Thursday, May 20, 2021

Israel to pay students to defend it online

Israel is looking to hire university students to post pro-Israel messages on social media networks — without needing to identify themselves as government-linked, officials said. The Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement that students on Israeli university campuses would receive full or partial scholarships to combat anti-Semitism and calls to boycott Israel online. It said students’ messages would parallel statements by government officials. “This is a groundbreaking project aimed at strengthening Israeli national diplomacy and adapting it to changes in information consumption,” the statement said. An Israeli official said that scholarship recipients would be free to decide whether or not to identify themselves as part of the program, which would begin within months. (USA Today)


Ford cutting production, temporarily shutting down plants amid chip shortage

Ford is cutting back on production and issuing a series of temporary plant shutdowns as the automaker continues to feel the pain from a global semiconductor chip shortage. The announcement was made via an internal memo which include the following changes:

  • The Chicago assembly plant will be down the week of May 31 and will operate on a reduced schedule the week of June 7.
  • The Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant will be down the weeks of May 31 and June 7.
  • The Dearborn truck plant in Michigan and the Kansas City assembly plant – truck line – will be down the weeks of May 31 and June 7 and will operate on a reduced schedule the week of June 14.
  • The Hermosillo, Mexico assembly plant will be down the weeks of June 21 and June 28.
  • The Louisville, Kentucky assembly plant will be down starting the week of May 31 through the week of June 28.
  • The Oakville, Canada assembly complex will be down beginning the week of May 31 through the week of June 21.
  • The Ohio assembly plant will produce only Super Duty Chassis cabs and Medium Duty trucks the weeks of May 31, June 7 and June 14.

The vehicles impacted from the shutdown range from the Ford Mustang and Escape crossover to the F-150 pickup and the Bronco Sport SUV. (Fox Business)


Working moms’ post-pandemic crisis

The pandemic has disproportionately affected women in more ways than one. Only 56% of American women are working for pay, the lowest amount since 1986, as many women were forced to leave their jobs to stay home with their children once schools and child care centers closed. Not only has the pandemic impacted women’s professional lives, but their home lives as well. Women are carrying more of the burden domestically and a study has shown that domestic violence against women has increased significantly. (The New York Times)


Hotels can’t staff up

Similar to what we’re seeing across other industries, most notably in the restaurant industry, the hotel sector is grappling with staffing shortages. And those who are working are wearing many hats, from front desk attendant to housekeeper. Part of the problem is many who lost jobs in hospitality last year have moved on to other industries, though reasons for the “staffing challenge” are likely manifold. As vaccinations increase across the globe, travel should increase, but hotels will be forced to limit guest stays if they don’t have staff to keep up. (The Wall Street Journal)


Divorces fall 70% in China after government orders couples to cool off

The number of divorces recorded in China has fallen by more than 70% since the introduction of a mandatory “cooling-off” period earlier this year. According to statistics released by the country’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, 296,000 divorces were registered in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 1.06 million in the final quarter of last year, a drop of 72%. There was a nearly 52% drop year-on-year, from 612,000 in the first quarter of 2020. Under a new Civil Code which came into force on January 1, couples filing for divorce must wait 30 days after submitting their application, during which time either party can withdraw the petition. They must then apply again after the month is up in order for the marriage to be ended. The law, based on local legislation already in force in several parts of the country, was widely criticized as hampering personal freedoms and potentially trapping people in unhappy or even violent marriages. But supporters in state media defended it as “ensuring family stability and social order.” (CNN)


DNA sequencing of ancient stool samples provides a glimpse of the human gut microbiome before the industrial revolution, dozens of previously unknown bacterial species discovered 

The microbial cells that inhabit the human gut, collectively called the gut microbiota or microbiome, have key influences on our metabolic and immune-system biology. Many microorganisms are passed down over the generations. However, the gut microbiota (tracked by analyzing the microbial DNA in feces) can be radically reshaped within days to months of certain events, such as immigration into a different country5 or antibiotic treatment. Defining which microbes were once part of our evolutionary history and have since been lost might provide a key to understanding the relationship between microbes and human health. By using DNA sequencing to study the microbiomes of human stool samples that are 1,000–2,000 years old, this study provides valuable insights into gut microbes from a time before industrialization. The high quality of the data generated enabled the authors to detect known microbial species and to discover previously unknown microbes through the reconstruction of microbial genomes. A total of 181 of the 498 reconstructed microbial genomes were classified as gut derived and had extensive DNA damage, consistent with an ancient origin, and 39% of the ancient genomes offered evidence of being newly discovered species. (Nature)


Century-old lung tissues extracted from World War I soldiers provide genetic insight into how the 1918 Spanish Flu evolved to become deadlier over time

Three teenagers, two soldiers and a civilian, were among the 50 million or more estimated casualties of the 1918 influenza A pandemic. However, unlike most people who were killed by the virus, the lungs of the three were saved, preserved in formalin for more than one hundred years. Now, these organs are providing genetic clues as to why the virus took so many lives. The 1918 pandemic, a zoonotic disease thought to have jumped into people from birds, was one of the deadliest pandemics on record. Especially lethal were the second and third waves of cases, which occurred starting in the fall of that year. It’s likely that variants of the virus played a role in the differing damage caused by each wave. Unfortunately, obtaining viral RNA sequences from samples that old is technically fraught. While the RNA was highly fragmented, the team was able to reconstruct between 60 and 90 percent of the genomes of the viruses that killed the two soldiers, and the entire genome of the virus that killed the civilian. The new sequences are all from the first wave of the pandemic, and when compared with the previously described strains from later on in the pandemic, they hint at how the virus may have become deadlier. (The Scientist)


The U.S. Coast Guard will allow certain organizations to set up shop in four historic lighthouses, for free

The offer applies to public agencies, nonprofits, educational and community development organizations, and groups devoted to parks and recreation. They have 60 days to file applications to take over four lighthouses, including Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown, Rhode Island, America’s third-oldest lighthouse. The other three are Watch Hill Light in Rhode Island, Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light in Ohio, and Duluth Harbor North Pierhead Light in Minnesota. The federal government has been trying to get rid of obsolete lighthouses for years, but running one usually involves high costs and sometimes the cleaning of decades worth of gull and pigeon feces. (Associated News)


Oregon counties vote to secede to Idaho

Voters in five rural Oregon counties approved measures to consider joining the state of Idaho, a part of a long-shot grassroots movement to break with a state dominated by liberal voters west of the Cascade Mountains. Voters in Malheur, Sherman, Grant, Baker and Lake counties all approved measures that would require county officials to take steps to promote moving the Idaho border west to incorporate their populations. They join two other rural counties, Jefferson and Union, whose voters approved measures promoting a move to Idaho last year. The local measures are backed by Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, a local organization that wants to grow Idaho west and south into some counties in Northern California. (The Hill)


Groom goes missing, bride marries wedding guest instead

In a bizarre incident, the bride got married to one of the ‘baraatis’ (member of the marriage party from the groom’s side) after the groom disappeared mysteriously from the wedding venue. The incident took place recently in Maharajpur area in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The ‘jaimala’ (exchange of garlands) ceremony had taken place and the families were preparing for the main wedding ceremony when the groom suddenly disappeared. Both the families began frantically searching for the groom and the bride was distraught at the turn of events. After searching for a while, the bride’s family members came to know that the groom was not missing, but had deliberately fled from the spot for reasons best-known to him. Seeing the bride’s family upset, one of the guests from the groom’s side suggested that the marriage should be solemnized with another suitable guy from the area. The bride’s family zeroed in on one of the boys and their respective families, after consultations, agreed on the alliance. The marriage was solemnized at the venue. Later, the bride’s family lodged a complaint against the groom and his family members. (Khaleej Times)


Louisiana offshore lift boat capsized while lowering legs, turning into heavy winds

An offshore oil industry boat had begun to lower its legs and was trying to turn to face heavy winds when it flipped in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana last month, according to a preliminary federal report. The National Transportation Safety Board report does not discuss the cause of the deadly accident. Six people were rescued, six bodies were found and another seven are still missing and presumed dead. The full investigation could take up to two years. The 175-foot lift boat Seacor Power carried nine crew members, two galley staff and eight offshore workers when it overturned in the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane-force winds April 13, the report said. Lift boats have three or four legs, which tower above a boat that’s moving and can be lowered to the bottom to raise the vessel as a temporary offshore platform. It said other vessels in the area reported winds of more than 80 knots (92 mph, 148 kph), heavy rain and building seas about 3:30 p.m., when the accident occurred. A rain squall passed over the boat as it moved into the Gulf’s open waters, and visibility dropped significantly. (NBC News)


‘Hangry’ alligator chases people through Wendy’s parking lot in Florida

Deputies captured a 6-foot alligator after they say it chased pedestrians through a Wendy’s parking lot in Lee County, Florida. Officials responded and encountered the beast. “He may have just been ‘hangry’ for a cheeseburger, but he gave many quite the scare!” the sheriff’s office wrote on Twitter. Photos show a trapper with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission wrangling the gator. The sheriff’s office says the gator was safely relocated. No injuries were reported. It’s just one of several reports of alligator sightings, which are on the increase due to the beginning of gator mating season – which typically begins in May or June. (Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District Twitter)


224-pound Russian woman reportedly killed husband with her buttocks

A 224-pound Russian woman faces some heavy-duty justice for sitting on her husband and strangling him to death with her massive buttocks during a boozy dispute, a report said. He even begged for her to let him go. The woman’s daughter saw him pinned face down on the bed and ran to seek help from neighbors. A female neighbor who arrived reportedly decided the couple were in the midst of a domestic dispute and left. The woman said she merely wanted to calm her hubby down after the couple had been drinking. The husband died from “asphyxia from blocking the respiratory system” as his face was wedged into the mattress, as his wife sat on his neck “using her legs so he could not lift it,” a medical examination found. (New York Post)


Thursday Gleams With:

  • Association of Psychometrist’s Day
  • Be a Millionaire Day
  • Eliza Doolittle Day
  • Everybody Draw Mohammed Day
  • International Red Sneakers Day
  • Pick Strawberries Day
  • Quiche Lorraine Day
  • Red Sneakers Day
  • Rescue Dog Day
  • Stop The Bleed Day
  • Weights & Measures Day
  • World Autoimmune/Autoinflammatory Arthritis Day (World AiArthritis Day)
  • World Bee Day


Historical Events

1217 – The Second Battle of Lincoln is fought near Lincoln, England, resulting in the defeat of Prince Louis of France by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke.

1861 – American Civil War: The state of Kentucky proclaims its neutrality, which will last until September 3 when Confederate forces enter the state. Meanwhile, the State of North Carolina secedes from the Union.

1873 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.

1902 – Cuba gains independence from the United States. Tomás Estrada Palma becomes the country’s first President.

1908 – Budi Utomo organization is founded in Dutch East Indies, beginning the Indonesian National Awakening.

1927 – At 07:52 Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris at 22:22 the next day.

1941 – World War II: Battle of Crete – German paratroops invade Crete.

1980 – In a referendum in Quebec, the population rejects by a 60% vote the proposal from its government to move towards independence from Canada.

1989 – The Chinese authorities declare martial law in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations, setting the scene for the Tiananmen Square massacre.

1990 – The first post-Communist presidential and parliamentary elections are held in Romania.