Posts tagged with "CBS News"

As COVID-19 rages, Trump asks Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare

June 29,2020

The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the United States hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, June 26—eclipsing the mark set during one of the deadliest stretches in late April, CBS News reports; noting that there is “ample evidence” that the pandemic is making a comeback.

Yet, even so, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on June 25 to terminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—the only health insurance to which many Americans have access. If the justices agree, they will wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans, The New York Times reports.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the Administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that, in 2017, the largely Republican Congress had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance—the so-called individual mandate.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco maintained that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together, the Times said.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them, according to the Times report.

Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the news outlet that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue—and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs—are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday, June 29, on a measure to expand the healthcare law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Space Force drops first recruitment video: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet”

May 12, 2020

The United States Space Force has released its first recruitment video—a 30-second clip that encourages potential recruits to ponder joining the newest independent branch of the U.S. military at this “incredibly exciting time.”

“Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet,” the video suggests..

In a press release, the agency explains, “The FY20 National Defense Authorization Act approved a new, independent Space Force within the Department of the Air Force. As this new military branch takes shape in 2020, we’ll be recruiting the brightest minds in science, technology, aerospace, and engineering to meet its needs. Join us. The future is where we’ll make history.”

“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?'” a narrator is heard over footage of a man looking up at the sky. “Our job is to have an answer.”

The video then shows a montage of military personnel working within the new military branch, interposed with images of space. Available jobs include: Space Operations Office, Fusion Analyst, and Intelligence Officer.

According to a report by CBS News, even before the video was posted, officials said they’ve received lots of interest. The Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, said during a livestream presented by the Space Foundation on May 6 that “there’s been an avalanche of applicants.”

As of that day, there were 88 “commissioned space professionals” working within the Space Force,  Barrett said, and the number is expected to grow “substantially” by the end of 2020. The service’s “total force” is projected to eventually be approximately 16,000 strong.

The recruitment video dropped just one day after Netflix released the new teaser trailer for its upcoming comedy series “Space Force,” starring Steve Carell. The show revolves around Carell’s character, a fictitious four-star general who is tasked with starting up the military branch. The

Chief of Space Operations, General John Raymond said in a less serious moment at the end of the press release,  “The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut. He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force Chief.”

Research contact: @SpaceForceDOD

Thousands of former DOJ employees again call for Barr’s resignation

May 12, 2020

On May 11, more than 1,900 former Justice Department employees repeated their demand for Attorney General Bill Barr to head for the exits—asserting in an open letter that he had “once again assaulted the rule of law” by moving to drop charges against President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael  Flynn, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The letter, organized by the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, was signed by Justice Department staffers serving in Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). The vast majority were former career staffers — rather than political appointees — who worked as federal prosecutors or supervisors at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country or the Justice Department in downtown Washington.

The signatories to the letter were united in their belief that Barr should resign, as the following excerpt shows:

In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States …. The Department [of Justice] has now moved to dismiss the charges against Flynn, in a filing signed by a single political appointee and no career prosecutors. The Department’s purported justification for doing so does not hold up to scrutiny, given the ample evidence that the investigation was well-founded and — more importantly—the fact that Flynn admitted under oath and in open court that he told material lies to the FBI in violation of longstanding federal law.

Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented. If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.

We thus unequivocally support the decision of the career prosecutor who withdrew from the Flynn case, just as we supported the prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case. They are upholding the oath that we all took, and we call on their colleagues to continue to follow their example. President Trump accused the career investigators and prosecutors involved in the Flynn case of “treason” and threatened that they should pay “a big price.” It is incumbent upon the other branches of government to protect from retaliation these public servants and any others who are targeted for seeking to uphold their oaths of office and pursue justice.

It is now up to the district court to consider the government’s motion to dismiss the Flynn indictment. We urge Judge Sullivan to closely examine the Department’s stated rationale for dismissing the charges — including holding an evidentiary hearing with witnesses — and to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate. While it is rare for a court to deny the Department’s request to dismiss an indictment, if ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence, it is this one. Attorney General Barr’s repeated actions to use the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests have undermined any claim to the deference that courts usually apply to the Department’s decisions about whether or not to prosecute a case.

Finally, in our previous statement, we called on Attorney General Barr to resign, although we recognized then that there was little chance that he would do so. We continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside. In the meantime, we call on Congress to hold the Attorney General accountable. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in over a century, we would all prefer it if Congress could focus on the health and prosperity of Americans, not threats to the health of our democracy. Yet Attorney General Barr has left Congress with no choice. Attorney General Barr was previously set to give testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31, but the hearing was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Committee to reschedule Attorney General Barr’s testimony as soon as safely possible and demand that he answer for his abuses of power. We also call upon Congress to formally censure Attorney General Barr for his repeated assaults on the rule of law in doing the President’s personal bidding rather than acting in the public interest. Our democracy depends on a Department of Justice that acts as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus.

A spokeswoman for Barr did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. However, Barr has publicly defended the move, telling CBS News that it was an “easy” decision and one for which he was prepared to take criticism. As the group of Justice Department alumni acknowledged, their letter is unlikely to persuade him to step down.

“I also think it’s sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice,” Barr told CBS News. “And the groups that usually worry about civil liberties and making sure that there’s proper procedures followed and standards set seem to be ignoring it and willing to destroy people’s lives and see great injustices done.”

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan must still approve the department’s request to drop the case, and so far has not indicated what he will do. The Justice Department alumni asked Sullivan to hold a hearing with witnesses to examine Barr’s legal reasoning and “to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

They’re here: Pentagon releases videos shot by Navy pilots that document interactions with UFOs

April 29, 2020

On April 27, the Pentagon formally released three unclassified videos taken by Navy pilots that have circulated for years. The tapes show interactions with “unidentified aerial phenomena—also known as “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs), CBS News reports.

One of the videos depicts an incident that took place in 2004; the other two were recorded in January 2015, according to Sue Gough, a Maryland-based Defense Department spokesperson. The videos became public after unauthorized leaks in 2007 and 2017, and the Navy previously has verified their authenticity, the network news outlet says.

“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” Gough said.

The 2004 incident occurred about 100 miles out in the Pacific, according to The New York Times, which first reported on the video in 2017. Two fighter pilots on a routine training mission were dispatched to investigate unidentified aircraft that a Navy cruiser had been tracking for weeks.

The Navy pilots found an oblong object about 40 feet long hovering about 50 feet above the water (see photo above), and it began a rapid ascent as the pilots approached before quickly flying away. “It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” one of the pilots told the Times. 

The pilots left the area to meet at a rendezvous point about 60 miles away. When they were still about 40 miles out, the ship radioed and said the object was at the rendezvous point, having traversed the distance “in less than a minute,” the pilot told the Times.

The two other videos of incidents in 2015 include footage of objects moving rapidly through the air. In one, an object is seen racing through the sky and begins rotating in midair.

“Dude, this is a f–king drone, bro,” a pilot exclaims on the video. Another person says “there’s a whole fleet of them.”

“They’re all going against the wind. The wind’s 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing, dude!” the first person says. “It’s rotating!”

In the other 2015 video, an object is shown from above speeding over the ocean, prompting the pilot to excitedly remark, “What the f–k is that?”

Five Navy pilots who spotted the objects in 2015 told The Times in 2017 that they had a series of interactions with unidentified aircraft during training missions in 2014 and 2015 along the East Coast from Virginia to Florida. The episodes prompted the Navy to clarify how pilots should report experiences with “unidentified aerial phenomena,” which had been studied under a Pentagon program from 2007 to 2012.

Gough, the Pentagon spokesperson, said the department was formally releasing the videos to address questions about their veracity. “DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” Gough said. “The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.'”

Research contact: @nytimes

Publix is buying excess milk and produce from farmers—and donating it to food banks

April 24, 2020

At a time when many Americans either don’t have the money to buy it—or cannot find a fresh quart on supermarket shelves—many see it as a travesty that farmers nationwide have been forced to dump milk because schools, restaurants, and other organizations are on lockdown and unable to serve it.

Produce also is rotting on the vines—wasting away without being harvested or eaten.

But now, one U.S. supermarket chain is taking action, CBS News reports: Publix, an employee-owned American supermarket chain headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, launched a new initiative on April 22 to help struggling farmers—and to get food to the Americans who need it most.

In a press release, the company promised, “Publix will donate [fresh produce and milk] …directly to Feeding America member food banks in its operating area. The initiative will support Florida produce farmers, southeastern dairy farmers, and the growing number of families looking to Feeding America for fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk during the coronavirus pandemic.

During the first week of the initiative alone, some 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk are expected to be donated, CBS reported.

“As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones in the company’s press release. “In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, southeastern dairies and families in our communities.”

According to Feeding America, an estimated 17.1 million additional people will experience food insecurity due to school closures and rising unemployment during the pandemic.

“As we respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Publix understands that more families are turning to us to help put food, especially fresh produce and milk, on their tables,” said Feeding South Florida President and CEO Paco Velez. “We’re grateful to Publix for not only supporting growers, but also for their years of support of Feeding South Florida.”

Research contact: @CBSNews

Going to seed: So many Americans start growing food that seed companies can’t keep up

April 15, 2020

As millions of Americans hunker down at home during the coronavirus outbreak, many are wondering, “Sow what?” In fact, “pandemic farms”—home gardens full of vegetables and fruits; and even chickens, cows, and goats—are fast replacing perfect lawns nationwide.

In fact, business is so good that some seed companies say they have temporarily stopped taking new orders, CBS News reports.

The increase in orders is “just unbelievable,” George Ball, chairman of Burpee Seeds, a 144-year-old seed company in Pennsylvania, told the network news outlet. The company closed to new orders last week because it needed time to catch up, although it plans to start accepting them again on April 15..

“If I had to put my thumb on it, I would say people are worried about their food security right now,” Emily Rose Haga, the executive director of the Seed Savers Exchange, an Iowa-based nonprofit devoted to heirloom seeds, ” said in an interview with CBS News. “A lot of folks, even in our region, are putting orders into their grocery stores and having to wait a week to get their groceries. Our society has never experienced a disruption like this in our lifetime.”

Other Americans are struggling to put food on the table. Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks, reported a 98% increase in demand. And the need may be most critical in rural America, reported CBS This Morning correspondent Janet Shamlian. Pantries in some rural communities are closing because food is scarce while the volunteers who staff them are concerned about their own health.

Seed Savers Exchange started to notice an increase in orders in mid-March. Demand spiked during the following two weeks, Haga recalls. For now, the nonprofit also has put a halt on new orders while it catches up on the backlog.

“We received twice the amount of orders we normally receive,” she said, adding that the company of about 60 employees hired 16 workers to help cope with the flood of sales.

Research contact: @CBSNews

40,000 healthcare workers nationwide volunteer for the front lines of New York City’s COVID-19 battle

April 1, 2020

As New York City struggles mightily to get ahead of the swiftly spreading coronavirus pandemic, makeshift hospitals are going up and volunteer healthcare workers—as many as 40,000, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo—are arriving from less-beset areas nationwide to help ease the burden.

Indeed, even as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a call for more supplies and personnel, on Friday, a fleet of healthcare workers from Atlanta came to the rescue, CBS News reported.

More than a dozen health care professionals boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to New Yorkthe airline announced on Instagram, sharing a photo from the plane.

Some of the hands were gloved but everyone in the photo had one thing in common—they all were smiling. Southwest said that the photo “embodies it all: bravery, courage, and sacrifice.”

“These brave souls soldier on in the midst of tremendous risk and exposure, constantly putting the needs of others above their own,” Southwest wrote. “Their selfless sacrifice is a beacon of light during such a dark time in our world, and no amount of gratitude and praise would ever be enough.”

“Because of their courage, our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, and more have a fighting chance,” the post continued.

And that Southwest flight full of healthcare workers is just a fraction of the additional 40,000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other medical professionals who have signed up to join the health care force in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this figure on March 25, saying mental health professionals also are volunteering to provide free counseling CBS noted.

“That’s a big, big deal,” Cuomo said

Indeed, the healthcare professionals on the front lines of this battle have faced several challenges, including a lack of personal protective equipment and the risk of contracting the virus themselves.

In addition, many individuals and companies have thanked health care workers in a number of unique ways. Companies like Crocs, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme have announced they will give free goods to healthcare workers during this time.

And some people are thanking workers by sending food to hospitals. Last week Bill and Hillary Clinton, who are residents of Chappaqua, New York, sent more than 400 pizzas to employees at every hospital in Westchester County, New York, to thank them for their tireless effort.

At 7 p.m. each day, New York’s quarantined population goes to windows, open doors, and balconies to applaud and demonstrate their thanks to the medical community.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Yelp’s top restaurant for 2020 actually is a food truck

January 20, 2020

With more than 3 million restaurant listed on its crowd-sourced review forum, , determining the top eatery nationwide was no small chore for Yelp—but a food truck serving Middle Eastern fare has been named number one on the service’s list of “Top 100 Places to Eat in 2020,” CBS News reports.

And it’s so popular, if you’re interested in ordering, you should save a little extra time for lunch: In San Diego’s South Park, the line of customers to get to the Shawarma Guys food truck stretches around the corner.

They don’t have an exclusive address or a single Michelin star—but they do get 530 reviews and five full stars on the site. Iraqi-American chef Bryan Zeto opened up in front of his friend’s liquor store 11 months ago after he quit his job selling cell phones. His father Samer is a sous chef.

The key ingredient in their popular beef plate is wagyu beef from Australia.

“We would have regulars come three to four times a week. Some people would come twice a day,” Zeto stold CBS News. “We have been working 12 to 13 hours a day, every day for the past year. But it is fun. I love what I do now.”

Currently, he serves up to 900 plates a day. “The business quadrupled overnight. We had lines a block and a half up,” Zeto said.

But he said the best part is driving a dream, with his dad in the passenger seat.  “Anything for my kids,” Samer said. “Anything for my son to be successful.”

Research contact: @CBSNews

Can’t find a black Santa? There’s an app for that

December 18, 2019

After spending several years in a futile search for a black Santa Claus with whom her own twin sons could identify, a Texas mom has developed an app for that, CBS News reports.

Citing studies that show that children with a positive attitude about their own racial identity do better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behavior, Jihan Woods launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her Mobile Black Santa Directory.

After raising $5,000 in 30 days, the Dallas psychiatrist developed an app that lists Santas in 35 states and Washington, D.C., and is available in the App Store, as well as on Google Play.

“I really wanted my children to see a Santa Claus that looks like them. It’s important to me that they experience diversity in all aspects of their lives, Santa included,” Woods states on the website, Find Black Santa, devoted to the free app.

Parents drive from as far as an hour away to photograph their children with an African-American Santa at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, Executive Director,Terri Lipsey Scott told CBS News.

“The turnout is incredible. There are so few options as it relates to the availability of having an African-American Santa,” said Scott, who added the museum extended its most recent Santa hosting as “people were still coming” at closing time.

“That self-esteem element even in the holiday season is so important,” Scott added of the impact on black children of seeing a black Santa

Available just ahead of the holidays last year, Woods’ app came a year after the New York city-based Ravenel Agency, a talent and branding company, developed a black Santa app to let children video chat with an African-American Santa Claus.

Research contact: @CBSNews

2020 hindsight: LASIK eye surgery should be taken off market, former FDA adviser says

November 15, 2019

Don’t turn a blind eye to the risks involved in LASIK eye surgery, an expert is warning, according to CBS News.

Laser vision correction has been popular for more than 20 years, with an estimated 20 million Americans undergoing the procedure to correct nearsightedness and improve distance vision.

According to an FDA patient survey, more than 95% of patients have been satisfied with their vision after surgery. But some patients say the surgery has ruined their eyesight. Among the complaints: “relentless eye pain,” dizziness, and detached retinas.

“Essentially we ignored the data on vision distortions that persisted for years,” said Morris Waxler— a retired FDA adviser who is now president of Waxler Regulatory Consulting. He voted to approve LASIK devices, but he now says voted to approve LASIK, but he now says that vote was a mistake.

“I re-examined the documentation … and I said, ‘Wow this is not good,'” Waxler told CBS News.

Waxler said his own analysis of industry data shows complication rates between 10%  and 30%. In 2011, he petitioned the FDA to issue a voluntary recall of LASIK. Three years later, the agency denied that request and now tells CBS News it “has not found any new safety concerns associated with LASIK devices.” 

Waxler said he thinks LASIK should “absolutely” be taken off the market. “There’s nothing wrong with a person’s eyes who goes to get Lasik,” he said. “They have healthy eyes. They could go and get a pair of glasses.”

Patient Abraham Rutner agrees, alleging that  LASIK surgery damaged his vision and nearly ruined his life. “It’s a devastation that I can’t even explain,” Rutner told CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula.

“Things would appear double. Around the lights were like having starbursts,” he added.

After months of not being able to drive or do his job, the Brooklyn electrician finally found help in Miami where optometrist Edward Boshnick fitted him with special contact lenses.

“His cornea is very distorted as a result of his LASIK surgery,” Boshnick told CBS.

Boshnick estimates he’s treated thousands of patients with LASIK complications.

Paula Cofer had surgery 19 years ago, “and from day one my vision was an absolute train wreck and it still is today,” she said.

She started a LASIK complications support group on Facebook and quickly found she was not alone. “You really have to understand you’re risking your only pair of eyes,” Cofer said.

Doctors who perform LASIK surgery said risks can be minimized with pre-surgical screening.

“The most important thing is knowing who to operate on and who not to operate on and there are people who really should not have this procedure,” Dr. Jules Winokur said.

Rutner now believes he was never a good candidate.

Here are FDA’s advisory on risks and how to find the right doctor for the procedure.

Research contact: @CBSNews