Friday, March 19, 2021

Grammy Award ratings drop 51 percent to record low

CBS’ Grammy’s telecast reached 9.2 million, television and streaming, viewers Sunday (3-14), the lowest number on record and a precipitous 51% drop from last year, the Nielsen company said. That followed the Golden Globes’ 63% decline in ratings a few weeks ago and record low ratings for the Emmy Awards last fall. That’s enough for television executives to worry about whether this is just pandemic-related or if they can no longer depend on these traditional attention-getting events. The Oscars, coming up next month on ABC, has often been the year’s most-watched television event after the Super Bowl. For the Grammy’s, the ratings decline came despite the general view that it was a well-produced event. (ABC News)


Former worker gets new trial in fake-gun McDonald’s stickup

A man convicted of using a fake gun to try robbing a McDonald’s restaurant where he once worked has been granted a new trial. In a unanimous ruling, New Jersey’s Supreme Court held that a trial judge unfairly prevented a man from acting as his own attorney at his 2017 trial. The man was convicted of conspiracy and possession of an imitation firearm for an unlawful purpose after he and an accomplice were accused of trying to rob a McDonald’s in Union County in 2015. According to trial testimony cited in the court’s ruling, the man and an accomplice entered the restaurant and demanded money, but the caper was foiled when an employee noticed that the man’s shotgun was a fake and called him out on it. When he took off his mask, a manager recognized him as a former employee. That’s when the man laughed, said it was a joke, and tried to hug the manager before leaving, according to testimony. When the man indicated he wanted to act as his own lawyer, the trial judge questioned him on his knowledge of rules of evidence and other legal concepts. In awarding a new trial, the Supreme Court ruled the judge’s questions were “more like a bar exam than colloquy to determine whether defendant understood the consequences of acting as his own attorney at trial.” (Associated Press)


Taiwan pleads with citizens not to change name to ‘Salmon’ to take advantage of restaurant promo

Taiwanese officials issued a plea for people to stop changing their name to “salmon” after dozens made the unusual move to take advantage of a restaurant promotion. In a phenomenon that has been dubbed “Salmon Chaos” by local media, around 150 mostly young people flocked to government offices in recent days to officially register a change in their name. The cause of this sudden enthusiasm was a chain of sushi restaurants. Under the two day promotion which ended Thursday, any customer whose ID card contained “Gui Yu”, the Chinese characters for salmon, would be entitled to an all-you-can-eat sushi meal along with five friends. Taiwan allows people to officially change their name up to three times, but Taiwanese officials were not amused. Other salmon-themed names reported in local media included “Salmon Prince”, “Meteor Salmon King”, and “Salmon Fried Rice”. (Hong Kong Free Press)


Consent app proposed by Australian Police Commissioner to address growing rate of sexual assaults

A proposal by one of Australia’s top police officers to use phone apps to record sexual consent has been branded “naive”. NSW Police Commissioner said the country needed to modernize ideas around “positive consent” where consent is “active and ongoing throughout a sexual encounter”. “Intimate violence particularly against women is a real problem crime for us at the moment and we need to find a solution,” he said. The Commissioner acknowledged the app might be “the worst idea I have all year”, but said COVID-19 had shown the importance of adopting technological solutions. According to recent figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, reported sexual assaults rose by 10 per cent in 2020 with a total of 15,000 women coming forward. Only 2 per cent of those led to guilty verdicts in court. The Commissioner admitted there would be ways people with ill intentions could manipulate the app but said starting the conversation was critical. However, he said the app would be useful in instances where the victim was impaired and then “consent is implied by the offender”. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)


First baby in U.S. born with antibodies against COVID-19 after mom receives dose of Moderna vaccine while pregnant

At 36 weeks pregnant, a South Florida frontline health care worker received her first shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She gave birth three weeks later to a healthy baby girl with COVID-19 antibodies. Doctors believe the newborn marks the first known case of a baby born with coronavirus antibodies in the U.S., which may offer her some protection against the virus. The doctors emphasize, however, that more research is needed to verify the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines during pregnancy. It was already known that mothers previously infected with COVID-19 can pass antibodies on to their newborns. Additionally, the passage of antibodies from mother to baby through the placenta is well documented in other vaccines, including that for influenza, so doctors were hopeful the same newborn protection would be possible after maternal vaccination against COVID-19. (CBS News)


Utah campaign against porn marches on with phone filter plan

Lawmakers in Utah have a bill that includes a new requirement making all cellphones and tablets sold in the state automatically block pornography in a plan that critics call a significant intrusion on free speech. Supporters argue the restriction is a critical step to help parents keep explicit content away from kids, especially as more children have their own electronic devices and have been forced to spend more time online during the pandemic. Combating porn is a perennial issue for Utah lawmakers who have previously mandated warning labels on print and online pornography and declared porn a “public health crisis.” Even if the governor signs the measure, it wouldn’t go into effect unless five other states also enacted similar laws, a provision added after manufacturers and retailers voiced concerns that it would be difficult to implement the filters for a single state. There is some precedent for other states following Utah’s example on porn, more than a dozen states advanced similar resolutions to declare porn a public-health crisis after the state became the first to do so in 2016. (Utah State Legislature)


Chimps from two Czech zoos are Zooming each other every day

To make up for the lack of interaction with visitors since the attractions closed in December under Covid-19 restrictions, the chimpanzees at Safari Park Dvur Kralove and the troop at a zoo in Brno, 93 miles away, can now watch one another’s daily lives on giant screens. There are no mute-button disasters as the sound is off, but there has already been plenty of interest in what the distant cousins are up to since the project got underway last week. The chimpanzees have also adopted other human behaviors such as grabbing goodies like nuts to chew on while watching the action. The video conferences, also aired on the safari park’s website, will run daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. until the end of March, when keepers will evaluate whether they should continue. (CNN)


YouTuber Charged With 18 Criminal Counts After Infamous Ram TRX Jump Video

A YouTuber that goes by the name, Street Speed 717, has been posting videos ever since purchasing a 702-horsepower Ram TRX truck in January. In total, he posted nine videos of the TRX documenting its destruction and sale. It appears that selling the truck didn’t get him out of trouble with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, though, who caught wind of his viral videos as it readied charges against him related to his YouTube antics. The court docket against the man reveals that the PFBC brought a total of 18 criminal charges, pinning him for various misdemeanors under Title 30 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, called “Protection of Property and Waters.” And to top it all off, many (if not all) of these were thoroughly documented in his videos. According to a spokesperson at the PFBC, the Commission was alerted to activity occurring on the property in York County, Pennsylvania where the videos were filmed. His charges include:

  • various violations of specific verbiage within Title 30
  • including two counts of Disturbance of Waterways and Watersheds
  • six counts of Pollution of Waters
  • six counts of Littering
  • and four counts of Misuse of Property and Waters.

This equates to eight third-degree misdemeanor charges, four second-degree summary offenses, and six first-degree summary offenses. (The Drive)


Mars rover sends back grinding, squealing sounds of driving

NASA’s newest Mars rover has sent back the first-ever sounds of driving on the red planet, a grinding, clanking, banging affair that by Earth standards would be pretty worrisome. The noises made by Perseverance’s six metal wheels and suspension on the first test drive two weeks ago are part of a 16-minute raw audio feed released Wednesday by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Perseverance, the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent to Mars, landed near an ancient river delta on February 18 to search for signs of past life. Samples will be taken from the most promising rocks for eventual return to Earth. The rover carries two microphones. One already has captured the sounds of wind and rock-zapping lasers, the other was meant to record the descent and landing. This second mike didn’t pick up any sounds of the rover’s arrival at Mars, but managed to record the first test drive March 4. The driving audio contains a unexpected high-pitched scratching noise, according to NASA. Engineers are trying to figure it out. (Sound Cloud NASA)


Analysis finds between 30% and 99% of Mars’ water is trapped in the planet’s crust, challenging the theory that most of its water evaporated into space

According to new research from Caltech and JPL, a significant portion of Mars’s water, between 30 and 99 percent, is trapped within minerals in the planet’s crust. The research challenges the current theory that the Red Planet’s water escaped into space. The Caltech/JPL team found that around four billion years ago, Mars was home to enough water to have covered the whole planet in an ocean about 100 to 1,500 meters deep; a volume roughly equivalent to half of Earth’s Atlantic Ocean, but, by a billion years later, the planet was as dry as it is today. Previously, scientists seeking to explain what happened to the flowing water on Mars had suggested that it escaped into space, victim of Mars’s low gravity. Though some water did indeed leave Mars this way, it now appears that such an escape cannot account for most of the water loss. The team studied the quantity of water on Mars over time in all its forms (vapor, liquid, and ice) and the chemical composition of the planet’s current atmosphere and crust through the analysis of meteorites as well as using data provided by Mars rovers and orbiters, looking in particular at the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (D/H). (CalTech)


Scientists grew tiny tear glands in a dish and then made them cry

At first, it took a long time, up to a day, to make the cells cry. But, with experience and a little prodding, the researchers eventually made them weep in only half an hour. The tearful cultures are the first tear-gland ‘organoids’, three-dimensional assemblages of cells that are designed to resemble miniature versions of organs. Organoids of the glands that produce tears could be used to study and eventually treat disorders that cause dry eyes, including an autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s syndrome. In addition to their role in displaying emotion, tears help to lubricate and protect the eye. Dry eyes can be painful, inflamed and prone to infection. To study tear production, developmental biologists at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands developed a way to grow tear-gland cells as organoids. The group has found ways to grow a menagerie of organoids, including miniature livers, cervical cancers and snake venom glands. Organoids derived from human cells could also eventually provide material for transplants, to replace diseased or damaged tear glands. (Nature)



Court judge linked to ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ charged with child pornography possession

A Milwaukee children’s court judge and father of two with ties to “Drag Queen Story Hour” was arrested after allegedly being caught with videos showing children being raped, officials said. The 38-year-old Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge was charged with seven counts of possession of child pornography. Each count carries a maximum fine of $100,000 and 25 years in prison, or both, and each has a mandatory minimum sentence of three years of initial confinement. The Judge is the former president of the Cream City Foundation, which hosts “Drag Queen Story Hour,” a children’s event in which drag queens read to children. He allegedly uploaded several images of child pornography through a messaging app in October and November 2020, including videos of male children being raped. (The Washington Examiner)


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has delayed this year’s tax filing deadline for one month, to May 17

The extra time will allow taxpayers to learn about tax changes included in the $1.9 Trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Biden earlier this month. The legislation made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received last year tax-free for people who earn under $150,000 a year. It also expanded the child tax credit to $3,600 annually for children under six and to $3,000 for older children. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had called for an extension. The extension does not apply to state taxes but California has also extended its deadline. Last year, the IRS moved the tax filing deadline until July. (CNBC)


Friday Brings On The Frisky Side With:

  • Backyard Day
  • Client’s Day
  • Certified Nurses Day
  • Chocolate Caramel Day
  • Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence
  • Farm Rescuer Day (Third Thursday)
  • Goddess of Fertility Day (Day before the Spring Equinox)
  • Let’s Laugh Day
  • Poultry Day
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom Day
  • Swallows Return to San Juan Capistrano Day
  • World Sleep Day (Friday of 2nd Full Week)