Posts made in May 2021

Vlad the vaccinator: Dracula’s Castle lures visitors with COVID-19 jabs

May 18, 2021

Visitors to Dracula’s Castle are more likely to find puncture marks in their arms than in their necks this month, after medics set up a COVID-19 vaccination center at the Transylvanian attraction, reports Yahoo News.

Doctors and nurses with fang stickers on their scrubs are offering free Pfizer shots to all-comers at 14th century Bran Castle, which is purported to be an inspiration for the vampire’s towering home in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”.

Castle staff hope that the service will bring more people to the site in Romania’s Carpathian mountains, where tourist numbers have plummeted since the start of the pandemic.

Anyone can turn up without an appointment every weekend in May. They also get free entry to the castle’s exhibit of 52 medieval torture instruments.

“The idea … was to show how people got jabbed 500-600 years ago in Europe,” the castle’s marketing director, Alexandru Priscu, told Reuters recently.

One of the visitors on Saturday was Fernando Orozco, a 37-year-old renewable energy market developer who usually is based in Berlin, but has been working remotely out of Romania.

“I was already planning to come to the castle and I just thought it was the two-for-one special,” he said.

The government has said it wants to vaccinate 10 million of its people by September, but a survey released in April by Bratislava-based think tank Globsec showed Romanians were the least inclined to get vaccinated among the EU’s eastern members.

Research contact: @YahooNews

AT&T to shed HBO, Warner Bros., and CNN in deal with Discovery

May 18, 2021

AT&T is dialing down its media interests. The wireless carrier—which thundered its way into the media business three years ago with grand visions of streaming video to millions of its customers’ cellphones—has suddenly announced that it wants a do-over: It has agreed to spin off its WarnerMedia group and merge it with a rival programmer, Discovery, the companies announced on Monday, May 17.

Indeed, according a report by The New York Times, the transaction will combine HBO, Warner Bros. studios, CNN and several other cable networks with a host of reality-based cable channels from Discovery, including Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, HGTV, The Food Network and Animal Planet. The new company will be bigger than Netflix or NBCUniversal.

The new company will join together two of the largest media businesses in the country. AT&T’s WarnerMedia group includes the sports-heavy cable networks TNT and TBS. In addition to Discovery’s strong lineup of reality-based cable channels, the company has a large international sports business.

The merger would also be a significant about-face for AT&T, a telecommunications giant better known for servicing fiber lines and cell towers than producing entertainment and courting Hollywood. Industry experts questioned AT&T’s daring $85 billion purchase of Time Warner at a time when cord-cutting was only accelerating. The spinoff indicates a failed acquisition strategy, the Times notes.

As part of the deal, AT&T will be able to shed some of its debt and get some cash and bonds that altogether would amount to $43 billion. AT&T shareholders will own 71% of the new business, with Discovery investors owning the rest.

The new company will be run by David Zaslav, 60, a media veteran and the longtime chief executive of Discovery, casting into doubt the future (yet again) of the top ranks of WarnerMedia. Jason Kilar, 50, who was hired to run AT&T’s media group only last year, could lose his job.

“Jason is a fantastic talent,” Zaslav said on a call with reporters following the announcement. He also praised other executives within WarnerMedia, including Toby Emmerich, the head of the film division, Casey Bloys, who runs HBO, and Jeff Zucker, the leader of CNN.. Zucker and. Zaslav are also longtime golfing buddies.

The companies said they expected the deal, which must be approved by Discovery shareholders and regulators, to be finalized in the middle of next year. The companies anticipate they will cut annual costs by $3 billion as a result of the transaction.

Research contact: @nytimes

Hanging Rudy out to dry: Trump has blown off Giuliani’s pleas for help as feds circle

May 18, 2021

In the weeks since the feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office in late April, close allies have tried to ferry a slew of emergency requests to former President Donald Trump and his advisers.

But according to three people familiar with the matter, Trump, as well as several of his legal advisers and longtime confidants, have been hesitant about swooping in to help the embattled Giuliani, who for years worked as Trump’s personal lawyer, a political adviser, and attack dog, The Daily Beast reports.

Indeed, Giuliani also served as a major player in the Trump-Ukraine scandal and as a key driver in the former president’s efforts to nullify Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election.

Team Trump’s reluctance to intervene comes at a time when federal investigators have ramped up their probe into whether Giuliani’s Ukraine-related work during the Trump Administration amounted to an unregistered and illegal lobbying operation on behalf of foreign figures. So far, no charges have been brought against the former New York City mayor as a result of this investigation, which began in 2019.

Trump’s silence has led to simmering frustrations among members of Giuliani’s inner orbit, who privately allege that the ex-president’s team is working to convince him to hang Giuliani out to dry in his hour of need, says The Daily Beast.

“It’s a question now of whether or not [the former president and his team] want to leave Rudy to fend for himself or if they’re going to take a stand against this,” one person close to Giuliani said last week. “Right now, we don’t know.”

Among Giuliani allies’ pleas, the three sources said, have been for Trump to issue a strong verbal or written statement saying Giuliani’s work during the Trump-Ukraine saga was done on behalf of then-President Trump—and therefore not part of an illegal foreign lobbying effort. In other words, Trump’s corroboration would be more than good public relations for Giuliani, it would back up a key pillar of Giuliani’s legal argument that he wasn’t lobbying and is innocent of the allegations.

Other asks have included having the ex-president sign on to a legal motion to have federal investigators throw out any seized communications that Giuliani and his lawyers argue are covered by attorney-client privilege. Further, there have been repeated requests that Trump and his team financially aid Giuliani’s ballooning legal defense and help cover the mounting, sizable expenses.

Two people close to Trump say they have urged the former president to lay low on the matter and to refrain from making too many statements or commitments on Giuliani and the federal probe.

These people have told Trump that it’s unclear what the feds have and that any statement could backfire both on him and on Giuliani. They have been trying to convince the former president for years that Giuliani has been too great a liability for him, and they have suggested that he cut the lawyer loose.

Many of them still blame Giuliani and his Ukraine shenanigans for getting Trump impeached the first time, and the attorney helped lead the Trumpworld and GOP charge in falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the 45th U.S. president.

In the aftermath of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, both Trump and Giuliani have been slammed with lawsuit after lawsuit over their roles in firing up the mob that committed the anti-democratic assa, The Daily Beast notes.

In recent weeks, Trump himself has argued behind closed doors that he wouldn’t want to say Giuliani was doing all of the Ukraine work—which included a trans-Atlantic dirt-digging expedition on the Biden family that led to Trump’s first impeachment—on Trump’s behalf, according to one of the people close to the former president. Trump’s reasoning, this source relayed, is based in the ex-president’s insistence that he didn’t always know what Giuliani was doing during the Ukraine effort or concocting with his Ukrainian pals, several of whom Trump has privately dinged

The two sources close to the former president each said Trump has repeatedly expressed sympathy for Giuliani’s ongoing woes but has not committed to overtly assisting his personal lawyer yet. Another person familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast that Giuliani has said he remains convinced that Trump won’t abandon him and will step up when the time is right.

Research contact: @thedauilybeast

Tech bros move to create offshore ‘private cities,’ without U.S. government control

May 17, 2021

After dominating Silicon Valley for the past two decades—hiking up rent prices in the area and filling the streets with fleece vests and wool sneakers—techies now are spreading into other regions, such as Austin and North Carolina, reports The New York Post.

But merely setting up shop in a hot new spot just isn’t enough for some of the tech elite, who are formulating a plan to build their very own dream city—away from mainland America entirely and governed by themselves.

Twenty-five-year-olds Dryden Brown of New York University, and Charlie Callinan of Boston College, co-founded Bluebook Cities in 2019—described as a “society of pioneers settling the city of the future.”

Their goal: To be a“full-stack city builder,” which “partners with communities to develop beautiful, energetic, resident-owned cities,” the website states.  

So far, their community remains online, in “the cloud.” But they expect to enlist around 2,000 willing participants (about the size of a small college town) to pack up and move to their yet-to-be-built city. No word yet on where the concept will touch down, the Post says—but the two hope to land somewhere in the Mediterranean. 

Currently, Brown and Callinan are looking to partner with a country in the region that wants to attract a slice of Silicon Valley and is “down to forge a partnership with them,” Brown told YouTuber Justin Murphy in an interview.

They plan to negotiate a deal, “whereby they contribute land, perhaps for equity in the project and the terms will obviously be negotiated,” Brown explained. “We are not trying to be a total sovereign nation or something like that. We want to partner with a government and build something really cool that works with us and works for them and is mutually beneficial,” he said, adding that they want a government that will stop blocking people with “dumb regulations.”  

With the backing of angel investor Peter Thiel, who already has invested nearly $9 million in Pronomos Capital—a venture capital firm that focuses solely on startups like Bluebook Cities—the company is expected to soon morph the online community into a private city reality.

But membership is set to be even more limited than the already cost prohibitive Silicon Valley real-estate scene, the Post intimates: “Praxis applicants are carefully vetted with a written application and numerous phone calls with current members. New members are rare because membership is sacred,” the application states.

Their move follows the crippling pandemic, racial tensions and a controversial election — all of which have mounted talk of secession in what was once the tech capital of the world. The Silicon Valley techies are looking to take matters into their own hands by exploring ways to build an apolitical private city run by private residents without US government control.

“When COVID happened, the labor market migrated to the cloud. Now you can move sort of wherever you want and your job will follow—if you are a knowledge worker in many cases,” Brown told YouTuber Murphy via a video conference. “And I think this is going to create a shift in urban dynamics that’s greater than we have seen in 300 years, where people are no longer moving into cities for the labor market.” 

Brown and Callinan currently are building their online community via Praxis, which describes itself as “the society of pioneers founding the city of the future.” –The website conveys a sense of urgency, noting that Praxis is “racing to settle the first resident-owned Affinity City, developed by Bluebook Cities on the Mediterranean,” and explaining how the global reach of the Internet helps to build a community of “new cities organized around shared values and glorious visions for the future.”

One way to join the Praxis community is through the digital distribution platform Discord which is designed specifically to create a community among people with shared ideas and thoughts. “We want young and ambitious people who want to go out in the frontier and build the future.”

But the plan isn’t without its catches.

“If San Francisco gets radically better, or New York, and none of these people no longer want to leave,” Brown mused. “I think that is fairly unlikely but who knows? So there could be a demand problem.”

He also cited finance sourcing as a potential issue, describing how it would take at least $500 million for Phase 1 of building a city to come into fruition.

“You’re joining a startup city and you’re owning equity in the startup city by living there,” Brown concluded. “We intend for it to go to the moon. but we will see.”

Research contact: @nypost

Many retailers still will require masks—at least for now—even with new CDC guidance

May 17, 2021

Target, Home Depot, Wegmans and a number of other U.S. retailers will continue to require customers and employees to wear masks in-store while they review the new federal guidance from the CDC—which has announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear face coverings in most situations, The Washington Post reports.

.However, industry groups and workers’ advocates already are pushing back–saying that they fear enforcement will become increasingly difficult and contentious. What’s more, workers unions have blasted the policy change, saying it puts store employees at increased risk of getting sick.

And in acknowledgement of such hazards, some retail chains will go with the flow—among them, Trader Joe’s, which no longer will require fully vaccinated shoppers to wear masks, although it is unclear how the retailer would determine which shoppers have been inoculated. Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for the grocery chain, said most other COVID-related policies, including face coverings for employees, social distancing rules and frequent store cleanings, will remain in place.

“We are vigilant; reviewing federal, state, and local health advisories; meeting or exceeding government mandates; and where it makes sense, adjusting efforts,” the company said on its website.

The trade group for the industry, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, has not taken sides, saying: “We urge all retail customers and guests to follow a store’s safety protocols including wearing a mask and social distancing. Frontline workers deserve this respect. Retailers encourage customers that do not want to wear a mask to shop online or via curbside pickup offerings.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, said the CDC’s guidance fails to consider the impact on essential workers, “who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”

More than 200 retail workers have died from the coronavirus, and thousands more have been infected, according to workers groups and media reports, although actual numbers are probably much higher.

“Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but we must not let our guard down,” Marc Perrone, the union’s president said in a statement. “Essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: ‘These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time’

May  17, 2021

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) took a swipe at Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) on Thursday, May 13— likening her to the “kinds of people that I threw out of bars” after the GOP newcomer aggressively confronted her outside the House chamber the day before, The Hill reports.

“I used to work as a bartender. These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“For me, this isn’t even about how I feel. It’s that I refuse to allow young women, people of color, people who are standing up for what they believe, to see [these] kind[s] of intimidation attempts by a person who supports white supremacists in our nation’s Capitol,” she continued.

Greene is facing blowback from Democrats off the heels of a Washington Post report that she harassed Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday and shouted at her as the two left the floor.

Greene repeatedly yelled, “Hey, Alexandria,” according to two Washington Post reporters who witnessed the incident. Ocasio-Cortez reportedly did not stop to address Greene, who went on to press the young progressive on her support for Black Lives Matter, which Greene claimed to be a “terrorist” group.

“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene reportedly shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and Antifa?”

After Ocasio-Cortez’s departure, Greene also reportedly called the Democrat a “radical socialist” and a “chicken” who “doesn’t want to debate the Green New Deal.”

The report came after Greene challenged Ocasio-Cortez to a debate over her “Green New Deal” legislation. Not long after, Greene also went up to Ocasio-Cortez in the House chamber and posted a photo of the moment on social media.

Greene defended her actions Thursday and rejected the notion that her behavior was uncivil.

“So she throws out paying customers. Is that how she feels? She throws out paying customers, is what she’s saying?” Greene said in response to a reporter who relayed how Ocasio-Cortez compared her to an aggressive bar patron.

“You know, it would be nice if they would treat us civilly. But ever since January 6, they can’t even treat us with respect. And we were just as much as victims of the riot here, too. We didn’t cause it,” Greene continued. “All these lies that they say on and on and on. You know, they need to be civil. None of them [is]civil to me.

“I was telling her, you need to debate me, you need to defend your policy,” she added. “There is nothing wrong with that.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s office has expressed concerns about security for congressional members and staff after the incident, The Hill notes.

“We hope leadership and the Sergeant at Arms will take real steps to make Congress a safe, civil place for all Members and staff—especially as many offices are discussing reopening. One Member has already been forced to relocate her office due to Congresswoman Greene’s attacks,” a spokesperson for her office, Lauren Hitt, told the Post.

Earlier this year, Representative Cori Bush (D-Missourialso announced that she would be moving her office away from Greene’s after she said the Georgia lawmaker berated her.

“I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,” Bush tweeted at the time about the move.

Greene countered that Bush instigated the exchange by yelling at her to put on a mask in a House hallway and posted a video of the exchange.

“She is lying to you. She berated me. Maybe Representative Bush didn’t realize I was live on video, but I have the receipts,” Greene said at the time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) on Thursday described Greene’s confrontation with Ocasio-Cortez as a “verbal assault,” and warned the situation could be a matter for the House Ethics Committee.

Pelosi called Greene’s behavior “so beyond the pale of anything that is in keeping with bringing honor to the House.”

Research contact: @thehill

About face: We can distinguish between ‘autocrats’ and ‘elected leaders’ in photos with 70% accuracy

May 14, 2021

new study has determined that we can classify a photo of an unfamiliar politician as either an autocrat or a democratically elected leader, with an accuracy of almost 70%.

The respondents also rated the photos of elected leaders as more attractive, likable, warm, and trustworthy than those of the dictators, Psych News Daily reports.

The results of the study—conducted by Canada-based researchers Miranda Giacomin of MacEwan University; and Alexander Mulligan and Nicholas O. Rule of the University of Toronto—were published on February 4 in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science.

People’s faces offer many clues about their social status, personality, and political leanings. For example, even children can pick the winner of foreign elections based on quick judgments of facial photographs. People also can correctly classify US political candidates as either Republican or Democratic based on their faces. Similar results have been found in Switzerland.

But these judgments can fluctuate based on the situation. Past research, for example, has found that people prefer dominant-looking leaders during wartime, but prefer leaders with more feminine and trustworthy faces during peacetime. Likewise, CEOs of nonprofits are less dominant-looking than the CEOs of profit-earning organizations.

For the study, the researchers first categorized countries as either “democratic” or “authoritarian,” based on two indices.  The Economist Intelligence Unit’Democracy Index, and the Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report.

They wound up with a list of 160 male heads of state: 80 democratic leaders, and 80 dictators. About 33% currently are in power; and the rest are former heads of state.  No female dictators or democrats were included, as the researchers wanted to eliminate any possible gender bias in the participants’ responses.

The researchers chose one photo of each leader, with the subject looking directly at the camera but not expressing any visible emotion. They converted these photos to greyscale, and cropped them tightly to remove extraneous background information. They excluded photos of very famous leaders such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Likewise, they instructed participants to indicate if they recognized any of the photos; whenever they did, those responses were excluded from the results.

The first of the research paper’s two studies consisted of 90 Mechanical Turk participants recruited in the Unites States. Slightly more than half were women, and their average age was 35.

They viewed the 160 faces in random order, one by one, and categorized them at their own pace as either a likely dictator or a likely democratically-elected leader.

The average participant correctly categorized the leaders depicted in the photos as either autocrats or elected leaders just over 69% of the time.

In the second study, the researchers examined which factors led people to classify the portrayed faces as either democrats or dictators. They again recruited participants via Mechanical Turk; this time there were 229 participants.

They asked these participants to rate the same set of 160 photos for the following qualities on a scale of 1 to 8: affect (i.e. happy or sad), attractiveness, competence, dominance, maturity, likability, and trustworthiness.

The participants rated the democratically elected leaders as more attractive, more competent, happier, and warmer. “Warmth” in this context means a combination of likability and trustworthiness.

The authors suggest that these traits make sense in democracies, “where popularity plays a critical role in whether someone emerges as a leader.”

By contrast, they write, “looking colder and less attractive might similarly facilitate the command of authority on which dictators rely to control the citizens of their nations.”

About 61% of the world’s population currently live in a non-democratic country, the study’s authors point out, and that figure is on the rise: A 2018 study found that 112 countries have become less free since 2006.

Despite these worrisome trends, there has been little research into the ways that visual self-presentation might facilitate autocrats’ reign. And that’s why these researchers wanted to examine people’s perceptions of dictators, as doing so could help explain how autocrats “attain and maintain power.”

As this study indicates, people in democracies value justice, openness, and transparency, and voters in democratic countries “prefer politicians whose faces convey warmth through trustworthiness and likability.”

In contrast, dictators who look harsh and cold seem to more closely “match” an authoritarian stye of governance, which might “successfully elicit more fear and intimidation in the population.”

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily

Walmart to acquire virtual fitting room platform Zeekit, as retail giant leans into fashion

May 14, 2021

For many years Walmart has eschewed offering high-fashion merchandise, but all that is changing—and on May 13, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based mega-retailer revealed plans to acquire Zeekit, a virtual fitting room platform that it hopes will enhance the social shopping experiences for online customers, Forbes reports.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been working hard to expand our apparel assortment to include quality, on-trend, and accessible fashion to help customers outfit their closets, no matter their personal style or budget,” said Denise Incandela, executive vice president of Apparel and Private Brands at Walmart-U.S., in a blog post. “But, in an increasingly online driven category, customers not only want variety in styles, they also want an inspiring and personalized digital experience.”

Zeekit, a female-founded Israeli-based startup company, is seen as facilitating that experience while smoothing away the pain points of ill-fitting purchases that ultimately lead to costly returns.

Indeed, Forbes reports, Walmart realized it was missing an enormous opportunity to sell consumers well-designed apparel at higher price points—something competitor Amazon  has been doing, both by attracting brands to its e-commerce site, and launching its own private labels.

“Virtual try-on is a game changer and solves one of the most difficult things to replicate online—understanding fit and how an item will actually look on you,” Incandela said. “Zeekit will help us deliver an inclusive, immersive and personalized experience for our diverse customer base.”

Walmart said it has elevated its fashion sensibility with exclusive labels Free Assembly, Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vegara, and Scoop. The retail giant also has  expanded its assortment of national brands with Free People, Champion, and Levi Strauss. Other other private labels include Time and Tru, Terra & Sky, Wonder Nation, and George. There’s also plus-size label Eloquii Elements.

When the experience is live on Walmart, customers will upload their photo or choose from a series of models that best represents their height, shape and skin tone, to instantly see themselves in clothing items. They can share their virtual outfits with friends, bringing a social experience to digital shopping.

Zeekit’s scalable technology can be integrated into Walmart’s digital products, and can be used to create other fashion experiences—including building a virtual closet and mixing and matching clothing to see how a top might look with a pair of pants. This is achieved by bringing real time image technology, computer vision and AI to the world of fashion. It can also help increase customer loyalty and return visits as it makes buying fashion online easier and more predictable.

“Zeekit’s impressive technology has been trialed by many top brands and retailers in the fashion industry,” Incandela said. “It uses real-time image processing to map a person’s image into thousands of segments. Clothing is processed in a similar manner and the equivalent points of the two are mapped into one final simulation. These exciting technologies add a social element to the digital experience, allowing our customers to bring their unique personalities and preferences to shopping.”

Zeekit’s founders, CEO Yael Vizel, chief technology officer Alon Kristal, and vice president of research and development Nir Appleboim will join Walmart when the deal closes, bringing their extensive experience to the retail behemoth.

Research contact: @Forbes

Don McGahn agrees to testify about events described in Mueller report

May 14, 2021

On May 12, the Department of Justice and House Judiciary Committee reached an agreement that will allow former Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn to offer testimony about events described in special counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 Russia investigation communiqué, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the Journal, Wednesday’s agreement, detailed in a court filing to the Washington, D.C., federal appeals court, “sidesteps a messy legal fight that could have reshaped relations between the Executive Branch and Congress.”

Democrats who run the Judiciary Committee have sought. McGahn’s testimony for two years as part of an inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by former President Donald Trump during  Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The agreement, which comes months after the Biden administration assumed control of the Justice Department, limits McGahn’s testimony to a closed-door transcribed interview with the committee to be scheduled as soon as possible. He will be permitted to testify about matters referenced in the public portion of Mueller’s report. A transcript may be released publicly, according to the agreement.

Neither McGahn, nor an attorney representing him, has responded to a request for comment. The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The deal showcases the limits of the federal courts to enforce congressional claims against executive-branch officials. The committee initially sought McGahn’s testimony through a subpoena in April 2019.

Democrats’ effort to compel him to testify prevailed in a lower court, but the Justice Department, representing McGahn, appealed the decision. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struggled to reach a definitive conclusion, hearing and rehearing the case several times. The matter was set for another hearing in front of the full D.C. circuit later this month and might have landed in the Supreme Court had no agreement been reached.

The agreement for McGahn’s testimony makes the case moot, leaving unresolved the legal issue of whether the House may subpoena a close White House aide.

“The law requires that when there is a dispute in court between the legislative and executive branches, the two must work in good faith to find a compromise—and I am pleased that we have reached an arrangement that satisfies our subpoena, protects the Committee’s constitutional duty to conduct oversight in the future, and safeguards sensitive executive-branch prerogatives,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat.

The case was sparked by a dispute between the House panel and the Trump White House, the Journal notes. Although McGahn already had left government service at the time of the subpoena, White House attorneys refused to allow his appearance, asserting that as a close aide of the president he had absolute immunity against being compelled to testify—a legal theory never before tested in court.

At the time, Democrats said they needed McGahn’s testimony to investigate allegations that Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by repeatedly attempting to shut down the Mueller probe. Trump has long denied obstruction and customarily called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Chlorophyll water is all over TikTok. But is it actually good for you?

My 13, 2021

Chlorophyll water has been gaining popularity since 2016, when celebrities began touting its health and beauty benefits. Now, TikTokers are claiming in viral videos that it can help treat acne and inflamed skin, reduce body odor, prevent cancer, and support gut health, HuffPost reports.

The most popular TikToks―which have garnered 1.5 million to 2 million “likes” to date―promote chlorophyll water’s transformative effects on the skin. In the videos, TikTokers show their skin’s progress over time and advise adding liquid chlorophyll drops to water rather than applying chlorophyll topically or swallowing a chlorophyll pill.

“Drinking liquid chlorophyll seems to hit on people’s intuitions about naturalness and purity, because you are taking water and adding something that comes from plants, which are instinctively viewed as pure,” noted Andrew Shtulman, a professor of Psychology at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

It is also easier to swallow chlorophyll than, say, cook green vegetables or exercise. After all, these health-boosting activities “take more effort, or we might not have the resources to purchase the materials or access to a space where we need to do them,” Shtulman said.

That said, HuffPost cautions, don’t expect it to be the cure TikTok users are making it sound. Like most things related to your well-being, there isn’t one magical solution or a quick fix. Here’s what to know:

First, it is important to remember that dietary supplements are not regulated or required to undergo Food and Drug Administration approval, said Judy Simon, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington.

“Anyone can make all kinds of claims about chlorophyll supplements,” said Simon, so approach cautiously when you see them on your TikTok “For You” page.

To assess the true effectiveness of liquid chlorophyll, you need to look at chlorophyllin, a semi-synthetic form of chlorophyll found in liquid chlorophyll that is different from the natural version contained in plants, Simon said. This form allows it to be mixed into water and dissolve well.

However, HuffPost reports,the limited number of human studies on chlorophyllin’s effect on skin focus on topical application, as opposed to ingestion, and these studies involve only 10 people or fewer.

Board-certified dermatologist Joyce Park emphasized that better research is needed to uncover the benefits of using topical or liquid chlorophyll supplements.

While she did note that chlorophyll may hold potential benefits for the skin because “its antioxidant properties help with anti-aging and it also has anti-inflammatory properties to help treat acne,” the research remains limited.

Ultimately, Park advised against relying on chlorophyll as your sole antioxidant or acne treatment. And you can reap the benefits of natural chlorophyll by eating green vegetables, drinking matcha, or consuming spirulina, Simon said.

Existing studies are still inconclusive when it comes to drinking liquid chlorophyll for other health reasons. Some viral videos claim it can do everything from reduce body odor to prevent types of cancer, but there’s no solid evidence to suggest this is true.

A single study on mice did find that drinking chlorophyllin mixed with water may regulate the gut microbiome. But Simon said this doesn’t provide enough evidence for her to recommend it to her clients to boost their gut health.

After drinking chlorophyll water, you may experience side effects such as diarrhea or green-colored stools. Some experience an allergic reaction or have stomach cramps, prompting some people to seek medical help.

Drinking chlorophyll water isn’t likely to damage your skin, Park said. But it is still unclear whether chlorophyllin has other adverse impacts on your body when you use it long-term, since the only safety data that currently exists is for taking 300 milligrams daily for up to three months, Simon said.

And for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, safety data does not yet exist, Simon said. If you fall into one of these groups, your doctor will likely advise you to avoid drinking chlorophyllin during these periods.

You also may be advised to avoid it if you take medications that increase your sensitivity to sunlight, like some antidepressants or blood pressure medication, as chlorophyllin can increase your chances of sunburn.

Research contact: @HuffPost