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Kamala Harris team looking to reboot her political trajectory after first-year stumbles: report

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 18:42
Vice President Kamala Harris.
  • Advisors to Harris are seeking to reset her political trajectory, per a Washington Post report.
  • Harris, the first female vice president, has endured a wave of reports about office dysfunction.
  • In recent weeks, Harris has been a more visible presence at major events with President Biden.

Vice President Kamala Harris' political team has put into place a number of changes in a concerted effort to boost her public reception and political future after hitting some turbulence in her first year in office, according to The Washington Post.

Harris, a former California state attorney general and US senator, has had a meteoric rise on the national political scene, moving into the Naval Observatory only four years after she walked into the Senate Chamber in 2017.

However, months after taking office last January, she faced a series of media reports about dysfunction in her office, coupled with news of stagnant approval ratings, which advisors and supporters feel have dampened the fortunes of the first female, first Black, and first Indian American vice president in American history.

Now — nearly one year after the inauguration — there's a major effort for a successful reset by Harris' team.

The vice president has brought on Jamal Simmons, a longtime Democratic analyst who been a staple on cable news programs, to become her communications director at a time when many have said her office has lacked consistent messaging on her duties and accomplishments.

After stepping back from attending large events alongside President Joe Biden, Harris has become a more visible presence, as was evidenced at the signing of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in November and their joint appearance in Atlanta on Tuesday where they both pushed for the passage of voting-rights legislation that has stalled in Congress.

And after having a schedule that featured a limited number of interviews with media figures, Harris has had a stronger television presence in recent weeks.

As Democrats face political headwinds in maintaining their congressional majorities in 2022, the vice president is also set to become a familiar presence on the campaign trail — a relief to many who want to see her engaged with voters ahead of an expected 2024 Biden reelection campaign and a potential presidential run in 2028.

This week's voting-rights speech in Atlanta was a harbinger of what will be a more substantive influence on public policy from Harris, especially for issues that are being closely watched by the American public.

Before Biden spoke in support of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — key pieces of legislation that the party hopes to pass in the face of near-certain Republican filibusters in the Senate — Harris remarked on the bills and introduced the president.

"Years from now, our children and our grandchildren, they will ask us about this moment," she said during her speech. "They will look back on this time, and they will ask us not about how we felt — they will ask us what did we do."

She continued: "We cannot tell them that we let a Senate rule stand in the way of our most fundamental freedom.  Instead, let us tell them that we stood together as people of conscience and courage."

However, several challenges remain for the vice president as advisors seek to jumpstart her role.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in front of President Joe Biden advocating for the passage of voting-rights legislation at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University on January 11, 2022.'She can't own voting rights'

Harris has not yet announced a replacement for Symone Sanders, her former senior advisor and chief spokesperson who left the role in late December and was recently named as the host of a new weekend show on MSNBC.

Last year, after Harris was tapped to focus on the causes of migration from Northern Triangle countries, Republicans lodged a series of attacks about the sharp increase in illegal border crossings and repeatedly asked her to visit the US-Mexico border. When the vice president traveled to El Paso, many Republicans still criticized her for not coming to the region sooner.

A testy exchange with NBC's Lester Holt over visiting the border led some in the Biden administration to be "quietly perplexed" by her response — in which she also stated that she had not been to Europe as vice president — according to a CNN report.

After the NBC interview, Harris reportedly viewed such engagements with caution and is attempting to put aside her previously "defensive posture," according to the Post report.

While the vice president granted an interview with NBC's Craig Melvin earlier this week and forcefully advocated for the administration's voting-rights push in a manner that was pleasing to many Democrats, she was also grilled about the timetable for COVID-19 tests, which have been in short supply across the country with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The Biden administration plans to make 500 million free tests available to Americans in the coming weeks. When asked if the tests could have been distributed sooner, Harris responded: "We are doing it."

And some Harris backers are exasperated that Biden has given Harris thorny issues like immigration and voting rights, which will require a Herculean effort and a near-perfect set of circumstances to enact visible progress.

Also, unlike Biden, Harris assumed the vice presidency without decades on Capitol Hill, lacking the contacts and deep relationships that her boss cultivated during his 36-year tenure representing Delaware in the Senate.

According to the Post report, aides said that it has been hard for Harris to debunk the narrative that she is a difficult employer, especially with articles that have mentioned everything from "soul-destroying criticism" to longtime supporters feeling restricted in their access to the vice president.

The New York Times reported last month that Harris privately told allies that she felt as though her media coverage would be "different" if she were a white male, noting her trailblazing status in the role and the high expectations that often come with such a distinction.

Donna Brazile, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and the campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, said that the issues tasked to Harris are complicated and can't be fit into a set timetable.

"She can't own voting rights. No one can own a century-long struggle that has defined the country," Brazile told The Post. "This is a huge assignment. It took a civil war, and then later a civil rights movement, to get us to where we stood prior to 2020. And it's going to take a lot more to get us further."

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Glenn Youngkin sworn in as Virginia's 74th governor, reinvigorating Republicans after years of statewide losses

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 18:33
Gov. Glenn Youngkin gives his inaugural speech at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on January 15, 2022.
  • Republican Glenn Youngkin was sworn in as Virginia's 74th governor on Saturday.
  • Youngkin, a former private-equity executive, defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November.
  • The governor will face divided government, with a GOP-led House and a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated as Virginia's 74th governor on Saturday, becoming the first Republican to occupy the Executive Mansion since 2014 and reinvigorating a state GOP that had suffered years of statewide losses.

Youngkin — a 55-year-old former private-equity executive and first-time political candidate — took the oath of office on the south Portico of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond after defeating former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe last November.

"No matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate, your voice, your governor," Youngkin said during his speech, where he reaffirmed his commitment to eliminate the grocery tax and empower parents of public school students, issues that he ran on heavily during his campaign.

He succeeded former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who was term-limited and ineligible to run for reelection.

The newly-installed governor led a sweep of Republican statewide offices — with Winsome Sears becoming the Commonwealth's first Black female lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares as the first Latino attorney general in Virginia history — in a state that in recent years has leaned toward the Democratic Party.

Before the 2021 fall elections, Republicans had not won a statewide election in the Commonwealth since 2009, when former state attorney general and then-gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell led the party to landslide victories up and down the ballot.

Last year, the GOP faced a much different political landscape.

The party ceded its majority in the House of Delegates in 2019 as Democrats reaffirmed their ascendancy in the state's suburban areas, which had long helped the GOP maintain power in the state legislature.

In the 2020 election, then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden easily defeated then-President Donald Trump by a 10-point margin (54%-44%) in Virginia, fueled by the Republican commander-in-chief's massive unpopularity in the Commonwealth's fast-growing suburban areas.

Spectators watch the gubernatorial swearing-in of Glenn Youngkin at the State Capitol in Richmond.

While many observers expected McAuliffe to cruise to victory against a Trumpian challenger last year, Republicans chose to nominate Youngkin — a relative unknown in most state political circles — in a ranked-choice voting system.

Realizing that a full embrace of Trump's brand of politics was not politically tenable in blue-trending Virginia, Youngkin ran a race focused on education and the economy in an effort to to peel off swing voters who had fueled Democratic gains in the state. It worked.

His strategy involved running against the teaching of critical race theory to students, despite the discipline not being instructed to children in the Commonwealth's K-12 public schools.

Critical race theorists have examined how America's history of racism continue to reverberate through laws and policies that exist today, and Republicans — energized by Youngkin's new administration — are planning to employ it as a wedge issue in the 2022 midterm elections.

Despite Republican exuberance about their newfound power in the state, they will face divided government. While Republicans were able to recapture the House of Delegates last fall, they control the chamber by a narrow 52-48 edge — and Democrats still control the state Senate, albeit by a slender 21-19 margin.

And while Youngkin has named several prominent Virginians to his administration, tapping former US Office of Personnel Management director and ex-Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James as the next secretary of the commonwealth, along with former state attorney general Richard Cullen as his counselor, the governor hit a speedbump with legislative Democrats in naming former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler as the Commonwealth's secretary of natural resources.

Wheeler, who led the EPA under Trump, has received a torrent of criticism from Democrats for his environmental policies, including the repeal of water protections that were implemented during the administration of former President Barack Obama.

However, in a recent interview with Central Virginia-based VPM, Youngkin continued to back Wheeler, who will need to be confirmed by both houses of the Virginia legislature.

"Andrew is going to be on the Glenn Youngkin team," the governor said. "He is incredibly qualified."

Read the original article on Business Insider
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FedEx wants to put anti-missile lasers on some of its planes

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 18:17
Fedex DC-10
  • FedEx is looking to install anti-missile lasers on some of its jets, according to a proposal it sent to the FAA.
  • The request, submitted for government approval back in 2019, is atypical for commercial and civilian planes.
  • The FAA will hear public comment for 45 days before making its decision on allowing FedEx to adapt the tech.

FedEx is looking to outfit some cargo planes with a unique protective measure — anti-missile laser technology.

The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) said in a filing on Friday it is currently reviewing a request from FedEx to add infrared laser technology to some aircraft. The technology is designed to project a laser outside the plane that counters and disrupts a missile's heat-seeking capabilities.

"In recent years, in several incidents abroad, civilian aircraft were fired upon by man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS)," the FAA document reads. "This has led several companies to design and adapt systems like a laser-based missile-defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft against heat-seeking missiles."

In 2003, a surface-to-air missile hit the left wing of an Airbus A330 operating for DHL just after takeoff from Baghdad, Iraq, but crew were able to escape unharmed. In 2014, a missile attack took out a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine, killing 298 passengers.

According to the filing, the tech will be adapted onto the Airbus Model A321-200 — a twin-engine, transportation jet with seating for 220 passengers. FedEx operates the worlds largest cargo air fleet, with more than 650 total planes, but it currently does not own or operate any A321-200 aircraft. 

FedEx did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

The feature, which the FAA document described as "novel" and "unusual," is not typically seen on non-military aircraft. The FAA's current design standards are not able to accommodate this technology, the filing also said, and the agency has no basis to determine whether the system will perform as intended. 

"Infrared laser energy can pose a hazard to persons on the aircraft, on the ground, and another aircraft," the filing also said, citing several adverse affects on flight personnel and airport equipment. "The risk is high because infrared light is invisible to the human eye."

Though the FAA and Department of Transportation made the filing public on Friday, the proposal was originally submitted by FedEx in October 2019.

"With the modifications on [the aircraft], the FAA keeps careful track of anything that is done to a jet that might impact its flight characteristics," said Richard Aboulafia, a managing director at Aerospace consulting firm AeroDynamic Advisory. 

FedEx could be looking at this as a one-off experiment, purchasing an A321 and testing the technology to see if it wants to add it to more of the company's fleet, Aboulafia told Insider. The company could also be planning on purchasing some A321 planes as part of a civil reserve aircraft fleet that the military could employ in hostile territories, he added.

The US government and other civilian American airlines have looked into adding their similar countermeasures to civilian flights for nearly two decades, though high cost and low risk of domestic missile attacks eventually dissuaded them.

Aviation regulators will spend 45 days hearing public comment it approves the infrared laser system.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Hamas claims it discovered a dolphin assassin sent by Israel. Experts say it's plausible, but more likely propaganda.

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 17:43
A Hamas spokesperson released a video saying the militant group had discovered an Israeli killer dolphin.
  • Hamas claims to have discovered a dolphin fitted with a gun-like device off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
  • A spokesman for the militant group alleged that Israel had trained it to target Palestinian combat divers.
  • Experts told Insider that the claim should be viewed skeptically, even though dolphins are sometimes used by the military.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed in a video on Monday that the militant group had discovered an Israeli assassin dolphin off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

—Joe Truzman (@JoeTruzman) January 10, 2022

The spokesperson alleged that Israel's military had trained the dolphin to chase and kill Hamas's frogmen, per the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds.

The spokesman said that one Hamas fighter, Israel killed during the conflict in May, found a gun-like device attached to the aquatic mammal, The Jerusalem Post reported. He did not specify when the operation took place.

Hamas claims to have found a gun-like device on the beak of a dolphin.

Experts told Insider that while dolphins can and have been used for military exercises, this most recent claim of a sea-faring assassin should be viewed with skepticism.

"Hamas has definitely put out a lot of propaganda and, if you like, not entirely honest media in the past," said HI Sutton, a defense analyst who writes for the US Naval Institute during an interview with Insider. "So there's always a chance that it's made up."

'There's a propaganda war going on'

Gervase Philips, a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, whose research focuses on animals in human conflict, told Insider he agrees.

"My own position is that, theoretically, this is possible, but I am very, very skeptical," he told Insider. "There's a propaganda war going on," Phillips said, agreeing with the notion that Hamas's claim should be questioned.

This isn't the first time that Hamas has accused Israel of using dolphins to target them, offering scant evidence to back the claims.

In 2015, it claimed to have captured a dolphin being used as an Israeli spy. Per Al-Quds, it was reportedly equipped with a spy camera and turned into a "murderer" by Israeli security forces. No photographic evidence of the alleged marine secret agent was ever released, according to BBC News.

Other Arab nations have also accused Israel of using animals to target enemies. Hezbollah in Lebanon claimed to have captured Israeli spying eagles. In 2012, Sudan accused Israel of sending a vulture capable of espionage into the country.

And in 2010, an Egyptian lawmaker proliferated a claim that Mossad was responsible for several shark attacks that occurred off the coast of the Sharm el-Sheikh resort.

But while animal-related conspiracy theories about Israel might sound fantastical, it is a fact that some nations have used marine mammals in warfare.

The US Navy has a marine mammal program

The US and Russian militaries have, historically, trained sea creatures. Little is known about the Soviet-era or modern Russian program, Phillips said, leading to "all kinds of rumors circulating," but the existence of the US Navy Marine Mammal (NMMP) Program is well-publicized.

After the program became de-classified in the early 1990s, the public learned that the NMMP trains bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to perform protection, mine detection, and object recovery. The US Navy insists that it has never trained marine mammals to attack people or ships because dolphins cannot discern between enemy and friendly vessels or divers.

Phillips added that it is "impractical" — and potentially "catastrophic" — to use dolphins in murder missions because they have minds of their own.

"Behavioral scientists have this tendency to talk of animals as programmable platforms as if they were machines or a form of AI," he told Insider. "But they are not artificial — they are sentient creatures with a will of their own and there is always an element of the unpredictable about them."

Sutton said that while the dolphins are unlikely to be doing the killing themselves, it is "not that far-fetched" to suggest that militaries could be using them to attach markers to targets with a view to them being captured or taken out by humans.

The gun-like device, which the Hamas spokesperson showed in the video, is more likely "a marker buoy," said Sutton, but could also be "a pinger or an acoustic device.

HI Sutton's model of the alleged gun-like device on a dolphin.

Israel has not publicly disclosed whether it has a marine mammal military program. The Israel Defense Forces did not respond to Insider's request for comment on the existence of the program or the alleged discovery of a killer dolphin.

—Israel ישראל (@Israel) January 12, 2022

But a tweet shared Wednesday on Israel's official Twitter account appears to make light of the situation. The tweet consisted solely of eight dolphin emojis.

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The estranged wife of indicted leader of Oath Keepers tells CNN he is a 'dangerous man' and 'complete sociopath'

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 17:34
Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, has been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot.
  • Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, was charged with seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot.
  • His estranged wife Tasha Adams said that he is a "complete sociopath."
  • Adams said that she felt Rhodes was personally dangerous to her and her family, and also to the country.

The estranged wife of Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right group Oath Keepers, said he is a "complete sociopath."

Rhodes' wife Tasha Adams made the comments in an interview with CNN on Friday, a day after Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot.

Insider's Oma Seddiq and Sonam Sheth wrote that it's the most significant arrest yet and marks the first time that federal prosecutors have brought sedition charges in connection to the Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the deadly January 6, 2021, Capitol siege.

Adams said she was relieved to hear he was indicted, as she "lived in fear" of him showing up at her house.

"Knowing we were safe and my kids were safe and my kids' school doesn't have to worry, that was a relief I didn't know existed," she said.

Adams told CNN host John Berman that she felt Rhodes was dangerous to her and her family, and the country.

"He is very dangerous. He lives very much in his own head," Adams said on CNN.

"He sees himself as a great leader. He almost has his own mythology of himself and I think he almost made it come true, seeing himself as some sort of figure in history, and it sort of happened."

"He's a complete sociopath. He does not feel empathy for anyone around him at all," she added.

Tasha Adams and Stewart Rhodes' divorce has been pending for more than three years.

In April of last year, Adams set up a GoFundMe page asking for $30,000 in donations to fund their divorce.

"Though I can't talk about the details of my marriage here, I can tell you that it was likely about exactly what you're picturing, but probably quite a bit weirder," Adams wrote on the GoFundMe page.

She also wrote that the process of divorcing her husband was difficult as he was someone who "commands their own private army."

Rhodes, an Army veteran, founded the Oath Keepers in 2019. The far-right group recruits active and former military and law enforcement officers who swear an oath to defend the US Constitution.

His arrest on Thursday marked the first time that federal prosecutors have brought sedition charges in connection to the events of January 6.

Rhodes has said he was at the Capitol that day but did not enter the building, according to The Washington Post.

Tasha Adams told CNN that she has been talking to the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, and said that she believed her husband "planned it very carefully."

She said that she believed Rhodes had been calculating in his decision to not enter the Capitol building so that he would not be implicated.

"I see his fingerprints all over it," she said.

Adams and Rhodes, who met in Las Vegas, married in 1994 and have six children together, according to Buzzfeed News.

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Ohio school says a shortage of cafeteria staff forced it to serve takeout pizza to hundreds of students for lunch

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 17:13
Parents were asked to "plan accordingly" if they would prefer their child to eat something else at school.
  • An Ohio school district served students takeout pizza due to a lack of kitchen staff.
  • Students at Independence High were offered one slice, as well as a fruit, vegetable, and milk.
  • It highlighted the challenges that schools and businesses face amid staffing shortages. 

A school in the district of Independence, Ohio, said it was forced to serve students takeout pizza for lunch due to a lack of cafeteria workers. 

A Facebook group for Independence Local Schools made the announcement, stating that students at Independence High School would be served "a slice of Romito's pizza, a fruit, vegetable and milk," on Friday 14 January, for lunch. 

It added that no additional items would be available to students, due to staff shortages. 

In the announcement, parents were asked to "plan accordingly" if they would prefer their child eat something else at school. 

Independence High School did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

Schools around the country are grappling with staff shortages, which in some cases are being blamed on COVID-19-related sickness. In other cases, staff departures amid the Great Resignation may have played a role.

Other sectors, including the US military and the haulage industry, are facing similar struggles.

The owner of Romito's, the pizzeria from which the school ordered, told local news outlet Fox8: "The Independence High School decided to place a large order for pizzas after the staff learned they did not have enough cafeteria workers to make lunch for students on Friday." 

He added that the huge order was a sign of the tough times that people were facing as a result of staffing issues. "We're all in a pickle right now," he told the outlet. "Everybody's short staffed."

Meanwhile, back at Independence High School, some managers were being left with no option but to take on two jobs at the same time. According to Fox8, the district's service manager was serving students pizza at lunch and driving bus routes before and after school. 

Earlier this month, a school district in Iowa canceled classes after facing a similar problem with sourcing school bus drivers. 

 

 

 

 

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A high-profile New York attorney says a Chicago judge made 'sexist and offensive' comments about her after he thought a YouTube livestream of court had ended

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 16:40
High-profile attorney Jennifer Bonjean said a Chicago judge made "sexist and offensive" comments about her when he thought a YouTube stream had ended.
  • Attorney Jennifer Bonjean told WGN News that a Chicago judge made disparaging remarks about her.
  • Cook County Judge William Raines was caught on camera making "sexist and offensive" comments, she said.
  • "Can you imagine waking up next to her every day? Oh my god," Raines said, according to Bonjean.

A Chicago judge was caught on an apparent hot mic making disparaging and inappropriate comments about a female lawyer. 

In virtual court proceedings earlier this week, Cook County Judge William Raines made "sexist and offensive" comments about Jennifer Bonjean, a high-profile New York-based lawyer who's previously represented Bill Cosby, she told WGN News.

Raines made the comments at the end of the day after proceedings ended. It appears that he believed the YouTube livestream that had been recording the proceedings had ended, WGN News reported. 

That's when Raines, two Cook County prosecutors, and a Cook County assistant public defender began to make fun of Bonjean on the apparent hot mic. 

"'Did you see her going nuts, glasses off, fingers through her hair?" Bonjean told WGN News Raines said.

"The biggest problem comes when he says, 'Can you imagine waking up next to her every day? Oh my God.'" Bonjean added.

The YouTube video of the proceedings has since been set to private but was available to watch as recently as Thursday, the Chicago Times reported.

Susie Bucaro, the Cook County assistant state's attorney, also contributed to the disparaging remarks, Bonjean said. 

"There would be a number of things wrong in my life if I was waking up next to her every day," Bonjean said Bucaro said of her. Then Raines responded. "I couldn't have a visual on that if you paid me," Raines said, according to Bonjean.

Neither the office of the State's Attorney nor the Cook County Chief Judge's Office immediately responded to Insider's request for comment. 

But in a statement to WGN News, State's Attorney Kim Foxx said the behavior is "unacceptable and runs counter to the values of this administration."

"Their actions reflect poorly on the work of our office and the entire criminal justice system. State's Attorney Foxx has spoken directly with both ASAs and as a personnel matter, this will be addressed appropriately," the statement continued. 

Bonjean told WGN News that Foxx and the prosecutors have apologized to her. Raines has not, said Bonjean, who added she planned to file a complaint against him with the Judicial Inquiry Board.

"He should not be presiding over things as important as criminal court proceedings where people's lives hang in the balance," Bonjean told WGN News.

Raines has recused himself from presiding over the case, WGN News reported.

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Boris Johnson 'encouraged' weekly 'wine-time' parties at Number 10 during COVID-19 lockdowns, report says

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 15:54
Boris Johnson
  • "Wine-time" events were hosted at 10 Downing Street every week during the pandemic. 
  • Boris Johnson was fully aware of the parties and endorsed them, saying they were good for morale. 
  • The prime minister's team is currently drawing up a plan to save his political career.

An investigation by The Mirror has found that "wine-time Fridays" occurred weekly at Number 10 — the office and home of Prime Minister Boris Johnson — during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns

The events were encouraged by Johnson as they allowed the staff to "let off steam," even though lockdown laws banned indoor gatherings. 

"Wine-time Fridays" were such a hit within Downing Street that a £142 ($190) drinks fridge was bought to keep their bottles of white wine, Prosecco, and beer cool. The staff split the cost of the purchase, the report says.

Aides took turns to visit a local supermarket in Westminster with a suitcase to stock up the 34-bottle capacity fridge which they wheeled back to number 10 Downing Street, a source claimed to The Mirror. 

The gatherings were weekly fixtures from December 2020, when the UK was at the height of a COVID-19 second wave that killed 70,000 people, and continued through varying degrees of restrictions, including full lockdowns.

Whilst unclear the exact number of people who attended these events organized by the No 10 press office, advisers from other departments were also regular attendees.

One source told The Mirror that: "Boris used to stop by for a chat while they had a drink. It was on the way up to his flat and the door was usually open. He knew about it and encouraged it." 

One social event happened on the eve of Prince Phillips' funeral, which the Queen had to attend alone. 

Downing Street has apologized to Her Majesty the Queen.

Meanwhile, a London woman was fined £12,000 ($16,410) for hosting a birthday party on the day of Prince Phillip's funeral,, reported the Evening Standard.

'Partygate'Her Majesty the Queen sits alone in St George's Chapel at her husband's funeral.

This expose is the latest in a long list of social gatherings found to be hosted or supported by the Prime Minister  — which is being referred to as "partygate" —while the United Kingdom was in a socially-isolating lockdown. 

These gatherings are being investigated by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant. 

Catherine Neilan, Insider's senior UK political editor, spoke to Conservative politicians, many of whom are disenchanted with their leader, Boris Johnson, and are considering whether to push for Johnson's departure.

"People were pissed off before," one member of Johnson's government told Insider. "But now? We're not just dealing with a drip-drip of leaks — it's a raging river."

"We've got people leaving the [Conservative] party — not just people who have voted for us for the last 40 years, but people who have been members. We've got to do something," a former minister told Insider. 

In an attempt to dodge calls for his resignation, Boris Johnson and his team have crafted a plan the PM has called "Operation Save Big Dog," the Independent reported – a title reportedly thought up by Johnson.

The plan sets out who should resign instead of the prime minister depending on the outcome of Sue Gray's investigation, and also deciding which of the prime minister's achievements to shine a light on.

A complete clear-out of Boris Johnson's number 10 team may be the only thing to save the Johnson premiership, Insider's Thomas Colson and Catherine Neilan report. 

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I drove 2 of America's smallest pickup trucks. Here's how the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz stack up.

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 15:05
Ford Maverick (left) and Hyundai Santa Cruz.
  • Small pickup trucks have arrived. The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are both new for 2022. 
  • Both pickups aim to offer truck capability in a compact, low-cost package. 
  • We drove both models and compared them across price, bed size, driving experience, and more. 

The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz have arrived. Brand-new for the 2022 model year, both aim to do essentially the same thing: offer pickup capability in a cheaper, smaller package. 

But which one should you buy?

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited.

I tested both vehicles and can confirm they're both great options for people who like the idea of a pickup, but want something that's easier to drive and park than your standard, bulky truck. 

Still, they each bring something different to the table. Here's how the Hyundai and Ford compare:

Price

The 2022 Ford Maverick XL.

The Maverick wins on price, with a starting MSRP of $19,995. For that low outlay, however, you don't get basic comforts like cruise control and power mirrors. The Santa Cruz, by comparison, starts at around $24,000 and comes with more standard features, including lane keeping and wireless Apple CarPlay. 

If you want an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged Santa Cruz, you need to choose an upper trim level and pay around $36,000. The same can be had on the Maverick for roughly $23,000. 

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited.Size

The trucks are nearly identical in size: The Hyundai is 196 inches long, while the Maverick comes in at 200. 

Both are compact enough that they're fairly easy to toss around city streets or parallel park.

The 2022 Maverick XL.Powertrain and driving experience

The Maverick is your best bet for fuel economy. Its standard hybrid powertrain delivers 37 mpg combined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Santa Cruz gets up to 23 mpg combined. 

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited.

All-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine are optional on both vehicles, with the latter recommended if you prize quickness and passing power. I found the Santa Cruz's 2.5-liter turbo fun and punchy. The Maverick's base engine, as efficient as it is, was sluggish getting up to speed. 

Maverick buyers can add on an FX4 off-roading package, while Hyundai doesn't offer an equivalent. 

Bed

The 2022 Ford Maverick.

Both trucks' beds are roughly the same size. The Santa Cruz's is around four feet long, while the Maverick's is 4.5 feet. 

But the Santa Cruz comes with little storage cubbies that flank the bed and an under-bed cargo area. You can pay extra for cubbies in the Maverick. And both offer options like power outlets, lighting, and tonneau covers. 

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited.

Both trucks are wide enough to fit 4x8 sheets of plywood across the wheel wells. And both encourage do-it-yourself improvements like dividers by providing slots in the bed that fit dimensional lumber. 

Towing and hauling

The 2022 Ford Maverick XL.

I didn't get to push the limits of these truck's towing and hauling capabilities, but here are the numbers:

Maximum towing capacity is 4,000 pounds for the Maverick and 5,000 pounds for the Santa Cruz. That's plenty to pull a small camper or some ATVs. 

Payload capacity is about even: 1,564 pounds for the Maverick and 1,609 for the Santa Cruz. 

Styling

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited.

The Santa Cruz looks more daring and off-beat than the Maverick, which has lots of right angles and conventional truck proportions.

I felt cooler driving the Santa Cruz than the Maverick, but — as with most of the differences between these two trucks — it's all a matter of preference. 

The 2022 Ford Maverick XL.

If your priorities are fuel economy, price, and a truck that's built for work, the Maverick may be more your speed. If you're more of a weekend warrior who wants something that will turn heads and carry your gear, the Santa Cruz could be a better choice. Hyundai doesn't even call the Santa Cruz a pickup truck, after all, but rather a "sport adventure vehicle."

But in truth, either model could excel at either of those roles. The choice is yours.

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I used Etsy to decorate my apartment and saw how it beats out Amazon in the home decor department despite longer delivery times

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 15:00
  • When decorating my first NYC apartment, I struggled to find affordable, high-quality home decor. 
  • I ordered products from e-commerce sites Amazon and Etsy and compared the experience. 
  • Despite the longer delivery times, Etsy quickly became my go-to for vintage and unique pieces. 

Growing up, my art-teacher mother was a pro at finding unique pieces to fill our white walls. The centerpiece for her dining room is a slab of wood her students threw paint-soaked cotton balls at. 

So, when it came to decorating my own apartment I knew I wanted something other than Urban Outfitters posters and Ikea furniture, but I didn't have the budget to go crazy. And unlike my mom, I lacked any serious do-it-yourself chutzpah.

For the first month, I hunted for affordable home decor the old-fashioned way — at flea markets and thrift shops. I was surprised by how expensive the flea market was, with price tags for art pieces ranging from $100 to $500 each. While thrift store prints were less expensive, I didn't fall in love with anything I found. 

This left me to the overwhelming abyss that is shopping for art on the internet. I eventually Googled "Georgia O'Keefe prints," one of my favorite artists, and landed on an Etsy seller page called ChristinaArtsDesigns. 

Unlike other e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy's design prominently features the people behind their products. Under the "About" tab, I could see that Christina was a freelance graphic designer with a love for Japanese culture and anime. Her manufacturer, Printful, was located in North Carolina. 

Compared to the mechanical design of Amazon, the humanized layout made me more confident in the quality of Etsy products and the working conditions of the people making it. I could also contact the shop directly if I had any questions and get a response back immediately. 

ChristinaArtsDesigns had a total 75 Georgia O'Keefe prints that came in nine different sizes, priced between $25 and $45 each. After reading through dozens of five-star reviews testifying to the prints' high quality colors, I was sold. 

One of the three Georgia O'Keefe prints I ordered on Etsy for $34.99 each.Why Etsy is worth the wait 

Etsy describes itself as "a global online marketplace, where people come together to make, sell, buy, and collect unique items," focusing on "creative" buyers and sellers. In June, Etsy announced it's plans to buy the secondhand fashion app Depop for $1.62 billion.

The company outperformed Wall Street estimates for its most recent quarter, continuing to benefit from the home renovation and face mask boom during the pandemic. 

"What it shows is people had to turn to Etsy over the past year, they are choosing to come back even more as we move forward, and we think that's frankly remarkable," CEO Josh Silverman told CNBC in November. 

The company charges sellers 20 cents for each product listed and focuses on vintage and handmade goods. Home & Living and Art & Collectibles are the site's two most popular categories, according to Statista

I ordered this "antique brass knob" from Etsy for $4.73 to level-up an old bedside table I repainted.

After my positive experience with the O'Keefe print, I went to Etsy for everything from lamps to brass cabinet knobs.

The only downside was that shipping times ranged from a few days to a few weeks. I ordered my prints on November 30 and received them on Dec 16, which seems like a lifetime if you're accustomed to Amazon's one-day shipping.

While I was eager for my order to arrive, I knew wall art could make or break a space. If I was going to stare at these every day, I could pass on the two-day shipping and take comfort in supporting a small-batch independent shop. 

In comparison, I ordered the cheap desk I'm currently writing this article from on Amazon. I rushed the purchase so I could start working from home and immediately regretted it. While it looks nice, it's shaky and not the right size for the space. 

Despite Amazon's market dominance, I found the tech giant severely lacked in the home decor department — perhaps one of the few product categories left where shoppers aren't willing to sacrifice convenience over quality. 

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Fox News host Dan Bongino lashes out at YouTube after it suspends and demonetizes his channel over COVID-19 misinformation

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:46
Dan Bongino at Fox News Channel Studios in New York City in June 2019.
  • Dan Bongino's YouTube channel was temporarily suspended and demonetized on Friday.
  • YouTube took action after Bongino said in a video that masks are "useless" in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
  • Bongino responded by telling the video-sharing platform to "kiss my ass."

The popular conservative pundit Dan Bongino has been temporarily suspended from YouTube for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

A YouTube spokesperson told The Hill on Friday that Bongino was banned from posting videos for a week after he claimed in a video that masks are "useless" in stopping the spread of the virus.

Bongino's comments are a "first strike" against his channel, and YouTube's policy states that three strikes within a 90-day period will result in a permanent ban.

YouTube also told The Hill that it removed Bongino's channel from their Partner Program, which allows him to monetize his videos through advertising.

The platform said that it had suspended Bongino's monetization for "repeatedly violating" it's advertiser-friendly guidelines on "harmful and dangerous acts." 

Bongino is one of the most influential figures in conservative media, and has around 870,000 subscribers on YouTube.

The right-wing commentator took to Twitter on Friday to share an expletive-ridden email he sent to someone called Coco from YouTube.

—Bongino Report (@BonginoReport) January 14, 2022

 

"We knew it was just a matter of time before the tyrannical, free-speech hating, bullshit, big tech shithole you work for, would try to silence us," Bongino wrote in the email.

The conservative commentator added that he will shift his focus to video-sharing platform Rumble, of which is an investor.

"So here's my deal to you, and there will be NO negotiation. After your "suspension," I will immediately post content questioning why masks have been totally ineffective in stopping this pandemic. I dare you to do something about it," Bongino wrote.

He signed the email with "Respectfully Kiss My Ass."

Bongino, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, has emerged as one of the top conservative commentators on social media. He had two of the top five link posts on Facebook in the past week, according to a Forbes report on January 14.

A major study has previously shown that mask-wearing seems to be the most effective tool for combating COVID-19.

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A sportswear startup's line of luxury jacket NFTs sold out in minutes. Now the CEO is scouting out land in the metaverse for a virtual store.

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:45
ASRV's 2022 winter clothing line
  • ASRV released 60 NFTs of a luxury jacket as part of its winter clothing release. They sold out in less than 30 minutes. 
  • The company joins the likes of Nike and Adidas in betting on the metaverse as the future of retail. 
  • CEO Jay Barton said brands can leverage NFTs as a way to crowdsource success.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Sportswear company ASRV launched its first-ever non-fungible token collection this week as part of its new winter clothing line. 

The apparel startup released 60 unique NFTs on OpenSea and gifted them to the first 60 customers who bought its special edition winter jacket, which sold for $348. The items sold out in minutes, according to the company.

CEO Jay Barton, who was named to Forbes 30 under 30 in 2020, founded the company in 2014. He views NFTs as a tool to help cultivate a more involved customer base, as well as a way for the company to participate in the Web3 evolution. 

"NFTs allow your fans or customers to basically share the success of a company," Barton told Insider. "Their purchases of products and enthusiasm now have a legitimate financial upside that can be tracked on the blockchain, and they help crowdsource a brand's success."

To date, ASRV has been exclusively an online retailer. In February, however, Barton said ASRV will open its first brick-and-mortar retail store in Beverly Hills, California. The company has also begun scouting out plots of virtual land in The Sandbox metaverse.

The digital tokens sold this week are three-dimensional renders of ASRV's same physical jacket, each with different colors and properties. Some of the more exotic styles include dragon scales, lightning rods, and even one designed like a NASA spacesuit.

According to ASRV, holders of the NFTs could be granted a future utility with things like "discounts, gift cards, excursions, and retail store benefits" — features meant to encourage customer engagement and a sense of community. 

To Barton, NFTs allow customers to "have a vested interest in promoting a brand or products they already love." 

"There's a massive value for the customer," Barton said. "They can feel more included, and the more the company becomes successful, the more value the customer can get."

With over 1.3 million followers on Instagram and a cult following on online forums, ASRV has seen rapid growth since the start of the pandemic, Insider reported previously. Its donations of anti-bacterial masks at the start of the pandemic helped attract broader attention.  

ASRV is one of many fashion brands to enter the nascent Web3 space. This week, iconic American retailer The Gap similarly announced an NFT collection, and global giants Nike and Adidas have both made plays in the metaverse. 

Decentraland recently announced it will host its first virtual fashion week this coming March with high-profile designer brands. According to crypto giant Grayscale, the metaverse has the potential to become a $1 trillion annual revenue opportunity.

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A GOP senator who was called a 'moron' by Dr. Fauci is planning to introduce the FAUCI Act, which will require financial records for administrative officials to be public

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:42
Left: Sen Roger Marshall; Right: Dr. Anthony Fauci
  • Sen. Roger Marshall is introducing the FAUCI Act, days after Dr. Anthony Fauci called him a moron.
  • Fauci made the comment on an apparent hot mic, after Marshall said his financial records weren't open to the public.
  • The Act will make it easier for the public to scrutinize these records from officials like Dr. Fauci.

Sen. Roger Marshall said he's planning to introduce a bill named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, days after the nation's top COVID-19 expert called him a moron.

Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, told the Hill he'd introduce the Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals Act, claiming that records from administrative officials like Fauci cannot be easily acquired by the public. 

The Act would force the Office of Government Ethics to provide financial records for Fauci and other administrative officials directly on its website so members of the public can readily access them. 

Marshall's announcement comes just days after Fauci called him a "moron" on an apparent hot mic

At a Senate hearing earlier this week, the Kansas Republican repeatedly pressed Fauci to disclose his financial records. Forbes previously reported that Fauci, having made $417,608 in 2019, is the highest-paid federal employee.

Fauci, in response to Marshall, said his financial records are already part of the public record. Reporters and members of the public can file a public records request to access them. Liz Essley Whyte, a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, wrote on Twitter that she requested and received Fauci's 2020 disclosure form.

"What a moron," Fauci said in an apparent hot mic moment. "Jesus Christ."

"I don't understand why you're asking me that question," Fauci said. "My financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so."

"All you have to do is ask for it," Fauci added. "You're so misinformed, it's extraordinary." 

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 11, 2022

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where Fauci serves as director, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Insider's Brent D. Griffiths contributed to this report.

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Biden's monthly payments to families were a 'godsend.' Now that they've ended, parents are 'a little bit terrified' about what comes next.

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:40
  • Over 36 million families were sent the final advance monthly child-tax-credit payment in December.
  • Parents told Insider how the monthly payments have been helpful, such as for mortgage payments.
  • One said the payments meant she could keep working amid the pandemic and its effect on schools.

Meghan Hullinger is a single mother with four children living in West Virginia, and the monthly payments parents received from the government from July to December were a lifeline for her family.

Thinking back to the first payment in July, Hullinger told Insider that "it was just the relief of knowing" that she wouldn't have to "play the bill lottery."

"It was basically, I had just enough to pay all of my bills and have a decent sitter that I trusted to watch my kids so I could work," Hullinger said. "It was the absolute relief of having enough."

But that relief Hullinger and others have felt from receiving the payments has evaporated. Parents who were getting used to receiving monthly checks from the federal government won't see any fresh deposits for the time being, and it could make it harder to pay bills and support their families. 

Since July, households had received up to $300 per child each month under the expanded child tax credit passed last year as part of the government's response to the ongoing pandemic. The last payment before the program was set to expire was sent on December 15 to over 36 million families, the IRS said

Democrats don't have a clear shot at reviving it anytime soon. They sought to extend it for another year as part of their $2 trillion Build Back Better plan. But it's languishing in the Senate because of opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia — Hullinger's home state — who wants to add a work requirement to the benefit.

The advance monthly payments have helped households in a variety of ways. It has helped some make their mortgage payments or pay for rent, food, school supplies, or other school expenses. Some have put it away in savings or used it to pay down debt

Insider spoke with two moms who are also MomsRising members. The two moms had relied on the child-tax-credit payments and were now worried about what comes next.

Without another monthly payment, one mom said she was "a little bit terrified."

"The monthly payment is significantly more helpful for everyday people who kind of are living paycheck to paycheck and really have to figure stuff out," said Stacy Niemann, a mother of two who received payments of $550 per month.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, a cofounder and the executive director and CEO of MomsRising, called the expanded child tax credit transformational for families. She said it helped lift children out of poverty and helped working parents afford care, which kept them in their jobs.

Rowe-Finkbeiner said the expanded child tax credit benefited not only the millions of families receiving the payments but also the US economy.

"We can't forget that parents, and moms in particular, are the primary people making consumer purchasing decisions in our consumer-fueled economy," she added.

One parent said the payments helped her family 'just be a little bit more comfortable'

Hullinger said the monthly payments helped her in multiple ways. For one, knowing that the payments would start in July, she was able to get a used car in May that she said was much safer than the one she already had.

The expanded tax credit also helped her keep working. With the pandemic still raging, Hullinger and her family have faced multiple school closures and quarantines. She said that without the payments, such disruptions would have meant taking time off work. Instead, she was able to get a sitter.

Hullinger said the last advance monthly payment was a godsend as she was able to buy kerosene to heat her apartment and also get Christmas gifts for her four children.

Niemann's experience with the monthly payments differed from Hullinger's. She said her husband's income was the family's primary income.

"But with my husband being self-employed, our income is variable and kind of unpredictable," Niemann said. "So that's the biggest thing that the child tax credit has helped us with — to know that every month, for sure, we have at least one bill that's going to be paid by getting the child tax credit."

Trying to maintain a small business amid the pandemic has been hard for Niemann and her husband. She said they lost a lot of business. She and her husband also both needed surgery and were now paying thousands of dollars in medical debt.

She said the monthly payments helped them "in some months to be able to just be a little bit more comfortable."

In particular, the monthly disbursements helped with their mortgage payments.

"That's honestly been huge to just know that we're not going to lose our house," Niemann said.

She added that she was able to use the money on fun activities for her two children, such as buying pumpkins or a Christmas tree.

"None of us are going on extravagant vacations and living our best lives on this money," Hullinger said. "A lot of times it gives us just enough to where we can sleep at night."

No more payments could mean negative consequences for some families

Other parents spoke with Insider's Erin Snodgrass about what the end of the payments meant for their families. 

"Without these payments, I won't eat so my kids can," one parent told Snodgrass.

Congressional Democrats want to extend the program for another year through their social- and climate-policy bill. But resistance from Manchin means they can't muscle it through the Senate and sidestep Republicans anytime soon. The Biden administration has floated retroactive payments for eligible families if the plan clears the 50-50 Senate.

"The temporary child-tax-credit expansion that we have had in place for the past several months is proof of concept that a permanent child-tax-credit expansion is needed into the future in our nation," Rowe-Finkbeiner told Insider in December.

Put simply, Rowe-Finkbeiner said the expanded child tax credit "definitely must continue," and Niemann called it "really just a huge help."

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The first 'NFT restaurant' will run you as much as $14,000 for an exclusive VIP membership — but you'll have to bring your wallet to pay the tab

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:30
Fish on display on Flyfish Club's website.

The upcoming Flyfish Club restaurant is being billed as the first to sell memberships through non-fungible tokens, offering high-end private dining as demand for the digital assets has soared. 

According to Fortune magazine, the seafood-inspired restaurant will open in 2023 in New York City and will feature a cocktail lounge, a 150-seat dining room, an outdoor space at a location that's yet to be announced, and a 14-seat Japanese "omakase" room in a private section.

The "Omakase Experience" in the private room promises a "transportive experience" led by a master sushi chef who will prepare curated dishes with fish flown in daily. 

While you can't eat there yet, Flyfish Club this month began selling memberships through NFTs, or digital representations of collectibles such as art, music — and now, dining memberships. VCR Group, the hospitality company managing the Flyfish Club project, told Fortune it has already raised $14 million through the sale of nearly 1,500 tokens. 

There are two tiers of membership, which can be obtained by purchasing a Flyfish Club NFT with ether, the cryptocurrency that runs on the ethereum blockchain. The "Flyfish" tier costs 2.5 ether, or about $8,264 at Friday's prices. The premium "Flyfish Omakase" level costs 4.25 ether, or roughly $13,930. 

The Flyfish Club project comes as the NFT market in 2021 surged to a $41 billion value, according to blockchain data company Chainalysis. A major milestone for the market last year was the $69 million sale of NFT artwork by auction house Christie's

The Flyfish Club NFTs, which appear as colorful renderings of sushi styles like nigiri, allow members to enter the dining club. But membership has other perks. VCR Group CEO David Rodolitz told Fortune that members can "also lease it when they're out of town, or even sell it." 

The magazine noted that the tokens were already being resold on NFT marketplace OpenSea between Flyfish Club members and people who want to be members. 

But one perk is notably absent. While a Flyfish Club membership requires using a cryptocurrency to buy an NFT, members will have to pay for their food and drinks through fiat money — meaning old-fashioned US currency.

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I visited CVS and Walgreens stores amid the Omicron surge, and was surprised to find nearly everything in stock but at-home COVID tests

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:28
  • Americans are flocking to pharmacies in search of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. 
  • Retail pharmacists have told Insider that demand for tests has caused chaos in some stores.
  • I visited Walgreens and CVS to see what they're like right now. 
First I went to a Walgreens store in Rochester, New York to see if there were any COVID-19 at-home tests or other supplies.Hours were posted on the door. Some Walgreens locations have cut hours around the country because they don't have enough workers.

Source: Insider

Upon entering the store, there was a small holding area for carts with sanitizing wipes to use on them.Toilet paper and paper towels were displayed right up front too, and seemed to be well stocked.I walked up and down the aisles, where the store initially looked like it had at any point in my life.A few aisles had some empty spaces on shelves, like the deodorant section, but nothing too out of the ordinary.Some of the empty shelf space may not actually be due to shortages, but instead the result of employees who don't have time to restock. The orange tags on this aisle were for clearance items, most of which have already been snapped up.

Source: Insider

The pharmacy is located in the back of the store, with chairs and waiting areas for people to get vaccinated.Over-the-counter medications for cold and flu are stocked nearby.Many of these medications were in low stock, with sections of shelves empty.The other main section with empty shelves was in a section of COVID-19 prevention supplies, including masks and gloves.Hand sanitizer shelves were partially emptied, too.Aisle end caps that looked to be set up to display COVID-19 necessities, like masks, were almost totally emptied.Cold medicines and supplements promising to boost immune systems also looked picked over, though it is winter.Some cleaning products, like soap, detergent, and Febreze spray seemed less stocked than normal, although there were still some available.Otherwise, the Walgreens looked normal and wasn't very crowded midday on a Tuesday.The center of the store was already dedicated to Valentine's Day in mid-January.Most other customers I saw during my visit made beelines for the pharmacy section of the store, possibly looking for COVID-19 tests.While most non-medical areas of the store were fully stocked, workers told me that there were no COVID-19 tests.Next, I went to a CVS about a mile away.The store was set up very similarly to Walgreens, with empty shelves mostly limited to the cold medicine section.Cold medicine and pain reliever shelves seemed messy and picked over.A small area selling air purifiers was also very disheveled.Like Walgreens, products with immune system-boosting claims seemed to be running low.Cleaning sprays and Lysol wipes were running low, reminiscent of reports from 2020.

Source: Insider

Most hand sanitizers were off the shelves too, except for the CVS store brand.Also like Walgreens, many of the end caps were dedicated to health and wellness products and looked somewhat messy.Face masks were displayed in small quantities throughout the store.Signs throughout the pharmacy area told customers that there were no COVID-19 tests for sale.Neither store was totally out of anything besides COVID-19 tests, but messy and emptying shelves of masks, cold medicine, and cleaning products definitely reminded me of spring 2020.Read the original article on Business Insider
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An Airbus A320 jet crash landed on the Hudson River with no fatalities 13 years ago. Now the plane is a part of a museum in Charlotte.

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:24
Miracle on the Hudson A320.
  • Exactly 13 years have passed since an Airbus A320 miraculously crash-landed on the Hudson River with no fatalities.
  • Pilots Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles ditched the powerless plane on the river after a bird strike.
  • The damaged aircraft sat on display in Charlotte, North Carolina before moving to storage, but will be back in 2022.
It has been 13 years since captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey Skiles maneuvered a fully loaded Airbus A320 jet onto the Hudson River after the plane suffered total engine failure from a bird strike.Miracle on the Hudson A320.

Source: Britannica

The damaged US Airways aircraft crash-landed on the water, but, there were zero fatalities. Sullenberger's heroic life-or-death decision has become world-famous, with the accident dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson."Sully presented with keys to the city.

Source: Britannica

150 passengers were on board the plane, who evacuated after the crash at the direction of flight attendants Donna Dent, Doreen Welsh, and Sheila Dale.Flight attendants presented with keys to the city.

Source: Britannica, CN Traveler

The passengers were forced to stand on the wings and sit in rafts in freezing temperatures as the aircraft slowly sunk, anxiously waiting for rescue boats to arrive.Miracle on the Hudson A320.

Source: Britannica, WCNC

14 boats and dozens of emergency first responders and ferry crews saved the passengers within minutes of the accident. Many of the passengers had been exposed to harsh 30-degree waters.Passengers being rescued from the raft.

Source: Britannica, Hudson Reporter

In an interview with WCNC in 2019, passenger Barry Leonard, who was first to exit the plane, explained the harrowing situation. "I didn't know what to do," he said. "The flight attendant said jump. So I jumped." He was in the water for about four minutes before being pulled onto a raft.Passengers stand on the wings of the ditched plane.

Source: WCNC

The "miracle" grabbed the attention of people across the world and even inspired the movie Sully, where Tom Hanks played the skilled pilot.Sully, Tom Hanks, and director Clint Eastwood.

Source: IMDb

Moreover, the National Transportation Safety Board described the flight as "the most successful ditching in aviation history."NTSB.

Source: Honeywell Aerospace

After the NTSB determined the cause of the crash, it was clear the historic plane needed a permanent home. So, the A320 was put up for auction by insurance firm Chartis but, unfortunately, had no buyers.Miracle on the Hudson A320.

Source: Simple Flying

However, the plane was not going to be scraped. Instead, it was donated to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina by the American International Group. The plane was transported via highway to its new home.Miracle on the Hudson A320.

Source: Time

Sully spoke at the museum in June 2011 for the plane's arrival and was accompanied by many of the passengers and other crewmembers.Sully speaking at the museum.

Source: Time

Survivors also donated personal belongings to be on display in the museum. Moreover, several artifacts from the crash, like life vests, seat cushions, and emergency doors, are also part of the exhibit.Sully inside the Miracle on the Hudson A320.

Source: Time

The A320 became the museum's centerpiece, complete with the damage it suffered during the crash. Visitors got the opportunity to witness the dents and breaks to the engines...Miracle on the Hudson engine....nose...Miracle on the Hudson nose....wings...Miracle on the Hudson wing....and tail.Miracle on the Hudson tail.According to the museum, the aircraft was a "game-changer" for revenue, with guests coming from all over to see the famous plane. What was once a niche site with mostly unknown aircraft quickly became a place of national and historic significance.Insider's Taylor Rains at the Miracle on the Hudson exhibit.

Source: Charlotte Observer

Not only could visitors see the plane up close, but they could also hear from the survivors of the accident. Passengers regularly spoke at the museum, sharing their stories from that dramatic day.Insider's Taylor Rains with a Miracle on the Hudson survivor."What's amazing is there's 155 different stories from that day and I like hearing everybody else's stories, and it just makes it so miraculous," Laurie Crane told WCNC in 2019. "Some people thought we were going to die on the plane, then we thought we were going to die on the river. That we all were saved, it's just a godsend."Miracle on the Hudson passengers.

Source: WCNC

The plane was the museum's centerpiece until 2019 when it was moved to storage after the site temporarily closed while it finds a new hangar to store its aviation collection. However, the A320 will not be gone forever.Flight 1549 items in the museum's gift-shop lobby.

Source: WCNC

According to the museum, the aircraft will find a new home in 2022 where it will once again be on display for public viewings.Miracle on the Hudson fuselage.

Source: WCNC

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Meme stocks are fading as retail traders rotate into cryptocurrencies and the metaverse, trading fintech CEO says

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:15
SOPA Images/Getty Images

One year since GameStop started it all, the meme stock craze is fading.

Last January, millions of retail traders banded together to drive eye-popping rallies in highly shorted, nostalgic companies, like GameStop, AMC Theaters, and BlackBerry. Day traders minted a new asset class dubbed the "meme stock" and regularly added new companies to the basket over the course of the year. At one point a tiny Danish biotech company surged more than 1,300% in a day on interest from individual investors looking for the next short squeeze. 

But observers say those wild spikes are likely to subside as retail traders look to new horizons to replicate last year's massive gains.

"Meme stock rallies are going to taper off," said Dan Raju, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Tradier. "I expect in 2022 the active traders jump into crypto."

Tradier is a financial technology and software firm that powers much of the active retail trading in the market. Last year, the brokerage-as-a-service provider processed about $46 billion in assets for 2 million traders worldwide.

The factors that contributed to meme-stock rallies, like people working from home and volatile pandemic markets, are subsiding, Raju said. To top it off, retail traders have "graduated" from simple equities trading and are moving into more complicated assets, like cryptocurrencies.

A report from Apex Fintech Solution published on Friday shows meme stocks began losing their lift at the end of 2021, with many popular names slipping in the rankings of top stock holdings. Meanwhile, metaverse stocks grabbed the attention of the youngest investors, with companies like Facebook parent Meta, metaverse-platform Roblox, and Nike, moving up in the rankings, Apex said. Though it is still loosely defined, the metaverse is a virtual world where people interact as avatars and can game, interact, and shop using cryptocurrencies.

Raju said volumes in cryptocurrency trading still remain relatively low among retail investors, with most active traders doing fewer than three trades per month.

But that's about to change.

"2022 is going to be the year of regulation," Raju said. "Regulation is good for crypto because it legitimizes the asset class. A lot of active traders have not jumped into crypto, so as regulation comes in, active traders will engage."

Many prominent investors have shied away from cryptocurrencies as they await more regulatory clarity from US agencies. Even popular trading app Robinhood has avoided calls to add more cryptocurrencies to its platform, citing regulatory uncertainty.

So far, legislators and regulators, like the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve, have been hesitant to act. One exception in congress has been Cynthia Lummis, a bitcoin evangelist and a Republican senator from Wyoming who is said to be planning a bill that would be one of the first attempts to create a legal framework for crypto. Regulators, for their part, have begun exploring their own rules for the space, mostly focused on investor protections.

"Regulation is going to drive legitimacy," Raju said, and for retail traders, it's going to "funnel into creating crypto volume."

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Mexico seizes 380,000 boxes of Kellogg's cereal, claiming they feature cartoons that breach laws designed to improve children's diets

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:10
Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereal.
  • Officials in Mexico have seized 380,000 boxes of Kellogg's cereal, AP reported
  • Cartoons featured on the boxes were thought to breach recent legislation to improve kids' diets.
  • The raid mainly took place at a warehouse located north of Mexico City. 

Mexico has seized 380,000 boxes of Kellogg's cereal, including Corn Flakes and Special K, AP reported

According to AP, officials raided 75 stores and seized batches of Kellogg's products. Most of the raid took place at a warehouse located north of Mexico City. 

The decision was made because the cartoon mascots on the boxes were thought to breach recent laws aimed at improving children's diets. The seized cereals may not necessarily contain high levels of sugar but the laws ban food companies from using marketing ploys to entice children, AP reported. 

The health of Mexican residents is becoming an increasingly important area of concern for officials.

In 2020, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca put measures in place to curb an obesity crisis in the country, which was underscored by high death tolls during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Guardian reported

Lawmakers in the region banned the sale of sugary drinks and high-calorie snacks to children and proposed fines and potential closures for stores breaching these rules. 

According to a 2020 study, about 73% of the Mexican population is considered overweight. 

Kellogg's did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

The cereal boxes that were seized in the raid also reportedly excluded nutritional information, Mexico's consumer protection agency told AP.

Last year, Kellogg's workers made headlines after 1,400 workers ended their 77-day long strike after voting on a new contract that included cost-of-living raises for employees. 

 

 

 

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The Federal Reserve's plan to combat recessions rarely works and often benefits the already-rich — here's why

Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:00
The US Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC.
  • Paul Constant is a writer at Civic Ventures and the cohost of the "Pitchfork Economics" podcast.
  • He spoke with author Christopher Leonard about the role of the Federal Reserve in recessions.
  • Leonard says the Fed should put money into Americans' hands, not Wall Street, to boost the economy.

In 2008, when the real-estate bubble burst and the whole world staggered on the precipice of total economic disaster, the Federal Reserve leapt into action to try to save the economy. The planet's most powerful people — world leaders, the media, heads of elite institutions — basically had to helplessly stand by and watch the Fed. 

Created in 1913, the Fed is a system made up of 12 powerful banks headed up by a single main office in Washington, DC.

"The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States," business reporter Christopher Leonard said on the latest episode of "Pitchfork Economics." "Their job is to basically create dollars — that's the Fed's superpower. It can create new dollars out of thin air and it manages our money supply."

The subtitle of Leonard's new book "The Lords of Easy Money" might give you a hint about how he thinks the Fed's action paid off: "How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy."

In his book, Leonard suggests that the Fed's policies helped create the conditions for the 2008 economic collapse in the first place and that the decade of low wages and raging economic inequality we saw in America's lackluster recovery from the 2008 recession was entirely the Fed's fault. The problem wasn't in the creation of new money, Leonard argues — the problem was where that new money went and who was in charge of distributing it. 

"There's this group of 24 banks on Wall Street — financial institutions like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo," Leonard said. When the Fed wants to create money to spur spending and combat recessionary influences, he added, they buy large amounts of treasury bills from those two dozen huge financial firms. 

"From basically 1950 until 2008, that's how the Fed influenced our supply of money," Leonard said. "They would gradually loosen or tighten the money supply by making these purchases on Wall Street."

Of course, the problem with this system should be apparent to anyone who's witnessed the repeated failure of trickle-down economics to spur the economy over the last four decades: Giving money to the richest Americans doesn't create economic growth. 

"The top 1% of our country owns 40% of all our assets. The bottom half of all Americans only own 7% of our assets," Leonard said. "The Fed is pumping up asset prices, which really benefits a tiny group of hyper-rich people. And at the same time, it creates these asset bubbles that inevitably collapse, as we saw in '08 and 2020." 

"So that's why I say these policies clearly have dramatically widened the gap between the rich and everybody else and they've created these bubbles on Wall Street that periodically explode," Leonard added.

Additionally, Leonard said the currency created by the Fed has funded activity that's actively harmful to the public good. "One of the things I document in the book is how this binge of debt and quantitative easing really benefited the fracking industry," Leonard said. "It pushed billions of dollars into corporate junk debt for frackers in North Dakota and Texas — investments that don't make any sense at all" if we expect to combat climate change.

Widespread consumer demand is what creates jobs and grows communities. The Fed would do more to encourage true economic growth by creating money and getting it directly into the hands of the American people.

Pitchfork Economics cohost David Goldstein said that the Fed could buy municipal bonds at low interest rates to fund the construction of housing in expensive urban areas where homeownership is now out of reach for ordinary Americans, or to fund the construction of solar panels on the roofs of millions of homes to create a green energy grid. 

Goldstein added the Fed would be "collateralizing against future rents or future income from these investments" and in the meantime the money created would be directed "toward transit and housing and clean energy and schools and so many other things that are real investments that pay off in the future and would more broadly benefit people than just going and raising asset prices."

"There's another structural reform people are talking about, in that the Fed could create money in bank accounts instead of just the 24 reserve accounts," " Leonard said. 

Imagine if, during the economic collapse of 2008, every American received regular infusions of cash from the Fed. Instead of the painfully slow economic recovery that stretched out for the entirety of the Obama presidency, that consumer spending would have been invested directly in communities around the country, spurring small-business growth, tax revenue, and job creation that would have built the economy from the bottom up — not from Wall Street on down. 

Had the Fed actually invested in the American people and not just the stock market, the pandemic could have ushered in an era of true economic growth and investment in communities — not just a series of record-breaking years for corporate profits, stock buybacks, and executive bonuses.

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