Monday, March 22, 2021

US facing anti-Asian ‘crisis point’

Asian American congresswomen say the U.S. is at a “crisis point” on discrimination and violence toward Asian communities, offering deeply personal accounts of their own experiences during historic House testimony. Hundreds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have turned to social media to “air their anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness,” according to some reports, with the hashtag #StopAsianHate trending across various platforms. (The New York Times)


Under a new media deal, the NFL will receive approximately $10B a season, an 80% increase from its current contracts

Under the agreement, Amazon Prime Video will have exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football beginning in 2022. Over the past few years, Thursday games aired on Fox. CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC will continue broadcasting some NFL games. CBS will continue its AFC coverage, ESPN will keep owning the rights to “Monday Night Football,” Fox will continue airing Sunday afternoon games, and NBC gets to keep “Sunday Night Football.” Super Bowls will be hosted by CBS (2023, 2027, 2031), Fox (2024, 2028, 2032), NBC (2025, 2029, 2033), and ABC (2026, 2030). ESPN+ will get rights to one international series game per season. The NFL will earn $113B over 11 seasons for the deals. The Amazon deal starts in 2022, and the rest kick in the following year. The deals pave the way for a 17-game season but the decision on whether to add an extra game will be made later this month. (Associated Press)


Facebook is developing a version of Instagram for children under 13

The photo-sharing app currently bans children under that age from creating an account but the potential new version will ensure that children don’t share sensitive content by giving parents “transparency or control,” the head of Instagram said adding that the plan is in its early stages. In an internal message board, Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, wrote that the development of the new Instagram version has been added to the company’s priorities for the first six months of 2021. The new Instagram version will be similar to the Messenger Kids app that Facebook launched in 2017 for children ages 6-12. Experts say that social media could expose young kids to bullying and harassment as well as grooming by adults. Their social media interactions will also be monetized in the same way that all of the adults using these platforms are. (Buzzfeed)


YouTube plans to introduce its short-form video feature, called “Shorts,” to U.S. users over the next few weeks.

The product was beta tested by users in India. Up until now, U.S. users have been able to view Shorts, but not create them. According to YouTube, the feature allows anyone to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones. Shorts integrates a number of features that became popular on TikTok, including the ability to string multiple clips together, layer popular songs over videos, and a countdown clock for hands-free recording. Both Instagram and Snapchat have also added TikTok-inspired features or products to their apps over the past year. (CNN)


The CDC has revised its guidance for schools, recommending at least three feet of distance between students instead of six

An update to the guidelines in light of a new study suggesting that a distance of three feet is sufficient as long as schools can ensure universal mask-wearing. The update should allow more reopened schools to comply with CDC guidelines, though some states have already been keeping children no more than three feet apart without increased coronavirus transmission. The CDC guidance still recommends six feet of distance between students at assemblies, lunch, or other events. If the level of transmission is high in a specific community, the CDC still recommends six feet be kept between middle and high school students, as studies have found that older children spread the virus just as easily as adults. The guidance also eliminates recommendations for plastic shields between desks. An estimated 49% of U.S. K-12 students attend schools that offer in-person learning every day. 30% attend schools offering hybrid learning and 21% are still completely virtual and remote. (NPR)


Tesla autopilot being probed

A string of recent crashes have raised questions about Tesla’s Autopilot feature. Federal regulators opened their second Michigan probe this month after a Tesla hit a stationary patrol car recently. A Tesla crashed into a semi, though Detroit police blame speed and say it appears “the vehicle was not in autopilot mode.” Following a deadly 2018 crash involving Autopilot, the National Transportation Safety Board, known for investigating airline disasters, urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “to fulfill its oversight responsibility.” Last month, the NTSB reiterated its call for stricter rules on driver-assistance features to the NHTSA. (The Wall Street Journal)


Man’s Final Paycheck from Ex-Employer Shows Up as 500 Pounds in Oily Pennies

A Peachtree City, Georgia man who was expecting his last paycheck from his former employer said the money he was promised came in the form of 500 pounds of oily pennies in the middle of the night. The man said he put his two weeks notice in writing in November 2020, and his boss at Walker Luxury Autoworks, was not happy with the development. “He froze and stared at me for like a straight minute,” he said. “He gets up, puts his hands on his head, walks out the door, and disappears.” the man said, who reportedly left his job due to a toxic work environment, claimed his former boss still owed him $915, which he said would be delivered in January. He said the former boss accused him of damages when he called to ask about the status of the check, so he reached out to Georgia’s Department of Labor. He said the money eventually showed up in his driveway, in the form of 500 pounds of oil-covered pennies dumped there in the middle of the night. His girlfriend shared an Instagram video of the massive pile of coins, making sure to show her oil-covered hands as she handled them. The former boss said he could not recall if he dropped off the pennies at man’s house. “It doesn’t matter, he got paid, that’s all that matters,” the former boss said. The man is currently storing the pennies in his garage while he is cleaning them. Once he is done, he will cash the pennies in. (WGCL)


No screaming on California roller coasters and thrill rides, state guidelines say

Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland may need to add new warning signs at the entrances to their roller coasters and thrill rides when the California theme parks finally reopen: No screaming. A roller coaster tradition as old as thrill rides themselves could go silent in California with the introduction of proposed statewide COVID-19 theme park guidelines that would bring an end to one of the most iconic midway sounds: Screaming. Ride enthusiasts could be asked to refrain from screaming on the Scream coaster at Magic Mountain, abstain from yelling on the Supreme Scream drop tower at Knott’s and avoid hootin’ and hollerin’ on Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland under proposed COVID-19 health and safety protocols prepared by a theme park industry association. California theme parks can reopen on April 1 provided the counties they reside in reach the red/substantial tier 2 risk status of Governor Gavin Newsom’s updated Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The Blueprint for a Safer Economy calls for California businesses to limit activities like shouting and raised voices that are known to cause increased spread of COVID-19. (The Orange County Register)


Luxury fashion brand sells telephone cord necklace for $2000, people react

A post about a necklace by a luxury fashion brand shared on the official Instagram profile of fashion watchdog page Diet Prada has created quite a stir online and also prompted many to share hilarious reactions. The post features a new necklace sold by luxury fashion brand Bottega Veneta for $2000. What’s prompted a flurry of reactions is what the necklace looks like – a telephone cord. In their post, Diet Prada added an image of actual telephone cords available for $5 online. It has also accumulated tons of comments from people. While some wrote how the product left them irked, others took a more hilarious route to react. (Hindustan Times)


Murder hornets will be ‘serious danger’ this spring, scientists warn

Scientists are warning that so-called murder hornets will present a “serious danger” this spring — and say they’re working to prevent the invasive species from becoming a permanent fixture in North America. The scientists said efforts to eradicate the Asian giant hornets are mostly focused in Washington state’s Whatcom County and the nearby Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada, where they’ve been spotted in recent years. As part of the battle against the hornets, thousands of traps will be set up to capture queens that are trying to establish nests. Washington state officials will use orange juice and rice cooking wine in traps, while encouraging citizens to make their own using either orange juice or a brown sugar-based bait. The Asian giant hornets, which are 2 inches long, were first confirmed to have arrived in Washington state in December 2019. (The New York Post)


FCC enforces largest fine ever of $225 million against telemarketers who made 1 billion robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission issued its largest ever fine of $225 million to Texas telemarketers who sent about 1 billion robocalls falsely claiming to sell health insurance for Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and other companies. Two men, who did business under the names Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, faced the fine, proposed in June 2020 by the FCC, for massive spamming of spoofed robocalls in the U.S. in 2019. Spoofed calls have a false caller ID that makes them appear to come from a nearby location. Consumers would be asked if they were interested in “affordable health insurance with benefits from a company you know?” and companies including Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and United HealthCare were mentioned. If they pressed 3 to get an agent, the consumer would be transferred to a call center unaffiliated with any of those insurers. The cease-and-desist letters went to six firms charged with making or facilitating robocalls:

  • RSCom of Canada, which was warned in May 2020 to cease making scam calls involving COVID-19, Social Security, the Internal Revenue Service, electric utilities and Apple Inc.
  • Stratics Networks of Canada for facilitating fraudulent calls about COVID-19, student loans, political campaigns, and discounts and upgrades for AT&T and DirecTV.
  • Yodel Technologies, a Florida provider, for facilitating fraudulent calls related to Social Security, health insurance, and debt reduction services.
  • Icon Global, a U.K.-based company, for facilitating robocalls that inundated the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, as well as those falsely representing Apple and the Social Security Administration.
  • IDT Corporation of New Jersey, for transmitting, on behalf of clients, illegal robocalls about COVID-19 and health insurance, Social Security, fictional Amazon refunds, computer services, credit cards, and fraudulent calls threatening to disconnect utilities without payments.
  • Third Rock Telecom, of Canada, which is suspected of transmitting robocalls about fictional Apple/iCloud account breaches, Social Security scams, and credit card fraud.

A new Robocall Response Team, a group of 51 FCC staff members, will coordinate anti-robocall efforts. Letters were also sent to the Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, and the National Association of State Attorneys General about anti-robocall collaborative efforts. (USA Today)


5 White House staffers lose jobs over drugs, marijuana use

Five White House staffers have been fired because of their past use of drugs, including marijuana, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Marijuana has become a delicate issue for President Joe Biden’s administration because 15 states and Washington, D.C., allow for recreational usage, despite a federal prohibition. The administration has tried not to automatically penalize potential staffers for legal behavior in their communities by developing a more flexible policy, according to the Press Secretary. “In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use,” Psaki said. “While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated.” The broader federal government has also become somewhat more lenient, with the Office of Personnel Management releasing a memo that says a person should not be deemed unfit merely because of past marijuana usage. The seriousness of the use and the nature of the position will also be factors in judging new hires. (ABC News)


Monday Bunks With:

  •  As Young As You Feel Day
  • Bavarian Crepes Day
  • International Day of The Sea
  • Goof-off Day
  • Talk Like William Shatner Day
  • Tuskegee Airmen Day
  • West Virginia Day
  • World Day for Water (aka World Water Day)
  • World Day of Metta