Thursday, March 18, 2021

Philadelphia to dim lights to make it safer for birds in flight

The lights of Philadelphia might not shine as bright in the coming weeks as a coalition in the City of Brotherly Love tries to prevent millions of migrating birds that pass through twice a year from slamming into skyscrapers and crashing to the sidewalk. Bird Safe Philly announced the Lights Out Philly initiative, a voluntary program in which as many external and internal lights in buildings are turned off or dimmed at night during the spring and fall. The problem of artificial lights attracting birds to their deaths in the city is not new. Birds navigate during migration using celestial cues and when they cannot see stars on a cloudy night they get confused by bright city lights, according to experts. Windows pose a problem because birds might see a reflection of trees or the sky. Scientists estimate between 365 million and one billion birds are killed by collisions with buildings or other outdoor structures in the U.S. every year and those crashes are taking a toll on some species. Common yellowthroats, white-throated sparrows, graycat birds and ovenbirds are the most common victims in Philadelphia, experts said, and those species are also threatened by climate change and other predators. (The Philadelphia Tribune)


Texas man receives $52K utility bill

A man in Lubbock, Texas man checking to see if his tax refund had been posted to his online bank account received an unwelcome surprise. Instead of a refund, he noticed that his account was overdrawn by a lot. He said the City of Lubbock utility bill pending in his account exceeded $52,000. The man did not waste any time. He went straight to his bank and had a stop payment issued on the bill. His next course of action was to call the City of Lubbock. Officials asked if he had left any water running. “Even if I did have a leak, I couldn’t have leaked out $52,000 worth of water,” he told the officials. City officials eventually conceded that the five-figure bill was most likely an accounting error and reissued the bill for its proper amount of $226. He said his meter reading was also completely off. (Everything Lubbock)


A Toronto restaurant is making things easier for those looking to expense lunch by naming various menu items after office supplies

Good Fortune Burger has begun offering #RECEATS, their renamed menu items disguised as a number of common office tools. Their Fortune Burger has become the Basic Steel Stapler and Parm Fries are also known as CPU Wireless Mouse. While most people have found the redesigned menu as entertaining as intended, a few have raised concerns on how this could get employees who attempt to expense the menu in trouble. “There’s no malice intended in it, it’s all just fun and games,” according to the Director of Operations at Good Fortune Burger. These #RECEATS offerings are currently only available for a limited time, although each menu item will continue to be offered under its more traditional name. (Blog To)


Companies have built roads that contain recycled plastic in at least a dozen countries.

They use discarded plastic packaging instead of bitumen, a petroleum-derived substance that binds other materials, such as gravel, sand, or limestone, together. Plastic roads contain 90-95% aggregate, while the remaining is often a mix of plastic waste and bitumen. Nonetheless, they contain a significant amount of recycled plastic. According to a manufacturer of plastic paving materials, a road paved with its product contains the equivalent of 750,000 plastic bags per kilometer. India has pioneered plastic roads. In 2016, the government introduced a rule making it mandatory to add plastic waste to new roads. Plastic roads have recently been built in South Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, the Philippines, and Ghana, among others. Only 9% of the 350 million tons of plastic produced every year are recycled and global plastic production is expected to triple by 2050. (Yale Environment 360)


Woman with history of airliner stowaways arrested again

A 69-year-old woman in Chicago with a history of stowing away on airliners was arrested for attempting to sneak onto a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, authorities said. The arrest came two weeks after a judge rejected a plea deal that would have given her probation for a previous attempt to stowaway on a flight. She is being held on a trespassing charge after allegedly leaving the facility where she had been staying while on electronic monitoring. The device allowed Cook County sheriff’s deputies to track her as she headed for O’Hare. Deputies activated an alarm on her device as she neared Terminal 1, where she was arrested. (Associated Press)


Family demands USPS find grandmother’s ashes 1 year after being lost in transit

The unexpected loss of a loved one can hit a family hard and one South Carolina family said for the past year the United States Postal Office (USPS) has made their loss even harder. Since the start of the pandemic, several people have reported missing packages and mail. One family in Conway, South Carolina said they’re missing their Nana’s ashes. The woman passed away unexpectedly on March 14, 2020 after going into cardiac arrest while traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma for her nephew’s funeral and passed away a few days later. The tracking information for her Nana’s ashes to this day still says “April 1, 2020” and they still haven’t received them. For the past year, her family has been in contact with numerous USPS officials to try and locate her Nana’s ashes and they keep hearing the same thing. For the past two months, her family hadn’t heard from USPS, but earlier this week, they spoke with a representative from the USPS office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and asked them to do a sweep of all of the USPS offices across the country. (Fox 25)


Can a five-hour workday work?

The eight-hour workday is a somewhat arbitrary number with a relatively short history. Some experts say that it doesn’t really have to be that way and, for some organizations, five hours is enough to get the work done and stay productive. The theory calls into question whether shorter hours mean more employee happiness and retention, more productivity and better sales. (Fast Company)


AstraZeneca vaccine gets new review

Vaccine safety experts are meeting to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab, as more than a dozen European countries suspended use following reports of blood clots in some people who received it. The European Medicines Agency reiterated support for the vaccine and is expected, along with the World Health Organization, to announce new findings in coming days. Both have previously cited no link with clotting. Some 17 million people have received the shot, mostly in the U.K. and Europe. AstraZeneca has said the incidence of clotting has been much lower than would be expected to occur naturally and similar to that of other COVID-19 vaccines. Prime Minister of Canada has urged his fellow citizens to take whichever vaccine they’re offered first. (The Guardian)


‘Crazy’ rate of college admissions

College applications have boomed this year, along with the number of schools no longer requiring standardized test scores amid the pandemic. It’s not the number of applicants that grew; students, and more students of diverse backgrounds, are “shooting their shot” at more of the most selective schools. That’s left some smaller schools down on applications, while leaving admissions officials at places like Harvard, which saw a 42% jump in applications, making “tough judgment calls at the highest speed”. But with class sizes unchanged, the trend is also likely to result in more rejections. (The Wall Street Journal)


Lightning strikes played vital role in origins of life on Earth

Minerals delivered to Earth in meteorites more than 4 billion years ago have long been advocated as key ingredients for the development of life on our planet. Scientists believed minimal amounts of these minerals were also brought to early Earth through billions of lightning strikes. But now researchers have established that lightning strikes were just as significant as meteorites in performing this essential function and allowing life to manifest. They say this shows that life could develop on Earth-like planets through the same mechanism at any time if atmospheric conditions are right. The researchers were initially interested in how fulgurite is formed but were fascinated to discover in the Glen Ellyn sample a large amount of a highly unusual phosphorous mineral called schreibersite. Phosphorus is essential to life and plays a key role in all life processes from movement to growth and reproduction. The phosphorous present on early Earth’s surface was contained in minerals that cannot dissolve in water, but schreibersite can. The team estimate that phosphorus minerals made by lightning strikes surpassed those from meteorites when the earth was around 3.5 billion years old, which is about the age of the earliest known micro-fossils, making lightning strikes significant in the emergence of life on the planet. Furthermore, lightning strikes are far less destructive than meteor hits, meaning they were much less likely to interfere with the delicate evolutionary pathways in which life could develop. (University of Leeds)


OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma files a $10B bankruptcy proposal that would have the Sackler family give up control of company; more than 36 states have accused the company of helping fuel the opioid epidemic 

Purdue Pharma, which helped revolutionize the prescription painkiller business with its drug OxyContin, is proposing a $10 billion plan to emerge from bankruptcy that calls for it to be transformed into a different kind of company funneling profits into the fight against the nation’s intractable opioid crisis. Those efforts would include a significant boost, more than $4 billion, from members of the Sackler family who own the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant. The plan, filed earlier this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., after months of negotiations, marks the company’s formal offer to settle more than 2,900 lawsuits from state and local governments, Native American tribes, hospitals and other entities. Most of the parties in the case are on board with the plan. But attorneys general representing 23 states and the District of Columbia issued a statement saying the offer “falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve.” They want more money from the Sackler family members and for Purdue to wind down in a way that “does not excessively entangle it with states.” In its proposal, the company said the Sackler family members would contribute nearly $4.3 billion over a decade, the company would kick in $500 million upfront, and its sales would generate another $1 billion through the end of 2024, when the plan is to sell or otherwise transform the company again. It says additional money would come from insurance claims. Purdue said it will also provide overdose antidotes and anti-addiction drugs that would have a value of more than $4 billion. (CNBC)


Japan’s Supreme Court rules prohibition on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional

Taiwan is the only major Asian country to grant legal rights to same-sex couples. A Japanese court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to get married is “unconstitutional,” setting a precedent in the only G7 nation not to fully recognize same-sex partnership. The ruling by a district court, the first in Japan on the legality of same-sex marriages, is a major symbolic victory in a country where the constitution still defines marriage as being based on “the mutual consent of both sexes”. Following the ruling, plaintiffs and supporters unfurled rainbow flags and banners in front of the court. While a new law will be needed before same-sex marriages can actually take place, which could take some time in socially conservative Japan, the plaintiffs’ lawyer called the ruling “revolutionary”, while LGBT activists deemed it life-changing. (Reuters)


The Segulharpa, a new electro-acoustic harp invented by an Icelandic man, has won this year’s Guthman Instrument Competition

The contest organized by the Georgia Institute of Technology celebrates inventors of new musical instruments. This year, a panel of judges selected 29 finalists from 15 different countries. This year’s top honors went to:

  • First Place: Segulharpa — A walnut electromagnetic harp that holds 25 steel strings. It took inventor Ulfur Hansson seven years to develop the instrument.
  • Second Place: Synescope — An instrument that converts colors and visual art into music.
  • Third Place: Electromagnetic Piano — An attachment that allows traditional pianos to play magnetically generated sounds. 
  • People’s Choice: Lego Microtonal Guitar — The first guitar with a fingerboard made out of Legos.

(Georgia Tech)


Thursday Is Thirsty For:

  • Absolutely Incredible Kid Day (3rd Thursday)
  • Awkward Moments Day
  • Biodiesel Day
  • Farm Rescuer Day
  • Forgive Mom and Dad Day
  • Kiss Your Fiancée Day
  • Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day
  • Public Defense Day
  • Sloppy Joe Day
  • Supreme Sacrifice Day
  • Transit Driver Appreciation Day