Posts made in April 2019

Chunk of change: Rare coins to be dropped into circulation during ‘Great American Coin Hunt’

April 25, 2019

Whether you live in Hawaii or Maine, now’s a great time to keep a close eye on your pocket change.

From midnight on April 21 through 11:59 p.m. on April 28 it’s National Coin Week 2019—and, to commemorate the occasion, more than 1 million new and vintage coins will be dropped into circulation by the U.S. Mint, as well as coin dealers and collectors as part of the Great American Coin Hunt.

The event, sponsored by the American Numismatic Association is aimed at getting a new generation of kids interested in coin collecting as a hobby. It’s being called the biggest coin drop in American history.

How will it work? Over the next few days, dealers and collectors will visit businesses and drop off bags of rare coins so they can be worked into the day-to-day cycle of commerce.

One dealer, Gary Tancer, owner of the Coin & Jewelry Gallery of Boca Raton, Florida, who spoke to WPTV News in West Palm Beach, said he plans to cycle in coins like wheat and Indian pennies, Eisenhower dollars, and buffalo nickels from as far back as the 1930s and 1940s.

Tancer said the value of rare coins has decreased over the last decade, so now is a good opportunity for children to put together a collection of rare coins at a low cost.

You can see a map of where the new and rare coins are being mixed into circulation by clicking this link.

Research contact: @GreatCoinHunt

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a Wing ‘air carrier,’ now approved by the FAA

April 25, 2019

Logistics has gone upwardly mobile: The Federal Aviation Administration has certified Wing—a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Mountain View, California-based Google—to operate as an airline, in a first for U.S. drone delivery companies, Wing reported on Medium on April 23.

Wing, which began as a Google X project, has been testing its autonomous drones in southwest Virginia and elsewhere.Now, it plans on launching its package-delivery service within months out of a Blacksburg, Virginia, work site.

“This is an important step for the FAA and the drone industry in the United States; the result of years of work to safely integrate drones into the national airspace,” the company said. We’re grateful for the vision of the administration, the Department of Transportation, and the FAA for creating the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP) to advance the drone industry in the United States.”

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Company executives said they plan to expand to other parts of Virginia and around the nation, although the timeline for that remains unclear, The Washington Post reported. Uber, UPS and other companies also are working on securing related approvals from federal officials, who have been pushing to expand drone use—even as concerns about security and privacy remain.

Wing executives said they’ll ask residents and businesses in southwestern Virginia what they want delivered, as they have in Australia, where the company received permission to expand operations. Over-the-counter medicines and food are in the mix.

“In the short term, you look at what people do every day, especially people with really busy schedules or parents with young children who have a lot of demands on their time,” Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess told the Post. “Getting what you need late at night or “a healthy meal delivered, hot and fresh, in just a few minutes, can make a pretty transformative impact in quality of life,” he said.

As for how neighbors’ quality of life might be affected by buzzing next-door deliveries, the company said its drones “are quieter than a range of noises you would experience in a suburb, but they make a unique sound that people are unlikely to be familiar with.” Wing said it is working to develop “new, quieter and lower-pitched propellers.”

Wing also has emphasized the importance of community feedback and cooperation with local authorities, the DC-based news outlet said. Before launching Wing’s commercial service in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech, and neighboring Christiansburg later this year, Burgess said, company executives are planning surveys and other outreach, including decidedly analog efforts such as “putting fliers in peoples’ mailboxes and even door-knocking and holding town hall meetings,” Burgess said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Gag order? White House may invoke executive privilege to block McGahn testimony

April 25, 2019

President Donald Trump is considering invoking executive privilege to prevent former White House Counsel Don McGahn from testifying before Congress, a top adviser told The Hill in a report posted on April 24.

The move comes despite the fact that the president did not invoke executive privilege before McGahn spoke extensively with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team on as many as three occasions. Experts have said that POTUS cannot “revive” the executive privilege after it already has been waived.

“Executive privilege is on the table,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters. “That’s his right. There’s a reason our democracy and our Constitutional government allow for that.”

Such a move would escalate the political and legal battle between the White House and Congressional Democrats over House-led investigations in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia probe,l The Hill said.

Trump has signaled he will stonewall Democrats—saying there is “no reason” to cooperate with Congressional investigations into his administration, campaign, and businesses that he views as politically motivated.

The former White House counsel’s name was mentioned more than 150 times in the special counsel’s report, which was redacted in part. Trump is angry with McGahn, believing he was disloyal and helped paint a damaging picture of his presidency, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn on April 22 to appear before the panel.

Research contact: @thehill

Driving ambition: Elon Musk claims Tesla will have 1 million robotaxis on roads by 2020

April 24, 2019

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that the company would have 1 million robotaxis on the roads by next year, according to a report by NBC News.

“I feel very confident predicting autonomous robotaxis for Tesla next year,” Musk said on stage at the Tesla Autonomy Investor Day in Palo Alto, California. They won’t be “in all jurisdictions, because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere, but I am confident we will have at least regulatory approval somewhere, literally next year,” he said.

However, he noted that the autonomous cars might have nobody in them; they might be part of a pilot test. He also warned investors, “Sometimes I am not on time, but I get it done.”

Musk based his optimism on the amount of data his company has been able to gather from Tesla vehicles already on the road today, which it then uses to improve its software.

All Tesla electric cars being produced today have the hardware on board that’s required for full self-driving, Musk said, promising that, “all you need to do is improve the software.”

Musk also predicted that in two years, Tesla will be making cars with no steering wheels or pedals.

In the past, NBC News reports, Elon Musk’s forecasts for Tesla have missed the mark. Tesla was two years late with the launch of the Model X, its first all-electric SUV. And it was two years late in delivering semi-autonomous features to eager drivers.

When Tesla began to discuss its ambitions in self-driving technology in 2016, Musk said they would conduct a hands-free trip across the U.S. by late 2017. They have yet to complete that mission.

Currently, Tesla offers Autopilot — an advanced driver assistance system — as a standard feature in its cars. According to the company’s website, Autopilot can automatically hold a car in its lane and accelerate or brake automatically, for example, in response to pedestrians or other cars in its way. Tesla can improve Autopilot with new features (or bug fixes) over time via over-the-air updates, as well.

In addition, Tesla sells a Full Self-Driving (FSD), package for its vehicles for $5,000 or more if the software is installed after the vehicle is initially purchased, the network news outlet reports.

FSD features today include Summon, which lets a driver call their Tesla to roll out from a parking spot to where they are standing (with no driver on board). And FSD lets drivers  Navigate on Autopilot, automatically driving a car from a highway on-ramp to an off-ramp, making necessary lane changes along the way.

Later this year, Tesla’s website says, cars with FSD should be able to read and respond properly to traffic lights and stop signs, and drive automatically on city streets.

However, Tesla still cautions its drivers, “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.” In other words, keep your eyes on the road.

Research contact: @Tesla

Kline is not inclined to comply with Democratic subpoena over security clearances

April 24, 2019

Carl Klinethe former head of the White House Personnel Security Office who approved Jared Kushner’s security clearance after intelligence officials nixed it—has been instructed by the Trump administration not to comply with a House Oversight Committee subpoena demanding his appearance for an interview.

This is just the latest move by the president to stonewall Democratic-led investigations, CNN reports. After a day of tense negotiations, the White House late Monday, April 22, told Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, not to appear at the April 23 deposition—contending that Democrats were seeking access to confidential information that should be off limits, the cable news outlet said.

Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to Trump, argued that Cummings’ subpoena of Kline “unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests,” according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Kline’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, said his client would listen to his employer .”With two masters from two equal branches of government, we will follow the instructions of the one that employs him,” Driscoll said in a separate letter obtained by CNN.

In response, the committee could seek to hold Kline in contempt—a step that Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) warned Monday he would take.

 A White House official, Tricia Newbold, told the committee several weeks ago that at least 25 individuals had been greenlighted for security clearances despite serious concerns raised during the vetting process—and alleged that Kline retaliated against her for speaking out as a whistleblower.

In another letter obtained by CNN, Cummings said White House counsel Pat Cipollone previously informed the committee that Kline would not appear on Tuesday unless the committee allowed someone from the White House counsel’s office “to appear with Mr. Kline in order to preserve and protect Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

Cummings responded Monday: “The Committee will not permit a representative from your office to attend the deposition,” adding that Kline would be held in contempt if he didn’t comply with the subpoena.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Babies show introversion at four months old

April 23, 2019

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, chances are that you already know you were born that way. But did you know that, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of “The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child,”babies begin showing signs of introversion or extroversion around four months of age—and they generally remain true to their nature as adults?

Thus, once an introvert, always an introvert, Psychology Today reports in a story on Dr. Laney’s work.

So what are introverts like as kids? No two introverts are exactly alike, but introverted children tend to share some characteristics—and their tendency to keep to themselves initially may worry their parents.

Indeed, Dr. Laney says, introverted children are often misunderstood. Engaged by their interior world, they’re often regarded as aloof. Easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation, they can be seen as unmotivated. Content with just one or two close friends, they may be perceived as unpopular.

Parents fret that they are unhappy and maladjusted. But the truth is quite different: Introverted children are creative problem solvers. Introverted children love to learn. Introverted children have a high EQ (emotional IQ) and are in touch with their feelings. They take time to stop and smell the roses, and they enjoy their own company. They are dependable, persistent, flexible, and lack vanity.

Overall, they tend to share seven strong psychological characteristics—among them:

  1. They have a vivid inner world. It’s always alive and present for them. They rely on their inner resources rather than constantly turning to other people for support and guidance. “In their private garden away from the material world they concentrate and puzzle out complex and intricate thoughts and feelings,” writes Dr. Laney. Introverted children enjoy imaginative play and they prefer playing alone–or with just one or two other children. They often spend time in their own room with the door closed, doing solitary things like reading, drawing, or playing computer games.
  2. They engage with the deeper aspects of life. Introverted children are not afraid of the big questions. They want to know why something is the way it is or what it means on a deeper level. Astonishingly, even at a young age, many of them can step outside themselves and reflect on their own behavior. Often, introverted children want to understand themselves—and everyone and everything around them. They might wonder, what makes this person tick?
  3. They observe first; act, later. Generally, they prefer to watch games or activities before joining in. Sometimes appearing hesitant and cautious, they stand back from the action and enter new situations slowly. They may be more energetic and talkative at home where they feel more comfortable.
  4. They make decisions based on their own values. Their thoughts and feelings anchor them inwardly, so they make decisions based on their own standards rather than following the crowd. This can be an extremely positive aspect of their nature because it means they’re less vulnerable to peer pressure. They don’t do things just to fit in.
  5. Quiet initially, it can take time for their real personalities to come out.  Just like introverted adults, introverted kids warm up to new people slowly. They may be quiet and reserved when you first meet them, but as they become more comfortable with you, they come alive. Like introverted adults, introverted kids are generally good listeners—paying attention and remembering what the other person says. They may speak softly, occasionally pause to search for words, and stop talking if interrupted. They may look away when speaking to gather their thoughts but make eye contact when listening.
  6. They struggle in group settings. Sadly, the standards of being outgoing and assertive have been woven into every school and institution that an introverted child encounters. At a younger and younger age, children are spending time in group daycare and preschool. When they begin formal schooling, they may spend 6-7 hours a day with up to 30 other children, all the while being encouraged to participate and work in groups. This is challenging for introverts, who do better at home during their early years and adapt better to group settings as they grow older, writes Dr. Laney.
  7. They socialize differently than extroverts. They may have just one or two close friends and count everyone else as an acquaintance because introverts seek depth in relationships rather than breadth. They probably won’t spend as much time socializing as extroverted kids, and they’ll need to go off on their own after a while to recharge their energy. Like introverted adults, introverted kids have limited social energy. Too much time spent socializing might result in tears, meltdowns, and bad moods.

If you’re the parent of an introverted child, the best thing you can do for your child, Psychology Today reports,  is to honor his or her temperament. Help your child understand why they feel tired and cranky after socializing. Teach them that there’s nothing wrong with needing to spend time alone.

Above all, don’t ever let them think there’s something wrong with them because they’re introverted. When we embrace introverted kids for who they are, we give them the confidence they need to fully show up in the world.

Research contact: @PsychToday

Mrs. Meyer’s should watch her back now that Target is rolling out Everspring

April 23, 2019

Mrs. Meyers had better watch her back, along with the other “clean” household brands that are hitting the market. On April 22, discount retailer Target  launched Everspring, a private-label household essentials brand that comprises more than 70 products—from hand soap to laundry detergent to paper towels.

What’s more, the new, “clean” products range in price from $2.79 to $11.99, which is about 20% less than other comparable products on the market already.

Developed by Target’s internal design team as a down-to-earth solution that is up to Earth’s standards, Everspring products include ingredients and components that are derived from plants or use other renewable materials, as well as post-consumer recycled paper. The assortment was designed with  what Target describes as “simple yet beautiful packaging that guests will be proud to have in their homes.”

The launch is part of Target’s ongoing investment to roll out more in-house brands, according to a CNBC report—including recent lines for apparel, furniture and home decor. The company is on track to have over two-dozen of its own new private labels in stores by the end of the year. These brands offer the retailer higher profit margins since it can set its own prices and bypass any middlemen.

“It has taken over a year,” to bring Everspring to life, said Christina Hennington, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Target’s Essentials category. “From the sourcing to the packaging, … we had to do it right. … We hired the right expertise to make sure the chemical quality was up to expectations.”

The Everspring line is unique for Target in that all of the items — such as cleaning wipes, dish soap and all-purpose cleaner—are either biobased, meaning they’re derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials or are made from recycled materials and natural fibers, according to the company. They use 100% natural fragrances to make scent combinations like mandarin and ginger, and lavender and bergamot. And they’re not tested on animals.

“The consumers who seek this transparency of chemicals … becoming educated on what is right for them and their family … it’s a younger consumer,” Hennington said. “But you can’t say that across the board. There is someone of every age who cares about what goes on their bodies and in their bodies.”

Target said its sales of “naturals”—including “clean” brands like Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation and Method—have grown by double-digits year-over-year since 2016. Seeing this heightened demand on its website and in stores, Target wanted to take a bigger stake in the space.

Everspring-branded items will be marketed with a new “Target Clean” icon that was launched by the retailer earlier this year, indicating a product is made without a group of commonly unwanted chemicals such as sodium laureth sulfate or propylparaben. Target is starting to put the logo on certain household essentials, beauty products, personal care items and baby goods.

“We are listening to our guests … and doing our homework to know what their expectations are,” Hennington said.

Research contact: @Target

Subpoenaed for his financial records, Trump sues; intends to be a ‘no show’

April 23, 2019

“I won’t show you mine, no matter how many other politicians show you theirs.” That’s the attitude of President Donald Trump–who started the week by suing House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Marylandd) in a last-ditch bid to block a congressional subpoena of his financial records, The Washington Post reported..

The lawsuit—which was brought on behalf of Trump and his company, The Trump Organization —seeks a court order to prevent Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA from complying with what his lawyers, William Consovoy and Stefan Passantino, claim is an improper use of subpoena by congressional Democrats because it has “no legitimate legislative purpose.”

“Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses, and even his family,” the filing by Trump claims. “Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically.”

The filing, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, further escalates a clash between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House over congressional oversight.

Mazars said last week that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”

Lawyers for the president and the Trump Organization previously wrote in a letter to Mazars’ counsel that an expected committee subpoena “would not be valid or enforceable.”

In the complaint filed Monday, Trump’s lawyers argue that the subpoena of Mazars “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” The Washington Post reported.

“With this subpoena, the Oversight Committee is instead assuming the powers of the Department of Justice, investigating (dubious and partisan) allegations of illegal conduct by private individuals outside of government,” it says. “Its goal is to expose Plaintiffs’ private financial information for the sake of exposure, with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President now and in the 2020 election.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Smoke and mirrors: Marijuana users weigh less, despite the ‘munchies’

April 22, 2019

“Munchies” or not, people who like to get high on marijuana sustain a lower body weight than those who abstain, according to findings of a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University and released on April 19.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, belie the belief that marijuana users ultimately gain more weight. Results also suggest that new and persistent users are less likely to be overweight or obese, overall.

“Over a three-year period, all participants showed a weight increase, but interestingly, those who used marijuana had less of an increase compared to those that never used,” said Omayma Alshaarawy, lead author and an assistant professor of family medicine. “Our study builds on mounting evidence that this opposite effect occurs.”

Indeed, she said, “We found that users, even those who just started, were more likely to be at a normal, healthier weight and stay at that weight,” she said. “Only 15% of persistent users were considered obese compared to 20% of non-users.”

Researchers used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions and looked at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of 33,000 subjects, ages 18 and older; then,  compared the numbers.

While the actual weight difference among users and non-users was modes— about two pounds for a 5-foot-7-inch participant who weighed close to 200 pounds at the start of the study—the variance was prevalent among the entire sample size.

“An average two-pound difference doesn’t seem like much, but we found it in more than 30,000 people with all different kinds of behaviors and still got this result,” Alshaarawy said.

So, what is it about marijuana that seems to affect weight? Alshaarawy indicated it’s still relatively unknown but it could be several factors.

“It could be something that’s more behavioral like someone becoming more conscious of their food intake as they worry about the munchies after cannabis use and gaining weight,” she said. “Or it could be the cannabis use itself, which can modify how certain cells, or receptors, respond in the body and can ultimately affect weight gain. More research needs to be done.”

Alshaarawy cautions, though, that marijuana should not be considered a diet aid.

“There [are] too many health concerns around cannabis that far outweigh the potential positive, yet modest, effects it has on weight gain,” she said. “People shouldn’t consider it as a way to maintain or even lose weight.”

Research contact:  alshaara@msu.edu