U.S. health officials said Thursday a company is recalling its over-the-counter eye drops that have been linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week sent a health alert to doctors, saying the outbreak included at least 55 people in 12 states. One died and at least five others had permanent vision loss.

The infections, including some found in blood, urine and lungs, were linked to EzriCare Artificial Tears. Many said they had used the product, which is a lubricant used to treat irritation and dryness.

The eye drops are sold under the name EzriCare and are made in India by Global Pharma Healthcare. The Food and Drug Administration said the company recalled unexpired lots of EzriCare Artificial Tears and another product, Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears.

The FDA recommended the recall based on manufacturing problems including lack of testing and proper controls on packaging. The agency also blocked import into the United States.

The infections were caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Investigators detected it in open EzriCare bottles, but further testing was underway.

EzriCare, the company that markets the eye drops in the U.S., said it is not aware of any evidence definitively linking the outbreak to the product, but that it has stopped distributing the eye drops. It also has a notice on its website urging consumers to stop using the product.

Infections were diagnosed in patients in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. A person in Washington died with a blood infection.

The outbreak is considered particularly worrisome because the bacteria driving it are resistant to standard antibiotics.

Investigators found the bacteria were not susceptible to any antibiotics routinely tested at public health laboratories. However, a newer antibiotic named cefiderocol seemed to work.

How could eye drops cause infections in the blood or lungs? The eye connects to the nasal cavity through the tear ducts. Bacteria can move from the nasal cavity into the lungs. Also, bacteria in these parts of the body can seed infections at other sites such as in the blood or wounds, CDC officials said.

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At a nuclear waste site in Normandy, robotic arms guided by technicians behind a protective shield maneuver a pipe that will turn radioactive chemicals into glass as France seeks to make safe the byproducts of its growing reliance on atomic power.

The fuel-cooling pools in La Hague, on the country’s northwestern tip, could be full by the end of the decade and state-owned Orano, which runs them, says the government needs to outline a long-term strategy to modernize its aging facilities no later than 2025.

While more nuclear energy can help France and other countries to reduce planet-warming emissions, environmental campaigners say it replaces one problem with another.

To seek solutions, President Emmanuel Macron, who has announced plans to build at least six new reactors by 2050, on Friday chairs the first of a series of meetings on nuclear policy that will discuss investments and waste recycling.

“We can’t have a responsible nuclear policy without taking into account the handling of used fuel and waste. It’s a subject we can’t sweep under the rug,” a government adviser told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We have real skills and a real technological advantage, especially over the United States. Russia is the only other country that is able to do what France does in terms of treatment and recycling.”

La Hague is the country’s sole site able to process and partially recycle used nuclear fuel.

France historically has relied on nuclear power for around 70% of its energy, although the share is likely to have fallen last year as the nuclear fleet suffered repeated outages.

Since the launch of the site at La Hague in 1976, it has treated nearly 40,000 tons of radioactive material and recycled some into nuclear fuel that can be reused. The waste that cannot be recycled is mixed with hardening slices of glass and buried for short-term storage underground.

But its four existing cooling pools for spent fuel rods and recycled fuel that has been reused risk saturation by 2030, according to French power giant EDF, which runs France’s 56-strong fleet of reactors, the world’s second biggest after the United States.

Should saturation happen, France’s reactors would have nowhere to place their spent fuel and would have to shut down — a worst-case scenario that led France’s Court of Audit to designate La Hague as “an important vulnerability point” in 2019.

Cool pools and deep clay

EDF is hurrying to build an extra refrigerated pool at La Hague, at a cost of $1.37 billion, to store spent nuclear fuel — a first step before the waste can be treated — but that will not be ready until 2034 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, France’s national agency for managing nuclear waste last month requested approval for a project to store permanently high-level radioactive waste.

The plan, called Cigéo, would involve placing the waste 500 meters below ground in a clay formation in eastern France.

Construction is expected in 2027 if it gets approval. Among those opposed to it are residents of the nearby village of Bure and anti-nuclear campaigners.

Jean-Christophe Varin, deputy director of the La Hague site, told Reuters Orano could be flexible to ensure more recycling is done at the facility and there were “several possible scenarios.”

However, he said they could not be worked on in detail in the absence of a strategic vision. Orano, for which EDF accounts for 95% of its recycling business, says it needs clear direction from the government no later than 2025, to give it time to plan the necessary investments.

The costs are likely to be high. Just keeping up with current operations at La Hague costs nearly $330 million a year.

Options EDF and Orano are considering include finding a way to recycle the used fuel more than once, but critics say the recycling itself creates more radioactive waste and is not a long-term solution. For now, the backup plan is to fit more fuel containers into the existing pools.

After being cooled in a pool for about seven years, used nuclear fuel is separated into non-recyclable leftovers that are turned into glass (4% of the material), plutonium (1%) to create a new nuclear fuel called MOX, on which around 40% of France’s reactors can run, and reprocessed uranium (95%).

The uranium in the past was sent to Russia for reenrichment and return for use in some EDF reactors, but EDF stopped doing that in 2013 as it was too costly.

In spite of the war in Ukraine, which has made many in the West avoid doing business with Russia, EDF is expected to resume sending uranium to Russia this year as the only country able to process it. It declined to confirm to Reuters it would do so.

The facility at La Hague, with its 1980s-era buildings and Star Wars-style control rooms, has its limitations.

“If we had to process MOX fuel in large quantities, the facility today isn’t adapted for it,” Varin said. “For multicycle recycling, the technology is not the same, so the modernization or replacement of installations” would require “significant” investments, he said.

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A legendary U.S. groundhog, from the (east central U.S.) town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, was pulled from his burrow early Thursday, with local officials declaring he saw his shadow, indicating, according to legend, there will be at least six more weeks of winter.

The annual observance of Groundhog Day on February 2 brings thousands of revelers to the town—located about 105 kilometers northeast of Pittsburgh—each year. Local officials, dressed in top hats and long coats, make a show of pulling the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil from his underground burrow to get his forecast.

The event is held shortly after dawn, around 7:15am, but the festivities begin as early as early as 3:30am with live entertainment and fireworks.

According to the organizer’s website, the tradition of seeking a weather forecast from a groundhog—a large rodent and member of the squirrel family—began in the town in 1886. Its origins go back to both Christian and pagan observances in Europe.

The pagan ritual marked the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. In Christian tradition, the feast day of Candlemas was when the church would distribute candles needed for the rest of winter, and it evolved into a prediction for how much longer winter would last.

Historians say the Germans began the tradition of involving an animal to the prediction process, using a hedgehog, a small, spiny animal common in parts of Europe. Germans immigrating to the eastern United States, where there are no hedgehogs, kept up the tradition by turning to groundhogs.

While the tradition and the celebration that accompanies it has stood the test of time, the groundhog has not had a good track record of accurately predicting winter weather. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reports Punxsutawney Phil has been right roughly 40% of the time over the last 10 years.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press.

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Personal possession of a small amount of hard drugs is now legal in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The controversial move is intended to reduce deaths from drug use.

The personal possession of 2.5 grams of hard drugs, including cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and morphine, has now been decriminalized. This temporary exemption means a person found with a small quantity of these drugs will not have them seized nor face arrest or any criminal charges. 

An average of six people a day die in British Columbia from illicit drug use, mostly men in their private residences. 

The day the three-year pilot program went into effect, the provincial coroner announced 2,272 people had died in 2022 from drug overdose. That was the second highest on record, topped only by 2,306 deaths in 2021. 

It is hoped decriminalizing small-scale possession will help fight drug mortality by putting the focus on treatment instead of criminal prosecution. 

Retired police officer Chuck Doucette, president of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, is strongly opposed to the move, and said that “it really doesn’t address the issues at all, it’s not going to save any lives.” 

He pointed to the number of deaths by overdose and added that with drugs, “Whether they’re legal or decriminalized or not — doesn’t make them any less likely to kill you.” 

Kora DeBeck, a research scientist at the BC Center on Substance Use in Vancouver and an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, backs decriminalization. She said that research shows prohibition does not work, but compassionate treatment of drug-dependent people can work. 

“We see so many signals that that improves our ability to connect with people who use drugs — to connect them with supports and services and things to reduce harm to them, and to their community,” DeBeck said.  

She added that decriminalization had already happened to a large extent nationwide, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other law enforcement agencies already not arresting anyone found with a small amount of narcotics. 

Constable Tania Visintin of the Vancouver Police Department says the difference now is that any small amount drugs found will not be seized. 

“We were legally bound to seize those drugs, even if it was a small amount, and we would seize them for destruction. So they would never be part of any kind of charge or court case at all,” Visintin said. “But now under this new exemption, then, we just won’t be seizing any drugs that we find that are in a small personal use possession type of form.” 

For DeBeck, the benefit of this is that those addicted to drugs won’t be compelled to go to extraordinary lengths to replenish their supply. Before, said DeBeck, if their drugs were seized, “they may go to a less reliable source.”

DeBeck said that it placed people “in a desperate situation, they may have to resort to risky income generation or criminal activity or something like that.” 

The exemption, which has the blessing of the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will last for three years and is limited to British Columbia for now. 

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«Ворог… незважаючи на великі втрати, продовжує спроби наступальних дій на Лиманському, Бахмутському, Авдіївському та Новопавлівському напрямках»

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