Posts made in September 2019

Testing the waters: Researchers find contaminants in U.S. tap water could cause100,000+ cancer diagnoses

September 23, 2019

How many glasses of water should you drink a day? None, if you get your water from the tap and reside in a major U.S. city, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group announced on September 19.

Indeed, a study that the group claims is the first cumulative assessment of cancer risks due to 22 carcinogenic contaminants found in drinking water nationwide has found “a toxic cocktail of chemical pollutants in U.S. drinking water that could result in more than 100,000 cancer cases” annually.

In a paper published in the journal, Heliyon, EWG scientists used a novel analytical framework that calculated the combined health impacts of carcinogens in 48,363 community water systems in the United States—but did not include water quality information for the 13.5 million American households that rely on private wells for their drinking water.

“Drinking water contains complex mixtures of contaminants, yet government agencies currently assess the health hazards of tap water pollutants one by one,” said Sydney Evans, lead author of the paper and a science analyst at EWG. “In the real world, people are exposed to combinations of chemicals, so it is important that we start to assess health impacts by looking at the combined effects of multiple pollutants.”

This cumulative approach is common in assessing the health impacts of exposure to air pollutants but has never before been applied to a national dataset of drinking water contaminants. This model builds on a cumulative cancer risk assessment of water contaminants in the State of California and offers a deeper insight into national drinking water quality. As defined by U.S. government agencies, the calculated cancer risk applies to a statistical lifetime, or approximately 70 years.

Most of the increased cancer risk is due to contamination with arsenic, disinfection byproducts,;and radioactive elements such as uranium and radium, the researchers said.

Water systems with the highest risk tend to serve smaller communities and rely on groundwater. These communities often need improved infrastructure and resources to provide safe drinking water to their residents. However, large surface water systems contribute a significant share of the overall risk due to the greater population served and the consistent presence of disinfection byproducts.

“The vast majority of community water systems meet legal standards,” said Olga Naidenko, EWG’s vice president for Science Investigations. “Yet the latest research shows that contaminants present in the water at those concentrations—perfectly legal—can still harm human health.”

“We need to prioritize source water protection, to make sure that these contaminants don’t get into the drinking water supplies to begin with,” Naidenko added.

Consumers who are concerned about chemicals in their tap water can install a water filter to help reduce their exposure to contaminants.

Research contact: @EWG

Age discrimination alleged at Google: ‘Tell grandpa to pick up the pace’

September 23, 2019

As the Baby Boom generation grows grayer, age discrimination in hiring and “elder abuse” on the job are increasing—even (and maybe, especially) at the top tech companies.

A case in point: On September 5, Rodney Broome, a 72-year-old former hardware test engineer for platform engineering at Google filed a complaint (Case No. 19CV354620) in a Santa Clara Superior Court against the Internet search company, asking for damages and a jury trial—and alleging that the company had engaged in:

  1. Age discrimination;
  2. Harassment based on age;
  3. Retaliation;
  4. Failure to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct discrimination, harassment, and retaliation;
  5. Constructive wrongful discharge in violation of public policy;
  6. Violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing;
  7. Nonpayment of overtime compensation; and
  8. Intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Indeed, according to a report by Forbes, Broome had worked at Google for ten years (starting in 2007) and “everything seemed fine” until he reported in to a new supervisor, Ignacio Mendez, in 2017.

Shortly thereafter, the complaint details, Mendez called Broome both “old and slow” and “grandpa.” He chastised him for being “in retirement mode” and told him he was “a worthless piece of sh*t.”

What’s more, according to the suit, Mendez allegedly mentioned to Broome that he might encounter car trouble. Coincidentally, Broome’s car and house were broken into. It was alleged that Mendez bragged about criminal connections, according to court filings.

Forbes notes in its story that Broome brought this matter to the attention of human resources—but to no avail. The complaint reflects that the harassment only intensified.

In fact, Law.com reports, after Broome complained to his manager’s supervisor, Mendez retaliated with poor performance reviews, cut his bonuses and offered his job to two younger employees. After receiving a written warning, Mendez accused Broome of “ratting him out.”

Subsequent to what he described as physical confrontations and continued abuse, Broome resigned in February 2019. Broom’s lawyer, John Winer of Winer, Burritt, & Tillis in Oakland, California, claims that the case is a blatant instance of age discrimination;and part of a pattern of discrimination and harassment due to the company’s youthful culture.

Winer told Forbes, “I think that Google and other companies are far more focused on earnings than they are on human resource issues.” He added, “Instead of attempting to assure that there is no harassment and discrimination in the workforce, in fact it’s rampant.”

Age discrimination remains a pervasive problem in the workplace, and Google itself recently settled an age bias class action for $11 million after 227 plaintiffs claimed the company engaged in systemic age discrimination, HR Dive reports.m, noting that some experts have called age bias the workplace’s “open secret.”

Employers sometimes engage in unintentionally problematic conduct, including prioritizing recruiting efforts in programs that favor younger workers (such as college job fairs) or creating job descriptions that include age-indicative terms such as “digital native.”

While age discrimination often occurs during the hiring process, it is often not as obvious (or easy to prove) as it is when the complainant already has been satisfactorily employed by a company for a considerable length of time.

As the allegations in this suit show, however, age bias often can be more blatant on the job, HR Dive says. In another recent case, a dental practice in Pennsylvania allegedly fired eight of nine hygienists over the age of 40 at a single location and hired 14 new employees—13 of whom were younger than 40.

Research contact: @Forbes

Out of sight, top of mind: Whistleblower complaint squelched by Trump or an associate, Schiff says

September 23, 2019

It’s an open secret inside the Beltway that President Donald Trump is intent on blocking every point of access to the “credible and urgent” whistleblower report received by Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire earlier this month.

And while the House Intelligence Committee refuses to be deterred, a closed-door meeting on September 19 with the intelligence community’s Inspector General, Michael Atkinson—who received the report in August and intended to act upon it—yielded little to nothing.

Indeed, according to a report by The Daily Beast members of Congress told reporters that they learned no substantive details about the whistleblower’s complaint during their hearing with Atkinson.

The only facts divulged to date are that the president made a “promise” during a phone call to an unknown foreign leader—and that the subject of the complaint “relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

Only minutes after the conclusion of the closed-door session,  The New York Times reported that the IG told members of the House Intelligence Committee that the complaint related to “multiple acts”—far exceeding the scope of a single alleged conversation with a foreign leader.

But specifics of the complaint—and even public confirmation that it concerns actions by the president—are still being withheld from Congress, committee members said.

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) told reporters after the briefing that he believes the details of the complaint—which would normally be shared with Congress—are being suppressed, either by President Trump himself, or by someone “close” to him and “above the pay grade” of Maguire.

“I don’t think this is a problem of the law,” Schiff said, according to The Daily Beast, adding, “The problem lies elsewhere. And we’re determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is, to make sure that the national security is protected and to make sure that this whistle-blower is protected.”

Fellow House Intelligence member Representative Jackie Speier (D-California) told reporters that “we’ve got a very grave situation on our hands. The standard that has to be met by the IG… urgent, is talking about fire, as he referred to it.”

“This whistleblower has done everything according to the book,” Speier said. “And the potential for reprisals for this whistleblower are great”

In the five weeks preceding the complaint’s filing, The Daily Beast said, Trump had conversations with at least five foreign leaders, including President Vladimir Putin of Russia, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.

Legally, such a complaint must involve mismanagement, waste, abuse, or a danger to intelligence operations or public safety, or relate to an intelligence activity that violates U.S. law.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Pretty, pretty good: Larry David narrates the ‘Go the F**k to Sleep’ sequel for grownups

September 20, 2019

When the news broke that Larry Davidbest known for his writing, producing, and acting on the TV series Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm—would be narrating Adam Mansbach’s latest profanity-filled “bedtime story for adults,” most people thought the casting choice was, umm … “Pretty, pretty good.”

Mansbach is the author behind blunt parenting favorites “Go the F**k to Sleep” and “You Have to F**king Eat.” The third installment in his series of “children’s books for adults” is “F**k, Now There Are Two of You” from UK-based Dreamscape Media—described as “an honest look at the reality of welcoming a second child,” according to a report by HuffPost.

David’s narration is a monologue from a potty-mouthed parent to a firstborn child about the new addition to the family. Given the comedian’s reputation as someone who isn’t overly sentimental about parenthood, it’s a match made in heaven, the news outlet raves.

“When I heard that Larry David was going to voice this book, I jumped up and down with joy—which was awkward, because I was getting a vasectomy at the time,” Mansbach stated in a press release. “David’s a f**king national treasure, and he did just as fantastic a job as you’d expect. I can’t wait for you to hear it.”

Among those who have previously narrated the books are actors Samuel L. Jackson, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner, and LeVar Burton.

Both the print version and audiobook of “F**k, Now There Are Two of You” will be available on October 1.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Ralph and Rachel: Friends forever, right?

September 20, 2019

It has been 25 years since the sitcom, Friends, debuted—but the show’s characters and actors continue to be popular—and even to be trendsetters. In fact, uber-designer Ralph Lauren has just partnered with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to mark the anniversary with  a celebration of his brand’s role in the series. After all, Rachel Green, one of the main characters (played by Jennifer Aniston) worked at Ralph Lauren throughout several seasons.

Just as the show has proved to be a perennial favorite, “the new collection reflects Ralph Lauren’s timeless styles and archetypes that have remained a go-to for the modern working woman,” the designer says in a press release.

The collection, which comprises pieces from Polo and LAUREN Ralph Lauren, encapsulates the polished style synonymous with the iconic brand. It features trousers in black leather; skirts in suede, leather, and plaid with both midi and mini hem lengths; and jackets in velvet, faux leopard fur and purple shearling. The collection calls on tradition through pinstripe suiting, crested blazers, and equestrian-inspired accessories, while enhancing these classic pieces with navy and orange color-blocking and pops of leopard to offer a fresh fall spirit.

In celebration of the partnership, Ralph Lauren has teamed up with Bloomingdale’s to bring the show’s most memorable locations to select stores. On September 21 and September 22, shoppers at the Bloomingdale’s 59th flagship store in Manhattan can enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee while lounging in a replica of Central Perk. Located in the retailer’s Studio 59 space, the content creation hub has been transformed into the show’s iconic coffee shop, complete with the famous orange couch.

What’s more, through September 27, shoppers looking for additional social media worthy moments can visit the store’s third floor to see a re-creation of Rachel’s office and a different section of Central Perk. Every two weeks, these iconic installations will travel to a different Bloomingdale’s location in the New York metro area.

In addition to Bloomingdale’s, the collection will be available globally in select Ralph Lauren retail stores and on RalphLauren.com.

Research contact: @RalphLauren

‘Going to hell’: Trump hits out at homeless crisis—and Speaker Pelosi—in San Francisco

September 20, 2019

The Trump Administration has singled out San Francisco—the 12th Congressional District, represented by his chief antagonist, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—for an environmental violation to San Francisco over its homelessness problem.

The president said late Wednesday that the notice would come from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. He said waste, specifically used needles, in storm sewers is contributing to ocean pollution.

“It’s a terrible situation that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One on his flight from California to Washington, D.C.. “And we’re going to be giving San Francisco, they’re in total violation, we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.”

He added: “They have to clean it up. We can’t have our cities going to hell.”

In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city has a sewer system that runs effectively, keeping debris from reaching the Bay or the Pacific Ocean, the Journal said.

“In San Francisco we are focused on advancing solutions to meet the challenges on our streets, not throwing off ridiculous assertions as we board an airplane to leave the state,” Breed said.

According to the EPA website, a notice of violation is a civil administration action the agency can take that doesn’t involve a judicial court process. Such notices don’t mean the EPA has conclusively determined a violation occurred, the news outlet clarified, and they typically offer recipients avenues to compliance. The EPA usually sends such notices to companies, not cities.

Before the president’s swing through California this week, the Trump administration said it was exploring options to help get homeless people in California off the streets.

Mayor Breed said San Francisco is addressing its homeless crisis by dedicating services for the mentally ill and drug addicted, adding 1,000 new shelter beds and seeking voter approval of a $600 million affordable housing bond.

In addition, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget in June investing $1.75 billion in efforts to spur new housing and about $1 billion aimed at helping cities and counties combat homelessness.

According to the Journal report, homelessness jumped 12% and 16% from a year ago in the county and city of Los Angeles, respectively. In San Francisco, the number rose 17%, while Alameda County, which includes Oakland, saw a 43% increase.

Research contact: @WSJ

Weigh in: Katmai National Park invites you to vote for the winner of Fat Bear Week 2019

September 19, 2019

It’s that time of the year when we grin and “bear it.” At Alaska’s Katmai National Park & Preserve, the 2,000 resident brown bears are beefing for their winter hibernation, as can be seen on the world-famous Brown Bear Cams—including the Brooks Falls Cam, the Lower River Cam, and The Riffles cam, which have been installed at the 4 million acre remote wildlife habitat.

An outstanding seasonal migration of salmon is the reason why the bears gather in such abundance at this park—and add pounds aplenty starting in September.

The cameras show a social and lively population, each bear with its own individual quirks. Mike Fitz, a former Katmai park ranger, comments, “We continue to see the stories of individual bears unfold along the river. Bear 402 utilizes her two decades of experience to raise her three yearlings while one young bear, 719, is experiencing motherhood for the first time.

“At Brooks Falls,” Fitz adds, “the hierarchy continues to shuffle. Bear 856, a large and assertive adult male, continues to reign at the top, but he’s nearly 20 years old. How long will he be able to maintain his position as the river’s most dominant bear?”

In addition to sharing Katmai with millions of Bear Cam viewers worldwide, the park also is looking forward to hosting its Fifth Annual Fat Bear Week contest in early October.

During the event, O, The Oprah Magazine reports 12 of the paunchiest bears will be pitted against each other, as fans vote for their favorite big boys and girls.

Fat Bear Week 2019 is tentatively scheduled to begin Wednesday, October 2, and to conclude with the winner announced on Fat Bear Tuesday, October 8.

Mike Fitz, founder of Fat Bear Week, recently observed, “Overall the bears who use Brooks River appear fat and healthy. I thought Fat Bear Week 2018 might be the fattest Fat Bear Week ever, but the “contestants” could beat that this year! Some already look ready to hibernate.”

To vote, starting in early October, visit facebook.com/katmainpp

Research contact: @KatmaiNPS

Shooting down a bad idea: Hoodies with bullet holes spark viral backlash

September 19, 2019

A New York City-based clothing company has introduced school shooting hoodies that have bullet holes in them and feature the names of four schools at which major mass shooting have occurred—among them, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Virginia Tech, ABC News reports.

The new fashion line was shown by the brand Bstroy during New York Fashion Week—and instantly generated fierce criticism on social media and in fashion blogs.

Bstroy, a self-described “neo-native” post-apocalypse streetwear brand, according to Paper Magazine, has been slammed with comments—of all types—after showcasing its Spring 2020 menswear collection, called “Samsara,” in a series of posts on Instagram.

“Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea? This has me so upset. If any of my followers no [sic] anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately,” tweeted Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed on February 14, 2018, by Nikolas Cruz in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas

A memorial page for Vicki Soto, one of the teachers killed in the December 14,2012, Sandy Hook shooting responded directly to the Instagram post of the Sandy Hook hoodie saying “As a Sandy Hook family, what you are doing here is absolutely disgusting, hurtful, wrong and disrespectful. You’ll never know what our family went through after Vicki died protecting her students. Our pain is not to be used for your fashion.”

“This is disgusting,” actress Alyssa Milano simply tweeted, according to ABC.

The network news outlet reported that one of the company’s founders, Brick Owens, responded to the critics by releasing a statement on Instagram. “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic,” the statement read. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you consider to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential. It is this push and pull that creates the circular motion that is the cycle of life. Nirvana is the goal we hope to reach through meditation and healthy practices that counter our destructive habits. Samsara is the cycle we must transcend to reach Nirvana.”

We are making violent statements,” the other founder of Bstroy, Dieter “Du” Grams told The New York Times in a profile that was published last week. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”

ABC noted, “While the vast majority of responses to the clothing line were negative, there were some who thought the company was doing their best to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence in America.”

“I hope all the people in the comments that are upset, are upset enough to talk to their elected officials about serious gun control measures,” said Instagram user @magnetic_poles.

Bstory has not immediately responded to ABC News’ request for comment on Wednesday morning.

Research contact: @ABC

Whistleblower complaint remains in White House hands, despite demands by House Intel panel

September 19, 2019

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire—who took over the post just over a month ago, on August 15, when Dan Coats stepped down— has refused to comply with a deadline to hand over a whistleblower complaint to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, CNN reports.

The committee had announced its intent to issue a subpoena on September 13, noting that the complaint had been deemed by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, to be “credible and urgent.”

At that time, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee put out a statement that read: “A month ago, a whistleblower within the intelligence community lawfully filed a complaint regarding a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law, or deficiency within the responsibility or authority of the Director of National Intelligence. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community found that complaint not only credible, but urgent. More than ten days since the Director was obligated to transmit the complaint to the intelligence committees, the Committee has still not received the disclosure from the Director, in violation of the law.

“A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the IC IG determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never. This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.

“After Watergate exposed significant intelligence abuses, a critical bargain was struck: In exchange for the Intelligence Community’s willingness to reveal closely guarded national security secrets, the congressional intelligence committees and leadership promised to handle that information responsibly.  It was also of vital importance that intelligence officials have a lawful and protected means of bringing misconduct to the attention of Congress and the public. By withholding a credible whistleblower complaint that potentially deals with executive branch wrongdoing, the DNI is in violation of the applicable statute and has made itself a party to the concealment of potentially serious misconduct.”

However, on the night of September 17, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence sent letters to committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, and Ranking Republican Devin Nunes of California, saying the complaint “does not meet the definition of ‘urgent concern’ because it does not relate to ‘intelligence activity,’ “ CNN reported.

The complaint “involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch,” a copy of the letter, obtained by CNN, says, adding that complying with the committee’s requests “will necessarily require appropriate consultations.”

In the letter, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reveals that the complaint does not involve anyone in the intelligence community but rather “stakeholders within the Executive Branch.” As a result, its lawyer argues, the complaint is not of “urgent concern” to the committee.

The office says it plans to work with the House intelligence Committee but given that executive branch members are involved, there are “confidential and potentially privileged matters” that “will necessarily require appropriate consultations.”

What’s more, Maguire has indicated that he will not appear at a scheduled congressional hearing on Thursday; his office says he “is not available on such short notice.”

In response, Schiff said: “The IC IG determined that the complaint is both credible and urgent, which is why the Committee must move quickly. The Committee’s position is clear—the Acting DNI can either provide the complaint as required under the law, or he will be required to come before the Committee to tell the public why he is not following the clear letter of the law, including whether the White House or the Attorney General are directing him to do so. He has yet to provide the complaint in response to the Committee’s subpoena, so I expect him to appear on Thursday, under subpoena if necessary.”

According to CNN, Schiff also argued that Maguire had acted outside the authority of his post by consulting with the Department of Justice about the complaint as he involved “another entity within the Executive Branch in the handling of a whistleblower complaint.

Schiff declined to say whether he has been contacted by the whistleblower or their legal representation, saying he wouldn’t want to jeopardize them.

However, a source familiar with the situation told CNN on Tuesday that legal counsel for the unknown individual is discussing next steps.

However, the options appear to be limited.

A source familiar with the case told CNN that the Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Protection Act likely only offers one real path forward: circumventing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and giving the complaint directly to the committee.

That route is not likely to be taken, CNN said: At the end of the day, the statute doesn’t clearly allow the whistleblower to go straight to Congress.

Research contact: @CNN

Have your heard? Never kiss a baby’s ear

September 18, 2019

Most new parents are “playing by ear” when it comes to baby care, but there’s one important thing to know: There’s one place you should never kiss a baby—or anyone else, for that matter—and that’s the ear, according to Professor of Audiology Levi Reiter of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Indeed, according to a report by NBC News, an innocent kiss right on the ear opening creates strong suction that can tug on the delicate eardrum, resulting in a recently recognized condition known as “cochlear ear-kiss injury.”

Such a kiss can lead not only to permanent hearing loss, but to a host of other troubling ear symptom—among them, ringing, sensitivity to sound, distortion, and aural fullness.

Dr. Reiter has been studying the phenomenon ever since a woman came to him five years ago with a strange story about going deaf in one ear immediately after her five-year-old kissed her there.

“I thought this lady was a unique case,” says Reiter. After a bit of research, though, he discovered another case of ear-kiss injury reported in the 1950s.

Once the so-called “kiss of deaf” was written up in Newsday, however, Reiter started hearing from people worldwide. He now has identified more than 30 ear-kiss victims (and hopes to hear from more).

Ear-kiss patients exhibit a characteristic pattern of hearing loss, Reiter said, with hearing most diminished in the frequency range of unvoiced consonants, such as “ch” and “sh.”

“There are a lot of cases of unknown unilateral hearing loss in kids, and I am sure that a good portion are from a peck on the ear,” he says.

Babies and small children are particularly vulnerable to hearing damage via kiss, simply because their ear canals are smaller. A baby will cry after such a painful kiss, he told NBC News, but “kids cry for a lot of reasons.” Unfortunately, hearing loss usually isn’t identified until years later, during a school screening.

Unilateral hearing loss can be acquired from a blow to the ear, impulse noise (like an exploding firecracker) on one side of the head, or a Q-tip pushed too far.

An ear-kiss is another cause, formerly undiscovered, Paul Farrell, associate director for Audiology Practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, told the network news outlet. “It is a fascinating phenomenon,” he said. “I would consider it an emerging topic in the field.”

Reiter believes that the intense suction on the eardrum pulls the chain of three tiny bones in the ear. The third bone, the stirrup-shaped stapes, then tugs on the stapedial annular ligament, causing turbulence in the fluid of the cochlea, or inner ear.

Reiter is full of horror stories of ear-kiss injuries resulting from normal everyday activities: a hairdresser sending a client off with a nice hairdo and a smack on the ear; a relative’s air-kiss going astray after a quick turn of the head; a mother seeing her little girl off to school with a loving smooch.

Still, the prevalence of the injury is unknown.

“People are going to doctors who are pooh-poohing this,” says Reiter. “One reason these people wrote to me in the first place was that they were getting nowhere. The doctors were making fun of them. They felt humiliated.”

“My granddaughter is a kindergarten teacher and I tell her never kiss any of your little tykes on the ear,” he says.

The professor told NBC News that he is preparing to submit his most recent findings to the International Journal of Audiology and the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

Research contact: @NBCNews