The Virginia Tech media relations office has the following experts available for interviews this week surrounding issues in the news. To schedule an interview, please contact

Potentially catastrophic economic implications of debt ceiling debate

This week President Biden will meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other top congressional leaders as Democrats and Republicans remain deadlocked over raising the debt ceiling. Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that failure to raise the debt ceiling will cause a "steep economic downturn" in the U.S.”  If an agreement is not reached by June 1, the United States could default on its bond payments and other obligations. Virginia Tech economists David Bieri and Jadrian Wooten are available for interviews to discuss the potentially catastrophic implications this could have on the economy if not resolved.

Hollywood writers strike: AI concerns and industry consequences

Hollywood screenwriters have gone on strike. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) seeks higher pay, upfront fees from streaming services, better working conditions and reassurance that studios won’t use artificial intelligence programs to generate scripts. Virginia Tech communications law expert Cayce Myers offers his perspective on the writers’ concerns about use of AI in screenwriting, and Virginia Tech media technology expert James Ivory discusses the strike’s potential ramifications for the television and film industries. Read more here.

Global affairs expert discusses the stakes in Sudan

A power struggle in Sudan has led to fighting in the capital city of Khartoum and the evacuation of the United States Embassy. A new executive order signed by President Joe Biden authorizes sanctions in an effort to push the conflicting parties toward a cease fire and head off what could be a prolonged civil war. Virginia Tech international affairs expert Ariel Ahram discusses the history behind the Sudan crisis and what the stakes are for other nations. “The potential spillover of conflict in Sudan is very grave,” Ahram said. “Several of Chad's neighbors, including Libya, Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, are already dealing with internal instability. More conflict in Sudan would create more opportunities for cross-border alliances and meddling.”

Bank closings demonstrate need for stronger enforcement

The abrupt closing of First Republic Bank stirred fresh anxieties about the security of the banking system, unfolding less than two months after the back-to-back, historically huge failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. This month all 84 branches of the former First Republic Bank opened with a new name after an emergency sale orchestrated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). According to Virginia Tech finance expert George Morgan’s analysis, “The existing regulations and historical standards of safe and sound banking need to be better enforced. Regulators should, as should so many equity investors and others in the economy, be more vigilant about risk management and not be so swayed by recent popular fads.” Read more here.

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness month

Blacklegged ticks, commonly called deer ticks, are the only ones able to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and they can only do so as nymphs or as adults. Nymphs are about the size of a pencil tip.

Brandon Jutras, an associate professor of biochemistry, is specifically focused on Lyme research at Virginia Tech. Along with investigating the prolonged effects of Lyme disease, his lab is working on creating a rapid test for the disease, which was just recently funded by a $1.2 million Department of Defense grant. Jutras and the Jutras Lab were also recently awarded a National Institutes of Health grant for more than $2 million to investigate why symptoms of Lyme disease linger long after the initial infection in some people.

Jutras has this advice when it comes to ticks:

  • Check often and always: Prompt removal is the most important thing. Once the tick bites, it can take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours to transmit the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.

  • Lighten up: Wear light-colored clothing while outside and treat clothes with DEET or N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, containing bug spray.

  • Protect your pets: They are tick magnets. Commercial tick treatments do not prevent attachment, and will usually kill the ticks if they do start feeding, but they do not prevent contact.

  • Don’t skip the dryer: Spring and summer weather encourages many people to hang their clothes to dry. However, ticks survive the washer and can remain on clean clothes. They do not, however, survive the dryer.

More here:

Looking into the lingering horrors of Lyme disease

Jutras Lab awarded $1.2 million to create rapid and accurate Lyme disease testing

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