Posts made in September 2020

The toast of the town: A Japanese artist makes delectable art during lockdown

September 22, 2020

During quarantine, many of us picked up a new hobby—baking bread, putting together jigsaw puzzles, painting by numbers. But it’s Japanese artist Manami Sasaki who found the ultimate distraction du jour: toast art.

In her Tokyo kitchen, Sasaki concocted chic culinary creations on a carb canvas—think homages to Picasso and Mondrian, recreations of Japanese Edo-period (1603-1868) paintings, abstract nods to Mickey Mouse, and even an edible take on American comic book art. Then, she posted the stylized results on her Instargam account, @sasamana1204.

“The reason I started doing toast art was lockdown. I was spending an hour and a half commuting to work, but working from home led me to wake up late and get lazy,” Sasaki told Vogue Magazine recently. “I wanted to get up early in the morning and create a morning routine that would excite me. That’s when I started the toast art for breakfast.”

Why toast? “I’ve eaten bread every day since I was born, so expressing it on toast was a natural progression,” Sasaki says. She saw an opportunity to both show off not only her talent, but also that of other Japanese creators—in a way that everyone would connect with. “Most of the su

Art source: #sasamana1204/Instagram

bjects I’ve painted on bread have been from Japanese culture. Since 80% of my Instagram followers are international, I’m motivated to introduce Japanese culture and artists. So I use bread and text to show off the appeal of the subject matter.”

Each piece, Sasaki says, takes around three hours to make from start to finish. After deciding on a concept, she walks to her local supermarket to shop for ingredients. She’s cognizant of which materials change color and shape when applied to heat (an important factor to consider when a toaster is involved). Recently, she used prosciutto to represent the orange slickness of a goldfish, and purple cabbage to illustrate the regal feel of a kimono; blueberries served as a centerpiece of a summer flower.

And lest you think this is merely an aesthetic exercise, Sasaki makes sure each work tastes delicious. That aforementioned flower toast? In addition to blueberries, it was made of sesame cream, sour cream, and chervil, topped off with honey drizzle. If she doesn’t think through her concept, she notes, “My breakfast time will be a disappointment. I’m determined to avoid it!”

Research contact: @voguemagazine

KitKat’s Flavor Club Sweepstakes offers fans a chance to preview and taste new brand innovations

September 22, 2020

When Groucho Marx said “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” he might not have been considering KitKat’s Flaver Club Sweepstakes.

Launching on September 21, the club will offer 200 fans the opportunity to be one of the first to taste some of the brand’s newest flavor innovations. The sweepstakes invites fans to enter—here—at no cost, for the chance to be selected to join a limited group KitKat insiders who will receive in-development products and club member swag, delivered straight to their doorsteps. Entries will be open for submission from September 21 at 9 a.m. (EDT), and will close on September Free29 at 11:59 p.m. (EDT).

Sweepstakes entrants who are selected to be club members will receive three kits during the debut year, which will start now and go through Spring 2021. The brand is excited to announce that the first kit will feature the highly anticipated KitKat Duo’s  mocha + chocolate before it arrives on shelves nationwide this November.

“We listened to the overwhelmingly positive feedback from our recent KitKat flavor launches,” said Amy Minderman, a senior brand manager for the parent company, Hershey. . “It is important for us to hear feedback from our fans, so that we can continue to create flavors they love, so we are thrilled to introduce the Kit Ka.

No purchase is necessary to enter or win the sweepstakes. Entrants must be legal residents of the USA, and must be 18 years of age or older.

Research contact: @KITKAT

Protesters at Senator Lindsey Graham’s house seek to block SCOTUS vote before election

September 22, 2020

Following the September 18 death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s home in Washington, DC, on Monday morning, September 21—waving banners and signs that called him a “two-faced coward” and demanded that he “keep his word”— after he pledged his support for a Senate vote on President Donald Trump’s SCOTUS nominee ahead of the election.

Democrats have condemned the South Carolina senator and other Republicans for flip-flopping on their opposition to filling a Supreme Court vacancy during a presidential election year, The Huffington Post reports.

In 2016, Graham supported Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to block Senate consideration of Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

But Graham, who now chairs the key Judiciary Committee, appeared to change his tune following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, saying he would support Trump “in any effort to move forward” in filling her seat.

Trump said on Monday that he’d announce his nomination Friday or Saturday, and that a Senate vote on his nominee should happen before the November 3 election—a move to “steal” another seat that is sure to trigger widespread anger among voters who are not members of his 40% base.

Protesters on Monday showed up to Graham’s townhouse around 6 a.m., where they banged drums, blared air horns, and demanded that he oppose a Supreme Court confirmation vote before Election Day, the HuffPost reported.

“We can’t sleep so neither should Lindsey,” read one sign held by a protester. Other signs in the crowd labeled Graham a “two-faced coward” and a “hypocrite.”

It’s unclear whether Graham was inside the house during the demonstration, which was organized by Shut Down DC and the Washington, DC, chapter of the Sunrise Movement, two groups focused on tackling the climate crisis.

Trump and many of his Republican allies have called for a swift confirmation of his nominee to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg was one of the court’s most liberal judges, making Republicans eager to fill her seat with a conservative. If they succeed, the court will have a 6-3 conservative majority.

Hours after Ginsburg’s death, McConnell said Trump’s nominee would receive a vote on the Senate floor.

When Scalia died in 2016, McConnell blocked Garland from receiving a hearing in the Senate, claiming the winner of the 2016 presidential election should pick the nominee. Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 presidential election. Ginsburg died 46 days before the 2020 presidential election.

Graham stood by McConnell’s decision in 2016, stating at the time that he strongly supports “giving the American people a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court nominee by electing a new president.”

“I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said at the time. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’ And you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.”

Graham reiterated his stance in 2018 during a forum with The Atlantic, stating that “if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.”

But Graham now seems unfazed by his pledges.

“I fully understand where [Trump] is coming from,” Graham tweeted Saturday in response to the president’s statement that the GOP has an “obligation” to fill the Supreme Court vacancy “without delay.”

About 100 demonstrators protested outside McConnell’s home in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, calling on the Republican leader to allow whoever is elected in November to pick the next Supreme Court nominee.

“I think it’s time to stand up and speak out,” one protester told WLKY. “That’s what Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought her whole life for.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

 

 

 

 

And this little piggy is photogenic

September 21, 2020

A newborn piglet “hogged the camera” recently—and the resulting photos are being greeted with oohs and aahhs all over social media.

Oklahoma-based photographer Cashlie White, who typically takes photos of families, newborns and weddings, photographed the piglet—who is named Dynamite and is just a wee bit over two weeks old.

“I usually don’t do pictures of pigs,” White told ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, noting this was her first pig photoshoot.

The 34-year-old photographer and mom of two said she got the idea to do a newborn piglet photoshoot after seeing a photo of Dynamite shared by her friend, Connie Hamilton. Hamilton breeds pigs like Dynamite for competitions.

White said taking photos of the piglet was just like taking photos of a newborn baby.

“She got a bath before the shoot and I used all of my newborn ‘shoosh-ing’ and swaddling tricks, just like a reg

Photo source: Cashlie Joy Photography

ular newborn session and she went to sleep in my arms!” White wrote on Facebook. “We kept her warm and the room quiet and she was OUT and in Hog Heaven! After the shoot she woke up and was on the run back to momma!”

“With any newborn session, I have a small little space heater … kind of just keep them warm and cozy. And that’s what I did with the pig,” White said.

White shared the photos on the Cashlie Joy Photography Facebook page and said she didn’t expect to receive such a positive reaction.

White said she hopes to keep spreading smiles with more photos of baby animals soon.

Research contact: @GMA

Trump bans TikTok, WeChat from app stores beginning September 20

September 21, 2020

In a move that will sharply raise tensions with Beijing from app—and infuriate about 100 million American active users—the Trump Administration has announced that it is banning China’s virally popular TikTok, as well as the less sought-after WeChat, from mobile app stores beginning September 20, The Washington Post reports.

On Sunday, the United States also will ban any provision of Internet hosting services that enables WeChat to be used for money transfers or mobile payments. The Administration will give TikTok until November 12 until further bans kick in.

Western companies and bankers still continue to wrangle with TikTok’s owner, the White House, and Chinese authorities to try to arrange a sale of some of TikTok’s business, the Post says. Indeed, TikTok’s partnership with a U.S. corporation— most likely Oracle—could save it in this country, but details about such decisions remain unclear.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

Meanwhile, the Independent reports, TikTok denies that it has shared user data with the Chinese government, or that it would do so if asked. The company says it has not censored videos at the request of Chinese authorities and insists it is not a national-security threat.

“The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted,” Commerce said in its statement.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Ex-Pence aide blasts Trump over COVID response, says she’ll vote for Biden

September 21, 2020

In a two-minute video spot released by the group Republican Voters Against Trump on September 17 and posted on YouTube— a former senior adviser and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force lambasted President Donald Trump as a stonewalling, capricious leader with more concern for his reelection than the pandemic—and said she would be voting for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in November.

Olivia Troye, a lifelong Republican who worked as an adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security to Vice President Mike Pence before leaving the administration in August, appeared in an ad in which she shared damning anecdotes that portrayed Trump as a debilitating actor in the administration’s efforts to contain the virus, Politico reports. She said Trump was dismissive toward the task force’s efforts to prepare for the outbreak from early in the year, before the virus had made heavy inroads into the United States.

“It was shocking to see the president saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything’s OK when we know that it’s not,” Troye said. “He doesn’t actually care about anyone else but himself.”

Troye also asserted that Trump said during a meeting: “Maybe this COVID thing’s a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.”

That remark, Troye said, encapsulated the president’s flippant attitude toward a pandemic that has since claimed nearly 200,000 American lives.

The Washington Post first reported Troye’s frustrations with her previous role.

The White House promptly rebuffed the allegations, using its frequent defense against personnel-turned-critics by saying that Troye was a disgruntled and vindictive ex-staffer. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted Thursday night a letter by Troye after her departure from the White House. It praised the task force’s work combating the disease.

“I have witnessed firsthand how dedicated and committed all of you have been to doing the right thing,” the letter said.

But Troye’s criticisms were directed at the president specifically, not the administration. In the ad, she said working with the task force was the “opportunity and honor of a lifetime.”

“I put my heart and soul into this role every single day,” she said in the ad. “But at some points I would come home at night, I would look myself in the mirror and say, are you really making a difference? Because no matter how hard you work or what you do, the president is going to do something detrimental to keeping Americans safe.”

Her letter likewise praised her colleagues and her work with Pence, but did not mention Trump.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday evening before departing for a campaign rally in Wisconsin, Trump said that “I have no idea who she is.” He then said Troye was dismissed from her post and “then she wrote a beautiful letter.”

According to Politico, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows later told reporters aboard Air Force One: “It’s the swamp fighting back. It’s, generally speaking, disgruntled employees.”

Asked by a reporter what Troye was disgruntled about and whether she was fired, Meadows responded, “I can’t speak to personnel matters.”

As of Friday afternoon, September 18, the YouTube video already had garnered almost 640,000 views.

Research contact: @politico

Prepare to feel old: American Girl’s latest ‘historical’ doll evokes the 1980s

September 8, 2020

If you haven’t felt your age in a while, wait until you hear the latest toy industry news: American Girl has announced the release of this season’s “historical character” doll—and it’s Courtney Moore, a 1980s-era cutie-pie who loves arcade games, The Huffington Post reports. 

On September 15, the brand unveiled Courtney, whom it describes as, “a total ’80s girl who’s changing the game to find her inner hero.” Courtney joins an illustrious line of historical characters from American Girl, including Edwardian-era Samantha Parkington, Felicity Merriman from the time of the Revolutionary War, and civil rights activist Melody Ellison.

According to the press release, Courtney’s story takes place in 1986 and “reflects the pop culture of the decade from sky-high hair, neon-colored fashions, music television, and video gaming to major historical moments surrounding women in government and space exploration, as well as larger cultural shifts around blended families and emerging technology.”

As for Courtney, HuffPost reports that she is one of the top-scoring PAC-MAN players  at her local arcade in the fictional town of Orange Valley, California; and dreams of one day creating video games with more female characters. She has a blended family, her mom is running for mayor; and to make things super meta, she loves playing with her American Girl Molly doll―the World War II-era character that the brand debuted in 1986. In fact, Courtney has her own mini version of the Molly American Girl doll.

In addition to her Molly doll, Courtney’s accessories include a cassette player and tape, colorful bangle bracelets, fake Lip Smacker balm, a hot pink bunk bed with rainbow bedding, a see-through phone, Care Bears and Caboodles ― basically all of the cool products that ’80s kids remember fondly.

American Girl enlisted classic 1980s girl band The Go-Go’s to help announce the new character. Through a new partnership with Girls Who Code, the brand will also match customer donations dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000 through December 31 and provide four computer science-related scholarships to support the nonprofit’s mission to close the gender gap in technology.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Now, NYC restaurants can add a 10% ‘COVID-19 Recovery Charge’ to customers’ bills

September 18, 2020

The New York City Council has passed new legislation that could help hard-strapped  restaurants—but at a price to diners, Fox Business reports.

On September 16, the council approved a bill that, effective immediately, allows restaurants to add a COVID-19 Recovery Charge to their customers’ checks, if they choose to do so—provided that the the charge is “clearly disclosed” on the menu and bill.

The new law limits the amount of the surcharge to 10% of a customer’s total bill, according to Fox Business.

According to NBC New York, the bill only allows small restaurants to add the recovery charge to their customers’ bills. That doesn’t include “pushcarts, stands, vehicles, or large chains

Restarants in the Big Apple have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic—starting with the statewide lockdown and restrictions on in-person dining. Even now, restaurants in the city only are allowed to serve food outdoors. (Although, starting on September 30, restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor dining, at a 25% capacity.)

“I know that we’re going to be fine, however, 25% for a lot smaller restaurants is not going to cut the bill, not when you have those looming commercial New York real estate to pay,” Tren’ness Woods-Black, the vice president of communications of Sylvia’s restaurant , told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo on September 14.

Previously, restaurants weren’t allowed to add an extra charge in order to make up for coronavirus losses, “even if such surcharge is clearly disclosed,” the NYC Council website said.

The COVID-19 relief charge will only last “until 90 days after full indoor dining is once again permitted,” the bill says.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Roll Call exclusive: States plan to independently vet COVID-19 vaccine data

September 18, 2020

Governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, are publicly raising doubts about the FDA’s and the CDC’s ability to withstand pressure from President Donald Trump to develop a coronavirus vaccine at warp speed, Roll Call reported exclusively on September 17.

Those same officials are expressing skepticism about federal reviews of potential COVID-19 vaccines—with some going so far as to plan to independently analyze clinical trial data before distributing a vaccine, in a sign of how sharply trust in federal health agencies has fallen this year.

The wariness—which public health experts call highly unusual if not unprecedented—could undercut the goal of a cohesive national immunization strategy and create a patchwork of efforts that may sabotage hopes of containing the coronavirus.

State plans to review the data indicate how deeply any appearance of political meddling could disrupt vaccination and cost lives Roll Call says.

And it’s not a surprise that some red states appear more likely to rely on the Trump Administration, while blue states may scour the data and be more cautious about vaccinating their residents immediately.

CQ Roll Call contacted state health departments in 50 states and the District of Columbia and received substantive responses from a dozen:

  • Seven jurisdictions indicated that they would analyze the data independently: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, New York, Oregon and West Virginia.
  • Another two—Montana and Wyoming—said they would only administer a vaccine that completed clinical trials and an outside committee’s review.
  • Three states —Arizona, Georgia and Oklahoma— indicated they would accept federal recommendations as usual.

 “The president says he’s going to have a vaccine. CDC is talking about a vaccine in early November. How convenient. It’s going to be an Election Day miracle drug,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said earlier this month.

Cuomo referenced the FDA’s emergency use authorization earlier this year of a drug touted by Trump, hydroxychloroquine, which the agency later withdrew after finding the drug was not effective against COVID-19 and could lead to dangerous heart conditions. “Some people are concerned that the vaccine may wind up being hydroxychloroquine,” he said, adding that the state health department will review the research before recommending that New Yorkers take any vaccine.

Nearly 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Research contact: @rollcall

If you’re registered to vote, Samuel L. Jackson will enroll you in his Masterclass on that art of cursing

September 17, 2020

He may be a scholar, but is he a gentleman?

F**king register to vote, says Samuel L. Jackson. The swear-happy actor and producer, 71, is offering to teach an epic, multi-language course on the art of cursing, if enough people double-check that they’re registered to vote, The New York Post reports.

“Listen up — if 2,500 of you click a voting action below to make sure that you’re #GoodToVote, I will teach you to swear in 15 different languages,”  Jackson tweeted on Monday, September 14.

The tweet also includes a link to his page on voter registration website HeadCount, which offers red, white, and blue buttons that will help Americans to:

  • Register to vote,
  • Check your registration status, and
  • Make your “vote plan.”

Jackson is well-known for being among the Hollywood actors with the most prolifically dirty onscreen mouths—although a survey conducted earlier this year found that The Wolf of Wall Street star Jonah Hill beat Jackson for the top slot, according to the Post. While Jackson has sworn onscreen 301 times in his career, Hill has sworn 376 — mostly in the swear-heavy Martin Scorsese flick.

In addition to cussing on-screen and using obscenities to encourage Americans to vote, Jackson also produced a profane PSA in April. “Stay the f ** k home,” the Pulp Fiction actor said during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in response to quarantine orders designed to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also riffed on the book Go the F ** k to Sleep during the appearance, presenting the 2011 kids bedtime story as a public order that people should not leave their homes, including the verse:

“Stay the f ** k at home
Corona is spreading; this s -** t is no joke
It’s no time to work or roam
The way you can fight it is simple, my friends
Just stay the f -** k at home

Research contact: @nypost