Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The 2021 Oscars television ratings drop 58% from last year; fewer than 10 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast, an all-time low

The 93rd Academy Awards were watched by a mere 9.85 million, with a dismal rating of 1.9 among the 18-49 demographic. That is an all-time low for Hollywood’s biggest night by a huge margin. In fact, it is a drop of about 58% in terms of audience from what the previous low of the 2020 Oscars snared on February 9 last year. In terms of the key demo, the 2021 Oscars is down a crushing 64.2% in the earlier ratings from the 2020 Oscars. (Deadline)


First observation made of sea sponges moving in the wild; long believed to be stationary, the organisms shed body parts as a result of repositioning

During an Arctic expedition, scientists aboard the icebreaker Polarstern surveyed an underwater mountain ridge, using a boat-towed camera and a remote-controlled aquatic vehicle. At depths between 1000 and 580 meters, beyond the reach of sunlight, the researchers observed a thriving community of sponges. They also found snaking trails of spicules, fragments of the sponge skeleton, connected to many of the creatures. The researchers ruled out gravity and currents as likely sponge-moving forces because many of the animals were plopped on the uphill ends of these trails, and because the site lacked evidence of strong flows. Instead, the sponges are moving on their own, the team concludes. The scientists believe the sponges sink their spicules into the ground and pull on them to haul their bodies forward. As the animals move ahead, the embedded spicules rip off their bodies, and a trail of skeletal fragments and fleshy bits forms behind. As for why the animals are crawling around in the first place, the researchers think it’s a way to scavenge for food in the nutrient-scarce polar depths. Another possibility is that the sponges move to disperse their offspring, or that they build spicule trails to provide sponge larvae with surfaces to settle on. (Science Magazine)


CDC announces many Americans can go outside without a mask, with exceptions

U.S. health officials say fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers, and those who are unvaccinated can go without a face covering outside in some cases, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the updated guidance in yet another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in United States. For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of each other. The change comes as more than half of U.S. adults have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated. (NewsMax)


An effort to remove California Governor Gavin Newsom from office has collected 1.6 million signatures, enough to organize a recall election

Officials estimate the vote, which is expected to take place in October or November, could cost the state of California around $400M to run. Voters will be asked two questions: whether Governor Gavin Newsom should be replaced and who should replace him. If more than 50% of voters answered yes to the first question, the responses to the second question will be tallied. Several people have announced plans to run, including Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, and John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018. Celebrities including former reality TV star and trans activist Caitlyn Jenner, former adult film actress Mary Carey, and the model and L.A. personality Angelyne have also announced plans to run. Gavin Newsom was elected governor in 2018, after winning over 60% of the vote. Californians have not elected a Republican governor since 2006, when they gave Arnold Schwarzenegger his second term in office. (The Guardian)


Rents are increasing again

After a brief pandemic respite, rents around the country are once again increasing. The report notes that the median rent rose 1.1% on an annual basis last month to $1,463 across the 50 largest cities, likely on the back of stimulus payments and an economic recovery. Similarly, the exploding cost of homes and falling inventory are pushing many into the rental market once again. While San Francisco and New York have also seen modest increases lately, places like Nashville and Denver have seen rents increase exponentially even during the pandemic. (The Wall Street Journal)


The Biden administration plans to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour from $10.95

Federal officials say that hundreds of thousands of workers will benefit from the wage increase but did not give a more precise estimate. Although President Biden plans to sign an executive order, the wage increase will not come into effect until March 2022. The White House said that the workers who will benefit include cleaning professionals, nursing assistants who care for veterans, cafeteria workers, and contractors who build and repair federal infrastructure. Federal expenditure will increase as a result, but taxpayers will ultimately benefit because the wage hike will lead to higher “worker productivity,” the White House said. (Associated Press)


An instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully turned CO2 in the Martian atmosphere into breathable oxygen

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, a.k.a. Moxie, produced 5 grams of oxygen, enough to keep an astronaut alive for about 10 minutes. NASA expects to eventually build a larger version of Moxie to produce oxygen for future Martian settlers. Such a device could arrive on Mars before a crew lands to produce oxygen for them. Oxygen could also be used as a raw material to produce rocket fuel for a return to Earth. To take off from Mars, a rocket would require about 25 metric tons of oxygen, which would need to be produced on the Red Planet because future rockets are unlikely to be able to transport such heavy cargo. Moxie is inside the Perseverance rover, which arrived on Mars in February. (Science News)


The oldest known bottle of whiskey is expected to sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction

Carbon 14 dating done in conjunction with the University of Georgia indicates the bourbon was likely produced between 1762-1802, around the time of the Revolutionary War and the Whiskey Rebellion, officials said. It is not clear where the whiskey was produced but according to the Skinner auction house, it was bottled in LaGrange, Georgia. The online auction is set for June 22-30. Bids are expected to fall between $20,000 and $40,000. While this may be the oldest known bottle of whiskey, it’s nowhere near the most expensive. In 2019, the Macallan Fine and Rare 60-Year-Old 1926 became the most expensive bottle of wine or spirit ever auctioned when it sold for $1.9 million. (CNN)


Japanese man arrested after ‘dating more than 35 women at once to get birthday gifts’

A 39-year-old Japanese man has been accused of dating 35 women at the same time to get hundreds of pounds worth of birthday presents. He allegedly gave different dates for his birthday to each of his potential partners after claiming he wanted a serious relationship. He is said to have received cards and presents totaling ($920.04), including the equivalent of $278.18 suit. The women eventually realized his scam and formed a victims association before going to police in February. He met the women while working for a marketing company selling hydrogen water shower heads and other products. He has now been arrested on suspicion of fraud. (The Independent)


A Florida family has been indicted after posing as ‘church’ and selling industrial bleach as ‘miracle’ cure for COVID-19, HIV, and cancer

A Florida family was indicted for selling industrial bleach and promoting it to be the cure COVID-19 and other medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, according to the Department of Justice. According to the DOJ press release, a 62-year-old father and his three sons are charged with two counts of criminal contempt and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States. They are accused of selling “Miracle Mineral Solution,” MMS, suggesting that ingesting the product, that was not FDA approved, would prevent and cure COVID, the DOJ said. “MMS is a chemical solution containing sodium chlorite and water which, when ingested orally, became chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach typically used for industrial water treatment or bleaching textiles, pulp, and paper,” the press release said. The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has not licensed MMS as a treatment for any illness, and in 2019 was compelled to renew its warning against taking the substance after a spike in the number of people reported to be taking it. The FDA warns that MMS causes severe vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening low blood pressure, and in large doses can be fatal. (Insider)


Former French Officials Call For Military Rule If President Won’t Halt ‘Islamists’ From ‘Disintegrating Society’

A whopping 20 retired French generals and 80 other ex-officers are calling for military rule in the country if President Emmanuel Macron does not halt society’s “disintegration caused by Islamists.” In response, French President Macron has threatened to punish generals who signed the open letter that warned the country is heading for “civil war” because of radical Islam. Far-Right leader Marine Le Pen has thrown her support behind the ex-soldiers who wrote the letter. The open letter, published in a magazine, claims a military coup might be necessary to stop a ‘civil war’ in France. The lead signatory was a commander in the Foreign Legion before losing his privileges as a retired officer after being arrested while taking part in an anti-Islam demonstration in 2016. The government strongly condemned the letter, which was published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’etat by generals opposed to France granting independence to Algeria. (Daily Mail)


Roku and Google are apparently fighting over the terms of carrying YouTube TV on Roku’s streaming platform

Roku has sent out an email blast to customers with a subject line saying, “Google may remove your access to YouTube TV.” Roku says, “Recent negotiations with Google to carry YouTube TV have broken down because Roku cannot accept Google’s unfair terms, as we believe they could harm our users. We cannot accept Google’s unfair and anticompetitive requirements to manipulate your search results, impact the usage of your data, and ultimately cost you more.” Google’s alleged demands range from changing how Roku’s streaming platform works to stipulating what chips Roku should use in its products. Google wants “a dedicated search results row for YouTube within the Roku smart TV interface,” and it wants Roku to “block search results from other streaming content providers while users are using the YouTube app on Roku’s system.” The report continues: “Roku alleges Google has asked it to favor YouTube music results from voice commands made on the Roku remote while the YouTube app is open, even if the user’s music preference is set to default to another music app, like Pandora.” Roku really goes for it in the last paragraph of its email, saying it is “deeply disappointed in Google’s decision to use their monopoly power to try and force terms that will directly harm streamers.” The “M word” is a sensitive subject, as Google’s search unit is currently dealing with an antitrust investigation from the United States Department of Justice. Google has responded to Roku’s claims, calling them “baseless” and denying it wants changes to search results or user data. The company said in a statement: “We have been working with Roku in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits our viewers and their customers. Unfortunately, Roku often engages in these types of tactics in their negotiations. We’re disappointed that they chose to make baseless claims while we continue our ongoing negotiations. All of our work with them has been focused on ensuring a high quality and consistent experience for our viewers. We have made no requests to access user data or interfere with search results. We hope we can resolve this for the sake of our mutual users.” (Ars Technica)


A new Apple update, iOS 14.5, has arrived after a seven month delay

The update not only gives iPhone users to power to decide what apps can track your online activity, but a way to unlock the phone while wearing a mask and new emoji options. Here are the latest features iPhone users will see with the new update:

New choices for Siri – allows you to choose the voice that speaks to you when you first set up the device. In English, users can now select more diverse voice options. Siri also has the ability to now support Group FaceTime calls, making it easier to initiate calls with multiple contacts. You can also ask Siri to FaceTime the name of any group chat. The latest update allows Siri to announce incoming calls through AirPods or compatible Beats headphones, and supports calling your emergency contacts if you need help and are unable to make a call.

Unlocking your iPhone while wearing a mask – Instead of pulling down your mask to unlock your iPhone, or punching in your pin, your Apple Watch can now be used to unlock your phone. With Apple Watch on the wrist, unlocked, and in close proximity to iPhone, users can simply glance at their iPhone and they will receive haptic feedback from Apple Watch, indicating their iPhone has been unlocked. The new feature works with iPhone X and later and Apple Watch Series 3 and later.

New emoji options – iOS 14.5 brings new emojis to Apple’s already wide selection. New options include a heart on fire, a bandaged heart, “a face exhaling,” and an update to the couple kissing and couple with heart emojis.

Report an incident on Apple Maps – A feature common with the Waze app, Apple Maps users can now report an accident, hazard, or speed check along the route by telling Siri on iPhone or CarPlay. During navigation, you can tell Siri “There’s a crash up ahead” or “There’s something on the road.” Additionally, you can report when incidents displayed on the map have been cleared. When using Maps, you can now share your ETA when walking or cycling to let friends and family know what time they might arrive. CarPlay will also allow users to initiate the Share ETA feature using new Siri or keyboard controls. (CNBC)


Wednesday Breaks It All Down With:

  • Biological Clock Day
  • Blueberry Pie Day
  • Brave Hearts Day
  • Denim Day (Last Wednesday)
  • Great Poetry Reading Day
  • International Guide Dogs Day (Last Wednesday)
  • International Noise Awareness Day (Last Wednesday)
  • Superhero Day
  • Occupational Safety & Health Day
  • Workers Memorial Day
  • World Day for Safety and Health at Work


Historical Events

1788 – Maryland becomes the seventh state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

1792 – France invades the Austrian Netherlands (present day Belgium), beginning the French Revolutionary War.

1796 – The Armistice of Cherasco is signed by Napoleon Bonaparte and Vittorio Amedeo III, the King of Sardinia, expanding French territory along the Mediterranean coast.

1887 – A week after being arrested by the Prussian Secret Police, Alsatian police inspector Guillaume Schnaebelé is released on order of German Emperor William I, defusing a possible war.

1944 – World War II: Nine German S-boots attacked US and UK units during Exercise Tiger, the rehearsal for the Normandy landings, killing 946.

1950 – Bhumibol Adulyadej marries Queen Sirikit after their quiet engagement in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 19, 1949.

1952 – Dwight D. Eisenhower resigns as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

1975 – General Cao Van Vien, chief of the South Vietnamese military, departs for the US as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on victory.

1986 – The United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise becomes the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal, navigating from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea to relieve the USS Coral Sea.

1988 – Near Maui, Hawaii, flight attendant Clarabelle “C.B.” Lansing is blown out of Aloha Airlines Flight 243, a Boeing 737, and falls to her death when part of the plane’s fuselage rips open in mid-flight.