Posts made in October 2020

Halloween night challenge: Play Simon with the multicolored lights on the Empire State Building

November 2, 2020

They have announced ESB Simon—a Halloween challenge that will bring fans of the building together to play Hasbro’s fast-paced electronic memory game using the ESB’s world-famous tower lights.

In addition to the annual spooky lighting the ESB features; this year , you’ll see the building light up with increasingly complex dynamic patterns in the game’s signature blue, green, yellow, and red. Players can vie to get their name on the live game leaderboard—and achieve ultimate bragging rights.

Up to 100,000 people can play at once, and the game will be live on the building from 8 p.m. until 9 p.m.

How to play:

  • If you are in New York or New Jersey, look out your window—or find your favorite (socially-distanced) view of ESB and open on your smart
  • phone. Click on the “let’s play” button and wait for a live game to start.
  • Not local? You still can access the site to play along on your phone.
  • Watch levels of the Empire State Building flash in a series of colors and tones. Tap the Building on your device to repeat the pattern correctly. The longer you play, the more complex the sequences. Make a mistake? No problem! You can keep playing until the game is over.
  • For every correct answer, players climb farther up the Empire State Building. Each wrong answer knocks you down. Try to make it to the top of the Building and the top of the leaderboard!

Need to brush up on your memory skills? The site, will launch Infinite Play mode on October 30 to provide players the chance to practice ahead of the big event on Halloween night. Challenge your friends and family to a friendly game to see where you rank. Infinite Play mode is available any time a live show is not running.  But be careful! In Infinite Play mode, one wrong answer and your game is over.

“The Empire State Building is always looking for new ways to have our fans interact with us. This Halloween, we are excited to share a fun way to engage with not only locals with a view of the tower, but with people across the world,” said Jean-Yves Ghazi, President of the Observatory. “While Halloween may look different this year, ESB SIMON® will be a bright light in an otherwise spooky [world].”

Research contact: @ESBcolor

Walmart removes guns from floor displays, citing ‘civil unrest’

November 2, 2020

Retail giant Walmart has removed guns and ammunition from its U.S. sales floors out of concerns about theft amid “civil unrest” during Black Lives Matter protests against police killings in areas nationwide, The Huffington Post reports.

Guns will remain available for purchase upon request, said the company, which sells firearms in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores.

Walmart has pulled guns off its shelves in the past. The current move comes after the October 26 shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr. by Philadelphia police —while the 27-year-old was experiencing a mental health crisis and after his family had called for an ambulance to help him.

“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” Walmart said in a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s important to note that we only sell firearms in approximately half of our stores, primarily where there are large concentrations of hunters, sportsmen and sportswomen,” the company said.

Walmart said in a letter to store managers cited by the Journal that the decision was made “due to the current unrest in isolated areas of the country and out of an abundance of caution.” A Walmart in Philadelphia was trashed during this week’s unrest.

Walmart has been pushed to make adjustments to its firearms department after other incidents of violence. After a mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the retailer raised the minimum age to purchase guns to 21. In 2019, after 23 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in Texas, the retailer stopped selling ammunition for assault-style rifles.

Research contact: @HuffPost 

Editor’s note: As of Monday, November 2, Walmart had reversed its position: ““As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today,” a company spokesperson said.

Trump adviser Stephen Miller reveals aggressive second-term immigration agenda

November 2, 2020

He’d like to make America a private club: President Donald Trump’s Senior Adviser Stephen Miller has fleshed out plans to rev up Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda if the POTUS wins re-election next week—offering a stark contrast to the platform of Democratic nominee Joe Biden, NBC News reports.

In a 30-minute phone interview on October 29 with NBC News, Miller—as the unofficial “bouncer” for the current Administration—outlined four major priorities: limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing so-called sanctuary cities, expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants, and slapping new limits on work visas.

The objective, he said, is “raising and enhancing the standard for entry” to the United States.

Some of the plans would require legislation. Others could be achieved through executive action, which the Trump administration has relied on heavily in the absence of a major immigration bill.

“In many cases, fixing these problems and restoring some semblance of sanity to our immigration programs does involve regulatory reform,” Miller said. “Congress has delegated a lot of authority.”

What he will not commit to fix: In the near term, Miller would not obligate the Administration to lifting the freeze on new green cards and visas that’s set to expire at the end of the year—saying it would be “entirely contingent” on governmental analysis of factors in the state of the job market.

Asked whether he would support reinstating the controversial “zero tolerance” policy that led to families’ being separated, Miller said the Trump administration is “100 percent committed to a policy of family unity,” but he described the policy as one that would keep families together in immigration detention by changing what is known as the Flores settlement agreement.

Over the past year, the administration has sought to amend the Flores agreement, which says that children can’t be held over 20 days in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. If it succeeds, immigrant families could be detained indefinitely as they await their day in immigration court.

In addition, the Administration wants to maintain its limitations on asylum. On Trump’s watch, asylum grants have plummeted. Miller wants to keep it that way. He said a second-term Trump administration would seek to expand “burden-sharing” deals with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that cut off pathways to the U.S. for asylum-seekers.

“The president would like to expand that to include the rest of the world,” Miller said. “And so if you create safe third partners in other continents and other countries and regions, then you have the ability to share the burden of asylum-seekers on a global basis.”

In line with that goal there will be continued crackdowns on sanctuary cities. Miller noted in his interview with NBC that the Administration has withheld some grants to sanctuary cities.

That includes enhanced screening methods and more information-sharing among agencies to vet applicants seeking admission into the country. The U.S. already looks for ties to terrorism and extremist groups. Miller wants to go further by vetting the “ideological sympathies or leanings” of visa applicants to gauge their potential for recruitment by radicals.

That may include changing the interview process—adding interviews or talking to people close to applicants about their beliefs.

“That’s going to be a major priority,” he said. “It’s going to require a whole government effort. It’s going to require building a very elaborate and very complex screening mechanism.”

Finally, Miller told NBC, a second-term Trump administration would finalize efforts to curtail use of guest-worker programs like H-1B visas—including by eliminating the lottery system used in the process when applications exceed the annual quota and by giving priority to those being offered the highest wages.

He said Trump would pursue a “points-based entry system” for American visa grants aimed at admitting only those who “can contribute the most to job creation and economic opportunity” while preventing “displacement of U.S. workers.”

By contrast, the Biden campaign seeks to stop the xenophobia that Miller is spreading on behalf of the Administration.

Biden campaign Director of Latino Media Jen Molina said that, if elected, Biden would restore DACA, unveil legislation in his first 100 days with a path to citizenship for undocumented people, protect borders in a humane way and end “shameful practices like family separation” that have left children stranded.

“We are going to win this election so that people like Stephen Miller don’t get the chance to write more xenophobic policies that dishonor our American values,” Molina said. “Unlike Trump, Vice President Biden knows that immigrants make America stronger and helped build this country.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Study: Vitamin D deficiency found in over 80% of seriously ill COVID-19 patients

October 30, 2020

Researchers recently discovered that—out of 216 patients being treated at the Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla in Spain for COVID-19—fully 80% had a vitamin D deficiency, The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reports.

Vitamin D is described by Medical Xpress as a hormone the produced by the kidneys that controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system—especially against infections.

Men had lower levels of vitamin D than women and COVID-19 patients with lower levels of vitamin D had increased serum levels of inflammatory markers—such as ferritin, a blood protein containing iron; and D-dimer, a protein fragment made when a blood clot dissolves in the body.

The new study, “Vitamin D Status in Hospitalized Patients with SARS-Cov-2 Infection,” was announced on October 27 and published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Co-author José L. Hernández, Ph.D., of the University of Cantabria in Santander, Spain said, “One approach is to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency—especially in high-risk individuals, such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities; and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the COVID-19,”

He further noted, “Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in COVID-19 patients with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood since this approach might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system.”

Research contact: @ajc

Burger King’s creepy Halloween stunt invites us to summon Ronald McDonald like he’s Bloody Mary

October 30, 2020

Burger King‘s latest Halloween stunt comes from Sweden, where the multinational chain is continuing what’s become something of a tradition of trolling Ronald McDonald for being a “scary clown,” reports Advertising Age.

This creepy campaign is by Ingo, the Stockholm agency partly responsible for Burger King’s award-winning Moldy Whopper.

The innovative promotion represents a different take on the popular “Bloody Mary” game, which dares participants to say the former queen of England Mary Tudor’s nickname three times in front of a mirror—after which her ghost appears in the looking glass. (The legend has been revived as a teenage party game since the 1960s, cropping up in culture like the The X-Files and Paranormal Activity, as well as chain letters.)

According to Ad Age, a teaser video, released on social media, encourages people to go into the restrooms at Burger King restaurants across Sweden and Denmark and say the words “canceled clown” three times to summon the spirit of Ronald McDonald.

 What the customers don’t know is that, at certain restaurants in cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo and Copenhagen, a “smart mirror” with voice recognition has been installed in the restrooms. If it hears the words, the lights go off and triggers sounds and visual effects. Customers to dare to “summon the clown” and endure the spooky experience will be rewarded with a treat.

The mirrors are staying up between now and Halloween—and Burger King is being “deliberately vague” about their locations in order not to spoil the surprise, says the agency.

McDonald’s had no comment on the reference to its mascot.

Research contact: @adage

Supreme Court declines to diminish extended ballot deadlines in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

October30, 2020

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett, still getting up to speed, didn’t participate in either case—but, on October 28, the Supreme Court “declined to disturb” extended ballot deadlines in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania—leaving the states more time to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the North Carolina litigation, the justices denied Republican requests to block a decision by state elections officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots until November 12, a six-day extension of the date set by the legislature.

North Carolina elections officials said they extended their deadline “to keep voters from having their votes thrown out because of mail delays that the Postal Service had explicitly warned the state about.”

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, the GOP state lawmakers, and others challenged the deadline extension and other changes—saying those officials improperly rewrote unambiguous rules set COVID -19 pandemic.

The high court didn’t explain its reasons for rejecting the requests, the Journal notes. Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, registered objections and said they would have granted the challengers’ request to roll back the deadline. Justice Gorsuch wrote that the pandemic wasn’t the kind of natural disaster that gave the state board of elections a license to change voting rules.

The Supreme Court in the Pennsylvania matter refused to expedite a Republican challenge to a state court order providing three extra days for the state to accept absentee ballots mailed by Election Day.

The court’s order in that case included no noted dissents, although the same three conservative justices issued a statement indicating they were open to considering the case after Election Day.

On Friday, October 23, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, backed by the Trump campaign, asked the Supreme Court to hear and decide its challenge before Election Day, November 3. The motion was unusual in that, only days earlier, the Supreme Court, by a 4-4 vote, had refused to block the three-day extension.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended to 5 p.m., November 6, the deadline to accept absentee ballots, from 8 p.m., November 3. The court credited guidance from the Pennsylvania secretary of state that the three-day extension would adequately account for processing backlogs in elections offices and postal delivery delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, who sued for public-health accommodations in accepting ballots, had asked for a weeklong extension, equivalent to the deadline federal law sets for accepting ballots mailed by military families and Americans overseas.

Although it leaves intact, for now, the Pennsylvania court order, Wednesday’s decision indicated that at least four justices are skeptical that state courts can alter election regulations adopted by state legislatures for presidential and congressional elections.

In its 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had likened the coronavirus pandemic to a natural disaster, which allows state courts to alter voting procedures should it occur on Election Day. The state justices invoked their power under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause, which the state high court has found more protective of voting rights than corresponding provisions in the federal Constitution.

In last week’s decision, Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh voted to block the Pennsylvania court’s three-day extension. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to leave the Pennsylvania order in

Justice Alito issued a statement saying “there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” but the proximity of Election Day made it impractical to decide the issue now. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined the statement; in a separate case from Wisconsin on Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion expressing similar views.

The court indicated that the justices may issue additional opinions in the case. The Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case after the election, particularly if the outcome depends on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.i

Research contact: @WSJ

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Brother Nature provides adorable wild animal encounters for all

October 29, 2020

The world is a wild place right now, whether you are in New York City or Lisbon or Abuja, Nigeria. However, while many of us have had to cancel trips and confine our movements during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there still are corners of the Internet where animal lovers can find some relaxation and happiness, People Magazine reports.

Two of those virtual places are Brother Nature’s Twitter and Instagram pages. Run by Kelvin Peña, a 22-year-old living in Los Angeles who is also the titular Brother Nature, the accounts are filled with Peña’s amazing wild animal encounters.

But, People says, the popular social media accounts, which boast over 4 million followers, didn’t start with shots of penguins and rhinos. Instead, Brother Nature was born because of a deer. In 2016, after graduating from high school in Texas and moving to Pennsylvania for college, Peña spotted a deer up-close in his cousin’s backyard and then a buck in the driveway of his father’s house on the same day.

These peaceful and awe-inspiring deer sightings in Pennsylvania were some of Peña’s first interactions with wild animals, and some of the first posts on Brother Nature. After filming the deer, posting the videos to his own social media pages, and witnessing the quick and enthusiastic response to the clips, Peña was inspired to create Brother Nature so there could be a place online where engaging animal encounters would be available to all.

“I truly felt like I had a connection to the animals and that I could be the voice for wild animals for people who don’t know much about wildlife,” Peña told People about the mission behind Brother Nature. “It’s for those who have always admired wildlife from a distance. It makes animals cool, so people can really admire them and see them in a new light.”

Through Brother Nature, Peña’s feelings on animals have changed too. Before the accounts, most of his interactions with wildlife were restricted to nature documentaries, but now, thanks to the success of Brother Nature, Peña has enjoyed numerous opportunities to meet and help wild animals all over the world, including the chance to assist in the relocation of wild giraffes to safer territory in Uganda.

These experiences have allowed Peña to provide his followers with firsthand knowledge about the problems that plague the world’s wildlife and how humans can help conserve and protect these precious species.

“We need to respect nature and respect the planet that we’re on,” Peña said of what he hopes people take away from Brother Nature. “It’s obvious the world needs a bit more love.”

Research contact: @people

Columbia Business School offers new online certificate in ‘The Business of Entertainment’

October 29, 2020

Supported by Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg MediaColumbia Business School is offering a pioneering new online course, The Business of Entertainment.

The unique collaboration brings together leaders in the fields of entertainment, media, and finance to provide participants with an unparalleled multi-pronged view of the global entertainment industry, a field that generates more than $703 billion annually.  Participants can pre-register for the course today by visiting

The Business of Entertainment will walk participants through the lifecycle of entertainment products, including development, production, distribution and finance, as well as explore the key decisions and business mechanics of the industry including regulation, M&A, strategy and risk management.

The online course will feature appearances from accomplished industry leaders currently working to bring to life some of the world’s most dynamic entertainment products, content, and experiences across TV, film, music, live production, and sports. Participants completing the three-part course will receive a certificate from Columbia Business School.

Among the executive guest lecturers who have signed on to teach the course are the following:

  • Bob Bakish – president and CEO, ViacomCBS
  • Peter Blacker – EVP, Revenue Strategy and Innovation, NBC/Universal Telemundo Enterprises
  • Marc Chamlin – Chair, Television, Loeb & Loeb
  • Sean Cohan – chief growth officer and president, International, Nielson
  • Charlie Collier – CEO, FOX Entertainment
  • Kathleen Finch – chief lifestyle brands officer, Discovery
  • Jason Flom – founder and ceo, Lava Records
  • Robert Friedman – CEO, Bungalow Media + Entertainment / former co-chair, New Line Cinema/President, Television
  • Mark Greenberg – media entrepreneur and former CEO, EPIX
  • Jamie Hector – actor
  • Anne Kennedy McGuire – partner, Loeb & Loeb
  • Shahid Khan – managing partner, Meridian Advisory Group
  • Gary Knell – chairman, National Geographic Partners
  • Kay Koplovitz – chairman, Springboard Enterprises; founder, USA Network and Syfy Channelh of the New York BMG label
  • Jeff Sagansky – producer and media investor; former studio and network executive
  • Lisa Shalett – CIO, Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley
  • Marshall Sonenshine – chairman, Sonenshine Partners
  • Blair Underwood – actor, producer
  • Barry Weissler – theatrical producer

The new program is being produced by Columbia Business School, along with Peter Price, CEO of Premiere Previews and Robert Friedman, CEO of Bungalow Media + Entertainment and a member of Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers. The curriculum has been developed by Professor Miklos Sarvary, the Carson Family Business Professor of Business and co-Director of the Media and Technology program at Columbia Business School. The course will be promoted on Bloomberg Media properties and supported by Morgan Stanley.

“The Business of Entertainment course arrives at an intense moment of both disruption and opportunity for the entertainment industry, which makes this a unique moment to learn more about this multibillion-dollar industry,” said Pierre Yared, the MUTB Professor of International Business and vice dean for Executive Education at Columbia Business School.

He added, “Columbia is excited to partner with such renowned leaders in the media, finance and entertainment arenas to deliver a rich and engaging educational experience,—one that will benefit from the Business School’s longstanding connections to New York City and unrivaled history of uniting cutting-edge theory

The course launches Monday, November 30, and will be delivered virtually through a series of highly produced online lectures, produced by Bungalow Media + Entertainment. The course will comprise 20 hours of learning and cost $850.  Participants who complete the course will receive a certificate from Columbia Business School.

Research contact: @Columbia_Biz

Embracing racist stereotype, Kushner questions whether Black Americans ‘want to be successful’

October 29, 2020

In a Fox & Friends interview on October 26, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner played into a racist stereotype by seeming to question whether Black Americans “want to be successful”—despite everything he claims that the Administration had done for them, The New York Times reports.

President Trump repeatedly has bragged about what he has done for Black America—pointing to Administration’s funding for Black colleges and universities, the creation of so-called opportunity zones, and criminal justice reform.

But on Monday, Kusher commented, “One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about,” Mr. Kushner said in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” the president’s favorite morning cable show. “But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”

In the interview, Kushner said that, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody—an event that set off global protests about systemic racism, and that Kushner referred to as the “George Floyd situation”—a lot of people were more concerned with what he called “virtue signaling” than in coming up with “solutions.”

“They’d go on Instagram and cry, or they would put a slogan on their jersey or write something on a basketball court,” he said, an apparent reference to N.B.A. players like LeBron James who joined national protests over the issue of police brutality. “And quite frankly, that was doing more to polarize the country than it was to bring people forward,” he said. “You solve problems with solutions.”

According to the Times report, Kushner’s remarks prompted a scathing response from Representative Gwen Moore, a Black Democrat from Wisconsin. She tweeted: “Trust fund baby slumlord Kushner who has enriched himself in the WH takes the silver spoon out of his mouth long enough to insert his foot with a racist trope about Black people and success.”

The Democratic National Committee was equally harsh: “According to the Trump administration, when African-Americans find fault in policies that have led to historic unemployment for Black families, an explosion of racial inequities and wealth gaps, and an uncontained global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 45,000 Black Americans, it means that we just don’t want to be successful badly enough,” said Brandon Gassaway, the national press secretary for the committee. “This dismissive approach to the issues that Black voters care about is indicative of Trump’s callousness and disregard for the lives of Black people.”

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, defended Kushner by saying his remarks were taken out of context. She accused unnamed “internet trolls” for trying to “distract from President Trump’s undeniable record of accomplishment for the Black community.”

Trump’s frequent references to what he has claimed to have done for Black America have often been accompanied by one of the most patently false claims he has made since moving into the White House—that has done more for Black Americans than any president with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.


Research contact: @nytimes

NASA’s spacecraft grabbed too many asteroid chunks—and now they’re drifting into space

October 27, 2020

On October 22—two days after touching down on asteroid Bennu in an attempt to gather samples of extraterrestrial rocks— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx-mission team received images confirming that the spacecraft had collected more than 2 ounces (60 grams) of the asteroid’s surface material, NASA reports.

In fact, the spacecraft “may well have bitten off more than it could chew,” several media sources noted this week: Asteroid samples seem to be escaping from the jammed NASA spacecraft and drifting off into space.

The OSIRIS-REx (an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer) spacecraft captured images of the sample collector head as it moved through several different positions. In reviewing these images, the team noticed both that the head appeared to be full of asteroid particles, and that some of these particles appeared to be escaping slowly from the sample collector, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head.

Team members suspect that bits of material are passing through small gaps where a mylar flap —the collector’s “lid”—is slightly wedged open by larger rocks.

“Bennu continues to surprise us with great science and also throwing a few curveballs,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.. “And although we may have to move more quickly to stow the sample, it’s not a bad problem to have. We are so excited to see what appears to be an abundant sample that will inspire science for decades beyond this historic moment.”

The team believes it has collected a sufficient sample and is on a path to stow the sample as quickly as possible. They came to this conclusion after comparing images of the empty collector head with October 22 images of the TAGSAM head after the sample collection event.

The images also show that any movement to the spacecraft and the TAGSAM instrument may lead to further sample loss. To preserve the remaining material, the mission team decided to forego the Sample Mass Measurement activity originally scheduled for Saturday, October 24, and canceled a braking burn scheduled for Friday to minimize any acceleration to the spacecraft.

From here, the OSIRIS-Rex team will focus on stowing the sample in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), where any loose material will be kept safe during the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth.

“We are working to keep up with our own success here, and my job is to safely return as large a sample of Bennu as possible,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. “The loss of mass is of concern to me, so I’m strongly encouraging the team to stow this precious sample as quickly as possible.”

OSIRIS-REx remains in good health, and the mission team is finalizing a timeline for sample storage. An update will be provided once a decision is made on the sample storage timing and procedures.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx.

Research contact: @NASAGoddard