Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.
U.S. job market experiences “Great Resignation”
Economics experts are calling a record-breaking trend in the U.S. job market the “Great Resignation,” citing the historic numbers of Americans choosing to leave their jobs. Indeed, large numbers of citizens are receiving unemployment benefits from the government amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But while some people are quitting their jobs to sit on the sidelines, others are rethinking their entire approach toward career and life-work balance.
According to Mark Cenedella, CEO of career site Ladders Inc., a significant number of employees are leaving office positions in favor of remote jobs that allow them more workplace flexibility. Leading the workplace exodus are workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries, who are fleeing to safer work conditions and higher wages.
Even amid ongoing economic problems and skyrocketing inflation, Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics Group told USA Today that she predicts the unprecedented worker shortage, as a truly global phenomenon, will persist in the coming months. The upside: Those looking to reinvent their careers or work-life balance will have a marked advantage in their negotiations with potential employers that are desperate for workers. According to a report by Indeed, “The short-term outlook for the labor market suggests workers are likely to continue to have considerable bargaining power in 2022. . .” —Mariel Lindsay
Russian Federation sends troops to quell protests in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan, a Central Asian republic south of Russia, appears on the dangerous brink of civil war after civilian protesters in the western half of the nation clashed with both national security forces and troops of the Russian Federation ordered in by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Infuriated Kazakh civilians took to the streets, particularly in the capital city of Almary, after the government announced, on January 1, that gas prices would not only increase, but literally double. In addition, civilians are protesting government corruption, including a suspected illegitimate election resulting in the inauguration of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who is widely considered a mere puppet of the iron-fisted Soviet dictator who preceded him. Added to the pressure cooker of political unrest is widespread misery over long-standing low wages and pandemic-fueled mass unemployment.
In the (translated) words of one frustrated protestor who took to Twitter to explain the anger fueling the demonstrations: "Every day everything rises in price. I mean groceries and everything else. Impossibly getting more expensive. . . It's not easy for ordinary people."
On Tuesday, the government attempted to silence the protests with a nationwide Internet shutdown, as well a two-week curfew and a ban on mass gatherings. By Wednesday, national media was reporting the beheading of a police officer by demonstrators, provoking Russian President Putin to order troops of the Russian Federation (an alliance made up of former Soviet Socialist Republics) to join the national security forces in quelling the growing unrest.
By the end of Wednesday, the nation’s entire government, save President Tokayev, resigned. But even after the President agreed to reverse his decision to double gas prices, the protests continued, with dozens of police and protestors killed in reported “street battles.” The president, for his part, continues to brand the protests “an attempted coup,” though he claims he is willing to sit down and negotiate an agreement. —Mariel Lindsay
Some popular prenatal tests are regularly wrong, New York Times reports
To many pregnant women, getting prenatal testing to screen for various genetic conditions may sound like a wise precaution. But to the businesses that offer them, prenatal tests are a multi-million-dollar cash cow, so it doesn’t matter to them if the tests are incorrect 80 to 90 percent of the time. That’s the conclusion of a recent New York Times report, which found that although prenatal tests are widespread (serving “more than a third of the pregnant women in America”), five common tests for rare genetic disorders produce false positives 85 percent of the time.
This leads to stories like Yael Geller’s; the Times reports that the mother considered aborting her unborn baby after a “prenatal blood test indicated her fetus might be missing part of a chromosome, which could lead to serious ailments and mental illness.” When she took an invasive follow-up test, she found out that her baby, now six months old, had no such disorder.
Not all women have Geller’s happy ending, however. False positives often lead mothers to abort perfectly healthy babies. The Times reports: “A 2014 study found that 6 percent of patients who screened positive obtained an abortion without getting another test to confirm the result. That same year the Boston Globe quoted a doctor describing three terminations following unconfirmed positive results.”
The companies that offer genetic testing, through bloodwork, for exceedingly rare genetic diseases have no incentive, or requirement, to reveal how often they turn up false positives. One obstetrician and geneticist at the University of California—San Francisco, Mary Norton, said that performing some of these prenatal tests for unlikely diseases is “a little like running mammograms on kids.”
“The chance of breast cancer is so low, so why are you doing it?” she said. “I think it’s purely a marketing thing.”
The Times notes that screenings for Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome “work well, according to experts,” but in screenings for rare conditions—DiGeorge syndrome, 1p36 deletion, Cri-du-chat syndrome, Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, and Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes—“positive results are often wrong.”
One hopes this report will lead more expectant mothers to have honest conversations with their doctors about the likelihood that prenatal tests contain false positives—perhaps even choosing not to have the tests at all. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Ghislaine Maxwell, convicted on five sex-crime charges, faces a second trial
After a month-long trial, Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted on five charges: conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sex trafficking conspiracy, and sex trafficking of a minor.
Maxwell was acquitted on one count, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. No jurors have yet spoken on the verdict, but the Associated Press notes that the enticement charge was “perhaps the most ambiguous of the charges levied."
Thanks to several women’s testimonies, however, the other charges were proven. According to the AP, “The prosecution hinged on the accusations of four women—Annie Farmer and the pseudonymous Jane, Kate and Carolyn—who say they were teenagers when Maxwell and Epstein sexually exploited them in the 1990s and early 2000s.”
The trial implicated Maxwell in Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking scheme, despite her claims that she was merely a scapegoat for the dead financier’s crimes. Maxwell has not been sentenced, though she could face up to 65 years in prison. And that’s not the end of the story. AP reports: “A family statement the night of the verdict said an appeal had already been started. And she faces another trial, on two counts of perjury that were spun off from her indictment.” —MFS
Good News of the Week
Student spots skin cancer at a hockey game, gets medical school scholarship
NHL assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton is lucky that pre-med college student Nadia Popovici decided to attend a Seattle Kraken game on October 23. That’s because she was seated behind the visiting Vancouver Canucks’ bench, and she spotted a mole on Hamilton’s neck that looked suspiciously like malignant melanoma.
Trying to minimize the weirdness factor of being accosted by a stranger, Popovici typed a note on her smartphone’s screen and held it up to the glass: “The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!” The moment was captured in a photograph.
At first, Hamilton brushed the incident off, but team physicians took a look and expressed concern. A doctor’s appointment later confirmed that the blemish had early cancerous cell changes—caught quickly thanks to Popovici speaking up. On Saturday, the Canucks reached out to the public via social media with a request from Hamilton. “I am trying to find a very special person and I need the hockey community’s help,” he said, explaining she helped change his life, and maybe even save it. “We are looking for this incredible person and we need you to share this with your friends and families to help us find a real life hero, so I can express my sincerest gratitude.”
Within an hour, Popovici was contacted, and she met up with Hamilton on Saturday night before another Kraken-Canucks game. The two franchises also announced they are giving her a $10,000 scholarship to help fund her journey through medical school. Needless to say, she definitely has a calling to healing and caring! —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
Just before the calendar flipped to 2022, television icon Betty White died, putting an exclamation mark on a very hard year. The indomitable Betty was just weeks away from celebrating her 100th birthday. To remember her, enjoy these clips from her recent appearances on the Tonight Show, when she joined Jimmy Fallon in a couple rounds of Beer Pong. Legendary.