Friday, February 5, 2021

The U.S. agreed to a five-year extension of the New START ballistic missile treaty

The treaty limits the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 nuclear warheads, and 700 missiles and bombers. In addition, both countries are allowed to conduct up to 18 annual on-site inspections of one another to ensure compliance. The New START is the last remaining treaty that limits the countries’ nuclear weapons stockpile. The Trump administration withdrew from two similar deals. The treaty was set to expire on February 5, after the Trump administration refused an extension unless a new set of demands was met. It was first signed into law in 2010 by former President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. United States Secretary of State said that “extending the New START Treaty makes the United States, U.S. allies and partners, and the world safer.” Last month, the Russian Parliament voted unanimously to extend the treaty, and President Vladimir Putin signed it into effect. (CNN)


Where ageism creeps in

Ageism is most prevalent in states along the Eastern seaboard, a survey showed, a finding with implications for a vulnerable group amid the pandemic. Led by New Jersey, states in the Northeast and in the Southeast with higher per capita Medicaid spending scored the most implicit bias against older people. Florida and the Carolinas, with large and often segregated retiree populations, also registered high in the survey. (The Wall Street Journal)


Don’t bet against New York City

Despite naysayers and predictions of the decline of dense cities like New York, neither Boise, nor Austin, nor Miami will replace their importance for the young, ambitious and upwardly mobile. A sharp decline in rents is now making New York and San Francisco once again within reach to those who wanted to live, work and soak up their creative energy. As the pandemic wanes, the piece argues, New York looks more like a “quality growth stock” ready to return to greatness, a safer bet than second-tier rivals already losing their cost advantage. (Bloomberg)


American may furlough 13K workers

American Airlines says it will warn 13,000 employees this week of pending furloughs, as a second round of federal payroll aid expires at the end of March. With air travel demand remaining extremely low, the airline says it has no choice. “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation similar to much of 2020,” executives said in a memo, which included a regulatory filing. Last fall, American and United cut more than 30,000 jobs jointly after the first round of payroll aid expired, and United sent a similar memo to 14,000 employees last month. (CNBC)


New AI system uses radio signals to detect a person’s emotions

Scientists have developed a new artificial intelligence system that uses radio wave signals and a deep-learning neural network to remotely detect a subject’s emotions. The novel system can identify heart rate and breathing patterns associated with anger, sadness, joy and pleasure. To build their system, researchers had study volunteers watch videos designed to evoke one of the four primary emotions mentioned above. While the volunteers watched, researchers bounced radio waves off them and fed the returning signals into an artificial intelligence systems programmed for deep learning. The low power radio signal is transmitted from an antenna and it reflects from the body. During breathing an individual’s chest moves when they inhale and exhale, which modulates the reflected signal. The internal heartbeat movements also modulates the reflected signal. Unlike traditional machine learning algorithms, which require humans to curate data and feed it to an algorithm, the deep learning network analyzes raw data in real-time. Previous efforts to train computers to recognize emotional states have mostly relied on facial recognition software — a subject-dependent technique. This deep learning network, however, provided subject-independent analysis. In other words, the neural network was able to identify hidden data patterns that anticipated emotional states in a diversity of test subjects. Most emotion-sensing technologies require bulky sensors, but the latest research showed emotions can be detected wirelessly using radio signals. Experts say the deployment of such a system outside scientific settings raises significant ethical considerations. (PLOS One)


Lobster tail bouquets are now a Valentine’s Day gift

Forget flowers for Valentine’s Day. Now, you can get your significant other a lobster tail bouquet. Earlier this week, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative announced that it has partnered with two companies to sell kits for making bouquets of Maine-harvested lobster tails.  The kits include either four or six lobster tails, depending on where you buy them. Aside from the lobster tails, the kits also include “skewers, festive wax paper, a burlap wrap and an original Maine Lobster Valentine tag,” the announcement said. “Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a beautiful bouquet and a romantic dinner,” the Lobster from Maine announcement said. “That’s why we’ve created the ultimate treat that brings together the best of both: the first-ever Maine Lobster Tail Bouquet!” The lobster tail bouquet-making kits will be available to order online through Valentine’s Day. (Lobster Of Maine)


Mother donates 8,000 oz. of breast milk

A Leland, North Carolina woman donated 8,000 ounces of breast milk and doctors say it could protect babies from contracting viruses. She claims she wanted to breastfeed her sons from the start, but it wasn’t easy. The mother of two admitted to having had a really hard time nursing. In the middle of a pandemic, she met many mothers who were eager to breastfeed but couldn’t always provide. With so much extra milk on her hands, she looked for ways to help. “I think moms—breastfeeding moms—get really attached to our milk, especially if we’re an overproducer. At first it was difficult to let go,” she said. But it was worth it. Not only did she help babies, but being a school teacher that’s often exposed to many childhood illnesses, she may have important antibodies. Antibodies can fight off the flu, lots of different lower and upper respiratory infections, viral infections like colds. Some of those antibodies could even protect from coronavirus, even if the mom is asymptomatic. She has not tested positive with COVID-19, but if at one point she was asymptomatic, her breast milk may have kept a child from contracting the deadly virus. She made her last donation in December and her effort inspired her sisters-in-law to donate their breast milk as well, helping plenty of local families keep their babies fed. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and she wanted to express that fed is always best. If you want to breastfeed and are having trouble, there are resources available. The CDC says 60 percent of mothers stop breastfeeding early for a number of reasons, including problems with lactation. (WECT)


Study Links Brain Cells to Depression Bringing Hope for Targeted Treatment Options

A new study further highlighting a potential physiological cause of clinical depression could guide future treatment options for this serious mental health disorder. Researchers show differences between the cellular composition of the brain in depressed adults who died by suicide and non-psychiatric individuals who died suddenly by other means. Major depressive disorder, also referred to as clinical depression, causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, leading to a variety of serious emotional and physical problems. With approval from the Research Ethics Board, the team at the Douglas Institute (McGill University) used postmortem analysis to add weight to the theory that astrocytes play a role in this disorder. The postmortem analysis revealed that in depression, while the number of astrocytes differed, they have a similar structure to psychiatrically healthy individuals. (SciTech Daily)


Idaho woman claims 2 big jackpots in 2 days

A lottery player in Idaho won a $200,000 scratch-off prize last Friday,  then won a $300,000 prize the very next day. The double win by the woman beat odds of 1 in 282.5 million, Idaho Lottery officials said. She purchased the tickets at two different stores in different cities. The first winner was a “Grand Fortune” scratch-off ticket that she bought at a grocery store in her hometown and the second winner was a “Comin’ in Hot” scratch-off ticket, purchased at a supermarket in another town. “I never imagined it would be $300,000 and that it happened again, the next day,” she said. Among her plans for the cash: paying bills, buying a truck and taking a trip to Las Vegas, she said. (Idaho Statesman)


Neighbors rally behind grieving woman harassed for having Christmas lights up

A 31-year-old mother in Bethpage, New York who received an anonymous note bashing her for failing to take down her Christmas lights revealed the tear-jerking reason why she left them up, which prompted a flood of support from neighbors, nearby residents said. She opened a letter with no return address earlier this week that proclaimed, “Take your Christmas Lights down! It’s Valentines Day!!!” The woman, who lost relatives to COVID-19 over the holiday season, took to Facebook to explain why she was a little behind schedule. “Our entire family was sick with covid starting December 24. Within this timeframe we lost 2 family members, one being my father. He was an amazing man, a man who put a smile on everyone’s face. He loved decorating our house every year for the holidays,” she wrote on the Facebook page. “So yes we haven’t around to taking down these Christmas decorations. And maybe we just aren’t ready yet,” she added. The heartbreaking post prompted residents on her street to rally behind her, with some saying they had also been sent the same grumpy letter. Other neighbors said they now plan to set up Christmas in February to show support for her and other folks who had a difficult holiday season. (Fox News)


An American billionaire will soon grant a lucky raffle winner the dream of a lifetime: a trip to space

The founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments has chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for a three- or four-day trip to the International Space Station in October. Since there will be no professional astronauts aboard the four-seat capsule, the 37-year-old man, who is an accomplished pilot, will be the spaceship’s commander. He will donate a seat to a worker at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. He did not name the person, other than saying that the beneficiary was treated for cancer at the hospital and then became a St. Jude employee. Another seat will be given away in a raffle that aims to raise $200 Million for the hospital. The fourth seat will be for the winner of an entrepreneurial contest organized by Shift4, a payments processing company. The man will also donate $100 Million to charity. He said that he feels “an obligation to do some considerable good here on Earth, like making sure you conquer childhood cancer.” (The New York Times)


McKinsey & Co, a major consultancy firm, has agreed to pay states a $573 Million settlement to avert major lawsuits over its promotion of opioid painkillers

McKinsey encouraged opioid manufacturers, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, to aggressively promote their products. The settlement is with 47 states and the District of Columbia. McKinsey argues that it only worked to promote legitimate sales of opioids to patients who needed the medication, but court filings show that McKinsey advised Purdue to aggressively target doctors who were already making a high volume of OxyContin prescriptions to further increase sales. In 2013, McKinsey allegedly told Purdue that targeting “higher value” OxyContin prescribers would allow the pharmaceutical company to increase annual sales by $100 Million. Last year, Purdue agreed to an $8.34 Billion settlement and pled guilty to three felony charges over its role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic. However, since the company filed for bankruptcy and it does not have the assets to pay such a large amount, it will only pay $225M to the federal government. The opioid crisis has killed more than 450,000 Americans since 1999. (The Wall Street Journal)


Florida police search for car stolen while carrying COVID-19 vaccine

Florida police are investigating the theft of a car that was carrying $10,000 worth of COVID-19 vaccine. The Plant City, Florida Police Department said that it is searching for a man suspected of having stolen the vehicle with 30 vials inside that had parked near a vaccination site in the city where Florida’s winter strawberries are harvested. The police incident report says the gray Hyundai Accent had been left with the engine running and unlocked by a driver who worked for a contractor that had been providing vaccination scheduling and COVID-19 testing. The report does not mention the car had anything identifying it as an official health or company vehicle. Police said the driver had gotten out of the car to ask for instructions on where to go, news outlets reported. Police have said the 21-year-old driver is not considered a suspect. The incident report said the doses, a cooler and the compound agent were stolen, but it is not clear how the vaccines were being stored. It also was unclear if the car was targeted because it was carrying vaccine. (Patrick Chalvire Twitter)


Friday Keeps Us Going With:

  • Adlai Stevenson Day
  • Bubble Gum Day (First Friday)
  • Give Kids A Smile Day (First Friday)
  • Move Hollywood & Broadway to Lebanon, PA Day
  • Shower With A Friend Day
  • Wear Red Day (First Friday)
  • Weatherman’s [Weatherperson’s] Day
  • Western Monarch Day
  • Working Naked Day (First Friday)
  • World Nutella Day
  • World Animal Reiki Day

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