Posts made in June 2020

New urine test assesses whether your diet is right for your body in just five minutes

July 1, 2020

Many of us can’t help but be confused by the constant barrage of dietary advice emanating from friends and family, doctors and wellness sources, social media, and advertising. But now, there’s a new type of urine test—designed by researchers at Imperial College London—that may help us to determine just what kind of diet would be best specifically for our own bodies, Study Finds reports.

The test takes only five minutes and measures a variety of metabolites present in urine. These metabolites can reveal important information about our diet, including consumption of citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, vitamin C, red meats, and chicken.

Another key piece of information that the test reveals is whether the patient has a health condition. For example, the test measures salt intake, which is linked to obesity and high blood pressure.

“Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate,” explains researcher Joram Posma in a statement.

“For instance,” Posma notes, “asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat. This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet, and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological make-up.”

The researchers believe that the new technology can provide an individual urine “fingerprint” which varies from person to person. This information can then be used by dieticians to tailor dietary recommendations. The fingerprint helps to create a personal score, known as a Dietary Metabotype Score, or DMS—for each individual.

In their experiments, the authors instructed a group of 19 people to adhere to one of four diets, which ranged from very unhealthy to very healthy. They then calculated DMS scores for each individual. While higher DMS scores correspond with healthier diets and lower DMS scores signal not-so-healthy ones, researchers report variations in scores among people who strictly followed the same diet. These findings suggest that people metabolize the same food in different ways, and that these differences affect DMS scores.

Looking ahead, the researchers plan to examine how DMS scores are related to the risk of health conditions such as obesitydiabetes, and high blood pressure.

“We show here how different people metabolize the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalized dietary advice to improve public health,” co-author John Mathers  of Newcastle University explains.

The study is published in Nature Food.

Research contact: StudyFinds

Twitch muzzles Trump: Platform suspends president’s channel for ‘hateful conduct’

July 1, 2020

Twitch— the live-streaming platform that millions of people use to chat, interact, and make their own entertainment together—announced on Monday, June 29, that it was suspending Donald Trump’s personal channel for “hateful conduct,” in what appeared to be the first deliberate suspension of one of the president’s social media accounts, The New York Times reported.

The site, which is owned by Amazon, said two recent streams on. Trump’s channel violated its rules:

  • One stream was of a rebroadcasted 2015 campaign event in which Donald Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” adding, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
  • The other stream documented the president’s May 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he described a scenario involving an immigrant in the following way: “It’s one o’clock in the morning,” Trump said, and “a very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman, whose husband is away, as a traveling salesman or whatever he may do. And you call 911, and they say, ‘I’m sorry this number is no longer working.’”

“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a Twitch spokesperson said in a statement. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”

It was unclear how long the suspension would last.

With its move, Twitch went further than other social media platforms, the Times noted. In recent months, some tech companies have become more proactive in handling speech issues by Trump and his supporters. Twitter began adding labels to some of the president’s tweets; Snap has said it will stop promoting Mr. Trump’s Snapchat account; and Reddit on Monday said it would ban “The_Donald” community, which had been a highly influential digital gathering place for Trump’s acolytes.

But unlike those efforts, Twitch directly clamped down on the president himself, temporarily shutting down his ability to post videos on a channel. The only other time when the president had one of his social media accounts suspended was by accident in 2017, when his Twitter account was unexpectedly disabled by a rogue contractor who was leaving Twitter that day.

One company that has maintained it does not want to police free speech is Facebook. Last week, the social network announced it would expand its hate speech policies and label posts from political figures who violate rules as “newsworthy.” But the labels, which do not explain what is inaccurate or hateful about a post, fall short of what Twitter and other companies have done.

Twitch’s suspension of Mr. Trump comes as the platform, which is popular with gamers, is under fire for other instances of hateful rhetoric. Streamers have accused it of allowing racist and sexist comments to thrive unchecked, and the company said last week it would permanently suspend a handful of users after a torrent of sexual harassment and assault allegations rocked the video game industry.

Cindy Otis, a disinformation expert and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told the Times that Twitch’s suspension of the president might pressure other companies to ratchet up their actions.

“You have to sort of wonder, if smaller platforms start taking more aggressive or harder action on what they consider harmful content or on the disinformation side — will that end up pressuring the larger platforms to do more as well?”. Otis asked.

But, she added, “If stuff gets removed from one platform, it simply migrates to another.”

The Trump campaign did not directly address the actions by Twitch and Reddit on Monday. Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, said in a statement that people should download the Trump campaign app or text the campaign’s automated number to “hear directly from the president.”

Twitch is not one of Mr. Trump’s top social media channels, according to the Times report. His channel began streaming on the service last October, amassing more than 125,000 followers and 113 streams, compared with his more than 83 million followers on Twitter.

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden to amp up criticism of Trump on coronavirus as cases mount nationwide

July 1, 2020

As states report surging numbers of coronavirus cases—with Texas, Florida, and California documenting more than 5,000 new cases per day—Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden on Tuesday, June 30, said he planned to escalate his criticism of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic and detail how he would stem the virus, The Washington Post reported.

More than 2.5 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the CDC, and over 126,000 nationwide have died from the virus. Even worse, there is no end in sight.

Biden said he will tie together a raft of proposals he’s offered since January— including providing free testing and treatment for the disease and guaranteed paid leave for those who must stay home from work while sick—according to a campaign document outlining his themes that was obtained by The Washington Post.

The document, in the form of a scorecard that the campaign will push via social media, is intended to hammer home the areas where Biden’s campaign believes that Trump has fallen short. Broad categories include the president’s failure to “level with the American people”; his inability to provide testing and treatment; shortfalls in securing a supply chain for protective equipment; and failures to protect workers, older Americans and small businesses.

Although, the Post says, the presumptive Democratic nominee is not expected to unveil new ideas, his speech will pull together various proposals under a single framework, intending to demonstrate a meaty response to the question of how he would respond to this crisis.

In contrast, the news outlet notes, “Trump has recently tried to push the nation’s focus away from the virus and instead talk about stimulating the economic recovery. He has refused to wear a mask in public and has held two large rallies — both circumstances that run counter to the advice of health officials, including those in his administration.

The president also has offered unproven and at times dangerous ideas on how to address the coronavirus, including promoting a drug now believed to be ineffective and suggesting that the virus could be treated via “an injection inside” the body with a disinfectant.”

Trump also said at a his May 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma,  that he had instructed officials to “slow the testing down” as a way to keep the country’s official data on infections lower.

What’s more, in March the president said, “I don’t take responsibility at all” for lagging coronavirus testing in the United States.

Biden last week hit Trump for his administration’s decision to ask the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, saying the action risked the lives of Americans who rely on the insurance.

Biden will make the point that “Trump has called himself a wartime president but is surrendering to the virus,” according to a campaign official who provided a brief preview of the candidate’s remarks on the condition of anonymity. The official said Biden will stress that lives would have been saved if Trump had acted sooner.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Near and dear: 60% of fathers say they are closer to their kids because of the COVID-19 lockdown

June 20, 2020

While some may say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, many American fathers who have been sheltering with their children during the COVID-19 pandemic would disagree: In fact, they say that they are more “in touch” with their kids—both psychologically and physically—than ever before.

In fact, the Good News Network reports, a pair of new studies reveal a silver lining amid the COVID gloom. The studies, released last week as part of Canadian Men’s Health Week, were conducted in May on behalf of the nonprofit Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF).

The first survey asked 1,019 Canadian fathers about the impact of the COVID lockdown on their roles as fathers. “Even though families have faced stressors and challenges with COVID-19, we recognize that fathers have been granted a golden opportunity to take time to slow down and connect with their children,” said Canadian Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“Many parents work full time and commute, and when that is taken away, they have more opportunities for togetherness, like a game of catch or going for a hike. Men’s health is impacted by their living situations, and getting a little more physical activity with their kids is a little thing that makes a big difference. We can learn from this pandemic in more ways than we think.”

As a result, the Good News Network reports, 40% of the respondents believe COVID-19 has had a positive impact on their role as a father; 52% are more aware of their importance as a father, and 60% felt closer to their children. Half of those surveyed have already decided to be more engaged as a father in the future.

According to the study, almost 66% of fathers have been providing companionship to their children more often during lockdown, and almost half pla60% felt n to continue doing so as restrictions are lifted. Likewise, 56% have been providing guidance to their children more often, with 46% planning to continue doing that as well.

“I’ve been off work since March and it’s been stressful, but the upside is I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my daughters,” Dal Watson of Burnaby, B.C., told the news outlet.“I’m a professional chef and I’ve been spending time in the kitchen at home teaching my kids how to cook. We’re also sitting down as a family and eating together, which was something that couldn’t happen very often when I was working. I’m grateful for the extra time I have with my family.”

As a follow up to the online survey, The Men’s Initiative (TMI) at UBC conducted virtual focus groups with 45 fathers from across Canada. Many fathers described a hectic family dynamic prior to COVID with busy lives focused on long work days with commuting, eating on the run, and catering to children’s schedules. With the sports, extracurricular, and social activities, the family members experienced lives that were lived in parallel with each other.

As the pandemic evolves, fathers have expressed concern that they will experience a tension between shifting back to the “old normal,” and a desire to create a new normal going forward.

“We know the active and positive presence of fathers in their children’s lives has a positive effect on those children’s mental and physical wellbeing, and reduces the frequency of their negative behaviors,” noted Dr. David Kuhl, a UBC Professor of Medicine and a co-founder of TMI.

“If the COVID-19 lockdown accelerates the movement of dads to be more engaged with their children, that could be a lasting benefit from a tragic public health crisis,”said Dr. Larry Goldenberg, the founding chair of CMHF. “It is clear, however, that men realize it will be a challenge to continue spending quality time with their families once the daily stresses of commuting and working long hours are reintroduced to their lives.”

Research contact: @CMHFoundation66% providing more

Double duty: A new flashlight from VSSL totes a full first aid kit in its handle

June 30, 2020

For treks in the great outdoors—or even playdates—it’s a good idea to pack lightly, but meticulously for every need, according to Todd Weimer, the founder of outdoor brand VSSL . So, when he got the idea of putting camping supplies or first aid essentials into the handle of a sturdy flashlight, he knew it was a winner, Fast Company reports.

VSSL (pron. vessel) now focuses on producing a range of multi-functional tools with components that are critical for outdoor survival and “zombie protection.The company curates and loads critical gear into compact, modular units, so that you can have what you need without adding unnecessary clunk.

And while the VSSL Camp Supplies Kit includes 70 pieces of gear (from a fire starter kit, to a water purification kit, to a sewing kit) into a unit the size of a small water bottle, it’s not practical for everyone.

The VSSL First Aid Kit ($125), however, is according to Fast Company. Tubular and compact, this first aid kit/flashlight combo fits into your glove box, backpack, purse, or bathroom medicine cabinet with ease. And it completely cancels any excuse you’ve ever had in the past to not keep first aid essentials on your person.

“We wanted to create something that was easy to carry, yet completely reliable and durable,” Weimer explains. “We relied on expert advice from local emergency first responders, who helped us select only the first aid supplies that will be the most essential and useful–from your backyard to the backcountry and everywhere in between.”

Fast Company describes the design of the flashlight as “sleek as hell and highly functional,” noting that “it’s completely waterproof,  exceptionally rugged (it’s made of military-grade aluminum), and each component of the kit is easily accessible (thanks to the rollout design of the kit’s components).”

Oh, and it weighs less than a pound. The bottom of the kit is a 200-Lumen, waterproof, flood beam flashlight that has four different lighting modes: bright, dim, red, and SOS. The top of the kit is an oil-filled precision compass.

Inside, you’ll find multiuse tape, bandages, 3M Steri-Strips, disposible thermometers, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic cream, burn cream, Aspirin, Advil, tweezers, an emergency whistle, safety pins, gauze, medical gloves, and blister pads—all rolled up neatly into a see-through, pocketed organizer.

But if you’re looking for an even more pared-down First Aid Kit, VSSL also offers the First Aid Mini Kit ($99)—which includes only the essential of the essentials.

This kit stands at 6.75 inches tall (compared to the full-sized VSSL’s 9 inches), weighs only 9.9 oz., and holds three tins of curated supplies. Tin 1 includes supplies to clean and cover wounds, Tin 2 contains first aid tools (like tweezers, gloves, and a sewing kit), and Tin 3 holds supplies like medications, creams, and thermometers.

After you’ve used supplies that come with your VSSL kit, you can refill it (or swap out) with any number of affordable refills, from bug repellant to trail markers to miniature candles. The brand offers curated refill tins like the Guard Compact Adventure Pack (which comes stocked with face masks, rubber gloves, thermometers, and hand sanitizer) and the First Aid Hike Essentials tin. (The company also has a Build Your Own option that you can customize from scratch, if the premade kits don’t suit your needs.)

Suddenly, carrying a first aid kit seems more convenient than not carrying one—doesn’t it?

Research contact: @VSSLgear

Mutiny on the bounties: Trump balks at briefing House members on Russian perfidy

June 30, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for the Trump Administration to brief all House members immediately about allegations that surfaced on June 27–detailing that Russians have been paying Afghan militants to assassinate U.S. soldiers, Politico reports.

Most recently, President Donald Trump has claimed that he knows nothing about the disclosures—and that he and Vice President Mike Pence never have been briefed on the matter by U.S. intelligence agencies. He has not said that he intends to follow up on the accusations against Russia and, by extension, against President Vladimir Putin—which he does not believe to be credible.

However, The New York Times has countered that story, saying that senior White House and intelligence officials knew about the bounty allegations since at least March but took no action.

Indeed, the Times has reported that Trump was briefed on the matter and that it was included in his Presidential Daily Brief, but Trump denied ever learning of the intelligence and late Sunday said his leaders in the intelligence community told him it wasn’t credible.

“The questions that arise are: Was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed? Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel. “I therefore request an interagency brief for all House Members immediately. Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable.”

Since the news reports emerged, Politico reports, Democrats and some Republicans have been demanding details from the Administration. Early Monday, congressional aides indicated no briefing had been set up for the House intelligence, armed services or foreign affairs committee. It’s unclear if the Gang of Eight—the leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the intelligence committee—will be briefed, but as of Monday morning there was no meeting scheduled, per a congressional source.

The new allegations —which The New York Times and The Washington Post reported may have led to the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan—have once again brought Trump’s relationship with Russia under scrutiny.

Senior House Democrats were furious with the reports, which first surfaced Saturday. Pelosi told ABC ‘s ‘This Week” on Sunday: “This is as bad as it gets.”

“If reports are true that Russia offered a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Trump wasn’t briefed, that’s a problem,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) tweeted Sunday. “What will it take to get Trump to abandon the fiction that Putin is our friend?”

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump said. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Democrats, however, hammered the president over the bounties.

“It’s sickening that American soldiers have been killed as a result of Russian bounties on their heads, and the Commander in Chief didn’t do a thing to stop it,” Representatuve Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, told Politico.

Research contact: @politico

Kanye West to design Yeezy clothing line for Gap

June 29, 2020

He’s a rapper, he’s a designer, he’s a preacher, he’s a billionaire (or so he says), he’s a true Trump believer; he’s a father and the husband of reality star Kim Kardashian. And he used to work at Gap as a kid growing up in Chicago.

But can the multitalented Kanye West pull Gap’s retail empire out of its years-long slump? The casual-clothing retailer announced on June 26 that it is teaming up with West’s fashion brand Yeezy on a collection called Yeezy Gap that will debut next year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Yeezy will receive royalties and potential equity, based on meeting sales targets.

West, who has 21 Grammy awards and whose Yeezy fashion brand had a tie-up with Nike, and currently has one with Adidas, has talked about wanting to partner with Gap in various interviews over the years. A former Gap employee in his teens, West even mentioned the retailer in his 2004 song “Spaceship.”

“I believe that Yeezy is the McDonald’s and the Apple of apparel,” West told  the Journal in March. “In order to make the Apple of apparel the next Gap, it has to be a new invention. To invent something that’s so good that you don’t even get credit for it because it’s the norm.”

Founded in 1969 in San Francisco, Gap rose to fame by dressing several generations of Americans in its jeans, khakis, and T-shirts; but has since been overtaken by fast-fashion chains and new e-commerce players. Its sales have declined each year since 2013, dragging down results at parent Gap where its new chief executive, Sonia Syngal, is trying to fashion a turnaround in the middle of a pandemic.

Syngal told the Journal in May that she is using the upheaval created by the coronavirus pandemic “to refashion the company for what we want it to look like over the next 50 years.”

And she thinks West is the man to do it, with a new line of T-shirts, jeans, and hoodies.

At Yeezy’s Cody, Wyoming, studio, Mr. West has been working on perfecting the hoodie. His version is chunky and slightly cropped at the waist. “The hoodie is arguably the most important piece of apparel of the last decade,” .West told the Journal in March.

A version of the hoodie—along with T-shirts and jeans for men, women and children—will be available at Gap stores and on its website beginning next year. Prices will be in line with Gap’s other offerings, according to a company spokesperson.

Research contact: @Gap

As COVID-19 rages, Trump asks Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare

June 29,2020

The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the United States hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, June 26—eclipsing the mark set during one of the deadliest stretches in late April, CBS News reports; noting that there is “ample evidence” that the pandemic is making a comeback.

Yet, even so, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on June 25 to terminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—the only health insurance to which many Americans have access. If the justices agree, they will wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans, The New York Times reports.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the Administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that, in 2017, the largely Republican Congress had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance—the so-called individual mandate.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco maintained that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together, the Times said.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them, according to the Times report.

Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the news outlet that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue—and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs—are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday, June 29, on a measure to expand the healthcare law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Is the face familiar? Plastic surgeon Stephen Greenberg ‘unpacks’ Kellyanne Conway’s new look

June 25, 2020

Never mind the alternative facts she spouts in her position as White House spokesperson. What about her alternative face?

Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway looked noticeably different during an appearance on the Fox News early morning talker Fox & Friends on Monday, June 22—causing speculation on social media that she may have had some work done.

Indeed, Page Six of The New York Post reported that some viewers “ … said it looked like the 53-year-old mom of four had been run through Zoom’s “Touch Up My Appearance” filter.

“In Hollywood, I believe we call that ‘refreshed,’” snipped actress Kristen Johnston, implying that Conway had gotten cosmetic work done.

Manhattan-based plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Greenberg told Page Six that the White House counselor’s smoothed-out appearance could be the result of procedures—including “injections like Botox, and either fat transfer to the face or fillers, an upper and lower eyelid lift, face-lift and a nose job.”

Greenberg notes that her “cheekbones seem lifted and she doesn’t seem to have extra skin around her eyes” and that her “nose tip is more shapely and smaller.”

Research contact: @nypost