Monday, November 9, 2020

USPS processed 150,000 ballots after Election Day, jeopardizing thousands of votes

Despite assurances from Postal Service leaders that agency officials were conducting daily sweeps for misplaced ballots, the mail service acknowledged in court filings that thousands of ballots had not been processed in time, and that more ballots were processed Wednesday than on Election Day. The number of mailed ballots not delivered by Election Day is expected to grow as more postal data is released in the coming days. Some election experts worry such delays could run up against even more generous ballot acceptance windows that some states have granted. In several swing states, late ballots will still be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday (11/6). The Postal Service had warned voters not to mail ballots within one week of the November 3 election, even though they are treated as first-class mail, which has a one- to three-day delivery window. (The Washington Post)


Comcast Tells Customers They May Lose Access To Comcast Channels If Comcast Can’t Agree With Comcast

Comcast is informing the company’s 20+ million cable TV customers that they may lose access to Comcast TV channels next month if Comcast can’t come to some sort of agreement with… Comcast. It’s an absurd twist on the already annoying practice of carriage disputes, where customers pay the price for broadcasters and cable TV providers being unable to come to terms on new agreements after old ones expire. Usually, this involves both the cable company and the broadcaster trying to get customers upset at the other guy, despite both sides pursuing relentless rate hikes (be it for programming or cable set top box rental). Usually this results in outages that customers don’t get refunds for, after which a new confidential deal is struck and consumer prices go up anyway. Here’s where it makes this situation unusual because the cable giant owns NBC Universal and the channels that are slated to be dropped. The channels are carried under an agreement negotiated between the cable service and its subsidiary broadcast and cable network group. Comcast has successfully renegotiated thousands of expiring contracts over the years and rarely experienced an interruption of service. However, it is possible that contracts for the channels will not be renewed, in which case Comcast would no longer have the right to carry those channels on their systems. (Tech Dirt)


Americans resist tapping 401(k)s

Americans hit hard by the pandemic have largely resisted raiding their 401(k) retirement savings, even as the CARES Act allows people to draw up to $100,000 by the end of the year without penalty. But there’s a caveat: economists say the reason withdrawal rates are low is because lower-income workers, who probably need an infusion, are less likely to have 401(k) nest eggs. Fidelity, the country’s largest 401(k) provider, says just 4.6% of eligible members took money out through September 30, and another 1% took hardship distributions. (The Wall Street Journal)


Crisis hurting baby boomers in biz

Small businesses, including those owned by baby boomers, have taken a major hit during the pandemic. A survey reveals a 25% drop in the number of boomers who were self-employed or owned businesses in the second quarter. Not only does this impact the greater economy, boomers own 2.34 million businesses with 24.7 million employees and $5.1 trillion in sales, according to census data, but it will also have a direct impact on the estimated $68 trillion wealth transfer, or the money boomers leave to the next generation. (CNBC)


While US voters wait, pizza wins

While Americans anxiously wait for the results of the presidential election, many nervous and hungry vote watchers are saying “in pizza we crust.” The CEO of Papa John’s said that pizza sales spiked Tuesday (11/3) and Wednesday (11/4) nights, while the L.A. Times reports alcohol and marijuana deliveries have also been big election winners. In fact, on-demand alcohol delivery service Drizly reported 133% and 110% sales spikes on Tuesday in Washington D.C. and New York City, respectively, compared to the previous four Tuesdays. (L.A. Times)


Chick-fil-A is the fast-food king, according to restaurant study

Chick-fil-A is the “King of Fast Food,” according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Restaurant report for 2019-2020. The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s special COVID-19 restaurant study is based on interviews with 9,511 customers. The study revealed full-service restaurants outperformed the fast food industry in customer satisfaction at the start of the pandemic. The study took place between April 2019 and ended March 2020, that final month, of course, marking the start of the pandemic when families were ordered to stay at home. According to the study, customer satisfaction with full-service restaurants stumbled 2.5% to a score of 79 (falling below 80 for just the second time) while limited service (fast food) restaurants dropped 1.3% to 78. Chick-fil-A holds the crown on the fast-food segment with a stable ACSI score of 84, followed by the group of smaller fast-food chains (unchanged) and Domino’s (up 1%), which tied at 80. Domino’s improved across all benchmarks, with the exception of food variety. Pizza Hut climbed 3% to a score of 79, joining KFC, which remained steady. Chipotle tumbled 3% into a tie with Starbucks (unchanged) at 78. Customers were more disappointed with Chipotle’s staff courtesy, checkout/delivery speed, and beverage variety in the past six months. Last month, Chick-fil-A was reported to be the most popular drive-thru service, but also the slowest. The restaurant landed a No. 1 ranking for accuracy, customer service, and taste – but not speed. (American Customer Satisfaction Index)


Scientists Just Fired Up an Experimental Fusion Reactor

A team of scientists at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in the UK claim to have achieved first plasma on an upgraded, experimental fusion reactor. Generating electricity using fusion, which means harnessing the power of atoms fusing together rather than breaking them up, is still many years — if not decades — out. But the team is hoping their new design could solve a big problem: hot plasma, with temperatures of over 15 million degrees Celsius, which typically deals great damage to the reactor itself. Fusion energy has a key advantage over conventional nuclear energy: it doesn’t create radioactive waste that’s expensive and difficult to dispose of. But the process of fusion using plasma builds up massive amounts of energy in the form of heat, so the team at CCFE came up with a “divertor” that acts as an exhaust system for their reactor. (UK Atomic Energy Authority)


Kindergarteners in Texas played with infected bat, possibly exposed to rabies

Up to 15 Texas kindergarteners were possibly exposed to rabies after playing near an infected bat outside an elementary school, authorities said. Police in Manor, Texas, which is 15 miles east of Austin, said the Manor Independent School District discovered video footage of the students at Lagos Elementary School playing near the bat last week.  The state Department of State Health Services tested the bat, which tested positive for rabies. The families of the children were alerted and urged to see a doctor. The school’s campus will be screened and inspected for more bats. (KXAN)


Firms sue over biz interruption claims

Faced with a massive number of requests, the insurance industry has largely avoided paying out business interruption claims caused by the coronavirus crisis. This has led to businesses like retailers and restaurants filing over 1,000 lawsuits against insurance companies since the March lockdowns, which significantly hurt small business. Insurers say the claims are so big they could cripple their industry. (Bloomberg)


Young adults in U.S. among world leaders in unhealthy weight, researchers say

Young adults in the United States are among the world’s heaviest with a body-mass index of 25.4. This suggests they are among the global leaders in a key indicator of poor overall health, the researchers said, as a BMI of 25 or above is considered overweight for adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BMI is calculated by taking a person’s weight in kilograms and dividing it by height in square meters. It generally is viewed as the most accurate method for measuring body weight in the context of height to identify those who are overweight or obese, the CDC said. The average BMI among 19-year-olds in the United States, 25.4, places them just outside the global Top 10 of nations ranked by BMI. Average height and BMI in countries reflects the quality of nutrition and healthiness of the environment during childhood and adolescence, and are important indicators of health and development. BMI accounts for weight gain due to being taller, and therefore measures having healthy weight for an individual’s height versus being overweight or underweight, the researchers said. Having low height or excessively low BMI increases the risk of illness and premature death, impairs cognitive development and reduces educational performance and work productivity in later life, they said. Similarly, high BMI in childhood and adolescence has been linked with a greater risk, and earlier onset of, chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The countries with the tallest 19-year-olds included the Netherlands, Montenegro, Iceland and Denmark, the researchers said. Countries with the shortest 19-year-olds were in South Asia and Southeast Asia, Latin America and East Africa, they said. The highest average BMIs among 19-year-olds were found in the Pacific islands, the Middle East and the United States, while “unhealthy growth trends”, with too little height gain and excess weight gains, were seen in New Zealand, the United States, Malaysia, Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa, researchers said. At the other extreme, the BMI of 19-year-olds was lowest in countries in south Asia and east and central Africa, the researchers said. (The Lancet)


The U.S. economy added 638,000 jobs in October, pushing the unemployment rate down to 6.9%, from 7.9% in September

The data shows that job creation is slowing down, 672,000 jobs were added in September compared to 1.5 million in August. Despite the economic recovery that started when lockdowns were lifted at the end of the spring, the United States still has 10.1 million fewer jobs than it did before the start of the pandemic. And, as the number of new coronavirus cases continues growing nationwide, economists fear that consumer spending will decrease this winter, which would hamper economic growth and job creation. The sectors that created the most jobs last month were leisure and hospitality (which includes restaurants and hotels), professional and business service, and retail. 268,000 government jobs were lost across federal, state, and local levels. The figure includes 147,000 temporary 2020 Census workers. The chair of the Federal Reserve, suggested that the economy performed well this summer, in part because of the “essential” support provided by the stimulus package approved by Congress. (Associated Press)


Virgin Galactic will conduct another crewed test flight in late November

Sometime between November 19 and 23, two pilots will be aboard the VSS Unity when it’s lifted toward space from the company’s Spaceport America in New Mexico. The spaceplane is designed to be released by a carrier jet from an altitude of around 45,000 feet. It then uses its own engines to take up to six passengers to the boundary of space, allowing them to experience weightlessness for a few minutes. Virgin Galactic says it has a waiting list of 900 “space tourists” willing to pay at least $250,000 for the rides. Virgin Galactic plans another VSS Unity flight in the first quarter of 2021. Two pilots and four company employees will be on the spaceplane. Virgin founder Richard Branson will be aboard a third flight that will take place shortly after. The company has indicated that it will start taking paying customers into space next year. Eventually, some 400 flights will take tourists into space every year, Virgin Galactic said. The VSS Unity has conducted two spaceflights from Mojave, California, in December 2018 and January 2019. Virgin Galactic became the first space tourism company to trade on public markets when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in October 2019. (Space News)


The key to weathering a terrible day

Some days just feel cursed, whether it’s due to stress in our personal lives, our work lives or even a simultaneous combination of the two. But these off days aren’t lost causes, say psychologists. On these days, researchers recommends that we tackle familiar tasks, projects that we can almost perform on auto-pilot. Such work can help us feel like we’re getting things done, and remind us of the skills we have. Researchers also suggests we don’t forget how useful some negative emotions can be. Anger, when used productively, can spark motivational energy we didn’t even know we possessed. (Harvard Business Review)


Monday Clamps Down With:

  • Carl Sagan Day
  • Child Safety Council Day
  • Kristallnacht
  • Louisiana Day
  • Microtia Awareness Day
  • Scrapple Day
  • World Freedom Day
  • Young Readers Day (2nd Tuesday)

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