gender equality. (The Guardian)


A horticulture teacher from Minnesota, Travis Gienger, set a new world record for the heaviest pumpkin, weighing 2,749 pounds (1,247 kilograms), at the 50th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in California. The previous record was held by an Italian grower with a 2,702-pound pumpkin in 2021. Gienger, who’s been growing pumpkins for nearly 30 years, nurtured this giant gourd in his backyard, providing extra care by watering it up to 12 times daily and enhancing its feeding and fertilization. Besides being a passionate pumpkin grower, Gienger is a landscape and horticulture teacher at Anoka Technical College. He was awarded a $30,000 prize for his record-breaking pumpkin, which along with the next three largest pumpkins, will be displayed in Half Moon Bay during the city’s Art and Pumpkin Festival, offering visitors a chance to take photos with the enormous gourd. Through this achievement, Gienger aims to bring joy to people and appreciates the community celebration around it. (Associated Press)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Soumil Kumar.

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