Posts made in January 2020

Going vegan lowers risk of urinary tract infection

February 3, 2020

Ditching meat and going vegan may reduce your risk of suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI), a new study conducted at Tzu Chi University in Taiwan has found.

Indeed, according to a report by News Medical, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are most often caused caused by bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E.coli)— which is normally found in the gut, but enters the urinary tract through the urethra.

Past studies have established that meat is a major reservoir for the E. coli strains that cause UTI, but it researchers could not confirm that avoiding eating meat could lower UTI risk. The latest study, published in the journal, Scientific Reports, found that vegetarians have a lower incidence of UTIs than those who eat meat.

To arrive at their findings, the team assessed the incidence of UTIs in more than 9,700 Buddhists in Taiwan, all of whom participated in the Tzu Chi Vegetarian Study, which looked at the connection between a vegetarian diet and chronic degenerative diseases. The researchers followed the participants for ten years—and found that vegans were 16% less likely to develop a UTI than their meat-eating counterparts, News Medical reports.

The team used a 57-item food frequency questionnaire to assess the patients’ dietary habits. After analyzing the diets of men and women separately, the team found that the reduced risk of UTI associated with a vegetarian diet was greater in men than in women. However, women are far more likely to be burdened with cystitis generally. The overall UTI risk for men was 79% lower than for women, regardless of diet.  

Overall, women were 18% less likely to develop UTI if they went vegan.

Research contact: @NewsMedical

Staples reinvented: Office supplies, a podcasting studio, co-working space, and career coaching

February 3, 2020

The floor-to-ceiling aisles of Post-it Notes, pushpins, pencils, and printer paper? History. The endless rows of three-ring binders and back-to-school bargains? Gone.

Instead, there are light-filled co-working spaces with snack-stocked kitchens, digitally tricked-out meeting rooms, and podcasting studios, reports The Boston Globe of the new concept for the 30-year-old retain chain—now being tested in Massachusetts.

Meet the new Staples: It’s not just an office supply superstore anymore, it is, the company puts it, a “destination dedicated to continued curiosity, growth, and development.”

Staples built a leading national brand as the traditional stationery store on steroids when it first started out in 1986, the Globe says. But since then, the workplace—and how we shop for i —have undergone transformational changes. Cloud-based computing, telecommuting, and the ease of one-click ordering have diminished demand for big-box stores stocked with reams of paper, the new outlet notes.

 Now, in a dramatic effort to stay relevant, Staples is recasting itself as a place where you can co-work, record a podcast, stock up for your next Uber shift—or even get fingerprinted for a job.

“It’s not about product anymore. That’s something you can buy anywhere online,” Michael Motz, chief executive of the Staples U.S. Retail group told the Globe as he loped across one of the newly renovated Staples Connect stores in Needham, Massachusetts. “It’s about, how can we provide solutions for you? It’s the connection to your everyday life.”

But whether the full-scale makeover will be enough to steer the company into better financial health remains to be seen.

“It’s about us being more relevant and part of the community,” Motz said.

Staples used to devote just 10% of each store’s footprint to offering services like printing and shipping, said Brian Coupland, the company’s VP of Retail Merchandising. About half of the redesigned Needham store’s layout is dedicated to services now—with desks renting for $299 a month, and private offices for $599 a month (in downtown Boston co-working desks rent for $499 a month and offices go for $999 monthly).

Members and store customers can get free access to fancy AV-enabled meeting rooms that will also host seminars and workshops. And members can use podcast studios gratis (available to nonmembers for $60 an hour). Concierge services like legal, funding, or HR advice are available for small-business customers. And anyone can apply for a TSA PreCheck, a special state license, or a background check.

According to the Globe, even the store aisles “feel less cluttered and more playful than they once did; in the pen section, doodle pads invite customers to try a drawing challenge and a crafting section includes displays of paper cut into floral designs.”

 Coupland said outside consultants helped them to upend their traditional approach to office supplies, resulting in products like its new patented “squircle” highlighter markers (they have square edges so they won’t roll off desks). And kiosks offer gig-economy accoutrements: An Uber station offers charging cords, candies, and bottle water; Airbnb hosts can find Nest thermometers, smart locks, and Wifi hubs.

The store said it has more than 400 members across its various locations, but when a reporter toured the newly-designed downtown space earlier this week, the co-working site was empty.

However, Charles Smith—who has been co-working at the Staples’ Brighton location since 2016—told the Globe that he now rents a dedicated office in the space. The cannabis consultant also regularly works at the Needham store, and says he loves its flexibility: He can get downtown easily for meetings, parking is free, and he can get home to his three kids in Wellesley in minutes.

“Having a commute that’s half of what the average person commutes is a big advantage,” he said. He’s said he’s found mentors on site, and he regularly uses his discounts for printing and marketing tools, so he’s excited the company is expanding its offerings.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Murkowski folds under pressure, quashing testimony at Senate impeachment inquiry

February 3, 2020

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been brought to heel by Senate Republicans. She now has agreed to vote against a motion that would have enabled the impeachment managers to subpoena both new witnesses and documents blocked by the White House. And in doing so, she has given the GOP the 51 votes that party leaders need to shut the trial down, The Hill reports.

Murkowski said she had worked to produce a fair process modeled after the Clinton impeachment trial, but blamed the House for rushing “flawed” impeachment articles.

“I worked for a fair, honest and transparent process, modeled after the Clinton trial, to provide ample time for both sides to present their cases, ask thoughtful questions, and determine whether we need more,” she said. “The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.”

Murkowski also said the trial had not been fair and that Congress had failed as an institution.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed,” she commented in an official statement on her website. 

She added, “It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the chief justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.

“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country.”

Murkowski had been the last undecided Republican senator, giving Democrats hope of a 50-50 tie on the crucial procedural question of subpoenaing witnesses (such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton.), The Hill noted.

Murkowski made it clear to colleagues that she wanted to hear from Bolton but also expressed concern about letting the trial turn into an extended partisan procedural battle, with the prospect of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) forcing vulnerable GOP incumbents to take a slew of tough votes.

Research contact: @TheHill

Let the music move you: The way you dance is as unique as your fingerprints

January 29, 2020

In cities such as Beijing or London, it’s hard to go anywhere without being caught on security cameras—and a new study has established that, if you boogie, tango, shimmy, or tap, you actually will be easier to identify than people who simply walk. In fact, researchers at the University of

in Finland have found that every single person has his or her own unique way of dancing— and computers are able to ascertain the identity of dancers with startling accuracy.

According to a report by Study Finds, regardless of the type of music, from jazz to reggae, the vast majority of people maintain a uniform uniqueness to their dancing style. (Think of Elaine Benis on Seinfeld.) It’s this ever-present personality in each of our dance moves that makes it easy for computers to ID dancers.

Over the past few years, the study’s authors have been using motion capture technology to analyze people’s dance moves, and to infer what they can tell us about the individual. And that’s a whole lot of information—including whether he or she is extroverted, neurotic, happy or moody, and even how this person  empathizes with others.

Humorously enough, the research team hadn’t initially set out to use computers to identify dancers. The original plan was to use machine learning to determine the musical genre participants were dancing to at a particular moment.

“We actually weren’t looking for this result, as we set out to study something completely different,” explains first study author Dr. Emily Carlson in a  press release. “Our original idea was to see if we could use machine learning to identify which genre of music our participants were dancing to, based on their movements.”

In total, 73 dancers took part in the experiment. Each participant was motion captured as they danced to eight different genres: rap, reggae, blues, country, electronic dance, jazz, and heavy metal. They were told to dance in whatever way felt natural.

“We think it’s important to study phenomena as they occur in the real world, which is why we employ a naturalistic research paradigm,” said Professor Petri Toiviainen, the senior author of the study.

Rather surprisingly, the machine learning algorithm actually wasn’t very good at identifying the musical genres, only offering a correct guess about 30% of the time. However, the computer was much better at identifying the dancers based on their movements. Among the 73 participants, the computer accurately determined who was dancing 94% of the time.

“It seems as though a person’s dance movements are a kind of fingerprint,” says Dr. Pasi Saari, another study co-author and data analyst. “Each person has a unique movement signature that stays the same no matter what kind of music is playing.”

“We have a lot of new questions to ask, like whether our movement signatures stay the same across our lifespan, whether we can detect differences between cultures based on these movement signatures, and how well humans are able to recognize individuals from their dance movements compared to computers. Most research raises more questions than answers,” Dr. Carson concludes, “and this study is no exception.”

The study has been published in The Journal of New Music Research.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Move over, Airbnb: New home rental platform Golightly caters just to women

January 29, 2020

Traveling alone as a woman, or even in a group of women, shouldn’t be intimidating or dangerous—but it can be. Enter Golightly, a vacation rental platform exclusively for females, which launched this month.

All of the properties are owned or managed by women, and renters must be women, although men can travel with the, USA Today reports.

Victoria O’Connell launched the Austin, Texas-based company after she had  a bad experience renting out her own home in London—which was burglarized and destroyed by a group of men.

“I felt that I would never be comfortable renting out my home again, and I wanted to figure out a way to change that and feel safe again,” O’Connell told USA Today.  “I travel frequently and also stay in vacation rentals often, so I had to find a way to get back to it.”

The rental platform is invite-only and aims to build a community of women. Each member is given five invites to send to other women. But if women want to join and don’t have a referral code, they can fill in an online form to be vetted.

According to the website, “As a private club, Golightly carefully vets each member and property listing. Our goal is to provide a safer and more secure travel experience. Listings and member profiles are only available within the Golightly network to protect the privacy of our community.”

It costs $100 for a lifetime membership, but, the news outlet notes, that fee is being waived through the end of February as the platform aims to grow its membership and add more properties. There’s a 10% transaction fee for guests and a 5% fee for hosts on bookings.

For now the site has hundreds of home rentals, with the majority of them concentrated in the United States and Europe.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Quinnipiac Poll: 75% of U.S. voters want witnesses in Senate impeachment trial

January 29, 2020

On week two of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, three-quarters (75%) of U.S. registered voters believe that witnesses should be allowed to testify in the Senate impeachment trial, according to findings of a Quinnipiac University national poll released on January 28.

According to the pollsters, those who support witness testimony include 49% of Republicans, 95% of Democrats, and 75% of Independents.

“There may be heated debate among lawmakers about whether witnesses should testify at the impeachment trial of President Trump, but it’s a different story outside the Beltway. Three-quarters of American voters say witnesses should be allowed to testify, and that includes nearly half of Republican voters,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Analyst Mary Snow.

On the question of whether President Trump should be removed from office, it’s a closer call: Quinnipiac says voters remain divided, as 48% told the poll that the Senate should not remove President Trump from office; while 47% said the Senate should. That compares to a January 13 poll, conducted prior to the start of the Senate impeachment trial, in which 48% said the president should not be removed from office, while 46% said he should.

Among voters who say President Trump should not be removed from office, 77% believe the president did nothing wrong in his actions involving Ukraine, while 14% say he did something wrong.

Of the overwhelming majority of voters who have an opinion on whether the Senate should vote to remove President Trump or not, Quinnipiac found that 89% say they’ve already made up their minds, while 10% say they might change their minds.

Research contact: @QuinnipiacPoll

Sounding off: Most people are annoyed by restaurant music for the same reason

January 29, 2020

Making your voice heard isn’t just hard in politics these days. Try having a quiet conversation at a restaurant.

In fact, based on findings of a recent survey conducted by El Segundo, California-based Cloud Cover Music—a company that offers streaming music to all kinds of businesses, from retailers, to auto dealerships, to pubs, to restaurants—an overwhelming 66.7% of diners cited loud volume as the number-one thing they disliked about restaurant music, Fast Company reports.

And while volume is the top reason for disliking restaurant music, there are plenty of others, the respondents noted—among them:

  • Poor sound quality (21%)
  • Artist they dislike (20.8%)
  • Explicit content (14.8%)
  • Profanity (13.9%)
  • Political content (13.6%)
  • Drug- or alcohol-related content (12.7%)
  • Religious content (12.5%)
  • Outdated (11.8%)
  • Volume too low (10.6%)
  • Evokes sadness (5.2$%)
  • Evokes bad memories (3.5%)

There are a few caveats, along with that data: The survey was conducted online and only included 941 responses, and the responses weren’t weighted. So it can hardly be considered representative. Still, for diners who believe that the loud-music restaurant trend is out of control, the survey results are a satisfying nugget of conformation bias.

You might ask yourself why restaurant owners continue to blast loud music, if everyone hates it so much. One theory, as Vox pointed out in 2018, is that people tend to eat and drink faster in loud environments, which speeds up turnover and therefore boosts business.

Yet another? People with children frequent noisy eateries because they don’t want other patrons to hear their tykes screaming.

Research contact: @FastCompany

LastObject offers new brands, LastSwab and LastTissue, to abolish single-use items

January 29, 2020

It’s flu season—that time of year when seemingly endless numbers of paper tissues are consumed. And one company, based in Copenhagen, wants to stop all of that waste.

Following a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign last April that raised $1.3million from nearly 20,000 backers on a reusable cotton swab called LastSwab—which, the company claims, “lasts up to 1,000 uses and is the easy-to-clean, reusable alternative to the abundant waste caused by the 1.5 billion cotton swabs produced every day”—LastObject has announced that it is  back with its second product.

On January 28, the company launched LastTissue on Kickstarter —aiming to bring the handkerchief back to mainstream culture. One pack of LastTissue contains six reusable handkerchiefs made from 100% organic cotton, fitted into a 100% silicone, dishwasher safe carrying case.

According to LastObject, tissues and single-use items are destroying the planet. Every day more than 41 million trees are cut down around the world. Deforestation leads to direct loss of wildlife habitat and removes the effect the trees have of cleaning our carbon emissions to breathable oxygen. LastTissue aims to help alleviate this global crisis.

“We designed LastTissue because the paper and pulp industry is the third-largest industrial emitter of global warming gasses. The climate emergency we are in is a sign that humans must stop and think differently about single-use items. The big problem with single-use is people’s habits, which is why we are creating mainstream daily-use products that are reusable” commented LastObject co-founder, Isabel Aagaard.

Every LastTissue tissue replaces a single-use tissue and saves 2 liters of water. With one LastTissue pack, consumers will save the planet from more than 3,100 single-use tissues, as well as their plastic packaging.

Readers can buy three packs of LastTissue on the Kickstarter site for $39 through March 12.

Research contact: @LastSwab

Axios: New group to focus on attacking McConnell, “the least popular politician in America”

January 29, 2020

As the Republicans ready their closing arguments in the impeachment inquiry, a new independent expenditure group called Fix Our Senate is gearing up to launch on Tuesday, January 28, to go after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, organizers have exclusively informed Axios.

As a national political figure, McConnell is both extremely powerful and highly unpopular, with a favorability rating of 29.8% in the latest average of polls tracked by Real Clear Politics.

Indeed, Axios reports, according to the new group’s director, Joshua Karp, a Democratic strategist and communications consultant: “McConnell is already the least popular politician in America, Now, we’re going to shine a light on McConnell and every ally who supports him.”

The group plans to conduct and disseminate research on McConnell and his record and leadership strategies to share with activists and surrogates, and shape opinion.

McConnell adviser Josh Holmes told Axios that the group is “welcome to take a number and get in line” in order “to fleece donors into underwriting yet another expedition in search the left’s white Ac\

Finally, according to Axios, polls show that President Donald Trump is more popular than McConnell. The new effort appears aimed less at trying to defeat McConnell in Kentucky—and more at asking U.S. voters to broadly associate Republican candidates and policies with negative feelings about McConnell.

Research contact: @axios@MidnightNMitch

Nine-year-old creates portrait of John Cena using 750 Rubik’s Cubes—and his ‘superpower,’ dyslexia

January 28, 2020

A new video involving WWE superstar and actor John Cena is going viral—but it isn’t of the popular wrestler body-slamming one of his opponents. Rather, it documents how nine-year-old Benjamin Russo built a huge portrait of Cena using 750 Rubik’s Cubes, MSN reports.

The video starts with Benjamin holding up a series of cards, on which he explains that he has the learning disorder, dyslexia, and struggles with reading and writing. “I mix up my words. I get very frustrated and upset, too, sometimes,” he admits, but he also says, “Having dyslexia also means I can do something amazing! Like this…”

Then, Benjamin is shown configuring hundreds of Rubik’s Cubes into specific patterns. After he has arranged all 750 cubes, the patterns come together to reveal an enormous portrait of Cena, himself.

Then, Benjamin lifts up two more cards. They read: “Dyslexia is not my disability. Dyslexia is my superpower.”

The process took five hours, Benjamin’s dad, Louis, told CNN. “My wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘Just how does he do it?’ It’s just incredible to watch,” the proud father said.

Benjamin’s amazing talent even caught the attention of Benjamin’s Rubik’s muse.

“This is the embodiment of #NeverGiveUp,” Cena tweeted. “Benjamin demonstrates courage, perseverance, vulnerability, tremendous strength… and he’s an ARTIST!”

Benjamin’s parents hope his story will shift how people perceive dyslexia.”The general public sees dyslexia basically as flipping words around, flipping letters around, and that’s where it ends,” Louis said. “We never talk about the advantages and the special gifts that many dyslexics have, and Benjamin is not alone. So I think that’s what we’re trying to do is get the positive out there and not so much the negatives.”

Research contact: @MSN