For many people in government and the auto industry, the main concern is whether there will be enough lithium to meet soaring demand for electric vehicles.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed in August, has raised the stakes for the auto industry. To qualify for several incentives and subsidies in the law, which go to car buyers and automakers and are worth a total of $10,000 or more per electric vehicle, battery makers must use raw materials from North America or a country with which the United States has a trade agreement.

rising fast.

California and other states move to ban internal combustion engines. “It’s going to take everything we can do and our competitors can do over the next five years to keep up,” Mr. Norris said.

One of the first things that Sayona had to do when it took over the La Corne mine was pump out water that had filled the pit, exposing terraced walls of dark and pale stone from previous excavations. Lighter rock contains lithium.

After being blasted loose and crushed, the rock is processed in several stages to remove waste material. A short drive from the mine, inside a large building with walls of corrugated blue metal, a laser scanner uses jets of compressed air to separate light-colored lithium ore. The ore is then refined in vats filled with detergent and water, where the lithium floats to the surface and is skimmed away.

The end product looks like fine white sand but it is still only about 6 percent lithium. The rest includes aluminum, silicon and other substances. The material is sent to refineries, most of them in China, to be further purified.

Yves Desrosiers, an engineer and a senior adviser at Sayona, began working at the La Corne mine in 2012. During a tour, he expressed satisfaction at what he said were improvements made by Sayona and Piedmont. Those include better control of dust, and a plan to restore the site once the lithium runs out in a few decades.

“The productivity will be a lot better because we are correcting everything,” Mr. Desrosiers said. In a few years, the company plans to upgrade the facility to produce lithium carbonate, which contains a much higher concentration of lithium than the raw metal extracted from the ground.

The operation will get its electricity from Quebec’s abundant hydropower plants, and will use only recycled water in the separation process, Mr. Desrosiers said. Still, environmental activists are watching the project warily.

Mining is a pillar of the Quebec economy, and the area around La Corne is populated with people whose livelihoods depend on extraction of iron, nickel, copper, zinc and other metals. There is an active gold mine near the largest city in the area, Val-d’Or, or Valley of Gold.

Mining “is our life,” said Sébastien D’Astous, a metallurgist turned politician who is the mayor of Amos, a small city north of La Corne. “Everybody knows, or has in the near family, people who work in mining or for contractors.”

Most people support the lithium mine, but a significant minority oppose it, Mr. D’Astous said. Opponents fear that another lithium mine being developed by Sayona in nearby La Motte, Quebec, could contaminate an underground river.

Rodrigue Turgeon, a local lawyer and program co-leader for MiningWatch Canada, a watchdog group, has pushed to make sure the Sayona mines undergo rigorous environmental reviews. Long Point First Nation, an Indigenous group that says the mines are on its ancestral territory, wants to conduct its own environmental impact study.

Sébastien Lemire, who represents the region around La Corne in the Canadian Parliament, said he wanted to make sure that the wealth created by lithium mining flowed to the people of Quebec rather than to outside investors.

Mr. Lemire praised activists for being “vigilant” about environmental standards, but he favors the mine and drives an electric car, a Chevrolet Bolt.

“If we don’t do it,” he said at a cafe in La Corne, “we’re missing the opportunity of the electrification of transport.”

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STD, STI Cases Rise Each Year. Why Isn’t The U.S. Making Any Progress?

The pandemic might have made rising STD/STI numbers even worse. Health officials have urged action, but prevention efforts have stalled for years.

Public health has been top of mind for many the last couple of years, but there’s a public health problem that has largely flown under the radar: a growing rate of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

The number of STD and STI cases among Americans have been rising steadily each year since 2014. Even the pandemic, which trapped millions inside their homes, didn’t really make a dent in those numbers, and it might have made it worse.

These rising numbers have led many health officials to raise an alarm and urge action. Many experts believe one of the causes behind this problem is the lack of knowledge about the basic principles of safe sex, typically taught in sex education classes.

In fact, a Centers for Disease Control survey from 2019 showed that nearly 46% of sexually-active high school students did not use a condom the last time they had sex. That’s a huge problem considering the fact that out of all new STDs reported to the CDC each year, half were among young people aged 15 to 24.

The numbers show there were 2.4 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2020, which is the most recent year of data.

Chlamydia is currently the most common STD in the U.S., with 1.6 million cases reported to the CDC that year. While its numbers saw a slight drop from 2016, the CDC notes that the drops are probably not really because of an actual drop in infections. Since chlamydia is usually asymptomatic, case rates are heavily influenced by screening coverage, which the pandemic worsened.

Although overall cases of STDs and STIs fell in the pandemic’s early months, the CDC acknowledges that’s likely due to the reduced frequency of in-person health care services, resulting in fewer screenings. STD test and lab supply shortages, the diversion of health workers to pandemic response teams, and lapses in health insurance due to unemployment also contributed. Plus, the pandemic came after years of cuts to public health funding.

As anticipated by many experts, numbers picked up again at the end of 2020, with other diseases like gonorrhea and syphilis surpassing 2019 levels, according to CDC data. Preliminary data from 2021 shows there were more than 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in that year, meaning STDs and STIs continued to increase during the second year of the pandemic too, with no signs of slowing.

The CDC says it’s likely, “…we may never know the full impact of the pandemic on STDs. What is clear, however, is the state of STDs did not improve in the United States. Prevention and control efforts remain as important as ever.”

But, the country’s prevention and control methods need work. Comprehensive sex ed programs would be a start on prevention among the most commonly affected age group, but robust public testing and information campaigns could help all Americans. Public health funding, however, has faced slashes for years, taking a toll on STD screening and prevention efforts.

“Public funding cuts will prevent the public health system, the safety net, of being able to track down people’s partners so that your index patient doesn’t get reinfected because their partner was also treated appropriately,” said Dr. Anna Maya Powell, co-director of the Johns Hopkins HIV Women’s Program. “It’s easy to say, ‘People should take personal responsibility and come in for care,’ but I think the picture is a lot more complex than that.”

Only 2.5% of all health spending in the U.S. — which is about $3.8 trillion — is spent on public health and prevention programs. Last year, the Biden administration did announce a $1.13 billion investment to strengthen the disease intervention specialists (DIS) workforce at the CDC, but much of that funding seems to be for the agency’s pandemic response. 

Still, there’s reason for some optimism: There has been progress on STDs and STIs since the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s. The STI spread rapidly in the country then, especially among certain groups, like men who have sex with other men. 

Years of public information campaigns and research into treatment brought numbers down through the early 2000s and to a stable level by 2013. More recent figures may seem to hint at further progress on the overall HIV cases during the early pandemic, but those figures are also misleading because of the sharp drop in testing.

Plus, many experts have criticized the focus of historic HIV treatment and prevention efforts as largely being focused on treating rich, white, gay men and transgender groups, leaving out many lower-income Americans, people of color and women.

Women in general face a greater burden when it comes to sexual health. Many studies have established that women have a higher biological risk for contracting many STIs and HIV than men, with a higher probability of transmission from men to women.

“Women tend to be more asymptomatic for a lot of a lot of the conditions we’re talking about,” Dr. Powell said. “Not having symptoms maybe gives people a false sense of security, and then they don’t come in to get the routine screening that they might have otherwise if things were open and accessible.”

Black women in particular suffer higher numbers of both HIV and other STDs like herpes, and many experts say public prevention efforts have failed to address these groups adequately. Overall, inconsistencies in access to health care and prevention programs across different demographics throughout the country have affected our national battle against STDs and STIs. 

“We have had data that shows consistently what we need to be doing in the sexually transmitted infections, those cases in reproductive health,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, director of health for the city of St. Louis, Missouri. “We need to make sure that those policies are as standardized as possible so that they’re easily implementable and therefore easy to track data, data that then feeds back into the funding.”

Source: newsy.com

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Why Does Our Vision Get Worse As We Age?

An optometrist talks about declining eyesight, and how to preserve your vision as you get older.

Our aging eyes can start to see some problems. The gift of vision is one that researchers say wanes over time. Why? 

Dr. Robert Layman is one of the nation’s leading optometrists, with over four decades of experience in eye care. 

“The parts that make up your vision system, our lifetime cells, they’re brain tissue, and they never get a replacement part. So what you’re seeing with at 80 is what you started with at one,” said Layman.  

80% of the information we take in comes through the eye. Light travels through different structures, like the cornea at the front, which helps you focus light to see clearly. Or the iris that gives you your eye color and the pupil that lets light into the retina. 

Once light is allowed through that lens, it travels through the retina to the back of the eye. 

Special cells turn the light into electric signals that go through the optic nerve, to the brain. 

Over the years those signals pick up mileage and, like an old car, begin to slow down. 

“If you ever seen car headlights that have been outside, and they’re not transparent anymore, they get kind of frosted, that’s what happens to the cells inside your eye over eight decades to nine decades.”

Dr. Layman is describing cataracts. The age-related eye condition affects over 24 million people, according to the National Eye Institute.

Another ailment is presbyopia, which comes from two Greek words that mean “old man” and “eye.” 

It’s when our eye’s lens loses its natural flexibility over time and makes nearby objects tougher to see. 

“We’re born with this really elastic lens inside the eye and it can adjust from 25 feet to one inch and then gradually it loses the one inch to become six inches; and then gradually 12 inches and the closest point of focus you have is going to gradually go away from you. And that’s perfectly normal,” said Layman. 

These conditions are often solved with an assist from glasses, contact lenses or surgery. But are there other ways to fend off father time? 

Dr. Layman says we hold the keys to slowing the eye-aging process. 

“You have a role to play. People that have diets of lots of colorful fruits and vegetables every day, they’re gonna get nutrients that help transport good stuff into the eye cells and bad stuff out of the eye cells back to the kidney and liver to get recycled,” said Layman. 

The eye serves as a small but mighty part of the human engine. 

And with maintenance, can help you see more clearly as the miles pick up. 

Source: newsy.com

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How Accent-Changing Apps Are Removing Communication Barriers

Apps like Sanas are helping smooth communication by removing accent barriers that can lead to misunderstandings.

Accents are diverse and unique, but sometimes accents get in the way of understanding people. An app called Sanas looks to remove that barrier by using AI technology to take away a person’s accent.

“We’re all trained with the products, with the services,” said Dwayne Alviola, “Whether we’re in the Philippines or in a different country, rest assured that we’re trained in every detail to handle your accounts.”

Alviola lives in the Philippines and has worked for U.S.-based companies for eight years. He previously worked in call centers and now works in customer service.

Throughout the years of working in call centers, Alviola says he and his coworkers faced discrimination and racism on the other end of the call.

“Usually, the “f-you” word, then usually they’ll be in different types of curses, but since it’s our second language, we don’t even mind it,” Alviola said. “But, racism comes in, even if we know that we’re not the one being blamed for their experience, it still hits us the most.”

Alviola says they’re stuck. When he was working in call centers, they’re not allowed to hang up, so they have to be on the call until the caller on the other line clicks off. He says accent-altering apps can lead to smoother communication and less verbal abuse.

“Especially for new graduates who just entered training, then it would help them boost their confidence,” Alviola said. “That’s also one reason why I like the app, because if it was developed just a few years ago when I was starting, I would love it.”

Others find the Sanas app especially helpful when cops or hospitals are involved.

“If there is a law, like a with discussion, with the cop, with their doctor mainly, there are a lot of problem when communicating with the doctor if you don’t know proper English,” said Mehboob Ahmedabadi, an Indian man working in media.

On the flip side, others argue that apps that take away accents perpetuate racism and discrimination by masking the problem at hand. Judy Ravin, the founder of Accents International, says there’s a way to do things differently.

“At the conclusion of our program, which is called Powerful Pronunciation, people will still have an accent,” Ravin said. “We think that’s a good thing. An accent is a piece of our cultural and linguistic identity. What we won’t have is a communication barrier due to pronunciation.”

Unlike the app that filters voices, Accents International improves pronunciation through real time coaching. For example, the vowel sounding “aw” used in words like “law” or “daughter” can be tough for those not familiar with pronouncing it.

“The way we teach it is both,” Ravin said. “What does it look like, and what does it feel like? Well, it looks like someone’s popped an egg in their mouth. It looks like a perfect oval… and a person can feel the top of their tongue behind their lower teeth. So what does it look like? What does it feel like… not, what does it sound like?”

Vincent Dixon had a thick Irish accent, but through years of teaching English in France, he learned to communicate more effectively.

“I think sometimes people feel that their accents makes them lesser or more, and it really doesn’t,” Dixon said. “It just makes you who you are. It’s like the color of my eyes or the color of my hair.”

In a world filled with more AI listening, trying to get machines to understand despite an accent can be especially frustrating.

“It’s very frustrating because I talk to my watch, I talk to my husband,” said Eileen Panzardi, a Puerto Rican living in Atlanta. “I talk to my phone, and I have to pass it to my daughter, who was born here in Atlanta, and ask her to say whatever word it is for Siri to understand me because sometimes she don’t even get me.”

Ultimately, the goal of accent-changing technology is to create better person-to-person communication in an ever-increasing, globalized world.

“For me, the key point is not their identity in communication,” said Haulk A, a Kurdish software engineer living in Chicago. “In the communication, the important thing is to the message that you send and the message that you get.”

Source: newsy.com

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LGBTQ+ Individuals Face Heightened Safety Risks In Prison

LGBTQ+ inmates often face bias, discrimination and unsafe circumstances in prison.

Dee Farmer served time at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, for credit card fraud. She was housed in a male facility even though she identified as a trans woman. Based on prison policy, she was placed with her gender assigned at birth. Within two weeks of her arrival, she says she was beaten and raped by her cellmate. 

“I stayed in prison for 17 years. And while there, you know, I suffered all the types of abuses,” she said. “When I was raped, the guard was sitting down in his office and there were maybe 200 inmates in the unit I was in, in Terre Haute. There’s only one guard, generally, to every housing unit. So, to believe that the officers can protect you is just a myth.”

A lawsuit by Farmer against the prison system reached the Supreme Court. 

The justices ruled in her favor, saying that prison officials may be liable for harm if they know of safety risks and disregard them. That case was in 1994. 

Today, LGBTQ+ inmates still face bias, discrimination and unsafe circumstances in prison. 

Jane Hereth is an assistant professor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee whose recent report documented the overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in the criminal justice system and the pipeline that funnels many of them there.

“Bias and discrimination across the board by police, by judges, by attorneys,” she said. “Things like family rejection, poverty, homelessness, bullying in schools — were all part of their story leading to the criminal legal system.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, LGBTQ+ individuals were twice as likely to be arrested compared to their straight counterparts.   

“When we talk about incarceration, probation, the justice system in general, there’s a high representation of LGBTQ Black and brown folks,” Black and Pink Social Worker and Deputy Director Andrew Aleman said.

Once behind bars, trans individuals are at a heightened risk, especially trans women of color. 

“We know that most trans women who are who are taken into custody are housed in a men’s facility, despite knowing the risk and the high rates of sexual assault and violence that happen to trans women in men facilities,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Richard Saenz said.

Shows like “Orange Is the New Black” introduced many in the public to life in prison for LGBTQ+ people. 

“‘Orange Is the New Black’ and some other shows that have come out since then have really humanized people who are in custody,” Saenz continued. “One of the things that I remember seeing is that a trans woman was approached, you know, maybe by four or five inmates at once, sort of like jokingly harassing her sexually. And so that is something that you generally see within the prison system on a daily basis.”

Farmer says harassment takes a mental toll.  

“They suffer a number of times, many of them, even if they’re not raped, they are constantly sexually harassed and pressured into sexual relationships,” Farmer said. “And many of them have to do it for their safety.”

Farmer says there’s still a revolving door of LGBTQ+ people who go through solitary confinement for  protection but then return to the general prison population because confinement was depressing.  

“I was placed in the segregation unit and I was there for over a year. And while I was there, there were maybe eight or nine, not necessarily transgender, but gay and transgender — I would just say gender-nonconforming inmates — that were just back and forth into the segregation unit,” Farmer said.

Organizations like Black and Pink are advocates for LGBTQ+ in the criminal justice systems. Their programs connect gay inmates to support networks outside prison.  

“My ask would be that we don’t forget our roots, and we don’t forget that there are thousands of LGBTQ people in prisons and jails right now. And these are our loved ones,” Saenz said. 

Source: newsy.com

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