Posts tagged with "USA Today"

Averting government shutdown, Biden signs funding measure just hours before deadline

October 4, 2021

Congress and President Joe Biden averted a government shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline on Thursday, September 30, with a bill that funds the government through December 3, USA Today reports.

Congress passed the bill earlier in the day and the president signed it into law shortly after, with less than five hours to spare.

The House voted 254-175 to approve the bill that raced through both chambers in a few hours. The Senate had voted earlier 65-35 to approve the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said the legislation would keep government services functioning, prevent furloughs for hundreds of thousands of workers, and protect the economy.

“A shutdown is not anything anyone wants,” Pelosi said.

“At this time – at any time – it is a very, very bad thing to let the government shut down,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

The vote capped days of drama in Washington, where a lack of action had federal offices preparing contingency and furlough plans for if the government shut down. A deal to keep the government running materialized Wednesday evening after Democrats gave up on an effort to include a provision to raise the nation’s limit on borrowing.

Government funding was set to expire with the end of the fiscal year Thursday at midnight. The temporary extension gives lawmakers more time to approve funding for an entire year of government operations.

Avoiding a shutdown cleared one of four contentious financial hurdles facing Congress in the next few weeks. The House was set to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill, the timing of which has divided Democrats. Some Democrats argued the infrastructure bill should move in tandem with a $3.5 trillion package of Biden’s social welfare priorities, which is still under negotiation.

“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities,” Schumer said of the funding vote.

A shutdown would have furloughed hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal employees, forcing them to take time off without pay. Essential functions such as the military, law enforcement and air-traffic control would have continued functioning, but discretionary agencies such as the National Park Service would have closed.

A Congressional Budget Office report found a partial shutdown in 2019 cost the economy $11 billion, or more than $31 million per day.

The Senate voted down three Republican amendments to the bill that Democrats said would have scuttled it

  • Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkanasas), proposed to modify the eligibility of Afghan refugees for benefits in the United States;
  • Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), wanted to prohibit federal funding for COVID-19 vaccine mandates; and
  • Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) proposed  blocking congressional pay after October 1 in any year when the budget and spending bills aren’t approved.

According to USA Today, part of the reason why the spending vote came down to the wire was because Republicans and Democrats feuded over whether to include in the legislation a provision to raise the nation’s limit on borrowing. Congress must raise the country’s borrowing authority by October 18 or risk a default that economists warn would be an economic catastrophe.

Approval of the funding came quickly after Democrats abandoned their attempts to link the funding to an increase or suspension of the debt limit— an action conservatives and liberals agree needs to be taken so the country can continue to pay its bills and avoid worldwide economic chaos.

“We did not have to be in this place just hours before a shutdown,” said Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

Republicans have said Democrats will need to raise the debt ceiling on their own. On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked debate on legislation that would have addressed both extending funding for the federal government and raising the debt limit.

“The Democratic majority has begun to the realize that the way forward on basic governing duties matches the road map that Republicans have laid out for months,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). “We are able to fund the government today because the majority accepted reality.”

Research contact: @USATODAY

The ‘dark side’ of bodybuilding

September 28, 2021

Big biceps, toned abs, and cut calves: Those are the muscular manifestations of a perfectly sculpted body. But is bodybuilding actually good for your health?

Not really, experts say, according to a report by USA Today. In fact, they believe that striving to create this muscle-bound ideal—as bodybuilders and weight lifters often do—has the potential to cause serious consequences on a psychological level.

“Research has shown that sports and activities that have an aesthetic component to them, where the way one appears is part of how one is being evaluated or judged, tend to have higher rates of eating disorders,”  Dr. Sari Shepphird, a sports psychologist specializing in eating disorders recently told USA Today. “Not only higher than in the general population—but higher than even in other sports where the rates are already high.”

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get in shape, the kind of perfectionism that is required in sports like bodybuilding is one risk factor in developing these issues, Shepphird says.

“It’s a sport that… a lot of people find… exciting and engaging and motivating, but you just need to make sure, overall, that it’s not beginning to affect your quality of life (or) your mental health,” she says.

Body builders or weightlifters run the risk of falling into the category of orthorexia, which is when someone is unhealthily obsessed with being healthy, explains Dr. Elizabeth Wassenaar, regional medical director at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver.

“They are really preoccupied with eating food or engaging in activities that it feels like will help drive them towards health, and then paradoxically actually end up becoming more unwell,” she says.

Indeed, Wassenaar points out, a gym goer who struggles with this may think that if the he or she works out enough and build enough muscle that the result will be peak health—but what happens is, they’re never satisfied.

 “That’s kind of the crux of the illness: (It’s) never enough,” Wassenaar adds, explaining that body dysmorphia can also be at play.

One specific type of body dysmorphia that is seen among bodybuilders is muscle dysmorphia, which has also been referred to as bigorexia or reverse anorexia.

The American Psychological Association defines muscle dysmorphia as “a form of body dysmorphia characterized by chronic dissatisfaction with one’s muscularity and the perception that one’s body is inadequate and undesirable, although objective observers would disagree with such an assessment.”

This condition often leads to excessive exercising, steroid abuse, and eating disorders, according to the APA.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone you see at the gym lifting weights has an eating disorder. “Going to the gym doesn’t cause the eating disorder, but when the preoccupation with an ideal body shape or weight becomes someone’s driving force, or when there’s an over emphasis placed on one shape or weight, then that can create a climate that contributes to disordered eating,” Shepphird says.

Wassenaar explains it can be difficult for people to recognize they have a problem with bodybuilding because these body ideals are “reinforced by our society that values the appearance of fitness.”

This reinforcement is amplified on social media, where people have access to a constant stream of imagery and often find themselves making comparisons.

“We live in a culture where eating disorders thrive because of the messages we’re exposed to,” says Claire Mysko, head of Youth Outreach for the New York City-based National Eating Disorders Association, or NEDA. “Social media heightens that exposure.”

“From the outside it may look like somebody is fairly muscular, because they spend a lot of time lifting weights… When they look in the mirror, they (may) not see themselves as appearing healthy or fit,” Wassenaar says. “Sometimes they will think that they have much smaller muscles than they do, and so they keep trying to look a certain way.”

And despite eating disorders being among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose, athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due, in part, to stigma, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Bodybuilder Rob Lipsett highlighted the stigma surrounding eating disorders in a YouTube video about his own experience, admitting he “really didn’t think it would happen to me.”

He admits, “This is kind of the dark side of fitness, and it’s something that people don’t like to talk about,” he says.

However, think about talking to a professional or contacting one of the associations for help if you are targeting the perfect body in your workouts, but never seem to be satisfied.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Twitter acquires Scroll, an ad-free news reader

May 5, 2021

Twitter  has announced the acquisition of Scroll, an ad-free news product—and word is that the social media giant expects to pull the service into a new subscription offering being planned, Ad Age reports.

To date, the app, which launched in January 2020, has offered subscribers the opportunity to get ad-free access to hundreds of websites, for $5 per month.

Scroll works with a handful of publishers—among them, Vox Media, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, The Atlantic, and USA Today—and offers stories from those publishers to paying customers. It does not block ads; rather, it works with its expanding group of publishers to take the ads down in exchange for a slice of the subscription fee.

Scroll keeps 30% of the subscription fee and distributes the other 70% to the participating sites, based on which articles users view.

Scroll will temporarily halt new subscribers while its 13-person team joins the social media company, Twitter said on May 4 in a blog post. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Scroll, which has offices in New York City and Portland, is backed by investors including Union Square Ventures.

Twitter has spoken publicly about its interest in selling a subscription product, and is considering a number of options. The San Francisco-based company also recently acquired Revue, a newsletter startup, with plans to make money from subscriptions. Twitter envisions the two products working together, and says users may one day pay to read newsletters or stories from certain publishers directly on Twitter without any ads.

“For every other platform, journalism is dispensable,” wrote Scroll CEO Tony Haile in a blog post. “If journalism were to disappear tomorrow their business would carry on much as before. Twitter is the only large platform whose success is deeply intertwined with a sustainable journalism ecosystem.”

The social media company is looking for ways to expand business outside of digital advertising, which makes up the bulk of revenue. Advertising can be inconsistent and Twitter said last week that ad sales got off to a slow start in 2021 thanks in part to civil unrest in the United States and delayed public events, like Hollywood’s Academy Awards presentation. A subscription business would offer a more steady and predictable revenue stream. Scroll is Twitter’s sixth deal in the past six months.

Research contact: @adage

Terror is ‘still with us’: AG Garland warns of domestic terrorism at Oklahoma City bombing memorial

April 20, 2021

The terrorism that led to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City almost three decades ago has morphed into a heightened threat from domestic violent extremists, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday, April 19, in his first major public address, Bloomberg reports.

Garland, who oversaw the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, marked the 26th anniversary of the of the most deadly domestic assault in U.S. history—offering a stark reminder that the brand of terror unleashed by the bombers is “still with us, ” USA Today noted.

“It was night, but you would not have known it,” Garland told survivors and officials gathered on the grounds of the downtown memorial. “Bright lights lit the site up as if it were midday. The front of the (Alfred P.) Murrah Building was gone. The parking lot across the street still held cars that had been flattened by the blast.”

Garland’s remarks came just over three months since the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol—a stunning assault that has highlighted a reinvigorated domestic extremist movement. As in Oklahoma City more than two decades ago, Garland now oversees a far-reaching investigation into the siege that has so far resulted in charges against more than 400 people, USA Today said

The attorney general did not directly refer to the Capitol attack, but he cited a recent FBI warning in its aftermath of the “ongoing and heightened threat posed by domestic violent extremists.”

“Those of us who were in Oklahoma City in April 1995 do not need any warning; the  hatred expressed by domestic violent extremists is the opposite of the Oklahoma Standard,” Garland said, recalling the city’s response to the bombing and its continuing campaign against hate. “This memorial is a monument to a community that will not allow hate and division to win.”

Garland, who arrived in Oklahoma City just two days after the attack, has often described his association with the case and a deeply wounded community as “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”

Indeed, USA Today noted, throughout the investigation and beyond, Garland was known to carry a list of the victims in his briefcase.

That connection was on display throughout his remarks Monday, when his voice quavered at times and paused to collect his emotions, the news outlet reported.

“Oklahoma City, you are always in my heart,” he said.

Research contact: USATODAY

Watt a concept: Volkswagen preps to change name to ‘Voltswagen’ in U.S.A.

March 30, 2021

The iconic Volkswagen brand is preparing to change its name to “Voltswagen” in the United States, in order to highlight its massive investment in electric vehicles.

The German automaker’s announcement about the name change appeared briefly on its media website on March 29 before it was yanked; it was apparently released too soon, reported USA Today. Officials were mum about the premature announcement; but a source confirmed to that newspaper, CNBC and other media including the HuffPost, that the statement was accurate.

“More than a name change, ‘Voltswagen’ is a public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility,” said the statement before it was pulled.

The name change was supposed to happen in May.

“The new name and branding symbolize the highly-charged forward momentum Voltswagen has put in motion, pursuing a goal of moving all people point-to-point with EVs,” the release said.

Electric models will reportedly carry the name, “Voltswagen,” while gas-powered vehicles will retain the standard “VW” identification. To preserve elements of Volkswagen’s heritage, the company plans to retain the dark blue color of the VW logo for gas vehicles and will use light blue for the new “EV-centric branding.”

The company is about to debut the ID.4, its first long-range electric SUV, in the United States. It’s part of a new lineup of Volkswagen’s ID electric vehicles, including the ID Buzz, a rerun of its microbus. That’s expected to roll out next year in Europe and in America the following year, CNET noted.

The automaker expects that more than 70% of its brand’s European sales and 50% of sales in the U.S.A. will be electric vehicles by 2030, reported CNBC.

Research contact: USATODAY

A tree frog named Betty has been named the 2021 Cadbury ‘bunny’

March 30, 2021

When you think about it, frogs and bunnies aren’t that different. They both hop and they are both Easter icons—at least this year, USA Today reports.

Hershey announced this week that Betty—an Australian White’s Tree Froghas won the Easter brand’s third-annual Cadbury Bunny Tryouts.

Betty is set to star in the Cadbury Clucking Bunny nationwide TV commercial this spring, the company said in its news release.

“Betty’s been a great addition to our home and we are so glad we get to share her with the rest of the world!” said Kaitlyn Vidal, Betty’s owner, of Suart, Florida. “She has been a wonderful companion at college and thanks to the support of my friends, family, and the amphibian community, I know she’ll make Cadbury proud as she inherits the bunny ears.”

The frog beat over 12,000 entries nationwide—including a donkey, a miniature horse and a goat. Betty takes over the mantle from last year’s winner: Lieutenant Dan, a two-legged coonhound.

And Hershey isn’t the only company that’s in the Easter spirit. Oreo cookies brought back the Oreo Easter Cookies to U.S. Target stores for a limited time;and Pepsi recently announced its partnership with the marshmallow brand Peep to launch the limited-edition PEPSI x PEEPS beverage.

Research contact: @USATODAY

‘Among the stars’: Ashes of Scotty from ‘Star Trek’ hidden on International Space Station

December 29, 2020

“Beam me up, Scotty,” the characters on the wildly popular TV series, Star Trek (196601969) used to say—and now the favor has been returned: Actor James Doohan’s family is celebrating after keeping a major secret for the past 12 years, USA Today reports.

Doohan, who famously portrayed Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott on the series, always had dreamed of resting among the stars.

After he died in 2005 at the age of 85, his ashes were smuggled aboard the International Space Station—where they fittingly float in space to this very day. To date, the Starship Enterprise engineer’s cremains has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space—orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times.

“I have been keeping a secret for over 12 years,” Chris Doohan, one of the actor’s sons, wrote on Twitter—adding a link to a December 25 article from the Times of London that revealed the secret.

“My dad had three passions: space, science and trains. He always wanted to go into space,” Chris Doohan told the Times.

What’s more, now the mystery has been solved: Richard Garriott, an entrepreneur and one of the first private citizens in space, says he smuggled James Doohan’s ashes onto the ISS in 2008 during a 12-day mission as a private astronaut in a plot concocted by Chris Doohan.

The caper entailed printing three cards with a Doohan photograph and laminating each with a sprinkling of ashes sealed inside hidden inside his flight data file. 

“Everything that officially goes on board is logged, inspected and bagged —there’s a process, but there was no time to put it through that process,” Garriott told the Times.

One of the three cards is framed on a wall in Doohan’s California home, which Doohan tweeted Saturday. Garriott floated another into space. The third is under the cladding on the floor of the space station’s Columbus module, where he hid it in 2008.

“As far as I know, no one has ever seen it there and no one has moved it,” Garriott said. “James Doohan got his resting place among the stars.”

Chris Doohan said he was told to “keep this hush-hush for a little while” and here we are 12 years later. What he did was touching — it meant so much to me, so much to my family and it would have meant so much to my dad.”

Research contact: @USATODAY

After 24 days, resolute Milwaukee marchers arrive in DC—some with bleeding feet

August 31, 2020

After enduring blistered feet, arrests, harassment, and a spray of gunfire over the course of weeks, a group of dedicated people completed a 750-mile march from Milwaukee to the nation’s capital on  Friday, August 28—the 57th anniversary of Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  March on Washington, USA Today reported.

Sixty people (plus cats and dogs)—some with bleeding feet and pulled calf muscles—crossed into D.C. around 7:30 a.m. (EDT) Friday morning.

Frank “Nitty” Sensabaugh stood on the National Mall at 9 a.m., exhausted, sore, hungry and in disbelief.  “It’s indescribable,” said Sensabaugh, a Milwaukee-based activist who organized the march. “I was crying for a while. I was tired because I haven’t slept in three days. Then I was crying again.”

Sensabaugh and about 20 other men and women expected to converge with thousands of other protesters—demanding law enforcement reform and voting rights as America reels from the police killings of Black people this year.

At about 1 p.m., participants were planning to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial for what they are calling the Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington.

Now, their demonstration has become even more necessary, Tory Lowe, a Milwaukee-based victims advocate who co-organized the march from Milwaukee, told the national news outlet.

Just miles from Milwaukee last weekend, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back seven times, leaving the father of three paralyzed from the waist down, according to lawyers for his family. The shooting ignited several nights of looting, violence and protests in Kenosha and other cities across the country—the most recent incidents of unrest this summer amid a nationwide movement for racial justice.

“This march was meant to happen because look what’s happening in the state of Wisconsin,” Lowe said. “This is why we’re marching. It brings validation to the fact of why we ever started this march in the first place.”

The first few days of the journey went smoothly, organizers said, as police escorted the march to and through Chicago. People began to turn out on sidewalks to offer support as the marchers passed by, and others monitoring their progress on social media began to donate food and pay for hotel rooms.

“Once we got into Indiana and Ohio, it got really intense because the areas with less diversity became our biggest issues,” Lowe told USA Today.. “Some people were saying {we should] go home. People would write things on the ground. They were pissed.”

On the ninth day, Indiana State Police arrested and held Sensabaugh and Lowe for several hours near Warsaw because, police said, the group was blocking traffic.

“We’ve been arrested for walking, and we’ve been shot at,” Lowe said. “A white male just came out of nowhere, and our security was shot.”

As the march moved through western Pennsylvania on Monday night, the group of about 30 stopped in the parking lot of a private business and gunfire broke out, according to state police. “The property owners confronted the activists. The confrontation escalated, and gunshots were exchanged between the property owners and the activists,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Brett Miller said Tuesday.

The Bedford County District Attorney was investigating the incident, and no charges had been filed, Miller said.

As the marchers left Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, a group of residents – some armed – lined the streets and yelled slurs, Lowe said. At the same time, other residents came out to protect the marchers, he said.

“It’s been a spiritual journey, and it’s an eye-opening journey for many of us because we’re seeing outright racism as we walk,” Lowe said. “It’s been 24 days, and every day is something. Not one day have we been out here and someone hasn’t thrown racial slurs.”

Sensabaugh and Lowe said they’ve also been heartened by the outpouring of support for the march. At one point in Indiana, a group of diverse group of residents brought the marchers two week’s worth of supplies, water and shoes. Some nurses volunteered to look at their feet.

“It was amazing, and the spirit of humanity was alive,” Lowe said. “There are some people working to change things in these communities as well.”

“There’s a lot of joy, happiness, and relief,” Sensabaugh said. “Between being tired and overwhelmed with emotions, I’m at a loss for words for the first time in my life. I’m trying to soak it all in.”

Sensabaugh said he and other marchers were expected to speak on the Mall and participate in events throughout the day.

Research contact: @USATODAY

‘Got milk?’ A popular ad campaign returns, with some changes

August 20, 2020

Consumers across the country are once again being asked a very important question: “Got milk?” Yes, the iconic advertising tagline is back, but not in the same way.

On August 3, the dairy industry, led by MilkPEP, relaunched the iconic advertising campaign. This revamped spots are targeted toward a new generation of viewers—with content that is optimistic and filled with energy, designed to connect with families and kids and is driven by real people and behaviors.

Specifically, the American Dairy Association says, “The refreshed ‘got milk?’ campaign has been adapted to reflect how families—and, more specifically, kids—consume media. Social media influencers are highlighted instead of celebrities to drive awareness of the campaign.”

To kick off the challenge, six-time Olympic Gold Medalist Katie Ledecky posted a video of herself swimming a lap in a pool with a glass of milk on her head without spilling it. The incredible video went viral and now consumers and other past and present winning swimmers—including Mark Spitz, who took seven golds home from the 1972 Munich Games— are showing off their “something amazing” while not spilling their milk. Ledecky’s video also went viral in the media, with already 1,600 media placements (and counting!), including mentions on ESPNYahoo!USA Today and many other national and local media outlets.

Indeed, during the first week, which started August 7, all the videos with #gotmilkchallenge have been viewed more than 2.3 billion (yes, billion) times! 

On social media platforms, including ADA North East’s, consumers are encouraged to follow Ladecky’s lead by recording a short video pouring a glass of milk and then “doing something amazing” without spilling the milk. Consumers are then encouraged to post the video to social media at #gotmilkchallenge.

The ADA North East marketing team is working closely with MilkPEP to amplify the new “got milk?” campaign. The team at ADA has launched a contest for consumers in the Northeast to post their #gotmilkchallenge video to social media where users add a second hashtag – #milkmovesme. Each post will be entered for a chance to win fun prizes. 

Research contact: @AmericanDairyNE

Elon Musk says goat-mimicking horn sounds are ‘definitely coming’ to Tesla fleet

August 18, 2020

If you happen to hear the sound of a bleating goat while you are out on the road, it might just be a Tesla electric vehicle, reports USA Today.

In 2019, the automaker’s outrageous and brilliant CEO Elon Musk tweeted that new horn features were in the works such as goat noises and fart sounds. (Without such features, electric vehicles are largely silent, unlike internal combustion engines,)

 “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said last October. However, the company hadn’t mentioned the update since then. 

However, on Friday, August 14, a follower on Twitter asked Musk if the horn development was still underway, and Musk confirmed that newer versions of the electric cars will make bleating noises to alert the car up ahead, USA Today says.

“Will only be on relatively recent cars, as we didn’t have an outside speaker until about a year ago. Can change inside sound easily,” Musk said.

USA Today reached out to Tesla for more information. The reason? It’s unclear what type of timeline Musk has in mind. Tesla electric vehicles receive new features periodically via over-the-air updates, similar to smartphones. What’s more, the news outlet notes, It’s important to also remember that the CEO has previously made unconfirmed promises on Twitter that have landed him in hot water. 

In 2018, Musk tweeted that he lined up the financing necessary to take Tesla private in a buyout. The buyout never happened and the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Musk of misleading investors.

Musk and Tesla eventually reached a $40 million settlement and the CEO stepped down as chairman for at least three years. There was also a stipulation that his tweets be prescreened by the company for accuracy.

Posting on social media got Musk into trouble again in 2019 after he tweeted about Tesla’s projected production numbers. The SEC alleged the tweet was another misleading statement, and the situation resulted in another settlement.

Research contact: @USATODAY