Posts made in October 2020

Benvenuto! A picturesque hilltop village in Italy will pay you more than $50,000 to live and work there

October 26, 2020

The Italian village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio is hoping to attract new younger residents by offering them grants totaling as much as €44,000 ($52,022), CNBC reports.

The picturesque, hilltop village in the Abruzzo region, southeast Italy shared details of the project on the local council’s website this month.

Santo Stefano currently only boasts 115 residents—41 of whom are over the age of 65. Indeed, just 13 people living in the village are under 20 years old.

The local council says, therefore, that it is “essential” to do something to ensure “a sustainable and lasting development of the territory,” according to a translation of the announcement.

According to CNBC, the village is offering new residents a maximum grant of €8,000 (US$9,455) a year for three years, paid monthly—plus another one-off maximum payment of €20,000 (US$26,273), for new residents to start a business.

The council will provide residents in the scheme with a property, on which they will only pay “nominal” rent. It also specified that those applying for the scheme needed to between 18 and 40 years old.

They can be Italian residents from outside the area but need to be moving from a place with no fewer than 2,000 people. Applicants also can be EU citizens or non-EU citizens—with a long-term residence permit issued for an indefinite period.

Applicants have to transfer their residence to Santo Stefano for a minimum of five years and open a business in the village. However, the business must be in areas identified as a priority by the council — a tourist, sports, or culture guide; a cleaner; a generic maintenance technician; a drugstore manager, or a vendor of local food.

Applications to the initiative must be submitted by November 15.

Research contact: @CNBC

Prescription for profits: As sales dwindled during pandemic, some pharmacies also offered pet meds

October 26, 2020

When stay-at-home orders began to spread nationwide, Shantelle Brown, owner of Hope Pharmacy in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood in Virginia, saw a rush, she recently told Fortune magazine.

Regular customers stocked up on their medications as they prepared to wait out the coronavirus pandemic. By the beginning of April, though, business had dried up.

One of the greatest ironies of the pandemic is that fewer people are visiting health care professionals—and that has impacted many pharmacies across the country. An August study from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that the total number of filled prescriptions, as of late April, was down compared with January and February, but there were some signs of recent rebounding.

That initial gap was especially hard on small independent drugstores, including Brown’s.

Initially, Hope Pharmacy shifted to making hand sanitizer. The business distributed it to first responders at no charge and sold it to customers. The company vastly expanded its delivery business, as well, Fortune notes.

But as elective procedures were canceled, and apprehension grew about visiting the emergency room in that community, Brown knew she had to look for new ways to increase revenue.

One of the most successful initiatives has been adding pets to the patient list.

Before opening her own pharmacy, Brown worked at Sam’s Club, which included pet meds among its offerings while she was there. As she met with a strategic planning group during the early days of the pandemic, the idea popped into her head.

Getting access to the meds wasn’t hard. Many pets take the same medicines humans do for things like blood pressure and heart conditions. The trick was letting people know they had an option other than buying directly from their vet.

Brown’s not much for social media. She says she prefers a more “old-fashioned” way of attracting business, so she and her husband made up signs that people could put in their yards and flyers that accompanied deliveries. Before long, business picked up.

Hope Pharmacy, which opened at the end of April 2018, currently serves “800-something” people in the community, but since it began selling pet meds, it has been adding an average of two new patients per day. And while those aren’t numbers that would ping the radar at CVS, they’re huge for a small independent pharmacy.

“We had a couple of people advise us that we should partner with a vet,” says Brown. “I tried, but…I didn’t realize at the time how much vets were making off of pet meds. Our prices are so much cheaper, and we’re able to save patients quite a bit of money.”

The goal with this, as with the carrying of pet meds or other products that aren’t traditional pharmacy staples, is the same, though: build a closer relationship with the patient-customer to earn his or her loyalty. In the event that another substantial wave of COVID hits the country—or some other pandemic forces people back into their homes—those customers will be more apt to return quickly.

“In the pharmacy business, it takes a while to build a clientele because people are used to going where they go,” says Brown. “Our hope and goal is not to just get the animal—we want the whole family.”

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Outside the box: Trump campaign draws rebuke for videotaping Philly voters at ballot drop boxes

October 26, 2020

The Trump campaign has been videotaping Philadelphia voters while they deposit their ballots in drop boxes—leading Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, to warn last week that the campaign’s actions fall outside of permitted poll watching practices and could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

The campaign made a formal complaint to city officials on October 16, saying a campaign representative had surveilled voters depositing two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own. The campaign called the conduct “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from a lawyer representing the Trump campaign that was examined by The New York Times. The campaign included photos of three voters who it claimed were dropping off multiple ballots.

“This must be stopped,” a local lawyer for the Trump campaign, Linda A. Kerns, wrote in the letter, adding that the actions “undermine the integrity of the voting process.”

Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are focused on Pennsylvania, seen as one of the most important swing states in the election and where polls show Joe Biden with a seven-point lead.

The Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia suggests its aim is to crack down on people dropping off ballots for family members or anyone else who is not strictly authorized to do so.

According to the Times reports, Kerns demanded that the names of all voters who had used a drop box in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on October 14 be turned over to the campaign, and insisted that the city station a staff member around every drop box “at all times.” She also asked for footage from municipal cameras around City Hall.

But city officials rejected the assertion that the voters who had been photographed had necessarily done something improper. The city’s lawyers forwarded the campaign’s complaints to the local district attorney, but did not make a formal referral and cast doubt on the assertions. They also said they do not track which voters use which drop box.

“Third party delivery is permitted in certain circumstances,” Benjamin H. Field, a deputy city solicitor and counsel to the city Board of Elections, wrote in a letter sent to Kerns on October 19. “The Board cannot agree with your conclusion on the basis of the information you provided. Nor can the Board, in exercising its duties, assume that an individual is violating the Election Code when that person can act as an agent for a voter who required assistance.”

Under Pennsylvania law, voters are allowed to deliver only their own ballots to drop boxes, unless they are assisting a voter with a disability or who otherwise needs help. But voting has been upended by the pandemic and many voters are unfamiliar with the rules around drop boxes, which they may be using for the first time.

Earlier this month, a Trump campaign official told The Times that the campaign would be videotaping drop boxes but was only interested in people who were dumping large numbers of ballots — not in those bringing an extra ballot or two. That assertion appears to have been false.

Research contact: @nytimes

Hop to it!: 2021 Australian Firefighter Calendars, featuring shirtless men, will benefit displaced wildlife

October 23, 2020

The Australian Firefighters Calendar is back for its 28th year. And the group says that this year’s animal themes are especially relevant, considering that the nation was ravaged by bushfires in 2019 and 2020, which reportedly killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals

The annual calendar, which debuted in 1993 and has since raised over $3 million AUS  (US$2.1 million) for various domestic charities, is once again turning up the heat—with not one, but six different calendars for 2021, including a specific variation that celebrates shirtless firefighters with native Australian wildlife, Fox News reports.

Other themes include a “Dog Calendar,” showing shirtless firefighters with dogs; a “Cat Calendar,” showing shirtless firefighters with cats; and a “Classic Calendar,” with shirtless firefighters holding no animals whatsoever, if that’s your thing.

Tamer versions include an animals-only calendar, and a “Hero Calendar” which features firefighters in heroic poses, albeit with their shirts on.

 “You will see all your favorite Australian firefighters with every variety of animal we could photograph, from koalas and kangaroos, to rescue kittens and Rottweiler puppies,” said David Rogers, director of the Australian Firefighters Calendar, in a statement obtained by South West News Service. “We have got something for everyone!”

“No one was left unaffected watching our precious wildlife trying to escape from the bushfires, and the loss of wildlife is beyond comprehension. Everyone at the Australian Firefighters Calendar decided that all our efforts needed to be focused on Australian Wildlife this year,” Rogers said.

Donations from the sale of 2021’s latest crop of calendars will benefit a number of animal-welfare charities, including Safe Haven Animal Rescue, All Breeds Canine Rescue, and the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, among others such as Australia’s Rural Aid and Kids With Cancer Foundation.

Research contact: @FoxNews

Verizon launches $44 million ‘upskilling program’ for Americans who wants to land an in-demand job

October 23, 2020

Telecommunications giant Verizon is investing $44 million in an upskilling program to help Americans unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Americans looking for better jobs, Business Insider reports.

Currently, applications are being accepted for residents of Dallas, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Spartanburg, SC, and Washington, DC. The program will start in November and expand to more cities in 2021.

People who are Black or Latinx (a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina), unemployed, or without a four-year-degree will be given priority admissions.

To deliver the program, the company is partnering with two nonprofits focused on workforce development, Generation and JFF, to launch the initiative.

It will train those in need to get jobs like junior cloud practitioner, junior web developer, IT help desk technician and digital marketing analyst.

The upskilling program is part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon’s recently unveiled responsible business plan that includes a goal of preparing 500,000 people for jobs of the future by 2030.

Digital upskilling has increased during the pandemic as millions of Americans look for in-demand jobs, Reuters reported.

In addition to Verizon, Business Insider notes, Amazon,  PwC,  IBM,  and  AT&T have launched major upskilling programs to retrain their workforces or attract new talent in recent years.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Republicans advance Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination despite Democratic boycott

October 23, 2020

No Democrats? No problem! The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday, October 22, to advance President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Courtwith confirmation as Democrats boycotted the session in protest, The New York Times reported,

Indeed, majority Republicans skirted the panel’s official rules to recommend her in the absence of their Democratic colleagues. Judiciary Committee rules that require members of the minority party to be present to conduct official business.

Democrats—livid over the extraordinarily speedy process during the current election—spurned the committee vote altogether and forced Republicans to break their own rules to muscle through the nomination. Without the votes to block the judge in either the committee or the full Senate, though, their action was “purely symbolic,” the Times said.

The lopsided 12-to-0 outcome set up a vote by the full Senate to confirm Judge Barrett on Monday, a month to the day after Trump nominated her to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If all goes according to plan, the president and his party would win a coveted achievement just eight days before the election.

That would fulfill the president’s hopes of stacking a conservative SCOTUS, should he need the judicial body to confirm his victory following the November 3 presidential election.

Gloating over the illicit move, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the committee, said just before the vote.“This is why we all run,” “It’s moments like this that make everything you go through matter.”

According to the Times, Judge Barrett, a 48-year-old appeals court judge who has styled herself in the mold of the man she calls her mentor, former Justice Antonin Scalia, promises to shift the court meaningfully to the right, entrenching a 6-to-3 conservative majority.

The Times predicts, “Her presence will likely shape American society for decades to come, with potentially sweeping implications for corporate power and the environment, abortion rights and gay rights, and a wide range of other policy issues including health care access, gun safety and religious freedom.”

Democrats have sharply opposed Judge Barrett on policy grounds. But their goal on Thursday was to tarnish the legitimacy of her confirmation, arguing that Republicans had no right to fill the seat vacated just over a month ago by the death of Justice Ginsburg, when millions of Americans were already voting.

They were particularly angry that Republicans had reversed themselves since 2016, when they refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, citing the election nine months later.

“Democrats will not lend a single ounce of legitimacy to this sham vote in the Judiciary Committee,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said at a news conference on the steps of the Capitol, where he raised his voice to be heard over the cries of protesters opposed to the nomination.

“We are voting with our feet. We are standing together. And we are standing against this mad rush to jam through a Supreme Court nomination just days, days before an election,” Mr. Schumer said.

Inside the hearing room where the vote unfolded, Democrats’ empty chairs held large posters of Americans whose health care coverage they argued could evaporate if Mr. Trump’s nominee were to side with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act when it hears a Republican challenge to the law next month.

“I regret that we could not do it the normal way,” Graham said, “but what I don’t regret is reporting her out of committee.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Mouthwashes may deactivate coronaviruses and slow the spread of COVID-19

October 22, 2020

Certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes that already are staples in many American households may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, according to findings of a research study conducted by a team at Penn State College of Medicine.

The reason? The results indicate that some of these products might actually reduce or repress the viral load, or amount of virus, in the mouth after infection.

.Craig Meyers, distinguished professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, led a group of physicians and scientists—who tested several oral and nasopharyngeal rinses in a laboratory setting for their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, which are similar in structure to SARS-CoV-2. The products evaluated also included a 1% solution of baby shampoo, a neti pot, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes.

The researchers found that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralize human coronavirus, which suggests that these products may have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are COVID-19-positive.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” Meyers said. “The products we tested are readily available, and often already part of people’s daily routines.”

Meyers and colleagues used a test to replicate the interaction of the virus in the nasal and oral cavities with the rinses and mouthwashes. Nasal and oral cavities are major points of entry and transmission for human coronaviruses. They treated solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus—which served as a readily available and genetically similar alternative for SARS-CoV-2—with the baby shampoo solutions, various peroxide antiseptic rinses and various brands of mouthwash. They allowed the solutions to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, one minute, and two minutes, before diluting the solutions to prevent further virus inactivation. According to Meyers, the outer envelopes of the human coronavirus tested and SARS-CoV-2 are genetically similar so the research team hypothesizes that a similar amount of SARS-CoV-2 may be inactivated upon exposure to the solution.

To measure how much virus was inactivated, the researchers placed the diluted solutions in contact with cultured human cells. They counted how many cells remained alive after a few days of exposure to the viral solution and used that number to calculate the amount of human coronavirus that was inactivated as a result of exposure to the mouthwash or oral rinse that was tested. The results were published in the Journal of Medical Virology.

The 1% baby shampoo solution, which is often used by head and neck doctors to rinse the sinuses, inactivated greater than 99.9% of human coronavirus after a two-minute contact time. Several of the mouthwash and gargle products also were effective at inactivating the infectious virus. Many inactivated greater than 99.9% of virus after only 30 seconds of contact time and some inactivated 99.99% of the virus after 30 seconds.

According to Meyers, the results with mouthwashes are promising and add to the findings of a study showing that certain types of oral rinses could inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in similar experimental conditions. In addition to evaluating the solutions at longer contact times, they studied over-the-counter products and nasal rinses that were not evaluated in the other study. Meyers said the next step to expand upon these results is to design and conduct clinical trials that evaluate whether products like mouthwashes can effectively reduce viral load in COVID-19-positive patients.

“People who test positive for COVID-19 and return home to quarantine may possibly transmit the virus to those they live with,” said Meyers. “Certain professions including dentists and other health care workers are at a constant risk of exposure. Clinical trials are needed to determine if these products can reduce the amount of virus COVID-positive patients or those with high-risk occupations may spread while talking, coughing or sneezing. Even if the use of these solutions could reduce transmission by 50%, it would have a major impact.”

Research contact: @PennState

The Dodo, Group Nine’s animal brand, is expanding into pet insurance

October 22, 2020

The Dodo, the animal-centric video brand of Group Nine Media, has built an audience of more than 90 million followers across social media platforms. Now it is getting into pet insurance, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Group Nine—itself, backed by Discoveryhas taken a minority stake in Petplan, a pet insurer headquartered in New York that was acquired by private-equity firm Warburg Pincus last year. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Group Nine’s chief executive, Ben Lerer, will join Petplan’s board of directors.

The deal includes an equity stake, as well as a brand-licensing and marketing-services arrangement through which Group Nine and The Dodo will be paid to promote Petplan’s offerings.

The pet insurer will be renamed “Fetch by The Dodo” in May 2021.

The acquisition is the latest effort by Group Nine, which was valued at about $1 billion last year, to create new revenue streams at a time when many digital media companies, big and small, are trying to diversify beyond advertising, the Journal notes.

“For digital media, I think we all have the challenge of needing to be good at multiple things at once,” said Lerer. “My belief is that the best way to reinforce multiple business lines is to build great brands, because a great brand can be leveraged in a bunch of different ways.”

In buying into Petplan, Group Nine and The Dodo won’t be starting from scratch, he said. Petplan has more than 250,000 paying subscribers, the companies said. People familiar with the business said that number includes around 50,000 net new members since May 2019.

Research contact: @WSJ

Proud Boys deny sending threatening emails to Democratic voters in multiple states

October 22, 2020

Law enforcement officials have been notified that voters in multiple states have received personalized emails purporting to be from the Proud Boys—a far-right, neo-fascist white supremacist group. The messaging is filled with intimidating threats aimed at Democrats, if they do not change their vote to Republican, The Hill reports.

CNN and The Washington Post first reported that voters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Alaska, and Florida all said they received threatening emails warning them to vote for President Donald Trump in the upcoming election, adding that the mysterious sender claimed to have access to voter history and “will come after you” should they fail to vote for the president.

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” reads one email obtained by the Post,. Dozens were reportedly sent, including more than 180 to students, faculty and staff of the University of Florida, a school spokesperson told CNN.

Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeted that the agency was “aware of threatening emails with misleading info about the secrecy of your vote.”

“This is what we mean by not falling for sensational and unverified claims. The last line of defense in election security is you—the American voter. So be prepared, be a smart consumer and sharer of information. Vote with confidence,” added Chris Krebs.

Elections officials in Alaska and Florida confirmed to CNN that they were aware of the emails, with Alaska’s Division of Elections telling the network that federal authorities had been alerted. Representatives with elections boards in Pennsylvania and Arizona did not immediately return The Hill’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Anchorage also did not immediately return a request for comment from the Post.

The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told USA Today and CNN in a statement that his group was not responsible for the emails, which appeared to have been sent from an email address affiliated with the group but may have been the result of spoofing software, one expert told CNN.

“No, it wasn’t us. The people [who sent the emails] used a spoofing email that pretended to be us,” Tarrio said. “Whoever did this should be in prison for a long time.”

“We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group,” he added.

Trump recently faced criticism after he demurred follow his prompting by Fox News’s Chris Wallace to disavow the group during the first presidential debate between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“Stand back and stand by,” Trump said during the contentious debate.

Research contact: @thehil

Editor’s note: According to multiple sources, U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.

 

Meet Frank, a pup’s emotional support dog

October 19, 2020

It turns out that humans are not the only creatures who need emotional support animals (ESAs) or specially trained therapy dogs: Just as sighted dogs step up to help their blind canine friends; so, too, can high-spirited confident pooches give timid dogs a sense of equanimity and aplomb.

According to a report by Goodnet, Arnold—a two-year-old Weimaraner who lives in Perth, Australia, with his owner Carolyn Manalis—was mauled by a German Shepherd when he was just a pup. Although Arnold already was a bit insecure, after the incident with the German Shepherd, he started suffering from separation anxiety and was afraid of large dogs.

Worried pet parent Manalis then met Frank, a miniature dachshund who was up for adoption, according to Tanks Good News. Despite his tiny stature—he weighed 66 fewer pounds than Arnold—Manalis recognized Frank’s upbeat, confident nature right away.  She decided that Arnold needed an emotional support animal—and Frank was the ideal candidate for the job.

In an interview with Metro, Manalis described how the dogs reacted when they met: “It was love at first sight! Frank gave Arnold the confidence boost he so needed. “Frank has helped Arnold regain his confidence to be able to play and wrestle, whilst learning that this doesn’t always mean he’s going to get hurt or attacked. Having a little friend to play with has been the perfect therapy for Arnold to heal,” she said.

“Everywhere Arnold walks, Frank will follow. The bond these two dogs have is just insanely beautiful.” 

Arnold is convinced he is Frank’s big brother, or maybe his dad. Just like older siblings show the younger ones the ways of the world, Arnold has taught Frank house training etiquette, barking-at-strangers decorum, and even safety rules, such as how to remain still at a road crossing.

Manalis told Metro, “We swear Frank thinks Arnold is his Dad. Being the second child, he definitely didn’t get as much training and attention as the first. Most of what he has learnt, he has learnt from Arnold. Frank copies everything Arnold does, to the point where if Arnold barks or makes a sound, Frank will mimic it directly after, almost like a parrot!”

This is one beautiful reciprocal relationship and it demonstrates how beneficial having more than one dog can be. According toDogs Health, dogs were once pack animals. Since they used to live in the wild in large family groups, they are social and enjoy companionship. And, as Arnold and Frank have shown, two heads may be better than one, but two tails are simply adorable!

Research contact: @goodnet