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White House pushing Congress to renew internet subsidy program

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 00:51


The internet is something most of us use every day, but it's not free — and the cost of home internet can be a burden for some low-income families. 

The Biden administration is celebrating a new milestone in their effort to close the digital divide: more than 23 million households enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

"This program started just a little over two years ago, that's more people than are using the SNAP program, which has been around for decades, and they get anywhere from $30 to $75 a month in subsidy," explained Tom Perez, the director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

But starting today, enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program is closed to new families because the ACP is about to run out of funding. The White House asked Congress for an additional $6 billion to keep the program afloat through this year.

"Almost half of the households who participate are military households, roughly a quarter are African American, roughly a quarter are Latino and all of them are in dire need of making sure that they have a tool, high-speed internet, that enables them to get access to health care, enables their kids to go to school, enables them if they're small business owners to grow that business," said Perez.

The Federal Communications Commission, which administers the ACP, estimates it will run out of money in April, so the monthly subsidy would have to end for those 23 million households.

Some members of Congress are talking about ways to get more Americans affordable internet access, but some lawmakers have concerns about the ACP's management and who is benefiting from the monthly discount. And with Congress still working on major issues like immigration and the federal budget, it's unlikely that new funding for internet access will be approved in the next few months.

SEE MORE: Biden's push for high-speed internet for all could lose funding soon

Is Saturn's tiny moon Mimas hiding an underground ocean?

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 00:38


Astronomers studying Mimas, one of Saturn's smaller moons, say it's likely hiding a giant ocean beneath its crust.

Using data gathered from the Cassini probe, which studied Saturn and its moons for more than ten years, researchers in France concluded that Mimas probably has a liquid ocean somewhere between 12 and 18 miles down beneath the crust, instead of a rocky core.

Mimas, which is known for an enormous impact crater, is about 250 miles wide. Earth's moon is almost ten times larger.

An underground ocean would make up about half of Mimas' volume, but it would only be equivalent to 1.2% to 1.4% of the liquid water oceans present on Earth.

The ocean is thought to have an overall temperature right around the freezing point of water. 

The ocean is thought to be between 5 million and 15 million years old. That's young, geologically speaking, and could explain why Mimas' external crust doesn't show any geysers like those we see caused by the underground ocean on Saturn's moon Enceladus.

SEE MORE: Japan says its lunar lander has enough power to do some of its work

Astronomers believe the presence of such an ocean makes Mimas an excellent place to study the conditions that may give rise to life in the solar system.

"Mimas was probably the most unlikely place to look for a global ocean — and liquid water more generally," co-author Valery Lainey of the Paris Observatory wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "So that looks like a potential habitable world. But nobody knows how much time is needed for life to arise."

Why has NFL viewership surged over the decades?

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 00:28


Leather helmets in the NFL weren't the sexiest look. Neither was the double-bar face mask. But through every iteration of its existence, the NFL has adapted from gridiron grit to what is today: a sports juggernaut only fitting for the world's biggest superstars

If there's anyone to talk to about the rise of the NFL, it's Jon Kendle, the head archivist at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who knows about the league from its inception in 1920 to its current status as our country's most successful sports empire.

 "I do think it's been orchestrated but I think there's a balance between the organic growth and the league really putting forth a strategy," said Kendle. "I'll always remember Howie Long in his enshrinement speech, he said 'While baseball is America's pastime, football is America's passion.' And I think that really resonates with me because you see a certain type of passion from the fanbase in football that you don't necessarily see in other sports."

We can trace the true rise of the NFL back to the 1960s when TV pushed it to the masses. There were short spurts of intense action followed by breaks that allowed commentators to analyze what just happened, and opine on what might. It's why last year, the NFL made up 93 of the top 100 broadcast programs, according to Sportico.

"Monday Night Football brings sports, and specifically pro football, into primetime. The success of that series was unprecedented and groundbreaking. It brought football to an entirely new audience," said Michael MacCambridge, author of "America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation."

Today, there's Sunday football, Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and — during the late part of the season and playoffs — Saturday football. There are also games in London, Mexico City, Germany, and next year, Brazil. It's taken what used to be a uniquely American sport global, as it appeals to more than just men.

"Forty percent of the NFL's audience any Sunday is female. And that was part in the '70s of this unprecedented move of women into sports, not only as athletes because of Title IX but as coaches, administrators, journalists, and spectators," said MacCambridge. 

On Sunday, that will all be on display as hundreds of millions of people around the world tune in for sport, ads and Taylor Swift.

SEE MORE: Pricey Super Bowl suites forcing families of NFL stars into the stands

Captivating photo of polar bear snoozing on ice wins prestigious award

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 00:06


Check out this pawsitively adorable snap of a polar bear catching some z's on an iceberg.

It stole the hearts of thousands, and it snagged the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award.

British photographer Nima Sarikhani's "Ice Bed" won the top spot in the 59th annual Natural History Museum of London contest with a whopping 75,000 votes, beating about 50,000 other (also beautiful) entries from over 100 countries, according to a press release by the museum.

After three days of searching on the Svalbard archipelago of Norway, Sarikhani finally stumbled upon a couple of bears. He began following the majestic creatures, and after eight hours, the little fella got tired and started to craft a makeshift bed with his sharp claws. Sarikhani saw an opportunity and took it!

“I am so honored to have won this year's People’s Choice award for Wildlife Photography of the Year, the most prestigious wildlife photography competition. This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it,” Sarikhani told the museum. “Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope. There is still time to fix the mess we have caused.” 

According to the museum, Svalbard is home to one of the 19 global populations of polar bears, with approximately 300 bears residing in the area. However, due to global warming, the bear's habitat in Svalbard is melting away as temperatures have risen by 3-5 degrees Celsius since the 1970s.

“The period with sea ice over shallower water in much of the area is now much shorter than it was a few decades ago,” Jon Aars, a researcher with the Norwegian Polar Institute, told the museum. “The loss of sea ice also affects other aspects of their lifestyle. For example, the bears often no longer reach areas in the East that have traditionally been important for building dens. Instead, the bears are now often found hundreds of kilometers closer to the North pole, where the sea ice tends to be.”

For now, Svalbard’s polar bear population is stable, but the changing temperatures could affect the numbers in the future, the museum warns.

Could new flood sensors help keep your basement dry?

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 23:46


Michael Routhier pushes past cobwebs, and slowly through the dimly lit crawl space in a home built during the 1750s, and crouches his way to the corner of the home's stone foundation.

Routhier is a researcher at the University of New Hampshire and is hoping new, state-of-the-art flood sensors installed in this historic home could help better predict flood patterns while also helping homeowners and business owners mitigate the impacts of flood events.

"You can see here there's green mold that is telling us where water sometimes usually sits," Routhier said, pointing at an inside pillar of the home's foundation. 

Like many homes across the country, this particular home is equipped with a basement sump-pump. This pump, however, is specially equipped with sensors that can detect water levels, humidity levels and salinity levels. And they could help alert homeowners to flooding before floods ever occur. Each sensor costs about $2,000. 

The home Routhier is studying is part of the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It sits right at the confluence of the Piscataqua River and the Atlantic Ocean. 

The whole area, like an estimated 10% of the U.S., is prone to flooding.

"Over the last 100 years, sea levels have risen a foot. As tides come up they're pushing on the water table, and that's pushing up the water table into these basements," Routhier added.

In 2023 flooding caused an estimated $2.8 billion across the country. Back in January, a severe storm surge combined with a king tide caused severe flooding across the New Hampshire and Maine coast.

"It's been bad, we had back-to-back storms," said Rodney Rowland, director of facilities and environmental sustainability for the Strawbery Banke Museum.

To help visitors better understand the impacts of flooding in the area, the museum has now created an exhibit that shows flood data in real time, alerting officials here when water starts rising in the basements of these historic homes.

"What we're doing to be able to measure this is to inform the public so they can take measures to mitigate what's happening," he said. 

The ultimate goal is to help not only the museum and but the surrounding community and homeowners develop flood mitigation plans. 

SEE MORE: Rare tornado warning issued for parts of Southern California

Women allege they were sexually assaulted on vacation in the Bahamas

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 22:57


Warning: This article contains details that some readers may find disturbing or triggering. 

Two central Kentucky women are demanding justice and warning other travelers to be cautious after they said they were sexually assaulted on a beach in the Bahamas during a recent vacation. 

Amber Shearer and Dongayla Dobson's dream cruise trip ended in a nightmare.

“This was our first kid-free vacation ever,” said Shearer. 

When their Carnival cruise docked at Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, the women said they took a taxi to a resort beach to capture pictures and enjoy their last day.

The women said they drank a cocktail, then lost consciousness and were raped by resort staff members. 

Shearer and Dobson shared preliminary drug tests that showed positive results for multiple drugs including benzodiazepines, a class of depressant drugs that includes Valium and Xanax. 

The women also have bruises up and down their legs.

Shearer said she told law enforcement they wanted medical examinations for rape kits, but the officers refused. 

The woman said they later received care when they got back to the cruise ship. 

A press release shared on Facebook by Royal Bahamas Police confirmed two men, ages 54 and 40, were arrested Sunday for the alleged sexual assault of two women at a beach in Central Grand Bahama, and that an investigation is underway.

Just days before the women's cruise, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 2 travel advisory for the Bahamas due to an uptick in violent crime, specifically recommending increased caution on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama.

“Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas,” the department said. 

@scrippsnews What are you spring #travel plans? The U.S. State Department recently issued a travel warning for the #Bahamas ♬ original sound - Scripps News

The women said, “We didn’t know there was a travel advisory until four hours after we were raped,” adding they were never made aware of the advisory before the trip.

The pair is now receiving medical care at home, which includes thousands of dollars of preventative care for HIV and other concerns. 

Despite the traumatic event, the women are hoping to do whatever they can to prevent someone else from falling victim to violence in the area. They said they want to bring awareness of the issue to others who plan on traveling to the Bahamas.

"We want justice for what happened to us. We want to raise awareness for others," Shearer wrote on her social media Tuesday.

“Be safe. Two is not a group. Do not buy any drinks that come unless they come in a sealed container, in a bottle,” Dobson said.

The women said they have not been contacted by American authorities and are looking for legal representation to take action against the resort and the suspects responsible.

This story was originally published by Andrew Lamparski at Scripps News Lexington

Study shows how women see potential threats walking alone at night

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 22:45


A new study from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah maps out just how differently women and men see things while walking alone at night, illuminating concerns women have when out alone after dark.

In the study, participants were shown various images of walkable areas from four different university campuses, then asked to click on the parts of the photos that captured their attention.

The results showed women focused on potential hazards, such as bushes and dark areas along the photographed walking path, while men focused on the path itself, lights on the path or garbage cans — things not typically perceived as threats to safety.

“The resulting heat maps represent perhaps what people are thinking or feeling or doing as they are moving through these spaces,” BYU Public Health Professor Robbie Chaney said. "Before we started the study, we expected to see some differences, but we didn’t expect to see them so contrasting. It’s really visually striking.”

Chaney led the study, which was co-authored by Alyssa Baer and Ida Tovar. 

The research, published in the journal “Violence and Gender,” included approximately 600 participants who were told to imagine themselves walking in the designated areas, and used a heat map to click on the areas that stood out to them.

“This project has been a fantastic conversation starter to bring awareness to lived experiences, particularly of women in this case,” said Baer. “My hope is that in having concrete data we are able to start conversations that lead to meaningful action.”

The authors hope that these findings will help colleges and universities design campuses that take into account the fear women face when walking alone at night.

“Why can’t we live in a world where women don’t have to think about these things? It’s heartbreaking to hear of things women close to me have dealt with,” Chaney said.

“It would be nice to work towards a world where there is no difference between the heat maps in these sets of images. That is the hope of the public health discipline.”

This story was originally published by Laura Polacheck at Scripps News Salt Lake City

SEE MORE: Millennial women face more health, safety risks than older generations

After 103 years, a New York nun group moves to Florida for 'silence'

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 22:33


The Carmelite Nuns have called upstate New York their home for their entire lives — but now after 103 years in North Buffalo, the cloistered community has moved to Florida to find "silence and solitude."

They say the area where their long-time home at the Monastery of the Little Flower of Jesus is situated has changed too much for their liking over the years. 

The community said in a statement late last year, "When this monastery was built, this was a quiet area on the outskirts of the city. Now, however, we no longer have silence and solitude which are requisite for a cloistered community."

The Carmelite Nuns said friends offered to help them find a "spacious property" located in Florida in the territory of the Diocese of Saint Augustine that they hope will be their next "ideal location for" a "life of contemplative prayer." The cloistered community said they are "confident that this is a blessing coming to us from the hand of Divine Providence."

Pamela Jacobs, an upstate New York resident who grew up just blocks away from the Monastery of the Little Flower of Jesus, told Scripps News Buffalo, "Anytime anything of stress or even happiness happened, we'd come to the Carmelites and get a prayer card, and we had faith it would change the course of things."

Another New York resident, Ann Brighton, said she'll miss them after living in the same neighborhood for nearly 50 years. 

"I feel sad they’re leaving, but I understand everything is shifting nowadays," said Brighton. 

The Carmelites were relieved about the move, though, showing gratitude to their new community in a statement writing, "Thanks to the hard work of many kind and generous friends who prepared for our arrival — our new monastery felt like home from the very first moment, already embellished with many of our beautiful statues and holy images."

The group of nuns has a reputation for being a breath of positivity, light and peace in their community. 

SEE MORE: Pope recognizes resistance to same-sex blessings but doesn't back down

Brighton said she has loved having them in her community. "They're busy praying all the time when I don't pray all the time," she said. 

Many expressed surprise at their departure, saying they never expected them to leave. 

As Scripps News Buffalo reported, City Councilman Joel Feroleto grew up just a few blocks from the monastery and shared that he is also sad to see the nuns move to Florida.

Authorities in North Buffalo are still not certain what will become of the two-story brick structure the nuns have called home since the 1920s.

"I think it's important that whoever does purchase the property, has robust community engagement and talks to the neighbors," Feroleto said. "Everybody is used to it being the church."

According to reports, Erie County property records show the New York property at 94 Shoshone St. is owned — in large part — by the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Buffalo, and was assessed as having a value of around $1.2 million.

The Diocese of Buffalo wished the nuns well, but did not issue a comment on their departure saying they are an "independent order from the diocese."

The Diocese of Saint Augustine also declined to comment when called by Scripps News Buffalo, saying there were "more details to work out."

The monastery said in a letter, "Words cannot express the profound gratitude we have in our hearts for all the love and generosity which the people of Buffalo have shown to our community for these many years!"

This story was originally published by Derek Heid at Scripps News Buffalo with additional reporting from Scripps News. 

HIV and AIDS affect Black communities at a greater rate

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 22:32


Across the United States, approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and the virus is disproportionately affecting Black communities at a greater rate compared to other races, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

To help shine a light and create change, 25 years ago, Feb. 7 was designated as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day of observance to acknowledge the impact of HIV on African Americans. This year the theme is “Engage, Educate, Empower: Uniting to End HIV/AIDS in Black Communities.” 

Over the last four decades, care for HIV and AIDS has progressed, but the stigma tied to HIV and a distrust in health care has often prevented people in the Black community from seeking or accessing care.  

Eric Eason fears HIV/AIDS information is failing to reach Black communities. Eason, now 56-years-old, tested positive for HIV in his early 20s. His diagnosis in the 1980s came as the epidemic raged. The first AIDS cases were reported in the U.S. in June of 1981, and cases and deaths for people with AIDS increased rapidly. In the 1990s, new cases and deaths declined substantially. 

Eason was a dancer in his 20s and attending college. He said he contracted HIV from a partner.  

“I made that one mistake, I had unsafe sex,” Eason said.  

He later found out his partner knew he had HIV but didn’t tell him.  

“I did confront him, and he just shrugged his shoulders,” Eason recalled.  

Eason said his upbringing was different than most Black families. He said his father took him to get his first HIV test, prior to his HIV diagnosis. He believes talking about HIV and AIDS and being gay in most Black families is considered “taboo.”  

In 2021, African Americans represented approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 40% of the estimated 32,100 new HIV infections, according to the CDC. Latinos made up 18% of the population and accounted for 29% of new HIV infections, while White people accounted for 61% of the population and made up 26% of new HIV cases.  

The racial disparity in HIV infections is fueled by racism, discrimination, stigma, homophobia and barriers to access to health care, as well as mistrust in the health care system.  

In Arizona, between 2020 and 2022 there was a 20% increase in HIV cases following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services 2023 HIV Surveillance report. The report noted that the pandemic may have affected HIV testing by projecting a lower number of HIV cases. Over the last decade, an average of 757 HIV cases have been recorded annually in the state. In 2022 there were 975 new cases reported.

“We need to continue to talk about this and get the education and the access to care out there,” Aunt Rita’s Foundation Executive Director Stacey Jay Cavaliere said. 

Aunt Rita’s Foundation in Phoenix helps support and serve the HIV community through gap programs and HIV testing. The organization provides free at-home test kits, allowing people to test in the privacy of their home.  

Cavaliere admits a lot of work lies ahead, but says the organization is making progress: “Through our partner agency program, we have about 15 other agencies that we partner with to educate, to go out there to the community to talk about HIV, and to engage people with PrEP and other prevention types of services.” 

Spectrum Medical Care Center in Phoenix is working to help increase HIV testing and provide care in underserved communities. On a Friday night, members of Spectrum Medical drove a mobile testing truck into the parking lot of Charlie’s Phoenix, an LGBTQ+ bar. They put out signs promoting HIV testing on-site.  

SEE MORE: Why do we celebrate Black History Month in February?

Two people can get tested at the same time at the mobile site, and medical staff can also provide a 30-day supply of PrEP.    

PrEP is a highly effective medication that can prevent HIV transmission. It’s for people who are HIV negative. 

“We have tools today to end the transmission,” Luis Montaner with the HIV Research Program at Wistar Institute said.

Research over the years has led to better medication to treat HIV, a longer life expectancy, and cures in a handful of cases. A positive HIV test is no longer a death sentence, but the stigma around it continues to pose a barrier.  

“The environment now is mature enough that somebody can expect to manage their disease and continue their life moving forward as long as they are under medical care,” Montaner said. 

Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin patient,” was the first to be cured of HIV following a stem cell transplant. Adam Castillejo later came out as the “London patient,” the second person to be cured of HIV with a similar treatment.   

In 2003, Castillejo, a British man of Venezuelan heritage, living in London tested positive for HIV.  In 2011, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma.  

Six months before Castillejo was selected for a stem cell transplant to treat his cancer, he recalled getting sent to hospice.  

“I was sent to a hospice to die,” Castillejo said.  

Castillejo’s life changed when he was offered a bone marrow transplant. He said his doctor told him he would cure his cancer and his HIV with the treatment. Castillejo said it felt like he won the lottery that day.  

The journey to a normal life has been a roller coaster for Castillejo, who said that discrimination remains prevalent. He pointed out how differently he was treated when he revealed his different health battles.  

“With HIV was hate, shamefulness; with cancer, it was love, support,” Castillejo said.  

Castillejo is now working as an ambassador of hope. 

“We're going to find a cure for you, because I’m living proof it's possible to find a cure,” Castillejo said. 

Castillejo said he’s working with researchers to help find a cure.  

“We have some examples that a cure is possible, but we don't have an alternative to therapy that is safe because the only reason they did that was because they had cancer, not because of their HIV,” Montaner said. 

Investments in finding a cure for HIV have increased, but according to Montaner it’s still the smallest amount of investment across all areas of HIV care. He adds that a bone marrow transplant comes with a 30% to 40% mortality rate.  

Until a universal cure comes along, Eason said he’ll continue to take his medication to extend his time with family, and plans to continue sharing his story to help promote testing and care. Eason said he’s proof you can live a long and healthy life with HIV.  

Super Bowl is all about the girlies as beauty brands take over ads

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 22:11


Move over beer; beauty brands are stealing the spotlight in Super Bowl advertising this Sunday.

The biggest buzz in football this season wasn't even about football — it was all about Taylor Swift, and her influence on NFL viewership was evident as girls aged 12–17 surged by 53%, while women above 35 increased by 34%, and those aged 18–24 by 24%, according to NBC Sports data.

So, it’s no surprise that some brands are seizing this opportunity and targeting women with their advertising efforts this year for the first time.

L'Oreal's NYX Professional Makeup is set to make its Super Bowl LVIII debut with a 30-second commercial featuring “Cardi B and powerful women at the forefront.”

Meanwhile, e.l.f. Cosmetics will have a 60-second ad featuring Judge Judy and the "Suits" cast throwing shade at pricey makeup and reassuring viewers that great makeup doesn't have to break the bank.

While not new to this rodeo, Dove is making a comeback to the Big Game after 18 years with a 30-second ad, spreading the message of body positivity and encouraging girls to stay active in the sports they love.

And in the spirit of targeting a younger audience, Nerds and its parent company, Ferrara, teamed up with TikTok influencer Addison Rae for their first-ever Super Bowl ad, aiming straight for Gen Z's heart.

However, these ads do not come cheap.

CBS, where the game will air, has reportedly filled all its airtime slots for the Super Bowl, with a 30-second spot during the game fetching about $7 million. 

These Super Bowl ads are always pricey due to high viewership and consumer interaction. 

Last year's game, in which the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, broke records with over 115 million U.S. viewers, making it the most-watched TV event in American history.

Now let's see if the Swift effect sets a new NFL record this year!