Posts made in August 2020

The runners’ cramps will be real, but the New York City Marathon is going virtual this year

September 1, 2020

Even in the midst of thousands of pounding feet and sweating bodies, every marathon runner completes the 26-mile course alone—at his or her own speed; and on his or her own steam. So, in a sense, this year’s New York City Marathon—since 1970, the largest such event worldwide—will be the same as those preceding it, Runner’s World reports.

However, there will be one big change:  This year’s marathon will be held virtually rather than in-person; due to the threat of a coronavirus surge in the city as a result of the competition, itself, which attracts 500,000 of the world’s best runners; as well as crowds of cheering onlookers at every roadside throughout the course.

Runners started signing up for the virtual race on July 28, entering the event  in four pricing tiers with varying benefits and amenities—and entry to the event still is open.

In the top registration tier, runners get entry to the virtual event, receive virtual marathon training via the New York Road Runners Coaching Lab, race swag, a 60-day Strava subscription, and a non-complimentary entry into the 2021, 2022, or 2023 in-person NYC Marathon. There are 1,000 available entries for this top tier, and it is the priciest, going for $150 for NYRR members and $175 for non-members.

Slightly below that on the tier system, and for the same prices, are 200 first-come, first-served spots for those who will raise $500 or more for NYRR’s Team for Kids, the organization’s youth charity team and running program. Runners will receive the same benefits as above as well as a Team for Kids backpack and singlet, according to the Runner’s World report..

Below these two options are two tiers of unlimited virtual entries. The first is $50 for members and $60 for non-members and includes a race medal, a running buff, 50 percent off the NYRR Coaching Lab training, and a 60-day Strava subscription.

The last option is a free registration. As you can imagine, this offers the least benefits, which are 10 percent off the NYRR Coaching Lab and a 30-day Strava subscription. Race swag not included.

All entrants for the virtual race will have between October 17 and November 1 to complete their 26.2 miles, which can be done anywhere in the world.

“Our Virtual New York City Marathon will connect the global running community at a time when more and more people are running as way to stay healthy during these difficult times,” Michael Capiraso, NYRR president and CEO, said in a NYRR press release. “Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced a cancellation of this year’s in-person race through the five boroughs of New York City, we’re excited to continue taking the marathon journey with runners who will be challenging themselves on 26.2-mile courses around the world.”

New York Road Runners (NYRR), the organization that organizes the NYC Marathon, is no stranger to virtual races. After debuting its first virtual event in 2018 with Strava, it has hosted 29 since, including several during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has canceled most races this year.

Research contact: @runnersworld

Top pandemic employee perks: Grocery stipends, mental health hours, and pet pawternity leave

September 1, 2020

Whether or not they already have announced publicly that employees can work remotely—until year-end, for the next year, or even forever—businesses that shifted to remote work in the spring seem to have settled in for the long haul, Inc. magazine reports.

Such companies are saving money on rent, travel, and office amenities. But many aren’t keeping all of that found money: They are reallocating some of those funds to help their employees settle in comfortably, too—providing home-office stipends or discounts on ergonomic chairs, monitors, lighting, and Internet upgrades.

In addition, Inc. notes, companies also are introducing perks to meet new needs, such as those related to mental health pressures and child care obligations.

Indeed, the news outlet suggests, there are four areas in which extra employee benefits can generate satisfaction and loyalty among staff members—among them:

  1. Create options for parents. Child care benefits don’t have to be limited to subsidized daycare or babysitting—especially during a pandemic, when many parents aren’t comfortable sending kids to school or using in-home sitters. “What parents need is things taken off their plate so that they can help their kids themselves,” says Jordan Peace, co-founder and CEO of Fringe, a Richmond, Virginia-based benefits startup. That could mean offering flexible work hours, chipping in for virtual babysitting or tutoring, sending kid-focused subscription boxes with meals or activities, or simply giving employees a stipend to use for child care-related expenses.
  2. Replace office snacks with home delivery. Businesses accustomed to lunch meetings and well-stocked office pantries are redirecting that budget to feeding remote employees. Companies like SnackNation and SnackMagic will deliver packaged treats to workers’ homes; while Fringe’s platform, which allows employers to allocate points to individual workers that can be redeemed for a wide variety of benefits and discounts, offers food-delivery services, grocery boxes, and even coffee and tea subscriptions.

Alternatively, you can let employees expense meals or groceries. Wilbur Labs, a “startup studio” in San Francisco that launches and invests in tech companies, ordinarily provides at least one meal per day in its office, co-founder and CEO Phil Santoro tells Inc. Now, each remote employee instead receives a $35 daily food stipend. The company encourages staff to use it at local small businesses, especially Black-owned restaurants and grocery stores, Santoro says.

  1. Go the extra mile on health and wellness. While mental health care was already a growing trend in workplace benefits, the added stress of the pandemic and remote work have led many businesses to formalize their approach, Inc. reports.. Beyond subsidizing therapy and offering subscriptions to apps for meditation, yoga, and fitness, companies are more willing to give employees something that might have seemed unfeasible before: time away from work. Fearing rampant burnout, more businesses are experimenting with a four-day workweek, more generous vacation policies, and flexible scheduling.

Austin-based public-relations agency Kickstand Communications allows employees to step away from their screens for up to three “mental health hours” per week. The company already provided a monthly wellness stipend of $50 per person, and decided not to cut that benefit despite other belt-tightening measures earlier this year, says co-founder and CEO Molly George. She expects the company will continue to prioritize this kind of support. “There’s a kind of trap of feeling like mental health is not as urgent of a situation as it was in the beginning of the pandemic, when things were so scary and so bad,” she says. “But just because it doesn’t feel as urgent doesn’t mean that it’s not just as important as it was five months ago.”

  1. Let employees choose. One easy way to determine which perks are best-suited to your team’s needs in the current climate is to ask your employees. That could yield unexpected results: With pet adoptions on the rise, some companies have opted to pay adoption fees or grant “pet paternity leave.” Others have paid for Netflix subscriptions, matched employee donations to racial-justice organizations or COVID-related charities, or even given out stock options.

Research contact: @Inc

Trump Administration: No more in-person election security briefings for Congress

September 1, 2020

What they don’t know can’t hurt us:  That’s the assumed motive behind the Trump Administration’s move over the weekend to squelch in-person intelligence briefings provided to the U.S. Congress about the upcoming presidential election.

Until now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been responsible for delivering regular updates to lawmakers on what measures are being taken to protect balloting from foreign or internal tinkering, The New York Times reports.

The nation’s top intelligence officials moved on Saturday to tighten control over the flow of sensitive intelligence about foreign threats to November’s election, telling Congress that they would no longer provide in-person briefings about election security and would rely solely on written updates instead.

Representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of the policy change by telephone on Friday and followed up with a batch of letters to congressional leaders on Saturday.

In the letters, the Chief of the Intelligence Office, John L. Ratcliffe, framed the move as an attempt to “ensure clarity and consistency” in intelligence agencies’ interactions with Congress and to crack down on leaks that have infuriated some intelligence officials.

“I believe this approach helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information O.D.N.I. provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on elections security, foreign malign influence and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized,” he wrote, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. “It will also better protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse.”

But coming just ten weeks before Election Day, the change drew complaints from lawmakers in both parties, who worried the move would block their ability to question and test intelligence assessments from the executive branch at a time when they are crucial to ensuring that foreign powers do not undermine the results

Intelligence agencies have revealed that Russia is again trying to bolster the campaign of President Donald Trump, who has insisted he is actually “the last person Russia wants to see in office” and consistently attacked the intelligence agencies during his tenure.

Democrats, who fear Trump’s appointees have moved to color intelligence assessments for his political benefit, were particularly furious. The Times said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff of California, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the new policy “shameful” and said intelligence officials had also canceled briefings with committees and the full House on election security threats already scheduled for September at the request of Ratcliffe’s office. They vowed to try to force their reinstatement

“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” the two senior Democrats wrote.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. CNN first reported the change

Research contact: @nytimes

After 24 days, resolute Milwaukee marchers arrive in DC—some with bleeding feet

August 31, 2020

After enduring blistered feet, arrests, harassment, and a spray of gunfire over the course of weeks, a group of dedicated people completed a 750-mile march from Milwaukee to the nation’s capital on  Friday, August 28—the 57th anniversary of Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  March on Washington, USA Today reported.

Sixty people (plus cats and dogs)—some with bleeding feet and pulled calf muscles—crossed into D.C. around 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Friday morning.

Frank “Nitty” Sensabaugh stood on the National Mall at 9 a.m., exhausted, sore, hungry and in disbelief.  “It’s indescribable,” said Sensabaugh, a Milwaukee-based activist who organized the march. “I was crying for a while. I was tired because I haven’t slept in three days. Then I was crying again.”

Sensabaugh and about 20 other men and women expected to converge with thousands of other protesters—demanding law enforcement reform and voting rights as America reels from the police killings of Black people this year.

At about 1 p.m., participants were planning to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial for what they are calling the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington.

Now, their demonstration has become even more necessary, Tory Lowe, a Milwaukee-based victims advocate who co-organized the march from Milwaukee, told the national news outlet.

Just miles from Milwaukee last weekend, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back seven times, leaving the father of three paralyzed from the waist down, according to lawyers for his family. The shooting ignited several nights of looting, violence and protests in Kenosha and other cities across the country—the most recent incidents of unrest this summer amid a nationwide movement for racial justice.

“This march was meant to happen because look what’s happening in the state of Wisconsin,” Lowe said. “This is why we’re marching. It brings validation to the fact of why we ever started this march in the first place.”

The first few days of the journey went smoothly, organizers said, as police escorted the march to and through Chicago. People began to turn out on sidewalks to offer support as the marchers passed by, and others monitoring their progress on social media began to donate food and pay for hotel rooms.

“Once we got into Indiana and Ohio, it got really intense because the areas with less diversity became our biggest issues,” Lowe told USA Today.. “Some people were saying {we should] go home. People would write things on the ground. They were pissed.”

On the ninth day, Indiana State Police arrested and held Sensabaugh and Lowe for several hours near Warsaw because, police said, the group was blocking traffic.

“We’ve been arrested for walking, and we’ve been shot at,” Lowe said. “A white male just came out of nowhere, and our security was shot.”

As the march moved through western Pennsylvania on Monday night, the group of about 30 stopped in the parking lot of a private business and gunfire broke out, according to state police. “The property owners confronted the activists. The confrontation escalated, and gunshots were exchanged between the property owners and the activists,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Brett Miller said Tuesday.

The Bedford County District Attorney was investigating the incident, and no charges had been filed, Miller said.

As the marchers left Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, a group of residents – some armed – lined the streets and yelled slurs, Lowe said. At the same time, other residents came out to protect the marchers, he said.

“It’s been a spiritual journey, and it’s an eye-opening journey for many of us because we’re seeing outright racism as we walk,” Lowe said. “It’s been 24 days, and every day is something. Not one day have we been out here and someone hasn’t thrown racial slurs.”

Sensabaugh and Lowe said they’ve also been heartened by the outpouring of support for the march. At one point in Indiana, a group of diverse group of residents brought the marchers two week’s worth of supplies, water and shoes. Some nurses volunteered to look at their feet.

“It was amazing, and the spirit of humanity was alive,” Lowe said. “There are some people working to change things in these communities as well.”

“There’s a lot of joy, happiness, and relief,” Sensabaugh said. “Between being tired and overwhelmed with emotions, I’m at a loss for words for the first time in my life. I’m trying to soak it all in.”

Sensabaugh said he and other marchers were expected to speak on the Mall and participate in events throughout the day.

Research contact: @USATODAY

The Halo effect: Amazon’s first health wearable, is no Fitbit or Apple Watch clone

August 31, 2020

Amazon is launching Halo, a minimalist $99 health sleek,wearable, companion to an app that measures your body fat and gauges your tone of voice. Executives who worked on the project told Fast Company last week that the offering is more about the app and its various features than the wearable itself.

Right now, consumers can preorder the Halo band for $65, which includes six months of access to the app. After the first six months, customers will have to pay $4 a month to continue using the app. Once it ships in a few weeks, Halo will be $99, also with the $4/month fee. The app and the band work with both iPhones and Android devices.

Though that pricing puts the Halo in competition with Fitbit’s fitness trackers, Amazon—which has also purchased online pharmacy PillPack, developed both virtual and in-clinic employee health centers, and sought out HIPPA compliance for its Alexa voice assistant—is taking a different approach to health than its competitors in wearables.

For one thing, the company thinks Halo’s real value is in the app. Data tracking is divided into four sections, Activity, Body, Sleep, and Tone. The app also offers Labs, a series of health challenges designed by a range of professionals and expert organizations. While Activity and Sleep offer standard health-tracking capabilities, Body, Tone, and Labs represent Halo’s distinguishing features, Fast Company reports..

The Halo tracker is extremely simple: just a piece of water-resistant fabric and a small sensor-laden bit of hardware that lays against the wrist. There’s no display, notifications, clock, or other features that have become standard fare on even basic fitness trackers from other companies. (Like other wrist wearables, it does offer band options in several colors and materials.)

Halo tracks movement, heart rate, skin temperature, and the tone of a person’s voice. Notably, it doesn’t track heart rate variability. Both the Apple Watch and Fitbit’s devices have added heart rate variability in recent versions of their wearables, seemingly as a test of their ability as a diagnostic tool.

Amazon’s tracker captures steps, duration, and intensity of activity, as well as sedentary time to generate an activity score. While any activity will raise your score, you’ll be awarded more points for running as opposed to walking. The band can detect the difference between walking and running, and you can manually mark if you swim, cycle, or perform some other form of exercise. Sedentary time can negatively impact your score if you sit for more than eight hours.

The app also measures activity on a weekly rather than daily basis. “It’s more aligned with the [CDC] guideline recommendations, which clearly state that people should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise on a weekly basis at a minimum,” says Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and Amazon’s chief medical officer. Before joining Amazon in 2018, he practiced at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Halo tracks sleep too. Like the Apple Watch, Fitbits, and the Oura Ring, Halo identifies sleep duration and how long you linger in light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep. It also measures and monitors skin temperature at the wrist, to see if how this changes over the course of the night correlates to your sleep quality. Skin temperature is not the same as internal temperature, so it would not be a sound way to determine if someone has a fever, for example.

However, Body is one of the most distinctive elements of the Halo app. Using a phone’s camera, it captures a three-dimensional model of a person’s body to help them track their body changes over time and to track its fat percentage.

“You’re probably wondering, why body fat?” Majmudar told Fast Company in an interview. “Body fat percentage is actually much better indicator of overall health than weight or body mass index [BMI] alone.” A recent meta-analysis, published in the journal, Nature, shows that BMI isn’t a great indicator for obesity, which doctors use to look out for obesity-related disease. However, getting a good reading on a person’s body fat has historically been cumbersome and expensive. Amazon now suggests it can make this determination using a phone camera.

To get their body fat percentage, people must wear “tight, minimal” clothing, such as bike shorts and a sports bra. Placing their phone 4-6 feet away, they then take capture photos or “body scans,” one front facing, one back, and one from each side. Artificial intelligence renders those photos into a 3D view of their body shape.

Once calculated, the body fat percentage number is presented alongside a corresponding national average based on a person’s gender, age, height, and weight. The body model can be morphed to show how a person might look if they gained or lost weight. The visualization is designed for those trying to work towards certain body goals.(However, it could also be dangerous fodder for anyone suffering from body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or compulsive exercising.)

Majmudar says that by default, the body-scan photos are processed in the cloud and then deleted after 12 hours. The body model is only stored locally on the phone.

Tone is by far the strangest of the app’s features. Using its embedded microphone, the band listens to your voice throughout the day and detects its tone—positive, sad, irritated, or otherwise. The idea is to address your social and emotional health.

To use Tone, you have to create a voice profile by reading a piece of text. That way, it can recognize and measure only your voice, not other ones it may pick up. When Tone is turned on, it runs passively and intermittently in the background, picking up on snippets of conversations throughout the day. It then tells you how you sounded to other people. Among the list of emotions is content, concerned, happy, and tired.

“This gives you a simple way to reflect on your communications and interactions throughout the day,” says Majmudar. This feature also gives you summaries of your mood throughout the day, highlighting when you were noticeably energetic, positive, or warm. It also notes outlier moments when you sound different than they ordinarily do.

For those that may be concerned about Amazon tracking their every word, the company says this audio never goes to the cloud. It’s processed on your phone, and isn’t stored. Amazon appears to be drawing a hard line on privacy here. In the past, its stance on

Amazon is balancing its consideration for privacy with a healthy amount of data sharing. In order to make the data Halo collects useful, it’s turning to partners. WW (Weight Watchers) users can link to the Halo app activity, so they can collect FitPoints. Cerner, the electronic health record provider, can also hook into Halo and transfer a persons health data over to his or her larger medical record.

The Labs feature—which provides activities that users can perform to change their health outlook—also draws on Amazon’s partners. For instance, the Mayo Clinic offers a pet-free bedroom Lab that is supposed to lower sleep interruptions from a restless pet. Weight loss program LifeSum, has an activity for reducing calorie intake. Other partners include Apptiv, Orange Theory, Harvard Medical, and the American Health Association. These activities provide one more way for users to put that wrist band to use (and perhaps ensure that it doesn’t get relegated to a drawer somewhere).

How well does Halo track and analyze the data it collects? For now, it’s anyone’s guess. Majmudar says that Amazon has done lots of internal testing, but has not yet published any studies verifying the Halo’s capabilities.

Indeed, Amazon has good reason to want to get this right. But we won’t know how well it’s done until Halo arrives and independent researchers put it to the test.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Biden camp: Over 3,500 Americans died from COVID during GOP convention

August 31, 2020

Donald Trump covered a lot of ground in his lengthy speech accepting the Republican party’s presidential nomination on  August 27;  but Joe Biden’s campaign said that the one subject he didn’t mention—and that the Trump Administration has steadfastly tried to ignore—was a plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic..

“Since the beginning of the Republican convention, at least 3,525 Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus,” Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said in a statement picked up by NBC News .

“Instead of a strategy to overcome the pandemic, or any concern for the unbearable suffering in our country right now as a result of his ongoing failures, what we heard was a delusional vision completely divorced from the crushing reality that ordinary Americans face,” she added.

Trump spoke to over 1,000 guests on the South Lawn of the White House, where chairs were arranged close together and few wore masks.,

Biden himself released a statement earlier, asking, “Is Donald Trump even aware he’s president?” The statement referred to a major theme of the GOP convention that warned Biden’s election would lead to looting and rioting. But Biden noted that’s happening now.

“These are not images from some imagined ‘Joe Biden’s America’ in the future. These are images from Donald Trump’s America today,” Biden said. “The violence we’re witnessing is happening under Donald Trump. Not me. It’s getting worse, and we know why.”

Biden got some outside help as the Republican convention wrapped up.

The Golden Star father of the first person to die in combat under President Trump’s watch, Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, slammed the president for ordering the botched raid in a new video released by the Democratic veteran’s group VoteVets.

“Trump ordered Ryan’s SEAL team into Yemen — not from the Situation Room, with all the intelligence assembled, but sitting across a dinner table with Steve Bannon,” Bill Owens, a veteran himself, says. “There was no vital interest at play. Just Donald Trump playing ‘big man going to war.'”

“And when it went horribly wrong,” Owens continued. “Donald Trump demeaned my son’s sacrifice.”

Instead of taking responsibility, Trump blamed his generals at the time. “They lost Ryan,” Trump told Fox News at the time.

What’s more, NBC News reports, two more large groups of former Republican officials broke party ranks to support Biden.

Over 100 former aides to deceased Senator John McCain of Arizona announced the formation of the group McCain Alumni for Biden. The group includes several of McCain’s former chiefs of staff and some of his longest-serving and most senior congressional staffers.

“Though we could not always live to his example, John trusted us to know when it was time to put our country before our party; Joe Biden is the right choice for our country,” said Joe Donoghue, McCain’s former legislative director and longest-serving aide.

A similar group of former administration officials and campaign aides to former President George W. Bush released its own list of Biden endorsers nearly 300 names long.

Research contact: @NBCNews

The Happiness Museum in Denmark documents when and why life is good

August 28, 2020

If you have been having a little trouble “finding your happy place” during the last few months, just buy a ticket to Copenhagen and visit the Happiness Museum.

Indeed, many of us would admit that “guilty pleasures” are the closest we have come to true happiness during 2020—a time of global pandemic, cutthroat politics, unemployment, economic turmoil, and social unrest.

Which is why the opening of a new Happiness Museum in (where else?) Denmark feels like the most optimistic story of the year, CNN reports.

The world’s first museum dedicated explicitly to the concept of happiness had a quiet debut on July 14 in a cozy 2,585-square- foot space in Copenhagen’s historic center.It features interactive exhibits and displays exploring what generates happiness.

The new attraction is the brainchild of the Happiness Research Institute, an independent think tank that explores the science behind why some societies are happier than others with the end goal of encouraging global policymakers to include wellbeing as an integral part of the public policy debate.

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, recently told CNN that the idea to open a museum came after years of fielding requests from the public about visits to their drab office space.

“I think people imagine that the institute is like a magical place—a room full of puppies or ice cream,” he said, “but we are just eight people sitting in front of computers looking at data.”

“So we thought, why don’t we create a place where people can experience happiness from different perspectives and give them an exhibition where they can become a little bit wiser around some of the questions we try to solve?”

But, more than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Wiking had to decide whether or not to go ahead with the opening. “We thought, there might not be a lot of guests these days, but the world does need a little bit more happiness,” he told CNN.

They set in place strict COVID-19 protocols— including a one-way traffic system and a cap of 50 guests—and opened their doors to the public.

Ever since, the museum has given visitors a tour of global happiness, showing how perceptions of it have changed throughout history, what it looks like in different regions, and why some countries report more of it than others.

Along the way, there are also questionnaires and interactive experiences that aim to give guests “aha” moments, as well as enhance the Institute’s ongoing research.

For example, Wiking says trust toward fellow citizens and political institutions is a major factor in global happiness, which is why some visitors may come across a wallet filled with cash. Museum staff have periodically placed this wallet on the floor for more than a month now, and it’s been returned to reception (with all items inside) every time.

People from around the world also have sent in artifacts of happiness—things that represent joy to them—which have been curated to form a large part of the display. These items are meant to help visitors contextualize what happiness looks like for others in different parts of the globe.

“We might be Danish or Mexican or American or Chinese, but we are first and foremost people,” Wiking says. “It’s the same things that drive happiness no matter where we’re from, and I hope that people will see that in the exhibition.

One guest told him that he had always known he was a happy guy, but he had never before understood the reasons why.

“That, for us, was the best review we could get,” he says.

One of the other main focal points of the museum is why Nordic countries tend to report some of the highest levels of happiness on earth.

Denmark, for example, frequently lands near the top of surveys ranking the world’s happiest nations, including the United Nations’ annual World Happiness Report. In its 2020 list, Denmark comes in at number two,  just behind neighboring Finland, while Copenhagen ranks as the fifth happiest city in the world, behind Helsinki, Aarhus (also in Denmark), Wellington, and Zurich.

Danish psychologist Marie Helweg-Larsen, a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, says that “it boggles peoples’ minds how you can, just by thinking thoughtfully and strategically about the role of government in life, create happy people.”

Plus, the countries that report the highest levels of happiness tend to contain many elements that, at least on the surface, would seem to hinder it.

“I think foreigners find the Nordic countries to be kind of a conundrum,” Helweg-Larsen explains. “They seem to do things that others have decided couldn’t possibly be associated with happiness, like pay high taxes, live with cold weather and experience long periods of darkness.”

So, what might the rest of the world learn from the Danes in these trying times?

“Trust is a factor in happiness,” Helweg-Larsen says. “We could all do more to talk to people who are not like us and see how we can establish more trust in our own communities.”

She also thinks the Danish concepts of pyt (an “oh well” attitude for accepting a problem and resetting) and hygge (the pursuit of intentional intimacy within interactions and environments) are great for relieving stress.

Wiking tells CNN that, if his studies at the Happiness Research Institute have shown him anything, it’s that humans are incredibly resilient.

“When we follow people over time, we can see that they are remarkable at overcoming the challenges that happen to them,” he says. “Of course, it’s necessary to be optimistic in my profession, but I think we can overcome these times as well.”

Research contact: @CNN

Abbott launches a $5 rapid COVID-19 antigen test—with results in 15 minutes

August 28, 2020

Abbott Laboratories announced on Wednesday, August 26, that its new rapid COVID-19 antigen test—which will cost $5 and provide results in 15 minutes—has been  granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Illinois-based company said it plans to ship tens of millions of the test kit, called the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card, next month, and expects to increase to 50 million tests a month in early October. Results can be read directly from the testing card—which is about the size of a credit card. This simple design is fast and efficient for healthcare providers and patients and does not require the use of an analyzer.

“This new COVID-19 antigen test is an important addition to available tests because the results can be read in minutes, right off the testing card. This means people will know if they have the virus in almost real-time. Due to its simpler design and the large number of tests the company anticipates making in the coming months, this new antigen test is an important advancement in our fight against the pandemic,” Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a public statement from the agency.

How it works: A healthcare provider swabs the patient’s nose and twirls that sample on a test card with a testing reagent added. After waiting 15 minutes, the healthcare provider reads the results directly from the testing card. One line indicates a negative result; two lines indicate a positive result.

Where it can be used: This test could be used at point-of-care settings, like a doctor’s office, emergency room, or some schools.  It has been authorized for use in patients suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within seven days of symptom onset.

Test details: In general, antigen tests are very specific, but are not as sensitive as molecular tests. Due to the potential for decreased sensitivity compared to molecular assays, negative results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a molecular test prior to making treatment decisions. Negative results from an antigen test should be considered in the context of clinical observations, patient history, and epidemiological information.

Research contact: @FDA

 

No stalking or sneering! Pelosi says there shouldn’t be any presidential debates this year

August 28, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated on August 27 that there should not be any presidential debates this year between Joe Biden and Donald Trump—adding that the president would debase the debate stage with poor behavior.

“I don’t think there should be any debates. I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way that anybody should [who] has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

“I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States,” she added, according to a report by Politico.

Biden and Trump are set to face off during three debates before Election Day, with the first scheduled to take place on September 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Pelosi acknowledged that Biden, who has expressed enthusiasm about a face-off with the president, didn’t share her view on the debate. But she still told reporters about her personal distaste for Trump’s past debate performances.

Pelosi called Trump’s 2016 debates with then-candidate Hillary Clinton “disgraceful,” emphasizing how he loomed behind her on the stage as she spoke. Clinton later admitted that Trump’s lurking made her “skin crawl.”

“He’ll probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency,” Pelosi said. “He does that every day.”

Research contact: @politico

SOS: This service dog often is called to the beach by Mystic Aquarium to ‘save our seals’

August 27, 2020

When Heather Bring of Rhode Island, who battles two disabling medical conditions, applied for a service dog, she hoped that her new companion would help change her life. Then, one day, she got good news: A beautiful Golden Retriever mix named Marea was waiting to meet her.

The two instantly connected. Heather knew Marea was the perfect fit. “She’s pretty incredible,” Heather recently told Dogster.. “It’s hard to put that in words.”

But what Heather didn’t know was that Marea was not only about to change her life—but that she would she would come to the rescue when other animals were in need, too. Once Marea got acclimated, Heather brought her to the beach—and found that Marea had a calm, loving nature; and plenty of love to share.

Soon, Heather and Marea became volunteer first responders for Connecticuts’s Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program. Marea is the first canine ever to hold the position at the large aquariuim, which is not far from Rhode Island.

.Dogster reports that, when the aquarium’s hotline gets a report of an animal that may need help, Heather and Marea race out to assess the situation. One of their goals is to keep people and pets away from marine mammals on the beach.

“I call it seal sitting,” Heather says. “We’ll sit out with a seal on a beach and stay far enough away, so he is not bothered. People will come up to us, instead of the seal. It gives us a way to educate people to stay away from the seal. We also talk about how they can help animals by picking up trash.”

In the meantime, Heather monitors the seal to see if the animal is entangled in plastic or appears to need help. “Sometimes seals are just sunning themselves and not stranded,” she says.

Both the woman and the dog enjoy the work.  “She is an extension of myself,” Heather says. “After everything I’ve had to endure [physically], having her by my side is giving me more power and confidence to get out there and do what we need to do to help the environment and help other animals.”

Research contact: @dogster