Posts made in September 2021

Who are the hosts of ‘Jeopardy!’ through the end of the year? Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings

September 20, 2021

The game show “Jeopardy!” announced on Thursday, September 16, that sitcom star Mayim Bialik would split hosting duties with Ken Jennings through the end of the year, The New York Times reports.

It was the latest twist in the game show’s drawn-out struggle to find a replacement for Alex Trebek, the popular longtime host whose death last November started a fraught succession battle.

“Jeopardy!” began by cycling through a series of guest hosts, to gauge their performance and audience response. Then it announced that the job would go to Mike Richards, who had been its executive producer. However, after a reporter unearthed a series of offensive and sexist comments that Richards had made on a podcast, he stepped down as host, and shortly thereafter that left the program entirely.

Bialik, who had initially been tapped alongside Richards to host a series of prime-time “Jeopardy!” specials, was enlisted to begin hosting weeknight programs as well. On Thursday, the program announced that she would share hosting duties with Jennings through the end of 2021.

“Everyone on the staff is supralunar,” the @Jeopardy account tweeted on Thursday.

Bialik will host episodes starting Monday, September 20, which will air through Nov. 5. After that, she and Jennings will split hosting duties as their schedules allow, according to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces the show.

Jennings, who holds the record for the show’s longest winning streak as a contestant, had been considered a strong contender to take over as the show’s permanent host during the guest host tryouts, but past insensitive tweets of his came to light, which he then apologized for.

According to the Times, “Jeopardy!” had tried to settle its future over the summer when it named Richards, 46, as host, despite lack of name recognition among viewers and the fact that, as the show’s executive producer, he had overseen elements of the succession planning.

But after a report in The Ringer revealed degrading comments he had made on a podcast several years ago—including a 2013 episode during which Richards called his female co-host a “booth slut” because she once worked as a model at a consumer show in Las Vegas, and referred to stereotypes about Jews—he stepped down as host. Old lawsuits also resurfaced from Richards’s previous job running “The Price Is Right” that included accusations of sexist behavior.

Sony initially said he would remain as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” but soon afterward announced he would leave the show entirely.Before his resignation, Richards taped a week’s worth of “Jeopardy!” episodes in a single day of filming, which are currently airing. Bialik’s episodes will follow.

A spokesperson for Sony said the network had no update on its timetable for naming a new host, or whether it would be by the end of the year.

Research contact: @nytimes

OpenHome aims to make custom-designed houses for the 99%

September 20, 2021

What could be better than a custom-designed home? It can be planned precisely to fulfill any whim or wish, with an architect standing by to turn customers’ visions into bespoke built form.

But one other thing also comes with custom houses–a huge price tag. That is, until now.

OpenHomea new joint venture between the architecture firms  KieranTimberlake  and  Lake|Flato and the prefabricated-home builder Bensonwood—is dedicated to creating a more accessible custom-home option, reports Fast Company.

By combining prefabricated elements with architect-guided custom design treatments, the system brings true dream-home design into the hands (and budgets) of the less than rich. . The design system can halve the time it would take to build a fully customized home, and can bring down the cost significantly.

Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake, San Antonio-based Lake|Flato, and Walpole, New Hampshire-based Bensonwood came together in 2018 to develop the concept and began taking on design projects in the spring of 2020.

Working with an architect, homebuyers can define the spatial layout of their house and the types of rooms it will have by combining clusters from the OpenHome library. The pieces can be combined in a variety of shapes from narrow to wide; single- to double-story; in straight lines, perpendicular arrangements, or with interior courtyards.

Sun and seasonal modeling provide a sense for how the light will change in each room throughout the course of the year, and also will help fine-tune the construction needs to ensure the home meets the high insulation requirements of the Passive House standard.

Based on the client’s wishes, windows can be moved or enlarged, walls can be lengthened, and rooflines can be adjusted. Within three months, a design can be finalized.

“It’s a really effective tool for being able to operate at this pace,”  KieranTimberlake’s Matt Krissel, project lead for OpenHome, recently told Fast Company.  “And acknowledging that a lot of people don’t actually understand floorplans or building sections, being able to model and walk people virtually through from early design really enhances our ability to get feedback.”

As the design gets closer to being finalized, the virtual reality tool is also used to help select the finishes for each room, from bathroom tiles to roofing materials.

Once the design is set, Bensonwood takes about two months to fabricate the panels in its factory. It also coordinates the building permit and work with a local contractor to begin laying the foundation and preparing for the on-site installation.

The first home KieranTimberlake designed through the OpenHome process is now under construction in New Hampshire. Krissel says each of the partners in the joint venture has at least one OpenHome project in the works. KieranTimberlake is starting work on a second design and aims to be able to take on three to five per year to start.

“The goal is to be able to do these in less than a year, if [clients] can actually make all the decisions this fast,” Krissel says. “It’s a bit idealized, but the goal is that it’s substantially faster from beginning to end.”

The system brings architect-designed homes within reach of clients without the budget for a fully custom home. It also brings new opportunities to architects. “Now,” Krissel says, “we can say yes to projects that don’t have that luxury of a time frame or budget.”

Research contact: @FastCompany

White House warns states of potentially dire effects if government defaults

September 20, 2021

The White House is warning states that a default caused by failing to raise the federal debt limit could result in drastic cutbacks to disaster relief, Medicaid reimbursement, school funding, and other programs, reports CNN.

“If the US defaults and can no longer pay its obligations, billions of dollars in state aid and state-run but federal funded programs could be halted,” the White House warns in a fact sheet for local and state officials.

Preident Joe Biden has demanded that Republicans join Democrats in raising the debt ceiling, but so far, GOP lawmakers have resisted. The memo comes as Democratic leaders are seriously considering adding a debt limit increase to the stopgap funding bill.

A final decision on whether to make that move must come by Monday, September 20, when the House Rules Committee is slated to take up the short-term continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government open past September 30. If Democrats add the debt limit hike to the CR, it will set up a showdown vote days before the shutdown deadline, since Senate Republicans are vowing to block it.

According to CNN, the U.S. Treasury has said extraordinary measures to avoid default will run out by October.

The memo outlines several key programs that would be halted if Congress fails to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, infrastructure funding, education, public healthcare, and child nutrition.

The memo also warned that “hitting the debt ceiling could cause a recession,” suggesting, “Economic growth would falter, unemployment would rise, and the labor market could lose millions of jobs.”

“If the U.S. defaults on its debt, cities and states could experience a double-whammy: falling revenues and no federal aid as long as Congress refuses to raise or suspend the debt limit. This means critical state services will be at risk for budget cuts, from education to healthcare to pensions,” the White House said.

It also warns that capital market volatility “could affect state assets,” which could impact state pension payout obligations.

The White House expressed confidence the matter would be resolved, but declined to say how.

“We have seen this done in a bipartisan way consistently. And the best way to do this is without a lot of drama, without a lot of self-inflicted harm to the economy and to our country. And that’s what we’re going to do, you know, there’s a lot of posturing on this issue, but we’re confident at the end of the day we’ll get this done,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said Friday, September 17, on MSNBC.

Research contact: @CNN

It’s a wrap! Arc de Triomphe is cloaked in fabric for posthumous Christo installation

September 16, 2021

Parisians were surprised on Sunday, September 12, to see more than 100 workers at the Arc de Triomphe monument—beginning to wrap the iconic landmark in a shimmering material, in an installation planned to be a posthumous homage to the artist Christo, reports Reuters.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” is expected to be completed and available for public viewing from September 18 through October 3, according to coverage by Veranda. When complete, the 50-meter high (55-yard), 19th century arch will diisplay 25,000 square meters (2,690,977 square feet) of silvery blue, recyclable plastic wrapping.

This project marks the culmination of the final two posthumous public works of art from Christo and his wife and artistic partner, Jeanne-Claude. In accordance with his wishes, the installation is being completed by his team, in partnership with the Centre des monuments nationaux (CMN); and with the support of the Centre Pompidou and Ville de Paris.

Like all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects, it will receive no public funding and has been entirely supported by sales from the couple’s original works of art. And 30 years after the couple’s Pont Neuf wrapping, this temporary artwork represents an homage to the couple’s creative vision and desire to make art accessible for all.

Imagined decades ago in 1961 by the late Bulgarian-born artist and his wife, both of whom died in 2009, “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” was finally brought to life by Christo’s nephew, Vladimir Yavatchev at a cost of about $16.54 million.

“The biggest challenge for me is that Christo is not here. I miss his enthusiasm, his criticisms, his energy and all of these things. That, for me, really is the biggest challenge,” Yavatchev told Reuters.

Christo, who spent part of his life in Paris and part in New York, once rented a small room near the famed Champs-Elysees avenue after moving to Paris in 1958, when he experimented with wrapping discarded crates and barrels with fabric and rope, according to an official site about the artist.

Christo, whose full name was Christo Javacheff, was known for his larger-than-life installations. He wrapped up a stretch of coastline in Australia and the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, and strung up a huge curtain in part of a canyon in Colorado. He worked closely with Jeanne-Claude on the projects.

The pair covered Paris’s Pont Neuf bridge in yellow cloth in 1985.

The Arc de Triomphe project, involving the most visited monument in Paris–which looms over one end of the Champs-Elysees—will still allow tourists to visit the site and its panoramic terrace. The monument is also home to a tribute to the Unknown Soldier, in the form of a flame of remembrance that is rekindled every day.

Research contact: @Reuters

iPhone 13: Apple reveals new version of its smartphone

September 16, 2021

Apple has revealed the iPhone 13. From the front, the new iPhone looks largely like its predecessor, the iPhone 12, with the same flat edges. But it does appear a little different on the back, where the cameras have been rearranged in a diagonal, The Independent reports.

And on the front, the “notch” that is cut into the top of the display is 20% smaller, Apple said. The company accomplished this by re-engineering the sensors in the top to enable them to take up less space.

The display itself also has been improved, Apple said, to be as much as 28% brighter when the iPhone is taken outside.

The phone also comes in a range of colors, including a new pinkish hue.

On the inside, the iPhone has been “completely re-architected”, Apple said—with new features and a bigger battery. The battery should last for 1.5 hours longer on the Mini, and 2.5 hours on the bigger iPhone 13, Apple said.

It is powered by the “A15 Bionic” chip, which, Apple claims, is the “fastest CPU in any smartphone”—although it compared its performance with its “leading competitor” rather than the existing processor in the iPhone 12.

The phone also has a new camera system that includes “vastly improved low-light performance,” Apple said.

For videos, Apple is introducing a new feature called “Cinematic Mode”, which will allow the focus to change quickly and dynamically in a way that the tech firm suggested would recall Hollywood films. It does that automatically, by using artificial intelligence to allow the device to create “cinema-grade videos”.

The normal, non-Pro version of the iPhone 13 will come in the same sizes as the iPhone 12—a medium-size model and a “Mini.” Like the iPhone 12, the 13 has 5G. But it has more antenna bands, which should allow it to work both more quickly and in more places. Apple also has  doubled the storage in the phones, meaning they now start at 128GB and go up to 512GB.

The Mini starts at $699, and the normal iPhone starts at $799, the same pricing as the iPhone 12. Some rumors had suggested that the price could be increased, as a result of processor shortages that have hit the entire technology industry.

Pre-orders will open on Friday, and they will go on sale a week later.

Research contact: @independent

Gavin Newsom wins in a walk; Elder tanks in recall

September 16, 2021

With about 70% of the projected vote counted, 63.9% of Californians voted against recalling Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom (D), while 36.1% voted for it—almost identical to Joe Biden’s 63%-34% win in the state in 2020, NBC News reports.

So how did Newsom do it, especially compared with the successful gubernatorial recall from 2003?

One, California is much more Democratic—and less Republican—than it was 18 years ago, when voters ousted Democratic Governor Gray Davis (D) and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

In 2003, California had 15 million registered voters. Of those, 6.7 million of them were registered Democrats (43.7%) and 5.4 million were registered Republicans (35.3%), with the rest Independent or other.

Now, California has 22 million registered voters, with 10.3 million of them Democrats (46.5%) and 5.3 million of them Republican (24.0%).

That’s right: Today there are 7 million more registered voters in California than there were back in 2003, but the number of Republicans has declined since then.

The second big reason that Newsom won has been the change inside the Republican Party over the last 18 years, in which Donald Trump is certainly no Ronald Reagan and in which Larry Elder is no Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Per the NBC News exit poll of last night’s race, 34% of all voters said they had a favorable view of Elder, versus 50% who said they had a negative view. (That’s compared with 55% in the exit poll who said they approved of Newsom’s job, versus 43% who disapproved.)

Over the last 30 years, successful and competitive GOP candidates (think Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson, even Meg Whitman) supported abortion rights and came (more or less) from the moderate wing of the GOP.

That doesn’t describe Elder, who opposes abortion rights and comes from the conservative wing of the party.

Outside of those two macro-trends in California, there’s a tactical reason why Newsom won so easily.He and his allies leaned heavily into masks and vaccines—especially as a way to motivate Democratic voters.

Per the exit poll, 63% of voters in the recall said getting the COVID vaccine is a public health responsibility, versus 34%, who said it’s a personal choice—which almost exactly matches the No-Yes margin on Tuesday night, September 14.

And on masks, 70% of voters said they supported California requiring children to wear masks in school, and they voted against the recall by an 80%-to-20% margin, according to the exit poll.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Overeating doesn’t cause obesity? Scientists claim it’s all about what you’re eating, not how much

September 15, 2021

There may be no need to turn down that second portion and push back from the table. A team of scientists now says it’s  actually what you eat, not how much you eat that leads to obesity, Study Finds reports.

Their study finds processed food and rapidly digestible carbohydrates may be what’s really behind society’s growing waistline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of American adults classify as obese. This places nearly half the population at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, the USDA’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020 to 2025 maintains that losing weight “requires adults to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase the amount expended through physical activity.”

However, lead author Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School,  says that this age-old energy balance model for weight loss doesn’t actually work in a world full of highly palatable, heavily marketed, cheap processed foods. Indeed, he points out, despite years of public health messaging about eating less and exercising more, cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases continue to rise.

His team claims that its new carbohydrate-insulin model better explains the global trend towards obesity and weight gain, noting that the model even points to more effective and long-lasting weight loss strategies.

“During a growth spurt, for instance, adolescents may increase food intake by 1,000 calories a day. But does their overeating cause the growth spurt, or does the growth spurt cause the adolescent to get hungry and overeat?” asks Dr. Ludwig in a media release.

But if overeating is not the main cause of weight gain, what is? The real culprit is processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates.

The study finds such foods also cause hormonal responses which alter an eater’s metabolism, drive fat storage, and lead to weight gain. When people consume carbohydrates, the body increases the amount of insulin it secretes. This signals fat cells to store more calories and leaves fewer calories for the body to use as muscle fuel.

As a result, the brain thinks the body isn’t getting enough energy to keep going and starts sending out the hunger signals. Moreover, the researchers say, a person’s metabolism can also slow down as the body tries to “conserve fuel. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves people thinking they’re still hungry and continuing to pile on more non-filling food.

Reducing consumption of the rapidly digestible carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era lessens the underlying drive to store body fat. As a result, people may lose weight with less hunger and struggle,” Dr. Ludwig says.

The findings appear in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Men need not apply to world’s largest e-scooter factory

September 15, 2021

Ola Electric Mobility’s new electric-scooter factory in India aims to build 10 million two-wheelers annually—or 15% of the world’s e-scooters by 2022—in an operation run and managed entirely by women, Bloomberg reports.

Led by Bhavish Aggarwal, the e-mobility business is a follow-up to ride-hailing startup Ola. It is expected to make its debut on public markets next year. The vision for his newest venture is to provide the world “clean mobility, a carbon-negative footprint, and an inclusive workforce,” the founder said.

The first group of workers started this week at the factory in Krishnagiri, about 2.5 hours southeast of Bangalore, which will cost $330 million to complete. “At full capacity, Futurefactory will employ over 10,000 women, making it the world’s largest women-only factory and the only all-women automotive manufacturing facility globally,” he wrote in a blog on Monday, September 13.

Backed by SoftBank Group and Tiger Global Management, Ola Electric looks to roll out a scooter every two seconds after completing a planned expansion next year.

According to Bloomberg, the factory will be substantially automated and include 3,000 robots working alongside the all-female workforce.

Aggarwal’s goal is to eventually assemble a full lineup of electric vehicles including three-wheelers and cars. Ola’s inaugural S1 e-scooter will be priced at 99,999 rupees ($1,360) to compete with traditional two-wheelers in India. Exports are to begin later this year.

“Enabling women with economic opportunities improves not just their lives, but that of their families and indeed the whole community,” Aggarwal said. Women’s participation in the local manufacturing industry stands at just 12% and, “for India to be the world’s manufacturing hub, we must prioritize upskilling and generating employment for our women workforce,” the founder said in the company’s blog.

Research contact: @business

Obama, Bush, and Clinton join forces with new organization helping Afghan evacuees

September 15, 2021

Three of the nation’s four most recent former presidents are coming together to offer their support to a new organization that aims to assist Afghan evacuees who are resettling in the United States after fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, reports the Forbes Alert.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, as well as former First Ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama, are joining Welcome.US as honorary co-chairs “to lift up everyone else involved and remind us that this is our opportunity, in a time of all too much division, for common purpose,” the group’s website states.

The organization, which launched on Tuesday, September 14, also boasts a Welcome Council comprising former and current government officials from both parties, military and business leaders, and activists. It brings together a coalition of organizations helping Afghan allies as they arrive in the U.S. and businesses making financial or in-kind contributions to resettlement efforts.

On its home page, Welcome.US says, “Across party, faith, geography, age, background, and beyond, Americans are uniting for newcomers. More than 280 front-line organizations, leaders, and businesses have already joined the Welcome.US community—not to stand up an organization, but to inspire all Americans to also make the choice to serve. Write to partners@welcome.us if you, too, want to get involved. This is only day one.”

 Indeed, Welcome.US bills itself as a “first of its kind national organization that will engage Americans and mobilize support across sectors for Afghan refugees” and said in a press release it will provide a “single point of entry for Americans who want to get involved” with helping Afghans who have fled the country.

After the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, the Biden administration launched the largest military evacuation in U.S. history—airlifting more than 122,000 people from the main airport in Kabul, including roughly 5,500 Americans, before President Joe  Biden’s August 31 deadline for withdrawing the final U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

According to Forbes, the Administration now is tasked with resettling more than 50,000 Afghan evacuees, overwhelming the U.S. refugee resettlement system. Since mid-August, the U.S. has admitted roughly 24,000 of the Afghans it relocated from Kabul, and most are being temporarily housed at eight military installations, where they are undergoing medical screenings and additional processing. Another approximately 39,000 have remained at military bases in Europe and the Middle East.

After the Afghan evacuees complete their processing at the military bases, they are connected with resettlement agencies, which help them to find affordable housing and jobs. But the volume of refugees arriving in the U.S. has strained resettlement agency resources, prompting the groups to secure short-term lodging through hotel chains and Airbnb rentals.

Welcome.US is stepping up, with the help of the former presidents and Welcome Council, to become a nationwide “welcome wagon.”

Research contact: @Forbes

Beyond words: Why words become harder to remember as we get older

September 14, 2021

As we age, we find it increasingly difficult to have the right words ready at the right moment—even though our vocabulary actually grows continuously over the course of our lives. Now we know a little bit more about the reasons why, Medical Xpress reports.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University of Leipzig—both, in Germany—believe that they have identified the networks in the brain that change our communication over time, making it less efficient.

The researchers investigated these connections with the help of two groups—younger study participants between the ages of 20 and 35 and older ones between the ages of 60 and 70. Both groups were asked to name words from certain categories—among them, animals, metals, or vehicles– while they were being scanned using MRI technology.

It became clear that both age groups were good at finding words. However, the younger ones were somewhat faster. The reason for this could be the different brain activities. For one thing, not only were the language areas themselves more active in the younger participants; they also showed a more intensive exchange within two decisive networks:

The reverse was true for older people. Here, executive areas showed stronger activity, indicating that the task was more difficult for these individuals overall. In addition, the exchange within the crucial networks was less effective than in the younger people. The older group was most likely to benefit from inter-network exchange, but this is associated with losses.

“Communication within neuronal networks is more efficient and thus faster than between them,” explains Sandra Martin, Ph.D. student at MPI CBS and first author of the underlying study.

Why these activity patterns shift with age has not yet been fully explained. One theory, says Martin, is that as people age, they rely more on the linguistic knowledge they have, so exchanges between networks come into focus, while younger people rely more on their fast-working memory and cognitive control processes. “On the structural level, the loss of grey matter in the brain could also play a role, which is compensated for by the exchange between networks,” says Martin.

The research was published in Cerebral Cortex.

Research contact: @xpress_medical