Inhaled Poison

 

A strange vaping-related respiratory illness is sweeping the United States, afflicting more than 800 patients and killing at least 16. Officials still aren’t sure what’s causing “vape lung,” but theories range from the oils in vaping cartridges to fumes from the vaping devices themselves.

In an attempt to solve the mystery, a team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed samples of lung tissue taken from 17 vape lung sufferers, publishing the results of their analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What they saw when they looked at those samples is downright disturbing: injuries that looked like the ones suffered by people exposed to mustard gas and other poisons.

“All 17 of our cases show a pattern of injury in the lung that looks like a toxic chemical exposure, a toxic chemical fume exposure, or a chemical burn injury,” surgical pathologist Brandon T. Larsen told The New York Times.

“To be honest,” he continued, “they look like the kind of change you would expect to see in an unfortunate worker in an industrial accident where a big barrel of toxic chemicals spills, and that person is exposed to toxic fumes and there is a chemical burn in the airways.”

Larsen told the NYT that the researchers didn’t notice any oil buildup in the samples, meaning suspicions that vaping oils themselves cause vape lung might be unfounded.

Two of the patients whose lung samples the Mayo team analyzed have already died as a result of their lung damage. But according to Larsen, even patients who don’t succumb to the respiratory illness may face a lifetime of issues because of it.

“Based on the severity of injury we see, at least in some of these cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if we wind up with people down the road having chronic respiratory problems from this,” he told the NYT. “Some seem to recover. I don’t think we know what the long-term consequences will be.”

White House Cybersecurity Director

 

See Ya

The White House’s cybersecurity team is in a state of turmoil.

In an internal memo obtained by Axios, senior White House cybersecurity director Dimitrios Vastakis detailed his frustration with how the Trump administration has managed a mission established to protect the White House from digital security threats — and then submitted his resignation.

Real Subtle

The Obama administration established the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer (OCISO) in 2014 after it discovered evidence that Russia had breached White House computers. In July, the Trump administration folded OCISO into the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Since then, leadership has attempted to remove the remaining OCISO staff by “reducing the scope of duties, reducing access to programs, revoking access to buildings, and revoking positions with strategic and tactical decision making authorities,” Vastakis wrote in his memo.

Chaos Reigns

To date, at least a dozen OCISO officials have either resigned from or been pushed out, and all that chaos has Vastakis concerned about the future security of White House data.

“Unfortunately, given all of the changes I’ve seen in the past three months,” he wrote, “I foresee the White House is posturing itself to be electronically compromised once again.”

And Vastakis isn’t going to be around to watch it happen.

READ MORE: Scoop: Cyber memo warns of new risks to White House network [Axios]
More on cybersecurity: Congressman: The 2020 Election Is Not Safe From Hackers