Monday, September 7, 2020
Another blow to the SAT
University of California colleges will no longer be allowed to consider ACT and SAT scores from applicants, after a superior court judge ruled that the “test optional” approach gave privileged, non-disabled students an advantage in admissions. While the university system had stopped requiring the tests until 2024, the ruling means scores cannot be submitted voluntarily. A University of California spokesperson said it “respectfully disagrees with the Court’s ruling” and the system is considering more legal action. (CNN)
Mass surveillance program exposed by Snowden was illegal
Seven years after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the mass surveillance of Americans’ telephone records, an appeals court has found the program was unlawful and that the U.S. intelligence leaders who publicly defended it were not telling the truth. In a ruling handed down recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the warrantless telephone dragnet that secretly collected millions of Americans’ telephone records violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and may well have been unconstitutional. Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia in the aftermath of the 2013 disclosures and still faces U.S. espionage charges, said on Twitter that the ruling was a vindication of his decision to go public with evidence of the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping operation. “I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” Snowden said in a message posted to Twitter. (Reuters)
Does pandemic Santa exist?
With the most profitable shopping period of the year imminent, retailers say this year’s holiday shopping season will be transformed in fundamental ways. For one, mall operators acknowledge, the stout men that stand in for Santa Claus in shopping malls through the holidays are worried about being infected with the coronavirus. At the same time, retail managers are faced with the conundrum of how to anticipate demand for inventory, budget for staffing rosters and effectively connect with customers when faced with so much uncertainty. (The New York Times)
United plans to cut 16,000 jobs
As federal aid winds down, United Airlines plans to cut more than 16,000 jobs starting October 1st, though that’s less than half of the 36,000 cuts it warned of two months ago. So far, it’s been reported that thousands of volunteers have already accepted buyouts, early retirement packages and other forms of leave. The cuts and furloughs come after American Airlines said it would shed 19,000 jobs and signal that the industry doesn’t see demand rebounding until a coronavirus vaccine is available. Meanwhile, airlines’ request for another $25 billion in federal aid through Congress is in limbo. (Axios)
Facebook announced that the platform will not accept new political ads in the week before the November election
The company announced that spending on ads bought before October 27th can be adjusted in the said period, but new ads won’t be allowed. Facebook said this will prevent campaigns or PACs from promoting false information at the last minute, not leaving enough time to refute it. Facebook also announced a few other features in the wake of the presidential election:
- A “Voter Information Center” feature will be placed at the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds to provide verified information on voting.
- Live election results in partnership with Reuters.
- Clear misinformation regarding voting or COVID-19 will be removed. A link to accurate information will be added for posts that provoke fear of catching COVID-19 due to voting.
- A label will be added to posts that suggest a candidate’s victory before the results are official. The label would also redirect users to Reuters for an updated vote tally.
- The number of allowed forwards in its Messenger app has also been reduced from 150 to five users.
Sounds of the Forest, the world’s first-ever forest soundmap, features sounds from woodlands and forests across the globe
Launched in July, the so-called “sound library” includes audio recordings posted by people in more than 30 countries. You can hear the Blue River in Colorado, a waterfall near the University of Concepción, Chile, and the calls of Indri lemurs in Andasibe, Madagascar. The map was created by the Timber Festival in the U.K., an annual celebration that explores the transformative impact of forests, and Wild Rumpus, a British non-profit. (Good News Network)
A NASA machine learning model could help forecasters more accurately predict if a hurricane will become suddenly severe
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) experimental computer model could provide more time to prepare for these “rapid-intensification” events. Rapid intensification refers to when windspeeds suddenly jump by at least 35 mph within 24 hours, which has been difficult to predict in hurricanes. JPL and NOAA researchers developed a forecast model using machine learning, which can more accurately analyze the complex variables like rainfall rate, ice water content, and more that contribute to rapid intensification. They used IBM Watson Studio to develop the ML model, which they’re now testing on storms during the current hurricane season. (NASA)
A group of Mexican professional wrestlers’ latest opponent is the deadly coronavirus as they team up to try to defeat the pandemic by promoting safety measures
Recently, a team of six luchadores took to the streets of Mexico City’s Xochimilco borough to led a campaign called ‘Put the face mask on or we’ll put a maneuver on you’ to stop the spread of the virus. The wrestlers handed out 150 face masks, gave tips on how to wear them correctly and treated residents to a few impromptu matches on the streets. “We are here to raise awareness among citizens, it is very important to follow health measures until everything is safe,” on wrestler said. The matches are also streamed online for a small fee of $1.35, and some of the money that they have generated was put towards the purchase of the masks that were donated during their main event bout to topple the silent coronavirus beast. The wrestling business was forced to shut down in Mexico due to restrictions that shuttered the doors to the same arenas where the talent entertained families and tourists alike. Lucha Libre, Mexico’s style of wrestling that utilizes masked and colorful competitors, is a staple of the country’s rich culture but was not immune from the economic effects of the virus. Wrestling was forced to shut down due to the government-imposed restrictions that shuttered the doors to the arenas where the wrestlers entertained families and tourists alike. (Daily Mail)
Woman recovers from severe burns, says hand sanitizer sparked flames
A woman in Round Rock, Texas is recovering at an intensive care unit from burns all over her body after she says a bottle of hand sanitizer exploded as she was lighting sage. She had put some sanitizer on her hands before attempting to light the sage at her home. According to the description of a GoFundMe campaign started by her best friend, the woman accidentally burned her hand and jumped back. In doing so, she touched the bottle of disinfectant, which made contact with the fire and exploded like a ‘bomb.’ The single mom-of-three somehow managed to throw the burning clothes off of her body while her two youngest daughters ran to the neighbors for help. Despite her severe injuries, she was able to carry her 14-year-old daughter, who is disabled, and the family’s dogs out of the house. The woman suffered second- and third-degree burns to portions of her body, including her entire face, her hands, and even her legs and feet. Doctors say they are hopeful her vision will come back, but it could take several months for her burns to heel with surgery. During the whole event, the woman lost most of her furniture to smoke damage and other possessions to the fire. The woman says she is grateful to be alive and wants to use her experience as a warning to other families about the products they may have in their own home. (CBS Austin)
Best friends try more expensive scratch-off for the first time, win big
A pair of best friends in Australia tried their luck on a more expensive scratch-off lottery ticket for the first time and scored a jackpot of more than $180,000. One-half of the winning duo from Narre Warren, Victoria, officials that he and his best friend have a weekly tradition of pooling their money to buy a Powerball ticket, and they use the remaining money to buy a scratch-off ticket. The man said the pair usually have just enough left over for a $3.64 scratch-off ticket, but they found that for the first time they had enough left over for a $7.29 ticket. The man said it was their first time buying one of the more expensive tickets, and they won $182,240. The man said his half of the jackpot will allow him to pay off his debts. (The Lott)
Roadkill Beer and Toilet Wine on Exhibit at the Disgusting Food Museum in Sweden
Vodka made with scorpions may be the least disgusting thing at a new museum exhibit in Sweden. It’s part of the latest show at the Disgusting Food Museum, featuring disgusting alcoholic drinks. The offerings include wine fermented with spit, and a 110-proof beer from Scotland that rests in a roadkill squirrel. Curator explains, “People are very desperate to get drunk around the world.” (Inside Edition)
WARNING: MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES!
Mother Horrified As She Finds Sex Doll That Resembles Her Daughter
Florida mom was left horrified last month after she came across pictures of an advertisement for a $559 child sex doll on Amazon that resembled her eight-year-old daughter. The doll, which has since been removed from Amazon, was listed on the website as a ‘high quality sexy dolly live dolls for men’. There were also a number of disturbing customer reviews for the item, including one posted in May, saying: ‘Good item during these times.’ The mom said she was in ‘shock’ that such a product would be sold on the same website the family uses to help with her daughter’s community service projects. Her daughter, who suffers from CVID (Common Variable Immune Deficiency) is a child model and pageant contestant, her mom said. She said she had posted photos of the little girl in a Facebook group where she shares updates on her daughter’s illness, community projects and modeling work. The mom believes the sex doll was modeled after a picture of her daughter she shared in the group that showed her sitting on a couch with her legs crossed with her stuffed animal. The doll in the advertisement not only had a similar outfit and hairstyle as her daughter’s but it was also posing the same way. She said she later learned the ad had been listed on Amazon since November 2019 and immediately contacted the website to have it taken down. While the doll is no longer for sale on Amazon, Terri said she has found it on several other websites including some where it’s displayed naked and has videos of people explaining how to use it. The mom has since teamed up with the Child Rescue Coalition which is lobbying for a federal law banning the sale and purchasing of child sex dolls. (NBC Miami)
There are only temporary effects of micro-gravity during long-term space travel on astronauts’ brains, according to a new study
Scientists analysed the brains of 11 male astronauts who spent an average of about six months in space. The experts found no evidence that spending long periods in weak gravity conditions led to neuro-degeneration or loss of brain tissue. Any changes the researchers observed shortly after the cosmonauts returned to Earth were reversed when their brains were examined again within seven months. Recovery in the upper portion of the brain was more pronounced than in the lower portion of the brain, they found. To study space travel’s impacts in greater detail, researchers determined the fraction of grey matter, white matter and cerebrospinal fluid per voxel, a single point in 3D space. Grey matter is mostly found on the outer-most layer of the brain, or cortex, and serves to process information, while white matter, the paler tissue towards the centre, speeds up signals between the cells. Cerebrospinal fluid cushions the brain and spinal cord from injury and nutrients around the brain. The team used MRI to evaluate the brains of cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Russia’s space program, before and about nine days after long-duration space missions on the International Space Station (ISS), averaging 171 days (nearly six months). The researchers performed additional scans on eight of the cosmonauts about seven months after their return as a follow-up. The team detected increases in the quantity of grey matter in the cerebrum and decreases in grey matter in the ventricles and the Sylvian fissure, which divides the frontal and parietal lobes from the temporal lobe. All importantly, however, these were changes in the distribution of tissue caused by shifts in cerebrospinal fluid, but not reductions in the net quantity of grey matter. The brain reorganises itself during long spaceflights on a macro- and micro-scale, thanks to shifts in cerebrospinal fluid, the team say. Previous studies have reported the damaging long-term effects of space travel on the body, but this new research suggests any effects are only temporary. This is good news for NASA astronauts, who are facing longer and longer periods in space in preparation for missions to Mars in the 2030s, although they will take at least nine months to get there. (Science Advances)
Monday Is Maniacal About:
- Acorn Squash Day
- Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Day
- Beer Lover’s Day
- Google Commemoration (Founded) Day
- Grandma Moses Day
- Grateful Patient Day
- Great Bathtub Race (Always on Labor Day)
- Labor Day
- Mouthguard Day (First Monday)
- “Neither Snow nor Rain” Day
- New Hampshire Day
- Salami Day
Labor Day Fun Facts
- Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers and is traditionally observed on the first Monday in September.
- Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.
- Labor Day weekend also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, street parades and athletic events.
- The first Labor Day parade was in New York City – On September 5, 1882, New York’s Central Labor Union held a parade to celebrate union work and show support for all unions. More than 10,000 union workers took unpaid time off work to march from City Hall, past Union Square, and up to 42nd Street.
- The “No white after Labor Day” rule – The tradition goes back to the end of the Civil War, when society was ruled by the wealthy wives of old-money elites. As more new-money millionaires entered society, the jealous old regime invented a whole suite of arbitrary fashion rules that only those in the in-crowd would know. Anyone who showed up to an autumn dinner party in a white dress, for example, would be instantly outed as a nouveau riche newbie. That tradition of not wearing white past summer has since trickled down through fashion magazines and into mainstream culture… even for those of us whose ideal dinner party garb is sweatpants. The good news is, most fashion experts agree that there’s no need to follow this elitist rule today.
- Oregon was the first state to recognize the holiday – It made Labor Day a legal holiday on February 21, 1887. That same year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York also legally adopted the holiday.
- It’s the official end of hot dog season – During peak “hot dog season,” which spans from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans gorge themselves on roughly 818 hot dogs every second (or 7 billion total). As summer barbecues fade into foliage walks, what foodstuff is fit to take up the mantle? Many Americans will start with “pumpkin spice” beverages.
- It’s a dangerous holiday – Don’t let all that rest and relaxation dull your nerves. According to a study done by autoinsurance.org, researchers expect Labor Day car accidents to spike this year as cities and states continue to reopen after quarantine due to COVID-19. The data collected between 2016 to 2018 show that Labor Day is the third deadliest U.S. holiday for auto accidents, with 1,330 total fatal crashes within the three years.