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Updated: 18 hours 52 min ago

Will Smith Talks About Oscars Slap In First Major Interview

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 17:25

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Actor Will Smith is opening up about that infamous Oscars slap in his first major TV interview since all of that drama at the Oscars.

Appearing on "The Daily Show," partly to promote his new movie, "Emancipation," Smith told host Trevor Noah about the moment when he slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage during that live Oscars broadcast eight months ago after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. 

"That was a horrific night, as you can imagine. You know, there's many nuances and complexities to it but at the end of the day, I just — I lost it," Smith told Noah. "And you just don't know what's going on with people, you know ... And I was going through something that night — not that that justifies my behavior at all."

SEE MORE: Report: Chris Rock Said He Denied Offer To Host 2023 Oscars

You might remember shortly after that slap, as expected, Smith went on to win the Oscar for best actor. It was supposed to be the greatest night of his career. Ultimately, though, he said it was one of the best and worst nights of his life. Smith ended up resigning from the Academy of Motion Pictures and then was banned from attending the awards ceremony for the next 10 years. He also posted a public apology to Rock on social media. Rock has never really accepted that apology, though he has talked during some of his recent standup performances. 

Now, many are wondering if Smith can actually repair his career with this media tour and his ongoing apology. So let's talk about it. Stacy Jones, CEO and founder of Hollywood Branded, joined Newsy's "Morning Rush" to take a closer look at Smith's strategy. Is it promotional for the movie? Or is it a genuine apology?

SEE MORE: Will Smith Posts Apology Video For Slapping Chris Rock

"Hollywood is a machine, if nothing else, right?" Jones said. "So it's a little bit of both. But there's absolutely strategy here. His team has been working on it. This is not something that there's a known solution for. This is not something that is so horrendous as far as something he's done, but we're all taking it incredibly almost personally, because we all like the guy and this is not who we expected him to be," Jones said. "He fell from a pedestal that night that his adoring fans have really placed him on. No matter what our green-eyed jealousy towards actors who have it all and the general belief that they should be perfect, the role of the celebrity comes with immense pressure to perform and keep it together. We forget that, despite stardom and money and adoring fans, celebrities were just once normal people, too, and are no more naturally equipped to handle messing up than you or I."

Holocaust Survivors Offered DNA Tests To Help Find Family

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 16:29

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For decades, Jackie Young had been searching.

Orphaned as an infant, he spent the first few years of his life in a Nazi internment camp in what is now the Czech Republic. After World War II he was taken to England, adopted and given a new name.

As an adult, he struggled to learn of his origins and his family. He had some scant information about his birth mother, who died in a concentration camp. But about his father? Nothing. Just a blank space on a birth certificate.

That changed earlier this year when genealogists were able to use a DNA sample to help find a name — and some relatives he never knew he had.

Having that answer to a lifelong question has been “amazing," said Young, now 80 and living in London. It “opened the door that I thought would never get opened."

Now there's an effort underway to bring that possibility to other Holocaust survivors and their children.

SEE MORE: 101-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Still Working To Fight Antisemitism

The New York-based Center for Jewish History is launching the DNA Reunion Project, offering DNA testing kits for free through an application on its website. For those who use the kits it is also offering a chance to get some guidance on next steps from the genealogists who worked with Young.

Those genealogists, Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman, have been doing this kind of work over the last several years, and run a Facebook group about Jewish DNA and genetic genealogy.

The advent of DNA technology has opened up a new world of possibilities in addition to the paper trails and archives that Holocaust survivors and their descendants have used to learn about family connections severed by genocide, Newman said.

“There are times when people are separated and they don’t even realize they’re separated. Maybe a name change occurred so they didn’t know to look for the other person," she said. “There are cases that simply cannot be solved without DNA."

While interest in genealogy and family trees is widespread, there's a particular poignancy in doing this work in a community where so many family ties have been ripped apart because of the Holocaust, Mendelsohn said.

Her earliest effort in this arena was for her husband's grandmother, who had lost her mother in a concentration camp. That effort led to aunts and cousins that no one in her husband's family had known about.

SEE MORE: Holocaust Survivors And Their Descendants Share Generational Trauma

Her husband's uncle, she said, called afterwards and said, “You know, I’ve never seen a photograph of my grandmother. Now that I see photographs of her sisters, it’s so comforting to me. I can imagine what she look like.”

“How do you explain why that’s powerful? It just is. People had nothing. Their families were erased. And now we can bring them back a little bit,” Mendelsohn said.

She and Newman take pains to emphasize that there are no guarantees. Doing the testing or searching archives doesn't mean a guarantee of finding living relatives or new information. But it offers a chance.

They and the center are encouraging people to take that chance, especially as time passes and the number of living survivors declines.

“It really is the last moment where these survivors can be given some modicum of justice," said Gavriel Rosenfeld, president of the center.

“We feel the urgency of this," Newman said. “I wanted to start yesterday, and that’s why it’s like, no time like the present."

Rosenfeld said the center had allocated an initial $15,000 for the DNA kits in this initial pilot effort, which would cover about 500 of them. He said they would look to scale up further if they see enough interest.

Ken Engel thinks there will be. He leads a group in Minnesota for the children of Holocaust survivors and has already told his membership about the program.

"This is an important effort," Engel said. “It may reveal and disclose wonderful information for them that they never knew about, may make them feel more settled or more connected to the past."

Young definitely feels that way.

“I’ve been wanting to know all my life," he said. “If I hadn’t known what I do know now, I think I would still felt that my left arm or my right arm wasn’t fully formed. Family is everything, it’s the major pillar of life in humanity."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

U.K. Royals Arrive In Boston To Showcase Youthful Monarchy

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 15:18

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The Prince and Princess of Wales embarked Wednesday on their first overseas trip since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, aiming to showcase the younger face of a monarchy that is tackling important issues like climate change as it attempts to remain relevant in a modern, multicultural Britain.

The three-day trip to Boston is focused on Prince William's splashy initiative to award millions of dollars to a new generation of environmental entrepreneurs who are developing everything from cleaner burning stoves to alternatives to leather. It will include visits to a program for at-risk youth, a sustainability lab and a tour of Boston's shoreline to see the city's effort to combat climate change.

It will culminate Friday in the awarding of the prince's signature Earthshot Prize, a global competition aimed at finding new ways to protect the planet and tackle climate change.

After their arrival, the beaming royal couple strolled onto a stage at City Hall Plaza — William wearing a single-vent navy suit and Kate radiant in a Burberry dress and Alexander McQueen coat, and earrings by designer Shyla London — amid tight security and a cheering crowd, many snapping photos and video.

Prince William told the crowd that one of President John F. Kennedy's speeches was the inspiration to hold the second Earthshot Prize in Boston.

"It was that moonshot speech that inspired me to launch the Earthshot Prize with the aim of doing the same for climate change as President Kennedy did for the space race. And where better to hold this year's awards ceremony than in President Kennedy's hometown," William said.

Later, the couple sat courtside for a Boston Celtics-Miami Heat game, joined by team managing partner Wyc Grousbeck, co-owner and president Steve Pagliuca and his wife, Judy, along with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey.

SEE MORE: How Could The Monarchy Change Under King Charles III?

The royal couple was announced to a cheering Garden crowd during a timeout in the second quarter and briefly shown on the video screen. But a security official stepped in front of the camera, eliciting a chorus of boos.

The visit comes less than three months after the death of Queen Elizabeth, whose personal popularity dampened criticism of the crown during her 70-year reign. King Charles III, William's father, has made clear that his will be a slimmed-down monarchy, with less pomp and ceremony than its predecessors.

"I think this is less about saving the Earth and more about saving the royal family,'' said Boston University professor Arianne Chernock, an expert in modern British history. "To be honest, we've seen Charles as king and his first months in that position trying to feel his way, find his way towards being a more relevant, more modern monarch. And I think we see something similar happening with William and Kate.''

Part of that reset involves reclaiming the hearts and minds of people in America, where William's younger brother, Prince Harry, and sister-in-law, Meghan, have dominated the media since moving to California in 2020. Harry and Meghan have criticized the royal family for alleged racism and insensitive treatment and built their own media profile by making films and podcasts for Netflix and Spotify.

The Netflix series "The Crown" has also resurrected some of the more troubled times of the House of Windsor, including the collapse of Charles' marriage to the late Princess Diana, William's mother, amid mutual allegations of infidelity.

But William and Kate are keen to tell a different story, about their work on environmental issues, mental health and early childhood education.

During a gala concert celebrating the queen's Platinum Jubilee in June, William delivered a speech highlighting his grandmother's and father's pioneering work on the environment, as images of jungles and oceans were projected on the walls of Buckingham Palace behind him.

Kate last week wrote an opinion piece on the need to improve the lives of young children that appeared in The Daily Telegraph, one of Britain's most influential newspapers, alongside a photo of the princess sitting cross-legged among a group of elementary school students.

SEE MORE: Prince William Charity Invests With Bank Tied To Dirty Fuels

William and Kate's last visit to the United States was in 2014, not long after their wedding. During that trip, the glamorous young couple were feted as they toured the eastern U.S. Eight years later, now in their 40s and with three young children, the prince and princess are finally having a return engagement.

On Wednesday, they were greeted at the airport by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker before heading to City Hall to meet Mayor Wu and Gov.-elect Healy ahead of a visit to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum. President Joe Biden planned to greet the couple later in the week.

City Hall, along with 15 other landmarks, was lit up in green to mark the kickoff of the Earthshot celebrations.

Andrew Warburton, who grew up in Bristol, England, praised their environmental work while waiting for the event. "They represent the future in that way," he said.

Pamela Spencer, a school teacher, waited with her two sisters in hopes of giving William and Kate a bouquet of flowers.

"They are following in the footsteps of her late majesty. I'm really here to show them they have a lot of support in New England," Spencer said.

On Thursday, William and Kate will visit Roca Inc., highlighting the racial equity group's efforts to improve the lives of young people by addressing issues such as poverty, incarceration and trauma from urban violence. They will also visit Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child, a leader in research into the long-term impact of early childhood experiences.

But throughout the trip, William's eye will be on the Earthshot Prize.

The ability of the royals to shine a light on the issue and fuse their fame with entertainers such as Billie Eilish, who is set to headline the awards show, is likely to make people pay attention.

Earthshot offers $1.2 million in prize money to each of the winners of five separate categories: nature protection, clean air, ocean revival, waste elimination and climate change. The winners and all 15 finalists also receive help in expanding their projects to meet global demand.

The winners are set to be announced Friday at Boston's MGM Music Hall as part of a glitzy show headlined by Eilish, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe x Halle. The show will also feature videos narrated by naturalist David Attenborough and actor Cate Blanchett.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

San Francisco Will Allow Police To Deploy Robots That Kill

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 15:01

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Supervisors in San Francisco voted Tuesday to give city police the ability to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations — following an emotionally charged debate that reflected divisions on the politically liberal board over support for law enforcement.

The vote was 8-3, with the majority agreeing to grant police the option despite strong objections from civil liberties and other police oversight groups. Opponents said the authority would lead to the further militarization of a police force already too aggressive with poor and minority communities.

Supervisor Connie Chan, a member of the committee that forwarded the proposal to the full board, said she understood concerns over use of force but that "according to state law, we are required to approve the use of these equipments. So here we are, and it's definitely not a easy discussion."

The San Francisco Police Department said it does not have pre-armed robots and has no plans to arm robots with guns. But the department could deploy robots equipped with explosive charges "to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect" when lives are at stake, SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement.

"Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives," she said.

Supervisors amended the proposal Tuesday to specify that officers could use robots only after using alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through those alternative means. Only a limited number of high-ranking officers could authorize use of robots as a deadly force option.

San Francisco police currently have a dozen functioning ground robots used to assess bombs or provide eyes in low visibility situations, the department says. They were acquired between 2010 and 2017, and not once have they been used to deliver an explosive device, police officials said.

But explicit authorization was required after a new California law went into effect this year requiring police and sheriffs departments to inventory military-grade equipment and seek approval for their use.

The state law was authored last year by San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu while he was an assembly member. It is aimed at giving the public a forum and voice in the acquisition and use of military-grade weapons that have a negative effect on communities, according to the legislation.

A federal program has long dispensed grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, bayonets, armored vehicles and other surplus military equipment to help local law enforcement.

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump signed an order reviving the Pentagon program after his predecessor, Barack Obama, curtailed it in 2015, triggered in part by outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown.

San Francisco police said late Tuesday that no robots were obtained from military surplus, but some were purchased with federal grant money.

Like many places around the U.S., San Francisco is trying to balance public safety with treasured civilian rights such as privacy and the ability to live free of excessive police oversight. In September, supervisors agreed to a trial run allowing police to access in real time private surveillance camera feeds in certain circumstances.

Debate on Tuesday ran more than two hours with members on both sides accusing the other of reckless fear mongering.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who voted in favor of the policy authorization, said he was troubled by rhetoric painting the police department as untrustworthy and dangerous.

"I think there's larger questions raised when progressives and progressive policies start looking to the public like they are anti-police," he said. "I think that is bad for progressives. I think it's bad for this Board of Supervisors. I think it's bad for Democrats nationally."

Board President Shamann Walton, who voted against the proposal, pushed back, saying it made him not anti-police, but "pro people of color."

"We continuously are being asked to do things in the name of increasing weaponry and opportunities for negative interaction between the police department and people of color," he said. "This is just one of those things."

The San Francisco Public Defender's office sent a letter Monday to the board saying that granting police "the ability to kill community members remotely" goes against the city's progressive values. The office wanted the board to reinstate language barring police from using robots against any person in an act of force.

On the other side of the San Francisco Bay, the Oakland Police Department has dropped a similar proposal after public backlash.

The first time a robot was used to deliver explosives in the U.S. was in 2016, when Dallas police sent in an armed robot that killed a holed-up sniper who had killed five officers in an ambush.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

SEE MORE: From The Archives: Dallas Shooting: The Ethics Of Using A Robot To Kill

China Vows Crackdown On 'Hostile Forces' As Public Tests Xi

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 14:44

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China’s ruling Communist Party has vowed to “resolutely crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces,” following the largest street demonstrations in decades staged by citizens fed up with strict anti-virus restrictions.

The statement from the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission released late Tuesday comes amid a massive show of force by security services to deter a recurrence of the protests that broke out over the weekend in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and several other cities.

SEE MORE: Crowd Angered By Lockdowns Calls For China's Xi To Step Down

While it did not directly address the protests, the statement serves as a reminder of the party’s determination to enforce its rule.

Hundreds of SUVs, vans and armored vehicles with flashing lights were parked along city streets Wednesday while police and paramilitary forces conducted random ID checks and searched people’s mobile phones for photos, banned apps or other potential evidence that they had taken part in the demonstrations.

The number of people who have been detained at the demonstrations and in follow-up police actions is not known.

While reports and footage of the protests have flourished online before being scrubbed by government censors, they have been ignored entirely by the strictly controlled state media.

Further diverting attention was Wednesday evening's national news dominated by the death of former president and Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin at the age of 96.

Jiang was installed as leader just ahead of the bloody suppression of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, and later presided over an era of breakneck economic growth during the 1990s and early 2000s while still maintaining rigid party control.

The commission's statement, issued after an expanded session Monday presided over by its head Chen Wenqing, a member of the party's 24-member Politburo, said the meeting aimed to review the outcomes of October's 20th party congress.

At that event, Xi granted himself a third five-year term as secretary general, potentially making him China's leader for life, while stacking key bodies with loyalists and eliminating opposing voices.

SEE MORE: Doctors Worry For COVID Effects On Seniors, Particularly In China

“The meeting emphasized that political and legal organs must take effective measures to … resolutely safeguard national security and social stability," the statement said.

“We must resolutely crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces in accordance with the law, resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order and effectively maintain overall social stability," it said.

Yet, less than a month after seemingly ensuring his political future and unrivaled dominance, Xi, who has signaled he favors regime stability above all, is facing his biggest public challenge yet.

He and the party have yet to directly address the unrest, which spread to college campuses and the semi-autonomous southern city of Hong Kong, as well as sparking sympathy protests abroad.

Most protesters focused their ire on the “zero-COVID" policy that has placed millions under lockdown and quarantine, limiting their access to food and medicine while ravaging the economy and severely restricting travel. Many mocked the government's ever-changing line of reasoning, as well as claims that “hostile outside foreign forces" were stirring the wave of anger.

Yet bolder voices called for greater freedom and democracy and for Xi, China's most powerful leader in decades, as well as the party he leads, to step down — speech considered subversive and punishable with lengthy prison terms. Some held up blank pieces of white paper to demonstrate their lack of free speech rights.

The weekend protests were sparked by anger over the deaths of at least 10 people in a fire on Nov. 24 in China’s far west that prompted angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by anti-virus controls.

Authorities eased some controls and announced a new push to vaccinate vulnerable groups after the demonstrations, but maintained they would stick to the “zero-COVID” strategy.

“Zero COVID” has helped keep case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries, but global health experts including the head of the World Health Organization increasingly say it is unsustainable. China dismissed the remarks as irresponsible.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Ukrainian Powerlifter Champions Survival Of Mykolaiv's Abandoned Pets

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 02:03

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Russia has bombed or fired missiles at Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on all but a few dozen days — a frequency unparalleled in any other Ukrainian city.

It's caused the deaths of some pet owners, and thousands have fled, reluctantly leaving behind their animals who now endure the war alone.

Former powerlifter Anna Kurkurina has never left Mykolaiv, and now she's made saving those animals her mission.

In the war, her front line is the place where packs of dogs and cats, former pets, scavenge for food. 

NEWSY'S JASON BELLINI: You will continue to feed these animals all winter long?

ANNA KURKURINA: How can you abandon your children? These are children. We are responsible for them.

Kurkurina says she visits dogs at different locations every day she has food, but that hasn't been easy.

"Now I have no food, and I'm searching; the most tragic thing in my life is when I don't have food," Kurkurina said. "I feel really bad because all over the city and from many villages people call me and ask me for food for the dogs, and it makes me realize that animals are dying."

But perhaps even more vital are the insulated dog houses she has in her van. She's delivering them to places where the animals collect. She hopes that with the shelters and the warmth of one another, dogs there will survive the brutal winter.

In one day of Kurkurina's mission, Newsy's Jason Bellini followed along. A woman showed the forest sanctuary she built for abandoned cats at an apartment complex, and shared how one recently showed up too weak and malnourished to be saved. Later, Kurkurina met a local pet store owner who offered her some bags of food he had in storage. Then, she returned to her home, which is filled with the many animals she has rescued — along with images of her powerlifting past.

SEE MORE: NATO Commits To Future Ukraine Membership, Drums Up Aid

Before Russia's invasion in February, Kurkurina trained young weightlifting athletes. She says the sport prepared her for the war in two ways.

"First, I am a world champion, and many people know me," Kurkurina said. "It helped me to get humanitarian aid from my fans; most of them are in Germany and Spain. Second, the most powerful woman on the planet should also be the kindest."

That aid has been crucial, especially for dogs.

Although Kurkurina says cats don't really react to the sounds of war they're now hearing every day, she says dogs have been panicked since the beginning.

"Many of them have died of heart attacks," Kurkurina said. "I'm trying to find sedatives to give the dogs because a lot of their deaths are not from direct missile hits, but from broken hearts."

That's why she's using her network to evacuate them to new homes abroad, and now, with the Russian retreat from Kherson, her home will soon be down two dogs.

"These two German shepherds are from the front line," Kurkurina said. "Their owners were forced to leave during the shelling of villages near Kherson. They weren't allowed to bring them, and they've waited eight months for the moment when they can reunite."

Having a mission and all this love around her helps Kurkurina stay strong, even with her girlfriend being away since February.

"There was the threat that Mykolaiv would be captured," Kurkurina said. "I was worried because she is a very beautiful girl — blonde. Since the Russian army is not very humane with young, beautiful girls, I decided to send her abroad."

Days after Newsy's interview with Kurkurina, Russian missiles struck another apartment complex in Mykolaiv, killing six. But it appears nothing will force a world champion of kindness to quit.

"I won't leave them; I won't be able to ever," Kurkurina said. "You can't continue to live in peace when you save one life while thousands of others die."

New Artificial Intelligence Could Help Humans Actually Talk To Animals

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 02:02

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New developments in artificial intelligence and technology could help humans communicate with their pets and any other animal species that calls Earth home. 

Outside of the field of science, the idea of two-way human-animal communication has existed in pop culture since at least as far back as 1967, when the original "Doctor Dolittle" movie came out. 

But the idea is no longer just a far-fetched movie plot; it's nearing reality.

Scientists have uncovered successful methods of understanding animal language, including the complexities of their various sounds and actions together. 

The research into talking to animals goes back years, but in 2017, scientists figured out one crucial factor in their AI-based endeavor: Languages, both human and animal, can be visualized as shapes, and these shapes are way easier for AI technologies to decipher and decode.

"You ask the AI to build a shape that represents a language," said Aza Raskin, co-founder and president of Earth Species Project. "You could take English, you could take Japanese, and you could rotate one shape on top of the other, and the word that is "dog" ends up in the same spot in both. In the animal domain, when we want to translate animal communication that you can then translate, say, from behavior to what the animals are saying, from what the animals are saying to another dialect of another animal."

SEE MORE: Cats Know Your Voice And Can Tell When You're Talking To Them

Raskin and the California-based nonprofit Earth Species Project is on a mission to decode animal communication based on the advances in AI combined with the growing understanding of how, why, and when animals make certain sounds and actions. Raskin told Newsy about a recent breakthrough development in AI technology that's brought humans closer than ever to talking to furry friends.

"You can put in three seconds of anyone's voice — my voice, your voice — and the computer will continue to speak in your voice after those three seconds are up, so it'll continue saying what you were saying," Raskin said. "It'll say it with your diction, with your prosody, with your identity, and it'll maintain semantic coherence for five, six, seven, eight seconds. One of the realizations then is that that means that the next 12, 36, 48 months, we will be able to do this with animal communication."

That means humans might be able to directly ask their dogs why it's barking or why a cat is meowing, and the pets could theoretically understand the human's words, beyond just the basics.

It's because scientists are going to use these animal acoustics and combine that with what's already know about a species' body language, behavior, and even things like travel patterns to help create a kind of Google Translate for animals.

But as humans approach a potential breakthrough in cross-species communication, it's also important to keep in mind that how and why humans use this technology will have larger social and ethical implications and consequences — not just in daily life, but for the survival of the species humans may end up being able to talk to. Raskin shared an example of this:

"For whatever reason, Australian humpbacks are like the pop singers, and because humpbacks can sing off in across-ocean basins and they migrate halfway across the world, a song off the coast of Australia can go viral and, within a couple of seasons, can be sung by much of the world population," Raskin said. "If we just create a synthetic whale that's singing, we may have invented the CRISPR of culture and whale and dolphin culture that extends back 34 million years. That's not something that we should just mess up or pollute or create the viral meme of."

Pulisic Goal Advances U.S. In World Cup With 1-0 Win Over Iran

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 01:46

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Christian Pulisic kicked the ball, scored the goal and then crashed into the goalkeeper, a collision that sent the American star to the hospital and the United States into the second round of the World Cup.

More than an hour later, he contacted his teammates by FaceTime to join the celebration.

Pulisic's 38th-minute goal held up, and the United States beat Iran 1-0 on Tuesday in their politically charged rematch to advance to the World Cup's knockout stage.

“Every single player is ready to lay their body on the line to make sure this team is successful,” United States midfielder Weston McKennie said.

The Americans finished second in Group B with five points, two behind England, and will play the Netherlands on Saturday with the chance to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

“I always say it’s us against the world,” forward Tim Weah said. “No one believed the U.S. could play good football.”

Pulisic was sprawled on the field and lying in the goal for about three minutes as he received treatment from the U.S. staff. He tried to continue playing but was substituted at the start of the second half with Brenden Aaronson and taken for abdominal scans.

U.S. Soccer said Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion and was day to day. He left the hospital and returned to the team hotel.

“I sent him a text and checked on him, and he said, 'Best believe I'll be ready on Saturday,'” McKennie said.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said Pulisic felt dizziness after the collision.

Back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the U.S. opened with draws against Wales and England and needed a victory to reach the round of 16.

Iran finished third in the group with three points. The team has failed to advance in all six of its World Cup appearances.

“The dream is over with this result,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. “The U.S. started the game much better than us, more quick with better control of the game.”

Raucous Iranian fans with horns and drums in the crowd of 42,127 filled the lower bowl behind one goal at Al Thumama Stadium and were far louder than the red-white-and-blue U.S. supporters at the other end and behind the American bench.

The U.S. outshot Iran 9-0 in the first half but didn’t break through until Pulisic came up with the big moment that a growing and increasingly demanding fan base back home had been pining for.

McKennie lofted a pass from just past the center circle to Sergiño Dest at the edge of the 6-yard box. Dest headed the ball in front of the net on a bounce as Pulisic charged up the center of the field past Ramin Rezaeian and Majid Hosseiniand.

Turning his body to let the ball hit his right foot, Pulisic redirected the ball for his 22nd international goal and first in World Cup play. His momentum carried him into goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

“Christian makes those runs. That's what he does. That’s the special quality he has,” Berhalter said. “As soon as the ball is wide, he goes in with intensity to the penalty box and good things happen and you score goals.”

Berhalter thought Pulisic got second-half updates on phone apps.

Weah, who scored the Americans’ goal in the opening 1-1 draw with Wales, nearly doubled the lead in the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time but was ruled offside.

With England ahead of Wales, Iran knew it needed only a draw to advance and finally got its first shot at goalkeeper Matt Turner when Saman Ghoddos put a header over the crossbar in the 52nd minute. Saeid Ezatolahi put an open shot high and wide in the 70th and Morteza Pouraliganji’s diving header in the third minute of nine minutes of stoppage time went just wide.

Walker Zimmerman cleared a loose ball in front of the open net in the ninth minute after Cameron Carter-Vickers got a slight hand on Mehdi Taremi.

“I hope that our fans and our people in Iran forgive us. I am just sorry," Taremi said.

SEE MORE: Netherlands Beats Host Qatar 2-0 To Advance At World Cup

LINEUPS

Carter-Vickers, a son of former NBA player Howard Carter, made his World Cup debut in place of Zimmerman and gave the U.S. an entirely Europe-based lineup for the first time ever in World Cup play.

YOUNG AT HEART

The U.S. lineup averaged 24 years, 321 days, the youngest of any team at the tournament thus far and the youngest in the World Cup for the Americans since 1990. Yunus Musah turned 20, the first American to appear in a World Cup match on his birthday.

LOOKING AHEAD

The U.S. is 1-4 against the Netherlands, all friendlies, overcoming a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 at Amsterdam in 2015.

“I think that’s the American spirit, the way this group plays, and I think people will appreciate that,” Berhalter said.

SEE MORE: Qatar Says Worker Deaths For World Cup 'Between 400 And 500'

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Doctors Worry For COVID Effects On Seniors, Particularly In China

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 01:17

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Nine out of 10 U.S. COVID deaths are people who are 65 and older, according to new Washington Post analysis of CDC data.

Older adults have been hit the hardest by the virus over the past nearly three years.

Dr. June McKoy — a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School Of Medicine and the geriatric medicine specialist at Northwestern Medical Group — says she's concerned of the triple threat RSV, flu, and COVID has on senior patients, which are often the type of patients she sees.

"People have let their guard down to an extent where they're not remembering that they're in the presence of an older adult," Dr. McKoy said.

As humans age, normal body changes include weakened lungs.

"The chest cavity becomes a little smaller because of arthritic changes, osteoporosis and so on," Dr. McKoy said. "So, the ability to expand and exchange air is not as good, and then now you introduce an infection."

SEE MORE: Students Sent Home, Police On Patrol As China Curbs Protests

In China, elderly vaccination rates are lower than those in the U.S. Chinese officials say about two-thirds of adults over 80 are fully vaccinated. Many have resisted because they're afraid of side effects.

Plus, the country has not approved foreign vaccines, and has instead mostly used its own. Foreigners in the country were just recently allowed to get a Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA shot.

The Associated Press reports police are out in force after a weekend of protests of the country's lockdown plans, part of a tough "zero-COVID" policy where each case is isolated. Beijing, Shanghai and other major mainland cities were otherwise quiet.

In a news briefing, reporters asked if government health officials are reconsidering the restrictions.

"Long-term lockdowns not only greatly affect the production and living orders, but also cause anxiety and life difficulties," said Cheng Youquan, a supervisory official of the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration. "These kind of cases must be corrected and avoided."

In the same briefing, China's director of health emergency response urged those who can, especially the elderly, to get a COVID vaccine or booster as soon as possible.

Experts Are Expecting A Rise In Flu Cases Post-Thanksgiving

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 01:08

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Going into the Thanksgiving holiday, the CDC reported 35 states experienced high or very high numbers of respiratory illnesses. Now there are signs those family gatherings are helping to spread the sickness around.

Susan Post says her family was eager to get together, but now they're paying a price.

"We were all fine Thanksgiving Day, and then the next day, my sister called and told us that my niece was really sick, and then my sister got sick," Post said.

Medical experts had already warned of a "tripledemic" – high numbers of cases of COVID, the flu and RSV happening at once. The holiday travel and large gatherings are expected to make things worse.

So far this season, the CDC estimates there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and nearly 3,000 deaths from the flu.

In Wisconsin, the latest rate of flu cases doubled from seven to 14%.

"We're going to be at high activity in about a week, so we're anticipating things are going to get worse before they get better," said Thomas Haupt, an epidemiologist at the Wisconsin Department of Health.

SEE MORE: Hospitals Are Bracing For COVID, RSV And The Flu Amid The Holidays

A higher demand for medicine earlier in the season is creating shortages for drugs like Tamiflu or amoxicillin. Stocks of over-the-counter remedies are also low, with it expected to get somewhat worse after the holidays.

"We can't keep them full; plus our warehouse is out of stock, and that holds us back a lot from filling the shelves," an employee at Point Loma Shelter Island Drug in San Diego said.

"I think after Thanksgiving a lot of people are calling asking about if we have over-the-counter medication or the doctor sent them prescription medication for the flu," pharmacist Dr. Hala Jolagh said.

The CDC says RSV numbers are starting to go down, but the cases of flu are expected to keep rising in the coming weeks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, continues to urge people to get vaccinations and boosters for COVID and flu shots. He also advises wearing masks in some situations.

"We're not talking about mandating anything; we're talking about good common sense in making a decision to put a mask on when you're in an indoor congregate setting," Dr. Fauci said.

Experts say preventive measures are key to keeping the numbers of illnesses down.

Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Bill Wins Senate Passage

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 00:03

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The Senate passed bipartisan legislation Tuesday to protect same-sex marriages, an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The bill, which would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are enshrined in federal law, was approved 61-36 on Tuesday, including support from 12 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation was “a long time coming” and part of America’s “difficult but inexorable march towards greater equality.”

Democrats are moving quickly, while the party still holds the majority in both chambers of Congress, to send the bill to the House and then — they hope — to President Joe Biden’s desk. The bill has gained steady momentum since the Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion, a ruling that included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex marriage could also come under threat. Bipartisan Senate negotiations got a kick-start this summer when 47 Republicans unexpectedly voted for a House bill and gave supporters new optimism.

The legislation would not force any state to allow same-sex couples to marry. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed, and protect current same-sex unions, if the court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision were to be overturned.

That's a stunning bipartisan endorsement, and evidence of societal change, after years of bitter divisiveness on the issue.

The bill would also protect interracial marriages by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.”

A new law protecting same-sex marriages would be a major victory for Democrats as they relinquish their two years of consolidated power in Washington, and a massive win for advocates who have been pushing for decades for federal legislation. It comes as the LGBTQ community has faced violent attacks, such as the shooting last weekend at a gay nightclub in Colorado that killed five people and injured at least 17.

“Our community really needs a win, we have been through a lot,” said Kelley Robinson, the incoming president of Human Rights Campaign, which advocates on LGBTQ issues. “As a queer person who is married, I feel a sense of relief right now. I know my family is safe.”

SEE MORE: Same-Sex Marriage Legislation Clears Key Senate Hurdle

The vote was personal for many senators, too. Schumer said on Tuesday that he was wearing the tie he wore at his daughter's wedding, “one of the happiest moments of my life.” He also recalled the “harrowing conversation” he had with his daughter and her wife in September 2020 when they heard that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. “Could our right to marry be undone?” they asked at the time.

With conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ginsburg, the court has now overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal right to an abortion, stoking fears about Obergefell and other rights protected by the court. But sentiment has shifted on same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds of the public now in support.

Still, Schumer said it was notable that the Senate was even having the debate after years of Republican opposition. “A decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples,” he said.

Passage came after the Senate rejected three Republican amendments to protect the rights of religious institutions and others to still oppose such marriages. Supporters of the legislation argued those amendments were unnecessary because the bill had already been amended to clarify that it does not affect rights of private individuals or businesses that are currently enshrined in law. The bill would also make clear that a marriage is between two people, an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation could endorse polygamy.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has been lobbying his fellow GOP senators to support the legislation for months, pointed to the number of religious groups supporting the bill, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of those groups were part of negotiations on the bipartisan amendment.

“They see this as a step forward for religious freedom,” Tillis says.

SEE MORE: House Passes Bill Protecting Same-Sex Marriage Rights

The nearly 17 million-member, Utah-based faith said in a statement this month that church doctrine would continue to consider same-sex relationships to be against God’s commandments. Yet it said it would support rights for same-sex couples as long as they didn’t infringe upon religious groups’ right to believe as they choose.

Most Republicans still oppose the legislation, saying it is unnecessary and citing concerns about religious liberty. And some conservative groups stepped up opposition in recent weeks, lobbying Republican supporters to switch their votes.

“As I and others have argued for years, marriage is the exclusive, lifelong, conjugal union between one man and one woman, and any departure from that design hurts the indispensable goal of having every child raised in a stable home by the mom and dad who conceived him,” the Heritage Foundation's Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy, wrote in a recent blog post arguing against the bill.

In an effort to win the 10 Republican votes necessary to overcome a filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, Democrats delayed consideration until after the midterm elections, hoping that would relieve political pressure on GOP senators who might be wavering.

Eventual support from 12 Republicans gave Democrats the votes they needed.

Along with Tillis, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman supported the bill early on and have lobbied their GOP colleagues to support it. Also voting for the legislation in two test votes ahead of passage were Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mitt Romney of Utah, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Lummis, one of the more conservative members of the Senate, spoke ahead of the final vote about her “fairly brutal self soul searching” before supporting the bill. She said that she accepts her church's beliefs that a marriage is between a man and a woman, but noted that the country was founded on the separation of church and state.

“We do well by taking this step, not embracing or validating each other’s devoutly held views, but by the simple act of tolerating them,” Lummis said.

The growing GOP support for the issue is a sharp contrast from even a decade ago, when many Republicans vocally opposed same-sex marriages.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who is the first openly gay senator and has been working on gay rights issues for almost four decades, said this month that the newfound openness from many Republicans on the subject reminds her “of the arc of the LBGTQ movement to begin with, in the early days when people weren’t out and people knew gay people by myths and stereotypes.”

Baldwin, the lead Senate negotiator on the legislation, said that as more individuals and families have become visible, hearts and minds have changed.

“And slowly laws have followed,” she said. “It is history.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

More Than 400 Groups Urge Congress To Act To Prevent Rail Strike

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 23:02

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The deadline for a nationwide rail strike is 10 days away, and several industries are on edge.

In a letter to congressional leaders, over 400 trade groups wrote: "The risks to our nation's economy and communities simply make a national rail strike unacceptable. Therefore, absent a voluntary agreement, we call on you to take immediate steps to prevent a national rail strike and the certain economic destruction that would follow."

Experts fear a rail stoppage could lead to shortages in everything from gas to food to cars. It could result in price hikes, potentially making current inflation worse. It could also cause a headache for up to 7 million commuters per day.

Ultimately, it'll all come down to whether a deal is reached between rail companies and the unions who want better working conditions.

"I got displaced for my job and had to go work about 300 miles from home, five days a week, was only home for about a day and half every week," said Cory Ludwig, a member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division.

SEE MORE: U.S. Supply Chain Under Threat As Unions, Railroads Clash

If there's no agreement, railroads could come to a halt at midnight on Dec. 9, threatening to upend an already fragile supply chain.

This comes after a tentative deal was struck in September with an assist from the White House. It gave workers 14% raises with backpay and 24% raises over the course of five years. It also promised $1,000 cash bonuses annually.

But, it was never just about wages. 

"You can work for the company for up to seven years and only have two weeks vacation, no sick days, no personal days, nothing else," said Paul Bellows, a member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division is one of the four unions that rejected the deal, in part due to no sick time offered.

If an agreement isn't reached in time, the U.S. economy stands to lose up to $2 billion a day.

In the letter to Congress, trade groups warned the agriculture sector in particular is at risk if delivery of "fertilizers, chlorine, and other products essential to clean water, our food supply, and electricity generation" are interrupted.

Oath Keepers' Stewart Rhodes Guilty Of Seditious Conspiracy

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 22:37

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Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

A Washington, D.C., jury found Rhodes guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations in the the nearly two-month-long trial that showcased the far-right extremist group’s efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House at all costs.

The rarely used, Civil War-era charge calls for up to 20 years behind bars.

Rhodes didn’t go inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but was accused of leading a plot that began shortly after the 2020 election to wage an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power.

Through recordings and encrypted messages, jurors heard how Rhodes rallied his followers to fight to keep Trump in office, warned of a possible “bloody” civil war and expressed regret that the Oath Keepers didn’t bring rifles to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In an extraordinary move, Rhodes and two other defendants took the stand in their defense, opening themselves up to intense questioning from prosecutors. Rhodes told jurors there was no plan to attack the Capitol and insisted that his followers who went inside the building went rogue

On trial alongside Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, were Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers; Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

SEE MORE: Feds: Oath Keepers Sought 'Violent Overthrow' Of Government

Netherlands Beats Host Qatar 2-0 To Advance At World Cup

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 20:35

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The Netherlands still has a long way to go to match the "total football" teams of the 1970s, or even the more offensive "Oranje" squads that reached the World Cup final in 2010 and finished third in 2014.

Still, a 2-0 win over Qatar on Tuesday ensured the Dutch advanced to the round of 16 by finishing first in Group A while the Qataris, who were already eliminated, became the first host to lose all three of its group matches at the World Cup.

"If you play against Qatar everybody will think and expect that you'll win 5-0 or more, but this tournament has shown that it's very difficult," Netherlands midfielder Davy Klassen, who earned player of the match honors, said through a translator.

"We're very critical of ourselves and we need to improve," Klassen added. "But we have progressed and we're going to move on."

SEE MORE: Morocco Pulls Off Another World Cup Upset, Beats Belgium 2-0

Cody Gakpo put the Netherlands ahead midway through the first half with his third goal in as many matches and Frenkie de Jong doubled the advantage five minutes into the second half.

The Netherlands is a three-time runner-up at the World Cup, and also finished third in 2014, while Qatar was making its tournament debut.

Qatar won the 2019 Asian Cup but the team's Spanish coach, Felix Sanchez, said that tournament can't be compared to the World Cup.

"We came here trying to compete and we managed to do that," Sanchez said, adding that he wasn't sure about his future status with the team.

"One of the things about our national team is that we have a long-term plan that doesn't depend on me or anyone else," Sanchez said. "We're going to rest for a few days and we're going to keep working and planning."

SEE MORE: U.S. Frustrates England Again At World Cup In 0-0 Draw

The Netherlands, which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, finished with seven points at the top of the group. Senegal, which beat Ecuador 2-1 in the other group game, advanced in second place with six points. Ecuador was eliminated with four points and Qatar ended up with zero.

The attendance at Al Bayt Stadium, which also hosted Qatar's loss to Ecuador in the tournament opener, was given as 66,784 — nearly at full capacity. There were small pockets of orange-clad Netherlands supporters, and Qatar fans behind one of the goals chanted in unison and jumped up and down.

At one point during the second half, Qatar fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag that said "Free Palestine" on it.

In the 26th minute, Gakpo took control outside the area, dribbled forward and unleashed a powerful side-footed shot between two defenders that entered inside the right post.

SEE MORE: Ronaldo Makes World Cup History, Portugal Beats Ghana 3-2

Gakpo became the fourth Dutch player to score in three consecutive World Cup games after Johan Neeskens (1974), Dennis Bergkamp (1994) and Wesley Sneijder (2010). He also became only the second player to open the scoring for his team three times in the same group stage after Alessandro Altobelli for Italy in 1986.

"Cody Gakpo has everything it takes to become a star," 71-year-old Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said. "Plus he has a wonderful personality. He's open minded to everything."

De Jong's goal came when he sprinted forward uncontested to knock in a rebound from close range following a shot from Memphis Depay.

A possible third goal for the Netherlands by Steven Berghuis was waved off following a video review for a handball in the buildup.

Berghuis then hit the bar in added time.

While the Netherlands dominated the possession and created many more chances, Qatar did push forward on occasion and there was a nervous moment for the Dutch when goalkeeper Andries Noppert had trouble collecting a long-range shot from Ismael Mohamed after Gakpo's goal.

SEE MORE: Japan Gets 2 Late Goals To Upset Germany 2-1 At World Cup

TOP SCORER

Gakpo drew level with France standout Kylian Mbappé and Ecuador veteran Enner Valencia atop the tournament scoring chart.

For club and country in all competitions this season, Gakpo has been involved in 35 goals in 29 appearances with 17 goals scored and 18 assists.

That should make the 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven forward the target for an expensive transfer in the upcoming months.

FULL FITNESS

Van Gaal said his team was boosted by the return to full fitness of Depay and midfielder Marten de Roon.

"The next phase, which is the real, most important part, we can start with a positive feeling," the coach said.

NEXT

In the round of 16 on Saturday, the Netherlands will face the second-place team from Group B, which includes England, Iran, the United States and Wales.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

10 Things You Should Rent Rather Than Buy

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 19:59

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Renting  vs. buying is a common debate when it comes to home and car ownership. For many years, financial experts insisted that ownership through direct purchase is the best option for people looking to build their credit and financial stability.

In recent years, though, a movement toward renting is gaining traction, especially for high-ticket items. That's because renting often allows people more flexibility when it comes to their finances by keeping the initial investment low.

Renting also cuts down on waste, according to The New School economics professor Teresa Ghilarducci.

"One of the most wasteful aspects of American life is the existence of dead pieces of capital that many of us own but only use 5% of the time," she wrote for Forbes, citing unused gym equipment, pools and even cars.

Many items are better suited for rental or membership rather than purchase because they may only have a limited use based on season or occasion. Or, maybe rental might be the best option before making a purchase to ensure the high-ticket item is worth the investment.

Here are 10 items experts recommend renting instead of buying to maximize your spending power and savings — and reduce clutter in your home. 

Tools and Machinery

The only people who should have a shed or garage full of tools are people who build for a living or are seriously into it for a hobby. For most of us, though, the need for most larger tools or machinery only pops up for a special project or a home emergency.

You can rent tools from well-known retailers including Home Depot or Lowe's when needed. Even better, if you live in a town with a tool lending library, you might be able to borrow what you need. Some tool libraries are free, while others have a small membership fee.

Then, if you decide you truly need it, you can always purchase it later.

Formal Wear

Most of the time, we think of renting formal wear for men — think tuxedos for prom or weddings. However, now anyone can consider renting formal duds for events. Many people only wear these wardrobe pieces once or twice a year. Why shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for something to sit in a closet most of the time?

Several companies have wardrobes ready for shopping and shipping directly to your home. Rent the Runway offers both one-time rentals and membership plans available for designer outfits in sizes from 0 to 22. For example, this stunning Zulay gown, which has a retail price $499, is available to rent for $75 or for $56 as part of a four-item rental deal with a membership fee.

Recreational Vehicles

If you've ever dreamed of traveling across the country in an RV but didn't have the money to spend or space to store it, then consider renting one.

Money Talks News points out that an RV is a big-ticket purchase that you should never make because of its ongoing upkeep and storage costs. However, rental companies solve this problem for would-be travelers by providing everything needed without the up-front investment or a long-term service and maintenance commitment.

Recreational vehicle rental companies such as Cruise America and Outdoorsy offer everything from vans to full motor coaches available for just a few hundred dollars a night. When you consider this includes sleeping quarters for at least two people, it can be significant cost savings for vacationers.

Caskets

While it may sound a little morbid and depressing, you do not need to purchase a coffin for a funeral. Many funeral homes offer rental services for the family to use for memorial services. Then, the body can either be buried in a plain box or cremated, depending on the deceased's final wishes. When making final arrangements, talk to the funeral director about this option.

With coffins costing thousands of dollars, a rental option can help alleviate the expenses during this difficult time for a family.

Musical Instruments

Remember when you were in elementary school and taking music lessons? Your parents may have rented an instrument for you to play. That option is still available, for people of all ages. So, if you've ever dreamed of picking up the clarinet again or maybe trying your hand at the piano or guitar, don't go all in and spend the money to buy the instrument. Why spend all that cash when you might discover you may still not love to practice as often as you should?

A quick Google search for music rental shops in your area and a little research on your background can help you get started. Then, head over to the shop, look around, talk to staff and maybe sign up for a few classes.

Baby Gear/Equipment

Families with babies know the necessary hassle of traveling with all the gear required to keep the little ones safe and comfortable. But parents can travel a little lighter by renting things like cribs, strollers, portable cribs and more at their destination.

Travel-weary families looking to make trips a little easier can start by asking hotel staff if they have any supplies or baby furniture. Or, if you're staying in a private home, consider looking for national or local companies that rent baby and toddler gear, including BabyQuip and Baby's Away.

Outdoor Sporting Goods and Equipment

Why have a basement full of costly sporting equipment and camping gear that's collecting dust when you can rent them? Retailers such as REI rent out many different kinds of outdoor gear, and equipment-sharing sites such as Friendwitha.com let you rent gear including skis, bikes, tents and more.

With a small deposit (often $100 or less), and a small daily fee, you can pick up whatever equipment you need, use it and then return it without having to keep it in your home or pay to store it somewhere — or pay for the up-front cost.

Your Home

This may seem to fly in the face of many experts who say paying rent for a home is like throwing money out the window. But, as licensed real estate broker Rebecca Blacker wrote for U.S. News and World Report, renting a house may be a better option for some people.

Rising mortgage rates can make it difficult for some people to get a home loan, she explained. Another financial consideration is the maintenance costs that come with home ownership. Those who travel often, plan to move regularly or are considering downsizing might want to think about renting a house, condo or apartment instead of sinking a lot of money into a new mortgage.

Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks are useful in hauling a variety of things. But using them as regular transportation isn't always convenient because of their limited passenger space. And, with higher gas prices and lower miles-per-gallon ratings than cars, filling a pickup truck's gas tank can be a major hit to the wallet.

If you need to haul anything with a truck, there are ways to rent one, from an hour to days at a time. Home improvement retailers such as Home Depot have trucks available to rent for less than $20 an hour for short-distance jobs. If you're looking to move furniture to a new home, there's always U-Haul.

And if you're looking for a nice pickup truck to take on a beach or lake vacation, rental car companies offer truck and trailer rentals for reasonable rates.

At-Home Entertainment

Take a look at your movie and video game collection. Are your shelves piled with DVDs and games that you only watch once in a while? Even with those cabinets stuffed full of options, we often have a hard time deciding what to watch or play.

The neighborhood Blockbuster store might be a thing of the past, but you can still rent movies. And, these days, it's easier than ever. Streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+ and more provide endless entertainment options with just the touch of a remote button. Or, if you like it more old-school, you can pick up a DVD at a Redbox located in many local grocery and convenience stores.

Video games can even be rented through services such as Gamefly and Amazon Prime. This is a fantastic way to try new games for a lot less money than paying for a new title and only playing it once.

For an even better deal on renting movies, TV series, and video games, check out your local library. They often have all of these options available to borrow for weeks at a time for free. You can't beat that price!

Elon Musk Asks Apple For Answers Over Twitter Advertising Standoff

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 18:48

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The tech industry is watching the stare-down between the world's richest man and the world's biggest tech company, Apple.

Late Monday, Twitter owner Elon Musk said Apple has halted most of its advertising on his social platform, hurting the company's already struggling bottom line.

After that claim, Musk tweeted that "Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its app store but won’t tell us why."

In the meantime, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said they're going to continue to monitor how Twitter moderates its content under the month-old ownership of Elon Musk.

Apple potentially removing Twitter from its app store would be a pretty dramatic outcome, but it's something the company has previously shown it's willing to do. In addition to claiming that Twitter may be removed from the app store, Musk also said Apple has halted most of its advertising on Twitter, and asked the company "if they hate free speech in America?"

SEE MORE: Twitter Users Fear App Shutdown After Hundreds Of Employees Quit

Musk also appealed directly to Apple’s CEO, asking "What’s going on here, Tim Cook?" 

There's been no response yet from Apple on Musk's claims, but removing apps from the app store is a move typically reserved for egregious violations. If the Twitter app were pulled, the social network would lose one of its main distribution platforms.

Watchdog site Media Matters reported last week half of Twitter’s top advertisers, including Jeep, Ford and AT&T, have halted spending amid concerns about the direction Twitter is headed. 

In an effort to try and save money, Musk went on a firing frenzy over at Twitter. And Musk is set to re-launch Twitter’s paid subscription service Twitter Blue this Friday, promising improvements like a manual verification process.

Qatar Says Worker Deaths For World Cup 'Between 400 And 500'

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 18:33

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A top Qatari official involved in the country's World Cup organization has put the number of worker deaths for the tournament "between 400 and 500" for the first time, a drastically higher number than any other previously offered by Doha.

The comment by Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, appeared to come off the cuff during an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan.

It also threatened to reinvigorate criticism by human rights groups over the toll of hosting the Middle East's first World Cup for the migrant labor that built over $200 billion worth of stadiums, metro lines and new infrastructure needed for the tournament.

In the interview, portions of which Morgan posted online, the British journalist asks al-Thawadi: "What is the honest, realistic total do you think of migrant workers who died from – as a result of work they're doing for the World Cup in totality?"

"The estimate is around 400, between 400 and 500," al-Thawadi responds. "I don't have the exact number. That's something that's been discussed."

But that figure hasn't been discussed publicly by Qatari officials previously. Reports from the Supreme Committee dating from 2014 through the end of 2021 only include the number of deaths of workers involved in building and refurbishing the stadiums now hosting the World Cup.

Those released figures put the total number of deaths at 40. They include 37 from what the Qataris describe as nonwork incidents such as heart attacks and three from workplace incidents. One report also separately lists a worker death from the coronavirus amid the pandemic.

Al-Thawadi pointed to those figures when discussing work just on stadiums in the interview, right before offering the "between 400 to 500" death toll for all the infrastructure for the tournament.

SEE MORE: Qatar Detains Workers Protesting Late Pay Before World Cup

In a later statement, the Supreme Committee said al-Thawadi was referring to "national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities."

Since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the country has taken some steps to overhaul the country's employment practices. That includes eliminating its so-called kafala employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had say over whether they could leave their jobs or even the country.

Qatar also has adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275) for workers and required food and housing allowances for employees not receiving those benefits directly from their employers. It also has updated its worker safety rules to prevent deaths.

"One death is a death too many. Plain and simple," al-Thawadi adds in the interview.

Activists have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers.

Al-Thawadi's comment also renews questions on the veracity of both government and private business reporting on worker injuries and deaths across the Gulf Arab states, whose skyscrapers have been built by laborers from South Asia nations like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"This is just the latest example of Qatar's inexcusable lack of transparency on the issues of workers' deaths," said Nicholas McGeehan of Fairsquare, a London-based group which advocates for migrant workers in the Middle East. "We need proper data and thorough investigations, not vague figures announced through media interviews.

"FIFA and Qatar still have a lot of questions to answer, not least where, when, and how did these men die and did their families receive compensation."

Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem Research, a labor consultancy that has published reports on the toll of the construction on migrant laborers, also said he was surprised by al-Thawadi's remark.

"For him now to come and say there is hundreds, it's shocking," he told The Associated Press. "They have no idea what's going on."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

President Biden Calls On Congress To Prevent Potential Rail Strike

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 18:18

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President Joe Biden on Monday asked Congress to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers would take up legislation this week to impose the deal that unions agreed to in September.

“Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” President Biden said in a statement. “Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down.”

In a statement, Pelosi said: “We are reluctant to bypass the standard ratification process for the Tentative Agreement — but we must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt.”

Pelosi said the House would not change the terms of the September agreement, which would challenge the Senate to approve the House bill without changes.

SEE MORE: U.S. Supply Chain Under Threat As Unions, Railroads Clash

The September agreement that President Biden and Pelosi are calling for is a slight improvement over what the board of arbitrators recommended in the summer. The September agreement added three unpaid days off a year for engineers and conductors to tend to medical appointments as long as they scheduled them at least 30 days in advance. The railroads also promised in September not to penalize workers who are hospitalized and to negotiate further with the unions after the contract is approved about improving the regular scheduling of days off.

Hundreds of business groups had been urging Congress and the president to step into the deadlocked contract talk and prevent a strike.

Both the unions and railroads have been lobbying Congress while contract talks continue. If Congress acts, it will end talks between the railroads and four rail unions that rejected their deals President Biden helped broker before the original strike deadline in September. Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020.

If Congress does what President Biden suggests and imposes terms similar to what was agreed on in September, that will end the union’s push to add paid sick time. The four unions that have rejected their deals have been pressing for the railroads to add that benefit to help address workers’ quality of life concerns, but the railroads had refused to consider that.

SEE MORE: Earlier This Year: Biden Intervenes In Railroad Contract Fight To Block Strike

President Biden said that as a “a proud pro-labor president” he was reluctant to override the views of people who voted against the agreement. “But in this case — where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families — I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal."

President Biden's remarks and Pelosi's statement came after a coalition of more than 400 business groups sent a letter to congressional leaders Monday urging them to step into the stalled talks because of fears about the devastating potential impact of a strike that could force many businesses to shut down if they can’t get the rail deliveries they need. Commuter railroads and Amtrak would also be affected in a strike because many of them use tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and National Retail Federation said even a short-term strike would have a tremendous impact and the economic pain would start to be felt even before the Dec. 9 strike deadline. They said the railroads would stop hauling hazardous chemicals, fertilizers and perishable goods up to a week beforehand to keep those products from being stranded somewhere along the tracks.

“A potential rail strike only adds to the headwinds facing the U.S. economy,” the businesses wrote. “A rail stoppage would immediately lead to supply shortages and higher prices. The cessation of Amtrak and commuter rail services would disrupt up to 7 million travelers a day. Many businesses would see their sales disrupted right in the middle of the critical holiday shopping season.”

A similar group of businesses sent another letter to President Biden last month urging him to play a more active role in resolving the contract dispute.

On Monday, the Association of American Railroads trade group praised President Biden’s action.

“No one benefits from a rail work stoppage — not our customers, not rail employees and not the American economy,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Now is the appropriate time for Congress to pass legislation to implement the agreements already ratified by eight of the twelve unions."

Business groups that have been pushing for Congress to settle this contract dispute praised President Biden’s move.

“The Biden administration’s endorsement of congressional intervention affirms what America’s food, beverage, household and personal care manufacturers have been saying: Freight rail operations cannot shut down and imperil the availability and affordability of consumers’ everyday essentials,” said Tom Madrecki, vice president of supply chain for the Consumer Brands Association. “The consequences to consumers if a strike were to occur are too serious, especially amid continued supply chain challenges and disruptions.”

Clark Ballew, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, which represents track maintenance workers, said before President Biden's announcement that the union was "headed to D.C. this week to meet with lawmakers on the Hill from both parties. We have instructed our members to contact their federal lawmakers in the House and Senate for several weeks now.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Neil Bradley said President Biden was correct in advocating for the deal already reached. “Congress must do what it has done 18 times before: intervene against a national rail strike," Bradley said in a statement, and he called Congress enforcing the deal agreed to by railroads and union leaders the "only path to avoid crippling strike.”

The railroads, which include Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, CSX and Kansas City Southern, wanted any deal to closely follow the recommendations a special board of arbitrators that President Biden appointed made this summer that called for the 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses but didn't resolve workers' concerns about demanding schedules that make it hard to take a day off and other working conditions. That's what President Biden is calling on Congress to impose.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Survivor Of Virginia Walmart Mass Shooting Files $50M Suit

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 17:48

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Walmart employee who survived last week's mass shooting at a store in Virginia has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the company for allegedly continuing to employ the shooter — a store supervisor — "who had known propensities for violence, threats and strange behavior."

The lawsuit, which appears to be the first to stem from the shooting, was filed Tuesday in Chesapeake Circuit Court by Donya Prioleau. Walmart, which is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, did not immediately respond to a written request seeking comment on the litigation.

Prioleau's suit alleges that she has experienced post-traumatic distress disorder, including physical and emotional distress, from witnessing the rampage in the store's breakroom on Nov. 22.

SEE MORE: 7 Dead, Including Gunman, In Virginia Walmart Shooting

"Bullets whizzed by Plaintiff Donya Prioleau's face and left side, barely missing her," the lawsuit states. "She witnessed several of her coworkers being brutally murdered on either side of her."

The lawsuit adds: "Ms. Prioleau looked at one of her coworkers in the eyes right after she had been shot in the neck. Ms. Prioleau saw the bullet wound in her coworker's neck, the blood rushing out of it, and the shocked look on her coworker's helpless face."

The store supervisor fatally shot six employees and wounded several others before he died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, police said.

The lawsuit alleges that he "had a personal vendetta against several Walmart employees and kept a 'kill list' of potential targets prior to the shooting."

SEE MORE: Witness: Walmart Shooter Seemed To Target Certain People

The lawsuit also states that Prioleau had submitted a formal complaint on a Walmart Global Ethics Statement Form indicating that the shooter had "bizarrely and inappropriately commented on Ms. Prioleau's age."The lawsuit alleges that he told her: "Isn't your lady clock ticking? Shouldn't you be having kids?"

Prioleau also complained that the supervisor had harassed her for "being poor and being short," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that she also informed Walmart that he called her a "bitch" under his breath."Despite [the supervisor's] long-standing pattern of disturbing and threatening behavior, Walmart knew or should have known about [his] disturbing and threatening behavior, but failed to terminate [him], restrict his access to common areas, conduct a thorough background investigation, or subject him to a mental health examination," the lawsuit states.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

U.S. Bat Species Devastated By Fungus Now Listed As Endangered

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 17:24

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The Biden administration declared the northern long-eared bat endangered on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to save a species driven to the brink of extinction by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease.

"White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates," said Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency is "deeply committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces the impacts of disease and protects the survivors to recover northern long-eared bat populations," she said.

First documented in the U.S. in 2006, the disease has infected 12 types of bats and killed millions. The northern long-eared bat is among the hardest hit, with estimated declines of 97% or higher in affected populations. The bat is found in 37 eastern and north-central states, plus Washington, D.C., and much of Canada.

Named for white, fuzzy spots that appear on infected bats, white-nose syndrome attacks bats' wings, muzzles and ears when they hibernate in caves and abandoned mines.

SEE MORE: Migratory Monarch Butterfly Added To Endangered Species List

It causes them to wake early from hibernation and to sometimes fly outside. They can burn up their winter fat stores and eventually starve.

The disease has spread across nearly 80% of the geographical range where northern long-eared bats live and is expected to cover it all by 2025.

Another species ravaged by the fungus is the tricolored bat, which the government proposed to classify as endangered in September.

Bats are believed to give U.S. agriculture an annual boost of $3 billion by gobbling pests and pollinating some plants.

The Fish and Wildlife Service designated the northern long-eared bat as threatened in 2015. With its situation increasingly dire, the agency proposed an endangered listing in March and considered public comments before deciding to proceed. The reclassification takes effect Jan. 30, 2023.

In many cases, the service identifies "critical habitat" areas considered particularly important for the survival of an endangered species. Officials decided against doing so for the northern long-eared bat because habitat loss isn't the primary reason for its decline, spokeswoman Georgia Parham said. Calling attention to their winter hibernation spots could make things worse, she added.

SEE MORE: Animals Heading For Extinction Over Habitat Destruction, Poaching

Recovery efforts will focus on wooded areas where the bats roost in summer — usually alone or in small groups, nestling beneath bark or in tree cavities and crevices. Emerging at dusk, they feed on moths, beetles and other insects.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies are required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to be sure projects that they fund or authorize — such as timber harvests, prescribed fires and highway construction — will not jeopardize a listed species' existence.

For nonfederal landowners, actions that could result in unintentional kills could be allowed but will require permits.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said that it will also work with wind energy companies to reduce the likelihood that bats will strike turbines. These collisions are currently a threat in roughly half of the northern long-eared bat's range, an area likely to grow as wind energy development expands.

The service has approved nearly two dozen plans allowing wind energy and forestry projects to proceed after steps were taken to make them more bat-friendly, said Karen Herrington, Midwest regional coordinator for threatened and endangered species.

Operators can limit the danger by curtailing blade rotation during bats' migration season and when winds are low.

Research continues for methods to fight white-nose syndrome, including development of a vaccine. The service has distributed more than $46 million for the campaign, which involves around 150 agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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