Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Texas company looking to dock stimulus money from paychecks, relieve their payroll

A company in Austin, Texas is looking to dock pay from workers who receive government stimulus checks, according to an anonymous employee. An unnamed company in Texas, though, appears to be looking to use the stimulus to relieve their payroll strain. Last week, the company sent out a form titled “Employee Acknowledgement of ‘Government Assistance’ Pay Reduction.” The form states that the company would take payment from the employee’s paycheck by 100 percent of any money received under the stimulus bill, a number they can accurately calculate since the stimulus money is scaled based on income. Other companies may or may not also attempt to take advantage of the stimulus money. (KXAN)


Scientists find bug that feasts on toxic plastic

Scientists have found a bacterium that feeds on polyurethane, not only breaking it down, but using it as food to power the process. When broken down it can release toxic and carcinogenic chemicals which would kill most bacteria, but the newly discovered strain is able to survive. While the research has identified the bug and some of its key characteristics, much work remains to be done before it can be used to treat large amounts of waste plastic. Millions of tons of the plastic is produced every year to use in items such as sports shoes, diapers, kitchen sponges and as foam insulation, but as it is tough to recycle, it primarily goes to landfills. (The Guardian)


COVID-19 Updates:

  • Russia closes all border crossings – It is temporarily shutting down all vehicle, rail, and pedestrian checkpoints, plus maritime borders. Last week, it halted all international flights. Officials had until recently claimed Russia didn’t have a coronavirus problem. (Yahoo News)
  • Japan is set to expand its restrictions – It’s expected to refuse entry to all foreigners and citizens traveling from the US, China, South Korea, and most of Europe. Meanwhile, car maker Toyota said it is temporarily shutting all plants in Europe and Russia. (Japan Today)
  • The FDA approved an emergency coronavirus treatment – Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, two malaria drugs controversially promoted by president Trump, were authorized for limited use. Scientists prefer clinical trials first, due to a lack of proof over its efficacy. (ABC News)
  • An F1 team is building a new breathing aid – The device would deliver oxygen to the lungs while cutting the need for ventilators, helping keep patients out of intensive care. If trials go well for Mercedes and the University of London, it may be available in a week’s time. (ESPN)
  • The Netherlands recalled defective masks made in China – About 600,000 had already been distributed to local hospitals, the health ministry said. Earlier this month, Spain and Turkey complained of faulty rapid testing kits from China. (Euronews)
  • The governor of Lombardy, Italy – He called for the central government to extend a nationwide lockdown for at least two more weeks. The number of confirmed new cases has decreased in Italy, but experts say that social restrictions should not be lifted yet. (Reuters)
  • The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics has been rescheduled for July 23, 2021 – Last week, the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee decided to postpone the games due to the coronavirus crisis. (CNBC)
  • Oil prices have collapsed to their lowest level in 18 years – It’s due to a drop in demand caused by the pandemic and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. (UPI)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – It was announced that he will self-isolate after an aide tested positive for the virus. (USA Today)


Facebook has unveiled plans to invest $100 million in local media outlets

The social media giant will provide $25 million in journalism grants through the Facebook Journalism Project. The Post and Courier in South Carolina, the Southeast Missourian and El Paso Matters in Texas will receive some of the grants. Additionally, Facebook will spend $75 million in ads that the company will place in local media outlets to market itself. The spending is part of Facebook’s efforts to help media outlets impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Other tech companies, including Google, Yelp, Netflix, and Apple have pledged to donate hundreds of millions to companies and communities affected by the virus. (Axios)


A New Jersey pizzeria has received at least $4,000 in donations to make and deliver pizzas for first responders

It all started when two brothers who own Federico’s Pizza in New Jersey had to borrow $50,000 to keep their business going during the coronavirus pandemic. One brother said he felt obliged to borrow the money because many of his employees have been working for him for more than a decade. “I supply their salary, and if they don’t have a salary, they won’t be able to afford their rent, their credit card bills, their insurance, their gas,” he said. But when customers found out that the brothers were struggling, they started leaving big tips and ordering pizzas for first responders, including doctors, nurses and police. (Associated Press)


A bidder paid over $33,000 for the towel that NBA legend Kobe Bryant used after his final game with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, who died in January in a helicopter crash that also killed his daughter and seven others, draped the towel over his shoulders while giving a farewell speech after the match, on April 13, 2016. He scored 60 points in that game. According to Iconic Auctions, the buyer is David Kohler, an avid collector of Lakers memorabilia. The lot also included two tickets from the game. (Sports Illustrated)


Scientists working alongside the European Space Agency have proposed mixing urine with lunar soil to create “moon concrete”

Amid plans by several space agencies to set a moon base, scientists have been trying to come up with ways to manufacture building materials on-site, because taking them from Earth would be very expensive. In a new study, scientists said that urea – the second most abundant component in urine (after water) – could be mixed with chemicals found in lunar soil to create a paste that would be used to 3D print building materials. The researchers used this technique to build “mud cylinders” that can keep their shapes while supporting heavy loads and can also withstand extreme temperature variations. (CNET)


An Italian priest’s live streamed mass on Facebook went viral after the religious leader accidentally left the platform’s AR filters active, causing him to appear in various cartoon disguises

Paolo Longo, parish priest of the Church of San Pietro and San Benedetto di Polla in Salerno province, live streamed mass on Facebook to allow parishioners to attend the service virtually amid the coronavirus outbreak. Longo’s video went viral when he accidentally left the Facebook AR filters active during the live stream, causing him to appear with animated accessories including a sci-fi helmet, lifting dumbbells and a hat and sunglasses. The priest had a sense of humor about the mistake, later posting: “Even a laugh is good.” (The Sun)


A woman was arrested for allegedly hitting and biting a a Walmart loss prevention employee

The 51-year-old woman from McAlester, Oklahoma, was charged in Pittsburg County District Court with assault and battery and larceny of merchandise from a retailer. According to court records, she was stopped outside of Walmart by the store’s loss prevention employee. She had allegedly left the store with stolen merchandise and, according to a police affidavit, the employee attempted to detain the woman for allegedly taking the four items worth a total of $45.34. However, when the employee tried to keep the woman from leaving, she allegedly “struck him and then bit him in the right arm.” (McAlester News)


An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow a COVID-19 drug treatment promoted by President Trump to be distributed to hospitals

Both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are part of the EUA, which doctors will be able to prescribe to patients sickened by the coronavirus, despite the current lack of clinical trials into the drugs’ effectiveness. The Department of Health and Human Services has received a donation of 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate from the pharmaceutical company Sandoz. Last week, it was announce that researchers believed in hydroxychloroquine and the preliminary evidence behind its potential effectiveness. (Politico)


Obesity appears to be a significant risk factor for patients developing complications due to coronavirus infection

In one British study, over 70 percent of ICU patients were either overweight or obese, according to body mass index. A Dutch physician said that 80 percent of ICU patients in the Netherlands were overweight. Heavier patients are more likely to suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure, and may also have trouble breathing due to a heavier chest, which doctors believe may be contributing to negative outcomes from COVID-19. (International Business Times)


Scientists at MIT say a protein fragment (or peptide) may prevent SARS-CoV-2 from attacking lung cells

MIT Head researcher says the peptide inhibits “viral entry into a host cell.” The lab at MIT has been granted special permission to continue its research, despite most of the campus being shut down. The researchers are now working on 100 variants of the protein fragment in hopes of increasing its effectiveness against the virus and promoting its stability in the human body. (Neuroscience News)


April Fools Day History

Some historians believe the April Fools’ customs began in France, although no one knows for sure. It may stem from a calendar change in 16th century France, the moving of New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted. People who continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1st rather than the new date of January 1st were referred to as “April fools” and others played tricks on them.

Around the World

  • In France, April 1st is called “Poisson d’Avril.” French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends’ backs. When the “young fool” discovers this trick, the prankster yells “Poisson d’Avril!”
  • In Scotland, April Fools’ lasts two days. Victims of pranks are called gowks (cuckoo birds). The second day is known as Taily Day, and pranks involving the backside are played. Supposedly, it is the origin of “kick me” signs.
  • In England and Canada, pranks are only played in the morning of April 1st.


Memorable Pranks

  • Early 1950s – The BBC runs a “news” item about the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. 
  • 1985 – Sports Illustrated runs a 14-page story by George Plimpton about a Mets pitching phenom named Sidd Finch. The reclusive, skinny Finch has a 168-mph fastball (which he credits to meditations in Tibet) and a host of quirks including carrying a French horn at all times and wearing only one hiking boot while pitching. 
  • 1986-present – Press releases for the [non-existent] New York City April Fools’ Day Parade have been issued every year since 1986.
  • 1996 – Taco Bell Corp. runs a full-page ad in several major newspapers claiming it has purchased the Liberty Bell and is renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” 
  • 2004 – The National Public Radio show “All Things Considered” runs a story about the post offices’ new “portable zip codes” program. Based on people being able to keep their phone number even if they moved, the program was designed to represent “a citizen’s place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape.” 
  • 2008 – The BBC runs a video clip of flying penguins as part of a story for its series “Miracles of Evolution.” The presenter explains that the penguins escaped the cold, harsh Antarctic weather by flying to the tropical rainforests of South America. 
  • April 1, 2010 – The National Republican Senatorial Committee releases a parody web video celebrating President Barack Obama as “truly the greatest president ever” and that he has “kept all his promises.” 
  • April 1, 2013 – The Guardian announces the launch of its own augmented reality device, Guardian Goggles, which will “beam its journalism directly into the wearer’s visual field, enabling users to see the world through the Guardian’s eyes at all times.” 
  • April 1, 2016 – Google introduces “Mic Drop,” a Gmail feature that enables users to send emails with an animated gif depicting a minion dropping a microphone. The prank goes awry when people accidentally click on the button and unwittingly send business emails with the whimsical animation. The feature is removed after several hours of confusion.


Wednesday Crashes Down Like A Lead Balloon With:

  • April Fools or All Fools Day
  • Atheist Day
  • Boomer Bonus Days
  • Childhelp National Day of Hope (First Wednesday)
  • International Tatting Day
  • Library Snap Shot Day
  • Myles Day
  • National Fun Day
  • National Fun at Work Day
  • National Walking Day
  • Paraprofessional Appreciation Day (First Wednesday)
  • Poetry & The Creative Mind Day
  • Reading is Funny Day
  • Sorry Charlie Day
  • St. Stupid Day
  • US Air force Academy Day

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