Posts tagged with "CNN"

Stimulus bill prohibits Trump family, lawmakers from benefiting from loan programs

March 26, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill that the White House and Senate leaders were expected to sign off on this Wednesday prohibits either Congressional lawmakers or President Donald Trump’s family business from benefiting from loans or investments through its corporate liquidity program, The Hill reports.

“We wrote a provision, not just the president, but any major figure in government, Cabinet, Senate, congressmen — if they have majority, they have majority control, they can’t get grants or loans and that makes sense,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a CNN interview. “Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law.”

Trump acknowledged on March 21 that the coronavirus pandemic is hurting his family business, The Hill said. Since the start of the U.S. outbreak, dozens of state and local governments have ordered nonessential businesses—such as hotels and resorts —to close.

“I wouldn’t say you’re thriving when you decide to close down your hotels and your businesses,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about reports that Trump Organization properties are being adversely affected by COVID-19.

“But is it hurting me? Yeah, it’s hurting me, and it’s hurting Hilton, and it’s hurting all of the great hotel chains all over the world,” he added.

At a Saturday morning White House press briefing, Trump was asked if he would accept stimulus money from the stimulus package meant to counter some of the damage the pandemic has done to the economy.

“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I just don’t know what the government assistance would be for what I have. I have hotels. Everybody knew I had hotels when I got elected. They knew I was a successful person when I got elected, so it’s one of those things.”

However, before the 2016 election, Trump had promised that his children, Don Jr. and Eric, would run the Trump Organization and that he would keep his distance from the company. However, that has not happened.

The provision to ban lawmakers from benefiting from Treasury Department programs in the stimulus bill was among 19 items highlighted by Schumer in his letter to colleagues describing the contents of the bill.

“Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has secured a provision in the agreement that will prohibit businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs,” his office said in an email to reporters. “The children, spouses and in-laws of the aforementioned principals are also included in this prohibition.”

Research contact: @thehill

Trump to invoke Defense Production Act for first time during pandemic

March 25, 2020

On March 24, the Trump Administration was set to use the Defense Production Act for the first time since the coronavirus hit the United States in late January.

With millions respirators, ventilators, hospital beds, and masks all urgently needed by the healthcare sector, the president will use the act—which gives him authority to expedite and expand the supply of resources by ordering the U.S. industrial base to manufacture needed goods—only to procure about 60,000 coronavirus test kits, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Administrator Peter Gaynor of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday on CNN that the administration had decided to use the Defense Production Act because “there are some test kits we need to get our hands on.”

Gaynor said the federal government was also inserting “DPA language” into its mass contract for 500 million masks.

The president last week issued an executive order invoking the law, but for days resisted calls to use it, saying he is concerned about nationalizing American businesses, the Journal said. Governors have called on him to invoke both the production and the distribution elements of the law, saying states are having to compete against each other for supplies.

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” President Trump said at a press briefing on Sunday. “The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.” He said sufficient numbers of companies were volunteering to manufacture masks and other protective gear, so invoking the Defense Production Act wasn’t yet necessary, though he said “we may have to use it someplace along the chain.”

“We’re going to use it, we’re going to use it when we need it, and we’re going to use it today,” Gaynor said on CNN.

Administration officials have been having tense internal discussions about whether to use the law for weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Research contact @WSJ

Trump politicizes Supremes: Instructs Sotomayor, Ginsburg to recuse themselves from ‘his’ cases

February 26, 2020

President Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying both should recuse themselves from cases involving him or his administration, Politico reported.

His comments at a press conference in India — and previous tweets to the same effect —came after Sotomayor criticized the court’s conservative majority for granting a number of the administration’s emergency stay requests.

Most recently, on February 21, the Supreme Court had unveiled a 5-4 decision to allow the Trump Administration to deny entry or green cards to immigrants based on a “wealth test,” claiming that low-income immigrants were likely to become a “public charge” and use social programs such as food stamps or Medicaid, Rolling Stone reported.

In her dissenting comments on the case (Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, et. al, v. Cook County, Illinois, et. al.) Justice Sotomayor said the administration has too quickly gone to the Supreme Court to appeal unfavorable decisions made by lower courts, and that by taking the cases, the Supreme Court is “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the president.

“Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each,” Sotomayor wrote. “And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”

“It is hard to say what is more troubling,” she added. “That the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.”

“Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others,” Sotomayor wrote in the sharp opinion.

As he always does, the president clapped right back:  “She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way, and that’s so inappropriate,” Trump said of Sotomayor to reporters.

The president also criticized Ginsburg for her comments during his 2016 campaign, when she called Trump a “faker” who “has no consistency about him” and “really has an ego” to CNN and told The New York Times that “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president.”

Trump at the time called on Ginsburg to resign, and she later apologized.

Trump’s call for the two justices to recuse themselves comes as the Supreme Court prepares next month to tackle several issues directly involving the president, Politico noted. On March 31, the court will hear back-to-back oral arguments on cases that ask whether the president must comply with congressional subpoenas for his financial records and whether he is immune from state criminal investigations while serving in the White House.

Research contact: @politico

Child care costs have skyrocketed 150% for Massachusetts families who hire au pairs

February 5, 2020

Some families in Massachusetts just saw their child care costs shoot up by 150% almost overnight, CNN reports.

The reason? Two months ago, on December 2, a Bay State federal appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Cultural Care Au Pair. With that decision, the court confirmed that au pair workers qualify as “domestic workers”—and, therefore, are protected by the Massachusetts minimum wage, overtime, and Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (DWBOR) laws 

The au pair program, designed as a federal cultural exchange program under the U.S. State Department, brings au pairs to the United States on temporary J-1 exchange visas. Under the traditional program, families nationwide paid their au pairs a stipend—a minimum of $195.75 a week for up to 45 hours of child care work.

However, CNN reports, as of January 2020, parents in Massachusetts now must pay the state’s minimum wage of $12.75 an hour, or the stipend—whichever is more—raising the weekly wage to more than $500 for 45 hours.

In addition, under Massachusetts law, families that hire au pairs now must give domestic workers who labor 16 or more hours a week a written agreement that includes information about:

  • Their regular and overtime rate of pay;
  • Raises or increases in pay for added duties or skills;
  • Work schedule and job duties;
  • Rest periods, sick leave, holidays, vacation, and personal days’
  • Any other benefits;
  • Charges or pay deductions;
  • Eligibility for workers’ compensation;
  • The process for raising and resolving concerns;
  • Notice of termination by the worker or employer;
  • Why and when the employer will enter the worker’s living space (for live-in workers); and
  • What would constitute “cause” for termination (for live-in workers).

In addition, employers of domestic workers must keep payroll records and provide paystubs.  Records should be kept for three years. Specifically, domestic workers who work 16 or more hours per week must receive a timesheet at least every two weeks that shows the number of hours worked each day. The timesheet should be signed or acknowledged by both the worker and employer.

A worker who disagrees with the number of hours listed has the right to make a note on the timesheet of the hours the worker believes that he or she worked.  Signing a timesheet does not mean that the worker cannot later claim any additional wages owed.  Failure to sign a timesheet does not allow an employer to delay or withhold pay.

According to CNN, all of this sounds like good news to Abril Nieves, who arrived from Mexico in 2014 to be an au pair for a family in Boston. While many au pairs have a good experience, she felt as if her host family had taken advantage of her.

“What [the agency] sold me was a cultural exchange,” she told the cable news network. “They said you’ll work a couple hours, learn English, travel.”

Instead she found herself working more than 45 hours a week—caring for four children, all under the age of two—and she didn’t feel like she was being fairly compensated for the work she was providing.

“The program is flawed,” said Nieves. “We don’t have sick days or benefits.”

However, although the ruling was designed to protect people like Nieves, many say that it doesn’t fairly account for the value of free food, housing, and additional financial support provided by the host family throughout their year together. Critics of the ruling worry that the dramatic shift in cost will push families away from the program altogether, blocking the opportunity for young people who are interested in visiting the US.

“The increase in financial obligations for families is a significant challenge,” Natalie Jordan, SVP of Cultural Care Au Pair, told CNN.

Research contact: @CNN

Nine-year-old creates portrait of John Cena using 750 Rubik’s Cubes—and his ‘superpower,’ dyslexia

January 28, 2020

A new video involving WWE superstar and actor John Cena is going viral—but it isn’t of the popular wrestler body-slamming one of his opponents. Rather, it documents how nine-year-old Benjamin Russo built a huge portrait of Cena using 750 Rubik’s Cubes, MSN reports.

The video starts with Benjamin holding up a series of cards, on which he explains that he has the learning disorder, dyslexia, and struggles with reading and writing. “I mix up my words. I get very frustrated and upset, too, sometimes,” he admits, but he also says, “Having dyslexia also means I can do something amazing! Like this…”

Then, Benjamin is shown configuring hundreds of Rubik’s Cubes into specific patterns. After he has arranged all 750 cubes, the patterns come together to reveal an enormous portrait of Cena, himself.

Then, Benjamin lifts up two more cards. They read: “Dyslexia is not my disability. Dyslexia is my superpower.”

The process took five hours, Benjamin’s dad, Louis, told CNN. “My wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘Just how does he do it?’ It’s just incredible to watch,” the proud father said.

Benjamin’s amazing talent even caught the attention of Benjamin’s Rubik’s muse.

“This is the embodiment of #NeverGiveUp,” Cena tweeted. “Benjamin demonstrates courage, perseverance, vulnerability, tremendous strength… and he’s an ARTIST!”

Benjamin’s parents hope his story will shift how people perceive dyslexia.”The general public sees dyslexia basically as flipping words around, flipping letters around, and that’s where it ends,” Louis said. “We never talk about the advantages and the special gifts that many dyslexics have, and Benjamin is not alone. So I think that’s what we’re trying to do is get the positive out there and not so much the negatives.”

Research contact: @MSN

Piggy banks are going ‘extinct, ‘ as kids start using mobile apps for pocket money

January 28, 2020

Those porcelain painted pigs that children have used for hundreds of years to store and accumulate spare change are going the way of the wooly mammoth—and it has nothing to do with climate change.

As the world moves toward a cashless society, pocket money is going digital, CNN reports. To reflect this trend, a flurry of mobile budgeting apps for children has sprung up worldwide: GoHenry, Osper, and Gimi—to name just a few.

GoHenry, for example, is a debit card and app with unique parental controls that is designed to teach young people (ages 6-19) money management skills. Launched in 2012 in collaboration with Mastercard, the GoHenry app and card now boast a community of over 500,000 members in the United States and United Kingdom.

The app is free the first month; then $3.99 per month going forward. To activate it, parents put money in their own accounts; then, transfer it to their children’s cards.

While, thus far, GoHenry has the biggest chunk of the U.S. market, the other apps are fast gaining popularity, as well.

Not yet in the USA—but already boasting 8 million customers in Europe—London-based Revolut, founded in 2015, claims to have a 10,000-person waitlist in on this side of the pond for its services. Currently targeted at adults, Revolut offers a prepaid debit card, fee-free currency exchange, commission-free stock trading, cryptocurrency exchange and peer-to-peer payments.

And, CNN reports, Revolut is set to join the pocket money market with its upcoming launch of Revolut Youth for seven- to 18-year-olds. Parents who are already Revolut customers will be able to add their children to their account as secondary users, each with their own personal debit card. Parents can monitor the child’s account through their existing app, while kids can download their own child-friendly version. Initial testing has begun, with the dedicated app for kids expected to become available in the United Kingdom in the first quarter of 2020.

The companies behind the apps argue that in an increasingly cashless society, they can offer a valuable way of teaching young children about money.

Two-thirds of adults globally are financially illiterate, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey, and one in four teenagers is unable to make even simple decisions on everyday spending.

Indeed, the growth of digital banking has affected how parents doll out pocket money, with one in three parents in the United Kingdom doing it digitally, according to a recent report by the financial comparison website

As a whole, kids aged 13-19, are estimated to contribute £1.7 billion ($2.2 billion) into the UK economy each year, according to the Teenage Finance Report from financial services providers OneFamily.

“There’s a big opportunity,” Aurélien Guichard, the product owner for Revolut Youth, told CNN Business.

Research contact: @CNN

Fitbit data could help predict flu outbreaks in real time

January 22, 2020

That Fitbit on your wrist could be doing a lot more than tracking the strides you make each day: Researchers at the California-based Scripps Research Translational Institute reviewed de-identified data from 200,000 users of Fitbit exercise and activity trackers in five states—and found that they were able to use data like rising heart rates and changes in sleep patterns to predict flu outbreaks in real-time, according to a report by CNN.

Indeed, the scientists were able to calculate the proportion of users falling above set thresholds for average heart rate and sleep duration—and to compare that data to weekly flu rates determined by the Centers for Disease Control—in order to predict flu outbreaks in real time.

The finding shows the potential for the soon-to-be Alphabet-owned brand to predict disease outbreaks —which could open an opportunity to propel Google-sister company Verily’s population health efforts:

With the flu affecting an estimated 35.5 million and driving 490,600 hospitalizations in the US in the 2018-2019 flu season alone, according to the CDC, the ability to predict outbreaks would be welcomed by an already overburdened healthcare system. And the potential savings could be significant: During the 2015-2016 U.S. flu season, an estimated $10.4 billion was spent on direct costs for adult hospitalizations and outpatient visits, according to CNBC.

And should Alphabet get the regulatory go-ahead for its Fitbit purchase, the potential to predict disease outbreaks would be a huge value-add to Verily’s population health efforts.For example, CNN suggests, “We could see Verily integrate health data collected from Fitbit users into its Project Baseline initiative, which is aimed at developing technologies to help researchers architect a map of human health and gain a deeper understanding of prevalent conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.”

However, there are some flies in the proverbial ointment: While promising, the impact of the finding could be lessened due to the limited nature of the data collected — and Alphabet will need to be clear about its data-sharing policies or risk losing more consumer trust if it seeks a partner for future Fitbit endeavors, CNN notes.

What’s more, Fitbit users aren’t necessarily representative of the general population: For example, U.S. consumers who use wearables skew younger and tend to have higher incomes, as eMarketer noted in its Wearables 2019 report, which means there are likely gaps missing in the data collected.

Research contact: @CNN

Carl Bernstein calls out Mitch McConnell with scathing new nickname—now trending on Twitter

January 22, 2020

Move over “Moscow Mitch” and “Grim Reaper.” There’s a new nickname inside the Beltway for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–conferred by none other than Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein—and it has sent social media users into overdrive, according to The Huffington Post.

The famed reporter called McConnell “Midnight Mitch” during a panel discussion on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° on Monday, January 20, based on the tightly compressed schedule that the Majority Leader had set for the imminent Senate impeachment trial over the Ukraine scandal.

Indeed, the HuffPost reports, McConnell has been so obsessed with keeping the facts of the scandal under wraps that he has insisted on just two days of 12-hour testimony on both sides—starting at 1 p.m. each afternoon, when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is available to preside.

That would run the trial into the early hours of the morning on four consecutive days. Hence, the moniker, “Midnight Mitch.”

Said Bernstein “[This is],,,the most important moment for the Republican Party since the censure of Joe McCarthy and the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon, in which Republicans became great heroes and patriots. Now, we’re looking at ‘Midnight Mitch’ and the so-called world’s greatest deliberative body really embracing a cover-up that is there for all to see. That’s what this is about. It’s about preventing information from becoming known and seen by the American public.

Bernstein noted how in the impeachments of former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton there had been “no problem about knowing the truth of the facts.”

But in the impeachment trial of Trump, he said, “we still have a factual problem here because the president and those who work for him and Mitch McConnell have impeded the facts from the beginning.”

Harvard Law School professor and legal scholar Laurence Tribe agreed with Bernstein, chiming in on Twitter, “These aren’t rules for a real trial at all, much less a fair one. They’re rules for a rigged outcome, with #MidnightMitch making sure that as much of the so-called trial as possible takes place in the dark of night.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

As drones swarm the night skies over Colorado and Nebraska, authorities ask, ‘Who’s there?’

January 6, 2020

They come out at night: pinpoints of light swarming in the dark skies. They appear to be drones—flying in formation over rural Colorado and Nebraska. For weeks, they have dominated headlines in local newspapers, fueled intense speculation on social media, and unsettled residents; who have besieged law enforcement with calls, The Washington Post reports.

So far, the aircraft remain a mystery. Officials in multiple counties say they have not been able to determine who is operating them or why. The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating, an agency spokesman told the Post on Thursday, January 2.

In the absence of information, wild theories abound in the small communities where the drones have been spotted, including government surveillance and alien activity. Others offered less-nefarious explanations, suggesting a private company is using them to map or survey land or, perhaps, practicing for drone shows.

But why wouldn’t such businesses have come forward with an explanation by now?

 “There are many theories about what is going on, but at this point, that’s all they are,” Sheriff Todd Combs of Yuma County, Colorado, wrote in a Facebook post. “I think we are all feeling a little bit vulnerable due to the intrusion of our privacy that we enjoy in our rural community, but I don’t have a solution or know of one right now.”

The drones, which The Denver Post estimates to be six feet in wingspan and flying in formations of 17, showed up in mid-December in northeastern Colorado. They emerge nightly around 7 p.m., flying in squares of about 25 miles and staying about 200 feet in the air, the newspaper reported. By about 10 p.m., they’re gone.

Local authorities say the mysterious visitors do not appear to be malicious and may not be breaking any laws. Combs noted in his post that they are operating in airspace controlled by the federal government and, as far as he could tell, abiding with federal regulations.

Yet the unexplained aircraft, buzzing above homes nightly, have still caused alarm — so much so that officials with multiple sheriff’s departments have cautioned residents against shooting them down.

“I have been made aware of several comments about shooting down a drone,” Morgan County, Colorado, Sheriff Dave Martin said in his own Facebook statement. “I ask that you NOT do this as it is a federal crime.”

Wyatt Harmon and his girlfriend, Chelsea Arnold, chased a cluster of drones after they flew over his property in the Colorado county of Washington. The couple tailed them for 15 miles, exceeding 70 mph, according to NBC’s TODAY show, which featured an interview with the two on December 31.

Harmon said during the interview that the aircraft could descend and take off “very fast.” He added,, “It’s kind of just scary. It’s more unnerving than anything.”

According to The Washington Post, now groups devoted to tracking the drones are  popping up on Facebook.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

The ‘Dawn’ of a new day in dish washing

December 18, 2019

Americans are no longer up to their elbows in soapy water—washing a days’ worth, or even a meal’s worth of dishes at one time in the kitchen sink. In fact, according to Procter & Gamble’s market research, fully 61% of us now prefer the “clean-as-you-go” method of dish washing—a change from the habits of the last century, CNN reports.

Indeed, P&G says, its old-fashioned liquid detergent, which debuted in 1972, just isn’t cut out for the job anymore, so it invented a new Dawn dish spray designed for how people are washing their dishes today.

More consumers are washing one or two dishes during “cooking downtime,” instead of letting them pile up and doing one big wash once they’re all done, the company says. But, the old Dawn wasn’t intended to be used that way. Traditional dish soap is designed to combine with water and create suds to help get dishes clean—not to be directly applied to dirty dishes or sponges.

“People are much more time-starved today” and they see the clean-as-you-go method as a “‘life hack,’ Morgan Brashear, a home care senior scientist at P&G, told CNN. “The product they were using wasn’t really keeping up.”

So after five years of research and development, P&G is introducing “Dawn Powerwash Dish Spray,” its first new formulation of dish detergent since Dawn soap in a bottle was released nearly 50 years ago. The new formula, which comes in a spray bottle, doesn’t require water to activate cleaning suds the way traditional dish soap does.

This new bottle of Dawn spray with a nozzle costs about two dollars more than the regular version of Dawn liquid soap. P&G hopes consumers are willing trade up for the higher-priced version because of the convenience of the newer product.

And speaking of market research, washing dishes is consumers’ second least-favorite household chore, behind cleaning the toilet, according to P&G. Between scrubbing, waiting, and scrubbing again, consumers told P&G’s research teams that they were looking for quicker solutions. P&G observed customers doing chores and washing their dishes in their homes or at company offices.

“Their two biggest frustrations with the dish-washing process are the soaking and the scrubbing,” said Brashear. In response, P&G says, the new formula breaks down burnt and baked-on-food without having to use water or soaking the dishes. The company claims it works five times faster than traditional dish soap, reports CNN.

Dawn Powerwash will be available in stores and online beginning in January—coming in fresh, apple, and citrus scents. A 16 oz. starter-kit bottle will retail for $4.99, while refill bottles will go for $3.99.

Research contact: @CNN