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Salmonella outbreak from unidentified source expands to 29 states; CDC says strain found in takeout container

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Salmonella Outbreak From Unidentified Source Expands To 29 States; Cdc Says Strain Found In Takeout Container
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The CDC said it was “not possible” to determine which component of the takeout meal was contaminated, as the container contained multiple food items. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded a “significant” number of new infections amid a multi-state outbreak of salmonella stemming from an unknown food source.

At least 279 infections have been linked to the strain observed in the outbreak, 26 of which have required hospitalization, according to the latest CDC case count made public on Friday. Last week, the CDC had only confirmed 127 infections linked to the unidentified food source, including 18 hospitalizations.

The outbreak has also expanded to a total of 29 states, or four more than when the CDC first reported the infections last week.

No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

Salmonella Oranienburg, the strain observed in this outbreak, began sickening people on Aug. 3 and grew “rapidly” in the following weeks, according to the CDC. The agency estimates that the actual number of sick people is “likely much higher” than 279, as many infected individuals often recover without seeking treatment or getting tested.

It can also take up to four weeks to determine if a sick person is indeed part of the outbreak, the agency says.

Investigators have yet to determine a food source linked to the outbreak, though the strain has since been identified in a takeout container provided to a restaurant customer, per the CDC’s lab data.

“State and local officials have collected food items from some of the restaurants where sick people ate,” the CDC wrote in Friday’s update. “The outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg was found in a sample taken from a takeout condiment cup containing cilantro and lime. The sick person reported that the condiment container also contained onions, but none were left in the cup when it was tested.”

The CDC says, however, that it is “not possible” to determine exactly which ingredient or component was contaminated, as the takeout container contained other foods.

Health officials are currently gathering additional data, per the CDC.

In a statement shared with Nexstar days before the CDC’s latest update, the agency said it was continuing to see “a significant number of new cases reported each day.”

The statement, issued by Belsie González, MPH, the senior public affairs specialist for the CDC, added that “it remains important that people report symptoms to their healthcare provider and local health department.”  

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and possible nausea, vomiting or headache. Those experiencing more severe symptoms — including dehydration, prolonged vomiting, prolonged diarrhea, or diarrhea with a fever of over 102 degrees F, among other symptoms — should contact a doctor immediately.

A complete list of the number of infections and where they were reported can be found below.

  • Texas: 81
  • Oklahoma: 40
  • Illinois: 23
  • Virginia: 22
  • Minnesota: 19
  • Massachusetts: 10
  • Maryland: 9
  • Wisconsin: 8
  • Arkansas: 7
  • Kansas: 6
  • New Mexico: 6
  • California: 5
  • Connecticut: 5
  • South Dakota: 5
  • Michigan: 4
  • Nebraska: 4
  • New Jersey: 4
  • Pennsylvania: 4
  • Missouri: 3
  • Florida: 2
  • New York: 2
  • North Carolina: 2
  • Utah: 2
  • Indiana: 1
  • Iowa: 1
  • North Dakota: 1
  • Oregon: 1
  • South Carolina: 1
  • Tennessee: 1

More information on this outbreak and salmonella infection can be found at the CDC’s website.

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3 keys to a Jets victory over Joe Burrow, Bengals in Week 3

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3 Keys To A Jets Victory Over Joe Burrow, Bengals In Week 3
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Through two games, the Bengals have allowed Joe Burrow to be sacked 13 times during the first two weeks of the season. Since 2005, that is tied for the most sacks allowed over the first two games.

Cincinnati thought it solved its offensive line issues during the offseason by adding four new starters, including right tackle La’el Collins, who came over from the Cowboys. However, that is not the case. Collins was not only the lowest-graded offensive lineman after allowing giving up two hurries, two quarterback hits and one sack, but he is also dealing with a back injury that forced him to miss two days of practice this week.

The Jets need to generate pressure on Burrow early and often if they’re going to come away with the victory. The problem is, the Jets’ pass rush has been nearly nonexistent through two games.

Gang Green has just three sacks, which is ranked 26th in the league. Even if the Jets have to bring pressure in terms of blitzing, keeping Burrow rattled the entire afternoon has to be a priority for the Jets.


New York has let both opponents get out to an early lead. Now it’s time for the Green and White to set the tone for the entire game.

Last week, the Jets’ playcalling offensively was more creative, which eventually led to 14 points before halftime. Now the Jets need to gain a lead early so their entire playbook can be at their disposal.

Playing from behind like the Jets have the first two weeks, you’re limited to passing the ball to overcome your deficit. That’s why Gang Green needs to gain an early lead, which will also help their defense play looser.


Running the ball effectively hasn’t been the problem for the Jets, it’s been committing to the run late in the game.

The Jets are averaging 4.8 yards per carry, which is tied for 10th in the NFL. In the 31-30 victory against the Cleveland Browns, rookie Breece Hall ran for 50 yards and averaged 7.1 per attempt.

Gang Green went away from the run after being down in the fourth quarter. The rushing attack can take pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense. This is why Jets offensive coordination Mike LaFleur needs to commit more to the run, no matter if they’re down or not.


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How did Chicago Bulls players spend their summer? Here’s a rundown with training camp fast approaching.

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How Did Chicago Bulls Players Spend Their Summer? Here’s A Rundown With Training Camp Fast Approaching.
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The Chicago Bulls stayed quiet for most of the offseason, focusing on re-signing Zach LaVine and returning the core of last year’s roster to build into the 2022-23 season. But it was still a busy summer for Bulls players, who spent the time recovering from injury, expanding their families and competing in local and international competitions.

The Bulls added free agents Andre Drummond and Goran Dragić along with draft pick Dalen Terry to complement the starting trio of LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević. The front office committed early to its plan for running back last season’s roster, but injuries remain a key concern as the team plans to enter the season without starting point guard Lonzo Ball.

With the Bulls opening training camp Tuesday, here’s a rundown of how some of the top players spent their summer

1. Lonzo Ball’s left knee injury lingers

The offseason didn’t offer relief for Lonzo Ball, who will have left knee surgery Wednesday and miss the start of the season as he continues to seek answers for an injury that has lingered since January.

Ball will undergo an arthroscopic debridement — a procedure that removes cartilage, tissue and other debris — of his left knee. The procedure will take place in Los Angeles, where Ball spent the offseason attempting to rehab the injury.

Ball will be reevaluated four to six weeks after the procedure, sidelining him through at least the first five games of the season. By the time he is reevaluated, Ball will have gone more than 10 months without being able to run at full speed or scrimmage with contact, and that volume of missed games will require a lengthy onboarding back into the weekly workload of the regular season.

2. DeMar DeRozan dominates the Drew League

DeRozan returned to the Drew League with his team MMV Cheaters this summer, dropping eye-popping scoring performances in the vaunted pro-am league.

The Drew League is a competitive league based at King Drew Magnet High School in DeRozan’s hometown of Compton, Calif. The league regularly features top NBA talent, with rotating rosters that allow players to drop in throughout the summer.

DeRozan scored 36 points on his top night of the summer, but the Cheaters ultimately were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

Patrick Williams joined DeRozan for a game, finishing with 14 points and 14 rebounds in his league debut. At the start of summer, Williams cited plans to join DeRozan in Los Angeles to undergo grueling “hell” workouts that the veteran previously honed with Kobe Bryant.

DeRozan also welcomed Lakers star LeBron James onto his team for a July game. In his first appearance in the Drew League since 2011, James dropped 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals in the win while DeRozan added 30 points and 14 rebounds.

3. Zach LaVine welcomes first child

Zach LaVine and his wife, Hunter, welcomed their first child, Saint Thomas, in August.

After signing a maximum five-year, $215.2 million contract extension with the Bulls in July, LaVine expressed excitement and nerves over his new role as a father.

“That’s bigger than basketball, bigger than everything,” the two-time All-Star said. “I’m nervous, anxious, excited. … I know how to play basketball — but this is something I haven’t done yet.”

LaVine, 27, focused on growth and recovery this offseason. He spent most of the summer in Los Angeles after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May to address discomfort that plagued him for the latter half of the 2021-22 season.

4. Goran Dragić returns to Eurobasket tournament

Dragić came out of international retirement at 36 to play for the Slovenian national team in the Eurobasket tournament this summer, starting alongside Dallas star Luka Dončić.

The tournament offered a much-needed update on Dragić’s current abilities after the guard played only 21 games last season.

Slovenia’s run was cut short in a quarterfinals upset by Poland, but Dragić’s performance proved positive: He averaged 14.9 points, 3.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals in seven games.

Dragić oscillated between the primary and secondary ballhandler roles, showcasing promise for his ability to run an offense as the Bulls weigh their point guard alternatives to the injured Ball.

The tournament was dominated by top NBA stars, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it was missing one Bulls starter: Vučević. The center opted not to compete for the Serbian national team in part to focus on his role with the Bulls after a frustrating end to the 2021-22 season.

5. Ayo Dosunmu bulks up, focuses on community

The second-year guard showed signs of significant muscle gain during his first full offseason, participating in summer workouts at the Advocate Center despite sitting out of summer league in Las Vegas.

But the biggest event of Dosunmu’s summer took place on a different court. Dosunmu hosted a community block party in July to honor his childhood friend Darius Brown, who was killed in a shooting on their neighborhood basketball court.

The homegrown guard participated in charity events throughout the summer, joining Mayor Lori Lightfoot to speak at a peace march in June to advocate against gun violence.


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Do the Jets have more magic in their hat against the Bengals?

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Do The Jets Have More Magic In Their Hat Against The Bengals?
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Last weekend’s 31-30 win against the Cleveland Browns was one of the more thrilling Jets victories in recent time.

Now Gang Green (1-1) will look to win consecutive games for the first time since the 2020 season as they will take on a Cincinnati Bengals team attempting to get their first victory of the season.

“They’re AFC Champions and I would think when you look at those games, they can be sitting here going into Week 3 looking a lot different,” quarterback Joe Flacco said.

“Obviously, they haven’t played as well as they would want to, but they’ve had chances even with that said, so they are a really good football team and we got a really tough challenge ahead of us and we’re excited about it.”

Cincinnati (0-2) might be winless, but both of its games have come down to the wire. Despite turning the ball over five times, the Bengals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a Chris Boswell 53-yard field goal with five seconds left. Cincinnati lost again on a last-second field to the Dallas Cowboys as Brett Maher hit a 50-yarder with three seconds left.

Despite the losses, the Bengals still have talented quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. However, Cincinnati’s offensive line and their four new starters have been its primary issue.

In two games, the Bengals have allowed Burrow to be sacked 13 times, which is the most in the league. Also, starting right tackle La’el Collins missed two days of practice this week and is questionable due to a back injury.

The Green and White haven’t gotten a lot of pressure on opposing team’s quarterbacks this season as they have just three sacks on the season.

If the Jets are to come away with the victory, a player like Carl Lawson keeping Burrow flustered could be the key to their success.

“There is definitely room for improvement as far as our rush is concerned,” Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “That’s the players executing, that’s me putting them in better positions to be successful, as far as rushing, but I think there’s absolutely validity too to the fact that the first two teams were run teams and, in this day, and age in football, it’s rare you see that.

“Especially to get them consecutively. We should have more opportunities to absolutely go forward and rush and jump out of our shoes as far as [the] rush is concerned.”

Cincinnati remembers the last time it came to MetLife Stadium. On Halloween last season, Gang Green upset the Bengals 34-31 to get its second victory of the year.

Mike White, starting in place of an injured Zach Wilson, threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns against the Bengals’ defense. Running back Michael Carter also had a memorable performance as he rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in nine receptions for 95 yards.

The loss against the Jets began a two-game losing streak for Cincinnati. However, the Bengals still won the AFC North and eventually represented the conference in the Super Bowl before losing to the Los Angeles Rams.

“I look at the Cincinnati team and I get the narrative outside of it, I see a team that’s still playing their tails off, a team that brings it every day,” said head coach Robert Saleh.

“I see a team that turned the ball over five times and didn’t take it away in Week One and were still lining up for a game-winning field goal in overtime, which was blocked, so they’ve been on the wrong side of luck.

“This team, they’re still the AFC champs in my mind. They’re still playing at a very high level and we fully expect them to be exactly what we’re seeing on tape, which is a really good football team.”


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Chicago Bears vs. Houston Texans: Everything you need to know about the Week 3 game before kickoff

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Chicago Bears Vs. Houston Texans: Everything You Need To Know About The Week 3 Game Before Kickoff
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The 1-1 Chicago Bears will host the 0-1-1 Houston Texans at Soldier Field in a Week 3 matchup. Here’s what you need to know before kickoff (noon, CBS).

Get our free Bears alerts | Get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts on the Bears first | More Bears news

Injury updates

Bears linebacker Roquan Smith and cornerback Jaylon Johnson are listed as questionable to play.

Smith didn’t practice all week as he recovers from a hip injury suffered in the Week 2 loss to the Packers. Coach Matt Eberflus said listing Smith as questionable means he’s at a 51% chance of playing.

Rookie wide receiver/returner Velus Jones Jr. was limited in practice for a second straight day as he recovers from a hamstring injury but is listed as doubtful. He’s missed the first two games of the season.

Tight end Ryan Griffin (Achilles) and safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) were declared out. Read the full story here.

OC defends the Bears’ run-pass balance

The comparisons were all over social media this week.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields has 28 pass attempts in two games this season. Every other team in the league has at least 28 completions and 52 attempts.

The Bears’ measly passing-game numbers, which total 15 completions and 191 yards, have dominated talk, with coach Matt Eberflus saying the Bears need to strive for a better balance in the running and passing games.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy understands it: “I love to throw because I’m a quarterback guy, right?”

And surely Getsy knows Fields needs to throw to develop in his second season. But Getsy also believes in following a plan tailored to what a defense is presenting them. Read the full story here.

Soldier Field guide — and a weather report

There’s a slight chance of rain in Sunday’s forecast, but nowhere near the amount of precipitation fans endured in the Week 1 win over the 49ers (so, no Slip ‘N Slide celebrations this time around). The expected high is set for 69 degrees, with wind of the WNW at 19 mph.

Chicago experiences higher temperatures longer than outlying suburbs due to the heat-island effect. Its location next to Lake Michigan’s warm waters explains why the city and nearby suburbs freeze later in the year than their farther-out counterparts.

Locally, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting temperatures leaning above normal and “equal chances” of above or below precipitation from October through December.

If you’re headed to Soldier Field, here’s our guide — including where (and what) to tailgate. And no, you won’t be hearing the Bear Raid siren this year.

Latest stadium news from Arlington Heights

Arlington Heights officials rejected a petition to ban village financial incentives for Chicago Bears or any other business, stating that the petition didn’t have enough valid signatures — and warning that such a move would hurt businesses and taxpayers.

The petition calls for the village to create an “Anti-Corporate Welfare Ordinance” that would prohibit any financial or other incentive to a business to operate in the village. The petition was submitted by Americans for Prosperity Illinois, part of a libertarian group backed by the conservative Koch brothers. Read the full story here and read all our coverage here.

Miss anything this week? Catch up on our coverage before kickoff.

  • 5 things to watch in the Bears-Texans game — plus our Week 3 predictions
  • Column: Patience is required to evaluate QB Justin Fields — especially with the Bears offense around him
  • Bears QB Justin Fields says ‘my job is not to call pass plays’ after attempting only 11 passes in a lopsided loss
  • 12 eye-catching numbers as the Bears prepare to face the Texans
  • Column: Justin Fields apologized to Bears fans. It was mature and sincere — but also unnecessary.
  • Bears Q&A with Brad Biggs: Do the coaches doubt Justin Fields as a passer? What is with Kyler Gordon’s rookie struggles?


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Aimee Pugh Bernard: An immunologist offers tips for assessing health info in the wilds of the Internet

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Aimee Pugh Bernard: An Immunologist Offers Tips For Assessing Health Info In The Wilds Of The Internet
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As a mom with real concerns about my kid’s health, and as an educator and scientist who appreciates the hard facts, I understand how difficult it can be to make choices that affect your family’s health. This has been made even more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic; the decisions we make not only impact ourselves but the people around us in our communities.

Being skeptical and learning as much as we can before we make important decisions is a good thing. Researching information regarding our health and well-being can be complicated. Today’s world is filled with conflicting information online, in the media, and among peers and family members – it’s hard to know which sources are accurate and reliable.

Conflicting information during the pandemic has also come from scientists and medical experts. That doesn’t seem right! Why does that happen?


It’s important to know that science is always evolving.

At the start of the pandemic, scientists knew just as much as the general public.Until we started collecting and analyzing clinical data and doing experiments with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, we had very little information about how the virus worked and how it spread. The more we learned, the more information we had to make recommendations for the health and well-being of our communities. I know it was (and still is) frustrating. I was right there with you. Mask or no mask? Wipe down the groceries, let them sit without being touched for a day or load them into my cupboards right away? We didn’t know.

What we do know is that the more we learn about the virus, the more information we have to make and update our recommendations. Sometimes new information leads us to revise an earlier recommendation. This is even more complicated as variants emerge that act and work a little bit differently than the original virus.

You can think of variants as kids. While kids have the same genetic information as their parents — it’s a little bit of a mixture with some unique changes — it often results in a human that looks and acts differently. This is the same with viruses. It means that we, as scientists, are always chasing after the newest variant of the virus to learn as much as we can to update our recommendations to the general public based on the most recent clinical and scientific data.

We all want to do what’s right and make the best decisions possible. With all the conflicting messages we see in the media, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and maybe even be led down a path of inaccurate and sometimes harmful information. The internet and endless number of social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, etc.) have made finding credible information challenging. Anyone who wants to share their message with the world has the ability to do so. This means that experts and non-experts alike have found an equal voice in the wild world of the internet and social media.

This is where I come in; I’ll use my expertise as a scientist and my experience as an science communicator and educator to help you distinguish between the facts and fake news.


What can you do to make sense of conflicting information?

How can you find information that comes from credible sources and experts who are sharing their expertise to empower you to make decisions based on facts and the truth?

Here are four quick tips that I always use to help me decipher facts from fakes news:

1.      Check my emotions. Does what I just read or watched make me feel strong emotions?

2.      Check the author. Is the author an expert in the field? Does the author have experience and/or training in the area for which s/he is writing about?

3.      Check the source. Is this a reputable source? Is it source that medical doctors and scientists would use to get and/or share information?

4.      Check the references. Does the article or video share the source of information?


My motivation to share these tips came from a Letter to the Editor the Pioneer Press published on Aug. 28 titled, “Ongoing debate on vaccines for kids.”

As a PhD immunologist for over 20 years, I can tell you that there is no debate in the medical community about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. We agree that vaccines are one of the greatest medical advancements in existence and they have saved millions, if not billions, of lives. The author of the letter shared a YouTube channel from an individual who is not an expert in the field of medicine and, contrary to what was stated in the opinion piece, is not “respected by persons on all sides of the COVID issue.”

How did I figure this out?

Let’s use that YouTube video recommendation (which I will not list here for reasons stated above) as an example and go through my list of four quick tips together.

1. Check my emotions. How did this YouTube video make me feel?

The video was definitely created to spark strong emotion. It was designed to invoke fear and anger; the author conveyed that he was revealing information that the medical establishment did not want the public to know. The desired outcome was to inspire fear and anger against the medical establishment but trust in him, since he was (allegedly) letting us in on a secret.

2. Check the author. Who is this person? What makes him an expert?

After a little digging, I found out that he is not a medical doctor or a biologist. He also has no training in immunology, vaccine biology or infectious disease. He calls himself a doctor because he has a PhD in the study of open education resources. Having a PhD does make it legitimate to call oneself “doctor” (as I know from personal experience) but his expertise and training are not in the area this video was focused on – COVID and vaccines. Bottom line is that he is not an expert in the field that was the focus of the YouTube video.

3. Check the source. Is this a reputable source of information? Is this a source that scientific experts would use to find factual information?

No. YouTube is not a source that medical doctors or scientists use to gather factual information. The most legitimate sources of information about infectious disease and medicine used to treat them come from science articles that are published in scientific journals, medical textbooks, and reputable academic and medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Although YouTube can be a source for factual information, much of the time when scientific information is revealed on YouTube, it is coming from people who are not experts and do not have the scientific data to get their news published in a reputable source.

Can YouTube be a source of factual information? Absolutely! Scientists and medical professionals use YouTube as a communication tool to disseminate information about exciting new developments in disease treatments and research studies that have been published in scientific journals. Furthermore, there are fascinating YouTube videos created by music professors discussing the elements of music theory, mechanics explaining how braking systems work, chefs talking about the latest and most innovative cooking techniques, and so much more! YouTube is an audiovisual library filled with hours of informative and entertaining  videos. To figure out if the YouTube video you are watching is factual, go back to Tip #1 (check emotions) and Tip #2 (check the author).

4. Check the references. Are there any references listed? If so, what are they, and are they reputable and valid?

First item of business here, if there are no references listed, that’s a red flag. For our investigation, this video did use a reference known as a “pre-print.” In science, pre-prints are versions of articles that communicate the results of scientific findings that have just happened but have not yet been validated and reviewed by other scientific experts through a process called peer review.

Peer review is a big deal in science. It is the process by which science experts in the same field as the author of the paper, but who are not part of the study, scrutinize the data and determine if the findings in the paper are accurate and valid. Peer review is the process in science by which we determine if the scientific findings are fact or fake news. Pre-prints have not yet undergone this intense scrutiny and should not be accepted as fact. It’s kind of like telling all your buddies about a huge fish you caught without having any witnesses with you on the fishing excursion. It could be true but could also be fake news.

During the early days of COVID, pre-prints were valuable to the medical community. The peer review process is time-consuming and when we needed to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, pre-prints allowed us to do so. Those of us trained in science could distinguish good data from bad data by analyzing the methods and statistical analysis in the pre-prints. We know from years of training which pre-prints had information that might be valid. We also know that pre-prints need to go through peer review and only those that go on to publication in a scientific journal would prevail as fact. Those that did not, would be chalked up to fake news.


Walking through the four quick tips together, we found out that:

1.      The video sparked strong emotion (even for a Minnesotan)

2.      The author is not an expert in COVID, vaccines, or pandemics

3.      The source is YouTube, which is not an accepted platform for the communication of scientific information

4.      The reference is a pre-print, which can be a source of information but has not yet undergone the scrutinous peer review process and should not be accepted as fact

Using the 4 quick tips, the result of our investigation suggests this is not a valid source of information and we should not accept this particular YouTube video as accurate.


As a scientist and educator, I encourage you to remain curious and skeptical when it comes to your health and decisions that will impact your life and the lives of your loved ones and the greater community.

Knowledge is power. As you do your own research to learn as much as possible before making important decisions regarding your health and the health of your family, keep in mind the four quick tips listed above. Distinguish fact from fake news by remembering that credible information rarely comes from sources that evoke strong emotion, people who are not experts in the field of which they write, in a YouTube video, and without references from credible sources.

For more information on how to become a pro at deciphering facts from fake news, I encourage you to visit the News Literacy Project ( website.

For more information about how vaccines work with the immune system to train our bodies to fight infectious diseases, check out my “Immunology 101” blog series at Immunize Colorado Team Vaccine (

Aimee Pugh Bernard is an immunologist and professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus. She was born and raised in South St. Paul and attended college at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter. 

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Trudy Rubin: Putin’s threat to use nukes is a sure sign his war is failing

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Trudy Rubin: Putin’s Threat To Use Nukes Is A Sure Sign His War Is Failing
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Twenty-two years ago, at the Davos World Economic Forum, when a little-known Vladimir Putin had just become president, I asked four senior Russian leaders: “Who is Mr. Putin?”

Seated in a row on stage, all four refused to answer, apparently fearful of their new boss. The audience burst out laughing. Russian TV, in the front row, filmed the whole episode and ran it repeatedly — for years. “Who is Mr. Putin?” became a meme that has endured until the present.

Now, as Putin threatens (again) to use nukes to rescue his failed war in Ukraine, his psyche is once more being dissected. Is he bluffing? Is he mad? Can he be enticed to negotiations?

These are the wrong questions. Vladimir Putin is a bully who only stops when confronted. He has made clear that he is a danger to Europe, the United States and the world — not just Ukraine.

Now is the historic moment, when Putin is reeling from a string of Ukrainian military successes, to take advantage of his weakness. At long last, the West must give Kyiv the critical weapons it needs to push Russian troops out of Ukraine.

Putin’s Sept. 21 speech — in which he called for a “partial” military mobilization of 300,000 soldiers and hinted that Russia might use nuclear weapons — was a clear sign of weakness. Ukraine’s advances in the north of the country led to the collapse of the ill-equipped, poorly led Russian occupation troops, and his call-up won’t rejuvenate his troubled army.

“There is almost no chance they will get anywhere close to 300,000, because nobody wants to do it,” I was told by Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of the United States Army Europe, by phone from Romania.

“It will be months before any of these guys show up, never mind get trained,” Hodges added, especially since Russia is running short of uniforms, supplies — and capable commanders. And fears of the call-up are already generating social unrest in big cities.

Knowing this, Putin has trotted out his veiled nuclear threat, stating that, if any nation jeopardizes “the territorial integrity of our country … we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”

Yet Putin and his circle have made nuclear threats frequently in recent years — and they have always been a bluff. “They typically back down if you ignore them or you make a very clear response,” said Hodges.

The reason that Putin’s use of tactical nukes is highly unlikely is that it won’t gain the Russians any military advantage.

“There is zero strategic upside,” Hodges explained. Putin is not going to start a strategic nuclear war with NATO, which would destroy him. As for using tactical nuclear weapons (which have a much smaller yield), Hodges noted that they wouldn’t do as much damage as Moscow’s conventional missiles have done to major Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol.

But their use would provoke a global outcry against breaking the nuclear taboo that has existed since 1945, forcing even China and India to condemn Putin. “It would be impossible for the U.S. not to respond, and the response would be devastating,” said Hodges.

President Joe Biden told “60 Minutes” last Sunday that the U.S. response would be “consequential.” One hopes private White House messages to Putin make clear that Biden’s retort is not a bluff.

Of course, many observers wonder if that response to any Russian escalation would be nuclear. But the U.S. has many non-nuclear options — from so-called bunker busters to cyber counterattacks — to seriously punish such a strike. Their extent should be made clear to Moscow.

“Of course, good people worry (about the nuclear threat),” Hodges said, “but if we give in to Putin’s blackmail there is no end to this. Where does it stop?” Such threats could be used against small NATO countries. China and North Korea are also watching how the West responds to Putin’s nuclear threats.

Which brings us to the pipe dream of peace talks, a frequent proposal by those who fear a Putin who runs “crazy.” The Russian leader has so far rejected peace talks (despite lies to the contrary), and would only use them to regroup his military. Putin has said Ukraine has no right to exist and is preparing to annex occupied Ukrainian lands via rigged referendums.

So there is no possibility of serious talks before Russia is forced to give up most or all of the lands it has annexed. Indeed, the administration should stop talking about “strengthening Ukraine’s hand” at the negotiating table.

On the contrary, this is the moment, when Putin is on the back foot, that the West must expedite delivery of the weapons systems Ukraine needs to win this conflict.

“Yes, we have a few HIMARs” — the precision multiple rocket launchers sent recently by Washington, that have enabled the Ukrainians to knock out Russian logistics and command centers — I was told via WhatsApp by Brig. Gen. “Marcel” Melnik, commander of the Ukrainian Army’s Kharkiv garrison, as he drove around newly liberated towns last week. “But if we would have more HIMARS, along with air defense systems, and armored cars, we can win.”

There is no reason for the U.S. and its allies to keep denying the Ukrainians the air defenses, long-range missiles, tanks and planes that could defeat Putin. It is critical to deliver them now, before winter sets in, before Russia mobilizes, before Putin bombs every bit of civilian infrastructure left in Ukraine.

Let’s stop letting fear of “mad” Putin’s nukes spook us. Get off the stick, Biden administration (which has done much right, but is still holding back key weapons systems)! Put your weapons where your mouths are, France and Germany! Now is the moment to help Kyiv push Putin’s army out of Ukraine.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the The Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may write to her at: Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101, or by email at [email protected]

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