Thursday, March 5, 2020

Best friends in Philadelphia learn they are sisters after 17 years

After a nearly 20-year friendship, two women from West Philadelphia recently learned that they are sisters. The women, a 31-year-old and a 29-year-old, first met in middle school and quickly became best friends. They shared many physical similarities, including high cheekbones and gaps in their front teeth. It was a chain reaction that started on social media as the father was pictured in photos of his daughter, the group began lining up the pieces that they could share the same father, a hunch that was later verified by a DNA test. The women resemble each other in other ways; both are entrepreneurs, both wear braces at an older age, and the two also became pregnant at the same time. (WNLE)


Despite Cybersecurity Risks And Last-Minute Changes, The 2020 Census Goes Online

For the first time in history, the U.S. Census Bureau is trying to count most households using an online form despite concerns about cybersecurity. Starting March 12, households across the country are expected to be able to participate in the once-a-decade national head count by going to to complete the online census questionnaire, which is set to be open to the public through July 31. Under pressure to cut costs, the Census Bureau is expecting about six out of 10 households that fill out a form on their own online. For those who have limited Internet access or prefer to stay offline, the bureau is also collecting census responses over the phone and on paper forms, which are scheduled to arrive at some homes by mid-March and then in early April to every household that hasn’t responded by then. (NPR)


California Officials Sue to Strike Down Pro-Union Gag Law

Elected officials in California are challenging a controversial state law that deprives them of their ability to speak critically about labor unions by prohibiting statements deemed to “deter or discourage” public employees from seeking union membership. The federal civil rights lawsuit against the gag law comes nearly two years after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Janus v. AFSCME restored the First Amendment rights of government employees and hindered union recruitment. The new legal proceeding, known as Barke v. Banks, was filed February 21st in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Section 3550 itself states that, “A public employer shall not deter or discourage public employees or applicants to be public employees[,] from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization, or from authorizing representation by an employee organization, or from authorizing dues or fee deductions to an employee organization.” The plaintiffs argue Section 3550 prevents them from doing their jobs. (The Epoch Times)


Stanford to wipe medical school debt

While student debt in the U.S. is a persistent issue, it’s markedly bad for medical students. On average, graduates leave medical school with debt that can exceed $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. With the help of a $55 million gift, and plans to match it, Stanford’s School of Medicine hopes to combat this problem. Lloyd Minor, dean of the school, announced a 10-year program to “eliminate medical school debt for qualifying students” in a post. The plan will not only cover tuition but living expenses as well. (LinkedIn)


COVID-19, The Uncharted Territory

The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the agency is facing “uncharted territory” in its battle against the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 90,000 and killed at least 3,115 people worldwide. In a tweet, the WHO’s director-general wrote that the agency has “never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.” The WHO has yet to classify the virus as a global pandemic, though that could possibly change soon, according to reports. (Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Twitter)


UPDATE: Attorney representing woman who claims she won $8.5M jackpot moves case forward

An attorney representing a woman who claims she won an $8.5 million jackpot at the Newcastle Casino has filed a notice of prize claim Monday (3/2) to keep her case moving forward. The attorney for the woman said he filed the claim through the Chickasaw Gaming Commission Monday afternoon. On February 21st the woman was playing on a Liberty 7’s slot machine, betting $1.25, when she hit the jackpot. The casino has not paid her the prize, but she said it did give her $14.50 back that same day. She originally put $15.75 in the machine. A spokesperson at the Newcastle Casino said it was “under review” the same day it happened. They sent another statement four days later saying, “There is a legal process in place for the claimant to follow, according to the federally approved gaming ordinance administered by the Chickasaw Nation Gaming Commission.” The attorney for the woman said “Whether or not there’s a compact in place that’s going to be adjudicated by the court, I believe it’s in the western district in Oklahoma right now in the United States District Court. That’s being adjudicated now and will run its course. We have to pursue our client’s claims that her prize was legitimately won. She should be paid what she won and that’s what we’re doing.” He added that the machine his client was playing on has been shut off until the case is closed. “We have not been able to examine it yet. However, that really doesn’t matter. Why it doesn’t matter is that her matrix figures came up as jackpot prize. It said what she won. That’s what matters,” he said. The casino has yet to call it a malfunction. The next step will be an administrative hearing which could be held within the next 30 to 60 days. (OKC Fox)


For the first time since July, there are no active wildfires in the Australian state of New South Wales, which was one of the hardest hit by the recent fire season

In a recent tweet, the state’s Rural Fire Service confirmed that the region is free of any bushfires for the first time in 240 days. Firefighters from around the globe helped fight the fires, which burnt through more than 27 million across Australia. But torrential rains helped contain and extinguish many of the fires in recent weeks, first responders said. “A long, fraught, exhausting 8 months. Remembering lives and landscapes lost. Thankful for the magnificent efforts of the RFS,” wrote one Twitter user. (NPR)


The U.S. State Department said it’s imposing a cap on the number of personnel allowed to work at four Chinese media companies in the U.S.

The news comes after China’s government recently revoked the press credentials and visas of several Wall Street Journal reporters based in its country. The move is meant to fire back against Beijing’s alleged “abusive” treatment of U.S. and other foreign reporters based in China, according to State Department officials. Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, and China Daily will have until March 13 to reduce their number of U.S.-based Chinese employees to 100, down from the current 160. In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the goal is “reciprocity,” adding that “It is our hope that this action will spur Beijing to adopt a more fair and reciprocal approach to U.S. and other foreign press in China.” China’s embassy opposed the decision and called it “based on the Cold-War mentality and ideological biases.” (Wall Street Journal)


Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To Six

Six people have died in Washington state as the United States grapples with more than 100 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Four of the people who died were residents at the Life Care Center nursing care facility in suburban Seattle. Four other coronavirus cases are also linked to the Life Care Center. (CNN)


Russian President Call To Define Marriage As Heterosexual

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed amending the Russian constitution to spell out that marriage means a union between a man and a woman and nothing else. Putin has proposed a shakeup of Russia’s political system that critics say may be designed to extend his grip on power after 2024, when he is due to leave the Kremlin. (Reuters)


The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point 

In an attempt to counteract the economic turmoil caused by the global coronavirus outbreak. Fed chairman Jerome Powell said in a news conference that the Federal Open Market Committee saw “a risk to the outlook for the economy and chose to act.” The cut of half a percentage point, the largest since the 2008 financial crisis, brings rates down to between 1 and 1.25 percent. The Fed cuts rates to encourage borrowing and bolster economic growth, but there are limits to this move’s effectiveness. As The New York Times writes: “Central banks cannot keep disease from spreading, prevent workers from losing hours at work, or mend broken supply chains amid factory delays.” (CNBC)


Bionic Girl

11-year-old Bella Tadlock became the first person in the U.S. to receive an R2-D2 style bionic arm and she celebrated in a Skype chat with actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films. Tadlock raised $14,000 for the “advanced multi-grip arm” from Open Bionics in a fundraising campaign that Hamill saw and tweeted about back in November. Now that Bella’s fully-armed-and-operational arm is attached, she got to show it off to Hamill over Skype. FYIin the films, Darth Vader cut off Luke’s hand with a lightsaber in “The Empire Strikes Back,” so the character should know a thing or two about bionic appendages. ( ITV)


Earth may have been completely covered in ocean 3.2 billion years ago

According to new research from the University of Colorado, Boulder, the researchers went to Australia and analyzed a “chunk of ocean crust that’s been turned on its side,” through which they discovered information about the composition of ocean water from Earth’s early years. More than 100 rock samples revealed data suggesting that the Earth of 3.2 billion years ago was completely covered in water, and that continents emerged through the shifting of tectonic plates over the intervening years, though the researchers aren’t quite sure when this happened. (Slashgear)


Coronavirus Cases Pass 92,000 Worldwide

The new coronavirus has now killed 3,200 people, the vast majority in mainland China. There are now over 92,000 global cases, with infections in more than 70 countries and territories. The U.S. Federal Reserve slashed interest rates by 0.5 percentage points in response to the coronavirus impact on financial markets. Iran now has over 2,300 cases and 77 deaths. Around 8% of Iran’s lawmakers have tested positive for the virus. (CNN)


Bloomberg bows out, endorses Biden

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, withdrawing from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, threw his support to Joe Biden, who saw a string of victories in Super Tuesday voting. The two-term vice president under Barack Obama claimed nine of 14 state primaries in contention, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lay claim to the biggest delegate prize in California, early results showed. Bloomberg, who won only American Samoa, spent more than half a billion dollars of his fortune on a campaign in which he appeared on the ballot for the first time Tuesday. The delegate count so far:

  • Biden: 467
  • Sanders: 392
  • Warren: 51
  • Bloomberg: 44
  • Gabbard: 1

(The New York Times)


Thursday Speeds Closer To The Weekend With:

  • American Immigration Lawyers Association Day of Action
  • Nametag Day (Thursday of First Full Week)
  • National Absinthe Day
  • National Hospitalist Day (First Thursday)
  • National Poutine Day
  • Saint Piran’s Day
  • World Book Day (First Thursday)
  • World Tennis Day

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