Thursday, February 18, 2021

COVID sets high bar on workers’ comp

Initial fears that COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claims would overwhelm insurance carriers and business groups haven’t panned out, with “a significant percentage of claims” being denied. That’s partly due to the fact that shutdowns and remote work reduced the number of workplace injuries, but data also show that many COVID-related claims were denied because workers face a higher bar proving they were infected on the job, even in states that give some employees,  including frontline medical workers and firefighters, a presumption of eligibility. (The Wall Street Journal)


College During COVID Student Survey – What Would You Sacrifice to Go Back?

Grand Canyon Education, we surveyed 600 college students from around the U.S. who are participating in hybrid learning or remote learning to uncover what exactly students would sacrifice to go back to campus. We found eye-opening insights around academic curriculum, college culture, technology, social media and more. They wanted to determine how students are attending their classes right now as well as gauge student sentiment around going back to campus, full-time. In the context of the survey, “going back to campus” meant the following:

  • Attending in-person classes, labs, and study groups on campus
  • Living in on-campus dorms/housing and enjoying on-campus dining options
  • Participating in on-campus events, organizations, clubs, greek life and sports teams
  • Socializing with friends in large groups on or near campus
  • When asked how badly they wanted to return to campus, over half of the college students surveyed (54.5%) want to go back to campus either badly or very badly. Only 20.8% of students surveyed expressed no desire to return and seem to be content with a virtual college experience.

Additionally, 48.5% of student respondents are attending classes solely online right now, whereas 43.5% are following a hybrid model, meaning some of their classes are online and some are face-to-face. Only 8% of students are attending classes fully in-person, which makes sense given that almost two-thirds of colleges in the U.S. are functioning either fully or primarily online right now.

When asked which coveted technology or devices they would sacrifice for a month in order to go back to campus for a month:

  • 50.5% of students would give up their smartphones,
  • 70.2% would give up their AirPods 
  • 71.8% would give up Spotify. What’s more, the majority of college students surveyed (56.2%) would give up exercising for a whole semester in order to go back to campus for a semester.

However, males seem to be a bit more ambivalent about giving up working out than females – males are 11.5% more likely than females to answer “no” when asked if they would give up exercising for a semester. When it comes to academics, as much as 48.3% of students surveyed said that given the option between open-book exams for the remainder of their college career or going back to campus for the remainder of their college career, they would choose going back to campus. Surprisingly, 57.3% of students surveyed would endure the effort of taking on an additional exam in each of their courses during a semester in order to go back to campus for a semester. Such an insight speaks volumes in terms of overall student desire to return to a normal college experience. Wildly enough, 64.8% of college students would sacrifice fast food for an entire semester in order to go back to campus for a semester. Sacrificing their cars, however, is where most college students had to draw the line. Only 32.7% of students surveyed would give up their car for a month in order to go back to campus for a month. (Grand Canyon University)


Pigs can play video games with their snouts, scientists find

Pigs can play video games, scientists have found, after putting four fun-loving swine to the test. Four pigs – Hamlet, Omelette, Ebony and Ivory – were trained to use an arcade-style joystick to steer an on-screen cursor into walls. Researchers said the fact that the pigs understood the connection between the stick and the game “is no small feat”. And the pigs even continued playing when the food, but during testing, it broke and they kept clearing the game levels when encouraged by some of the researchers’ kind words. “This sort of study is important because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them,” the lead author said. Out of the two Yorkshire pigs, Hamlet, was better at the game than Omelette, but both struggled when it got harder, hitting the single target just under half the time. The Panepinto micro pigs had a bigger gamer skill gap, while Ivory was able to hit one-wall targets 76% of the time, Ebony could only do it 34% of the time. But the researchers were still satisfied that the attempts were deliberate and focused, rather than random – what they called “above chance”. That means that “to some extent, all acquired the association between the joystick and cursor movement”. Still, pigs are no match for humans when playing games – or even less intelligent primates. The same kind of experiment has been tried with chimpanzees and monkeys, who have the advantage of opposable thumbs, and were able to meet much higher requirements from researchers. (BBC)  


Jamaica faces marijuana shortage as farmers struggle

Heavy rains followed by an extended drought, an increase in local consumption and a drop in the number of marijuana farmers have caused a shortage in the island’s famed but largely illegal market that experts say is the worst they’ve seen. “It’s a cultural embarrassment,” according to the chief opportunity explorer for Tacaya, a consulting and brokerage firm for the country’s nascent legal cannabis industry. Jamaica, which foreigners have long associated with pot, reggae and Rastafarians, authorized a regulated medical marijuana industry and decriminalized small amounts of weed in 2015. Heavy rains during last year’s hurricane season pummeled marijuana fields that were later scorched in the drought that followed, causing tens of thousands of dollars in losses, according to farmers who cultivate pot outside the legal system. Worsening the problem were strict COVID-19 measures, including a 6 p.m. curfew that meant farmers couldn’t tend to their fields at night as is routine. The government’s Cannabis Licensing Authority — which has authorized 29 cultivators and issued 73 licenses for transportation, retail, processing and other activities — said there is no shortage of marijuana in the regulated industry. But farmers and activists say weed sold via legal dispensaries known as herb houses is out of reach for many given that it still costs five to 10 times more than pot on the street. (The Los Angeles Times)


Boomers left behind by jobs recovery

A significant shift is quietly taking place in the U.S. labor market, as “a wave of people 55 and older” flee the labor force. Scores of disgruntled boomer workers have given up looking for work since the pandemic began, with the participation rate of workers over 55 slumping by 2% since last March, equating to the loss of two million workers from the labor force. Some 2.7 million jobs for workers under the age of 55 have been created since August, with just 28,000 jobs created for workers over 55 in the same period. (Bloomberg)


The world’s largest 3D-printed home could be yours for $299K

The world’s largest 3D-printed home is for sale in Riverhead, New York. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home features 1,400 square feet of living space plus a 750-square-foot garage. It was printed on a quarter-acre plot of land. The $299,999 home at 34 Millbrook Lane took just eight hours to print over an eight-day period, according to design firm SQ4D. Construction of the home cost less than $6,000 in materials. The home was built using ARCS patented technology, which can robotically build foundations, walls, utility conduits and more. The system reportedly reduces on-site labor to as few as three people, and accounts for up to 41 percent of the construction of a home. SQ4D designed the technology with the housing crisis in mind, citing the fast build time and low cost of materials. SQ4D says it currently has building plans under review stretching from California to New York. (Nexstar News)



Police search for man who pooped in unlocked cars at auto shops

Employees at two different Warren, Michigan auto shops were shocked when they realized a random man pooped in cars that belonged to customers. Warren police are on the lookout for a man, who pooped in unlocked cars at Mr. Friendly Auto Service and Twin’s Tire Service. The man first struck at Mr. Friendly Auto Service in November. The manager said after they realized someone used their customer’s car as a bathroom, he checked the security cameras. The security footage showed the man grabbing sanitary napkins, opening a customer’s van and pooping inside it. The man came back again in January, but kept his pants on that time. The second incident happened February 3rd at Twin’s Tire Service, where an employee said they were fixing a van with electrical problems, so the vehicle couldn’t lock properly. The employee said although it was unsettling, the poop froze due to cold temperatures. He was able to shovel it out of the car, which was a slightly easier cleanup. After this, the auto shop deep cleaned the car for the customer, free of charge. Twin’s Tire Service also caught the man’s license plate on its security footage, the employee said. Warren police are still investigating the incidents. Back in October, a similar incident happened in Van Buren Township. A man went into a local Meijer, pooped in an empty box and left it on a shelf. (WJBK)


Florida’s ‘Beer Can Island’ Wants $500K to Save It from Washing Away

If you fire up Google Maps and start zooming in on the stretch of water in Tampa Bay located between MacDill Air Force Base and Apollo Beach, a small grey patch of land will eventually appear, labeled Pine Key, but the locals have a different name for this small, sandy island once used as a dredgers’ dumping ground, Beer Can Island, and now the owners are hoping to raise half a million dollars to save these water-bound drinking grounds from erosion. “Beer Can Island” appears to be a Florida nickname for several spots boaters like to unofficially congregate for drinking, but in recent years, the Tampa Bay version has been trying to shed its literally “trashy” past as a post-party garbage receptacle and go legit. The new-and-improved Beer Can Island has had its battles with local officials who say that the island is operating in a legal gray zone, but the almost 9-acre island is facing an even greater long-term threat: Mother Nature. The Pine Key has reportedly shrunk more than two acres since being purchased and was already significantly smaller than the over 23 acres that are encompassed in the property line. Saving the island, which has significant tree cover inland from its beaches, won’t be easy or cheap. Despite launching their GoFundMe in October, the owners have raised a very small amount of their $500,000 goal. Certainly, “Beer Can Island” is a somewhat pejorative moniker, so maybe locals would be happy to see it washed away, but it’s also tricky to try to raise money to save what is literally a private island, a point the owners seem to understand. (Food & Wine)


Man Built 11 Speed Bumps Near House After Getting Annoyed By Vehicle Noise

A 40-year-old man in Malaysia was so fed up with the noise from vehicles passing by his house that he took matters into his own hands. The case went viral on social media a few days ago after a man uploaded a picture of the “new speed bumps” on the street leading to his house, which he claimed had been installed by his neighbor. He installed the speed bumps because he was often disturbed by the noise of passing vehicles. “The noise from cars and motorcycles disrupts my sleep. I’m so stressed out and I also have other health issues. Actually, I wanted to make speed ‘humps’, but the asphalt hardened so quickly before they could be flattened, causing them to become bumps. This made the road inaccessible to all cars except four-wheel drives,” he said. He revealed that he spent $355 of his money to install the speed bumps. He admitted his mistake in building so many speed bumps on a 40 meter stretch and causing a hassle to other residents. (The Brudda)


Is there life after death? Las Vegas businessman offering nearly $1M for evidence

 Las Vegas businessman is offering nearly $1 million for the answer to one of history’s enduring questions: “Is there life after death?” The man believes he knows the answer, but he’s wondering if you do. In fact, he doesn’t mince his words about why he’s holding the consciousness contest: “Personally, I don’t need convincing. Okay. That isn’t what this was all about. It’s not me.” The question is as old as human life itself. What happens when we die? Where do we go? Do we come back? Those of faith believe they know the answer, but he isn’t seeking the spiritual, he wants proof. He’s seeking the science. He thinks it matters enough that he’s putting down almost a million dollars of his own personal fortune in prize money to any qualified applicant submitting an essay of 25,000 words or less presenting: the best evidence for “the survival of consciousness after permanent bodily death.” (KTNV)


One Alaska king salmon is worth the same as two barrels of oil right now

Seafood sales “are on fire” in America’s supermarkets and one king salmon from Southeast Alaska is worth the same as two barrels of oil. That’s $116.16 for a troll-caught chinook salmon averaging 11 pounds at the docks vs. $115.48 for 2 barrels of oil at $57.74 per barrel on February 3rd. As more COVID-conscious customers opted in 2020 for seafood’s proven health benefits, salmon powered sales at fresh seafood counters. Frozen and “on the shelf” seafoods also set sales records, and online ordering tripled to top $1 billion. Officials say overall sales at in-store fresh seafood counters jumped 28% to $871 million, led by salmon with a 19% increase to $2.2 billion. Fresh crab sales reached an “unheard of” 62% growth; other top-10 fresh items included cod, crab/seafood cakes and halibut. Frozen seafood had the biggest sales gains, up 35% to $7 billion. Frozen raw shrimp was the biggest winner in the frozen category with sales surging by 48%. Sales of pantry shelf seafood items rose by 20.3% to nearly $3 billion, with salmon products “soaring” 30.3% to $286 million. Despite the dizzying sales heights, the market experts pointed to some potential headwinds. Baby boomers were the biggest buyers of on-the-shelf seafood and there is a need to engage with younger consumers, they said. And frozen seafood sales skewed toward wealthier households with annual incomes above $100,000, pointing out a need to attract lower-income seafood buyers. (Anchorage Daily News)


Pair of burglary suspects arrested after deputies follow footprints in snow

A pair of burglary suspects were arrested in Tacoma, Washington after deputies followed their footprints in the snow to track them down. Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department were called and when a deputy arrived at the scene, he saw two men fleeing. Instead of running after the men, deputies checked the house first to determine if a possible crime had been committed. A detached garage had a broken window on a door, officials said. A K-9 was deployed and followed two sets of footprints in the snow, one leading from the garage to a church parking lot, where a man was found hiding in a dumpster under a piece of cardboard. A second set of footprints led deputies to a tree, and they called the second man to climb down. Both suspects were arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail for second-degree burglary and obstructing an officer. The man found in the dumpster was also booked for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. (KIRO)


Business schools reshuffle ranks

With several top U.S. business schools opting out of MBA rankings this year, European universities and lesser-known programs climbed the lists. Instead in France and IESE Business School in Spain topped the most recent Economist and Financial Times rankings, as Harvard Business School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School and other elite programs sat out. Several institutions said the pandemic encumbered efforts to gather the data required to be ranked, allowing other programs to step into the spotlight and secure bragging rights amid an uptick in business school applications. (The Wall Street Journal)


Thursday Breaks Down With:

  • Battery Day (Volta’s birthday)
  • Cow Milked While Flying In An Airplane Day
  • Crab Stuffed Flounder Day
  • Discover Girl Day (Thursday of National Engineers Week)
  • Drink Wine Day
  • Hate Florida Day
  • International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day
  • Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day (Thursday of Engineering Week)
  • Pluto Day (Planet is Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh)
  • The Great American Spit Out (Thursday of “Through With The Chew Week”)