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Operation Warp Speed: Fast-Tracking the COVID-19 Vaccine

A historic undertaking brings vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to the American public in record time. We’ve heard Operation Warp Speed (OWS) described in the news as an initiative that will quickly develop a vaccine for COVID-19. But what is Operation Warp Speed, and how is it different than traditional vaccine development, and more importantly, is it safe? While coronavirus’s origins are being debated and the pandemic has turned into a political football during an election year, thousands of men and women are working above the fray to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and other countermeasures. They’ve been at it day and night since the beginning of the year. Federal agencies, universities, research institutions, biotech, pharma, and other industries combine their efforts into a singular mission aimed at vanquishing COVID-19 now rather than later.OWS was formed after examining traditional timelines for producing and delivering a vaccine proved unacceptable. OWS is overseen by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The chief advisor is former pharmaceutical executive, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, and the COO is a top immunologist, General

Nadine Strossen: A Frequent Flier for Free Speech

Nadine Strossen was not only the first female President of the American Civil Liberties Union—but also its youngest, leading the organization from 1991 to 2008. Currently the John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School, she continues to use her platform to forward the cause of civil liberties/human rights all over  the U.S. and also abroad — from criminal justice and drug law reform,  to gender and reproductive rights, to free speech for even the most despised  expression.  Strossen looks forward to assuming emeritus professor status next year after having taught constitutional law for 35 years; the ACLU Presidency is an unpaid, volunteer position, so even though she was an extremely active President, she also worked full-time as a law professor throughout her tenure. When she steps out of her law professor role, Strossen will miss the regular interaction with her NYLS students, but she looks forward to maintaining – and even increasing — her intense pace of public speaking and media interviews, which have averaged about 200 per year, and have brought her to about

Taylor Hagood: The Love Of Halloween And The Fun It Brings

Shadows Their silent mystery suggests a way of being that is different from yet thoroughly tied to the way of being we know as humans. They carry a wonder that comes with childhood and youth, when the world’s shadows can frighten and thrill at once, which is the essence of horror and the strange hope and excitement it creates. It takes youthful imagination truly to apprehend and appreciate shadow puppets, hands forming shadow animals and faces, and shadows in a moonlit room that turn familiar things into unrecognizable shapes that might just harbor a secret or a threat. There is a moment in the 1963 film The Haunting when a few shadows cast by an ornately carved panel seem to form a motionless face. As light from an unknown source dims and brightens, the face sharpens and fades against the menacing sound of a rising and falling voice. How often as a child did I myself lay in bed transfixed and chilled by ordinary, inanimate things coming alive through the accidental formation of shadows? Or was it accidental? When I was

Jake Hanrahan: Irregular Warfare

As audiences turn from mainstream news reporting, independent journalism is gaining in popularity and trust. Riveting stories of conflicts and crime on the world stage are brought to us by journalists who accept the risk of putting themselves in harms way. They do it to get the story behind today’s headlines so the rest of us can know what’s actually happening in the world. One such independent journalist is Jake Hanrahan of the UK, who brings us stories from some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots. His firsthand reporting also covers the underworld of organized crime, exposes extremist political views, and dives into conspiracy theories. Take a look at his showreel to see what takes to get the story… Journalistic Integrity at Stake In an interview with Defiance, Hanrahan shares his view on why audiences are becoming distrustful of mainstream news, “Because a lot of people are getting sick of what they’re seeing every day. It’s not just kooky people. Normal people now, everybody is just going like, ‘Hang on, I’m sick of this. I’m sick of being told what

Stanford Thompson: Creating Social Harmony

By his example, he’s helping the under-served through the power of music. Change the Tune For Stanford Thompson, music is more than notes and pitches. He believes, like many others, that music can heal broken communities, uplift downtrodden children, and make Philadelphia a better place. Unlike others, Thompson is a world-renowned trumpet player who uses his musical talent for social justice initiatives. His art is undeniable, he’s performed solos with Ocean City Pops Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the North Springs Philharmonic, and traveled as far China, Czech Republic, Germany, Kenya, and Austria playing his tunes. But to Thompson, the sweetest sound doesn’t come from his trumpet, it comes from helping those in need. His organization, Play On Philly, pairs world-class musicians with students who are struggling academically due to life circumstances. He shares his results about the life-changing effects of music and remains committed to the arts through his many leadership positions on the board of the Marian Anderson Award, American Composers Forum, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. Due to his commitment to social justice through music,

Anastassia Elias: Heart for Art

A thing of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Artists like Anastassia Elias make our world come to life. Their ingenuity, resourcefulness and clever outlook allow us to see beyond the norm. Elias pushes artistic boundaries by using often overlooked materials and turning them into masterful artistry. “I often take what others don’t see and turn it into something that everyone can connect to,” she says. Elias is a Paris-based digital artist, illustrator, and innovative do-it-yourself (DIY) designer, residing in Landerneau, a small town in the western part of France (Brittany) near Brest, who uses precise techniques to inspire free thinking and bring attention to important global issues. Her mediums include painting, paper collages, ink, photos, fiber, drawings, and recycled materials. Thanks to her unique outlook, her artwork has been featured in exhibits all over the world, including the National Museum of Singapore, the Portuguese Film Festival, and in Milan, Italy. She’s on a Roll We’ve all heard the phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but Elias knows this all too well. As an artist, illustrator,

Mercy Medical Angels: Free Transport for Critical Medical Care

Compassion is the driving force behind connecting patients who can’t afford to travel with long-distance healthcare. Receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening disease or serious health condition can be mind-numbing and difficult to accept. Aside from the emotional impact is the financial strain placed on the patient and their family. For millions of patients and veterans facing mounting medical costs, traveling great distances for medical care is not affordable. Traveling to get the help they need can make the difference between life and death. Sometimes the life-saving transport can be in the form of a bus ticket or flight to a distant destination. The need is great, and the call to fill the need is greater. A Wing and a Prayer In 1972, four men in Washington, D.C. stepped up to meet the challenge. They decided to offer free medical flights for those who could not afford it on their own and formed an organization called Mercy Medical Angels. They wanted to “remove the barrier to medical care with transportation on the ground and in the air.” Starting with a

Jonna Mendez: Veil of Spies

Risking it all to turn the odds to America’s favor. If I told you the Soviet Union fell with the help of glued-on facial hair and commuter dummies would you believe me? Well, probably not. But if a former CIA master of disguise told you it was true, you would. Seemingly innocuous things like wigs and ink pens were essential parts of the CIA’s ingenious toolkit for protecting assets who gave us vital information, consequently protecting millions of American lives. Tools like this were invented out of necessity during the Cold War, and Jonna Mendez, former Master of Disguise at the CIA, was the Mother of Invention. All-American Girl Mendez was born in Campbellsville, Kentucky to a family whose roots in the county were six generations deep. The plucky blonde no doubt learned the ways of the hills as all Kentucky children do; how to make something from nothing and fashion what you need with what’s on hand. Skills like these would come in very handy in her career. She graduated high school in Wichita, Kansas, attended nearby Wichita State,

Jim Ziolkowski: Building the Human Spirit

One brick at a time, his labor of love empowers lives and communities through education. A man with a wonderful soul wrote a book about walking in the shoes of the less fortunate. If you took a walk in Jim Ziolkowski’s shoes not only would they be covered in dust from foreign lands, they’d make your heart swell with love for your fellow man. In his book, Walk in Their Shoes, he poses the question: can one person change the world? In his life he’s already proven it. Heartland Upbringing Ziolkowski grew up like millions of other kind souls in the heartland of America. Raised in Jackson, Michigan, he enjoyed the peaceful life of small town U.S.A. and all the charming trappings associated with it. Attending Church with his parents was a big part of that wonderful childhood. His faith, deeply embedded in his consciousness, would affect not only his life but the fates of thousands. College Grad with a Conscience After graduating from college, Ziolkowski traveled the world, but not like your typical Eurorail backpacker. After hitchhiking around Europe

Free Burma Rangers: Missions of Mercy Compelled by Love

Maintaining calm amid chaos, theirs is a mission to free the oppressed with help, hope, and love. Fighting war with love may seem surprising, but some risk their lives going into dangerous war zones and have the courage to stand with those under attack. Their motivation is not to win wars but to bring relief to those caught in the conflict. We hear about the ravages of war and the plight of refugees fleeing for their lives. But rarely do we hear of true heroes who run toward the battle to save the suffering, the forgotten. The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian organization whose mission is to bring help, hope, and love to the people trapped in some of the world’s hottest conflict zones, including Burma, Iraq, and Sudan. Mainly operating along the border of Burma, also known as Myanmar, FBR provides emergency services and relief to sick and injured displaced people. Over 100,000 people were forced from their lands in Burma, resulting from a long-running violent campaign against ethnic minorities by the military junta that wants