Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hotels’ hopes hinge on ‘staycations’

Hotels and motels are hoping “staycations” will be their short-term lifeline as people who’ve been homebound during the pandemic look for convenient, drivable summer getaways. The American Hotel and Lodging Association reported 1.1 billion guest nights annually in the U.S. before the pandemic. Now, as the heart of the summer vacation season approaches, the industry says it will be lucky to reach half that. A hospitality data firm said Memorial Day weekend occupancy hit just 36%, but New York City, Virginia Beach, Tampa, and Phoenix all broke 40%. (Bloomberg News)


Harvard nixes SAT, ACT requirement

Harvard University will no longer require standardized testing as an entry requirement for undergraduates — at least not for the 2021 intake. The Ivy League school says the “insurmountable challenges in scheduling tests,” during the pandemic means applicants will not have to submit either ACT or SAT scores. Cornell, Columbia, Yale, Brown, UPenn and Dartmouth College have all said similar, while Princeton University will consider an application without tests. The pandemic has also thrown a wrench in for those already in college with many schools still unsure whether students will return to campus in the fall. (The Wall Street Journal)


One Restaurant Declared Itself a ‘Safe Haven’ for Police

Even before the unrest that has gripped the nation in recent weeks, the Local Fresh Grill in Port Richey, Florida, offered a 10 percent discount to sheriff’s deputies, marshals and other law enforcement officers. Now, the restaurant has decided to take its support for law enforcement to the next level, declaring itself a “safe haven” for the men and women in blue. In a recent post on its Facebook page Thursday, the restaurant delivered an uplifting message to law enforcement: “To all police officers, Sheriff deputies, Marshall, or any law enforcement officer, The Local Fresh Grill will always be a safe haven for you, a place where you can come and enjoy your lunch knowing that I have your back. You will always be shown the respect you deserve. Not all of us are fooled by all this propaganda and media exaggerations. We know that the majority of you are good people.” (WFLA)


eBay staff sent spiders, roaches to harass couple

Six former eBay Inc. employees have been charged with waging an extensive campaign to terrorize and intimidate the editor and publisher of an online newsletter with threats and disturbing deliveries to their home, including live spiders and cockroaches, federal authorities said.  The employees plotted to terrify the Massachusetts couple that ran the newsletter with threatening messages and deliveries, like a funeral wreath and a bloody pig face Halloween mask, because executives were enraged about its coverage of the company, a Massachusetts U.S. Attorney said. Court documents detail how two members of the company’s executive leadership team orchestrated a plot to go after the couple after the newsletter published an article about litigation involving eBay. One executive who is not named in court documents directed another person to take down the newsletter’s editor, according to court documents. An internal investigation was launched after eBay was notified by law enforcement in August 2019 of “suspicious actions by its security personnel,” company officials wrote in a prepared statement. The employees were fired in September, the company said. The committee formed by the company’s board of directors to oversee the investigation said eBay “took these allegations very seriously from the outset.” “Upon learning of them, eBay moved quickly to investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action,” it said. (WFAA)


North Korea has blown up a four-story building used for talks with South Korean officials

Earlier this week, North Korean media reported that a “terrific explosion” had destroyed the building in the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. Pyongyang said that it plans to deploy more soldiers along the border. Last week, North Korea cut out all communications with South Korea, after accusing its neighbor of turning a blind eye to activists who send propaganda across the border using balloons. Seoul described Pyongyang’s decision to destroy the building as “an act of betrayal” and said that it will “strongly” respond to any military provocations. Since taking office in May 2017, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been trying to improve relations with Pyongyang. He met with Kim three times in 2018, but bilateral relations have soured since then. During their first meeting, Kim and Moon agreed to cease all hostilities, including broadcasting through loudspeakers along the border and distributing leaflets. Pyongyang said that Seoul has now breached that agreement. (CNN)


Virginia School District Will Use Drones to Deliver Summer Reading

A school in Christiansburg, Virginia, has started using drones to deliver library books to local students. The project is the result of a collaboration between middle school librarian and Wing – Alphabet’s drone delivery company. The service was launched last week and it has already delivered dozens of books to local students. To order the books, students go online and choose one of the 15,000 books from the library catalog. The school librarian takes the books to Wing’s local office and the company then sends a drone to drop the books on people’s backyards. (Smithsonian)


The EU’s antitrust watchdog is launching an investigation into Apple’s practices

Spotify and Rakuten have filed complaints with the European Commission (EC) arguing that Apple stifles competition. Spotify claims that the App Store limits consumer choice to favor Apple Music, while Rakuten says it is unfair that the Apple Store takes a 30% commission on ebooks while the store promotes the Apple Books service. The EC will also investigate Apple Pay to ensure that it complies with competition rules. Apple Pay offers additional features to customers who have iPhones, a move that may prevent many customers from accessing new payment technologies, said Margrethe Vestager, the head of the EU’s antitrust division. (The Verge)


The 2021 Oscars ceremony will be delayed by two months to give studios additional time to finish films that have been put on hold due to the pandemic

The ceremony, which typically takes place in late February, is now slated for April 25, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said. The nominations will be announced on March 15, 2021. Films released between January 1, 2020, and February 28, 2021, will be eligible to receive nominations. This is the fourth time that the Oscars have been postponed. They were delayed in 1938 due to flooding in L.A., in 1968 after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1981 following an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The BAFTA awards ceremony has also been rescheduled. It will be held on April 11, 2021 instead of February 14, 2021. (Variety)


U.S. economy starts long recovery as retail sales post record jump

U.S. retail sales increased by the most on record in May after two straight months of sharp declines as businesses reopened, offering more evidence that the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic was over or drawing to an end. The report from the Commerce Department on followed news early this month that the economy created 2.5 million jobs in May. Layoffs are also ebbing and manufacturing activity is improving, though production remains at very low levels. The surge in retail sales last month recouped 63% of March and April’s decreases. Retail sales jumped 17.7% last month, the biggest advance since the government started tracking the series in 1992. Sales dropped a record 14.7% in April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would rise 8% in May. Retail sales fell 6.1% on a year-on-year basis in May. Even with May’s surge, sales were still about 8% below their February level, leaving consumer spending and the economy on track for their biggest contraction in the second quarter since the Great Depression. The economy slipped into recession in February. (Reuters)


President Trump signs police reform executive order

President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at reforming police practices in America after a series of high-profile police killings sparked nationwide protests and riots. President Trump is opposed to growing calls to defund police departments while calling for increased transparency and accountability for police misconduct, a limit on the use of chokeholds, and increased use of non-police personnel to deal with issues related to mental health or drug addiction. The order, titled “Safe Policing for Safe Communities,” acknowledges instances of police abuse and brutality and the negative impact that has had on community relationships with police. It establishes a national certification and credentialing system for law enforcement agencies; creates a federal database to track officers credibly accused of wrongdoing; discourages the use of chokeholds unless an officer’s life is in danger; and encourages Congress to pass further police reforms. (CNBC)


 It’s been a rough year for the American psyche

Folks in the U.S. are more unhappy today than they’ve been in nearly 50 years. This conclusion comes from the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. It finds that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. That year, 23% said they’d often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks. Now, 50% say that. The survey, conducted in late May, draws on nearly a half-century of research from the General Social Survey, which has collected data on American attitudes and behaviors at least every other year since 1972. No less than 29% of Americans have ever called themselves very happy in that survey. (Associated Press)


Oklahoma Governor Seeks Larger Event For Trump’s Tulsa Rally

So many people have expressed an interest in attending President Donald Trump’s rally Saturday (6/20) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that the governor said he’s asked the campaign to consider a larger, outdoor venue to accommodate them. Governor Kevin Stitt said after talking with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that nearly one million people have requested tickets to the event. Some Trump supporters have already started waiting in line outside the 19,000-seat BOK Center in downtown Tulsa. (KOCO)


Adults over 20 are twice as likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 than children and teenagers

The research found that children were also less likely to exhibit symptoms as people over 20, confirming earlier research that children are less susceptible to severe COVID-19 infection than adults. Researchers don’t know exactly why children are less susceptible to the virus – one theory is that children may be more likely to have had a recent respiratory infection, which could provide some level of immunity. The study estimates that 21% of infected people between the ages of 10 and 19 show symptoms, compared to an estimated 69% among those over 70. The study’s authors do not address the ability of children and teenagers to infect others with the virus, and thus do not offer specific guidance as to the effectiveness of school closures. Some children get seriously ill from COVID-19 and develop a rare but critical illness known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). At least four children nationwide have died from the complication. (The Washington Post)


Thursday Pours Us Another Round With:

  • Autistic Pride Day
  • Bartender Day (The Day They Crown The Winner of Bartender of The Year)
  • Career Nurse Assistants Day
  • Dump The Pump Day (Third Thursday)
  • International Sushi Day
  • Go Fishing Day
  • Jack Herer Day
  • Recess At Work Day (Third Thursday)
  • Splurge Day
  • Sustainable Gasteronomy Day
  • World Tapas Day (Third Thursday)

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