Posts made in March 2020

Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ is the show we’re all hooked on during the pandemic

April 1, 2020

It’s not exactly a National Geographic documentary. It comes across more like a Christopher Guest “mockumentary” (such as Spinal Tap or Best in Show), says Boston Globe Correspondent Lauren Daley, but it’s all real—and America is #Obsessed.

We’re a nation in quarantine, and, with a seemingly infinite number of programs to stream, many of us have apparently opted for “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” on Netflix.

What, exactly, is the show’s appeal? It’s billed by Netflix as a “true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding,” featuring a “cast of eccentric characters.” But Daley can only say, “It’s so much more.

She’s fascinated by larger-than-life characters like Joe Exotic, a mulleted big-cat lover who also makes his own music videos; and Doc Antle, who rides elephants, and comes across like a Will Ferrell character.

Combine them with a three-person wedding, breakups, a common enemy, in-fighting, love, a mystery surrounding a disappeared millionaire, a torn-off limb, and a multitude of cats—and you’ve got a binge-watching bonanza.

As soon as “Tiger King” debuted, Daley writes in the Globe, a home-bound audience around the country became glued to their screens—including more than a few actors who are now sitting home dreaming about the eventual Hollywood biopic. (“I mean, there has to be one, right?” she speculates.)

Following the show’s debut on March 20, Twitter (and other social media) blew up with suggested “dream cast” members—among them, the actors Danny McBride or David Spade (to be cast as Joe Exotic), Katherine O’Hara as Carole Baskin, Jim Gaffigan or Will Ferrell as Antle …. The lists go on.

Dax Shepard—most recently seen as Mike on “Bless this Mess” on ABC-TV— tweeted: “If I don’t get cast as Joe Exotic in the eventual biopic, Hollywood is broken.” He followed that by posting a photoshopped image of himself with a mullet and a tiger, just to show how committed he would be to the role.

However, not everyone was on board with that (potential) casting. Oscar-nominee and Boston native Edward Norton countered: “Um, step aside, pal. You’re way too young and buff and you know it.”

And he was not the last to be heard from. Comedian Dane Cook chimed in as well: “I already got asked but I’m sure there is a villain role supporting me we could slot you in. #howdareyou.”

Now, the Globe’s Daley reveals, what many didn’t know before this Netflix juggernaut is that apparently there is a limited series coming, centered on Baskin, with Kate McKinnon starring.

We’ve got popcorn ready.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

40,000 healthcare workers nationwide volunteer for the front lines of New York City’s COVID-19 battle

April 1, 2020

As New York City struggles mightily to get ahead of the swiftly spreading coronavirus pandemic, makeshift hospitals are going up and volunteer healthcare workers—as many as 40,000, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo—are arriving from less-beset areas nationwide to help ease the burden.

Indeed, even as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a call for more supplies and personnel, on Friday, a fleet of healthcare workers from Atlanta came to the rescue, CBS News reported.

More than a dozen health care professionals boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to New Yorkthe airline announced on Instagram, sharing a photo from the plane.

Some of the hands were gloved but everyone in the photo had one thing in common—they all were smiling. Southwest said that the photo “embodies it all: bravery, courage, and sacrifice.”

“These brave souls soldier on in the midst of tremendous risk and exposure, constantly putting the needs of others above their own,” Southwest wrote. “Their selfless sacrifice is a beacon of light during such a dark time in our world, and no amount of gratitude and praise would ever be enough.”

“Because of their courage, our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, and more have a fighting chance,” the post continued.

And that Southwest flight full of healthcare workers is just a fraction of the additional 40,000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other medical professionals who have signed up to join the health care force in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this figure on March 25, saying mental health professionals also are volunteering to provide free counseling CBS noted.

“That’s a big, big deal,” Cuomo said

Indeed, the healthcare professionals on the front lines of this battle have faced several challenges, including a lack of personal protective equipment and the risk of contracting the virus themselves.

In addition, many individuals and companies have thanked health care workers in a number of unique ways. Companies like Crocs, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme have announced they will give free goods to healthcare workers during this time.

And some people are thanking workers by sending food to hospitals. Last week Bill and Hillary Clinton, who are residents of Chappaqua, New York, sent more than 400 pizzas to employees at every hospital in Westchester County, New York, to thank them for their tireless effort.

At 7 p.m. each day, New York’s quarantined population goes to windows, open doors, and balconies to applaud and demonstrate their thanks to the medical community.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Pelosi: Mail-in voting will protect free and fair elections—and American voters—amid coronavirus

April 1, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill just passed by the U.S. Congress—and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27—provides $400 million in election security grants, which are intended to help states to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But just how that $400 million will be put to use to protect the American values of fair and free elections is now the subject of debate among Washington lawmakers, Politico reports.

On Tuesday, March 31, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that vote-by-mail capabilities should be scaled up ahead of 2020’s remaining elections—a move that would shield voters from the threats that in-person voting could pose amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“In terms of the elections, I think that we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that congressional Democrats had pushed to allocate more funding in the recent $2 trillion relief package “to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life: that we are going to have to have more vote by mail.”

More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries, as the public health crisis sweeps the nation, however the pivot to mail voting has proved difficult for election officials to navigate in the run-up to general elections in November, Politico notes.

“The integrity of the election system is central to our democracy,” Pelosi said. “How anyone could oppose our enabling the states to have vote-by-mail raises so many other questions, but let’s just be hopeful and have public opinion weigh in on that.”

Almost immediately, it became clear that President Trump not only would balk at Pelosi’s idea, but would hinder any efforts to implement the vote-by-mail movement.

Indeed, Politico reported, Trump on Monday criticized Democrats’ push for expanded election provisions in the relief package, arguing that “the things they had in there were crazy” before the final text of the legislation was negotiated.

“They had things — levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he told Fox & Friends.

Responding to Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, Pelosi said she felt “sad that the president doesn’t have confidence that his party cannot convince the American people about a path to go forward,” and lamented his belief that “vote by mail would deter any future elections. No, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Trump offered his own appraisal of the speaker’s interview later Tuesday morning, tweeting that he tuned into a “portion of low rated (very) Morning Psycho (Joe) this Morning in order to see what Nancy Pelosi had to say, & what moves she was planning to further hurt our Country.”

“Actually, other than her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person, she wasn’t bad,” the president wrote. “Still praying!”

Research contact: @politico

Separated at birth? There’s a new insect named for Lady Gaga

March 31, 2020

Kaikaia gaga is the newest species of treehopper, a common insect group known for its bright colors and ostentatious flair. The newest find shares a name-—and idiosyncratic style—with singer-actress and worldwide icon Lady Gaga: She wears a pair of devilish horns on her head, and she’s unlike any other species in the forest, CNN reports.

Treehoppers represents an ostentatious, but little-known, insect group that populates most forests on Earth. A paper detailing K.gaga’s discovery was recently published in the journal Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific journal on animal taxonomy.

But treehoppers have never gotten their due, according to Brendan Morris, an graduate research assistant in Entomotology—the study of insects—at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studied and named the new bug.

According to CNN, Morris immediately knew the discovery mattered: The ruddy insect, with her pointy horns and unique body structure, more closely resembles “Old World” species endemic to Asia, Africa, and Europe. But she’s native to the Pacific coast of Nicaragua.

So to shine a glittery spotlight on the new species, Morris named it after one of music’s greats.

“If there is going to be a Lady Gaga bug, it’s going to be a treehopper, because they’ve got these crazy horns; they have this wacky fashion sense about them,” Morris said in a university news release. “They’re unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”

They’re certainly among the most theatrical of all insects: Treehoppers are splashed with color, and no two species look alike. There are over 3,500 species of them worldwide, and they’re harbingers of the health of forests, Morris told CNN.

“It blows my kind that a group that is roughly 40 million years old has so much diversity of form—diversity, I would argue, that we don’t see in any other family of insects,” Morris said in the news release.

There’s still a lot left to learn about K. gaga—”basically everything,” Morris told CNN. Entomologists still don’t know what the K. gaga males and nymphs look like, how she interacts with other animals, and what her “song” sounds like.

But attempts to extract DNA from her specimen haven’t been successful. She was collected in the early 1990s and sat in a museum before Morris and paper co-author, Illinois Natural History Survey entomologist Christopher Dietrich, decided to take a closer look.

Soon, Morris will head to the insect’s native Nicaragua to learn more about her native range and how ongoing environmental degradation will affect the species— and hopefully find more of her family members.

“New treehopper species are found all the time, and the only limit to our knowledge is funding and manpower,” the two researchers told CNN. “So much of our natural world remains unknown, and we can’t know how to save species without knowing their names.”

Lady Gaga has yet to comment on the discovery of the eponymous insect, but K. gaga’s debut was certainly well-timed: The human Gaga released a new single and music video at the end of February.

Research contact: @CNN

 

Medtronic posts design specs for ventilator to combat coronavirus

March 31, 2020

Medical equipment company Medtronic announced on March 30 that it would publicly share the design specifications for a ventilator product, in order to enable other companies to explore producing it rapidly to help meet demand driven by the novel coronavirus.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company posted online the design documents, service manuals and other information for its Puritan Bennett 560, which is sold in 35 countries. The company plans to post software code and other information shortly.

What’s more, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports,  Medtronic will get an assist from automaker Tesla Inc., which will convert a New York production plant to churn out medical devices instead of solar power cells.

Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak discussed the partnership in an interview with CNBC, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter, “Giga New York will reopen for ventilator production as soon as humanly possible. We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.”

Medtronic has ramped up production of another of its ventilators in recent weeks, the Puritan Bennett 980.

“By openly sharing the PB 560 design information, we hope to increase global production of ventilator solutions for the fight against Covid-19,” said Bob White, executive vice president and president of the Minimally Invasive Therapies group at Medtronics.

Ventilators are needed for people severely ill with the coronavirus who have trouble breathing on their own. Hospitals and state officials have increased orders for the machines, and manufacturers have boosted production, but some health experts say there may not be enough to meet a surge in cases in coming weeks.

Research contact: @WSJ

Poll: Fauci and Cuomo are the most trusted leaders on COVID-19 in America right now. Trump is not.

March 31, 2020

Americans say they have the most trust in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York when it comes to official information and guidance on the COVID-19 outbreak, a new Business Insider poll shows.

Insider asked, “When it comes to the official advice regarding coronavirus, please rate how much you trust the following messengers on a scale of 1 to 5.”

Using that measure, 1 means strongly distrust; 2, somewhat distrust; 3, neither trust nor distrust; 4, somewhat trust; and 5, strongly trust. Participants were asked to mark “NA,” if they were unfamiliar with the person.

Fauci and Cuomo received the highest marks; with President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin receiving the lowest:

  • Respondents gave Dr. Fauci an average score of 3.84 out of 5 for trustworthiness. Fully 40% gave him a top score of 5, which is nearly double the next highest-rated person, and,all told, 86% gave him a 3 or higher, which is vastly higher than anyone else.
  • Cuomo received an average score of 3.2 9 out of 5. Three-quarters (75%) of respondents gave Cuomo a score of 3 or higher, and 22% gave him 5 out of 5.
  • Global Health Ambassador Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task force response coordinator, got a score of 3.14 out of 5. About three in four respondents gave Birx a score of three or higher.
  • Governor Gavin Newsom of California got an average score of 2.97 out of 5. Just shy of 70% of people gave Newsom a score of 3 or higher.
  • Former Vice President and likely 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden got an average score of 2.76 out of 5. About 31% of respondents rated Biden a 4 or 5; 27%, a 3 of 5; and 42%, a 1 or 2.
  • Vice President Mike Pence was rated a 2.65 out of 5 on average for trustworthiness. About 33% of respondents rated him a 1.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar was rated 2.62 out of 5.
  • President Donald Trump was scored 2.56 out of 5 on average. Fully 44% of respondents rate Trump a 1 out of 5; compared to 20%, who rated him a 5 out of 5. The largest group of people—55%—rated Trump as a 1 or 2.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin got the lowest score out of the 10 officials; rating 2.52 out of 5, on average.

According to Business Insider, Fauci’s blunt explanation of the strict scientific facts, calm but no-nonsense demeanor, and subtle sense of humor both in White House briefings and congressional hearings have received rave reviews from the public and made him a household name.

And while Cuomo was previously considered a somewhat divisive figure in New York politics best-known for his incessant feuding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, respondents felt he’s risen to the occasion during the current crisis.

As the governor of one of the hardest-hit states, Cuomo has been rewarded for massively expanding New York’s testing capacity, aggressively combating the virus with business closures and social distancing, and his daily PowerPoint pep talks to New Yorkers in his press conferences. 

The poll was conducted on behalf of Business Insider by SurveyMonkey. A total of 1,136 respondents were collected on March 25.

Research contact: @businessinsider

One ‘bad egg’: Woman deliberately coughs on $35,000 worth of food at market

March 20, 2020

One woman has proven herself to be “at the very bottom of the U.S. food chain” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her so-called prank at a Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, has cost the grocery store $35,000 in discarded stock, The New York Daily News reports.

On Wednesday, March 25,  the shopper deliberately coughed all over the store’s produce and on parts of the bakery and meat cases—forcing management to throw all of the contaminated merchandise away so that other customers would not be exposed to possibly contaminated food.

“Today was a very challenging day,” Gerrity’s Supermarket co-owner Joe Fasula wrote on Facebook.

According to Fasula, the woman responsible was known by police to be “a chronic problem in the community.” Although they do not believe that she actually was infected with the novel coronavirus, out of an abundance of caution they worked with the local health inspector to get rid of everything she coughed on.

After getting her out of the store and contacting authorities, more than 15 employees worked to clean and disinfect the areas she had  visited.

One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast[ern] PA,” Fasula wrote.

Research contact: @NYDailyNews

Hallmark gives away 1 million cards to help people connect and lift spirits

March 30, 2020

Greetings and salutations from Hallmark Cards, which announced on March 27 that, effective immediately, the company would donate one million cards to encourage people to send messages to friends, family,and others—who now, more than ever, need to feel loved and supported.

In a news release, the Kansas City, Missouri-based company said, “Whether it’s sent to a loved one, neighbor, senior center or a healthcare worker, a card is a small act of kindness that can make a big impact on someone’s day. In this time of uncertainty, staying connected is important. That’s why Hallmark is giving away one million free cards to anyone who wants to join them in putting more care in the world.”

Participating is easy: Anyone in the continental United States can go to Hallmark.com/CareEnough and sign-up to receive a free three-card pack, while supplies last. No purchase is necessary.

“Hallmark has been in the business of caring for more than 100 years, so lending a hand to help others connect is part of our DNA,” said Chief Marketing Officer Lindsey Roy. “During a time of unprecedented social distancing, we hope these cards will be shared across neighborhoods, towns and the country to help lift spirits.”

And finally: A paper hug. A special wish. What will your card spark? Share with Hallmark using #CareEnough.

Research contact: @Hallmark

Trump: Governors are begging for equipment that ‘I don’t think they will need’

March 30, 2020

As healthcare professionals—and state and local leaders—sounded the alarm over major shortages of equipment needed to provide life-saving care to COVID-19 patients, President Donald Trump on Mach 26 shrugged off their warnings because, as he put it, “a lot of equipment is being asked for that I don’t think they will need,” The Daily Beast reported.

With cases surging nationwide—turning the United States into the epicenter of the worldwide pandemic—officials dealing with the crisis on the ground estimated a shortfall in the millions of essentials; including test kits, gloves, respirators, gowns, ventilators, and hospital beds.

Calling into Fox News host (and unofficial presidential adviserSean Hannity on Thursday, Trump boasted about his administration’s response to the virus—although on his watch, he has failed to mitigate or moderate the spread.

Asked by Hannity about his general refusal to enforce the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of needed supplies, the president insisted it hadn’t been necessary because there’s been “tremendous spirit” from corporations that he says have stepped up. This prompted him to then take some pointed shots at Democratic governors who’ve criticized the federal response.

“Remember, we are a second line of attack,” he exclaimed. “The first line of attack is supposed to be the hospitals. and the local government and the states.”

The president first took aim at Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, calling him a “failed presidential candidate” who is “always complaining” and “should be doing more” for his state. He then proceeded to attack Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who he said was “not stepping up” and “has not been pleasant.”

Claiming he gets along well with most of the other governors, the president then suggested they are asking for unnecessary supplies from the federal government while also insisting that the states should take on the majority of the burden.

Hannity, who began his program by blasting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for desperately declaring his state’s need for 30,000 ventilators, went on to say the governor’s request annoyed him. Moments later, Trump suggested the state didn’t need nearly that much equipment.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they are going to be,” he asserted. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go to major hospitals, sometimes they have two ventilators. ”

The Daily Beast reported that the death toll from COVID-19 in New York City. alone has topped 365 on Friday. The city’s entire healthcare system, meanwhile, is on the brink as more and more patients flood the hospitals. At its current pace, FEMA estimated that the city’s intensive care units would be filled by March 27.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Wash fruit, vegetables with soap: Virologist confirms COVID-19 survives on supermarket produce

March 27, 2020

An apple a day only will keep the doctor away if you wash it with soap and water, much as you would your hands: A virologist has confirmed that “every surface is a hazard” when it comes to COVID-19—and  he cautions supermarket customers to be particularly mindful of the loose fruit and vegetables in the store, according to the Daily Mail UK.

Timothy Newson, an associate professor at the University of Sydney specializes in infection, vaccines, and virology, told the Daily Mail that, while the virus can live on most surfaces, grocery shoppers should be particularly wary of the fruit and vegetable aisle—where customers frequently pick up the produce to see how fresh and ripe it is, and put it down again.

“We have to remember that every surface is potentially contaminated. And like with any surface there is a risk,’ Newsome explained. ‘We don’t see it as high risk because that comes from sustained contact with other people, but nonetheless it’s important to be mindful.’

‘People working in the supermarkets should be picking all of the fruit and veg up and setting it back down with protection,” he said. Luckily he noted that a large proportion of shelf stackers and general workers have been wearing gloves and disinfecting their hands at every turn.

The best course of action is to wash your fruit and vegetables with soap as soon as you bring them home, not simply relying on the high heat of cooking them to “kill” the virus.

“Wash them with warm soapy water, just as you do your hands,” he said.

Research contact: @DailyMailUK