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Why do we have daylight saving time?

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 21:56

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It's that time of year again: Daylight saving time is about to begin, and we'll "spring forward," turning our clocks ahead an hour and making us extra-sleepy for a few days as our bodies adjust. 

Whether you love it (more daylight!) or hate it (less sleep!), have you ever stopped to think about why we do it and how it got started? Here's all you need to know.

The history of daylight saving time

Technically, Germany started daylight saving time (and, yes, that is "saving" with no extra "s" on the end) during World War I. On May 1, 1916, the country implemented daylight saving time to conserve electricity during the war, and the rest of Europe followed suit. 

The United States adopted the practice roughly two years later on March 19, 1918, about a year into U.S. involvement in WWI. But although Germany was first to enact the practice and the U.S. got on board shortly after, neither country was the first to dream it up.

That distinction belongs to Englishman William Willett who, in 1907, published the pamphlet "The Waste of Daylight" in an effort to get Brits to enjoy more sunlight. In it, Willett wrote "the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep [and yet there] remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal."

You may have heard before, erroneously, that Benjamin Franklin is the father of daylight saving time, but this is untrue; Franklin simply suggested changing sleep schedules in his satirical essay for the "Journal de Paris." The essay advocated for early risers but did not suggest adjusting the time.

But even after the practice was adopted in WWI, it was abandoned afterward. Then it came back in World War II again as an energy-saving measure. 

The practice wasn't formally implemented until 1966, however, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act into law. It was the first peacetime daylight saving time law and stated that the U.S. would officially observe six months of daylight saving time and six months of standard time. The law required states to either adopt daylight saving time entirely or opt out entirely, which is why there are a couple of states that don't participate.

Since 1966, the U.S. observance of daylight saving time has evolved a few times. In December 1973, President Richard Nixon started a two-year trial of year-round daylight saving time, but the trial run lasted just nine months. The dark early-morning proved dangerous for children on their way to school, and the public’s original 79% approval rating of the idea dropped to just 42%. In October 1974, standard time was restored.

Twelve years later, in 1986, the U.S. started observing seven months of daylight saving time — an extra month that, according to Time, the golf and barbecue equipment industries claimed was worth between $200 million and $400 million.

In 2005, those seven months turned into eight, which is why we now observe daylight saving time from March until November.

SEE MORE: Here's how setting your clock back an hour impacts mental health

Why do we do daylight saving time?

Officially, we observe it as a fuel-saving measure dating back to WWI, but unofficially, it's commerce that led the charge for daylight saving. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was a major backer of the policy, Time reports, because Americans getting off work while it was still light out meant they would be more likely to go out shopping in the evening.

The sports and recreation industries have also been positively impacted by the extra daylight. 

"Baseball [was] a huge early supporter because there [was] no artificial illumination of parks, so to get school kids and workers to ball games with the extended daylight, they have a later start time," Michael Downing, author of "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time," told Time.

Another common misconception is that we observe daylight saving time for the benefit of farmers. According to Downing, farmers actually lobbied vocally against the practice, as it robbed them of precious morning daylight hours to get their crops to market. Dairy farmers are especially impacted, as cows apparently like routine. In fact, dairy farmers go out of their way not to disrupt their cows' routines during the spring time-change, instead changing the timing of everything else they do on the farm.

Which states don't have daylight saving time?

Hawaii and Arizona do not observe daylight saving time; however, the Navajo Nation within Arizona does observe daylight saving. Because the Navajo Nation extends outside Arizona and into Utah and New Mexico, they observe daylight saving time so that everyone on the vast reservation can live on the same clock schedule.

Who benefits from daylight saving time?

Basically, it comes down to those who profit from more people venturing out later into the evening and spending money. Extra light equates to more money spent by Americans, specifically at gas stations and on leisure activities.

"Americans really do leave their homes when there is more sunlight at the end of the day," Downing told The New York Times.

But while it may have originated with fuel-saving in mind, daylight saving time has negligible impact on energy conservation. Many studies have been conducted on the subject, and the best consensus across them is that there is about a 0.34% decrease in electricity usage during daylight saving time.

"It has long been a cynical substitute for real energy policy," Downing said in the Times interview. "It's the ideal energy policy because it has no apparent direct cost to consumers, and it asks no one to consume less."

What do Powell's comments on rate cuts mean for Americans?

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 21:33

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The Federal Reserve is in no rush to cut interest rates. This could mean more frustration for Americans, who have already faced almost two years of elevated borrowing costs on everything from car loans to mortgages.

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell testified before a house committee Wednesday, celebrating a slowdown in inflation. But he was cautious to say much else. 

"The economic outlook is uncertain," Powell told the House committee on Monetary Policy Wednesday as part of his semiannual testimony to Congress. "Ongoing progress toward our 2% objective for inflation is not assured."

Powell said the Fed isn't ready to start cutting interest rates until the central bank has more confidence in the strength of the economy. However, he believes there will be a cut sometime this year. 

The inflation rate is getting closer to the Fed's 2% target range, currently sitting at 2.4%. That's down from its 7.1% peak in June of 2022.

Powell testified Wednesday that interest rates have likely peaked, hovering at 5.4%, a 23-year high.

In December, Fed officials projected three rate cuts this year, but Powell wasn't ready to say when those would happen.

SEE MORE: Bitcoin price briefly hits an all-time high

"They can take their time here. They don't need to provide additional support to the economy by cutting rates," said wealth management adviser Adam Phillips. 

He adds that the timing of rate cuts is a delicate balance.

"The risk in cutting rates too aggressively too soon is that inflation comes roaring back, and they essentially end up declaring victory too early and we get a resurgence in inflation that would only damage their credibility."

The Fed has hiked rates eleven times since 2022.

The latest numbers show that despite some price jumps in January, inflation is slowing. But Phillips says interest rate cuts won't necessarily mean lower prices.

"Listening to Jerome Powell today, he acknowledged the fact that we may not return to the normal that we knew prior to the pandemic," Phillips said. "The hope in all of this is that wages continue to remain solid and that employment remains solid so we don't see a lot of layoffs in getting inflation to a more normal level."

Phillips adds the Fed will be looking at wages, jobs and the bond market to determine when they'll cut rates and by how much.

"We do have confidence in them. They will defeat inflation," said Phillips.

Powell will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday for the second and final day of his testimony to Congress.

Health officials urge measles vaccinations as cases continue to rise

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 21:20

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At least 41 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S. across 16 states so far this year,marking one of the steepest increases in the recent history of the virus.

Experts worry the country could face a repeat of 2019's massive surge, which authorities at the time said could threaten the U.S.'s status as having eliminated the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say we are seeing measles cases rising for two main reasons: More travelers get infected abroad and bring it back to the U.S., and more spread in communities with pockets of unvaccinated people, and both are happening now.

"We could expect to see more and more of these cases,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine and infectious disease physician at the University of California in San Francisco.

Measles symptoms usually begin 10 to 14 days after exposure. They include runny nose, coughing, red and watery eyes, small white spots inside the cheeks, and rashes. The CDC says about 1 in 5 unvaccinated people who get measles are hospitalized, and it can cause brain swelling, pneumonia, and even death. 

Meanwhile, health officials continue to prepare doctors to see more cases and urge parents to vaccinate.

At least 95% of a population must be vaccinated in order to meet "herd immunity" for measles — when enough people are immune and protect those who are not.

"Measles is the canary in the coal mine. We're reversing progress over the last decades and turning back the clock on so many of these childhood diseases,” said Chin-Hong.

The measles vaccine has been around since the 1960s. Doctors recommend the MMR shot — measles, mumps, and rubella — in two doses. The first dose is administered between 12 and 15 months old, followed by the second dose between 4 and 6 years old. It's 97% effective in protecting against measles and lasts for life.

SEE MORE: CDC warns of 'imported' measles as US deals with cases

Chemical burn in East Palestine derailment could have been avoided

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 21:12

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Norfolk Southern's decision to burn off chemicals from derailed train cars in East Palestine, Ohio, last year was based on flawed and incomplete information, National Transportation Safety Board officials said Wednesday.

In U.S. Senate testimony Wednesday, NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said that the contractors working for Norfolk Southern didn't have the right "scientific background" to make a decision to vent and burn chemicals from the wreck. She said they should have instead given the train cars time to cool down.

The NTSB said Ohio officials were told they had just minutes to decide whether to vent and burn off the vinyl chloride carried in the train cars at the time of the wreck.

Officials with OxyVinyls, the company that was shipping the chemicals, told responders before burning began that they didn't believe there was a risk of dangerous chemical reactions that would have necessitated burning them off.

But responders "were not given full information because no one was told OxyVinyls was on scene," Homendy said in her testimony. "They were left out of the room."

SEE MORE: Derailed: East Palestine, 1 year later

The burning plume caused widespread health concerns and triggered an extensive environmental cleanup in East Palestine. 

The effects of exposure to vinyl chloride are still poorly understood and rarely researched. Current findings indicate that long-term exposure through oral contact or inhalation may cause liver issues and instances of cancer.

The EPA has said it may make a multi-year investigation into the chemical's health effects.  

In the meantime, officials maintain there are no ongoing environmental health risks in East Palestine as a result of the derailment. 

Worldcoin eyeball scans paused after privacy worries in Spain

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 21:01

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A privacy watchdog in Europe has ordered Worldcoin, the company created by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman that scans eyeballs to make digital IDs in exchange for crypto, to cease its operations in Spain for three months amid concerns over what it is doing with users' personal information.

The stated goal of Worldcoin is to give people a form of identification that could never be stolen or duplicated. It says the way it can do this is by creating a "World ID" by scanning someone's eyeballs through "orbs" — devices that capture an image of their irises, the colored parts of the eyes. In exchange, people who sign up get Worldcoin cryptocurrency.

Spain's Agency for Data Protection told Worldcoin's parent company Tools for Humanity Corporation, on Wednesday, to stop collecting personal data and keep hold of all information already collected. The agency said in a statement that it had received various complaints against the company that range from gathering the personal information of minors to not allowing for people to withdraw their consent to sharing personal data.

SEE MORE: Supreme Court Justices appear skeptical of social media state laws

People have lined up at points where these orbs are placed in various cities in recent months. More than 360,000 people in Spain have signed up for Worldcoin, according to the most recent company data from November.

While Worldcoin argues that the data is used to create a unique, secure form of identification, privacy experts have concerns that the company may use the information in other ways, like personalized marketing. That has led other countries to investigate Worldcoin's operations, including France and Germany.

The Kenyan government has likewise suspended new sign-ups for Worldcoin as it investigates whether people's information is being properly protected. 

Worldcoin responded that their operations preserve privacy.

"The Spanish data protection authority is circumventing EU law with their actions today, which are limited to Spain and not the broader EU, and spreading inaccurate and misleading claims about our technology globally," said Jannick Preiwisch, Worldcoin’s data protection officer. 

More girls are playing sports, but access becoming segregated

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 20:55

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The participation of girls in sports has increased in recent years, but access to athletics is not always an even playing field, new research suggests. 

Researchers from The Ohio State University and Oregon State University published their findings last month in the journal Sociological Focus. The study shows that female participation in youth sports has increased from 300,000 in the early 70s to now over 3 million. 

The researchers said that socioeconomic status can often either foster or obstruct opportunities for youth sports among girls. They said girls of color, from lower social class families, and attending schools in lower-income neighborhoods are often denied these opportunities. 

Missing out on sports, they say, can have ramifications later in life, including on collegiate and job opportunities, as well as the benefits of physical activity. These girls also miss out on the numerous benefits that youth sports provide, the researchers said. 

"We tell that this is really about creating more sports, not less, we're in an environment where we're creating less and less opportunities," said study co-author Kirsten Hextrum of Oregon State University. "So how do we shift that discussion and see how to create more?"

SEE MORE: Caitlin Clark attracts largest regular-season TV audience in 25 years

And even when girls are given opportunities in sports, not all opportunities are equal. In some cases, girls attend schools or live in areas with youth athletics, but those programs lack the resources and ability to provide high-quality opportunities for young athletes. 

Hextrum noted that one issue is that financial support for extracurricular activities in schools is being stripped. Over the last 40 years, she said that schools have seen athletics as an easy fix to budget issues. 

That has led to a more privatized model, where those with more resources can access personal coaching and other programs — but those programs often leave out children of lesser means, she said.

"How do we recognize that sports really shouldn't be relegated to the extra curriculum?" said Hextrum. "We as a society value them enough that they should be part of the formal curriculum in some way. That might be an idea for kind of keeping more robust funding around it."

Study co-author Christopher Knoester of Ohio State said that these opportunities are fading particularly among districts with a high proportion of students of color. 

"We see that particularly the number of sports offered and school size seem to be structural factors that can be linked to opportunities," he said. "We see those discrepancies in the number of sports particularly from … the most segregated schools. And so a vast proportion of the population goes to schools that are 85%-plus Black and Latino, or 85%-plus White. And those particular discrepancies in terms of sports opportunities were drastically different, and of course, that plays into some of our findings in terms of who has opportunities to play and being housed within schools."

While providing money and resources is one way to improve access, other obstacles must be addressed. 

"Driving a lot of the social class differences is the fact that there's a variety of different family structures, a variety of different people with different resources," Knoester said. "Part of addressing family support emphasis is having convenient, low-cost opportunities with transportation ... Trying to orchestrate these opportunities for people takes a lot of work and a lot of money and a lot of collaboration to get people together to play and participate."

Lynette Woodard, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and one of women's college basketball greatest scorers, said access to youth sports has made progress since she graduated from high school in 1978, but more progress is needed. 

"I would have to say there's a lot of progress to be made, but it's better than it was," Woodard said. "And so all you have to do is show up every day, showing up is half the battle. It can always be better, there's always gonna be some discrepancy somewhere but the fewer, the better."

Target launches new paid membership program that rivals Amazon

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 20:14

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Target is taking a page out of the Amazon playbook in an attempt to bolster sales by launching a new paid membership program that offers free same-day delivery.

The Minnesota-based retail giant announced Tuesday that it is expanding its current Target Circle loyalty program by adding three new membership options starting next month. The announcement came on the same day that Target reported its first sales decline in more than seven years. 

The new program launches on April 7 and will give customers the option to choose between three membership tiers: Target Circle, Target Circle Card, and Target Circle 360. 

SEE MORE: As Target combats thefts, shrink remains a 'headwind'

Target Circle

Since launching in 2019, Target says over 100 million customers have signed up for its free Target Circle loyalty program in order to get access to personalized deals, savings, and other perks. The new iteration will keep the same name and benefits as before, but instead of customers having to search for or add individual offers, deals will now be automatically applied at checkout. Members will also earn 1% back in rewards that can be redeemed on future store purchases. 

Target Circle Card

Previously known as the Target RedCard, the new Target Circle Card is also free. It will offer members free two-day shipping, an extra 30 days to return items, and an extra 5% off all purchases. It also comes with a special pricing discount on Target's paid membership mentioned below.

Target Circle 360

The Target Circle 360 membership is the company's newest paid option. Like Target Circle Card holders, this program also offers customers free two-day delivery. But it also includes free same-day delivery on orders over $35 and lets members have orders shipped directly to their doorstep, or a friend's. New members can sign up between April 7 and May 18 at a discounted price of $49 for the first year. After that sign-up period, the cost will go up to $99 annually — but Target Circle Card holders can sign up any time for the discounted price. 

SEE MORE: Walmart to build or convert more than 150 stores in the next 5 years

“We’ve prioritized building strong relationships with guests since Target’s inception, and our reimagining of Target Circle continues that commitment,” Target Executive Vice President Cara Sylvester said in a statement. “The new Target Circle experience was designed to flex and grow with our guests to deliver more value and ease — no matter how they choose to shop with us — so every visit feels personal, rewarding and made just for you.”

Vegas' Bellagio pauses fountain show after rare bird spotted in water

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 20:01

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The Bellagio in Las Vegas shut down its iconic fountain show after a rare bird was spotted in the water.

The Bellagio said in a post on X that it paused the water show after a yellow-billed loon "found comfort on Las Vegas' own Lake Bellagio."

The yellow-billed loon is "an international species of concern," that is among the 10 rarest birds in the U.S., according to National Park Service

"We are happy to welcome the most exclusive guests," said the Bellagio.

The Bellagio, owned by MGM Resorts, is working with state wildlife officials to rescue the rare bird.

Initially, the fountains were paused Wednesday until the resort could determine how to proceed, an MGM Resorts International spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Bellagio was told its water show would not bother the bird, and that its fountains could resume, but the resort still kept operations on hold.

Doug Nielson, a spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Wildlife's Southern Nevada, told The Associated Press that concerned birders have called about the yellow-billed loon, asking the agency to intervene. He told AP it's not uncommon for migratory birds to visit the valley. 

Nielson said a rescue mission could happen if necessary, but for now the agency will continue to monitor the situation, hoping the bird will leave when it realizes it needs a more steady food source. 

"We're just going give it space," Nielsen said. "Hopefully, it'll say: 'Gee, I'm not finding anything swimming in here, so I probably need to go.'" 

Scripps News has reached out to MGM Resorts for more information.

Gray whale spotted in the Atlantic for the first time in 200 years

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 19:55

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The New England Aquarium’s aerial survey team caught an amazingly rare glimpse of a gray whale swimming approximately 30 miles south of Nantucket last week during their flight. 

You might be thinking, “Don’t whales live in the ocean?” Yes, but the gray whale has not been spotted in the Atlantic Ocean for over 200 years — and seeing one swimming and feeding in these waters left the team downright giddy.

“My brain was trying to process what I was seeing, because this animal was something that should not really exist in these waters,” research technician Kate Laemmle, who was on the plane, said in the aquarium’s press release. “We were laughing because of how wild and exciting this was — to see an animal that disappeared from the Atlantic hundreds of years ago!”

The New England Aquarium explains that gray whales are typically found in the North Pacific Ocean, but by the 18th century, gray whales vanished from the Atlantic Ocean. In December 2023, a gray whale was spotted near the Florida coast, and New England Aquarium scientists believe it was the same whale they just saw swimming last week.

SEE MORE: Scientists might have finally figured out how whales sing

While it’s exciting news to see the gray whale resurface here, the downside is that scientists believe its appearance in this area of the ocean is due to climate change.

The aquarium explained this correlation in their statement.

“The Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific through the Arctic Ocean in Canada, has regularly been ice-free in the summertime in recent years, partly due to rising global temperatures,” the statement reads. “The extent of the sea ice typically limits the species range of gray whales, experts say, as the whales cannot break through the thick winter ice that usually blocks the Passage. Now, gray whales can potentially travel the Passage in the summer, something that wouldn’t have been possible in the previous century.”

If you’re a fan of rare and amazing sightings of ocean dwellers, check out how thrilled researchers were to spy what could have been a baby great white shark.

This story was originally published by Beth Shea at Simplemost.

Officials say building in deadly fire shouldn't have had canisters

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 19:43

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Crews battled a massive fire at an industrial building that housed a vape supply business in suburban Detroit on Monday evening as explosions erupted from the blaze. One person died after they were hit with a projectile.

Officials held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on the Clinton Township incident, saying that the situation is still dangerous and there is much more debris to collect than originally thought. They also said the business should never have had butane and nitrous oxide canisters in the building, and that they had already collected 15 yards of debris from a 2-mile area.

There were hundreds of small explosions inside the building as canisters were exploding and shooting out of the building. Fire crews say the canisters were flying for miles.

“It basically was a war zone. You had shrapnel blowing up wherever you looked. So if you’re standing outside, you're wondering when the next piece is coming my way, when is it going to hit us?” Fire Chief Tim Duncan said.

Officials are stressing that no one should try to pick up any of the canisters that were flung from the scene due to the danger. They say they have brought in the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad to help collect them. Anyone who finds debris should call the police department.

"Please don't put yourself, your family and your friends in jeopardy, because those are dangerous," Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon said. "And we encourage, again, people not to go out looking for these for souvenirs. This is not a game. These things are dangerous. They're jagged, they could hurt some little people and there are containers that are still exploding.”

Duncan said on Tuesday morning that one person died in the explosion — a 19-year-old. The person was reportedly hit by a projectile from the explosion about a quarter-mile down the road. The victim has not yet been identified.

Officials said they have yet to officially begin the investigation due to the cleanup at the scene.

The scene will be secured with a fence. Officials say there will be "consequences" for anyone trying to get inside the fenced-in perimeter.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Detroit.

Powell tells lawmakers interest rate cuts are likely this year

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 19:14

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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reinforced his belief Wednesday that the central bank will cut its key interest rate this year, but said it first wants to see more evidence that inflation is falling sustainably back to the Fed’s 2% target.

Powell's comments to a House committee largely echoed those he made at a news conference Jan. 31. Since then, however, government reports have shown that inflation picked up from December to January, and hiring accelerated. Those signs suggested that the economy remains hot and that the process of further slowing inflation will likely be uneven from month to month.

But Powell did not express concern about the inflation data. Instead, he noted that according to the Fed's preferred gauge, inflation “has eased notably over the past year” even though it remains above the central bank's target.

On the first of his two days of semiannual testimony to Congress, Powell also suggested that the Fed faces two risks: Cutting rates too soon — which could “result in a reversal of progress” in reducing inflation — or cutting them “too late or too little,” which could weaken the economy and hiring. The effort to balance those two risks marks a shift from early last year, when the Fed was still rapidly raising its benchmark rate to combat high inflation.

The financial markets are consumed with divining the timing of the Fed’s first cut to its benchmark rate, which stands at a 23-year high of about 5.4%. A rate reduction would likely lead, over time, to lower rates for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and many business loans. Most analysts and investors expect a first rate cut in June, though May remains possible. Fed officials, after meeting in December, projected that they would cut rates three times this year.

In his remarks Wednesday, Powell offered no hints on the potential timing of rate cuts. Wall Street traders put the likelihood of a rate cut in June at 69%, according to futures prices, up slightly from about 64% a week ago.

The Fed chair’s testimony to the House Financial Services Committee coincides with intensified efforts by the Biden administration to stem public frustration with inflation, which erupted three years ago and has left average prices well above where they were before. President Joe Biden’s bid for reelection will pivot in no small part on voter perceptions of his handling of inflation and the overall economy.

SEE MORE: Biden administration announces $8 cap on credit card late fees

The administration is trying to crack down on what it calls unjustified price hikes by many large companies. President Biden recently attacked “shrinkflation,” whereby a company shrinks the contents of a product rather than raising its price. The president has also sought to limit so-called “junk fees,” which in effect raise the prices that consumers pay.

At Wednesday's hearing, some Democrats on the committee called for the Fed to start reducing its benchmark rate soon to help lower mortgage rates and make homes more affordable.

“We need the Fed to start cutting, because like the rent, interest rates are too damn high,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

On a separate topic, Powell replied to a question by saying the Fed will likely alter a central bank proposal that would toughen bank regulation by requiring the 32 largest banks to hold additional capital — assets similar to cash — against potential lending losses. The biggest banks have criticized the proposal, released last summer, arguing that it would force the banks to reduce lending and would slow the economy as a result.

“I do expect there will be broad and material changes to the proposal,” Powell said. “I’m confident that the final product will be one that does have broad support both at the Fed and in the broader world,” he added, acknowledging that some Fed officials opposed the proposal when it was first released.

Just before the hearing, Republicans on the committee denounced the proposed rule and urged the Fed to withdraw it. Powell said the central bank would consider pulling it and reissuing an amended version.

“Given the impact that the flawed proposal would have on the banking industry and the American economy, your agencies must provide greater clarity on what your plans are moving forward,” said the letter, signed by Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, the chairman of the committee, and its 28 other Republican members.

SEE MORE: Bitcoin price briefly hits an all-time high

Overall inflation has steadily cooled, having measured at just 2.4% in January compared with a year earlier, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge, down from a peak of 7.1% in 2022. Yet recent economic data has complicated the picture and clouded the outlook for rate cuts.

Under questioning at the hearing about what more evidence the Fed needed to feel confident that inflation is coming under control, Powell said the policymakers want to see further data similar to what was reported in the second half of last year. Over the past six months, prices have risen at a 2.5% annual rate, not far above the Fed's target.

“We don't want to have a situation where it turns out that the six months of good inflation data we had last year didn’t turn out to be an accurate signal of where underlying inflation is,” he said.

The Fed chair added that with the economy healthy and unemployment low, “we think we can and should be careful” in deciding when to cut the central bank's benchmark rate.

Powell also underscored that the Fed's policymakers believe they are done raising rates, which are likely high enough to restrain the economy and inflation. He stressed that the Fed's rapid rate hikes in 2022 and 2023 haven't led to higher unemployment. And under questioning, he added that he foresees little chance of a recession, which a year ago was widely predicted by most economists.

“There's no reason to think the U.S. economy is in some kind of short-term risk of falling into recession,” Powell said.

US ski industry lost over $5B in past 20 years due to climate change

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 19:13

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Human-caused climate change has harmed the ski industry across all four of the U.S. regions, costing the industry an average of $252 million a year due to decreased revenue and higher snowmaking costs.

A study from the University of Innsbruck and the University of Waterloo found that the average ski season has shortened by five to seven days. Decades of human greenhouse gas emissions have influenced unusually warm winters, causing less than half the usual snowpack and attributing this reduction to it.

“We are probably past the era of peak ski seasons,” Robert Steiger, professor of economics at the University of Innsbruck, said in a press release. “Average ski seasons in all US regional markets [Northeast, Midwest, the Rockies and the Pacific West] are projected to get shorter in the decades ahead under all emission futures. How much shorter is dependent on the ability of all countries to deliver on their Paris Climate Agreement emission reduction commitments.”

The study says that over the last two decades, human-caused climate change has cost the U.S. ski industry over $5 billion. Researchers project that by the 2050s, despite the U.S. having some of the most advanced snowmaking equipment, ski seasons are expected to shorten by 14 to 33 days if we lower emissions use and by 27 to 62 days with high emissions use. This could double industry losses to $657 million a year under low emissions or raise the losses to $1.3 billion a year under high emissions.

“Climate change is an evolving business reality for the ski industry and the tourism sector. The record-breaking temperatures this winter provided a preview of the future. It tested the limits of snowmaking in many areas and altered the ski visits and destination choices of millions of skiers,” says professor in the department of geography and environmental management Daniel Scott.

This study comes as we experienced some of the hottest days ever recorded. 

Last year became the hottest year in 100,000 years due to record greenhouse gases, and 2024 started with the warmest January on record globally.

SEE MORE: Climate change is starving polar bears, cameras strapped to them show

Dean Phillips suspends presidential campaign, endorses Biden

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 18:51

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U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips announced he is suspending his presidential campaign and will endorse President Joe Biden, he said on Wednesday, one day after Super Tuesday. 

The long-shot campaign was launched in hopes of drawing some Democrats who have expressed concerns over President Biden's age and handling of immigration issues. Ultimately, his campaign failed to gain any traction as President Biden has picked up 1,583 delegates out of a possible 1,599 so far, according to Decision Desk HQ. Phillips did not earn a single delegate during his campaign. 

His announcement came on the same day Nikki Haley dropped her bid for the Republican nomination. The announcements make a rematch between former President Trump and President Biden a near certainty. Unlike Phillips, who offered his full endorsement for Biden, Haley opted not to endorse Trump during her announcement. 

"In 2011, I hosted then VP Biden at my home. Most notable was his empathy and kindness to my daughters and the catering staff, with whom he sat and had ice cream (surprise-surprise)," Phillips posted on X. "His decency and wisdom were rarities in politics then, and even more so today. Over a decade later, the only thing that has changed is time — which slows all of us down a bit, including presidents."

According to Reuters polling, 81% of Democrats approve of President Biden's job performance.

Parachute helps plane make soft landing in wooded area in Washington

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 17:57

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Both people on board a small airplane that crashed in Bellevue, Washington, on Tuesday were not injured after the plane made a relatively soft landing in a wooded area thanks to a parachute. 

Bellevue Police said the Cirrus SR-22 plane was equipped with a CAPS parachute system, which successfully deployed.

Video released by police shows the plane coming down nose-first behind a home. The police then shared images of the plane in a wooded area still intact, showing no signs of major damage. The plane could be seen attached to a parachute tangled in nearby trees. 

Officials told the Seattle Times that two people on board were going on a training flight when they experienced an engine failure. Some fuel leaked from the plane, and environmental officials were called out to assess the site, the outlet added. 

The crash was referred to the National Transportation Safety Board. 

SEE MORE: FAA gives Boeing 90 days to create plan to improve safety, quality

As of late 2023, the CAPS parachute system had been successfully used 126 times. The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association says the parachute is designed to slow the rate of descent to 20 mph.

The association says no one has died on board a doomed aircraft when CAPS has been deployed at an altitude of over 1,000 feet above the surface. There have been a few instances of fatal crashes involving planes that activated CAPS. In these cases, the planes were either moving too fast, or were too close to the ground. 

"Designed for use with multiple Cirrus aircraft, CAPS consists of a large ballistic rocket-fired parachute attached to the airframe. The rocket ensures that the parachute deploys successfully despite altitude, spin, or inversion, while a slow inflation rate and reefed risers allow for rapid transition to stable altitude under canopy," the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association said. 

Kylie Kelce reacts to husband Jason's emotional retirement speech

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 17:34

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After Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce announced his retirement with an emotional speech, his wife Kylie Kelce is speaking out.

Sharing her thoughts in an exclusive interview with NBC Philadelphia, Kylie said her husband's speech put a perfect bow on his time in the NFL.

"I think it was just a perfect summary of 13 years," she said. "It of course made me emotional."

Kylie said she believes she was the only one to hear the speech before Jason made his official announcement.

During the press conference, the six-time All-Pro and future Hall-of-Famer recalled the time he first laid eyes on his wife.

"I still remember the moment she walked through the door. The first instance is burned in my retina. It was like she glided through the opening," he said.

"Then she started talking and I thought, man, is this what love feels like?" Jason said.

Jokingly, Kylie said it "cracks me up" when he shares what he remembers from that night, because "he was intoxicated."

"It was very, very sweet. Very kind. It was far too much credit," Kylie said.

Kylie said she has heard many versions of the speech from her husband over the last four years, as he contemplated his retirement for a while. She said this year's "was a completely different version."

"I think every year he sort of started from scratch as to what was sitting on the surface," she said.

Through tears, Jason also thanked his wife for their children.

"She has also given me three beautiful girls and a life that increasingly brings me more fulfillment off the field than it does on," he said.

Kylie weighed in on the amount of support and praise her husband has received following his announcement. 

"The outpouring of love and support is expected, because I know who my husband is, and the way he has conducted himself, and how that has touched the lives of people — but at the same time — it's still shocking," she said.

Kylie attended her husband's press conference alongside his parents Ed and Donna Kelce, and his brother, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. The family members were visibly emotional as Jason delivered his remarks.

A sixth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Jason spent his entire career with the Philadelphia Eagles, helping lead the team to a Super Bowl win in 2018.

SEE MORE: Jason Kelce announces official retirement after 13-year Eagles career

New York to deploy National Guard to subways after string of violence

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 17:24

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans Wednesday to deploy the National Guard to the New York City subway system to help police search passengers' bags for weapons, following a series of high-profile crimes on city trains.

Hochul, a Democrat, said she will send 750 members of the National Guard, as well as 250 state troopers, to help the New York Police Department check bags at subway entrances.

The move came as part of a larger plan from the governor's office to address crime in the subway, which included a legislative proposal to ban people from trains if they are convicted of assaulting a subway passenger and the installation of cameras focused on conductor cabins to protect transit workers.

The deployment of the National Guard would bolster an enhanced presence of New York Police Department officers in the subway system, Hochul said. Police in New York have long conducted random bag checks at subway entrances, though passengers are free to refuse and leave the station.

Overall, crime has dropped in New York City since a spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, and killings are down on the subway system, which serves over 3 million riders per day. But rare fatal shootings and shovings on the subway can put residents on edge.

SEE MORE: Why is there a police hiring shortage?

For the first time in 140 years, Oscar Mayer to make meatless hot dogs

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 17:15

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Oscar Mayer has been making hot dogs for 140 years, and they've always included meat — until now. 

The hot dog maker's parent company Kraft Heinz announced Wednesday a new line of plant-based hot dogs and sausages that will soon hit store shelves. The company says it projects plant-based meat alternatives will go from an $8.3 billion market in 2023 to $19 billion by 2030.

Kraft Heinz says plant-based hot dogs and dinner sausage links remain underdeveloped and under-consumed because current options don't provide the taste and texture consumers are looking for.

Kraft Heinz said the Oscar Mayer NotHotDogs and NotSausages will have a "smoky, savory taste, meaty color, and thick, juicy bite." 

“At the Kraft Heinz Not Company, our goal is to create mouthwatering, plant-based foods that are delicious and accessible for everyone – from the devoted vegan to the plant-based curious,” says Lucho Lopez-May, CEO of the Kraft Heinz Not Company. “We know people are hungry for plant-based meat options from brands they know and trust. In launching the joint venture’s first product in the plant-based meat category, we saw an opportunity to satisfy these consumer cravings, leveraging NotCo’s revolutionary AI technology and the power, equity, and legacy of the Oscar Mayer brand.”

SEE MORE: Meat substitutes aren't just for humans. It's coming to pet food next

The new hot dogs and sausages come after Kraft Heinz previously unveiled other plant-based products, including Kraft NotCheese Slices, Kraft NotMac&Cheese and NotMayo. The company says it is continuing to look to expand plant-based options. 

The Oscar Mayer products will be unveiled at the Expo West event in Anaheim, California, March 12-16. The company said major retailers will receive product shipments later this year. 

According to a 2022 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group, 6% of the U.S. adult population considers themselves vegan or vegetarian. In 2015, a similar poll found that 3.4% of Americans said they never eat meat, indicating that there is a growing number of Americans opting not to eat meat. 

Bridge collapse renews concerns about unpainted steel

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 16:57

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The stunning 2022 collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh injured 10 people and led to a nationwide review of thousands of bridges built using the same type of steel. 

But a Scripps News investigation uncovered reports of problems with the performance of the material, known as uncoated weathering steel, long before Fern Hollow fell. 

Gary Tinklenberg, a corrosion expert, has been raising concerns about this type of steel for decades. 

Inside a storage unit in Holland, Michigan, Tinklenberg has stashed dozens of boxes full of old files. The records date back to the 1970s, when he was just starting his career as a chemist for the Michigan Department of Transportation. 

Part of his job was to assess the effectiveness of what was then the hot new thing in bridge building, especially in Michigan. 

Makers of uncoated weathering steel said it would naturally resist corrosion without ever needing a paint job. A pamphlet Tinklenberg pulled out of a file box showed the steel industry in 1968 claiming the material could make “bridges that paint themselves.”  

Not having to paint the bridges was a real selling point. It cut costs, sped up construction timelines and didn’t require repainting year after year as was done on other steel bridges. 

"At that point, everybody believed that it would be maintenance-free,” Tinklenberg said. “You didn't have to do anything. You didn't have to paint it. If you could eliminate all that painting and all that maintenance, why, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.” 

But Tinklenberg said the industry’s claims weren’t matching what he was seeing on the ground. 

Tests he performed in the 1980s found that de-icing salt used on Michigan highways in winter was preventing a crucial natural protective coating from forming, leaving weathering steel vulnerable to decay. 

“The corrosion rates kept climbing,” Tinklenberg said. “This is not what I was supposed to see.”  

SEE MORE: Thousands of bridges left behind in race to rebuild infrastructure

In 1989, the Federal Highway Administration issued a warning about “less than desirable performance” of the steel in places with frequent rainfall, humidity, persistent fog, or in places such as Michigan where heavy amounts of de-icing salt are spread on roadways.  

Over the years, Tinklenberg worried that a bridge made of uncoated weathering steel might collapse. 

“I was concerned,” Tinklenberg said. “I had seen an awful lot of ugly steel.” 

Tinklenberg determined this bridge material needed careful inspection and upkeep. 

In its 1989 bulletin, the Federal Highway Administration agreed, saying that while inspection and maintenance are essential on any bridge, "this is especially true in the case of uncoated weathering steel bridges.” 

That lesson wasn’t learned in Pittsburgh. 

The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the Fern Hollow disaster found a failure to maintain the steel on the bridge played a critical role in the bridge’s demise in January 2022. 

“This bridge didn’t collapse because of an act of God, it collapsed because of a lack of maintenance and repair,” said NTSB member Michael Graham during a board meeting in February. 

The agency’s preliminary findings led the Federal Highway Administration to order every state in the country to examine the condition of their own uncoated weathering steel bridges and confirm that work items have been completed.   

Using federal bridge data collected from states, Scripps News discovered that out of more than 10,000 weathering steel bridges across the U.S., at least 251 have major repair or replacement needs. Some of those bridges have been partially or fully painted to help prevent corrosion. 

New York has the most weathering steel bridges in disrepair, followed by Michigan, where Tinklenberg worked. Forty-two of the bridges in that state are listed in poor condition and in need of maintenance, including a structure in Flint that carries an average of 63,000 vehicles each day on Interstate 475. 

A visit to the bridge's underside showed cracked concrete temporary steel support beams in place since 2015.   

Inspection reports Scripps News obtained for another uncoated steel bridge on Interstate 475 in Flint documented cracks and weakened bearings going back five years. 

Beckie Curtis, chief bridge engineer at Michigan’s Department of Transportation, said a lack of funding combined with inflation are making it impossible to keep up with an expanding list of deteriorating bridges in her state. That includes the bridges made from uncoated steel where maintenance is very important. 

“We know we don't have the resources to address all of them and that's why we're seeing a decline in our condition over time,” Curtis said. “We’re losing ground.”  

In 1980, warnings from Tinklenberg and his colleagues led the Michigan Department of Transportation to ban the construction of any new unpainted weathering steel bridges. 

Curtis said rigorous inspections ensure all of the 500 existing bridges like this stay safe. 

Michigan’s Department of Transportation now paints all the joints on their weathering steel bridges for extra protection. 

“The weathering steel bridges are actually performing just as well as the average population,” Curtis said. “There's not the data-driven evidence that this one particular material is worse than the general population of the bridges, when managed appropriately.” 

The steel industry also stands by the use of uncoated weathering steel in bridge construction.  

“There are thousands and they've been around for decades,” said Ronnie Medlock, vice president of High Steel Structures in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Medlock said the key to keeping any bridge functional is to know the upkeep required.  

“Any time we're using a material, whether it's uncoated weathering steel or other, use it thoughtfully, make sure you know what's going on,” Medlock said. “What I'm concerned about is that perhaps people didn't know how to do the maintenance that they need to do when issues arise.”  

Tinklenberg said he worries that a lack of understanding about the unique needs of uncoated weathering steel threatens the safety of these bridges nationwide. 

“At least people need to know that they have to pay attention to this stuff, and the Fern Hollow bridge has clearly catalyzed that attention,” Tinklenberg said. “You need to be concerned. You need to follow the best practices.” 

Man vaccinated 217 times against COVID shows no side effects

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 16:16

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Researchers studied a man who reported receiving 217 COVID-19 vaccines, and found he did not have any side effects and had a fully functioning immune system. 

The University of Erlangen-Nuremberg recently published its findings in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. 

Of the 217 vaccines the German man claimed to have received, researchers were able to confirm that 134 of the shots were administered. 

“We learned about his case via newspaper articles,” said Dr. Kilian Schober from the university's Institute of Microbiology. “We then contacted him and invited him to undergo various tests in Erlangen. He was very interested in doing so.” 

SEE MORE: CDC says seniors should get second COVID shot of 2023-24

Researchers said blood tests showed that the man had more antibodies against COVID-19 than someone who would have gotten three doses of the shot. Researchers also said the antibodies were similarly effective as those who have gotten a normal amount of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Researchers also found no evidence the man had ever been infected with COVID-19, although cautioned it could not be determined whether this was causally related to the hypervaccination regimen.

“The individual has undergone various blood tests over recent years,” said Schober. “He gave us his permission to assess the results of these analyses. In some cases, samples had been frozen, and we were able to investigate these ourselves. We were also able to take blood samples ourselves when the man received a further vaccination during the study at his own insistence. We were able to use these samples to determine exactly how the immune system reacts to the vaccination.”

The study also indicated that the man had a normal immune response to other pathogens. 

Researchers say, however, that this study is not a recommendation for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 beyond what is currently recommended. 

“Current research indicates that a three-dose vaccination, coupled with regular top-up vaccines for vulnerable groups, remains the favored approach. There is no indication that more vaccines are required," Schober said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccinations for those over 6 months of age. 

Mitch McConnell endorses Donald Trump for president

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 15:55

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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Donald Trump for president Wednesday, a remarkable turnaround from the onetime critic who blamed the former president for "disgraceful" acts in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack but now supports his bid to return to the White House.

McConnell, who was the last top GOP leader in Congress to fall in line with Trump, declared his support in a short statement after Super Tuesday wins pushed the GOP front-runner closer to the party nomination.

The two men had not spoken since 2020 when McConnell declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the that year's presidential election. But more recently, their teams had reopened talks about an endorsement.

"It is abundantly clear that former President Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States," McConnell said in the statement.

McConnell said, "It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support."

The nod from McConnell, who has criticized Trump as "morally responsible" for the 2021 mob siege of the Capitol, lends an imprimatur of institutional legitimacy to the indicted former president's bid to return to the White House.

It comes after McConnell made his own sudden announcement last week he would step down after this term as leader, a position he has held longer than any other senator, and as he tries one more time to win back Republican control of the Senate, with Trump likely at the top of the GOP ticket.

Trump now counts the GOP leaders in Congress, including Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Republicans vying to replace McConnell as leader, as backing his bid for the White House.

McConnell said he and Trump "worked together to accomplish great things for the American people."

SEE MORE: The presidential rematch fewer Americans want moves closer to reality

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