Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Feds accuse a pharmacy of having connections to multi-million dollar cough syrup scheme

A Livoni, Michigan pharmacy is under investigation for its ties to an alleged multi-million dollar prescription cough syrup scheme. Drug Enforcement Agents raided a home in connection with the illegal sale of cough syrup, known as “purple drank” or “sizzurp.” Authorities said a person at the center of the investigation has ties to Medpro Pharmacy on Middlebelt Road in Livonia. Witnesses said they saw federal agents raiding the pharmacy last week. “In the medical industry, we consider the so-called ‘purple drank’ to be really a combo of the codeine and promethazine,” said a medical professional with Beaumont Health who is not related to the investigation. It is dangerous, but people don’t really just how dangerous it can be. About about $15 million in cash seized from the house. The DEA issued a statement, saying, “As part of an ongoing drug investigation, the DEA Detroit field division seized an undetermined amount of U.S. currency during the execution of a search warrant April 29.” Charges have not been filed against the suspect. (Fox 2)


UFO sightings on the rise

A Palm Coast, Florida man caught a strange video on his home security camera in the middle of the night. The startling video shows two circles of light soaring in the air, twinkling mysteriously in the night sky. Sightings like these make people ask the age-old question: Are we alone in the universe? “I think that is a fascinating phenomenon. If you think about it … That there is a possibility that these events are happening because of aliens. Everybody is hoping that these are aliens and not just some better phenomenon,” said a associate professor and program chair of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences at Florida Tech. The national U.F.O. Reporting Center says there have been 245 new UFO reports through March 30. In 2020, there were 7,200 plus UFO sightings. That’s 1,000 more sightings than in 2019. Over the past few years, researchers have seen a new level of acknowledgment from the government. Thousands of UFO documents from the CIA were recently obtained. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy also confirmed investigations and sightings. (Fox 35 Orlando)


Florida lifts its COVID restrictions

Florida is back in business, with Gov. Ron DeSantis signing an order that officially lifts all COVID-19 restrictions in the state, as well as banning the use of vaccine passports starting July 1. Private businesses can still require masks and encourage social distancing, but DeSantis said that requiring it from the state level would undermine confidence in the vaccines. While Florida has the third-most reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data, average new cases have fallen by more than 13% this past week. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will also loosen pandemic-era restrictions, including lifting curfews for food and beverage service. New York businesses must, however, abide by CDC social distancing guidelines, requiring a minimum of six feet of space between individuals. (CNBC)


Anderson Cooper’s ‘Jeopardy!’ Debut Had The Lowest Ratings Of Any Guest Host… Including Dr. Oz

Anderson Cooper’s debut as a Jeopardy! guest host is off to a rough start. On his first day at the podium, the CNN show host pulled in the lowest ratings yet for a guest host, just narrowly losing to Dr. Oz’s controversial debut. In Cooper’s defense, he had to follow football star Aaron Rodgers, who brought in a ratings spike for the game show that’s still in the middle of choosing a permanent host to replace Alex Trebek. “The 5.1 rating for Cooper’s first week dropped “Jeopardy!” out of the top game show spot, falling behind “Family Feud” which pulled in a 5.5 rating. Cooper’s 5.1 was just below Dr. Oz’s 5.2 rating for his debut week, which had been the previous low for a “Jeopardy!” guest host. Rodgers, the (for now) Green Bay Packers quarterback, began his run with a 5.6; his second week drew a 5.5 rating.” (The Wrap)


Meat giant goes plant-based

Tyson Foods is entering the increasingly-crowded plant-based food industry, as it debuts its first fully vegan burger. After its first failed attempt with a plant protein and beef hybrid patty, Tyson released a lineup of fully vegan meat products. With the plant-based market expected to reach $450 billion in revenue and make up a quarter of the meat market by 2040, Tyson is the next in line to enter the industry following competitors like Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat. (Bloomberg)


Verizon Bails

Telecommunications giant Verizon will sell its media group, including AOL and Yahoo, to private equity firm Apollo Global Management for a reported $5 Billion Dollars. The price tag represents just over half of what Verizon paid for the two companies in 2015 and 2017. Analysts say the move allows Verizon to focus on growing its internet provider and wireless services.  The sale is also somewhat symbolic. AOL, whose origins date back to 1983, was one of the biggest companies of the early internet age, dominating market share in connectivity, email, news, and chat. At the height of the tech bubble, the company was valued near $220B. Similarly, Yahoo was a dominant player in the search engine space before the arrival of Google, with a value exceeding $100B, but failed to successfully transition to a broader media company. The deal is expected to be completed in the second half of this year. (CBS News)


WA State High School Caught Bribing Students To Get The COVID Vaccine

A Seattle, Washington-area high school is encouraging students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In return for getting the jab, roughly half of the student’s community service requirements for graduation will be satisfied. The Chimacum Junior/Senior High School (CJSHS), located in Port Townsend, sent a letter to students last week with ideas for how they can complete the 55 hours of community service that is required in order to receive a diploma. The school emailed students this week with ideas saying that students can pick up litter, attend an online school board Zoom meeting, or write a letter to a newspaper editor, but one community service option caught a parent’s attention: getting the COVID vaccine. Students who decide to get the COVID vaccine and submit proof of immunization will receive credit for 25 hours worth of community service. “At CJSHS, we are providing our students with opportunities to improve their community in ways accessible to them given the circumstances of this pandemic,” CJSHS Principal said via email. “Vaccination is just one of the voluntary ways that students can choose to fulfill this requirement. We know that immunization helps protect our community, which is why we call it a service. There is no coercion; students can choose any of the options or suggest their own”, he added. One parent rightfully took issue with the school incentivizing a health decision that’s between the student, their parents, and their doctors. The parent believes this is a way for the school to “influence” students’ decisions and push them toward getting a vaccine they would otherwise shy away from. This incentive encourages minors to make medical decisions they aren’t mature enough to make. If a teenager wants to receive the vaccine but his or her parents object to it, the community service incentive can encourage students to falsify their parents’ signatures and circumvent safeguards to get the vaccine. Other parents agreed that schools, teachers, and administrators need to stay out of medical decisions. They don’t know if a student has allergies or religious reasons for not getting the vaccine. Maybe their doctors have advised against it or they weighed the pros and cons and simply decided the vaccine wasn’t for them. It doesn’t matter the reason why a teenager does or does not get the jab. It’s none of the school’s business. (KTTH)


Trucker shortage could lead to shortage and price increase in gas, groceries, and more

The ongoing trucker shortage means many companies are having to up the prices of their products to afford the drivers that are out there. That’s one of the reasons for rising gas prices, a trucking experts say about a few potholes ahead for the trucking industry could mean a few holes in our pockets soon. Gasoline has been the hot little topic, but the reality is, it’s not just gasoline. Experts predict we are going to see a shortage in meat, all of your grocery items, retail items, and there’s a massive appliance shortage right now worldwide. Another potential toilet paper shortage in 2021 can’t be ruled out either as everything is effected from lumber and construction items to diapers and groceries because there’s a shortage of the people who deliver those items. Truckers bring the supply to those who demand it. (WBMA)


Chinese tech giant Baidu launches paid driverless taxi service in Beijing, becoming the first company to offer autonomous transportation in China

Chinese tech giant Baidu rolled out its paid driverless taxi service on Sunday, making it the first company to commercialize autonomous driving operations in China. Unlike previous Baidu autonomous driving demonstrations in Beijing, this was the first time there was no safety driver sitting behind the wheel. Instead, a safety member was seated in the front passenger seat to deal with any emergencies. Up to 10 Apollo “robotaxis” are now operating simultaneously in an area of about 3 square kilometers (1.2 square miles), picking up and dropping off passengers at eight stops in Shougang Park in western Beijing. Each ride costs 30 yuan ($4.60), and is open to passengers ages 18 to 60. Passengers can order a robotaxi on an app called Apollo Go. When the taxi arrives, passengers must have their identities verified before getting in. The taxi will start to move after it detects the passengers have fastened their seat belts. Baidu, known for its search engines, has been testing autonomous driving on the open road since last year. Its Apollo Go robotaxi service has carried more than 210,000 passengers in three cities across China and aims to expand to 30 cities in the next three years, the company said in a press release. (ABC News)


The Environmental Protection Agency proposes industry-backed rule phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons in refrigerators and air conditioners

The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and more than 35 other industry and environmental organizations, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April to set national targets to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in refrigerators, air conditioners, and other appliances. The EPA has proposed to slash the use of HFCs, a potent climate-warming gas, by 85% over the next 15 years. The proposal would set annual “allocations” that gradually decline for each HFC producer and importer in the US. EPA chief said in a statement, “By phasing down HFCs, which can be hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, EPA is taking a major action to help keep global temperature rise in check.” (Electrek)


Volkswagen will design and develop its own AI chips for autonomous vehicles

Volkswagen does not intend to manufacture the chips but will rather own the patents. Its software unit Cariad will develop the chips along with the required software. The move is designed to help Volkswagen better compete against Tesla, which can integrate its chips into its vehicles, enabling it to develop new features quicker than other automakers. Volkswagen’s CEO acknowledged Tesla had a “higher competence” in developing AI chips. In February, it was reported Volkswagen would develop autonomous vehicle technology internally. This would give it full control over product development and the ability to license the technology to others. Volkswagen delivered 231,600 electric vehicles last year, compared to 499,550 from Tesla. (Reuters)


Germany has canceled its Oktoberfest celebration for the second year in a row due to an ongoing coronavirus surge

Germany’s Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival held every year in Munich, will not take place in 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis, officials said. The pandemic has forced the cancellation of the hugely popular festival for the second consecutive year. It had been scheduled from September 18 to October 3. The decision was made by Bavarian state Premier and Munich Mayor. They said that “Oktoberfest is the “most global” festival there is, and that the pandemic is not yet under enough control to allow people from all over the world to gather in tents.” (DW)


European countries plan to open their borders to fully-vaccinated foreign travelers in June

People from countries with low infection rates will also be allowed into the EU, according to what the European Commission president tweeted. To enter the EU, travelers would need to be fully vaccinated with one of the shots authorized by the European Medicines Agency, which include the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson jabs. Children would need negative PCR COVID tests to travel with their parents. Regardless of their vaccination status, people traveling from countries with low coronavirus cases will be allowed to enter the EU.  The countries that as of now comply with what the EU considers a low caseload are Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. An “emergency brake” mechanism will allow EU countries to turn away travelers from countries that see a rapid increase in cases or which detect new coronavirus variants that spread more easily. EU countries can impose their own requirements, such as COVID tests for passengers or quarantines. The U.K. also plans to ease border restrictions starting on May 17 under a “traffic light system.” (BBC)


Wednesday Comes Humping Back With:

  • African World Hertitage Day
  • Astronaut Day
  • Bike To School Day
  • Cartoonists Day
  • Chanel No. 5 Day
  • Childhood Stroke Awareness Day
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Day to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy (First Wednesday)
  • Deaf Interpreter Day (First Wednesday)
  • Great American Grump Out (First Wednesday)
  • Hoagie Day
  • International Day of The Midwife
  • International Roller Derby Day
  • Skilled Trades Day (First Wednesday)
  • Revenge of the Fifth (Star Wars Sith)
  • Silence The Shame Day
  • Skilled Trades Day
  • Totally Chipotle Day
  • World Asthma Day
  • World Portuguese Language Day


Historical Events

553 – The Second Council of Constantinople begins.

1762 – Russia and Prussia sign the Treaty of St. Petersburg.

1789 – In France, the Estates-General convenes for the first time since 1614.

1811 – In the second day of fighting at the Peninsular War Battle of Fuentes de Onoro the French army, under Marshall Massena, drive in the Duke of Wellington’s overextended right flank, but French frontal assaults fail to take the town of Fuentes de Onoro and the Anglo-Portugese army holds the field at the end of the day.

1886 – The Bay View Tragedy: A militia fires into a crowd of protesters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, killing seven.

1925 – Scopes Trial: serving of an arrest warrant on John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in violation of the Butler Act.

1940 – World War II: Norwegian Campaign – Norwegian squads in Hegra Fortress and Vinjesvingen capitulate to the Nazis after all other Norwegian forces in southern Norway had laid down their arms.

1980 – Operation Nimrod: The British Special Air Service storms the Iranian embassy in London after a six-day siege.

1987 – Iran-Contra affair: start of Congressional televised hearings in the United States of America

1994 – American teenager Michael P. Fay is caned in Singapore for theft and vandalism, a punishment that many in the United States deemed to be excessive for a teenager committing a non-violent crime. However, significant numbers of Americans were also in favor of it.