Posts made in October 2019

Need to escape reality? See the new Dr. Seuss exhibit

October 31, 2019

Oh, the places you’ll go in a new imaginative, immersive, and interactive Dr. Seuss exhibit! It has taken more than two years of hard work to create the Dr. Seuss Experience, but the 15,000-square-foot traveling showcase opened in Toronto on October 26—and soon the one-of-a-kind installation will embark on a tour across North America, the Good News Network reports..

After its premiere in Canada, the fanciful exhibit—which was developed by the entertainment company Kilburn Live in collaboration with Dr. Seuss Enterprises—is set to make stops in Seattle, Boston, and Houston, with further dates to be announced.

Each space in the installation brings to life themes inspired by nine of the author’s most-beloved children’s stories—among them, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in the Hat. Among the highlights is an interconnected maze, filled with thousands of suspended balloons representing different Dr. Seuss stories, and inspired by the author’s second best-selling book of all-time: Oh The Places You’ll Go!

The price of admission in the United States will be $22 for children and $26.50 for adults. For General Admission and Super-Stoo-Pendus Tickets, visitors do need to reserve a date and time. ( Super-Stoo-Pendus Tickets allow you to enjoy The Dr. Seuss Experience without the crowds! Tickets in these time blocks are strictly limited in quantity.) The journey through the land of Dr. Seuss will probably take your family from one hour up to 90 minutes. The exhibit will run through January 5, 2020.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

Smoke and mirrors: Juul knowingly sold tainted nicotine pods, former executive says

October 31, 2019

The quality control initiative at Juul for the production of the e-liquid for JUULpods is all “smoke and mirrors,” according to allegations made by a former executive, The New York Times reports

In fact, the source asserts, the e-cigarette giant sold at least one million contaminated mint-flavored nicotine pods — and refused to recall them when told about the problem in March.

Now, he is suing, because, he says, Juul retaliated against him for speaking out.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday, October 29, Siddharth Breja, who was SVP for Global Finance at the company, claims he was fired on March 21 in retaliation for whistleblowing and objecting to the shipment of the contaminated and expired pods—as well as other illegal and unsafe conduct that “has jeopardized and continues to jeopardize public health and safety and the lives of millions of consumers, many of them children and teens.”

According to the Times report, Breja detailed a culture of indifference to safety and quality-control issues among top executives at the company and quoted the then-CEO Kevin Burns saying at a meeting in February: “Half our customers are drunk and vaping” and wouldn’t “notice the quality of our pods.”

A woman who answered Burns’ phone said he was not available to speak, the news outlet said. The former CEO left Juul in September.

However, in a conversation with the Times, Ted Kwong, a Juul spokesperson, dismissed Breja’s claims as baseless.

“He was terminated in March 2019 because he failed to demonstrate the leadership qualities needed in his role,” Kwong said. “The allegations concerning safety issues with Juul products are equally meritless, and we already investigated the underlying manufacturing issue and determined the product met all applicable specifications.”

Breja’s lawsuit did not specify what the contaminant in the nicotine pods was , the news outlet said. Breja said he urged Juul’s chief financial officer to issue either a recall or put out product safety warnings. A week later, the complaint says, the whistle-blower was fired.

This lawsuit is only the latest in a growing series of cases against Juul being filed around the country by school districts and individuals. The claims typically focus on personal injury for vaping-related illnesses or false marketing.

Research contact: @nytimes

No harm, no foul: Schumer asks Army to provide Vindman with same protections as whistleblower

October 31, 2019

Fearing that a crucial witness may now be in harm’s way, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) has asked the U.S. Army to provide Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman—who testified behind closed doors as part of the House impeachment inquiry on October 29—with the same protections against retaliation that a whistleblower would receive.

According to a report by The Hill, Schumer sent a letter on Wednesday to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville raising concerns that Vindman could face retaliation for his testimony from President Donald Trump, his political base, and GOP supporters on Capitol Hill.

“I … ask that you provide me with a briefing on what actions the Army is taking to ensure that LTC Vindman and whistleblowers like him are afforded appropriate protections— both from retaliation and for the personal safety of him and his family,” Schumer wrote.

The Senate Minority Leader added that he also wants the Army leaders to “issue public statements indicating your support for him and others in the U.S. Armed Forces who fulfill their duty to tell the truth when asked to do so.”

Vindman told the three committees that he had raised concerns more than once about Trump and other officials pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations that would benefit Trump, according to a copy of his opening remarks.

Trump and some of his allies attacked Vindman, questioning his credibility and patriotism and sparking bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill.

Trump railed against Vindman on Tuesday, calling him a “Never Trumper witness.”

“Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call ‘concerned’ today’s Never Trumper witness,” Trump tweeted. “Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!”

Schumer, in his letter on Wednesday, called the criticism “outrageous.”

“These attacks are outrageous and unacceptable, but more importantly, this vitriol toward LTC Vindman may result in professional reprisals and threats to his personal safety and that of his family,” he wrote.

“It is incumbent on the Army to ensure that he is afforded the same protections as whistleblowers and protected from reprisal for testifying before Congress.” 

Research contact: @thehill

Hot romance: Couple poses for wildfire wedding photo during smoky ceremony at California winery

October 30, 2019

Elvis Presley may have sung about “a hunk, a hunk of burning love”—but he had nothing on this couple: An Illinois twosome who got married in Northern California’s Sonoma County on Saturday, October 26—with a massive wildfire raging nearby—posed for a dramatic wedding portrait wearing masks, Fox News reports with some help from the Associated Press..

Wedding photographer Karna Roa captured the photo of the bride and groom, who got married at the Chateau St. Jean Winery in Kenwood, California, even as the Kincade fire burned just miles away.

According to Fox,  the wildfire in Northern California’s wine country forced nearly 180,000 people to evacuate over the weekend as historic winds pushed the state’s largest utility to cut electricity for millions of people to try to prevent more fires.

Roa told the network news outlet that she did have some reservations showing up to the Chateau St. Jean vineyard in Sonoma County to photograph the wedding on Saturday, given the situation.

“The whole area, of course, was super smoky,” she said. “I would love to say this is the first time it has happened, but this is the third year in a row in October that wine country has experienced this.”

She said the couple, Katie and Curtis Ferland, from Chicago, are currently on their honeymoon, and not immediately available for an interview.

Curtis Ferland told Chicago’s WLS-TV (ABC) in an earlier interview that he thought the wedding would need to be canceled after learning of the widespread wildfires. “The first thing we see on TV when we turn it on is flames everywhere,” he said.

After arriving on the West Coast for their wedding, Katie and Curtis reportedly had to move to a hotel when their Airbnb rental lost power. The two also were forced to move the location of their rehearsal dinner because of the fire. WLS-TV reported that most of their vendors and staff were forced to evacuate on Saturday, but the ceremony still took place.

Sara Sugrue, the wedding planner, had to redesign the entire event the night before the nuptials, according to the news outlet. “We actually worked off a skeleton crew to make this happen,” she said.

Roa told Fox News it was the wedding planner who suggested the now-viral photo of Katie and Curtis in their masks.

“Because of all of the changes in the plans and all of the stress leading up to the wedding, the wedding planner suggested that they do at least one image with the masks on,” Roa told Fox News, adding that the masks were available to everyone who attended the wedding, but the guests were only outside for 20 minutes because of the smoke.

“When the couple put on the masks and it came time for this photo, I immediately thought of the American Gothic painting from 1930 and how that painting represented the normal for America of the time period,” Roa said. “All of a sudden this moment represented the new normal for wine country in October.”

After their wedding, early on Sunday morning, the Ferlands and all of their guests were reportedly forced to evacuate.

Research contact: @FoxNews

Special-needs food delivery: Epicured is for people on restricted diets

October 30, 2019

Even people who are on the most restrictive diets can indulge in gourmet cuisine from Michelin-starred chefs thanks to Epicured, a new subscription meal-delivery service that intends to serve people who suffer from a range of health conditions—including Crohn’s and celiac diseases, CBS News reports.

The startup, which currently is delivering boxes of fresh food on the East Coast, between Boston and Washington, DC, offers low meals that are low in FODMAP carbohydrates (lactose, fructose, fructans, sugar alcohols, and galactans) for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and are gluten-free for those with celiac disease. The food is non-GMO and contains no hormones, preservatives, or antibiotics.

The company’s co-founders, Richard Bennett and Renee Cherkezian, say they are committed to better integrating nutrition and healthcare, so that good-tasting food can be a part of patients’ lives.

“The idea of using nutrition in the healthcare system is something we want to promote not just for what people call chronic disease management but for prevention,” Bennett told CBS News.

Cherkezian said she was inspired by caring for a friend who was undergoing cancer treatment. “I saw the impact nutrition and a healthy diet had on recovery, so I wanted to hone in on my culinary skills,” she said.

She told the network news outlet that she had balanced two gigs—her full-time job as a nurse and an internship with chef David Burke—to gain practical experience before launching Epicured.

The duo, who met as freshman at Georgetown University, say their paths crossed 20 years later after independent careers in finance (Bennett) and nursing (Cherkezian). Their long-term history is part of what makes them good business partners, Bennett said.

“If you don’t have a deep relationship before you get into business together, it’s a yellow flag for me,” he said.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Hear no evil? NSC official who heard July 25 Ukraine call testifies Trump undermined US security

October 30, 2019

A senior White House official who currently oversees Ukraine policy—and who previously served 20 years as an active-duty U.S. military officer and a diplomat—told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he believes President Donald Trump undermined U.S. national security when he appealed to Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by Politico.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, told investigators, referring to Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce probes into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Vindman, who became the first White House official to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry, also said he reported Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky to the NSC’s top lawyer after listening in on the conversation from the White House situation room alongside other U.S. national security officials.

Politico revealed, this was the second time Vindman had raised concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel about a campaign by Trump, his associates, and some U.S. officials to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations intended to benefit Trump politically.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and [Ukrainian gas company] Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained,” Vindman said.

“This would all undermine U.S. national security,” Vindman added. “Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s lead counsel.”

In his appearance before House investigators on October 29, Vindman became the first official who listened in directly on Trump’s phone call with Zelensky to speak with investigators, providing a firsthand account of what House Democrats have said is a blatant abuse of power by the president. His opening statement leans heavily on his military service and a “sense of duty” to his country.

“I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country, irrespective of party or politics,” Vindman wrote in his opening statement.

“As an active duty military officer, the command structure is extremely important to me,” Vindman said, defending his decisions to express his concerns about Trump to his higher-ups. “On many occasions I have been told I should express my views and share my concerns with my chain of command and proper authorities.”

Ahead of Vindman’s testimony, Trump railed against the senior official on Twitter, calling him a “Never Trumper” and saying he “never even heard of” Vindman.

The Trump-Zelensky phone call is at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Politico noted. Investigators have gathered evidence that Trump sought to withhold nearly $400 million of critical military aid to Ukraine and refuse a White House meeting with Zelensky until the Ukrainian leader publicly stated his intention to launch Trump’s desired investigations.

Research contact: @politico

Walking on eggshells? A slower gait can be indicative of cognitive decline

October 29, 2019

Those who “step lively” are more likely to survive to an older age. In fact, scientists reporting in a special supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease say that gait disorders, particularly slowing gait, should be considered a marker of future cognitive decline. They propose testing motor performance as well as cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairments.

“There is an emerging focus on the importance of assessing motor performance as well as cognitive performance to predict cognitive function loss,” explained guest editor Manuel Montero-Odasso, MD, PhD, Departments of Medicine (Geriatric Medicine), and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, and Gait and Brain Lab, Parkwood Institute, Lawson Health Research Institute, Ontario. “In the past two decades, large epidemiological studies have shown that gait disorders, particularly slowing gait, may be present at early stages of dementia or may even predict who will be at risk of progressing to dementia. Subtle impairments in gait are more prevalent in older adults with cognitive impairments and dementia—and are also associated with an increased risk of falls.”

He and his co-authors believe that gait testing may help to detect the subgroup of at-risk patients who may benefit the most from invasive diagnostic procedures or early interventions. “We believe simple gait testing should be part of routine clinical assessment for older adults with cognitive impairments. Implementing this in clinics may be a challenge, but we hope the evidence presented in this issue will lead to progress in this area,” said guest editor George Perry, PhD, editor-in-chief of JAD, Professor of Biology, Semmes Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology, The University of Texas at San Antonio.

“Finding early dementia detection methods is vital,” added Dr. Montero-Odasso. “It is conceivable that in the future we will be able to make the diagnosis of AD and other dementias before people even have significant memory loss. In older adults with moderate cognitive impairment, slowing down their usual walking by more than 20% when they add a cognitive task is indicative of a seven-fold increased risk to develop AD in a five-year timeframe. We believe that gait, as a complex brain-motor task, provides a golden window of opportunity to detect individuals at higher risk of dementia who can benefit the most from more invasive testing or early interventions.”

Around 50 million people worldwide have dementia. Every year there are nearly 10 million new cases. AD is the most common form, accounting for around 60% to 70% of cases. Dementia is characterized by a progressive loss of cognitive function—affecting memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgment. Impairments in gait are more common in dementia than in normal aging and may be related to the severity of cognitive decline.

Research contact: @journal_ad

Facebook gets grief for including Breitbart in News tab

October 29, 2019

Can Facebook do anything that doesn’t draw fire from users, regulators, legislators, and the media? After years of complaints from American news outlets that the social media site has The Washington Post reports that Facebook has agreed to compensate at least some news organizations as part of a specialized “News” tab meant to steer users toward curated national and local news stories.

But the project immediately raised new controversy when it became known that Breitbart News—a Web outlet linked to right-wing causes that was once run by former Trump adviser Steve Bannonhad been included among the 200 media outlets participating in the program.

“Given that Facebook is putting actual news outlets in the same category as Breitbart, actual news outlets should consider quickly withdrawing from the program,” Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, a liberal nonprofit media watchdog, told the Post.

At an event in New York to launch the project, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Breitbart’s inclusion. “You want to include a breadth of content to make sure all different topics can be covered,” Zuckerberg said.

Other outlets participating include The Washington Post, The New York Times, News Corp., BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, Bloomberg News, Fox News, NBCUniversal, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

The News tab marks the latest iteration of Facebook’s approach to online news, the Post reports. Before January 2018, the company had been a leading distributor of news, but that role was dogged by the presence in its feed of false and misleading information, as well as by allegations that its news feed and other features tilted toward liberal viewpoints

Zuckerberg did not go into specifics about how different publishers would be compensated, and media analysts expressed skepticism that the arrangement will help the small and medium local outlets that have been most seriously undercut by the rise of online news distribution.

“The vast majority of local news outlets are not included, and that is part of the news ecosystem that’s most at risk,” David Chavern, the president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, a trade association of news publishers, told The Washington Post.

Chavern called Facebook’s agreement to pay at least some news outlets for their content a step in the right direction, noting that tech platforms have been “uniquely unwilling to pay for news and quality journalism.”

The News tab already is available to more than 200,000 Facebook users in the United States, with a broader rollout planned for early next year. The new service, Facebook executives say, should make it easier for users to locate the day’s major headlines, as well as stories geared toward particular topics or locales.

The initiative could reach 20 million to 30 million people over a few years, Zuckerberg said.

 Research contact: @washingtonpost

Pelosi: Trump told Russia about ISIS raid before informing leaders of Congress

October  29, 2019

To whom does the U.S. president owe fealty—the U.S. Congress or the Russian Politburo? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) revealed on October 28 that President Donald Trump told Russian leaders before he informed senior members of Congress about the U.S. military raid that ended in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the commander of ISIS.

“The House must be briefed on this raid—which the Russians but not top Congressional Leadership were notified of in advance—and on the Administration’s overall strategy in the region,” she said in a statement responding to the Saturday night operation. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from

According to a report by the Huffington Post, on Sunday morning, Trump announced in a press conference that Baghdadi died in northern Syria after being chased into a dead-end tunnel with three of his children. The four were killed by a suicide vest he detonated.

But according to Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), Trump never gave him or other members of the “Gang of Eight”―a bipartisan group of lawmakers comprising the most senior members of Congress, including Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)―a tip-off beforehand.

Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, is prosecuting the impeachment inquiry.

Although Schiff praised the accomplishment, according to the HuffPost, he noted that communicating such developments with lawmakers is key in the event that complications arise.

“Had this escalated, had something gone wrong, had we gotten into a firefight with the Russians, it’s to the administration’s advantage to be able to say ‘we informed Congress,’” he said.

Trump acknowledged to reporters that he notified only “some” congressional leaders because he “wanted to make sure [the raid was] kept secret” because “Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”

The president said he contacted Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)—who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee—and his own chief apologist Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) before his announcement.

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s handling of the matter, and avoided answering host Chris Wallace’s queries about why Pelosi was not given a heads-up, the Huffington Post said.

Presented with the question repeatedly, Pence refused to offer a direct response, focusing only on the military feat.

Research contact: @HuffPost

The face is familiar: When you have a doppelgänger

October 29, 2019

We’ve all experienced it in some way before—either as the person who learns that he or she has a “double” somewhere in the same city; or as the one who mistakes a stranger on the street for a friend or family member. “OMG! I saw your doppelgänger today.” Or, “You look exactly like this friend of mine.”

It is intriguing to think that we may not be unique. After all, how much could someone you’ve never met really resemble you, right?!

You’d be surprised, according to a report by the The Daily Beast.

Canadian photographer François Brunelle, who has been compared by his friends to comedic actor Rowan Atkinson—most famously known as Mr. Bean—spent 12 years tracking down real-life doppelgängers—individuals who are not related, but could pass for identical twins—and photographing them. His project is called the I’m Not a Look-Alike series.

A student of the human face since his early days as a photographer in 1968, Brunelle’s work reflects his fascination with “the resemblance between look-alikes” and his “ongoing effort to capture the elusive human soul.”

 The project began with people that he knew, the news outlet says. Friends first made suggestions of people who looked eerily alike, and then word spread, leading to people he didn’t know reaching out. Eventually, Brunelle set up a website which, after it was featured in the media, resulted in thousands upon thousands of submissions pouring into the artist’s inbox from people who claim to know two people who could pass as doppelgängers.

“I received a letter from a guy who met [his] look-alike one day on the beach,” Brunelle told The Daily Beast of one of his submissions. “They became friends, but the other person lives on the other side of the world.”

Setting the stage for the shoots is quite simple. Brunelle gives his subjects few instructions other than to come dressed in plain, solid-colored clothing void of graphics and labels. His goal is to have as little a hand as possible in conveying their resemblance.

The original goal was 200 pairs of doppelgängers, a number that he already has exceeded, the news outlet reports. His results are extraordinary—but what is even more astonishing is the parallel lives that many of them lead.

The Daily Beast relates the story of how, in 2004, Brunelle was introduced to two women through a mutual friend. Nina Singh and Anna Rubin were born in separate cities and raised by completely different biological parents hours apart from each other. The birthday that they share, just hours apart, is only the beginning in a long string of similarities—both of the women moved to Montreal to study dance, they have similar tattoos from the same tattoo parlor, and they unknowingly lived in the same apartment complex.

In another instance of eerie similarity, two Canadian men—one who works in advertising, the other as a popular television sports anchor—were brought together after years of being mistaken for each other. “The advertising guy would go out to restaurants and would be asked for his autograph all the time,” Brunelle says. “But he would have to explain that he wasn’t who they thought he was. People still didn’t believe him!”

When the two men finally met face-to-face, their baldness and fondness for facial hair wasn’t the only thing they had in common. Turns out, both men are married to women named Francine and have sons of similar ages.

Through Brunelle’s project, they were finally able to meet each other, and have since become close pals, The Daily Beast reports. “These people, they became friends and now they go out together with their wives and have a good time. They are like family now,” Brunelle says.

When presented with Brunelle’s photos, it’s shocking how identical the pairs seem to be. It is only upon closer inspection that the eye stops comparing the similarities between the two, and starts to decipher the differences, which Brunelle finds the most fascinating.

“I realized what’s interesting about the photos,” he said, “is not that they look exactly alike, it’s the fact that they don’t.” The mind starts to pick up on subtle differences. The nose, mouth, eyes, and ears, something is always different, but there is still a bizarre similarity. “If they looked completely identical, that would just be boring.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast