Americans eager to begin celebrating Juneteenth as a federal holiday on Saturday

June 18, 2021

On Saturday, June 19, Americans will mark Juneteenth National Independence Day as their 12th legal public holiday—and the first new one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan, CNBC reports.

President Joe Biden was set to sign a bill on Thursday  establishing Juneteenth, the date marking the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday. The 3:30 p.m. (EDT) signing event at the White House came two days before Juneteenth itself, which falls on June 19 each year.

Juneteenth marks the date that the last enslaved African Americans were granted their freedom. On that day in 1865, Union soldiers led by General Gordon Granger arrived in the coastal city of Galveston, Texas, to deliver General Order No. 3, officially ending slavery in the state.

CNBC notes that the final act of liberation came months after the Confederate army’s surrender ended the Civil War, and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The holiday legislation passed this week with overwhelming support in both chambers of Congress. The Senate approved the bill unanimously  on June 15 and the House passed it in a 415-14 vote.

The Juneteenth legislation was sponsored in the Senate by Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts). The House version, sponsored by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was co-sponsored by 166 lawmakers.

The only votes against the bill came from Republicans. On the House floor before the vote, some GOP lawmakers complained about the name of the holiday, and others expressed concern about the cost of giving the federal workforce another day off. Some also railed against Democrats for pushing the bill to a vote without first allowing committees to examine the legislation and offer amendments.

Still, most House Republicans, even those who objected to parts of the bill, ended up voting for it.

The 14 no votes were entered into the record by the following Representatives: p. Mo Brooks (R-Alabam, Andy Biggs ( R-Arizona), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee). Tom Tiffany (R-Wisconsin),  Doug LaMalfa (R-California), Mike Rogers (R-Alabama), Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina), Chip Roy (R-Texas), Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), Tom McClintock (R-California), Matt Rosendale (R-Montana), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), and Andrew Clyde (R-Georgia).

Research contact: @CNBC

Should you see a psychodermatologist?

June 17, 2021

Get ready for a new term in your skin-care lexicon: psychodermatology, Allure reports.

A relatively new medical specialization, psychodermatology primarily addresses skin concerns that could be linked stress and anxiety. Some of the doctors practicing it even have dual degrees in dermatology and psychiatry.

Overall, however, patients consult psychodermatologists to treat four kinds of psychopathologies: Depression, anxiety, obsessive behaviors, and delusions.

Obsessive behaviors can be seen in repetitive disorders such as  trichotillomania (the so-called “hair-pulling disorder”); while delusions would include parasitosis, which leads people to incorrectly believe that their skin is infested by parasites or insects.

But it’s the first two type —depression and anxiety—that may have more universal implications. While psychodermatology can be used to help address psoriasis, eczema, hyperhidrosis, and alopecia, the benefits can go beyond that to even more common worries like acne and age-related concerns, Allure reports.

That last one may come as a surprise, but according to Amy Wechsler, a dermatologist and psychiatrist in private practice in New York City, a reduction of stress boosts collagen production which can plump lines and wrinkles and help to icnrease cell turnover. “[You remember] what it feels like to go on vacation and people at work are like, ‘Wow, you look great?'” It’s proof, she insists, that in just seven days of tackling stress, she says, “you can see it on your skin.”

Currently, psychodermatology is considered a niche practice in the United States with established clinics devoted to it only found in seven U.S. cities (Rochester, New York; New York City; Tampa, Florida; Saginaw, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; Kansas City, KS; and San Francisco)according to the Association for Psychocutaneous Medicine of North America.

But lately, it’s also been popping up in newspaper articles and even inspiring new skin-care lines—like Loum, based on the ingredient neurophroline derived from wild indigo, which the brand claims reduces cortisol levels in the skin.

The practice includes the same familiar topicals and treatments that you’ll see at a traditional dermatology practice, but with the addition of other strategies as needed—among them:

  • Interpersonal therapy,
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (meant to address distorted thoughts that could be adding anxiety),
  • Hypnosis (which has some evidence that it could be beneficialfor certain skin conditions, including warts); and
  • Recommendations for sleep hygiene and mind-body practices like meditation and yoga.

If it’s appropriate, there may also be a psychological medication prescribed, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, if the patient exhibits symptoms of depression that could be a contributing factor to the state of their skin.

The effects can have far-reaching impacts on quality of life. “The mind is very tightly linked to the skin, particularly through the sensory nerves that reach the very superficial surface of the skin,” explains Francisco Tausk, dermatologist, past president of the APMA, and head of the Center for Integrated Dermatology.

“These nerves release into the skin small neuropeptides that have a very strong influence on cutaneous physiology and how the skin behaves in health and disease.” Some of these neuropeptides: cortisol, adrenaline, and substance P.

Wechsler takes the example of cortisol, which when chronically raised, can cause a host of problems including inflammation and collagen breakdown. What that can lead to: “Premature aging, acne, eczema, psoriasis—you name it. The skin barrier doesn’t work well, so you get more sensitive to allergens.” In other words, she says, “All sorts of bad stuff happens.”

According to Allure, psychodermatology appointments, just like separate appointments in either field, are highly individualized—depending greatly on the doctor’s practices and the patient’s needs. For example, Wechsler prefers to send her patients to outside specialists when psychological medications are needed, and instead focuses her own practice largely on active listening therapies. Other practices offer additional psychology-based strategies within the practice itself.

Regardless, you’ll still walk away with a regimen. It just may be a little longer and touch on more disciplines than you might be used to discussing with your derm. And that may include more in-office work and even homework, like doing yoga a couple of times a week.

Finally, dealing with elevated cortisol levels on your skin may get easier as interest increases and experts and brands find ways to address it. Loum founder Kat Bryce sees potential for us all to benefit as the United States wakes up to the link between mental health and our complexions. After developing her line, she and her partners are believers. “Now we see the fundamental impact of stress on skin, we hope more developments will come in this space as the need is enormous and the opportunity for effective solutions vast,” she says.

Research contact: @Allure_magazine

Field of dreams: College grad honors parents with photos in fields where they earned her tuition

June 16, 2021

A recent graduate of the University of California-San Diego decided to honor her parents by taking graduation photos in the farm fields where they worked to support her education, reports Good Morning America.

Jennifer Rocha, who graduated from UC San Diego on Saturday, June 12, told GMA that she wanted to thank her parents for their support by taking graduation photos in the fields where she worked alongside them since high school. The heartfelt tribute was posted on the university’s Facebook page on Wednesday and has since gone viral.

“I wanted to take those pictures out there, specifically in the field, because that’s what made me go to college,” Rocha told “GMA. “That was my dad’s lesson of saying, if you don’t pursue a higher education, you’re going to be working here the rest of your life.”

She started working in the fields with her parents when she was a junior in high school. Each day, she would leave cross country practice to go home and work planting strawberries overnight.

“It was tough labor,” Rocha said as she remembered working late nights in the fields. “I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t want to be doing this my whole life.'”

Rocha, raised in Coachella, California, said her parents encouraged her and her siblings to pursue a higher education. Growing up, she looked up to her older sisters as role models, because they both graduated from college and she wanted to “follow their footsteps.”

“My dad always told us that his dream was for us to get a college degree,” Rocha told GMA. “My parents have been working as migrant field workers since they were like 6 or 7 years of age. I always saw them providing for us first before them.”

Completing the past four years of college was not always an easy feat for Rocha. While being a full-time student, she also worked at the university’s police department to help pay for her tuition. To reduce the financial burden on her parents, she lived in her older sister’s apartment instead of the dorms for all four years and commuted to and from school each day.

The recent graduate said she worked long hours to fund her education. At times, her work shifts wouldn’t end until 4a.m. or 5 a.m., leaving only a few hours to spre before the next class.

“I have class at like 8 a.m., and it’s not worth me driving and then coming back,” Rocha said. “So, I would just nap in my car and then go to class after that.”

“It was tough times, but I mean, we got that diploma,” she added.

Rocha, 21, earned a degree in sociology with an emphasis in law and society. She said she will use her education to pursue a career in law enforcement.  Her goal is to increase Latino representation in the field and “help take the criminals off the streets, those that are actual criminals,” she said.

“Being the first one in my family to do law enforcement, that just brings like a whole other level of pride for [my parents],” she added.

Rocha hopes her photos and her story will be an inspiration to immigrant families. She said it was important to include her parents in her graduation photos because, “I wanted to not just honor them but honor all the migrant skilled workers, because a lot of times they aren’t recognized and we forget about them.”

“My parents being migrant workers were able to have three girls get their college education, and you can do it, too, and your kids can,” she said.

Research contact: @GMA

Seeing eye-to-eye: Why we love pugs—and other snub-nosed dogs

June 15, 2021

If you’ve ever wondered why some dogs seem eager to make eye contact with people and others don’t, a new study offers some clues.

Dogs that are snub-nosed, young. or playful—and those that have been bred to respond to visual cues, such as shepherd breeds—are the most likely to look directly into the human eye, researchers have found. And it’s that loving eye contact with a dog that can help build a close bond with humans, NBC News reports.

Eye contact is a very important signal for us humans,” says the study’s lead author, Zsófia Bognár, a Ph.D. student in the department of Ethology and a research member of the Senior Family Dog Project at Eötvös Loránd University in Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Shorter-headed dogs—among them, boxers, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers and pug— have that earnest gaze because their eyes are structured differently from those of other dogs; they have more retinal ganglion cells, which are responsible for initial processing visual information in the center of their visual fields, the researchers said. That means they can more easily focus on what’s in front of them, such as human owners.

What’s more, puppies and playful canines also are more likely to stare into their owners’ eyes. The working or herding dogs are a natural, because they are bred to “perform their tasks alongside humans,” Bognár said. “They are in continuous visual contact with their owner or handler.”

By contrast, dogs with long snouts have eyes more geared to peripheral vision; that is, seeing what is beside them, rather than what is in front of them..

While some dogs might naturally seek eye contact, that doesn’t mean others can’t learn, Bognár said in an email to the network. “Although dog-human eye contact can be affected by at least four independent traits on the dogs’ side, it does not mean that these are the only things [that] determine your relationship with your dog.”

Other studies have shown that humans and dogs benefit from locking eyes: Levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, rise for both species when they make and hold eye contact.

To explore what factors might make eye contact more likely, Bognár and her colleagues rounded up 125 family dogs for the behavior experiment. All the dogs were run through a battery of tests, which started with the dogs’ meeting an unfamiliar experimenter. In a later part of the series, the dogs were invited to play with the experimenter.MARCH 29, 202106:00

The tenth test evaluated the dogs’ willingness to make eye contact with their new human friends.

In that test, a researcher stood in the middle of a room in the lab with a food pouch attached to her belt, called the dog to her, and threw a piece of sausage on the ground when the dog arrived. The experimenter then stood still and waited until the dog made eye contact with her and then rewarded the dog with another bit of sausage.

What they found was that, even among dogs that didn’t lock eyes during the experiment, the pooches were willing to be trained to do it.

“You can improve your dog’s willingness to form eye contact, which could improve your relationship, too,” Bognár told NBC News.

Indeed, Dr. Katherine Houpt, an emeritus professor of Animal Behavioral Medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Ithaca, New York, said it’s a good idea to train a dog to make eye contact.

“Because if you say ‘look’ and the dog looks into your eyes, he’s not focused on the car going by or another dog he wants to chase,” Houpt said. “You’ll have more control over him, as well as a better relationship.”

“It’s really easy to train a dog to do it,” Houpt said. “You hold a piece of food away from you. Most, if they can’t get what they want, will look up at you. As soon as they do, you say ‘look’ and give the food. After about 20 times, it becomes a command.”

Eye contact is important to humans, said Anne Burrows, a specialist in Evolutionary Anatomy and a professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

“I volunteer at a dog shelter, and those that do not make eye contact don’t go very fast,” she said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Jardigans and zebra pants: Welcome to the new office dress code

June 14, 2021

Casual Friday may have gone the way of the power suit. Office workers are rushing to refresh their wardrobes as companies start calling employees back to their cubicles. But after months at home in pajamas, the back-to-workers are looking to trade in traditional business attire for more comfortable clothing, NBC News reports.

Pencil skirts, suit pants, and classic black are out. Today’s office worker is brightly dressed—focusing on wide, loose-fitting clothing and softer fabrics, according to major U.S. retailers.

“We as a business evolved our merchandising to talk more about ‘power casual,’” Sarah LaFleur, CEO of the women’s work wear company M.M.LaFleur, told NBC News. “Formality wise, it’s one step down from business casual. There is definitely something below that, that is still a dress code similar to how women who work in media or in the tech space might dress.”

The company’s new line, which includes a “jardigan,” or blazer made out of soft cardigan material, has been booming. Before the country went into lockdown last spring, casual work wear made up about 25% of M.M.LaFleur sales; now, it’s 60%.

Retailers were among the first to be hammered by the pandemic, with dozens of retailers filing for bankruptcy, including iconic brands such as Lord & Taylor, J.Crew, and Neiman Marcus. Other stores were forced to shutter thousands of locations.

But as vaccination rates increase and federal public health agencies relax masking rules, shoppers and workers are eager to get back to living life in person — and with that comes the urge to wear something new and bright, according to retail analysts and brands.

“We believe the world is back,” Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-III Apparel, which owns brands such as DKNY, told investors this week. “People are going out, people are partying. They’re not just wearing their fleece leisure wear. They’re wearing denim, and they’re wearing jeans, they’re wearing stretch fabrics, and they’re wearing sculptured products.”

Employed shoppers plan to spend more across all categories, including casual and dress wear in both men and women’s clothing, compared to last year, according to data from the retail analytics company Prosper Insights & Analytics. But consumers say they also plan to spend more on comfort style brands such as Levi’s rather than luxury brands such as Calvin Klein or Coach, according to the data.

“The ‘work-from-home’ consumer still has a preference for the ‘comfort’ brands versus the ‘dress to impress’ brands,” Phil Rist, executive vice president of Prosper Insights & Analytics, told NBC News in an email.

Retailers and brands are betting that comfort fits across the board are likely here to stay. Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandising manager, said that some of its brand partners have adjusted their products to be more comfortable.

“Loungewear and comfort is still important to the customer. Some of the season’s new pants have incorporated an elastic waist or looser leg.”

“Loungewear and comfort is still important to the customer,” she said in an email. “Some of the season’s new pants have incorporated an elastic waist, a looser leg or very soft materials without sacrificing fashion and newness.”

But shoppers aren’t just looking for comfort in their clothes. After a year in grey sweatpants, colors and prints are an opportunity to change up their attire. Gen Z is largely driving this maximalism trend, bucking the minimalism of their millennial counterparts.

Indeed, an April report from Pinterest found Gen Z led a 14-fold increase in searches for “zebra pants,” a 12-fold increase in “plaid pleated skirt” and a 133-fold increase in “’60s and ’70s fashion” between the first quarter of last year and the same time this year.

“We’re back to school, back to work, going out to restaurants and traveling — and what will that mean to retailers?” said Brian Dodge, president of the retail trade group Retail Industry Leaders Association. “The answer is, it’s a great opportunity, because maybe your clothing doesn’t fit anymore or your style changed, and retailers are in a great position to help customers to return to life.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Hogging the joystick: Pigs can play computer games, study shows

June 11, 2021

Pigs have been taught to play video games by using a joystick—in a study that confirms their high intelligence, reports The Independent UK.

Indeed, it’s long been known that pigs are smarter than dogs, and are believed to be  the sixth-most intelligent creature on Earth—after ravens and crows, chimpanzees, elephants, gorillas, and dolphins.

Early 20th-century studies found that they could solve multiple-choice problems; and later studies showed they could learn to obtain light, produce extra heat for their enclosures; and acquire feed.

For the latest study researchers at Purdue University trained four pigs to control a cursor on a monitor, using their snouts to move the joystick in return for rewards. They used two micro pigs called Ebony and Ivory; and two Yorkshire pigs, called Hamlet and Omelet, to test the animals’ abilities.

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Professor Candace Croney of Purdue University, and Sarah Boysen said they showed the animals a video game in which they had to use a joystick to maneuver a cursor until it collided with one of four wall-like structures on screen, making a sound—at which point the pig received a food treat.

“Although food rewards associated with the task were likely a motivating factor, the social contact the pigs experienced with their trainer also appeared to be very important,” the researchers wrote.

Even when the equipment failed and there were no treats, the pigs still made correct responses, being rewarded only with “verbal and tactile reinforcement from the experimenter,” they said.

“This may have been due to the strong bond the pigs developed with the experimenter during training.”

Croney said: “Potentially there may be more that pigs are capable of learning and understanding and responding to than we have previously envisaged.”

Philip Lymbery, global chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said the study highlighted a need for the animals to be treated better. “This latest research shows pigs are even more intelligent than we ever thought, yet we still keep the majority of pigs in the most appallingly deprived conditions on factory farms,” he said.

Research contact: @independent

France’s Home Design Institute offers free online course

June 10, 2021

Paris-based vocational educational institution The Home Design Institute is offering a new online course, Interior Design Fundamentals. The course is available free to learners on the web and already has served hundreds of students eager to discover the world of interior design by learning from accomplished and experienced architects.

Students can take advantage of the expertise course leaders provide, getting to grips with the artistic and practical side of interior design simultaneously. The institute says that the course is “ideal for a wide range of skill levels and interests, the course provides a gateway to putting the newfound creative knowledge into action.”

Whether a complete novice hoping to incorporate some of the design principles explored into their own home, or a more experienced creative who wants to know how to bring their vision to life, the Interior Design Fundamentals course encourages each student to live up to their own potential, applying the knowledge they learn in their personal home design projects.

The interior design course is operated using Zoom, creating a virtual classroom in real time. During the course, students will find out more about the history and theory of interior design; acquainting themselves with styles, techniques, and compositions that will help them to develop aesthetically pleasing spaces that are also both safe and functional.

“We are delighted to offer our first free course to students around the world,” says CEO Ilian Petrov. “The Home Design Institute Paris is dedicated to making great interior design more accessible and equipping our students with the skills they need to create spaces where they and others can truly thrive.”

Find out more about the course online at the official website Interior Design Fundamentals – Free Online Course (homedesigninstitute.com).

‘Find me a Proud Boy’: Dating fix-up request outed California woman at Capitol riot, FBI says

June 9, 2021

A California woman who participated in the January 6 Capitol insurrection was outed by a video in which she said she “want[ed] to find me a Proud Boy,” the FBI says, according to a report by SFGate.

Stephanie Baez, 27, was arrested and charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds” after authorities say she posted repeatedly from Washington D.C.

According to the FBI’s criminal complaint, the agency received a tip that a woman with the Instagram handle @stephmb293 was posting videos of herself at the insurrection. Investigators also were directed to a Reddit post that showed the same woman being interviewed outside the Capitol on January 6.

“How do you feel about the Proud Boys?” a man off-camera asks, referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, of which multiple high-ranking members have been arrested for their involvement in the riot.

“I love the Proud Boys,” she replies, according to SFGate. “I want to find me a Proud Boy.”  The man then asks for her number, and the woman provides her Instagram handle.

The FBI says that account is linked to a phone number with 714 area code, which includes Orange County, and that Baez posted repeatedly posted from the Capitol that day.

The complaint also shows multiple photos of Baez inside the Capitol—wearing red, white and blue eye shadow and tee-shirt adorned with George Orwell’s face. She posted a selfie of herself wearing the shirt, the FBI said, with the caption: “Welcome to 1984!”

When a photo of Baez circulated online in a tweet seeking to identify Capitol rioters, the complaint says she messaged an Instagram friend, “It’s my proudest moment. Just sucks they used such a horrible pic, I want to send them the one of me in my USA bikini and be like ‘here, please use this at least lol.'”

In an April interview with the FBI, Baez admitted the photos were of her, the complaint says. Baez also allegedly gave a series of reasons for why she was there that day, claiming she was in D.C. to attend a Trump rally and “look at medical schools.”

The FBI says Baez told investigators “she had authority to be inside the Capitol because she had looked up the Capitol’s hours ahead of time and confirmed that the Capitol would be open so that she could tour it,” but “later stated that it is possible that she read the website wrong.”

The complaint alleges Baez boasted to several friends on social media that she couldn’t get into legal trouble for what she did. “I already checked,” the complaint says she wrote. “Since we are legally allowed into the Capitol Building and I didn’t damage anything, I didn’t break the law.”

Baez was apprehended in Alabama, where she made a court appearance Friday and was released on a $10,000 bond. She is due back in court on June 9.

Research contact: @SFGate

The Third Eye prevents ‘smartphone zombies’ from bumping into things

June 8, 2021

If you live in a large city or on a college campus, it’s hard to avoid them: Smartphone users who are too busy reacting to their screens to navigate their surroundings safely. They pose a danger to other pedestrians, drivers—and, of course, themselves.

But now, The Third Eye has been invented in order to prevent “smartphone zombies” from walking into things while focused on their screens, Sky News reports.

South Korean industrial designer Paeng Min-wook, 28, says the robotic eyeball can be strapped to a person’s forehead, allowing them to browse injury-free.

The device senses when the user’s head has been lowered to look at the phone and it then opens its translucent eyelid.When the person comes within about three feet of an obstacle, the third eye beeps to warn them of danger.

Paeng says, “This is the look of future mankind with three eyes.

He describes his device as a “satirical solution” that he hopes will make people “recognize the severity of their gadget addiction and look back at themselves”.

“As we cannot take our eyes off [our] smartphones, the extra eye will be needed in future.”

Research contact: @SkyNews

Andy Cohen seeks help in search for missing childhood friend who disappeared two weeks ago

June 7, 2021

Andy Cohen is asking for help finding a childhood friend who has been missing for two weeks, People magazine reports.

The Bravo star, 53, posted a missing person’s flier on Facebook after actor and playwright Andy Neiman disappeared from the MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, on May 21.

The poster says that Neiman, 48, is “a missing vulnerable adult” who has schizophrenia. He was last seen wearing green hospital scrubs and glasses. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 165 pounds.

Cohen and Neiman went to the same camp, as well as the same high school, he told The New York Post’s Page Six.

“I’m praying for his safe return, along with a lot of folks in St Louis,” Cohen said.

GoFundMe campaign to spread awareness about Neiman’s disappearance, describes him as a “brother, son, friend, and father.”

Loved ones write that Neiman “has a history of mental illness and may be suffering from psychosis.”

“While we believe Andy is still in the local area, family, friends, search parties and police have been looking for four days and have not yet located him,” his loved ones wrote, adding that they are raising funds to hire a private investigator for the case.

Neiman has a nine-year-old daughter. In addition to being a loving dad, he is a “wonderful, spiritual guy” his sister, Emily Abramson, told Page Six.

“He is incredibly quirky with deep passions for a variety of things, especially the performing arts and Shakespeare,” she said. “His mind is greatly analytical.”

She added, “One of his talents is transmuting his understanding of Shakespeare to people of every age.”

People magazine urges anyone with information on Neiman’s disappearance to call the New York Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 1-800-346-3543.

Research contact: @people