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Vape lung has claimed its first victim, and the CDC is investigating

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A person has died from what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speculate is a vaping-related condition. Nearly 200 other cases of varying severeness have been reported nationwide, described by the CDC as “severe unexplained respiratory systems after reported vaping or e-cigarette use.”

No information was provided about the deceased other than that they were an adult living in Illinois, and that they had died of some sort of pulmonary illness exacerbated or caused by vaping or e-cigarette use. Others affected in that state have been between 17-38 and mostly men, the CDC doctor added on a press call earlier today.

As little is known for sure about this growing problem, the team was hesitant to go beyond saying there was good reason to believe that these cases were all vaping-related, although they differ in some particulars. They have ruled out infectious disease.

The CDC’s acting deputy for non-infectious diseases, Dr Ileana Arias, explained on the call after expressing their condolences:

CDC is currently providing consultations to state health departments about a cluster of pulmonary illnesses having to do with vaping or e-cigarette use… While some cases appear to be similar and linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses.

In many cases patients report a gradual start of symptoms, including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath and/or hospitalization before the cases. Some have reported gastrointestinal illnesses as well… no specific product has been identified in all cases nor has any product been conclusively linked to the illnesses

Even though cases appear similar, it isn’t clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations.

An FDA representative on the call said that his agency is also looking into this, specifically whether these are products that fall under its authority. It’s possible they were imported, for example, or sold under the table.

Everyone involved is still in the information-gathering phase, as you can tell, but it’s apparently serious enough that they felt the need to make this announcement. Meanwhile they are asking doctors to report cases they suspect might be related.

“Right now states are leading their own specific epidemiologic investigations and we’re providing assistance as needed,” explained the CDC’s Dr. Josh Schier. “CDC is working on a system to collect, aggregate, and analyze data at the national level to better characterize this illness.”

As the mechanism is unknown, it’s unclear what the actual danger is. Is it some byproduct of the nicotine cartidges, or THC ones? Is it the vapor itself? Is it only at certain temperatures or concentrations? Is it directly affecting the lungs or entering the bloodstream? No one knows yet — all they’ve seen is an sudden uptick in respiratory or pulmonary issues where the sufferer also uses vaping products.

The CDC’s Dr Brian King went into a bit more detail on the possibilities, explaining that while no specific chemical can be said to be the problem, that’s more for a want of study, not a want of potentially harmful chemicals.

“We do know that e-cigarettes do not emit a harmless aerosol,” he explained. “There’s a variety of harmful ingredients identified, including things like ultrafine particulates, heavy metals like lead and cancer causing chemicals. And flavoring used in e-cigarettes to give it a buttery flavor, diacetyl, it’s been related to severe respiratory illness.”

“We haven’t specifically linked any of those specific ingredients to the current cases but we know that e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless,” King concluded.

He also suggested, in response to a question why we were suddenly seeing lots of these cases, that the problems have been occurring all this time but only recently have hospitals and other organizations done the due diligence as far as linking them to e-cigarette use.

Few studies have been done on vaping’s potential health effects, and none on long-term effects, since the devices only recently gained popularity — well ahead of the possibility of regulation and years-long studies.

Research published just last month from Yale found that Juul vape pens produced chemicals not listed on the package, some of which are known to be irritants.

“People often assume that these e-liquids are a final product once they are mixed. But the reactions create new molecules in the e-liquids, and it doesn’t just happen in e-liquids from small vape shops, but also in those from the biggest manufacturers in the U.S.,” said Yale’s Hanno Erythropel in a news release.

That vaping works as a way to quit smoking — which we know is absolutely disastrous to your health — seems clear. But it remains to be seen exactly how much less of a risk vaping offers.

If you use vaping products and have been experiencing coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain, tell your doctor.

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Bag Week 2019: A whole bunch of fannies

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It’s finally Bag Week again! The most wonderful week of the year at TechCrunch. Just in time for back to school, we’re bringing you reviews of bags of all varieties: from backpacks to rollers to messengers to…

The fanny pack. Or hip pack, waist bag, belt bag, sling, crossbody and sometimes bum bag, because where you’re from, a fanny means lady parts. Whatever it’s called, I’ve been searching for an all-around go-to alternative for purses. (I don’t care much for them since they don’t match my tee-shirt and holes-in-jeans aesthetic.)

For the past two months, I’ve been trying out fanny packs (and trying to shove various objects into them) for different daily routines.

I haven’t found one that gets the job done for everything, but here are a variety of great fannies.

Herschel Eighteen Hip Pack – $49.99

I own three Herschel backpacks, all of which have served me well for the past two years, so I was pretty stoked about this one. The only problem though, with my 5’4” wimpy frame, I should have opted for a smaller bag in their hip pack line. Although it’s smaller than Peak Design’s Everyday Sling, the side support makes it uncomfortable to wear across the chest and only works as a back sling or fanny pack.

Pros:

  • Solid construction
  • Huge main compartment large enough to hold a water bottle, book, camera and knick-knacks
  • Comfortable air mesh padding on the back

Cons:

  • Opening for the two front storage pockets is too small, which makes it cumbersome to put things in, pull things out
  • Missing inner pocket inside the main compartment for keys and wallet so there’s a lot of digging involved

Dimensions: 7″ (H) x 11″ (W) x 3″ (D)

More details and specs here.

Moment Fanny Sling – $69.99

The fine people at Moment, known for their mobile phone lenses, recently launched a series of bags and cases. Although this bag was designed with the intention of storing their lenses and gear, it has become my boyfriend’s everyday bag since I received it back in June. It withstood a grimy Budapest rainstorm, a grimy music festival and a grimy New York summer.

Pros:

  • Pockets for days (including one on the back that fits your wallet or phone)
  • Weatherproof shell and zippers
  • Comfortable for everyday use
  • Flexible, expandable — can be worn across the chest, as a traditional fanny pack or sling

Con:

  • The Velcro loop that keeps excess straps in place wore down after a month and tends to slip off

Dimensions: 5.1″ (H) x 8.25” (W) x 3.75” (D)

More details and specs here.

Peak Design Everyday Sling 5L – $99.95

This was my go-to photography bag for the summer. It’s been perfect for organizing all the essentials: DSLR, two lenses, SD cards, notebook (or iPad), batteries, etc. I love everything about this bag. That’s it. That’s the review. There’s nothing else I can say.

Pros:

  • Tons of pockets, dividers of sorts and padding for all of your accessories
  • Tuck-away system to hide excess straps and front zipper
  • Quick adjusting straps for when you need to grab your camera or to switch configurations
  • Weatherproof nylon canvas shell

Cons:

  • So far, nothing

Dimensions: 7.48″ (H) x 12.2″ (W) x 4.33″ (D)

More details and specs here.

State Bags Crosby Fanny Pack – $150

From the smooth leather body to the gold foil embossed logo, this is the classiest one of the bunch, and has been my date night go-to for the past month. It’s casual enough to accessorize with jeans and tee-shirt, but stylish enough to make it look like you put in the effort.

The best part, though, is that there are good people behind the products. For every bag you purchase, they donate fully packed backpacks to kids throughout America.

Pros:

  • Mesh inside pocket to separate smaller items
  • Well-made and designed
  • Slip pocket on the back for quick access to iPhone X

Cons:

  • The straps started to pill a little after a month of use

Dimensions: 5.00″ (H) x 7.09″ (W) x 1.97″ (D)

More details and specs here.

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack – $29.00

This is the fun-sized candy bar of fanny packs. It’s adorable, has an 80s throwback colorblock design and folds into its own pocket when not in use. It’s quite small and only holds the essentials (wallet, phones, keys, and in my case, an inhaler), but it’s ideal for running errands.

Pros:

  • Sturdy and small
  • Mesh back padding for comfort and breathability
  • Soft adjustable strap

Cons:

  • Nylon construction — it sometimes feels like a toiletries bag

Dimensions: 7” (W) x 4.5”(H) x 2” (D)

More details and specs here.

Timbuk2 Slacker Chest Pack – $49.00

This is the most basic, yet comfortable fanny pack. It was my everyday dog-walking bag. It held a water bottle, doggie treats and a collapsible dog bowl, while my wallet was tucked into the inside mesh pocket. There’s even an in-pocket strap to hold your keys.

Pros:

  • Air mesh back panel for breathability and comfort
  • Uncomplicated design

Cons:

  • The zipper doesn’t open the entire width of the bag
  • Straps won’t adjust small enough for skinny people with narrow hips — it’ll fall right off your booty

Dimensions: 3.94” (H) x 11.2” (W) x 2.48” (D)

More details and specs here.

Generic fanny pack – free

This is not a great fanny pack. I’m including this bottom of the barrel bag I received as Google schwag during CES earlier this year as a control. It’s made in China with visible threads, sloppily sewn together. Ugly, yet surprisingly comfortable. It gets the job done and you don’t have to worry about losing it. You can get a similar one on Amazon for eight bucks.

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Waxed canvas messengers from Trakke, Waterfield, and Mission Workshop are spacious and rugged

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It’s nearing the end of Bag Week 2019, where we highlight the best receptacles for the tech we cover daily, and we’ve got a few more winners for you. Earlier this week I collected a few excellent waxed canvas laptop bags together, a sequel to last year’s round-up, but these messenger style bags stood out. So I’ve collected them here separately.

As I’ve written before, waxed canvas is a wonderful material. The natural fibers infused with wax provide water resistance, structure, protection and a great look that only gets better with time as you use it. It’s my favorite material and it should be yours too. Only trouble is, it can be expensive. But keep in mind that these bags are the kind that you take with you for a decade or two.

Waterfield Vitesse – $159

Pros:

  • Extremely handsome material and color
  • Great closure mechanism
  • Interior laptop sleeve is lovely

Cons:

  • Permanently attached nylon straps
  • Exterior pocket style not for everyone
  • Prominent badge

Store link

Waterfield’s canvas material was my favorite, with the possible exception, accounting for taste, of the heavy-duty Saddleback bag. While the latter is raw and rugged, this one is more refined and flexible. The canvas is much softer and more pliable than the other bags, but still thick and protective. It isn’t very stiff, though.

The Vitesse is a simple, useful bag. It has plenty of space inside for a day out or even an overnight if you’re careful. There are three simple pockets on the inside for stowing smaller items, and a large laptop compartment that closes with a velcro strap.

Waterfield recommends a sleeve for your laptop, and I support that, especially considering how nice their sleeves are. The padded waxed canvas sleeve that they sent along has a leather base and magnetic closure that made me feel quite confident in throwing the bag around. I also used it in other bags, like the Joshu+Vela one, which lacked their own padding. There are of course cheaper than thinner sleeves than this, but I felt this one deserved a shout-out.

On the outside under the flap is a single large pocket space that can be accessed through zippers on either side of the bag. These are weather sealed as well so if they’re exposed a bit they won’t leak. There’s a leather handle up top that feels well balanced and won’t get in your way. On the front of the flap is a (to me) over-prominent leather logo badge. Maybe I’m over-sensitive to this kind of thing.

The closure method is unique: studs that fit into holes in leather straps attached to the flap. I thought it was weird at first but it’s grown on me: it’s easy to undo in a hurry, and not hard to attach even with one hand.

My main issue is the strap. For a messenger bag the strap is really important, and the truth is Waterfield kind of blew it here. The Vitesse basically just has a plain nylon strap, sewn on at an angle to the corners of the bag. Unlike many laptop bags, the straps can’t swivel, so they’ll get twisted. And unlike the other messengers here, there’s no big obvious pad or quick-adjust capability.

I’m a little sad I can’t recommend the Vitesse more given its strengths, but this strap really is hard to get over.

Trakke Wee Lug (Mk2) – £225 (around $270)

waxed messengers 12

Pros:

  • Refined, well thought-out design and components
  • Comfortable strap setup
  • Low-key waxing and color

Cons:

  • Closure can take some getting used to
  • Switching strap side could be easier
  • Low-key waxing and color

Store link

This Scottish maker of waxed canvas items has a long history over there, and sources its cloth from one of the original purveyors of waxed canvas in the world. We’re talking 19th century here.

But the design and in fact the cloth itself are distinctly modern. A “dry wax” finish gives the Wee Lug very little of a waxy feel, but it’s definitely in there, you can tell. It’ll just take longer to develop the kind of wear marks you get in a hurry on the more wax-forward bags like the Vitesse above. It’s also a lighter, smoother color in person, compared with the caramel Rummy and more textured Vitesse.

The truth is this finish isn’t for everyone in that if you really want that old-fashioned waxed look, this isn’t it. But keep in mind that you can (and should) wax or rewax the material on this kind of bag, and you’re free to do so.

Whether the material is to your liking or not, the design is excellent. The exterior has two zip-access side pockets a bit like the Vitesse but larger and a bit easier to access. The interior has a zipping padded laptop area, smaller zipped pocket, two simple side pockets, and a large general-use space. It’s also a bright, citrusy not-quite-safety orange that complements the tan exterior well.

The zippers all have loops, a more practical alternative to ordinary pulls and in my opinion more attractive than leather thongs, which seem to me like they’re just a way to use up scraps. There’s a carry handle near the top of the back that feels very strong and despite sticking out a bit hasn’t bothered me while using the bag.

Closure is achieved by slipping a metal clip below through a gap in another metal clip above; it takes a little bit to get used to, but ultimately it’s both simple and robust, and very unlikely to wear out.

The shoulder strap is thick black canvas, with a generous (20-inch) shoulder pad. In the middle is a Cobra buckle for quick donning and removing. The Wee Lug is definitely intended to be worn high across the back, as the padded portion of the strap goes all the way to the edge of the bag. I should say the D-rings and hardware other than the buckle are the weakest parts of the whole bag — just ordinary plastic.

Those straps can be removed and reattached on the opposite sides so it goes from a right- to left-shouldered bag, but this process is a bit cumbersome. If it were too easy it might happen on accident, but slipping the thick canvas strap through the gap in its clip takes a lot of strength — something you might not have when you’re tired from riding and want to switch shoulders.

If I had to recommend one bag out of these three, I think the Trakke would be it.

Mission Workshop Monty – $255

waxed messengers 19

Pros:

  • Nice marky waxed finish
  • Truly waterproof
  • Very spacious

Cons:

  • Feels a little overengineered
  • No padded laptop space
  • No handle and strap again could be easier to switch

Store link

Mission Workshop puts together bags of obviously high quality, but they tend to have an aspect of cleverness to them that I don’t always find warranted. In the case of the Monty (and its big siblings the Rummy and Shed) they have a great basic setup that feels like there’s just a bit too much going on.

What they get right is the materials and feeling of ruggedness. If I was going into seriously inclement weather, the Monty is the bag I’d take, no question. Waxed canvas is naturally water resistant and it’ll keep your gear safe from spray or limited rain, but torrential downpour or immersion breaks the spell. If you’re going to be riding in the rain regularly and for long periods of time, you need a synthetic, waterproof layer if you don’t want anything getting damp.

That’s what’s inside the Monty: a strong tarp layer lining every pocket and space that pretty much guarantees your gear stays dry. The exterior is a lovely caramel-colored waxed canvas that was extremely eager to pick up marks and impressions (and, as is often the case with wet finishes, dirt and fuzz — Filson’s do this too).

The other thing they get right is the amount of structured and unstructured space. The Monty has a very large main compartment in the back, big enough it’s difficult to photograph (I tried… for some reason this thing is not photogenic, though it looks good in the life). Then there’s a zippered area with two sub-compartments in the front, and two open pockets that close with a single flap in front of that. There’s no shortage of places to put your things, but you’re never at a loss where something should go.

I personally think the front pocket closure is a little much, since you can hardly reach inside them without removing the main flap and undoing this huge velcro piece, but better too secure than not secure enough. And I would have liked a bit of padding around the larger zip pocket, or a padded sub-area where a laptop could go.

But the main issue I have with the Monty is that it tries to accommodate two styles when really there’s only one. You can close the bag in two ways: by folding the flap over and securing it with the company’s excellent Arkiv closures, or by rolling it down and velcroing it shut with a different flap.

Rolltop stuff is in MW’s DNA, but it simply doesn’t fit here. If you roll it up, the straps have nothing to do but hang onto the front of the pockets. Meanwhile if you fold it over, you have unused velcro all over the outside, and a flap on the inside doing nothing. You can’t roll it a little and then fold it over, since it would hide the closure rails.

I feel like MW could have made a strong decision one way or the other here and made the bag either rolltop or flap closure, but instead they did both, and whichever you choose, you still sort of run into the other. And the thing is it doesn’t matter which you choose, since your stuff will be protected fine either way and neither opens up or obscures any extra space.

So the Monty, despite being a very practical bag in some ways, feels like a weird hybrid in others. Whereas the Wee Lug knows exactly what it is and pursues that design exclusively.


These are all three great bags, but they serve very different purposes. The Waterfield is a great all-round casual bag, but the strap really makes it impractical for cycling or long wear. The Trakke is much more suited for athletic activities and has more room and organiztion, making it something of a perfect weekender or day bag. And the MW is sort of a prepper bag, ready for anything and a bit off-kilter.

If I had to buy a single one of these right now, I’d go with the Trakke — the attention to detail appeals to me. If on the other hand I knew I’d be facing lots of rain or the possibility of dropping my bag in the surf, I’d go MW. And if Waterfield gets its strap game together I’d find their bag easy to recommend as a flexible, unfussy hybrid. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

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