Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Scientists knew saber-toothed tigers were big — and then they found this skull
Discovered in Uruguay, the skull suggests that the largest saber-toothed tigers might have been able to take down giant plant-eaters, as heavy as pickup trucks, that researchers had thought were untouchable. The skull belonged to Smilodon populator, extinct for 10,000 or so years and probably tipped the scales at around 960 pounds. And in case you missed it, researchers made another important skull discovery that of the smallest known bird, and therefore, dinosaur, ever found. (The New York Times)
Grocery stores scramble to keep up
Grocery stores across America are scrambling to adjust to customer demand due to the coronavirus. Long lines, empty shelves, overflowing shopping carts and raids on toilet paper are just part of the picture. Food retailers are used to preparing for surges ahead of natural disasters, but this is unique because it created a similar emergency across the entire country with no clear end. Several stores, including Kroger, Publix, Trader Joe’s and Walmart, are shortening hours, while Wegmans has set purchase limits on some items. The Trump administration and industry leaders say the U.S. food supply chain is holding up and there is no need to hoard. (The Wall Street Journal)
CDC: Cancel mass gatherings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks. The call follows what the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases urging Americans to avoid unnecessary public outings as much as possible. The infectious disease expert said Americans should be ready to “hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
A record hit to China’s economy
Official figures show China’s industrial output plunged by 13.5% in the first two months of the year, making it the fastest decline on record, driven by prolonged factory shutdowns over the coronavirus outbreak. The unemployment rate also jumped to a record high of 6.2%, while urban investment, home sales and retail sales also fell sharply. The data was worse than many economists had expected, and raised fears of an economic contraction in China and around the world as efforts grow to control the outbreak. Chinese officials are now attempting to balance efforts to restart the economy with preventing the coronavirus outbreak from accelerating again. (Financial Times)
The Groceries That No One Wants to Panic-Buy
In many places, nervous shoppers have been stockpiling groceries in anticipation of extended spells of social distancing. The aisles and aisles of empty store shelves give the appearance that the United States is running out of food. But the nation’s biggest retailers, dairy farmers and meat producers say that isn’t so. The food supply chain, they say, remains intact and has been ramping up to meet the unprecedented stockpiling brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Here is what isn’t flying off the shelves:
- Pasta Made From Chickpeas
- Chocolate Hummus
- Dryer Sheets
- Obscure Canned Veggies
- Dasani Water
- Kidney Beans
- Vegan Food
Are Dead Sea Scrolls A Fake?
The Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC is claiming that all 16 of its Dead Sea Scroll fragments are forgeries, and the expensive revelation could be one of the most significant shams in biblical archeology’s history. The Dead Sea Scrolls are among archaeology’s most significant scriptural finds, containing the oldest versions of the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish texts that date to the time of Jesus. Portions of these manuscripts are highly coveted artifacts, and authentic ones can fetch millions per piece at auction. Experts say the forgers probably used ancient scraps of leather, but their mistake was in the ink: A report on the forgeries says they used modern materials to write the text. (CNN)
5 Useful Money Moves You Can Make Instead of Panicking
Financial advisers tend to caution long-term retirement investors to stay the course during times of high volatility, like now with financial markets slumping on worries over the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on growth. If you are anxious and keen to act, there are productive moves you could make other than stockpiling toilet paper for a possible quarantine or cashing out your investments.
1. Save even more – High-yield savings account are something of a misnomer today, but an interest rate of 1.75 percent at an online bank is a lot better than the .01 percent that most of the major banks are offering on no-fee accounts. It just takes a few clicks to open up an account. Then take a few more minutes, go to your online payroll portal, and set up a direct transfer from every paycheck into that savings account. Within months, you will have a substantial emergency savings fund, which most Americans lack.
2. Refinance your mortgage – Look at your mortgage rate. If it is over 4 percent, you might be able to do better right now. Rates depend on the property and borrower’s specifics, but you should be able to find a rate in the 3 percent range with no points.
3. Finish your taxes – Want to put some real money in your pocket? Finish your taxes. The average refund last year was $2,869, according to the IRS. If you are in that range, see if you can put that money back into your regular paycheck rather than lending it to the government for free. One quick way to do that is to fill out the new, overhauled W-4 tax withholding form that debuted in December 2019.
4. Online shop, but to save – Studies show that loyalty to home and auto insurance companies does not actually pay off—the companies count on your complacency. When you are shopping those policies, keep in mind that if you put in the time to do the savings steps above, you might have the cash to pay the yearly premium all at once and save up to 5 percent. You can also usually score discounts for completing online learning modules for safe driving.
5. OK, one peek at retirement – Of course, when markets are going crazy, you want to look at your retirement account. One productive thing to do right now is to consider making a contribution to a Roth IRA account, where the growth will accumulate tax-free. If you do so, consider where your account is housed. The market is being transformed by zero-commission trades. If you have investment accounts at institutions that are still charging you for trades, consider moving. Even though a fee like $4.95 per transaction may sound cheap, free always sounds better. (The Epoch Times)
The Man With 17,700 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer Just Donated Them
A Tennessee man who hoarded more than 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer amid the outbreak has been forced to donate them to charity. The news comes after the state’s Attorney General opened a price-gouging investigation into the man, who says that he and his brother purchased the products and attempted to sell them on Amazon, which later removed them, leaving them with unsold supplies. Over the weekend, he helped volunteers from a local church load two-thirds of his stockpile of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes into a box truck for the church to distribute to people in need across Tennessee. Officials from the Tennessee attorney general’s office on Sunday took the other third, which they plan to give to their counterparts in Kentucky for distribution. Many of those people also contacted the man directly with hate mail and death threats, while one man even banged on the door at his home late Saturday night. The man expressed remorse for his actions and said that when he decided to hoard the sanitizer and wipes, he didn’t realize the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak or the severe shortage of sanitizer and wipes. (The New York Times)
An antiretroviral medicine that halts the transmission of HIV will be sold in England starting next month, according to the country’s health department
The drug, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, stops HIV from being transmitted when taken once a day or prior to an encounter. It protects cells in the body and disables the virus to stop it multiplying. Elton John, who started a foundation in support of HIV prevention and treatment, called it the “right decision for the U.K. government to roll this out more widely,” saying it can “minimize the spread of this disease so more people are protected – which is critical in fighting any epidemic.” England, like many countries, has seen its number of HIV cases fall in recent years. (BBC)
NFL players signed off on a new collective bargaining agreement
The new agreement will raise the number of regular-season games from 16 to 17. With a majority of players voting, 51.5% supported the new 10-year agreement while 48.5% were against it. The deal allows the league to increase regular-season games to 17 as early as 2021 and grow the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 starting in the 2020 season. When the season is expanded, the NFL preseason will be shortened to three weeks from the current four, the association said. The new agreement, which also raises salaries for some players, runs through the 2030 season. (ESPN)
France’s Competition Authority has fined Apple $1.2 billion for alleged anti-competitive behavior
According to French authorities, it’s the largest single penalty ever handed down in one case. French antitrust authorities issued the order saying that Apple and two of its wholesalers, Ingram Micro and Tech Data, agreed not to compete and “prevented competition among different Apple distribution channels,” which ultimately hurt consumers. Tech and Ingram Micro were also fined 76.1 million euros and 62.9 million euros, respectively. Regulators argued that Apple and re-sellers “agreed to align prices with Apple’s own pricing for its iPads and some other products,” but not iPhones. Apple has since defended its operations and called the ruling “disheartening.” (The Verge)
On This Day, We Have:
- Awkward Moments Day
- Forgive Mom and Dad Day
- Goddess of Fertility Day (Day before the Spring Equinox)
- Kick Butts Day (3rd Wednesday)
- Kiss Your Fiancée Day
- National Biodiesel Day
- National Public Defense Day
- National Sloppy Joe Day
- Small Business Development Day (Third Wednesday)
- Transit Driver Appreciation Day