Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A drop in ethanol production nationwide may lead to a shortage of beer and soda, experts warn

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is generated as a byproduct by ethanol producers and sold to beverage manufacturers to give drinks their bubbly or fizzy qualities. However, with global demand for gasoline down, that byproduct is in smaller supply, and prices to beverage-makers have shot up by about 25 percent. Some companies are looking to alternate sources for their CO2 supply, and the Compressed Gas Association even wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on April 7 asking for relief. In response to an inquiry from Reuters, National Beverage Corp. (the makers of LaCroix) said it does not believe its product will be hindered by the shortage. (Reuters)


The latest threat to Indonesia’s wildlife

Officials and conservationists say wild songbirds are disappearing at a tremendous rate across Indonesia. One bird protection organization estimates that poachers capture more than 20 million songbirds a year. Much of the demand is fueled by the growing craze for high-stakes bird singing contests at which government officials frequently preside. Known as ashy tailorbirds, they were destined for the Indonesian island of Java, where they were likely to spend their lives in a collector’s cage. Millions of similar birds are stolen from the wild every year, and prized specimens can ultimately sell for thousands of dollars.  (The New York Times)


A man in Australia who purchased around $10,000 worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer was recently denied a refund by a supermarket owner

The director of Drakes Supermarkets in Australia, recently posted a video to YouTube to talk about the situation and why he denied the customer’s refund request. “I had my first customer who said he wanted to get a refund on 150 packets of 32-pack toilet paper and 150 units of one-liter [hand] sanitizer.” The man reached out requesting a refund after he was unable to sell the products on his eBay account. The response the supermarket owner gave to the man with the request was showing his middle finger. The situation comes amid a time when many people across the globe have participated in panic buying, with many believing that they need to stock up on products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, mainly as a result of the novel coronavirus, which has kept people isolated and quarantined. Following the influx of panic buying and stockpiling on different items, a number of supermarkets, including Drakes, have placed a ban on the number of items per customer, but this specific customer was able to find a way around the limits. The store owner believes the person had a team of people that bought the products, because each customer is only allowed to buy one of each at a time, summing up to about 150 separate purchases to buy the products. (Newsweek)


Kenya governor adds bottles of Hennessy to coronavirus care packages

The governor of the Nairobi in the capital city of Kenya is facing backlash after he included bottles of Hennessy in coronavirus care packages. He said the alcohol would be part of the COVID-19 care packages that were given to residents at a food donation site. He claimed that the small bottles of the cognac would be a good “throat sanitizer” since there was alcohol in them. “I think from the research conducted by the World Health Organization and various organizations, it has been believed that alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus,” he said in a video. Despite those claims, the World Health Organization has repeatedly maintained that alcohol would actually make a person more vulnerable to the pandemic. They argued that access should be restricted. The organization also noted that alcohol was already responsible for so many deaths and would simply lead to more. (CNN)


AI reveals possible virus treatment

London-based BenevolentAI has discovered that a drug approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis may help alleviate some of the most dangerous symptoms of COVID-19. With the help of a machine learning system that analyzes previously published drug research, BenevolentAI software found that the anti-inflammatory properties that allow baricitinib to alleviate arthritis may also dial down the immune system overreaction triggered in severe cases of COVID-19. Eli Lilly, which manufactures baricitinib and had not previously considered it as a potential COVID-19 treatment, plans to begin clinical trials in the U.S. this month. (Wired)


Dogs may join fight against virus

The rescue dogs are coming. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have launched a project to train canines to sniff out humans who are unknowingly carrying and spreading COVID-19. Dogs have previously been trained to detect malaria, cancer and Parkinson’s, among other conditions. If they can spot COVID-19, we could see such pups, likely labradors and cocker spaniels, hard at work at hospitals and public spaces in the U.K. as soon as this summer. (Bloomberg)


Many still wait for unemployment aid

Unemployment benefit programs across the country have been overwhelmed by the millions who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to U.S. Department of Labor data, roughly 22 million Americans have filed jobless claims since March 14, or roughly 13.5% of the labor force. In New York, 1.2 million have applied for unemployment aid yet many have not received financial assistance due to the dated systems, despite measures the state has taken to improve the services, including enlisting Google to revamp the online application. (The New York Times)


Australia ordered US tech giants to pay for content

Facebook and Google will have to share ad revenue after refusing to voluntarily compensate local media for material that they monetize. The government has now asked the country’s competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to frame a mandatory code of conduct between media outlets and digital platforms after talks stalled on content payment rules. Australia’s ad market is worth nearly $6 billion. For every $100 spent on online advertising in Australia, excluding classifieds, nearly a third goes to Google and Facebook, an ACCC report on digital platforms published in June last year showed. (Reuters


Zoom marriages are now legal in New York

The New York Governor issued an executive order allowing couples to obtain licenses and marry “utilizing audio-video technology.” At a recent conference, the secretary to the governor announced the order. “Video marriage ceremonies,” the Governor said. “There’s now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage. No excuse. You can do it by Zoom.” The digital nuptials do have to follow certain rules laid out in the order, which is in effect through May 18. For example, “the video conference must allow for direct interaction between the couple and the town or city clerk, the witness or the person to solemnize the marriage.” In other words, no pre-recorded video is allowed, so participants still have to actually attend, even if they’re not there physically. Zoom, of course, is the popular video-conferencing technology that’s gotten a huge boost of late with many workers now having to hold meetings remotely. (Quartz)


A state prison in Ohio is now the largest reported source of virus infections in the United States continuing a trend of fast-moving outbreaks behind bars

Ohio officials said that at least 1,828 inmates (almost three-quarters of the prison population) had tested positive at the Marion Correctional Institution, a minimum- and medium-security prison about an hour’s drive north of Columbus. That’s more than the number of known cases at a meatpacking plant in South Dakota and an aircraft carrier docked in Guam. About one out of five confirmed virus cases in Ohio is now connected with the state’s prison system, according to statewide figures. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said at least 2,400 inmates in the system had tested positive, and seven had died of either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infections. No deaths have been reported among the prisoners in Marion, but one staff member at the facility has died, and 103 employees have tested positive. The prison announced its first positive case, of an employee, on March 29. (The New York Times)


FedEx driver shot at after running over family’s dog; mother, son arrested, authorities say

A mother and son were arrested recently in Catawba County, North Carolina after authorities said bullets were fired into a FedEx truck after a family pet was run over. Deputies said the gunfire erupted after the FedEx driver accidentally ran over a dog and was confronted by the owners. Officials said the driver had gone to the Knolls neighborhood south of Newton, North Carolina. That’s when he accidentally ran over a family dog, deputies said. Investigators said as part of FedEx’s policy, the driver pulled out of the driveway and pulled over to call his supervisor. Deputies said that’s when a 51-year-old woman and her 23-year-old son followed him in their pickup truck and tried to confront him. The driver explained to deputies he felt threatened and began to drive away. That’s when the son fired three shots with a semiautomatic handgun at the FedEx truck. All three shots struck the left rear door of the delivery truck, officials said. The mother and son continued to follow the driver as he pulled into the Highway Patrol Station trying to find a police officer, officials said. The driver called 911 and said he was being chased by the pair. Deputies found both the driver and the two suspects in the parking lot of the North Carolina Highway Patrol District Office. Three bullet holes could be seen in the back of the delivery truck. The driver was not hurt. Authorities said they also found an AR-15 in the pickup truck. The son was arrested and charged with discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle and assault with a deadly weapon. The mother was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting assault with a deadly weapon. (WSOC)


Over 43,000 US millionaires to get ‘stimulus’ averaging $1.6 million each, committee finds

More than 43,000 millionaires in the United States won’t be getting coronavirus stimulus checks like the rest of Americans, but instead, they’ll be receiving other funds averaging about $1.6 million each, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The congressional committee analysis revealed that roughly 43,000 individual tax filers who make at least $1 million a year will reap savings of $70.3 billion. That amounts to about $1.6 million each, the committee found. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, most Americans will receive a $1,200 stimulus check in response to the pandemic. The act allows pass-through businesses that are taxed under individual income versus corporate an unlimited amount of deductions against their non-business income, such as capital gains. They can also use losses to avoid paying taxes in other years. (WGHP)


Crocodiles once acted a lot like dolphins and whales

Ancient relatives of the modern crocodile shifted from land to sea about 182 million years ago, according to a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These Jurassic animals most likely breathed through their noses rather than blowholes, but they evolved the smooth skin and body shapes like those of whales and dolphins today. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)


Wednesday Creeps On From A Distance With:

  • Administrative Professionals Day or Secretary’s Day
  • Chemists Celebrate The Earth Day
  • Earth Day
  • Girl Scout Leaders Day
  • Global Selfie Earth Day (NASA)
  • “In God We Trust Day” Day
  • Mother Earth Day
  • National Bookmobile Day
  • National Jelly Bean Day

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