Posts made in August 2019

Fat cat finds foster family

September 3, 2019

There’s just more of him to love. Mr. B., a 26-pound cat who was surrendered to the Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia, finally has found a foster home.

The shelter received more than 3,000 adoption applications after it posted Mr. B’s plight on social media—tweeting, “OMG, big boi…is a chonk of a chonk. He redefines the term. …Can you give him a home?”

In fact, MSN reports, the tweet was shared more 14,000 times and became the subject of numerous headlines as people fell hard for the chunky Mr. B.

After the two-year-old feline was placed in a loving home, the shelter sent its thanks on August 22, tweeting, “Sweet chunky Mr. B’s amazed by the huge outpawing of interest in him.”

The shelter said on its website that it will continue to work with Mr. B’s new foster family to help resolve the cat’s health and behavioral issues so that they might eventually offer him a permanent home.

“While the goal is to make this Mr. B’s forever home, the family will be able to provide him with a safe and comfortable environment while we learn more about him and his needs,” the Morris Animal Refuge website said.

The shelter also revealed that Mr. B’s viral post helped bring in over $1,800 in donations and the shelter has sold more than 400 Mr. B CHONK shirts.

Morris Animal Refuge has not divulged either the name or location of the foster family, in order to allow them some privacy and the opportunity to bond with Mr. B.

Research contact: @MorrisAnimal

Forget carpooling. Zūm, a ride-hailing company for kids, expands to six more U.S. cities

September 3, 2019

Reams of stories have been written about the stress inflicted on children in today’s over-scheduled society. But what about their parents, who must coordinate a schedule to transport or carpool the kids—from music instruction to the baseball diamond to dancing classes to language tutelage, to the stationery store for poster board and paints?

What’s worse, it only takes one hitch in the day to make the whole fraught agenda simply crash and burn. So what’s a parent to do?

Now there’s a company that wants to shuttle the kids for you—and, in doing so, to eliminate (totally or occasionally) your crushing duty to schlep. It’s a ride-hailing company for kids called Zūm.

In addition to being available to swamped moms and dads, Zūm has partnered with dozens of California school districts in recent years and is available to students at 2,000 schools in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, many of which still rely on yellow buses as well, the company recently told The Washington Post.

And on August 29, Zūm —which is accessible to parents through a mobile app and claims it has already completed 1 million rides—announced that it is expanding to a half-dozen other cities around the country, including San Diego, Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago and the Washington D.C. area. Rides will begin in those locations next month.

In Washington D.C., Zūm will compete with HopSkipDrive, ride-hailing service founded by three working mothers in Los Angeles for children ages 6 to 18 that arrived on the East Coast earlier this year.

 In Dallas, Zūm will compete with Bubbl, a ride service staffed by off-duty police officers and first responders—one of many small transportation companies that have popped up around the country in recent years seeking to fill a similar niche, the Post reports.

Such companies could usher in a new era of safer, greener and more data-rich transportation for students that can be tracked by parents in real time.

Investors know that ride-hailing has already been widely adopted by young people, but with a serious caveat that could play into Zūm’s favor: Unaccompanied minors are prohibited from using services like Uber and Lyft, although experts warn that it can be difficult to verify a rider’s age.

Indeed, according to the Post, data from a teen debit card company reveal that “ride-sharing services combined to capture 84% of teen spending on taxi services.” Despite age restrictions, some teenagers use drivers with specialized insurance that allows them to drive younger passengers, the study notes. Unlike Uber or Lyft, Zūm rides are booked the day before and the service is not designed to be on-demand.

Zūm claims its drivers have three years or more of childcare experience. They undergo background checks and SafeSchools training courses and claim their safety protocols are reviewed by KidsAndCars.org, a national non-profit child safety organization. The company says its business model is fundamentally dependent on its ability to keep students safe.

When used by families outside of school, Zūm starts at $10 for carpool rides (per child for a one-way trip) and $16 for a single (non-carpool) ride. But like Uber or Lyft, the company says, prices vary depending on location and time of day. At about $20 a ride, HopSkipDrive is also more expensive than alternatives like Uber and Lyft, but also offers carpooling options that lower prices.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

‘Go back where you came from’: Trump to severely ill children who traveled to USA for treatment

September 3, 2019

The Trump Administration has begun denying pleas from non-citizens who wish to extend their time in the United States in order to continue receiving treatment for severe medical conditions from which they suffer. Letters issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and obtained by ABC News, tell those applying for medical relief that agency offices, “no longer consider deferred action requests,” except for members of the military.

Among those affected will be Serena Badia, according to ABC, a teenage girl from Spain who has undergone heart surgery five times. Three of those procedures were back in her home country, where doctors told her she wouldn’t live past age 12.

According to the network, Serena came to America. with her mother and sister, hoping doctors here would be able to help where the Spanish surgeons failed. Serena, now age 14, has been treated here for over a year as U.S. doctors attempt to rebuild her pulmonary artery. But her treatment here now is in jeopardy after immigration authorities told her family they have 33 days to leave the U.S. or risk not being able to return.

“If they don’t let us come back to the United States, then I won’t be able to get treated,” the adolescent patient told ABC News. “We don’t know what to do because we don’t want to be illegal here.”

 “Yes, it’s very scary,” she added.

Former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joe Biden weighed in at a campaign stop on August 29, criticizing President Trump for “targeting” children with severe illnesses.

“We are running out of words to condemn the inhumanity of this administration,” Biden said in a statement. “There is no possible national security justification for further traumatizing sick kids at their most vulnerable.”

A 16-year-old with cystic fibrosis, a 13-year-old with muscular dystrophy and a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy are also among the children whose families received

“People are terrified and confused,” the lawyer for the young patients, Anthony Marino told ABC News. “I don’t know how people react to their government telling them to disconnect from lifesaving health care.”

USCIS, the agency in charge of legal immigration and processing visas, told ABC News that “this does not mean the end of deferred action” but rather that any requests must be submitted to a different agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the department in charge of deportations.

But the customs enforcement agency wasn’t aware of the policy change until reports surfaced in the press, according to an ICE official. The agency doesn’t have a process to accept the medical deferment applications that were previously reviewed by USCIS, the official told the network news organization.

“What we do next is probably sue them,” Marino said. “We’re certainly keeping that option open.”

Research contact: @ABC

Don’t drink the water: Study flunks air carriers on quality of H20

August 30, 2019

Despite recent stories about plastic particles in bottled water, most Americans reach for a glass or container of H20 when they want something relatively pure and unsullied to drink. Think again, if you are ordering a potable onboard any U.S. air carrier.

A 2019 Airline Water Study released on August 28 by Diet Detective and the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center at the City University of New York has revealed

that the quality of drinking water varies by airline, and many airlines have possibly provided passengers with unhealthy water.

Unhealthy water violates the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR), which was implemented in 2011 and requires airlines to provide passengers and flight crew with safe drinking water.

The new study ranks 11 major and 12 regional airlines mainly by the quality of water they provided onboard its flights. Each airline was given a “Water Health Score” (5 = highest rating, 0 = lowest) based on ten criteria—including fleet size, ADWR violations, positive E. coli and coliform water sample reports and cooperation in providing answers to water-quality questions. A score of 3.0 or better indicates that the airline has relatively safe, clean water.

“Alaska Airlines and Allegiant win the top spot with the safest water in the sky, and Hawaiian Airlines finishes No. 2,” says Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH, the editor of DietDetective.com and the executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center.

The airlines with the worst scores are JetBlue and Spirit Airlines, the study shows. “Except for Piedmont Airlines, regional airlines need to improve their onboard water safety,” Platkin says.

Indeed, the study found that nearly all regional airlines, except Piedmont, have poor Water Health Scores and a large number of ADWR violations. Republic Airways (which flies for United Express, Delta Connection, and American Eagle) has the lowest score at 0.44 on a 0-to-5 scale and ExpressJet is second-lowest at 0.56. ExpressJet averages 3.36 ADWR violations per aircraft.

The researchers warn that if an aircraft flies to numerous destinations, drinking water may be pumped  into its tanks from various sources at domestic and international locations. The water quality onboard also depends on the safety of the equipment used to transfer the water, such as water cabinets, trucks, carts, and hoses.

* Here’s the bottom-line advice from DietDetective and the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center. To be extra safe:

  • NEVER drink any water onboard that isn’t in a sealed bottle,
  • Do not drink coffee or tea onboard,
  • Do not wash your hands in the bathroom; bring hand-sanitizer with you instead.

To see the airline health scores for the carrier you are flying, visit the website for the study: https://www.dietdetective.com/airline-water-study-2019/

Research contact: charlesplatkin@gmail.com

Popeyes’ chicken sandwich is at the top of the food chain, with a $65 million marketing win

August 30, 2019

Watch out, Chick fil-A! America’s largest purveyor of fried chicken sandwiches now has some significant competition. Popeyes, a quick-service chicken restaurant chain that has been serving its own set of fried chicken fans since 1972, soon may be looking at you in its rear vision mirror.

You couldn’t watch a television news program or scour Twitter or Facebook during the past week without spotting some mention of Popeyes fried chicken sandwich. But how did that translate to marketing value? Awfully well, as it turns out, according to an August 28 report by Forbes.

Apex Marketing Group estimated Wednesday that Popeyes reaped $65 million in “equivalent media value” as a result of the Chicken Sandwich Wars. The firm, based outside Detroit, defines that as the price a company would have to pay to purchase the attention it received for free. Apex takes into account television, radio, online and print news reports, as well as social media mentions.

The evaluation was conducted from Aug. 12, when the sandwich went on sale nationally, through Tuesday evening, August 27—yielding 15 days’ worth of data.

The $65 million figure is nearly triple the $23 million in media value that the sandwich generated in its first few days on sale, according to an earlier Apex estimate.

On Tuesday, Popeyes announced that the chicken sandwich would be sold out by the end of the week at its U.S. restaurants, the business news outlet said..

But the restaurant chain says that it intends to bring back the chicken sandwich as a feature of its regular menu, not simply a limited-time offer.

“It is a permanent menu item,” Dana Schopp, a Popeyes spokesperson, told Forbes on Wednesday.

Eric Smallwood, the president of Apex Marketing, says the chicken sandwich’s media value built relatively slowly in the days right after it went on sale. The big jump in media value came when news outlets began running taste tests comparing the sandwich with other fast food companies’ chicken offerings.

“Popeyes is not top of mind when it comes to fast food,” Smallwood said. But thanks to the chicken sandwich, “now everybody’s looking and asking, ‘Where’s the closest Popeyes?'”

The attention that Popeyes received could not have happened a decade ago without social media, Smallwood said.

As soon as a company launches a promotion that is noticed in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, “it picks up, and it explodes from there,” he told Forbes.

Research contact: @PopeyesChicken

Democrats alarmed by Trump’s offer of pardons to those who break law to build the border wall

August 30, 2019

“If he builds it, they will come.” Just as the famous line from the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams promised, President Donald Trump now believes that if he builds the wall at the border, they—his voter base—will come to the polls for him.

And he’s willing to do almost anything to accomplish his goal. Indeed, he is supposedly considering using funding originally designated for disaster aid within the United States; urging subordinates to seize land unlawfully, and offering pardons to those who get in trouble on his behalf.

The notion of pardoning those who use illegal means to build a border wall has alarmed congressional Democrats, who had been investigating potential obstruction of justice on Trump’s part as the House continues to weigh whether to launch impeachment proceedings once lawmakers return to the Capitol next month, The Washington Post reported on August 28. 

Representative David Cicilline (Rhode Island), a member of the House Democratic leadership and the House Judiciary Committee, said any suggestion that Trump would encourage subordinates to break the law by promising pardons is “appalling” and worthy of further investigation by the panel.

 “Sadly, this is just one more instance of a president who undermines the rule of law and behaves as if he’s a king and not governed by the laws of this country,” Cicilline said in an interview with the Post on Wednesday. “He is not a king, he is accountable … I think it just adds to the ongoing proceeding before the Judiciary Committee as we consider whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president.”

Trump on Wednesday denied that he had made those private assurances, first reported Tuesday evening by The Washington Post. Yet a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of the report did not deny it and said Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.

“Another totally Fake story in the Amazon Washington Post (lobbyist) which states that if my Aides broke the law to build the Wall (which is going up rapidly), I would give them a Pardon,” Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “This was made up by The Washington Post only in order to demean and disparage — FAKE NEWS!” 

The wall discussions are not the first time that Trump has reportedly promised a pardon to a subordinate for doing something potentially illegal, according to the news outlet.

In April, The New York Times reported that Trump told Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan that he would pardon him if he directed his personnel to illegally deny asylum to migrants who request it at the southern border. Trump later denied doing so in a tweet, calling it “Another Fake Story.”

Cicilline said it did not matter whether Trump’s subordinates ultimately carried out his illegal directives. “It’s an abuse of the pardon power, it’s an abuse of the president’s authority, and it’s very likely illegal,” he said. “So whether anyone actually does it or not—that idea that the president of the United States, responsible for enforcing and upholding the rule of law in this country, is making a statement like that is just appalling.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

No selfie-confidence? Study finds that people who often post selfies are viewed as less likeable

August 29, 2019

Let’s face it: If a friend is posting selfies nearly every day, many of us tire of seeing them. After all, why are they taking pictures of themselves so frequently? We know what they look like.

But the problem actually is worse than a simple case of over-exposure.

A recent study of Instagram feeds conducted at the Washington State University found that “Individuals who post a lot of selfies are almost uniformly viewed as less likeable, less successful, more insecure, and less open to new experiences than individuals who share a greater number of posed photos taken by someone else. Basically, selfie versus posie.”

“Even when two feeds had similar content, such as depictions of achievement or travel, feelings about the person who posted [the] selfies were negative and feelings about the person who posted posies were positive,” said Chris Barry, WSU professor of Psychology and lead author of the study. “It shows there are certain visual cues, independent of context, that elicit either a positive or negative response on social media.”

Barry, along with WSU psychology students and collaborators from The University of Southern Mississippi analyzed data from two groups of students for the study. The first group comprised 30 undergraduates from a public university in the southern United States.

The participants were asked to complete a personality questionnaire and agreed to let the researchers use their 30 most recent Instagram posts for the experiment.

The posts were coded based on whether they were selfies or posies as well as what was depicted in each image, such as physical appearance, affiliation with others, events, activities or accomplishments.

The second group of students comprised 119 undergraduates from a university in the northwestern United States. This group was asked to rate the Instagram profiles of the first group on 13 attributes such as self‑absorption, low self‑esteem, extraversion and success using only the images from those profiles.

Barry’s team then analyzed the data to determine if there were visual cues in the first group of students’ photos that elicited consistent personality ratings from the second group.

They found that the students who posted more posies were viewed as being relatively higher in self‑esteem, more adventurous, less lonely, more outgoing, more dependable, more successful, and having the potential for being a good friend while the reverse was true for students with a greater number of selfies on their feed.

Personality ratings for selfies with a physical appearance theme, such as flexing in the mirror, were particularly negative, the researchers found.

 Other interesting findings from the study included that students in the first group who were rated by the second group as highly self‑absorbed tended to have more Instagram followers and followed more users.

The researchers also found the older the study participants in the second group were, the more they tended to rate profiles negatively in terms of success, consideration of others, openness to trying new things and likeability.

“One of the noteworthy things about this study is that none of these students knew each other or were aware of the Instagram patterns or number of followers of the people they were viewing,” Barry said.

The researchers have several theories to explain their results: The generally positive reactions to posies may be due to the fact that the photos appear more natural, similar to how the observer would see the poster in real life.

Another explanation is that selfies were far less frequently posted than posies and seeing one could signal something strange or unusual about the poster.

“While there may be a variety of motives behind why people post self‑images to Instagram, how those photos are perceived appears to follow a more consistent pattern,” Barry said. “While the findings of this study are just a small piece of the puzzle, they may be important to keep in mind before you make that next post.”

And lots of people should be thinking about this: A recent survey from Luster Premium White, a teeth whitening brand based in Boston, calculated that the average Millennial could take up to about 25,700 selfies in his or her lifetime.

Company CEO  Damon Brown, said in a news release. “If you don’t take a selfie during your vacation or while celebrating a special day, it is almost as if it never happened.”

Respondents to the Luster survey said they took an average of nine selfies a week and put the average amount of time needed at seven minutes. That adds up to about 54 hours a year of taking selfies, according to the survey, which included responses from 1,000 young adults.

That may sound shocking, but high numbers like those aren’t unheard of. The average 16- to 25-year-old woman spent 16 minutes taking an average of three selfies per day, or five hours a week, according to beauty site FeelUnique, which commissioned a study earlier this year, Refinery29 reported.

Despite these figures, only 10% of respondents told Luster they were addicted to taking selfies.

Research contact: @wsu

Ball debuts first-ever ‘infinitely recyclable’ aluminum cup

August 29, 2019

What chemical element is the third most-abundant in the Earth’s crust (after oxygen and silicon)—and is infinitely recyclable? It’s aluminum—the familiar material we already use for beverage cans and containers. In fact, 75% of the aluminum ever produced is still in use today.

So it’s innovative, but not so surprising, that somebody finally thought of substituting aluminum for all of the plastic we use to make cups today. On August 27, the Broomfield, Colorado-based Ball Corporation announced the launch of a pilot of infinitely recyclable aluminum cups in the United States.

Founded in 1880, Ball already is well-entrenched in the aluminum business. The company is a provider of metal packaging for beverages, foods, and household products; and of aerospace and other technologies and services to commercial and government customers.

Ball developed the aluminum cup over the past several years as an alternative to plastic cups for use at home and in other areas where plastic cups are common, including indoor and outdoor venues across the country. The pilot will produce a limited supply of aluminum cups through 2020 for use in such locations, which include entertainment venues and major concessionaires.

“As our customers and consumers increasingly seek sustainable beverage packaging options, the launch of the aluminum cup is a significant moment for our company,” said company CEO John A. Hayes, in a press release, adding, “It is our responsibility as the leader in aluminum beverage packaging to continuously innovate and provide solutions for our customers. We’re excited to bring the aluminum cup to market and expand the product line next year and beyond.”

Beginning September 2019, Ball will roll out a number of pilots with major venues and concessionaires across the U.S. to replace their plastic cups with aluminum cups. Ball’s research shows that 67% of U.S. consumers say they will visit a venue more often if they use aluminum cups instead of plastic cups and that 78% of consumers expect beverage brands to use environmentally friendly containers in the next five years.

The company claims that, in addition to its sustainability and recycling strengths, the aluminum cup is sturdy, durable and cool to the touch, and it can be customized with logos and graphics.

The cup is currently available in a 20-ounce size and Ball aims to introduce additional sizes in the future, based on market demand.

Research contact: @BallCorpHQ

Trump slams Puerto Rico, even before hurricane hits

August 29, 2019

As Dorian picks up power in the Caribbean, hurtling ever-closer to Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump is picking up the same diatribe he used against the island’s leadership and population during Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit the American territory in September 2017.

“We are tracking closely tropical storm Dorian as it heads, as usual, to Puerto Rico. FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job. When they do, let them know it, and give them a big Thank You – Not like last time. That includes from the incompetent Mayor of San Juan!” Trump tweeted from the White House Wednesday morning.

Indeed, Trump and local officials—specifically, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz—have continued to trade zingers in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria over funding, the President’s disparaging remarks about the island, and more.

“Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth,” Trump tweeted later on August 28, according to a report by CNN. “Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt. Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!” he wrote, adding, “And by the way, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!”

Trump’s lack of empathy for Puerto Ricans has been at odds with his treatment of storm victims in the continental United States during his tenure in office, prompting criticism of racism, including from some local officials defending their home, CNN said..

Tropical storm Dorian is expected to be near a Category 1 hurricane as it approaches Puerto Rico Wednesday and could strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane before making landfall in Florida over Labor Day Weekend.

Trump declared a national emergency and ordered federal assistance to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Yulín Cruz criticized Trump on that day, as her city prepared for another storm, telling the President to “get out of the way.”

“It seems like some people have learned the lessons of the past or are willing to say that they didn’t do right by us the first time and they are trying to do their best. That is not the case with the President of the United States. We are not going to be concerned by, frankly, his behavior, his lack of understanding, and it is ludicrous,” she told CNN.

Research contact: @CNN

See you in September? Many couples go their separate ways at end of summer

August 28, 2019

August not only heralds the end of summer—but also the end of many marriages, according to findings of a study conducted at the University of Washington. What’s more, March—the month when the winter holiday season ends—is another time of year when filings for divorce peak (if not quite as high).

Associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini found what is believed to be the first consistent, quantitative evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of filings for divorce by analyzing filings in Washington State between the years 2001 and 2015. .

Their research, presented August 21 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Seattle, suggests that divorce filings may be driven by a “domestic ritual” calendar governing family behavior.

Winter and summer holidays are culturally sacred times for families, Brines said-times when filing for divorce is considered inappropriate, even taboo. What’s more, troubled couples may see the holidays as a time to mend relationships and start anew: We’ll have a happy Christmas together as a family or take the kids for a nice camping trip, the thinking goes, and things will be better.

“People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” Brines said. “They represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense.

“They’re very symbolically charged moments in time for the culture.”

But holidays are also emotionally charged and stressful for many couples and can expose fissures in a marriage. The consistent pattern in filings, the researchers believe, reflects the disillusionment unhappy spouses feel when the holidays don’t live up to expectations.

They may decide to file for divorce in August, following the family vacation and before the kids start school. But what explains the spike in March, several months after the winter holidays?

Couples need time to get finances in order, find an attorney or simply summon the courage to file for divorce, Brines suggests. Though the same considerations apply in summer, Brines thinks the start of the school year school may hasten the timing, at least for couples with children.

Research contact: @UW