Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law Monday that will allow him to potentially remain in his position until 2036, when he will turn 84

A constitutional vote last year allowed for the term limit change, under which Putin could run for president twice more. He said he has not yet decided if he will run for president again when his current term ends in 2024. Russia’s presidential terms last six years. Putin has served as either president or prime minister of Russia since 1999. His tenure in power is longer than any Russian leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Putin argued that the law will prevent others in government from ignoring their work “in search for possible successors.” Amendments signed by Putin also included a ban on same-sex marriage. (Reuters)


Utah dads to be required to pay half of pregnancy costs

Biological fathers in Utah will be legally required to pay half of a woman’s out-of-pocket pregnancy costs under a new law unique to the state that critics say doesn’t do enough to adequately address maternal healthcare needs. The bill’s sponsor has presented the measure as an effort to decrease the burden of pregnancy on women and increase responsibility for men who have children, but some critics argue the new legislation won’t help women who are most vulnerable and could make abusive situations even more dangerous for pregnant women. Utah appears to be the first state to mandate prenatal child support, according to the state’s Planned Parenthood association and the bill’s sponsor, but a few states, including Wisconsin and New York, have provisions that can result in fathers being financially responsible for pre-birth expenses. The bill would apply to a pregnant woman’s health insurance premiums and any pregnancy-related medical costs. Utah Governor Spencer Cox recently signed the proposal. (ABC News)


Restaurants are facing a nationwide ketchup packet shortage amid continuing demand for takeout

Supply chain problems are reaching into a far corner of the business universe: Ketchup packets. After enduring a year of closures, employee safety fears and start-stop openings, many American restaurants are now facing a nationwide ketchup shortage. Restaurants are trying to secure the tabletop staple after Covid-19 upended the condiment world order. Managers are using generic versions, pouring out bulk ketchup into individual cups and hitting the aisles of Costco for substitutes. The pandemic turned many sit-down restaurants into takeout specialists, making individual ketchup packets the primary condiment currency for both national chains and mom-and-pop restaurants. Packet prices are up 13% since January 2020, and their market share has exploded at the expense of tabletop bottles. (The Wall Street Journal)


A new way to help the deaf hear

Researchers at KU Leuven university in Belgium have developed a cochlear implant that can read user’s brain waves, making it easier to calibrate the devices so they can help patients hear. Previous versions of cochlear implants rely on patient feedback to adjust the devices for each person’s needs, but not all patients, such as  young children and those with cognitive impairment, can offer such guidance. This new type of cochlear implant contains brain wave-measuring electrodes that can do the job instead. Future versions of this device may even be able to recalibrate on its own. (New Atlas)


Egypt demands over $1B in damages after Suez Canal blockage

Egypt wants over $1 billion in compensation after a cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, a top canal official has said. The head of the Suez Canal Authority warned the ship and its cargo will not be allowed leave Egypt if the issue of damages goes to court. He stated that the amount takes into account the salvage operation, costs of stalled traffic, and lost transit fees for the week that the Ever Given had blocked the Suez Canal. The massive cargo ship is currently in one of the canal’s holding lakes, where authorities and the ship’s managers say an investigation is ongoing. The ship’s technical managers, Bernard Schulte Ship management, said that the ship’s crew was cooperating with authorities in their investigation into what led to the vessel running aground. If the issue of compensation involved litigation, then the Ever Given and its some $3.5 billion worth of cargo would not be allowed to leave Egypt. (TRT World)


How to reconnect after being isolated

Many of us might find ourselves fumbling for the right words in adult conversations since a lot of us have been pent up for so long due to the pandemic. Communications experts are saying there’s no time like the present to rebuild connections we may have lost over the last year. Social media likes do not a friendship make and experts strongly recommends picking up the phone to go deeper with people you care about. In addition, she says trying to discover what they need or want, rather than just talking about yourself, often leads to more “interactive” discussions. (Reuters)



Police: ‘Body’ on overpass was actually a sex doll

Police responding to a report of a dead body on an York, Pennsylvania overpass of Interstate 83 found a 6-foot sex doll instead, according to a York Area Regional Police news release. “It was actually a life-sized sex doll,” said the spokesman. “It was in a very flimsy cardboard box. We have no idea how it got there.” Police responded at the I-83 overpass after a passerby called 911. The responding officer discovered the doll and asked for backup to help dispose of it in a dumpster, he said. Unless someone is trained to render first aid, calling police in cases like this one is the correct response, said the spokesman. (York Dispatch)


Procrastination can be a good thing

Procrastination is a word that comes with a lot of baggage. For many, it probably triggers thoughts of avoidance and/or overwhelm, but what if we flipped the script and started thinking of procrastination in a positive way? If we focus on something else besides the task at hand, like a walk, or a cleaning break, we may experience “creative insights” we might not have had. This period of “incubation” can help broaden our perspective. In addition, a recent study by organizational psychologists suggests distraction can be good in moderation, of course. (BBC Worklife)


Woman sentenced to 5 years for deadly butt injection

A 49-year-old woman in Dallas, Texas was sentenced to five years in prison for causing a nightclub dancer’s death by performing an illegal cosmetic butt injection on her in Missouri. She was sentenced Thursday for involuntary manslaughter in the 2015 death of another 22-year-old woman. Prosecutors said Lee traveled from her Dallas home to a hotel in Edmundson, Missouri, a suburb near St. Louis’ main airport, where she injected the liquid silicone. The younger woman died four days later after the silicone entered her bloodstream and became trapped in her lungs. Three others accompanied the woman giving the injections. One backed out, and two others who received injections didn’t appear to suffer any ill effects, police said at the time. The woman who gave the injections had previously served time in prison for robbery, burglary and theft, but was charged a few months after the young woman died. However, she was a fugitive for five years before being arrested by Dallas police in July 2020. Prosecutors said she spent some of that time in Mexico. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Workers taking charge by upskilling

A large-scale survey of the global workforce shows people appear to be taking more ownership of their career trajectories by sharpening their skills during the pandemic. According to a survey of 32,500 workers, 40% say they have honed their digital skills during the crisis, and 77% say they are ‘“ready to learn new skills or completely re-train.” The upskilling would come in handy, since nearly half say they’re interested in eventually running their own businesses. A number of companies have rolled out upskilling initiatives as the pandemic accelerated the shift to tech. (PWC Global)


Civil War veteran receives headstone 110 years after his death

A Civil War veteran from Iowa now has a headstone more than 110 years after his death. Frederick Wagner was born in France but spent most of his life in Iowa. Wagner signed up to serve in the Civil War with an Iowa infantry. He served for several years before going on to become a mason and a train conductor in Boone, Iowa. The person that helped install the headstone at Woodland Cemetery said “The process is you research them, go through old newspapers. It all has to be documented, proven to the Veterans’ Administration. If it’s all proven then the VA will provide a stone, but the stone still has to be installed and maintained.” He said there are hundreds of veterans with unmarked graves and he’s trying to correct that one at a time. (KCCI)


Robot artist sells art for $688,888, now eyeing music career

Sophia is the most famous robot creation from Hanson Robotics, with the ability to mimic facial expressions, hold conversations and recognize people. In 2017, she was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the world’s first robot citizen. Sophia collaborated with Italian artist Andrea Bonaceto, who drew portraits of Sophia. Sophia then processed his work via neural networks and proceeded to create a digital artwork of her own. The digital work that sold for $688,888 is titled “Sophia Instantiation”, and is a 12-second video file which shows Bonaceto’s portrait evolving into Sophia’s digital painting. It is accompanied by the physical artwork painted by Sophia. Sophia will carry on painting and the next step in the robot’s career could be that of a musician. She is working on several musical works in a project called Sophia Pop, where she collaborates with human musicians to generate music and lyrics. (Associated Press)


80,000 retail stores (9% of all stores) will close in the U.S. by 2026

According to a new report from UBS, E-commerce sales are projected to account for 27% of all retail sales by 2026, up from 18% now. By the end of 2020, there were 115,000 shopping centers, up from 112,000 in 2010 and 90,000 in 2000. So far this year, there have been 3,535 store openings and 3,169 store closures in the United States. The most store closures in a single year on record was in 2019 when 9,832 locations shut down. This number fell to 8,741 last year. UBS projects clothing and accessories stores will see 21,000 closures, the most of any retailer. Home improvement, grocery, and auto parts retailers will see the fewest closures as they’re the most inoculated from a surge in e-commerce sales. (CNBC)


Wednesday Breaks Up With:

  • Bookmobile Day (Always Wednesday of Library Week)
  • Childhelp National Day of Hope (First Wednesday)
  • Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide
  • Girl Me Too Day
  • Handmade Day
  • International Beaver Day
  • International Snailpapers Day
  • Making The First Move Day
  • Metric System Day
  • No Housework Day
  • Paraprofessional Appreciation Day
  • Walking Day
  • World Health Day (UN)
  • World Health Organization Day