Posts made in September 2018

Flake urges one-week delay for FBI probe of allegations against Kavanaugh

October 1,  2018

On Friday, September 28, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 along party lines to advance Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination to the entire Senate for a vote. However, the floor vote may be delayed for as long as one week.

After hearings on September 27 that comprised credible accusations of sexual assault made by Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford—and strong denials from the  nominee—the committee now is considering a variety of demands to conduct a more thorough investigation of the allegations through the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A member of the committee, Republican Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona) voted with his GOP colleagues, but then called for a delay so that the FBI could investigate the accusations against Kavanaugh.

In addition, the American Bar Association, Yale University, and three Republican governors —Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and John Kasich of Ohio—called for a probe into the charges.

In a letter sent to committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-California) on the evening after the September 27 hearings,  Robert Carlson, the president of the American Bar Association called on the committee to halt the confirmation vote until “after an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor Ford and others is completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Each appointment to our nation’s Highest Court (as with all others),” he said, “is simply too important to rush to a vote. Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court. It must remain an institution that will reliably follow the law and not politics.

The call for a pause is significant, The New York Times said,  not just because of the bar association’s clout in the legal community, but because an A.B.A. committee had said unanimously a month ago that Judge Kavanaugh was “well-qualified” for the Supreme Court, its highest possible designation. Judge Kavanaugh and his supporters had noted that distinction in arguing for his nomination to be approved by the Senate.

Meanwhile, 48 members of the faculty of Kavanaugh’s alma mater, Yale Law School, sent a letter delineating concerns about “a rush to judgment.” They noted “Where, as here, a sexual assault has been alleged against an individual nominated for a lifetime appointment in a position of public trust, a partisan hearing alone cannot be the forum to determine the truth of the matter. Allegations of sexual assault require a neutral factfinder and an investigation that can ascertain facts fairly.  Those at the FBI or others tasked with such an investigation must have adequate time to investigate facts. Fair process requires evidence from all parties with direct knowledge and consultation of experts when evaluating such evidence. In subsequent hearings, all of those who testify, and particularly women testifying about sexual assault, must be treated with respect.

In addition, three Republican governors—John Kasich of Ohio, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Phil Scott of Vermont—called for the GOP-controlled Senate to slow down Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and a fourth called the accusations against him “disturbing.”

According to a report by the Huffington Post, Baker and Kasich both weighed in on Twitter. Baker described the allegations as “sickening” and said there should be no Senate vote until an independent investigation is complete. Kasich, who is in his final year as governor and is widely seen as a potential long-shot primary challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020, went further in his own statement, saying he would not support Kavanaugh’s confirmation “in the absence of a complete and thorough investigation.”

Scott made similar remarks to the Burlington Free Press. “This is a lifetime appointment,” Scott said. “And I’m not taking a position on Judge Kavanaugh himself, but we owe it to Americans to make sure that they get it right. Because this doesn’t happen every day. And it’s their obligation to do so. So take your time. Investigate.”

In addition, the Huffington Post reported, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan told The Baltimore Sun on September 26 that the accusations were “disturbing” and gave him “great pause.”

He noted,“There are credible charges and big concerns. They need to be heard,” he said after an event in Montgomery County. “They ought to take whatever time it takes to make sure these accusers are heard and he has a chance to respond to them.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)—who, as a committee member, had adamantly defended the nominee during the hearings on September 27—told CNN after the committee vote that he did not think the delay was necessary, but “this is democracy.” He added, “If Jeff feels better about it, I’ll feel better about it,”

Currently, according to Fox News, 56% of U.S. voters would delay the full Senate floor confirmation process on Kavanaugh to allow for more investigation of the allegations against him; and 31% would not delay.

Rsearch contact: @foxnewspoll

Six Flags will pay you to spend 30 hours in a ‘slightly used’ coffin

October 1, 2018

An “out-of-the-box idea” is gaining traction at the Six Flags theme parks. After more than 25,000 people registered for the chance to spend 30 hours in a box—a coffin, to be specific—at Six Flags St. Louis, the company decided to roll out the challenge at 15 of its parks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The 30-Hour Coffin Challenge— scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 13 through 7 p.m. on October 14—is being used to take “the fear factor to the extreme” at the parks’ Halloween-themed Fright Fest, management announced in a September 27 statement. All participants who last the full 30 hours will receive a cash prize of $300, as well as Gold Season Passes for 2019, and Express Haunted House Passes.

“No one does Halloween like Six Flags and this year is the biggest and scariest ever. We have added more zombies, more ghouls, and more haunted mazes to make this the most talked-about Halloween event in the industry,” said Chief Marketing Officer Brett Petit. “And this year, the 30-Hour Coffin Challenge has taken the country by storm. Everybody wants in.”

To participate, you have to be 18 years of age or older and have a valid photo ID. In addition, competitors:

  • Cannot have medical conditions that would make lying in a coffin for 30 hours a risk to health or well-being;
  • Must sign a waiver at check-in;
  • Must be able to lie completely flat and still; and
  • Must provide their own pillow and sleeping bag or blankets.

Six Flags will provide the coffins and meals. Participants will receive one six-minute bathroom break every hour and will have access to phone charging stations. Friends can join participants while the park is open but won’t be allowed after the park closes.

Participants who leave their coffin for any reason except scheduled bathroom breaks will be disqualified.

Research contact: @Six Flags

Falling leaves lead to flare-ups of mold allergies

October 1, 2018

The apple may not fall far from the tree—but this time of year, the leaves plummeting from a small thicket can cover an entire lawn and driveway. And for some of us, the beautiful autumn tones of orange and russet soon will be a close match for the red of our inflamed nostrils, as we sneeze and sniffle our way through this major allergy season.

Indeed, falling leaves herald not only the start of fall, but also the flare-up of mold allergies, Michael Beninger, MD, an ear, nose and throat expert at the Cleveland Clinic told The Weather Channel recently.

Mold allergies can create the same symptoms as other seasonal irritants: itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and nasal congestion—which often causes sleepless nights and daytime fatigue. Sore throats and headaches also are common.

As ragweed season winds down in the North and Northeast, the leaves start to fall, ramping up mold production. When leaves just sit in your yard, moisture accumulates— accelerating mold growth. Fallen foliage from summer gardens gone bad and more can also be mold hot spots.

As with all allergens, avoidance is your best strategy, Dr. Beninger advises, adding, “If you’re a person with bad mold allergies, you probably should spend more time indoors. Don’t rake your own leaves [and] be careful with any kind of vegetables that are rotting [such as Halloween pumpkins].”

It’s also best to roll up the windows in your car and at home, and to run a fan at home to circulate air throughout your abode to fight fall allergies, Warner Carr, MD, an allergist and fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told the weather news outlet. It’s also essential to visit an allergist to find out to which allergens you are sensitive, so you can create the best-possible treatment plan.

“There are simple, safe and effective therapies that we can do, so people aren’t suffering from seasonal allergies,” Dr. Carr said. “Allergies can have a huge impact on quality of life, and it’s completely unnecessary suffering.”

For people with asthma, mold can exacerbate their symptoms when it’s inhaled, regardless if they have other allergy symptoms —although 70% of asthmatics also have allergies, according to the ACAAI.

Research contact: @anniehauser

Pew poll: Supreme Court is ‘most important’ issue for midterms

September 28, 2018

Seventy-six percent of registered voters—both Democrats and Republicans—say that Supreme Court appointments are “very important” to their votes in the midterms, according to findings of a  Pew Research Center poll released on September 26.

According to Pew, the result marks the first time since August 2004 that the economy has not been the issue most often deemed “very important” to voters. Indeed, the economy has routinely been the top-cited “very important” factor for voters, almost always followed by healthcare and terrorism.

The poll was conducted between September 18 and 24—a time when news reports were dominated by allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—which may have boosted the court’s standing in the eyes of voters, the researchers said.

Another three-quarters of registered voters say that healthcare is “very important” in the latest Pew poll, followed by 74% for the economy, 68% for gun policy, 67% for Medicare, 66% for Social Security, 66% for taxes, 65% for immigration, 65% for the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, 63% for the environment, 62% for terrorism, 60% for the federal budget deficit, 55% for trade policy, 53% for abortion, 53% for drug addition; and 47% for the treatment of gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

Pew made the distinction that its pollsters do not “usually” ask about the Supreme Court in these surveys. The only other time Pew has added Supreme Court appointments into the mix of issues was in June 2016, when 63% said it was very important to their vote in November, compared to the 76% now.

The reason: In June 2016, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland had been waiting three months for the Senate to review his nomination. No hearings were held before Obama left office in January 2017.

More Democrats (81%) view Supreme Court appointments as an important issue for their vote than Republicans (72%). The most-referenced important issue for Republicans was the economy, which drew 85% of their registered voters. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats said that healthcare was the issue most on their minds, while 60% of Republicans agreed.

Research contact: bjohnson@pewresearch.org

America’s Rust Belt voters say Trump’s tariffs spell trouble

September 28, 2018

Voters in America’s struggling Rust Belt put their faith in Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election—but they may refuse to rally around Republican candidates in the approaching midterms.

Indeed, a poll released on September 27 by Reuters/Ipsos and the University of Virginia Center for Politics has found that residents of America’s industrial heartland—Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are struggling with the after-effects of the Trump administration’s newly imposed tariffs.

Support for tariffs among likely voters—people who have been identified as most likely to take part in the upcoming election —varied from 33% in Pennsylvania to 38% in Michigan, Reuters announced. In all states, most voters were negative on tariffs, varying from 44% percent in Indiana to 50% in Wisconsin.

Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have allowed U.S. producers to raise their prices, but hiked costs for manufacturers of cars and other goods. U.S. exporters are also facing retaliatory tariffs from China and others.

Trade and tariffs aren’t this powerfully positive issue for the president and Republicans; if anything they are viewed as counterproductive to the people and places that elected Trump,” said John Austin, Michigan-based Nonresident Brookings Institute Senior Fellow, based on the survey and anecdotal evidence.

On the presidential campaign trail, many Rust Belt voters cheered Trump’s criticism of international trade agreements as being bad for the United States. However, new deals have proven tough to strike.

Among Republican-voting respondents in the poll, only a little over half in some Rust Belt states thought tariffs were good for their families: 53% in Indiana and 51% in Pennsylvania. It was slightly more in Ohio at 57%t. Approval was higher in Michigan, at 59%; and in Wisconsin, at 60%.

A poll released on September 26 showed that a majority of likely voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana disapprove of Trump.

Research contact: @Reuters 

You are more likeable than you think

September 28, 2018

When Sally Field accepted the Oscar for Best Actress in 1984 for her role in Places in the Heart, she blurted out, “You like me, right now, you like me!”—radiating her thrill at being validated by the members of her industry.

Most of us don’t get that type of affirmation on a world stage—however, a study published in September by the Association for Psychological Science suggests that the people you meet probably like you more than you think.

“Our research suggests that accurately estimating how much a new conversation[al] partner likes us — even though this a fundamental part of social life and something we have ample practice with — is a much more difficult task than we imagine,”  co-authors Erica Boothby, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University; and Gus Cooney, a social psychologist at Harvard University, told CNBC in a recent interview.

In the first of a series of experiments, the researchers provided pairs of students with ice-breakers for five-minute conversations. The students then independently answered questions about how much they liked their conversational partner and how much they thought their conversational partner liked them.

It turns out the students consistently underestimated how well-liked they were, a phenomenon the researchers call the “liking gap.” The shyer someone was, the more they sold themselves short, the network news outlet reports.

They found further evidence in real-world settings and over long periods of time. Freshman at Yale University underestimated how much other residents of their dorms liked them for months throughout the school year. The gaps only disappeared by the end of the second semester.

How can this gap be explained? It may stem in part from the fact that people tend to hold themselves to high standards. The researchers posit that when you’re critical of yourself, you can project that criticism onto others.

“We’re self-protectively pessimistic and do not want to assume the other likes us before we find out if that’s really true,” says a third co-author, Yale University Psychology Professor Margaret S. Clark, told CNBC.

This instinct actually could be protective—and even beneficial, the researchers believe. They note, “People’s harsh inner critic can be functional when it comes to self-improvement.” For instance, if you tell a joke and sense that your audience has lost interest by the time you get to the punch line, the next time you tell it you might hasten the delivery and get a few more laughs.

But if self-doubt inhibits you from socializing, you may want to remind yourself that other people are not likely to be as hard on yourself as you are. That could give you the confidence you need to do some networking. After all, “conversations have the power,” the authors write, “to turn strangers into friends, coffee dates into marriages, and interviews into jobs.”

Research contact: ericajboothby@gmail.com

Third Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick claims girls were drugged and raped at high school parties

September 27, 2018

Self-described virgin and churchgoer Brett Kavanaugh spiked the drinks of high school girls who were targeted for sexual attack by him and his schoolmates at Georgetown Prep, according to the claims of a third accuser brought forward and identified by lawyer Michael Avenatti on September 26, CNBC reported.

His client—Washington, D.C. resident Julie Swetnick— publicly released the stunning claims in an affidavit on the eve of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Kavanaugh and another accuser CNBC said. The White House had no immediate comment on Swetnick’s allegations, which were signed under penalty of perjury.

Swetnick, 55, who has no political party affiliation and who has held multiple security clearances for work done at federal agencies—among them, the Treasury Department, U.S. Mint, IRS, State Department, and Justice Department—attested to the fact that she saw current SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh in his high schools days in the early 1980s “drink excessively at many” house parties in suburban Maryland. She said he engaged in “abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.”

During the years of 1981 and 1982, she related in the affidavit, Swetnick learned of efforts by Kavanaugh, his friend Mark Judge, and others “to spike the drinks of girls at house parties I attended with grain alcohol and/or drugs so as to cause girls to lose inhibitions and their ability to say ‘No.’ “

She claims that specific girls were targeted by those boys, and “it was usually a girl that was especially vulnerable because she was alone at the party or shy.”

Swetnick said that  Kavanaugh and his buddy Judge participated in a ring that identified girls so that they “could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.”

“I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh,” Swetnick alleged in the affidavit, CNBC reported.

She also said in her affidavit sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee that in approximately 1982 “I became the victim of one of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.”

“Shortly after the incident, I shared what had transpired with at least two other people,” Swetnick said. “During the incident, I was incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me. I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking.”

She says that she shared the story of her own alleged gang rape, which she says took place around 1982, with “at least two other people” shortly after it occurred.

Since then—but before Kavanaugh’s nomination, she has said that she told a psychiatrist and her husband about the disturbing incident.

In providing Swetnick’s name and affidavit to the committee, Avenatti said, “We demand an immediate FBI investigation into the allegations. Under no circumstances should Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed, absent a full and complete investigation.

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For his part, Kavanaugh has repeatedly has categorically denied committing any type of sexual misconduct against Swetnick or the other two witnesses, Christine Blasey-Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who already have come forward.

Research contact: @MichaelAvenatti

Trump’s new limo is a road warrior

September 27, 2018

James Bond would be jealous: His tricked-out Aston Martin had nothing on President Donald Trump’s new set of wheels, nicknamed The Beast by the Secret Service.

Intended to look like a stretched version of a Cadillac XT6 sedan, NBC News reported on September 25,  the $1.5 million limo was rolled out for the first time to take the POTUS from his New York City Trump Tower home base to the United Nations, where he delivered speeches to the General Assembly and the Security Council earlier this week.

It’s one of a dozen that make up a contract initially estimated at $15.8 million and designed to protect the commander-in-chief from virtually every form of attack, the network news outlet said. And, if the president is injured, the Beast has an extensive range of medical supplies on board, including a refrigerator full of the president’s own blood type.

Protecting a president is never easy, especially in a modern era when POTUS could face any manner of threat, from handguns to rocket-propelled grenades. The latest version of the Beast, which was commissioned by the Secret Service in 2014, is believed to combine a variety of different technologies, starting out with an extensively modified platform from a Chevrolet Kodiak, a heavy-duty General Motors truck. And we do mean heavy: The truck weighs in at somewhere near 20,000 pounds.

The Beast is sealed against biochemical attacks, and equipped with run-flat tires inside extra-large wheel wells so it can keep going in an emergency. In addition, the bells and whistles include a night vision system , and the ability to eject a smokescreen, fire tear gas, and lay down an oil slick to send vehicles chasing it out of control. Even the door handles can be electrified to shock those who might try to get inside.

The “Trumpmobile” also contains an expansive array of communications technologies including, among other things, the ability to dispatch the codes necessary to fire nuclear weapons.

The president reportedly showed off the outgoing presidential limo to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un during their summit meeting in Singapore. Kim, himself, got his “street cred” from a decade-old, luxurious, and heavily armored Mercedes Pullman Guard, NBC News said.

Research contact: @DetroitBureau

Who knew that dryer sheets can cause acne?

September 27, 2018

Using well-laundered, unsullied linens and towels can help you to avoid acne and eczema, right? This seems like a no-brainer, but it comes with a big caveat. You actually may be aggravating your skin condition, if you are throwing your linens into the dryer with products that infuse them with fabric softener. .

It’s true: Another seemingly harmless household product is out to ruin your skin, Prevention magazine reported on September 19.

In a Reddit post first spotted by MarieClaire.com that now has gone viral, one contributor who goes by the username of /regissss said, “PSA: Dryer sheets can cause acne”—sending everyone who ever has had zits into a frantic tailspin.

The Reddit contributor went on to say that, although she has been eliminating products from her routine for the last year in an effort to find the cause of her breakouts—including switching  laundry products to sensitive-skin–friendly detergents and dryer sheets—she still has been battling acne.

“Finally,” she wrote, “about a month ago, I cut out everything except All Free and Clear detergent and white vinegar as softener from my laundry routine.”. The result? Surprisingly clear skin.

“I went from having a new pimple or two a day to close to zero pimples per day almost overnight,” /Regissss claimed; “And within two weeks, my skin had almost completely cleared up.” It’s been a month, she says and her skin only has continued to improve.

“My skin’s recovery has been dramatic since then, and my dermatologist confirmed that dryer sheets can be a huge trigger for some people,” she continued in the post.

“Apparently, [dryer sheets] coat fabric (including your pillowcases) in a thin layer of wax and grease, which can leach into your pores at night while you sweat. This is why they’re so greasy when you put them in but so dry when you take them out.”

A dermatologist interviewed for WebMD also names dryer sheets as one of the 12 most common skin irritants. “You see rashes in places that are covered by clothing and relative sparing where the clothing is not,” says Amy Newburger, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Scarsdale, New York., author of the book Looking Good at Any Age and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). “That’s a big giveaway.”

So if you’ve been struggling with breakouts, rashes, and/or sensitivity and have tried virtually everything, try cutting out your dryer sheets for a month and see how your skin responds. You can use wool dryer balls to curb static, and as for the softness? Well, maybe the fact that your skin could be happier will make up for your slightly scratchier sheets.

Research contact: mediarelations@aad.org

Michael Avenatti says credible, new Kavanaugh witness will come forward by Thursday

September 26, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh said on Fox News on September 24 that he’s “not going anywhere,” despite the claims of at least two women that he sexually harassed one and sexually attacked the other during his college and high school days, respectively.

The declaration represents a very unusual public defense by a Supreme Court nominee of his fitness to serve, CBS News reported on September 25.

The network news organization also noted that Kavanaugh sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, proclaiming adamantly that he “would not be intimidated into withdrawing.”

However, on the same night, Michael Avenatti—the lawyer who took down “ fixer” Michael Cohen over a payoff to Stormy Daniels and, in doing so, implicated the president—appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show to say that he had more incriminating information from a very credible witness that would be released before the new round of hearings on Thursday.

Specifically, on Fox, Kavanaugh strongly denied allegations of sexual misconduct from Christine Blasey Ford—now a psychologist at Palo Alto University—who attended a “sister school” (the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland) to his own boys-only high school, Georgetown Prep.

He also refuted the accusations of one of his classmates at Yale University, Deborah Ramirez, who claimed that he had exposed himself to her after an evening of drinking games  (Today, Ramirez is a board member and volunteer at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.)

Kavanaugh insisted that he was not a rowdy teen and claimed he was a virgin during the years in question. “I was focused on academics and athletics and going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects and friendship,” Kavanaugh said.

But, CBS News said, his yearbook page repeatedly referenced drinking and in a statement, his former Yale roommate reportedly described Kavanaugh as “a notably heavy drinker” who “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.” The former Yale roommate James Roche admits he “did not observe” Ramirez’s account firsthand but that he believes her.

According to the CBS report, Avenatti says that he has a client who knew Kavanaugh in high school and accused him of setting up girls to be raped.

“When the American people hear from her, they will determine, as I have, that she is to be believed,” Avenatti said during a press conference Monday evening. Kavanaugh called that claim outrageous.

Avennati has not identified the accuser yet. but said that her name will be revealed within the next 48 hours. He offered some details on her background, including that she worked for the U.S. Mint, Justice Department,  and State Department.

Research contact: @nancycordes