Thursday, December 26, 2019

Congress raises national tobacco age to 21 as part of spending package

Congress voted to raise the national minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, ushering in the sweeping new policy as part of a must-pass government funding package. The package was part of a series of measures meant to avert a looming government shutdown. The bills contained major policy changes, including the minimum age increase for cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The raise in the tobacco age had support from unlikely sources: Altria, the nation’s largest tobacco company, and Juul Labs, known for its e-cigarette vaping devices. Tobacco critics contend the companies’ support is calculated to head off even harder-hitting government action: a ban on all flavored tobacco products, including fruit and dessert e-cigarettes. (Fox News)


Using seawater to make batteries

IBM has developed a battery that uses materials derived from seawater — rather than commonly used metals like nickel or cobalt and can perform similarly to its heavy metal battery brethren. Cobalt mining has come under scrutiny, amid reports of the use of child labor at mines and other abuses. Such mining activities have also inflicted environmental damage. In tests, the seawater battery reached 80% charge in five minutes and had power and energy density levels at or better than the existing cohort of lithium-ion batteries. Such tech could offer a more sustainable way forward for battery-dependent products like smartphones and electric vehicles. (Gizmodo)


The world has a recycling problem

It’s time for the world to rethink recycling. The trash industry is scrambling to find better ways to deal with waste now that China won’t take it. Last year, China (which once accepted almost half of the world’s recycling) placed stricter requirements on the materials it’s willing to accept. Countries responded by juicing investments in domestic recycling programs, ramping up alternative waste management strategies and launching education programs to combat mounting trash. Some have thrown in the towel on recycling altogether. (The Wall Street Journal)


What’s fueling our work obsession

Americans work, a whole lot. U.S. employees logged 270 billion working hours in 2017, accounting for 1,739 hours per worker. That’s more than similarly wealthy nations like Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. What’s going on? True, the U.S. doesn’t have the vacation rules that other nations have. But researchers suggests it goes deeper than that. The internet has made just about every hour a potential working hour. And U.S. workers have come to associate life fulfillment with having a career they enjoy. Put these two together and you have a recipe for workaholism. (People Policy Project)


USPS faces lawsuit for blocking private vendors from making stamps with religious content

The law firm First Liberty is suing the United States Postal Service (USPS), alleging that a rule prohibiting Americans from requesting custom stamps with religious content is unconstitutional. “This regulation by the USPS not only chills speech, it silences it,” according to a special counsel for litigation and communications at First Liberty Institute. The firm filed the suit on behalf of a Texas-based graphic designer who sought to request a variety of religious-themed stamps from a third-party vendor. USPS has allowed private citizens to ask vendors contracting with the post office to provide custom-designed stamps, but not if they contain religious or inappropriate content. (Fox News)


A woman upset that KFC got sandwich wrong called 911 and a legislator wants to outlaw that

A Wisconsin woman upset that KFC got her sandwich order wrong called 911. Now a state legislator has proposed a bill that would outlaw such “frivolous” emergency calls. State Representative Lakeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee, introduced a bill that says anyone who summons officers “to a location for a reason other than suspected criminal activity” should be charged with a misdemeanor. “Attaching a misdemeanor to the abuse of these services reinforces to the public that we take public safety and the safety of our residents seriously,” the Representative said in a statement on her Twitter account. The legislation is nicknamed the “BBQ Becky Bill,” after an Oakland, California, woman who called police on black men for grilling in a park. The Representative said she was inspired to introduce the bill after hearing about a San Francisco child’s getting harassed for selling water without a permit. (NBC News)


New Jersey Becomes 3rd State To Ban Discrimination Based On Hair

In December last year, a white referee forced a New Jersey high school student to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match. Speed up to the present, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law banning discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race. Governor Murphy signed “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act,” also known as the CROWN Act, into law. It amends a current race discrimination law to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles,” such as braids, locks and twists. The law makes it illegal to target people at work, school or in public spaces based on these traits. (CBS News)


FedEx Driver Caught Throwing Packages Into Ditch In Pennsylvania

A FedEx driver was seen throwing packages into a ditch from a Penske truck in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. According to Pennsylvania State Police, a witness observed the driver in a FedEx uniform throwing packages from the truck into a ditch along a Road. When the witness confronted the driver, he said he was going to pick them up but then drove off without them. Tracking numbers for the packages were scanned by the driver, indicating he had delivered the packages to their destinations. The packages were recovered by state police and returned to FedEx to be delivered. Charges are pending once a final value of the packages is determined. ( CBS Pittsburgh )


More than 50 people injured in 69-vehicle pileup on Virginia Interstate

Heavy fog and an ice-slickened highway contributed to a massive pre-Christmas 69-vehicle pileup in eastern Virginia this past Sunday (12/22) that left more than 50 people injured, two in critical condition, authorities said. The chain-reaction crash happened just before 8 a.m. in the westbound lanes of Interstate 64 near Williamsburg, Virginia, Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Anaya said during a news conference. She said that shortly after the pileup occurred on westbound I-64, another eight-vehicle crash happened in the eastbound lanes, prompting state police to close the entire freeway for three hours. Photographs and aerial footage from the scene showed a long line of crumpled vehicles, some on top of each other. 51 people were treated at the scene or taken by ambulance to one of four area hospitals. (ABC News)


U.S. health regulators are warning that popular nervous system medications can cause dangerous breathing problems when combined with opioids and certain other drugs

The Food and Drug Administration said it would add new warnings to packaging for Neurontin, Lyrica and generic versions, which are used to treat seizures, nerve pain, restless leg syndrome and other conditions. The new labels will warn doctors against prescribing the drugs with other medications that can slow breathing, including opioid painkillers. The breathing risks also apply to elderly patients and those with existing lung problems. The medications, known generically as gabapentin and pregabalin, are among the most prescribed in the U.S. Both physician prescribing and misuse have increased as doctors, hospitals and other health care providers have scaled back their use of opioids amid a national epidemic. The FDA also said it will require drugmakers to conduct new studies of the abuse risks of the drugs, especially in combination with opioids. The agency said it received nearly 50 reports of breathing problems linked to gabapentin and pregabalin between 2012 and 2017, including 12 deaths. While drugmakers are required to report problems to the FDA, it’s voluntary for doctors and patients. (AP News)


Spanish TV reporter wins the lottery LIVE on air and tells her bosses ‘I’m not coming in tomorrow’ believing she’s won four million dollars (then discovers it’s much less and apologies)

A Spanish TV reporter quit her job live on air after winning the lottery, only to later realize the amount was much smaller than the millions she thought she had won. After winning much less than she thought, she apologized to viewers after an excited outburst during which she believed she had won the top prize of $3.4 million and told her colleagues she “would not be coming in to work tomorrow”. Footage shared online shows her jumping for joy and fist-pumping the air as the winning numbers of the Christmas draw are announced. She tells her colleagues during the broadcast that she won’t be showing up for work in the morning in a moment of excitement. However she quickly realizes her mistake and learns she actually just won $4,285. Shortly after the first broadcast, she reappeared on camera to make a  gesture of zipping her lips. (Daily Mail)


Texas barbershop worker shot over child’s haircut

Authorities say a dispute over a kid’s haircut ended with gunfire at a Texas barbershop. The Harris County sheriff’s office says deputies are looking for a man who shot a barber in the Houston suburb of Katy during an argument. Witnesses say the argument was over the haircut given to the man’s son. The sheriff’s office says the alleged shooter left the barbershop in a grey sedan. The barbershop employee was shot three times. He’s in stable condition at an area hospital. (KTSA)


Virginia governor pushes bill to replace Robert E. Lee statue in U.S. Capitol

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s office said that he will push for legislation replacing Virginia’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee housed in the United States Capitol. The governor filed a drafting request for a bill that would outline the process for removing the statue (one of Virginia’s two in the National Statuary Hall Collection) and selecting a replacement, a spokeswoman said. The disclosure from Governors office came in response to questions about a letter from two Democratic members of Congress that called on Northam to make replacing the statue part of his agenda for the legislative session that begins next month. Other states have recently reconsidered their representation in the collection. Florida, for instance, recently replaced its statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with one of civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. (Washington Times)


Thursday Twists Out With:

  • Boxing Day
  • Kwanzaa
  • National Candy Cane Day
  • National Thank-you Note Day
  • National Whiner’s Day

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