Posts made in April 2021

Swipe right: A new real estate brand is treating home buying like dating

May 3, 2021

Casa Blanca—a new app that enables users to sort through profiles in hopes of finding the perfect match—just released its first ad campaign, Adweek reports.

But, instead of presenting you with singles in your area and competing in the crowded market of dating sites like Tinder and Bumble, the brand is delving into a different type of matchmaking through a personalized, design-first approach to the home-buying process.

“Designed with personalized match-making technology powered by a simple swipe left or right, the Casa Blanca app helps more people find their dream home,” the company’s website claims, adding that, “The only real estate app that eliminates the middle man and gives buyers up to 1% cash back on their final purchase price, Casa Blanca streamlines and sorts listings based on user preferences and lifestyle priorities, introducing them to refined home choices.”

Casa Blanca worked with the app,  Rent Antler, to create a lifestyle campaign that will run on social and digital platforms, which the brand hopes will capture its purpose of disrupting the market through a direct-to-consumer approach to real estate, Adweek notes 

The brand is setting itself apart from the competition by offering curated recommendations for buyers, who may be used to staring at the same few properties that match their price point on other platforms, says CEO and Co-founder Hannah Bomze. 

“We wanted to create a platform similar to Bumble, where if you don’t like something, you don’t have to keep seeing it over and over again,” she explains.“We ask very specific questions about your style, and the more you swipe left and right, the more we can make visual recommendations for you.”

The bottom line: Casa Blanca’s target audience is first-time buyers, and Bomze hopes that its lighthearted content—including testimonials from new homeowners on its Instagram page—can make the real estate process feel less arduous and more inviting.

“Instead of a traditional real estate brand showing you pictures of people’s empty homes, we’re showing you who lives in this space, why they chose it and what their life looks like,” Bomze said. “We are trying to bring more personalization and customization to a process that has been very transactional.”

Research contact: @Adweek

Avocado discovery may lead to new leukemia treatment

May 3, 2021

With a host of nutritional benefits and a taste that satisfyingly tops off everything from salads to toast, avocados have become a dietary staple of millions—but recent research results point to some extra medicinal benefits offered by the popular fruit , as well, Study Finds reports.

Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, have discovered a new avocado compound they say may open the door for better leukemia treatments.

More specifically, this compound appears to target and attack an enzyme that can be critical to cancer cell growth.

Researchers focused their attention on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which doctors call the most dangerous variety of blood cancer. Most people diagnosed with AML are over 65 years old—and only about 10% survive for five years post-diagnosis.

Importantly, leukemia cells house large amounts of an enzyme called VLCAD, which is involved in their metabolism. “The cell relies on that pathway to survive,” says Dr. Paul Spagnuolo, Department of Food Science, in a university release. “This is the first time VLCAD has been identified as a target in any cancer.”

Spagnuolo and his team tested various nutraceutical compounds in an attempt to find any substance capable of fighting VLCAD.

“Lo and behold, the best one was derived from avocado,” Spagnuolo notes.

“VLCAD can be a good marker to identify patients suitable for this type of therapy. It can also be a marker to measure the activity of the drug,” he continues. “That sets the stage for eventual use of this molecule in human clinical trials. There’s been a drive to find less toxic drugs that can be used.”

According to Study finds, right now, about half of all older AML patients enter palliative care. Others opt for chemotherapy, but that often does more harm than good.

“We completed a human study with this as an oral supplement and have been able to show that appreciable amounts are fairly well tolerated,” Spagnuolo concludes.

The study appears in the journal Blood.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Michael Cohen predicts Rudy Giuliani will flip on Trump

May 3, 2021

On April 29, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer,” gloated on CNN about the FBI raid on Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan home and office in New York City.

Having been through the experience, himself, Cohen had warned Giuliani—who replaced him as Trump’s personal attorney and fixer from 2016 through 2020 during his White House years—that he was likely to be the next fall guy.

“Rudy, I told you so,” Cohen said on CNN, according to a report by HuffPost. “…What I told him was that Donald Trump doesn’t care about anyone or anything, that he will be the next one to be thrown under the bus. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

Federal agents seized electronic devices in the April 28 early morning raids on Giuliani’s properties —a major escalation in the investigation of his dealings with Ukraine. It’s believed to be linked at least in part to his involvement with the country when Trump was trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son, who had been on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

“Who knows what Rudy was involved with,” Cohen said. “What we’re going to find out is there are text messages, there are emails, there are different types of communication apps that the FBI knows how to reestablish, even if Rudy, who I don’t think is technological, tried to delete or what have you.”

Indeed, HuffPost reports, Cohen speculated that investigators would be looking at conversations between Giuliani and his Ukrainian associates but might expand their search to others in Trump’s orbit who could be implicated by Giuliani’s correspondence.

Giuliani is notorious for his technological slip-ups and lack of cellphone security, having revealed sensitive information to multiple journalists via butt dials.

“Rudy’s an idiot,” Cohen said. “Rudy behaves in such an erratic manner that who knows what’s on those telephones or what’s on his computers.”

Cohen said he believed that Giuliani would turn on Trump, if necessary.

“Do I think Rudy will give up Donald in a heartbeat? Absolutely. He certainly doesn’t want to follow my path down into a 36-month sentence for something as innocuous as a hush money payment to a porn star … at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump.”

Cohen, now one of Trump’s biggest critics, is under house arrest serving the remaining months of a three-year prison sentence. He pleaded guilty in 2018 for crimes that included lying to Congress during the Russia investigation; and campaign finance violations, including the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Mushroom growing kits are the new sourdough starter

April 29, 2021

Since the start of the pandemic, interest in growing mushrooms has … well, mushroomed, The Boston Globe reports.

And part of the reason for the toadstool trend is mushroom advocate and  agriculturist Elizabeth Almeida, who cultivates organic mushrooms indoors on blocks of sawdust at her Westford, Massachusetts-based company, Fat Moon Farm.

The blocks are inoculated with mycelium, (or the white, hairlike tendrils of fungus that we often see on old bread).Then, they incubate for anywhere from seven days to three months, depending on the strain. The setting mimics the natural environment in whichre mushrooms thrive.

Almeida grows several varieties—lion’s main, oyster, chestnut, pioppino, and shitake—and she sells largely to chefs, but also to selected grocers and farmstands.

Since she grew up on a farm and foraged for mushrooms as a child, Almeida’s work resonates with her life experience. But surprisingly, and even without a green thumb, you can also grow mushrooms with a grow kit—and Almeida offers these too.

The kits are inoculated with the mycelium and already incubated. Spraying frequently with water, you can watch the fungi quickly emerge—from a pinhead to fully formed clusters that can later top a pizza or give depth of flavor to a pasta dish.

We do the first two steps, and our customers do the last— fruit and harvest,” Almeida tells the Globe. She also holds Zoom classes to mentor budding mycophiles. I

Interest in her kits has surged this year as people seek the adventure of growing something to create delicious meals, she says. “Sourdough bread is 2020. Grow kits are 2021.”

Most of the grow kits sold on the  Fat Moon Farm website range from $25 to $40—and come with detailed instructions. The next, three-part, weekly, online course starts on May 1—and a “standard package” includes a grow kit and an eight-ounce bag of mushroom to enjoy.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Biden signs law that makes sesame the ninth major food allergen

April 29, 2021

President Joe Biden has signed into law a new measure that designates sesame as the ninth major food allergy and ramps up allergy research—enacting a bipartisan attempt to address marked growth in certain deadly allergies, The Washington Post reports.

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (Faster) Act (H.R. 2117) passed the Senate in March and the House of Representatives this month.

According to the Post, the need is clear: In the past two decades, life-threatening childhood food allergies have risen steadily, growing by about 4% per year to afflict 32 million Americans, according to research by Northwestern University, McKinsey & Company, and Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), a nonprofit.

Studies estimate that the costs borne by American families—for medical bills, buying special foods, or forgoing full-time employment to care for a child with a food allergy — total $24.8 billion annually.

There are several strong theories to explain the uptick, Jonathan Spergel, chief of the Allergies Department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells the post—but one stands out: In 2000, a small study suggested that if parents delayed the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, kids were less likely to develop those allergies.

That guidance was wrong, with subsequent studies revealing the exact opposite: Early, careful introduction of these foods lessens the risk of serious allergy. But the damage was done, as the American Academy of Pediatrics, parenting magazines; and parents, themselves, advocated for postponing the introduction of these potentially dangerous foods.

Even in the face of strong new evidence, a 2020 survey of pediatricians found that only 29% were implementing early introduction of allergens.

The new law attempts to change that. According to Lisa Gable, chief executive of FARE, 1.6 million Americans have sesame allergies. This law will require foods containing sesame to be clearly labeled by January 2023.

But perhaps more significant, the Globe reports, the legislation says the Department of Health and Human Services must prioritize regular reviews of promising food allergy treatments and research.

And this research will, for the first time, have an outlet for wide dissemination via the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department have issued the dietary guidelines every five years since 1980, but about babies and toddlers they’ve been mum until 2020. The guidelines are the road map for how the government administers school lunches and food assistance programs, and they often influence how food manufacturers formulate their products so they can participate in those programs, which buy $100 billion worth of food a year.

The 2020 guidelines contained three paragraphs about introducing infants to potentially allergenic foods — babies at high risk of peanut allergy should be introduced at 4 to 6 months; cow’s milk as a beverage by one year—and stated that “there is no evidence that delaying introduction of allergenic foods, beyond when other complementary foods are introduced, helps to prevent food allergy.”

Previous dietary guidelines did not contain suggestions for the introduction of allergenic foods.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Federal officers execute sunrise search of Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office

april 29, 2021

Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early on Wednesday, April 28, at the home and office of Rudy Giuliani—the former New York City mayor who became President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer—thereby stepping up a criminal investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation told The New York Times.

The investigators seized Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the sources said.

Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president, the Times noted. It represents a major turning point in the long-running investigation into Giuliani, who as mayor steered New York through the Sept. 11 attacks and earlier in his career led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is now investigating him.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer questions from prosecutors—except those regarding his privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone—let alone, someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States?”

The federal authorities have been largely focused on whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump Administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs; who at the same time were helping Giuliani search for dirt on Trump’s political rivals (among them, Joe Biden, who was then a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination).

The United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had for months sought to secure a search warrant for Giuliani’s phones.

Under Mr. Trump, senior political appointees in the Justice Department repeatedly sought to block such a warrant, The New York Times reported, slowing the investigation as it was gaining momentum last year. After Merrick Garland was confirmed as President Biden’s attorney general, the Justice Department lifted its objection to the search.

While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Giuliani, the wararants show that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase. To obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.

Spokespersons for the F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

Teeth have become the new nose job: The rise of oral tweakments

April 28, 2021

Although once upon a time, going to the dentists was routine at best, now your local dental practice is on the way to becoming something of a destination, The Guardian reports.

 At the same time, previously lackluster dental products—such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, and mouthwas—are more likely to be deemed worthy of a bathroom shelfie posted to Instagram. Indeed, teeth and the right products and treatments for them, are now part of the self-care beauty boom.

There’s even been a rebranding of the sector. The dental aisle in your local chemist could soon be renamed “oralcare”. A recent article in Business of Fashion used this term and estimated that U.S. consumers spent $9 billion on oralcare in 2020.

Cassandra Grey, the founder of beauty website Violet Grey, went as far as to say: “Teeth have become the new boob job.” Sales of oralcare on the site increased by 33% in 2020.

Among the buzzy brands are Spotlight, Kendall Jenner’s Moon, Better & Better—and Swiss vVardis, which charges $55 for toothpaste.

Colgate also has seen a gap in the market. It launched CO.Colgate in the United States—a division that offers a range of products designed to appeal to a younger, fashionable consumer, without any familiar red and white logo. Instead, branding is close to that of cult beauty brand Glossier. Included in the range is a teeth whitening pen called It’s Lit.

While some might balk at the idea of $55 for toothpaste—and even £9.95 (US$14) for Moon toothpaste is triple the price of most on the market—it means young people can enter this aspirational new beauty world.

Along with shelfie-worthy packaging, they might be swayed by the growing niche of dentists turned dental influencers with large followings on Instagram, and videos on TikTok with people testing out blue-light products to whiten teeth. There are more than 680k videos on the app tagged #teethwhiteningchallenge.

The increasing interest in oralcare can be traced back to the rise of Zoom in the pandemic. “Zoom has been amazing for our industry,” Dr Uchenna Okoye tells The Guardian.  “People are staring at themselves and they see angles, like the side view of their face, what other people see of them.”

Cosmetic dentistry, which can cost thousands of dollars,  is part of a wider aspiration towards a polished appearance. Okoye sees it alongside the rise of “tweakments” like Botox.

According to Okoye, the most unlikely dental treatments—braces—are becoming status symbols. She points to the tracks of Invisalign, the premium braces brand with transparent, gumshield-like aligners: “Everyone showed off their Chanel [handbag], they’re now showing their Invisalign.”

Research contact: @guardian

Pfizer’s new at-home pill to treat COVID could be available by the end of this year

April 28, 2021

Pfizer’s experimental oral drug to treat COVID-19 at the first sign of illness could be available by the end of the year, CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday, April 27.

In March, the company—which developed the first FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the United States in cooperation with German drugmaker BioNTech—began an early-stage clinical trial testing a new antiviral therapy for COVID. The drug is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate in human cells.

Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens, such as HIV and hepatitis C.

If clinical trials go well and the Food and Drug Administration approves it, the drug could be distributed nationwide by year-end, Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Health experts say the drug, taken by mouth, could be a gamechanger because people newly infected with the virus could use it outside of hospitals. Researchers hope the medication will keep the disease from progressing and prevent hospital trips.

In addition to the drug, Pfizer is still testing its vaccine in 6-month to 11-year-old children. Vaccinating children is crucial to ending the pandemic, public health officials and infectious disease experts say.

Earlier this month, the company asked the FDA to expand its vaccine authorization to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the shot was found to be 100% effective in a study.

Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday he is “very optimistic” that the FDA will approve the use of the shot in adolescents.

Research contact: @CNBC

New census numbers shift political power south and west to GOP strongholds

April 28, 2021

Political power in the United States will continue to shift south and west this decade, as historically Democratic states that border the Great Lakes give up congressional seats and electoral votes to regions where Republicans currently enjoy a political advantage, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas, Florida, and North Carolina—three states that voted twice for Donald Trump—are set to gain a combined four additional seats in Congress in 2023 because of population growth, granting them collectively as many new votes in the electoral college for the next presidential election as Democratic-leaning Hawaii has in total, The Washington Post reports.

At the same time, four northern states with Democratic governors that President Biden won in 2020 — Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York —each will lose a single congressional seat. Ohio, a nearby Republican-leaning state, also will lose a seat in Congress.

The data—released on Monday, April 26—were better for Democrats than expected, as earlier Census Bureau estimates had suggested the congressional gains in Florida and Texas would be even bigger. The margins in certain states that determined the final congressional counts were razor thin, with New York losing a seat because of a shortfall of only 89 people.

The numbers are the first to emerge from one of the most challenging population counts in the nation’s history—one disrupted by a global pandemic. Trump, during his term, also pushed to add a citizenship question and exclude undocumented immigrants from the census, the Post notes.

The release marked the start to a constitutionally mandated effort to redraw congressional districts across the country in advance of the 2022 elections, a tangled and litigious process that is likely to benefit Republican officeholders more than Democratic ones next year. That stands as a stark threat to Democratic control of the House, which will rest on a seven-vote margin, with four outstanding vacancies, once newly elected Representative Troy Carter (D-Louisiana) takes office in the coming weeks.

The results show that the country grew over the past decade by the second-slowest rate in history, owing to an aging population, decreased fertility, and slowing immigration. A slightly lower rate of growth was recorded between 1930 and 1940, a decade that encompassed the Great Depression.

Only seven of the 435 congressional seats will be reapportioned under the latest population count. Five of the seven states that lost a House seat voted for Biden, and five of the seven newly created seats will be added to states that voted for Trump.

According to the Post, the full partisan effect of the shifts will not be known for months, as states must sift through population data that will be released later this year to draw new congressional district lines, resulting in hundreds of decisions by state lawmakers and independent commissions about the partisan makeup of each individual district.

But Republican control of the redistricting process in states such as Texas, Florida and North Carolina is likely to increase the number of congressional contests where Republicans have a chance of winning, observers say. Republicans will control line-drawing for 187 congressional seats over the coming year, with Democrats controlling 75 seats; while the remaining seats that need to be drawn will be decided by independent commissions or divided governments, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

The census announcement was a relief for Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Alabama, which each had been projected to lose a seat in the new count, but will instead maintain the same congressional representation over the next decade.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

A new color scale depicting five distinct shades of ‘yellow’ tells us when we need to hydrate

April 27, 2021

A new color scale has been created with five different shades of  “yellow,” each of which indicates whether we are properly hydrated or not, SWNS Digital reports.

Color experts from the Carlstadt, New Jersey-based Pantone Color Institute have teamed up with London nutritionist Lily Soutter and Scottish bottled water supplier Highland Spring to create the ‘shades of pee’ visual to highlight the importance of hydration.

The five shades of yellow have names such as “Dry Spell” for the darkest shade and “Spring In Your Step”for the lightest. The in-between shades are aptly called “Feeling Good.” “Glass Half Full.” and “You’re At Amber.”

The guide is unveiled to mark Highland Spring’s new 10-litre (338 fluid ounce) hydration pack going on sale, and comes after a study of 2,000 adults found 40%r cent are confused about how much water they should be drinking.

Despite believing they should be consuming seven glasses of water a day, people typically have five—although 23% just manage to drink one to two.

Nutritionist Lily Soutter points to the NHS advice on the health benefits of proper hydration and said: “Drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated throughout the day is important for energy, concentration, mood, and even exercise performance.”

But 43% of respondents said they do not think they are getting enough—because they simply forget to drink water (63%), get distracted by their day-to-day routine (42 %), or are too busy (15%), SWNS Digital reports.

Carol Saunders, spokesperson for Highland Spring said: “Our bodies have a built-in and natural way of helping us to know if we are drinking enough fluids. We know it can be embarrassing to talk about our pee, but it’s an important indicator to help us stay hydrated.

“So we’ve partnered with Pantone Color Institute to kick start that conversation, because for many of us, drinking enough fluids is the first step to feeling more like our natural selves in any self-care routine.”

The study also found people are likely to drink more water if the weather is warmer (33%), if they cut back on other beverages such as coffee (27%) , or if they set reminders (21%).

And almost a 25% of adults track how much they drink throughout the day, by using an app (26%), writing it down (22%), or using the measurements marked on a bottle (27%).

However,  more than 50% of respondents do not take a bottle of water with them when they leave the house and 23% of desk workers admit that they do not keep a drink at their desk.

One in 10 of those polled via international research firm OnePoll do not even have a drink when they exercise and 14%  do not have one with a meal.

Side effects people have experienced from not staying hydrated enough included a dry mouth (46%), dark urine (43%), and fatigue (26%).

Whereas the benefits adults have enjoyed from keeping on top of their water consumption were found to be clearer skin (25%), feeling more active (22%), and reduced cravings for snacks (18%).

Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, said: “Eating right and drinking proper amounts of water are critical contributors to taking care of our personal health and our overall well-being.

“Being able to collaborate with Highland Spring and their expert nutrition partner Lily Soutter to create a color flow chart illustrating the relationship between urine color and hydration levels highlights how the visual language of color can be used as an indicator to provide quick and natural insights as to whether we are keeping ourselves healthfully hydrated.”

Research contact: @SWNS