Posts made in October 2021

What a hoot! California vineyards halt use of toxic chemicals to protect grapes in favor of nesting owls

October 25, 2021

Napa Valley vintners are increasingly turning toward winged-laborers for their pest control—and away from super toxic pesticides that poison everything, including their wine, Good News Network reports.

Barn owls, in particular, but also hawks and other birds of prey, known as raptors, are being welcomed onto vineyards across California for their skill in rat-catching, vole-estation, and gopher-gobbling—and scientists studying the impact of these strategies are finding encouraging results.

For years, vintners in California were proud of the certain je ne sais quoi, inherent in their wines, which made Napa a world class destination for growing grapes.

But, they were using super-toxic “rodent-icides,” a type of poison used to kill the mice and voles that munch on vines. The poison had become an industry standard in the state up until the 1980s; when raptors, trapping, and other more holistic methods became more popular.

According to the environmental nonprofit, Napa Green, a trend toward chemical-free farming statewide is reflected in the threefold increase of organic winegrape acreage since 2005—with the number of organic acres doubling in just the last decade.

The organization says, “Napa Green Vineyard certification provides a pathway for growers to improve soil health; become carbon neutral to negative within six to nine years; and increase the resilience of vineyards, businesses, and our community.

One of the world’s most efficient pest controllers is the barn owl, which is found on six out of seven continents worldwide and is capable of eating 3,400 rodents each year.

Matt Johnson is a wildlife professor at Humboldt State University who began a program years ago to study raptor pest control in vineyards and research the results. One of his surveys found that, of 75 California wine makers, 80% purposely invite owls onto their property by constructing nest boxes.

“We’re working mainly in Napa Valley, where there are over 300 barn owl nest boxes,” Johnson wrote on his department’s webpage.

“You can literally put a barn owl nest box in the exact location where you think you have a problem with the small mammals, and voilà! The owls will start using that area,” John C. Robinson, a local ornithologist, told Bay Nature Magazine.

Johnson and his graduate students have found that barn owls like their boxes to sit about 9 feet off the ground, face away from the sun, adjacent to an unkempt field, and preferably far from forested acres.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

The super-rich are forming an exclusive new club

October 25, 2021

Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

He wouldn’t have to worry about that problem at a new, invitation-only investment and networking group for people with a net worth of $100 million or more. The club, called R360, routinely turns away billionaires who aspire to a membership that includes rarified amenities.

Indeed, for $180,000, a three-year membership includes investments opportunities, access to West Point generals, confidential support groups, and private getaways, Bloomberg reports.

Recently, two billionaires were among those nominated to join R360. Neither of them made it past the membership committee, according to Charles Garcia, one of the group’s managing partners.

“I took some grief for that,” said the 60-year-old entrepreneur, a consummate networker who founded Sterling Financial Investment Group in the late 1990s and chaired South Florida chapters of wealth network Tiger 21– an exclusive peer membership organization of high-net-worth entrepreneurs, investors, and executives— for many years.

Garcia explains, “One person seemed to want to leverage the group to benefit their own business activities, and the other didn’t want to integrate his family.”

Neither of those are in line with the values considered core to the group. Members with those values — which include honor, entrepreneurial grit, and generosity of spirit — are invited to go on a “journey” to gain mastery across six kinds of capital: financial, intellectual, spiritual, human, emotional and social.

There are countless formal and informal networks for wealthy individuals and families, and R360 aims to find a place among them. Tiger 21, perhaps the most widely known group, has nearly 1,000 members paying dues of $30,000 a year.

For the ultra-wealthy, these groups provide a sort of confidential, supercharged coaching network on everything from figuring out one’s purpose in life to learning more about philanthropy to understanding the blockchain.

Then there are philanthropic networks, such as the invite-only Synergos Global Philanthropy Circle, founded by Peggy Dulany and her late father, David Rockefeller, with more than 100 member families around the world. Like R360, GPC describes membership as a journey—a year-long cycle of “inspiring, engaging and connecting philanthropists and social investors to create a better world.” Dues are $25,000 a year.

R360 is set up as a limited partnership, with 48 founding partner, who contribute  $350,000 each, which equates to about a 60% ownership. The group wants to add about 50 members a year until reaching 500 in the United States and 500 abroad.

 Garcia stresses that R360 will never be sold, and that “the idea is to have this around 100, 200 years from now.”

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Biden is open to scrapping filibuster for voting rights bill—‘and maybe more’

October 25, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Thursday, October 21, that he was open to ending the Senate filibuster in order to enable Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, raise the federal debt limit, and possibly enact other parts of his agenda that have been blocked by Republicans, The New York Times reports.

However, addressing a CNN town hall meeting that night, the president said that ending the filibuster—a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to kill legislation that fails to garner 60 votes—would have to wait until after he secured passage of his spending bills, which are under negotiation on Capitol Hill.

 The president said he would lose “at least three votes” on his social policy bill if he pushed an end to the filibuster. He did not say which senators he would lose.

Biden was blunt about his intentions once the debate over the spending bills was over, according to the Times. He said the need to pass sweeping voting rights legislation favored by Democrats is “equally as consequential” as the debt limit vote, which protects the full faith and credit of the United States.

Asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, the host of the event, whether that meant he would be open to ending the use of the filibuster so that Democrats could pass a voting rights bill, Biden said, “and maybe more.”

The president said that activists who are pushing to end the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation “make a very good point,” adding, “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.”

Liberal activists have grown increasingly frustrated with Biden over the past several months as Republicans used the filibuster to prevent action on major parts of the Democratic agenda. They have accused the president and his allies in Congress of being too passive by refusing to change the rules.

On Wednesday, October 20, Republicans blocked action on legislation to bolster voting rights for the third time since Biden took office. All 50 Democrats and independents supported bringing the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) to the floor, but all 50 Republicans voted against doing so—thwarting legislation that Democrats say would counter efforts in Republican-controlled states to impose new voting restrictions.

Some Democrats have urged the president to push for modifications to the filibuster so that he can pass an immigration overhaul, address prison reform, and enact more ambitious climate change legislation. If the filibuster remains intact, they argue, Biden will leave office with half his priorities unmet.

“Black and Brown voters are tired of the same scene playing out over and over,” Stephany R. Spaulding, a spokeswoman for Just Democracy, said in a statement last week. “We launch herculean mobilizations to get Democrats elected. Democrats bring legislation to the floor that would benefit communities of color, and Republicans won’t even engage in a good-faith debate.”

“Senate Democrats can no longer divorce the filibuster from the promises and issues they ran on,” she added. “They must act with urgency to get rid of the filibuster.”

Research contact: @nytimes

This baby and his swim instructor are friendship goals

October 22, 2021

A baby and his swim lesson instructor are the cutest friends and now the two are going viral on TikTok.

Tracey Martorana put her son, Lucas, now ten months old, in group swim lessons at three months at Saf-T-Swim in Wantagh, New York. He immediately formed a bond with one of the swim instructors, Carlson Rogers, and has been doing private lessons once a week with him ever since.

“Being a pandemic baby, our circle is really small,” Martorana recently told ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. “He knows the grandparents, immediate family and then there’s Carlson. Carlson is a part of our crew.”

Martorana said Carlson is the best swim instructor for Lucas because he goes with the flow and doesn’t push him too hard. If Lucas is crying, she said Carlson will give him time to sort it out; but if Lucas is splashing, he loves to splash and play along with him.

“I love watching the relationship,” Martorana said. “Carlson is a big strapping man and Lucas loves to hug him and hold onto him.”

While Lucas was at a recent swim lesson, Martorana took a video of a touching moment between Lucas and Carlson and posted it to TikTok.

“The comment section is hysterical. Everyone loves Carlson,” Martorana said. “I think it was just something important for people to see. Love knows no bounds.”

Research contact: @GMA

Mesa Air moves into drone food delivery

October 22, 2021

Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, the holding company for the regional carrier Mesa Air, announced on October 21 that it has sealed an agreement with Reno-based aerospace technology company Flirtey to order four delivery drones, with an option to order an additional 500 aircraft.

The agreement makes Mesa  the first scheduled airline to launch drone delivery in the United States, the company claims .

Mesa and Flirtey initially plan to focus on the last-mile food delivery industry, enabling Mesa to expand beyond the global airlines market and into the global food service market. The immediate goal of the partnership is to conduct commercial drone deliveries in the last-mile food and beverage market in the United States. The parties plan to expand the drone delivery service, both nationally and in New Zealand.

With this agreement, Flirtey, the aircraft designer and manufacturer, is supplying it’s best-in-class technology including the Flirtey Eagle, an electric powered, advanced drone that conducts precision delivery to homes and businesses, and Flirtey’s autonomous software platform that conducts autonomous flight operations, for Mesa to operate commercial drone delivery.

The partnership will prioritize operational excellence and data collection, enabling rapid expansion with Mesa’s operational experience as a leading regional air carrier with approximately 450 daily departures nationwide and Flirtey’s technical experience—having conducted over 6,000 drone delivery flights in the United States, with its technology protected by over 1,000 patents claims issued and pending in America and worldwide. Flirtey recently expanded production of delivery drones to meet growing demand. Flirtey’s aircraft are made in the United States.

“Mesa is excited to partner with Flirtey to become the first scheduled airline to launch drone delivery in the U.S. Drone delivery is a huge market and it’s here now. This is the future of small package last mile delivery,” said Mesa Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein.

“Flirtey is excited to partner with Mesa to operationalize our best-in-class drone delivery aircraft and autonomous software platform. With Mesa’s operational excellence, we look forward to rapidly expanding drone delivery focusing on the trillion dollar last-mile food delivery market,” said Flirtey Founder and CEO Matthew Sweeny.

Research contact: @MesaAirlines

Voting legislation blocked—again—in Senate as Republicans unite for filibuster

October 22, 2021

Senate Republicans unanimously filibustered a major bill known as the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) on Wednesday, October 2—legislation that would allow automatic and same-day voter registration, and also would make Election Day a holiday, NBC News reports.

The 49-51 vote on the procedural motion was short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation to the next stagemarking the second time this year that Republicans have prevented a Democratic-backed voting bill from moving forward.

The measure had full Democratic support Wednesday after the party scaled back an earlier, more expansive bill to win the backing of centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

All 50 Democratic-voting senators backed the bill, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) changed his vote to “no” to allow him to request another vote in the future, a common procedural maneuver.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had vowed on Tuesday that Republicans would oppose the measure, saying, “It is my hope and anticipation that none of us will vote for this latest iteration of Democratic efforts to take over how every American votes all over the country.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Republican who has been most willing to engage with Democrats over voting rights, explained her vote to block the bill earlier, saying she was more interested in the House-passed John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4).

According to NBC, The Freedom to Vote Act would allow automatic and same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail voting. It would give states flexibility in implementing some provisions, like early voting, and make Election Day a holiday. It also would seek to protect federal election records and insulate nonpartisan state and local election officials from undue interference.

Schumer had said the bill was a “balanced” and “common sense” proposal to protect the right to vote from restrictive state laws, including those inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election.

“Across the country, the big lie—the big li —has spread like a cancer,” Schumer said Wednesday before the vote. “The Freedom to Vote Act would provide long overdue remedies for all these concerns.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement after the vote that the Senate “needs to act to protect the sacred constitutional right to vote, which is under unrelenting assault by proponents of the Big Lie, and Republican Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys-General, and state legislatures across the nation.”

“It is urgent,” he added. “Democracy — the very soul of America — is at stake.”

Biden’s statement did not mention making any changes to the long-standing filibuster rule that requires 60 votes for most legislation to proceed in the Senate. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) have indicated that they are unwilling to alter the rule.

Schumer had framed Wednesday’s vote as merely a step to begin debate, and he had promised that Republicans would “be able to offer amendments” to change the bill as they see fit.

A Senate vote in June to advance the For the People Act, a broader voting rights bill, was split 50-50 along party lines—falling short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.

Research contact: @NBCNews

‘You are as old as you feel’: Queen Elizabeth II refuses ‘Oldie of the Year’ award

October 21, 2021

Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 95 last April, has declined an award for “Oldie of the Year” from a British magazine, with a polite—if slightly cheeky—response, reports Page Six of The New York Post.

“Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel; as such the Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept and hopes you find a more worthy recipient,” Tom Laing-Baker, the Queen’s assistant private secretary, said in a letter shared by the magazine on Tuesday, October 19.

The Oldie, a British monthly, is aimed at the mature set “as a light-hearted alternative to a press obsessed with youth and celebrity,” its website trumpets. Every year the editors bestow an Oldie of the Year award in a light-hearted ceremony. Previous winners have included Eileen Atkins, Glenda Jackson, Peter Blake, and David Hockney.

But at least one member of the royal family approves of the ceremony. The Queen’s daughter-in-law, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, turned up at Oldie’s awards lunch to hand out honors like Champion Knitter of the Year and Truly Scrumptious Oldie of the Year.

In her remarks, Camilla, 74, acknowledged the advantages of aging: “Watching one’s children growing up; enjoying one’s grandchildren—knowing that they’ll be going home after the visit; finding more time to read; finding time to read The Oldie—and coming to jolly lunches like this one,” Prince Charles’s wife said, according to People.

The Oldie magazine clearly has a soft spot for the Royal Family. The Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip, who passed away in April at age 99, was named Consort of the Year at the awards in 2012.

He accepted the award warmly, writing: “There is nothing like it for morale to be reminded that the years are passing—ever more quickly,” and adding, “but it is nice to be remembered at all.”

Research contact: @PageSix

The incredible disappearing hotel breakfast—and other amenities travelers miss

October 21, 2021

Hotel guests are finding that perks they’ve long expected, like free breakfast or drinks, are still being advertised even when they are no longer available, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Eighteen months into the pandemic, travelers say they keep encountering misleading and false promises on hotel websites.

Indeed, they complain of finding the elite-level lounges, free breakfast or happy-hour receptions with snacks unavailable—sometimes even when hotels claim they’ve been restored.

Indeed, the Journal notes, some road warriors say they routinely call ahead now to find out what the hotel has cut. Guests often see compensation for service cuts only after complaining.

The biggest difference between business-class rooms and regular rooms at Radisson Hotels is breakfast. It’s included with a business-class booking but not when paying regular rates. Except many U.S. Radissons still haven’t reopened restaurants, so every guest gets a grab-and-go breakfast.

“Business class is for when the restaurant is open and you get a cooked breakfast, not for right now,” says a front-desk clerk at the Radisson Schaumburg, Ilinois, near Chicago.

Somebody ought to tell Radisson’s website and reservations department. The chain was still selling business-class rooms at higher prices as of Tuesday afternoon, October 19. A one-night stay this week costs $5 more. But book five mid-November nights at the Schaumburg hotel and a regular king-bed room costs $94 a night, while a business-class king is $219 for the same dates. For that money, you’re basically getting some bonus points and drink vouchers.

Radisson didn’t respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

It isn’t always clear whether service reductions are due to COVID-19 safety precautions or cost-cutting. Some hotels are offering hot buffets on weekends, when they’re full, but no hot breakfast on weekdays, when occupancy is lower because of weak business travel.

Roger Hooson, a recently retired urban planner from the San Francisco Bay Area, called the Hyatt Regency St. Louis. They told him the restaurant had reopened and he’d get free breakfast, since he’s at a top tier of Hyatt’s loyalty program. He arrived earlier this month and was told yes, the restaurant had indeed reopened, but not on the days of his visit.

“It’s a shifting target,” he says. A spokesperson for Hyatt says its hotels try to find alternatives for eligible World of Hyatt members when complimentary breakfast isn’t available.

Hotel chains have almost universally posted notices on their websites that some amenities may not be available at some properties because of the pandemic. But drill down to offerings at specific hotels, and often nothing has been updated.

“We are now past the point where the pandemic is a temporary excuse,” says Jay Sorensen, a consultant to travel companies on branding and loyalty. “In today’s environment, it should be so simple to effectively convey what is happening or not happening on a property-by-property basis, and they are not.”

Sorensen told the Journal that he thinks many hotels are damaging the credibility of their websites and apps as sources of accurate information about properties—and how people view their brands, too. If your brand is free hot breakfasts and you’re not consistently providing them, you’ve got a problem.

Similarly, Karl Chang of Richmond, Virginia, who retired during the pandemic but continues to travel frequently, says he avoids full-service Marriotts because his titanium status no longer gets him any amenities such as free breakfast or loyalty-member lounges. Grab-and-go offerings often amount to high-calorie breakfast bars and other processed foods.

Instead, he now gravitates to limited-service hotels that still have a free breakfast for everyone, albeit with reduced offerings. Some hotels will compensate guests for reduced amenities by offering bonus points or even gift cards toward future stays.

“It’s something you have to ask for,” Chang notes. “Hotels may not be volunteering these extra benefits.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Cheney drops bombshell—suggesting Trump ‘was personally involved in the planning of January 6th’

October 21, 2021

On Tuesday, October 19, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) issued a blistering assessment of the decision by former President Donald Trump and ally Steve Bannon to stonewall the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol, reports Raw Story.

After dismantling Bannon’s claims that he is protected by executive privilege from testifying before the committee, Cheney speculated that Trump and Bannon have very personal reasons for not wanting any testimony to go forward.

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th,” she said. “And we will get to the bottom of that.”

Cheney also cited Bannon’s statements on January 5th in which he seemed to anticipate that violent mayhem would break out the next day as Congress worked to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said.

Research contact: @RawStory

Party hearty: Non-alcoholic ‘euphoric beverages’ claim to let you socially lubricate without booze

October 19, 2021

If you’re tired of turning to alcohol to loosen up while socializing, there is a new alternative: Euphoric beverages, like those from Kin Euphorics—co-founded by supermodel and activist Bella Hadid and Jen Batchelor—claim to be non-alcoholic drinks that can enhance your mood without getting you drunk.

Perhaps more importantly, they allow you to socially lubricate without giving you a hangover the next morning, reports Futurism.

Along with Kin Spritz, High Rhode, and Dream Light, the Kin Euphorics line of beverages now also includes  Kin Lightwave. The flavor of Kin Lightwave combines lavender-vanilla, birch, and smoked sea salts into what the company calls “a refreshing and tasty rainbow.”

Bu, the founders recently told Futurism , the flavor is far from the only reason to enjoy Lightwave. Its euphoric properties come from its active ingredients of Reishi Mushroom, Saffron, L-Tryptophan. While responses to Kin euphorics differ, some of the most commonly reported sensations include a sense of calm, clearer thinking, and better social connections.

The main ingredients all come down to adaptogens, nootropics, and botanics.

Reishi Mushroom and Passionflower are adaptogens that boost your adrenal system and give your body more balanced and healthy stress responses.

Lightwave’s nootropics are L-Theanine, L-Serine, L-Tryptophan, and Magnesium Glycinate— which come together to give your brain a much needed boost, the company claims.

Then, there are botanics like Lavender Extract, Cinnamon, Saffron, and Gentian Root, which, Kin Euphorics notes, give the beverage flavor and aroma as well as a feeling of calm and relaxation, plus a handy boost to your body’s immune system.

Inside each can of Kin Lightwave you’re likely to find a sense of calm, a boost to your brainpower, and better, clearer social interactions. That, plus its one-of-a-kind flavor, means you’ll probably want to enjoy one or two more. But Kin recommends you hold yourself to four cans of Lightwave at most in a 24-hour period.

If you’re interested in non-alcoholic Kin Lightwave, you can order a pack of eight cans for $30, or save a little by purchasing a 16-pack for $56. And you can save even more and have it shipped for free by going for a monthly subscription.

Research contact: @kineuphorics