Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The movement to ban reality TV shows from working with Texas law enforcement

There’s now a push to ban law enforcement in Texas from working with reality TV shows. A bill was filed in the Texas legislature in direct response to the March 2019 death of a 40-year-old postal worker who died in police custody while a camera crew from the popular show “Live PD” was shadowing law enforcement. Deputies from the Williamson County, Texas Sheriff’s Office tried to pull over the worker for failing to dim his headlights. After a chase led to the postal worker crashing his car, he got out of the vehicle with his hands raised. Deputies then tased him and held him down. “I can’t breathe,” the worker is overheard saying several times on body camera footage later obtained from law enforcement. His death was ruled a homicide caused by heart problems combined with “excessive forcible restraint.” The bodycam footage that was obtained in June 2020 by investigative journalists in Austin is the best video evidence of the death. “Live PD” destroyed its unaired footage, under the contract it had with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. (KTXS)


Toys R Us retrenches again, shutters its last 2 US stores

The only two Toys R Us stores that opened in November 2019 as part of a small U.S. comeback attempt by the iconic toy chain have now closed. The Toys R Us store at the Galleria mall in Houston shuttered on January 15th, while one at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, closed on January 26th, according Tru Kids, a new entity formed when it acquired Toys R Us’ intellectual property during its liquidation in 2018. The moves come as physical stores, particularly mall-based locations, have been hurt by weak customer traffic amid the pandemic. The Toys R Us website is still in operation. The two shuttered locations were about 6,500 square feet,  about one-seventh of the size of the old Toys R U stores and emphasized hands-on experiences. Employees unwrapped toys, for instance, so that kids could try them out. Tru Kids says that outside of the U.S., it operates Toys R Us, and Babies R Us branded stores and e-commerce sites through licensing partners in more than 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. (ABC News)


NOAA Scientists: 2020 Was Earth’s 2nd-Hottest Year on Record, Just Behind 2016

It’s official: 2020 ranks as the second-hottest year on record for the planet, knocking 2019 down to third hottest, according to an analysis by NOAA scientists. The average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe in 2020 was 1.76 degrees F (0.98 of a degree C) above average — just 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C) cooler than the 2016 record. The Northern Hemisphere saw its hottest year on record at 2.30 degrees F (1.28 degrees C) above the 20th-century average. The world’s seven-warmest years have all occurred since 2014, with 10 of the warmest years occurring since 2005. It was also Earth’s 44th consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. (SciTech Daily)


NBCUniversal pledges to include actors with disabilities in auditions for all film, TV projects

NBCUniversal announced recently that it will commit to auditioning actors with disabilities for each new studio production going forward, in an effort to increase and improve disability representation on screen. This pledge comes in response to a standing request by the disability advocacy organization Ruderman Family Foundation, which secured a similar commitment from CBS Entertainment in 2019. Projects from the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, the Universal Studio Group, NBC, and Peacock are included in the studio’s pledge. “The Ruderman Family Foundation is thrilled to see NBCUniversal commit to our guidelines and dedicate themselves further to casting people with disabilities in their productions,”  said the Foundation’s president in a statement. “By having such an influential entity like NBCUniversal take this bold stand, we hope to continue to see others join us in striving to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in entertainment.” (Entertainment Weekly)


A 10-year-old fifth-grader from San Antonio, has made $3,200 after cashing in on the surge in GameStop shares

His mother bought him ten shares of the company for $60 in 2019 after continuously visiting the store to purchase video games. His father passed away in 2014, and his mother aspired to assure he was financially literate. She saw his interest in GameStop as an opportunity to teach him the value of long-term investing. This week, after the stock rose over 1,500% this month, the boy decided to sell at ~$320, netting himself almost $3,200. The boy says he will save $2,000 in a savings account and invest $1,000 in the markets. He plans to research new stocks and is interested in Microsoft and Roblox (preparing for its IPO this year). (CNN)


Bringing coma patients back

Researchers at UCLA have managed to “jump-start” the brains of a handful of coma patients with the help of ultrasound treatments. The researchers administered two rounds of low-intensity pulses to patients’ thalamus, the brain’s central processing hub, whose performance is typically diminished after a coma. The treatments helped restore consciousness and responsiveness for some patients involved in the study. Even more impressive, the improvements happened over a few days. More studies are in the works, but such methods may offer fresh hope for coma patients and their loved ones in the coming years. (New Atlas)


E-learning keeps some out of work

Parents who are working from home and overseeing their children’s schooling are faced with countless challenges. One major economic toll: the pandemic-related restrictions that have led to school closures are keeping many parents out of work. Only 47% of parents with children who are distance-learning and/or partially in school are working full-time, compared to 71% of parents whose children are back at school, according to a new study. It also revealed, regardless of gender, parents are more likely to be unemployed or working part-time if the children are going to school virtually. (The Wall Street Journal)


US no longer king of box office

China has dethroned the U.S. twice in recent weeks: First, China surpassed the U.S. in new foreign direct investment and now new data from Comscore reveals it beat out the U.S. as the top movie market for the first time ever. China brought in $3.1 billion at the box office in 2020, about $1 billion more than the U.S. One media expert say this could be bad news for Hollywood as it may “fundamentally change the model of the US film industry.” In addition, analysts predict the strength of China’s local content, which has gotten a boost from COVID-19-induced nationalism, may keep them from relying so heavily on Hollywood films. (CNN


CDC mandates masks be worn on planes and public transportation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order late Friday requiring travelers in the United States to wear face masks at transportation hubs, and on planes and all forms of public transportation. The order goes into effect late Monday, one minute before midnight. “People must wear masks that completely cover both the mouth and nose while awaiting, boarding, disembarking, or traveling on airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares as they are traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories,” the CDC says. Masks are also required at airports, bus and ferry terminals, seaports, and train and subway stations, according to the federal agency. (Center For Disease Control and Prevention


We’re done with cash?

The pandemic has accelerated the decline of cash payments, with many shunning cash due to fears of increased transmission risk. Credit card company Mastercard reported in-person contactless payments grew at least 10% in 80 markets last year — a shift that could ultimately increase spending, with 43% of Americans admitting they think less about the money spent when paying with card. But will it last? Economists say it’s too soon to tell, though 24% of U.S. consumers say they will resume their old payment methods after vaccinations are rolled out. (The Wall Street Journal)


Apple, Facebook tensions intensify

Tensions are said to be rising between two tech world giants as Facebook contemplates an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of anticompetitive App Store practices. Friction has been building ahead of Apple’s upcoming release of its App Tracking Transparency feature, which will impact user data that fuels Facebook’s digital advertising business. While he didn’t mention Facebook by name, Apple CEO Tim Cook linked the company to rising polarization, violence and recent erosion of trust. (The New York Times)


Could 2021 see a new oil giant?

One of the largest corporate mergers could be formed after the CEOs of Exxon Mobil and Chevron spoke last year about combining into one oil giant, who said the talks were “preliminary and aren’t ongoing but could come back in the future.” With oil and gas demand plunging as people stayed home, the pandemic has hit the oil industry especially hard. The market value of a combined Exxon/Chevron could surpass $350 billion, thus becoming the world’s second largest oil company after Saudi Arabia’s Aramco. (Fox News)


Silver Is The New GameStop?

Investors are bracing for another week of chaotic trading as the movement that sent shares of companies like GameStop and AMC Entertainment soaring continues to ripples through markets. Yesterday (2/1), silver futures jumped to their highest level since 2013 in a move Bloomberg also links to the WallStreetBets Reddit forum and retail investor enthusiasm behind last week’s market upheaval. Analysts say they’re watching the commodity price closely, since silver represents a much bigger and more liquid market. (Bloomberg)


Tuesday Uncovers The Facts Of:

  • African American Coaches Day (First Tuesday)
  • Ayn Rand Day
  • Candelmas
  • Crepe Day or La Chandeleur
  • Dump Your Significant Jerk Day 
  • Groundhog Day
  • Groundhog Job Shadow Day
  • Hedgehog Day
  • Imbolc
  • Marmot Day
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day
  • Sled Dog Day
  • Tater Tot Day
  • “The Record of a Sneeze” Day
  • World Wetlands Day

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