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Uber verification program will give riders in 15 cities blue checks

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 21:56

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Uber is piloting a new rider verification process in 15 U.S. cities that it says will build trust and reliability for riders and drivers alike.

Verified riders will get a blue checkmark that displays by their account in the Uber app, which is meant to reassure Uber drivers that riders are who they say they are.

Uber says it will be "cross-checking a rider’s account information provided during signup against third-party databases," which may automatically grant verification to users if there's already enough information available.

Riders may otherwise be prompted to submit a government identification to make sure information is accurate.

Drivers will see the checkmark alongside the rider's first name and itinerary when they start a trip.

SEE MORE: Man fatally shoots Uber driver after both were targeted by scam calls

"Strengthening rider verification has been a top request from drivers across the country," Uber's head of safety Roger Kaiser said in a statement. "This new verification process and verified rider badge are important steps to help provide drivers with more peace of mind while they are out on the road."

Verification won't be required to take Uber trips, but the company warns that not having verification may cause delays or slower service, since drivers may choose to prioritize verified passengers.

Uber plans to expand the program to more cities in the next few months.

When to see the 'Pink Moon,' April's full moon

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 21:50

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Tuesday night will bring the rise of the Pink Moon! That nickname is the one given to the April full moon, which officially arrives over North America on April 23 at 6:49 p.m. ET, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory, with peak illumination expected an hour later. 

But don’t fret about seeing the moon at that exact time, as it will appear full through that Wednesday night.

While the April full moon is most commonly known as the "Pink Moon," that name has nothing to do with the color of the moon itself. This full moon has other nicknames, too, all of which originate from a variety of cultures.

This full moon also coincides with a lesser-known meteor shower, and patient, sharp-eyed observers may get to spot both lunar events in the same night.

Why is the April full moon called the Pink Moon? 

The full moon names we use today originate from Native American, colonial American and other sources, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. 

Most full moon names relate to what’s happening in nature when they occur, and the pink moon is no exception.

April’s full moon was given its name by the Algonquin people because of the wildflowers that pop up during the month. The bright pink flowers of creeping phlox, a wildflower native to eastern North America, bloom every spring around the time the Pink Moon appears.

But Pink isn’t the only name April’s full moon goes by. The Old Farmer’s Almanac states that some Algonquins — whose massive territory covered much of today’s eastern Canada and America’s Eastern Seaboard — also called this full moon the Breaking Ice Moon, referring to when the ice begins to melt.

Similarly, the Dakotas, based in the central U.S. and Canada, called April’s full moon the Sprouting Grass Moon. It’s also called the Egg Moon, referring to the time of year when birds begin to lay their eggs, by the Cheyenne tribe of the Great Plains.

The April full moon has significance for various religious groups as well. In the Hebrew calendar, April’s full moon is the Passover moon. For Hindus, the full moon corresponds with the celebration of Hanuman Jayanti, a festival marking the birth of the deity Hanuman. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka commemorates this moon with a national Buddhist holiday called Bak Poya, celebrating a visit the Buddha made to that country.

When are the Lyrid and Eta Aquariids meteor showers? 

Your chances of spotting meteors shooting across the night sky begin to drop as the days get longer and the nights become shorter during the spring months — but that doesn’t mean your chances are zero.

In the next few weeks, the Lyrid meteor shower and the Eta Aquariids will excite sky-watchers.

The Lyrid meteor shower will peak beginning in the late evening on April 21 and last until dawn on April 22. This meteor shower typically only produces 10 to 15 meteors per hour, and it will be a struggle to see any meteors this year, according to EarthSky. A bright, nearly full moon will make it more difficult to spot any meteors flying across the night sky, but perceptive viewers should be able to spot a few while the Pink Moon shines.

A couple weeks after the Lyrids, the Eta Aquariids will offer a better chance of spotting more meteors, especially for anyone who lives in the southern half of the U.S. The peak for this meteor show will be before dawn on May 5 and 6. On those days, only a sliver of the moon will obstruct your view, and vigilant viewers should be able to see anywhere between 10 and 20 meteors per hour.

When you’re watching for meteors, remember to get far away from any city lights and arrive early to give your eyes time to adjust to the night sky.

This story was originally published by Jason Meyers at Simplemost.com.

Why the government created new tools to show heat forecasts and risk

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 21:28

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As data shows heat-related deaths are becoming more frequent across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with the National Weather Service to launch new tools that show you when current heat levels in your city could harm your health. 

The first tool is the CDC’s HeatRisk Dashboard, designed for the general public. You can enter your zip code to get personalized information about the heat risk in your city or county. The mobile-friendly dashboard includes information about the daily air quality, how to protect your health in high heat and what activities may or may not be safe depending on the heat risk for that day. 

The dashboard also includes information from the National Weather Service’s new feature, the HeatRisk Forecast Tool. Created with state and local health officials in mind, the tool displays a seven-day heat forecast across the country with a color-coded numerical index that identifies heat-related impacts from little or no risk up to extreme heat risk. 

The National Weather Service said the HeatRisk Forecast Tool is calculated using several factors, including how unusual the heat is for the time of the year, the duration of the heat in both daytime and nighttime temperatures and if those temperatures pose an elevated risk of heat-related impacts based on data from the CDC.

SEE MORE: New report shows that US is warming faster than the rest of the world

The CDC said the HeatRisk Forecast Tool can potentially help jurisdictions plan responses to extreme heat forecasts. 

Lastly, the CDC developed new guidance to help clinicians keep at-risk individuals safe when temperatures rise, including points on how heat can harm physical and mental health and how medications can impact a person’s heat tolerance. 

“If the HeatRisk in a patient’s location is ‘moderate,’ for example, then a clinician can reference the CDC guidance for condition-specific heat action plans that contain steps to help keep the patient safe,” the CDC explained in a press release. 

Over two-thirds of the country was under a heat alert last year due to rising temperatures. The CDC said it found the number of daily visits to emergency departments across the U.S. due to heat-related illnesses peaked in 2023. 

Since “heat-related” is not something noted on death certificates and there could be other contributing factors, it is hard to calculate just how many deaths in the U.S. are related to extreme heat conditions. However, the Environmental Protection Agency said some statistics estimate more than 1,300 deaths per year are due to extreme heat. 

The CDC said heat-related deaths are preventable, which is why they worked with the National Weather Service to develop the new tools that can help keep citizens safe and aware. 

SEE MORE: More than 500,000 stroke deaths are linked to extreme temperatures

College campuses engulfed by tensions over pro-Palestinian protests

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 21:17

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Ten Republican members of Congress, all representing New York State in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote a letter on Monday asking Columbia University's president to resign, saying, "anarchy had engulfed the campus."

It came on the same day that four Democratic Jewish members of Congress walked through the university's campus, as tensions there remain high.

A makeshift tent city now stands within the main quad at Columbia University, where pro-Palestinian student protesters are literally holding their ground.

Last week, the New York Police Department arrested more than 100 people on Columbia's campus at the request of the university's administration.

On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul visited the campus.

"I've never seen a level of protest that is so person-to-person," said Gov. Hochul. "People need to find their humanity, have the conversations, talk to each other, understand different points of view because that's what college students should be doing."

In a Monday news conference, the NYPD said that so far there are no reports of any physical harm, though they say some Jewish students have reported harassment.

"We have received reports that students have been, Israeli students, were walking on campus, had their flags taken away from them, snatched out of their hands," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry. "We also received reports that the Israeli students, there were some hateful things that were said towards them."

The Ivy League institution made the decision that all classes would go virtual on Monday.

All of it comes after Columbia University President Minouche Shafik testified before a House hearing on Capitol Hill last week, focusing on antisemitism on campus.

"Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country," Shafik said. 

That includes new protests springing up on Monday on the campuses of New York University and Yale, where 50 people were arrested that morning.

Harvard is temporarily closing the university's famed 25-acre Harvard Yard this week and prohibiting anyone from setting up tents there.

In the meantime, Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots football team is an alum of Columbia University and is one of the school's biggest donors: The Jewish student center bears his name. He said in a statement released through his Foundation to Combat Antisemitism that he'll be withholding donations until, "corrective action is taken."

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, Scripps News Correspondent Maya Rodriguez is an alumna of Columbia University.

SEE MORE: Columbia University goes virtual amid pro-Palestinian protests

High-speed rail line between Las Vegas, Los Angeles area breaks ground

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 21:02

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A new $12 billion rail system connecting Nevada to Southern California is officially breaking ground.

Brightline West's 218-mile system will run within the median of Interstate 15 with zero grade crossings. The route will have stops in Las Vegas as well as Victor Valley, Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga, California. 

The project is touted as the first true high-speed passenger rail line in the nation, designed to reach speeds of 186 mph, comparable to Japan's Shinkansen bullet trains.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement that the project, expected to start boarding passengers by 2028, is predicted to bring "thousands of union jobs, new connections to better economic opportunity, less congestion on the roads, and less pollution in the air."

Brightline, whose sister company already operates a fast train between Miami and Orlando in Florida, received $6.5 billion in backing from the Biden administration, including a $3 billion grant from federal infrastructure funds and approval to sell another $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The company won federal authorization in 2020 to sell $1 billion in similar bonds.

"This is a historic project and a proud moment," said Brightline Holdings founder and Chairperson Wes Edens in a statement. "Today is long overdue."

SEE MORE: Would high-speed rail work in the US?

The Las Vegas station will be located near the iconic Las Vegas Strip, on a 110-acre property north of Blue Diamond Road between I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard. The 80,000-square-foot site provides convenient access to the Harry Reid International Airport, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Raiders' Allegiant Stadium.

The Victor Valley Station in Apple Valley will be located on a 300-acre parcel southeast of Dale Evans Parkway and the I-15 interchange. The 20,000-square-foot station is intended to offer a future connection to the High Desert Corridor and California High Speed Rail.

The Hesperia Station will be located within the I-15 median at the I-15/Joshua Street interchange and will function primarily as a local rail service for residents in the High Desert on select southbound morning and northbound evening weekday trains.

The Rancho Cucamonga Station will be located on a 5-acre property at the northwest corner of Milliken Avenue and Azusa Court near Ontario International Airport. The 80,000-square-foot station will be co-located with existing multi-modal transportation options including California Metrolink, for seamless connectivity to Downtown Los Angeles and other locations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

This story was originally published on Scripps News Las Vegas. It was published here with additional reporting from The Associated Press.

First responders add opioid reversal nasal spray to fight overdoses

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 20:50

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Jodi Barber has shared her son Jerrod’s story for more than a decade. He died in 2010 from a prescription overdose. He had an opioid in his system so dangerous that most of its formulations have been pulled from shelves since.

“It was preventable. That’s my big word. That’s my big message of the day. It was preventable. All these deaths are preventable,” said Barber.

She has since devoted much of her time to advocacy and education. Also, in the years since, tens of thousands more opioid overdose deaths have been largely driven by fentanyl.

The opioid drug overdose rate is increasing a little less than 3% year over year, according to the Biden administration. In 2023, part of an $8 billion package on overdose prevention included getting the drug reversal nasal spray Narcan out to the public.

Narcan, or the nasal spray naloxone, remains the standard opioid reversal drug. Sheriff's departments in at least three states have begun using another overdose reversal nasal spray called Opvee, or nalmefene. The FDA approved the drug for children over 12 and adults for health care and community use in 2023. 

In a study comparing the two opioid reversal drugs, researchers found a smaller dose of Opvee reversed a major overdose symptom, “respiratory depression” or failing breathing in five minutes on patients given a synthetic opioid. The research was funded by the drugmaker Opiant Pharmaceuticals with additional funding from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Body cam video from Deputy Allie Michaels with the Oakland County Sheriff in Michigan obtained by Scripps Station WXYZ shows how effective the drug is. Michaels tears open a pack of Obvi ready to administer it without a single second to lose, followed by chest compressions on a 30-year-old woman. 

“At two minutes and 27 seconds — no joke. I felt what I thought was a breath,” said Michaels. “That doesn’t happen with anything else I’ve ever used or administered. I administered a second dose after the 2.5 minutes, and about a minute later, this female took a deep breath, sat up and looked around and asked why we were all there.”

Opvee stays in the body’s system longer than naloxone, and may carry more side effects — including a higher chance of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Opvee is available by prescription and Narcan is available over the counter. Each drug costs under $100. 

Barber hopes the costs won’t stop the sprays from getting to those who may need them. “I can’t tell you honestly how many times I’ve shared my story, and I’ll never stop crying about it,” she said. “We need all these reversal agents. Not just Narcan, but we need all of the reversal agents to be available for the first responders.”

Semaglutide, gastric bypass delay weight loss plateau, study finds

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 20:10

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A new study looks at weight loss plateaus and how weight loss drugs and gastric bypass surgery can impact them.

The study analyzes how those who are dieting generally reach a weight loss plateau after about a year, on average.

It happens when the body starts trying to make up for lost calories.

"It’s almost like your body has this set point where, once we reach that with weight loss, it resists. It's almost like a survival function," said Dr. Frank Chae, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of bariatric surgery at Sky Ridge Medical Center.

The more weight you lose, the stronger your appetite becomes.

SEE MORE: The politics behind insurance companies covering weight-loss drugs

But researcher Kevin Hall with the National Institutes of Health published a study Monday that found weight loss drugs can delay the plateau.

"That’s where things like semaglutide injections and gastric bypass can push that patient forward," Dr. Chae said.

The results of Hall‘s study showed that weight loss drugs like Wegovy, Ozempic, and Zepbound added an extra year on average of weight loss before hitting the plateau, as compared to the average of just restricting calories.

Weight loss surgery, like gastric bypass, had the greatest results in helping delay the plateau for participants by adding another year on average on top of that before hitting a plateau.

But semaglutide can be pricey and hard to find given the high demand.

"The medications are a good tool, but it is not a cure. You have to keep injecting this indefinitely, and the drug companies really don't know what the long-term, meaning years later, what the long-term effects are. I know we’re collecting that data right now," Dr. Chae said.

He explained that the findings of this study reinforced what he’s seeing in the clinical world.

Nearly 1 in 3 adults are overweight in the United States, according to 2017–2018 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

About 9.2% of adults have severe obesity.

"Obesity is a disease, this is not a lifestyle or willpower issue," Dr. Chae said.

"It is a disease process that needs to be treated, and not just about where’s your discipline or eating less, it's about attacking the obesity hormones that semaglutide injections and gastric bypass does very well," he said.

@scrippsnews A new study looks at how weight loss drugs (ie: #Ozempic) and weigh loss surgery (ie: gastric bypass) can improve weight loss plateaus. While #dieting, people reach their weight loss plateau at around a year on average. #Semaglutide can extend that for about another year. #weightloss #healthtok ♬ original sound - Scripps News

Grindr facing allegations that it shared users' medical information

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 19:51

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Grindr, a popular dating app geared toward gay and bisexual men, is facing a lawsuit that alleges users’ private information, including HIV status, was shared with third parties without their consent. 

The law firm behind the claim, U.K.-based Austen Hays, said it is filing the class action lawsuit at London’s High Court on Monday because it believes Grindr violated the U.K.’s data protection laws. 

The lawsuit alleges Grindr, which is based in the United States, processed and shared data relating to users’ ethnicities, sex lives, sexual orientations and HIV test dates with advertising companies like Localytics and Apptimize for the third parties to use in creating targeted ads. 

Austen Hays also claims that those third parties potentially passed on the sensitive data to fourth parties.

Nearly 700 users have already signed on to the claim, but the law firm said thousands of others may join. The alleged breaches took place between 2018 and 2020, said Austen Hays. 

In a statement provided to Scripps News, a spokesperson for Grindr said the company is committed to protecting users' data and complying with privacy regulations. 

“Grindr has never shared user-reported health information for ‘commercial purposes’ and has never monetized such information,” the spokesperson continued. “We intend to respond vigorously to this claim, which appears to be based on a mischaracterization of practices from more than four years ago, prior to early 2020.”

SEE MORE: House passes bill that could lead to ban of TikTok

Newsom to let Arizona doctors provide reproductive care in California

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 19:28

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom is introducing a new law that will allow doctors from Arizona to extend reproductive health care services within California. 

During an interview on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki” on Sunday, Newsom said that his state will be "providing doctors from Arizona the ability to come into California through emergency legislation we’ll introduce with our Women’s Caucus this week to address the crisis at hand."

The news comes after the recent decision by the Arizona Supreme Court to uphold a law dating back to 1864 that bans most abortions. Newsom says he hopes his legislation will go into effect on May 1 before Arizona starts enforcing their law, which could take effect no later than June 8.

According to Newsom: “160,000 women had to leave their states last year to access reproductive care, the fact that now you have AGs, like the Alabama AG, that want to incarcerate, up to five years to life, those women that are aided and abetted, not just the women but those that support the women ... It's chilling and goes well beyond just the issue of women's reproductive care; it goes to access to contraception, voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights.”

Although Newsom didn't provide further details on the content or exact timing of the emergency legislation, a spokesperson from his office told NPR that Newsom's administration is working with the offices of Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes before finalizing it. 

SEE MORE: Tensions rise as Arizona lawmakers debate abortion ban

Colorado woman trapped under truck for hours saved by good Samaritan

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 18:59

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A Colorado woman is recovering after spending several hours pinned underneath her crashed truck. A good Samaritan is being credited with possibly saving her life.

Rachael Hammack, 27, was driving home from work last Tuesday around 2:30 a.m. when the crash happened in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. The truck she was driving veered off the road, rolled multiple times, and came to a rest on a field next to a golf course, 100 yards from the roadway and hidden from view.

Several hours later that same morning, Steve Abraham, a superintendent at the course, came upon the crash scene. He approached the vehicle and saw Hammack with her legs pinned and her body stuck in a barbed wire fence.

“I was getting the barbed wire kind of away from her body," said Abraham. "I had to cut her hair out because she was stuck in there.”

Abraham and several of his co-workers assisted Hammack while they waited for first responders to arrive. Paramedics took Hammack to a nearby hospital, where she was placed in a medically induced coma.

"They got her out in about seven minutes," said Abraham. "But because no one noticed her, she was stuck there for around four hours."

Hammack's boyfriend, Eben Jones, found out about her crash the next day and notified her parents. Sam and Thomas Hammack live in South Carolina and flew to Denver to be by their daughter's side.

“All I could think is I need to get to my girl," said Sam Hammack.

Rachael Hammack underwent surgery last Friday. She suffered a broken pelvis, a broken nose and a fractured vertebrae. She also received a large laceration on her head. Although she is still in and out of consciousness, Hammack is expected to recover.

"I know she's strong and that she'll come through so I'm just trying my best to stay positive," said Jones.

Hammack's friends have set up a GoFundMe, to help pay for her medical expenses.

This story was originally published by Sam Peña at Scripps News Denver.

Want to shop Wayfair in person? You'll soon be able to

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 18:36

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Internet retailer Wayfair announced that it plans to open its first brick-and-mortar location next month in a suburb outside Chicago. 

Wayfair said it will open a 150,000-square-foot store in Wilmette, Illinois on May 23. The location will have furniture, home decor, housewares and home improvement products. 

There will also be an on-site restaurant known as The Porch. 

"Get ready to shop, explore, and be inspired like never before," Wayfair said. 

The location will have a design studio, Wayfair said. 

At 150,000 square feet, the first location will be about half the size of a typical Ikea store despite having similar offerings. Ikea, however, has said it plans to open numerous small-format stores across the U.S. that are much smaller than their typical locations. 

Wayfair is not the only internet-based retailer that has tried to transition to in-person shopping. Amazon opened its Amazon Style stores in 2022, featuring some of its popular clothing items. However, its foray into in-person shopping was brief as the stores were shuttered by the end of 2023. 

SEE MORE: Amazon will soon offer its smart grocery carts to other retail stores

Wayfair has undergone some workforce changes in 2024. 

In January, Wayfair announced it would cut 13% of its global workforce, including 19% of its corporate workers, as sales took a nosedive following the pandemic. The cuts impact 1,650 employees.

The furniture and home goods retailer said annualized sales doubled from $9 billion to $18 billion during the pandemic. But that surge was temporary, and its stock value has since plummeted to its lowest level in seven years. 

Agency stands by decision to clear Chinese swimmers for Tokyo Olympics

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 18:23

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The world’s top anti-doping regulator said after reviewing a television documentary and newspaper reports that it stands by its decision to clear 23 Chinese swimmers to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 despite testing positive for a banned heart medication.

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement following the release Sunday of a documentary on the cases by German broadcaster ARD.

In an earlier statement following initial newspaper reports, WADA said it agreed with Chinese authorities and ruled the swimmers’ samples had been contaminated. The contamination was accepted to have been in the kitchen of a hotel where the Chinese team stayed.

The New York Times reported Chinese anti-doping authorities found the results of the tests were Adverse Analytical Findings, but cleared the swimmers without any penalties.

Chinese swimmers went on to win three gold medals in Tokyo, where the United States took silver in two of those races and Britain was second in the other.

"Following WADA's review of the documentary, the agency still stands firmly by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case," WADA said in the statement Sunday. "We are equally confident that WADA's independent Intelligence and Investigations Department followed up on all allegations received, which were not corroborated by any evidence; and thus, did not meet WADA threshold to open an investigation."

WADA said based on available scientific evidence and intelligence, "which was gathered, assessed and tested by experts in the pharmacology of trimetazidine (TMZ); and, by anti-doping experts," it had no basis under the global anti-doping code to challenge the Chinese agency's findings of environmental contamination.

The drug at the center of this case was also the medication that led to the suspension of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva at the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

In that case, WADA moved quickly to sanction Valieva upon learning about her positive test.

SEE MORE: Doping-friendly 'Enhanced Games' seeks to rival the Olympics

China's star swimmer Sun Yang also tested positive for TMZ and served a three-month ban in 2014. That case also was kept quiet by Chinese and swim authorities and provoked criticism from opponents when he won at the world championships the next year. Sun was later banned for breaking doping rules in a high-profile case WADA did pursue.

WADA said its position in the latest Chinese case was also accepted by World Aquatics, which governs international swimming.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Monday described the media reports as "disinformation and a misrepresentation," and affirmed WADA's decision.

Wang said China's anti-doping authorities investigated the incident and found the positive results were due to "the ingestion of contaminated food by the relevant athletes without knowledge of the contaminated food, and the Chinese swimmers involved were not at fault or negligent, which did not constitute a doping violation."

However, anti-doping rules in Olympic sports do require a provisional suspension — which the Chinese swimmers avoided — when athletes test positive for TMZ.

"I want to emphasize," Wang said, "that the Chinese government has maintained a firm stance of zero tolerance towards doping, strictly abides by the WADA Code, resolutely safeguards the physical and mental health of athletes, maintains fair play in sports competitions, and contributes positively to the global efforts in the crackdown on doping."

WADA scheduled a news conference in Montreal for later Monday, saying its president, Witold Banka, and director general Olivier Niggli would be among the officials on hand to answer questions, also its top prosecuting lawyer and head of investigations.

The 30-member Chinese swim team won six medals in Tokyo, including three golds. Zhang Yufei won the women's 200 meters butterfly title ahead of Regan Smith of the United States, and silver in the 100 butterfly where American Torri Huske was out of the medals in fourth.

Zhang and Yang Junxuan were part of the 4x200 freestyle relay team that took gold, edging the Americans including seven-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky. Canada was fourth.

"Doping can deprive clean athletes of hard-earned moments they deserve such as standing on the podium and the life-changing opportunities that may follow," Swimming Canada said Sunday in a statement.

In the men's 200 medley in Tokyo, Wang Shun beat silver medalist Duncan Scott, the British star who refused to share a medal podium with Sun Yang at the 2019 world championships.

Many of the athletes still compete for China and are expected to swim at the Paris Olympics that start in July.

In its initial statement, WADA responded to what it called "some misleading and potentially defamatory media coverage this week" and explained the process it undertook upon learning about the positive tests.

The global drug-fighting organization said it also had been given a tip by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as early as 2020 — before this case arose — about allegations of doping cover-ups in China but that USADA never followed up with evidence.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart called the news of the Chinese positive tests "crushing."

"It's even more devastating to learn the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency secretly, until now, swept these positives under the carpet by failing to fairly and evenly follow the global rules that apply to everyone else in the world," Tygart said.

The case underscores what many view as a flaw in the global anti-doping system — that a country's own anti-doping organization is often the first line of defense in catching drug cheats and those organizations have different levels of motivation to fulfill that role.

USDA releases genetic data of bird flu after criticism from scientists

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 18:19

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture published genetic data from avian flu virus samples after scientists criticized the government agency for not having more public information to help them assess the risk of the ongoing outbreak. 

STAT News, a health news website produced by The Boston Globe, reported that calls for the U.S. government to release more information about the bird flu virus, known as H5N1, increased after it was first reported that a dairy cow herd in Texas had tested positive for the pathogen in March. 

While it’s not unusual for the bird flu to infect various mammals that have been exposed to infected birds, it is the first time it has been found in cattle, officials said. However, it does not appear to be as rapidly progressing and fatal in cattle as it is in birds. 

The USDA believes that dairy cows are contracting the virus from exposure to wild birds, but it has not ruled out cow-to-cow spread. 

Concerns about the bird flu have grown in recent months as it has continued to decimate bird populations across the country and spread to more mammal species, including an extremely rare case of it infecting a human who was working on the Texas dairy farm where the first cattle outbreak was recorded. 

Despite the rare occurrence, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization consider the public risk to be low, and the USDA said it does not believe there are changes to the virus that have made it more transmissible to humans. 

Texas health officials said the patient only reported having eye redness and is being treated with an antiviral drug. 

SEE MORE: Person in Texas diagnosed with bird flu after contact with cows

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is maintaining the resources about the outbreak, released 239 genetic sequences of H5N1 samples taken from chickens, dairy cattle, a blackbird, a grackle, a cat, a raccoon and a skunk on Sunday. 

“APHIS routinely publishes influenza genetic sequence data on GISAID (the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data); however, in the interest of public transparency and ensuring the scientific community has access to this information as quickly as possible to encourage disease research and development to benefit the U.S. dairy industry, APHIS is also rapidly sharing raw sequence data to the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information,” the agency said. 

The department had previously shared genetic sequences from the Texas dairy farm outbreak, but now 32 herds in eight states have confirmed cases of the virus. Still, the USDA is not mandating dairy producers test their herds and instead has been encouraging them to look out for symptoms and contact state veterinarians if there are signs. 

The CDC also published the genome sequence analysis from a specimen collected from the infected dairy farm worker in Texas at the beginning of April for scientists to access and analyze. 

So far, there haven’t been any notable impacts on the dairy industry or national milk supply because of the virus outbreak, according to the USDA. But the same can’t be said for the commercial poultry industry

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC continue to encourage consumers to drink pasteurized milk, which is heat-treated to eliminate pathogens, and the farms where cattle have tested positive for the virus have been barred from selling milk. 

There have not been any cases of the virus found in beef cattle, so there are no concerns about meat supply and safety in regards to the bird flu, the USDA said. 

SEE MORE: Bird flu is spreading to more farm animals. Are milk and eggs safe?

Legal technicality could keep Biden off the Ohio ballot

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 18:02

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The dysfunction continues at the Ohio Statehouse as a legal technicality may prevent President Joe Biden from being on the November ballot. But a Republican legislative leader has offered to help, assuring that the Democrat will get on the ballot. 

However, would the lawmakers actually pass a bill to fix the obscure law? And do the Democrats have a case for court? Our legal expert said no.

Ohio requires parties to confirm their presidential candidates 90 days before the November election, which would be Aug. 7. But President Biden won’t be the official nominee until the Democratic National Convention, which is on Aug. 19.

Senate and House Minority Leaders Nickie Antonio and Allison Russo were seemingly unaware of this, and plenty of other lawmakers on each side of the aisle also didn't know. Secretary of State Frank LaRose didn’t remind the Democrats until April.

Still, they remain positive.

"I’m 100% confident that Joe Biden is going to be on the ballot in Ohio," Russo said.

But they are scrambling.

"I'm not going to comment on what the DNC may or may not do," she added. "They're exploring all the potential options."

SEE MORE: Third-party candidates could swing 2024 election

Attorney General Dave Yost just shot down the party's plan to allow for a "provisional" certification of President Biden. But Case Western Reserve University constitutional law professor Jonathan Entin said that in most other states, this would be an easy fix.

"The obvious solution is for the legislature to get rid of the 90-day deadline," Entin said.

The little-known law was passed in a major omnibus bill in 2010. In 2012 and 2020, exemptions were passed for those years — impacting both parties. In 2016, both the DNC and the RNC held their conventions before the deadline.

This is simply an "arbitrary" deadline, Entin added. It may slightly reduce the number of early voting days, but not significantly.

To accomplish this, the Republican supermajority, one that is already fractured and has significant infighting that has led to the fewest amount of bills passed in a General Assembly in decades, would need to pass an emergency bill in the next few months — all to help the Democrats.

Senate President Matt Huffman previously took a hands-off approach.

"It's a Democratic problem," the Republican said. "There should have to be a Democratic solution."

However, five days later, he seemed more willing to help — even adding that he didn't know about the law, either.

"We're certainly going to try to accommodate getting it resolved," Huffman said.

SEE MORE: White House hopefuls rally for voter support and fundraising

"For folks who say, 'Well, we can keep Joe Biden off the ballot' — that's wrong," he added. "You're not going to be able to look at the current president of the United States and a major political candidate, and just say 'We got a law, you didn't know about it, ha ha.'"

But Huffman suggested the Democrats should not try legislative fixes, because it would be faster if the Democratic National Committee could just announce President Biden as their nominee ahead of time. That, or the Democrats could take legal action.

"It's likely that if a state law, whether it's this one or state action like Colorado and Maine, that will keep a candidate of a major political party off the ballot, then ultimately, a federal court — and perhaps the United States Supreme Court — would move in and do something about that," Huffman said, referencing the March decision from the U.S. Supreme Court putting Trump back on the ballot after the states removed him for "engaging in an insurrection" under the U.S. Constitution's 14th amendment.

Entin doesn't think this is a strong argument.

"The idea that a federal court is going to come in and say, 'And therefore this deadline is somehow unconstitutional,' I think is optimistic," he said.

There is also another case from 1983 from the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices struck down Ohio's very early deadline for getting a party on the ballot. This law made minor parties submit earlier than the GOP or Democratic party.

The professor said he also doesn't like this one.

"The 1983 Supreme Court decision dealt with a law that discriminated against minor parties," Entin added. "I think the basic problem is this doesn't discriminate against anybody."

He called it a "foolish law." But because it applies to all parties — not just Democrats — admits the case would be difficult to argue.

"Neither one of those [cases] necessarily supports the idea that Biden has to go on the Ohio presidential ballot this year," Entin said. "I hope that the folks involved have a fallback position because I wouldn't bet the farm on that legal strategy working."

Still, the Democrats stay hopeful.

"At the end of the day, we should all be supporting fair and free elections, right?" Antonio said.

SEE MORE: Inside the Race: GOP fundraising in March, issues impacting campaigns

"What seems to be going on reflects yet again how dysfunctional the Ohio government is," Entin said. "There's plenty of faults to be laid on just about everybody."

You can fault the Democrats for not knowing the law, the entire legislative leadership for being uncooperative and constantly bickering and LaRose for "waiting until virtually the last minute to raise the issue," the professor added. 

"If we had responsible public officials, none of this would matter," he said.

Entin added that the lawmakers can't even manage to pass bipartisan bills, so there is no way they will pass one benefiting the minority party.

"I can't say that I'm surprised, but I think that we should all be disturbed that there, apparently, is no movement in the state legislature to change the law," he said.

Huffman said the Republicans are waiting on the Democrats to propose something. The Democrats won't say if they are working on a bill.

Just get together and pass a bipartisan bill amending the law, the expert said, exasperated.

"It's hard to imagine that anybody could go broke underestimating the irresponsibility of Ohio officials dealing with this situation," Entin sighed.

This story was originally published by Morgan Trau at Scripps News Cleveland.

Study: Students with last names at end of alphabet given lower grades

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 17:43

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A new study by the University of Michigan made an alarming discovery that a student’s last name can affect their grades. 

When graded alphabetically, students with last names at the end of the alphabet were given lower grades than those whose surnames were at the start of the list.

That means a student with the last name Anderson was more likely to get graded higher than a student with the last name Smith.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed 30 million of the school’s own grading records when it noticed the pattern. The school said that Canvas — the most widely used online learning management system — has a default setting to list students alphabetically by last name.

Researchers also found that those with last names that appeared at the end of the list were given remarks that were “more negative and less polite” on their assignments.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make the grading fair and accurate but even for me it was really surprising,” said Jun Li, associate professor of technology and operations at U-M’s Ross School of Business, and an author on the study.

“It didn’t occur to us until we looked at the data and realized that sequence makes a difference,” Li said. 

The study authors noted that while this was the case at Michigan, it can be generalized across schools because institutions use similar learning management systems that have the same design flaw of categorizing students alphabetically by surname.

The research found that students with last names from A to E scored 0.3 percentage points higher compared to when they were graded randomly, and those with surnames at the end of the alphabet scored 0.3 percentage points lower — creating a 0.6-point gap. Though this may seem small, the study noted that the disparity does impact grade point averages, and thus, possible career paths.

Notably, for a small group of graders that grade assignments from Z to A, those with last names at the end of the alphabet showed higher marks because their names appeared at the top.

“Our conclusion is this may be something that happened unconsciously by the graders that’s actually creating a real social impact,” said Helen Wang, a study author and doctoral student from the school’s Ross School of Business.

Another study author, Jiaxin Pei from Michigan’s School of Information, weighed in on their theory.

“We kind of suspect that fatigue is one of the major factors that is driving this effect, because when you’re working on something for a long period of time, you get tired and then you start to lose your attention and your cognitive abilities are dropping,” Pei said. 

The researchers note there is an option to randomize the lists when grading, but alphabetical is the default setting in systems like Canvas. 

A simple fix could be to change the default settings in grading systems to randomize the order in which students appear. Other options, researchers said, are to higher more graders to distribute the workload, and to train graders to be aware of the biases. 

Victoria Beckham's birthday party was an impromptu Spice Girls reunion

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 17:22

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For the first time since 2012, all five Spice Girls sang and danced together.

No, it wasn’t a concert, but it was a major event: Victoria Beckham — Posh Spice — just turned 50.

At her celebrity-studded birthday party in London this weekend, Beckham’s former bandmates Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) and Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice) danced together to their 1997 hit “Stop,” which Beckham’s husband David caught on video.

“Best night ever! Happy Birthday to me! I love you all so much!” Beckham wrote alongside the video in a post on her Instagram with the hashtag “#SpiceUpYourLife.”

A fan uploaded the 12-second clip to YouTube, where you can watch the Girls performing the choreography to the catchy earworm:

The Spice Girls formed in 1994 when the five women responded to an advertisement for a girl group, then quickly took the world by storm with their chart-topping pop hits including “Wannabe,” “Say You’ll Be There,” “2 Become 1,” “Who Do You Think You Are,” “Spice Up Your Life” and “Viva Forever.”

The group released two albums and a movie, 1997’s “Spice World,” before Halliwell left the group in 1998. The remaining four released one more album before splitting up in 2001. They’ve reconvened in the years since for tours in 2007, a performance at the London Olympics closing ceremony in 2012 and a European tour in 2019 sans Beckham, making it all the more special that the first time the five have “performed” together since 2012 was at her birthday.

There have been whispers of another true reunion in the intervening years, most recently just last month when “Scary Spice” Melanie Brown — better known to fans as Mel B — appeared on “Today with Hoda & Jenna” to promote her memoir, “Brutally Honest.”

“This is going to be really good,” Brown said when asked about what’s next for the Spice Girls, “The fans are going to be really happy about it.”

In the years since Spice Girls mania, Beckham has become a fashion designer and grown her family with her husband, who is a former professional English football player. The couple shares four children: sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz and daughter Harper.

This story was originally published by Simplemost.

Clothing retailer Express announces bankruptcy, store closings

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 16:42

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Clothing retailer Express announced on Monday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will close 95 of its locations throughout the U.S.

The company said those locations would begin having clearance sales Tuesday. 

Additionally, Express announced that all five of its UpWest stores will close. 

Express said a consortium led by WHP Global plans to buy a majority stake in the retailer as part of the bankruptcy process. 

Express said that it has received $35 million in new financing from existing lenders, in addition to $49 million it received from the Internal Revenue Service through CARES Act funding. 

SEE MORE: Has Aldi found the solution to self-checkout's woes?

“We continue to make meaningful progress refining our product assortments, driving demand, connecting with customers and strengthening our operations,” said Stewart Glendinning, Express CEO. “We are taking an important step that will strengthen our financial position and enable Express to continue advancing our business initiatives. WHP has been a strong partner to the Company since 2023, and the proposed transaction will provide us additional financial resources, better position the business for profitable growth and maximize value for our stakeholders.”

Express said remaining locations will keep their existing hours of operation. Gift cards will continue to be honored and there will be no changes to the company's return policy. 

Express operates over 500 locations throughout the U.S., including nearly 200 outlet stores. 

Following is the list of stores closing, according to the company's bankruptcy filing. 

Supreme Court will take up the legal fight over ghost guns

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 16:28

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The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to take up a Biden administration appeal over the regulation of difficult-to-trace ghost guns that had been struck down by lower courts.

The justices by a 5-4 vote had previously intervened to keep the regulation in effect during the legal fight. Ghost guns, which lack serial numbers, have been turning up at crime scenes with increasing regularity.

The regulation, which took effect in 2022, changed the definition of a firearm under federal law to include unfinished parts, like the frame of a handgun or the receiver of a long gun, so they can be tracked more easily. Those parts must be licensed and include serial numbers. Manufacturers must also run background checks before a sale, as they do with other commercially made firearms.

The requirement applies regardless of how the firearm was made, meaning it includes ghost guns made from individual parts or kits or by 3D printers. The rule does not prohibit people from buying a kit or any type of firearm.

SEE MORE: New report details illegal gun trafficking trends in the US

The Justice Department had told the court that local law enforcement agencies seized more than 19,000 ghost guns at crime scenes in 2021, a more than tenfold increase in just five years.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, in Fort Worth, Texas, struck down the rule last year, concluding that it exceeded the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ authority. O’Connor wrote that the definition of a firearm in federal law does not cover all the parts of a gun. Congress could change the law, he wrote.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made up of three appointees of then-President Donald Trump largely upheld O'Connor's ruling.

The Supreme Court allowed the regulation to remain in effect while the lawsuit continues. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined with the court’s three liberal members to form the majority. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas would have kept the regulation on hold during the appeals process.

Barrett, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were appointed by Trump.

Arguments won't take place before the fall.

Columbia University goes virtual amid pro-Palestinian protests

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 15:52

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Columbia University in New York is holding classes virtually Monday in response to the ongoing pro-Palestinian protests that continue to engulf the Ivy League campus. University officials said the move was in an effort to "deescalate the rancor" over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and address security concerns on campus as the Jewish holiday of Passover begins.

"I understand that many are experiencing deep moral distress and want Columbia to help alleviate this by taking action," University President Nemat "Minouche" Shafik said in a statement. "We should be having serious conversations about how Columbia can contribute. There will be many views across our diverse community about how best to do this and that is as it should be. But we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view."

SEE MORE: Columbia president rebuts claims she let school become hotbed of hate

Protests broke out on Columbia's Manhattan campus last week as Shafik was set to testify at a Congressional hearing regarding the university's response to antisemitism and what phrases used by activists would be considered harassment. But what began as a protest calling for Columbia to divest from financial interests in corporations tied to Israel ended in clashes with police. 

Authorities began arresting dozens of protesters Thursday after an encampment had formed on the university's South Lawn. Columbia said the group of over 100 people were notified "numerous times" that they would be suspended if they did not vacate the area, and said the participants were trespassing after the university's president ordered they be removed.

SEE MORE: Why pro-Palestinian demonstrations are popping up on college campuses

Divisive tensions have gripped American universities large and small since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel that sparked the war. 

Dozens of protesters were arrested at Yale on Monday for trespassing. 

Social media, combined with the social justice movements of the past several years, may be helping supporters of Palestinians organize in ways never seen before.

At Columbia, Shafik said a group of campus officials will come together and discuss ways to bring "this crisis" to an end.

"That includes continuing discussions with the student protestors and identifying actions we can take as a community to enable us to peacefully complete the term and return to respectful engagement with each other," said Shafik.

However, the division is not just a problem impacting student relations on campus. It's impacting the university's finances, too.

Robert Kraft — a Columbia University graduate — is founder of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism and owner of the NFL's New England Patriots. As one of Columbia's largest donors, Kraft announced Tuesday that he will no longer be giving any money to his alma mater until more is done to quell the protests.

"I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken," Kraft said in a statement. "It is my hope that Columbia and its leadership will stand up to this hate by ending these protests immediately and will work to earn back the respect and trust of the many of us who have lost faith in the institution."

Kraft served as a trustee to Columbia from 1992 to 2004 and has donated more than $18 million to the university, according to his foundation. That includes more than $9 million to build the Kraft Center and the Robert K. Kraft Family Center for Jewish Student Life on the Columbia University campus.

USDA issues national alert on contaminated ground beef

Mon, 04/22/2024 - 15:00

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a nationwide alert that ground beef sold throughout the U.S. might be contaminated with E. coli. 

The USDA said the ground beef was produced on March 28, 2024, and has a use or freeze-by date of April 22, 2024. The USDA noted that the affected products would have “EST. 960A” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Officials said there have not been any reports of illnesses. The USDA said the contamination was found by the beef's producers while conducting an inventory of product that was on hold because it was found positive for E. coli O157:H7.

"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ and food service institutions’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them and food service institutions are urged not to serve these products," the USDA said. "These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."

A full list of affected products is available on the USDA's website. 

SEE MORE: Petition demands USDA action after lead is detected in Lunchables

The USDA said that the products were not placed under a recall because they are no longer available for purchase. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said symptoms typically appear three to four days after consumption. The symptoms typically last up to a week. The symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting, the CDC added.

Cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit will kill off E. coli, the CDC said. 

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