Posts tagged with "CNN"

A pox on you: What is monkeypox?

May 23, 2022

An extremely rare disease called monkeypox, a cousin of smallpox, has again made its way to the United States. A case of monkeypox was reported on Wednesday, May 18, in a patient hospitalized in Massachusetts who had recently traveled to Canada using private transportation, reports CNN.

In 2021, two people traveling from Nigeria to the United States were diagnosed with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monkeypox is mostly found in West and Central Africa; but additional cases have been seen in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world in recent years. Those cases are typically linked to international travel or imported animals infected with the pox, the CDC said.

On Thursday, CNN reports:

  • Spain confirmed seven cases of monkeypox in Madrid and authorities are investigating another 22;
  • Italy confirmed its first case; and
  • Canadian public health officials announced they are investigating 17 suspected cases of monkeypox in Montreal.

Several cases of monkeypox in the U.K. among people who have no known travel or contact with others who are carrying the virus have health officials there and at the CDC concerned—but there is no cause for alarm, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Thursday on CNN’s “New Day.”

“At this time, we don’t want people to worry,” Murthy said. “These numbers are still small; we want them to be aware of (the) symptoms and, if they have any concerns, to reach out to their doctor.”

What are the initial symptoms of monkeypox? There is an incubation period of some seven to 14 days, the CDC said. Initial symptoms are typically flu-like, such as fever, chills, exhaustion, headache and muscle weakness, followed by swelling in the lymph nodes, which help the body fight infection and disease.

“A feature that distinguishes infection with monkeypox from that of smallpox is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” the CDC said.

Next comes a widespread rash on the face and body, including inside the mouth and on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The painful, raised poxes are pearly and fluid-filled, often surrounded by red circles. The lesions finally scab over and resolve over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC said.

“Treatment is generally supportive as there are no specific drugs available. However, a vaccine is available that can be given to prevent the development of disease,” Jimmy Whitworth, professor of International Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement.

Close contact with an infected individual is required for the spread of the monkeypox virus, experts say.

Research contact: @CNN

Watchdog: Trump’s DHS delayed and altered report on Russian interference in 2020 election

May 6, 2022

Former President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security delayed and altered an intelligence report related to Russian interference in the 2020 election—making changes that “appear to be based in part on political considerations,”  according to a newly released watchdog report.

The April 26 Homeland Security inspector general’s assessment provides a damning look at the way DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis dealt with intelligence related to Russia’s efforts to interfere in the United States, stating the department had deviated from its standard procedures in modifying, assessments related to Moscow’s targeting of the 2020 presidential election, reports CNN.

The conclusion that Trump’s appointee appeared to have tried to downplay Russian meddling in a key intelligence report is the latest example of how his aides managed his aversion to any information about how Russia might be helping his election prospects. According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Trump officials tried to avoid the topic during meetings and at hearings, because he would become enraged and upset when Russian meddling came up.

The U.S. intelligence community announced during the 2020 campaign that Russia was actively meddling in the election to weaken then-candidate Joe Biden. At the time, Trump downplayed those findings and promoted false claims about Biden that aligned with Russia’s disinformation efforts. The IG report addresses past suspicions that Trump appointees distorted some intelligence reports to foster a more Trump-friendly narrative.

The watchdog found, for example, that then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf had participated in the review process “multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product,” which caused delays and may have helped create the “perception” that assessments were changed for political reasons.

“We determined that the Acting Secretary’s involvement led to the rare occurrence of I&A ceasing dissemination of a product after it had already been approved by the mission manager and circulated via advanced notification,” the report states.

“The delays and deviation from I&A’s standard process and requirements put I&A at risk of creating a perception of politicization. This conclusion is supported by I&A’s own tradecraft assessment, which determined that the product might be viewed as politicized,” it continues.

The report stems from previous allegations that the Trump Administration downplaying Russian interference. CNN first reported in September 2020 a whistleblower complaint alleging that top political appointees in DHS repeatedly instructed career officials to modify intelligence assessments to suit Trump’s agenda by downplaying Russia’s efforts to interfere in the United States.

The whistleblower claimed that Wolf had instructed DHS officials to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference” and, instead, focus their efforts on gathering information related to activities being carried out by China and Iran.

Research contact: @CNN

Here’s how much more you’ll pay for summer camp this year. It’s not pretty.

April 3, 2022

Prices are going up for everything from food and cars to gas and clothes. Now, families can add summer camps to that growing list, reports CNN.

Some 26 million children nationwide are expected to be enrolled in camps this year after schools wind down in just a few weeks.

“Demand is extremely strong for camps as parents are desperate for their kids to be out in nature with their peers and away from tech devices after two years of social distancing,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, a non-profit that represents the summer camp industry.

As demand surges, parents should prepare to pay more to secure a camp spot for their child. Rosenberg said camp fees are estimated to jump 10% to 15% this summer over 2021.

Some of this is demand-driven, he added. The summer camp industry, made up of over 15,000 camps, was already running at full capacity heading into the pandemic. In 2020, 82% of overnight camps and 60% of day camps didn’t operate at all. The loss of business forced some camps to shut down completely. Demand is outstripping supply even more now, he said.

The other factor is soaring inflation. Just as households are paying more for everyday goods and services, camp operators said they’re incurring more costs by having to pay more for camp supplies such as food, bus transportation staff, and insurance.  The pandemic has added another expense category, too: on-premise COVID safety and testing protocols.

Out of space: Camp Creek Run is a 50-acre non-profit camp and nature preserve in Marlton, New Jersey, that runs summer day camps for kids ages 4 to 12. The camp typically gets 200 campers a week.

“We’re a smaller camp so demand is always high. But this year has definitely been different,” said Keara Giannotti, the camp’s executive director and director of Eco Studies. “Our slots filled up quickly. Some of our age groups filled up within two weeks once we opened registration, and that has never happened before.”

The camp currently has a waiting list for every week and every age group this year. “We had to close registration a few weeks ago, which we have also never done before, [and] we have canceled a couple of open houses,” she said.

Although its campers aren’t provided food, Giannotti said costs have gone up in other areas, such as supplies, insurance and payroll. Counselors are demanding higher salaries in a tight labor market.

Camp Creek Run fees now are $330 a week this summer, compared to $300 in 2019.

Camp Tawonga, a non-profit 97-year-old Jewish summer camp located on 160 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest outside of Yosemite National Park, offers both summer camps and year-round programs.

Its most popular summer camp program, which run from five days to three weeks, are full, said Casey Cohen, the camp’s senior communication’s director.

“Those programs filled up as early as the end of last November for summer 2022 and the camp opened waitlists,” she said.

Fees for its programs are higher, too: In 2019, a two-week session at the camp cost $4,065. In 2022, that same program costs $4,850, Cohen said.

Camp Tawonga CEO Jamie Simon said virtually all expenses are higher, driving up the cost of running overall.

“As our fees go up, we try to balance that increase with expanded financial assistance options,” said Simon. “We want to ensure that people can participate in Tawonga programs regardless of their financial situation. To that end, we give away over $750,000 a year in financial assistance.”

Not every family can afford to pay for summer camp. The Salvation Army is one of several organizations that offers free camps. The organization runs 43 sleep-away camps and hundreds of day camps nationwide for 6- to 17-year-olds, according to The Salvation Army Commissioner Kenneth Hodder.

“These camps are crucial for families. Parents right now are stressed at every step. As schools are about to close, many don’t have the option of doing their jobs remotely and have to be at their day jobs,” he said.

Hodder said demand has soared this year. “Eighty percent of our campers don’t pay for the experience we provide, such as learning a new skill like swimming or archery or a craft. We also provide our campers with three meals a day. Many of them don’t get that at home,” he said.

The Salvation Army relies on public donations to fund its week-long summer camps, which Hodder estimates costs about $400 a week. “With inflation, it will cost considerably more this year, but that cost varies from place to place,” he said.

Hodder hopes public donations will continue to help offset the higher costs of running the camps.

“I worked at summer camps for eight summers. I was a dishwasher and a camp counselor. And I even met my wife at camp,” Hodder said. “These camps are vital for children, and families need to know they have an option for their child.”

Research contact: @CNN

Supreme Court rules Puerto Ricans don’t have constitutional right to some federal benefits

April 22, 2022

Congress can exclude residents of Puerto Rico from some federal disability benefits available to those who live in the 50 states, the Supreme Court ruled on April 21, reports CNN.

The 8-1 opinion was written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

The case concerned Supplemental Security Income that is available to those living in the 50 states who are older than 65, blind, or disabled. However, residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are excluded from receiving the funds.

“In devising tax and benefits programs, it is reasonable for Congress to take account of the general balance of benefits to and burdens on the residents of Puerto Rico,” Kavanaugh wrote. “In doing so, Congress need not conduct a dollar-to-dollar comparison of how its tax and benefits programs apply in the States as compared to the Territories, either at the individual or collective level.”

Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, penned the sole dissenting opinion. “Equal treatment of citizens should not be left to the vagaries of the political process,” she said.

“Because residents of Puerto Rico do not have voting representation in Congress, they cannot rely on their elected representatives to remedy the punishing disparities suffered by citizen residents of Puerto Rico under Congress’ unequal treatment,” Sotomayor wrote.

The case involves Jose Luis Vaello-Madero, who was born in Puerto Rico in 1954, but lived in New York from 1985 to 2013. In 2012, he was found eligible after a stroke to receive the disability payments, which were deposited directly into his checking account.

After moving back to Puerto Rico in 2013, Vaello-Madero continued to accept the payments until the government was made aware that he was now living outside the 50 states. He was told that his benefits would be discontinued and that he owed the government $28,081 in back pay. His lawyers later sued, arguing that the exclusion of Puerto Rican residents violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Hermann Ferré, a lawyer for Vaello-Madero, said the program was meant to replace “an uneven patchwork of programs” for the disabled with a “uniform standard of national support” so that poor and disabled Americans could live with dignity.

“But that guarantee is not enjoyed by all Americans,” he said, arguing the court should look at the elimination suspiciously because it excludes Puerto Ricans based on their race.

The Biden Administration had defended the exclusion, noting that most Puerto Ricans are exempt from federal taxes, so Congress could take into consideration that reduced contribution when excluding them from some disability benefits. A government lawyer stressed that it would be up to Congress to extend the benefits, and President Joe Biden has already called on Congress to do so.

“It is always appropriate for Congress to take account of the general balance of benefits and burdens associated with a particular federal program,” Deputy Solicitor General Curtis Gannon told the justices at oral arguments.

Research contact: @CNN

 

Americans can’t afford gas—and that’s bad news for beef jerky

April 15, 2022

Gas doesn’t just fuel cars; it also powers Marlboros, Red Bull, and Doritos. In fact, an estimated 80% of the fuel purchased in the United States comes from stations with convenience stores, which bring in about $475 billion of revenue each year, according to IBISWorld data.

And more specifically, reports CNN, one-quarter of that take comes from the 44% of gas guzzlers who come into the store each time they hit the pumps to purchase groceries, snacks, beer and cigarettes.

So as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and record-high inflation rates cause crude oil prices to shoot up, executives at PepsiCo, General Mills, and Conagra (the company behind Slim Jim beef jerky) are biting their nails.

The national gas average price in the United States was about $4.10 per gallon on Wednesday, April 13, according to data compiled by AAA. While that’s a little bit under the record high, it’s still high enough to make 60% of Americans reconsider their driving habits and make some lifestyle changes, according to a survey by the automotive service company.

Less driving and fewer trips to the pump typically serve a double hit to convenience store retailers: a loss of foot traffic and money left for discretionary purchases.

“Our [convenience store] retailer contacts have recently highlighted some signs of strain on consumer spending as gas prices remain stubbornly high, with one retailer noting a slowdown in March in-store purchases across categories,” wrote Bonnie Herzog, managing director at Goldman Sachs, in a research note Wednesday.

Rising gas prices also appear to be weighing on packaged snack food sales. “This is evidenced by the slowing volume trend seen across most major snack food categories and outright volume declines for single-serve chocolate and jerky meat,” she wrote.

About 83% of purchases made at convenience stores are for immediate consumption, or impulse buys,—typically the first thing to go when inflation increases.

“Anytime you sell immediate consumption and people’s pocketbooks are pinched you could lose sales,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of Strategic Industry Initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Gas prices are top of Americans’ minds, said Jason Zelinski, director of Convenience Channel Accounts at NielsenIQ. But they haven’t greatly impacted other sales yet. He noticed a shift toward increased visits to gas stations—people are topping off their tanks more frequently instead of paying for a full tank.

Consumer Edge, a data insights company, looked at the top three fuel retail brands in the United States (Costco, Sam’s Club, and Kroger) and noticed a spike in fuel sales as a percentage of total sales through the month of March.

“Although average fuel prices per gallon have gone up, some consumers can no longer afford to fill their tanks each trip and are making the same-priced transactions for fewer gallons, but filling up more often,” they wrote.

And while there are certainly fears of an upcoming recession, unemployment remains at record lows. Americans are still driving to work. Walmart, Costco and convenience stores are tying product promotions or discounts to the purchase of gas in order to encourage store visits.

Research contact: @CNN

USA to announce hundreds of millions in new security assistance to Ukraine

April 14, 2022

On Wednesday, April 13, sources close to the Biden Administration said America would announce hundreds of millions of dollars in new military assistance to Ukraine, reports CNN.

The final amount had not been confirmed as of Tuesday, but most estimated that the bottom line would be $700 million, with President Joe Biden using his drawdown authority to authorize the new aid package for Ukraine.

Reuters first reported on the new security assistance package.

If approved, the addition of approximately $800 million in security assistance would bring the total aid to Ukraine to more than $3 billion since the start of the Biden Administration—including nearly $2.5 billion since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s 2020 defense budget was only about $6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In less than two months, the United States has provided nearly half of that in security assistance, underscoring the pace at which the White House has worked to send in weaponry and equipment.

U.S. shipments of an $800 million security assistance package approved in mid-March will likely wrap up by the middle of April, a senior defense official said Tuesday. And a $100 million package of Javelin anti-armor systems approved in early April will also likely complete delivery very soon, the official added. These packages came from Defense Department inventories, making it relatively easy and quick to transfer the weapons and systems to Ukraine.

According to a draft list of the shipment described to CNN that had been sent to Congress, the Administration was considering the delivery of weapons systems to Ukraine that would include MI-17 helicopters, coastal sea drones, Howitzers, armored Humvees, and other weapons that had been in previous aid packages.

As of Tuesday night, two sources said helicopters had been removed from the list, which officials say is heavily caveated, with items regularly changed or removed up until it receives the final authorization and signature from Biden.

On April 1, the White House also authorized a separate $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, but this package will take more time, since it has to be procured from defense contractors first.

Research contact: @CNN

New Hampshire governor says out loud what many Republicans think about Donald Trump

April 5, 2022

Over the weekend, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, spoke at the Gridiron dinner, an annual gathering of Washington media and political types. And he let ‘er rip on Donald Trump, reports CNN.

“He’s f—ing crazy!” Sununu saidaccording to Politico. “The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I’ll say it this way: I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out!”

Now, the Gridiron is a roast of sorts—a usually polite send-up of Washington’s political culture. So, yes, Sununu was “joking,” notes CNN. But like all good humor, there’s a kernel of truth in what he had to say.

Time after time over the last several years, when the topic of Trump comes up, influential Republicans—including some former elected officials—raise questions about what motivates the former President and, well, what exactly he is thinking when it comes to what he says and does.

Chatter about Trump’s mental state has, in fact, been an ongoing component of his time at the top of the Republican Party.

“Peril,” Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book about the final months of the Trump presidency, is larded with questions about Trump’s mental state.

The following excerpt from the book refers to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who was the highest ranking general in the administration, about the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol: “[He] was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies,” Woodward and Costa write.

The book also cites this from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a call to Trump on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration: “I don’t know what’s happened to you in the last two months. … You’re not the same as you were for the last four years.”

If anything, CNN notes, the intervening months have seen Trump go deeper into his election fraud fantasies—growing more and more disconnected from actual facts. Just last week, Trump urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release negative information he may have about Hunter Biden, the son of the current president.

This is not an academic discussion. Trump is, without question, the frontrunner to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. We should all be worried about what it means for the country going forward.

Research contact: @CNN

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki plans to leave for an on-air role at MSNBC

April 4, 2022

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, is planning to leave her post to take an on-air role at MSNBC, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC on April 1.

Psaki, who is still fleshing out details with the company, is expected to leave the White House around May, Axios reported earlier Friday.

Psaki will host a show for NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, Peacock, Axios reported. She had reportedly also been in talks with CNN and other networks.

Psaki did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“We don’t have anything to confirm about Jen’s length of planned service or any consideration about future plans,” a White House official told CNBC in an email. “Jen is here and working hard every day on behalf of the president to get you the answers to the questions that you have, and that’s where her focus is.”

News networks have long looked to recruit spokespeople and other high-profile Beltway figures for their day-to-day political coverage, both as anchors and regular contributors.

Longtime ABC News host George Stephanopoulos, for instance, was formerly the White House communications director under President Bill Clinton. MSNBC political analyst and host Nicolle Wallace was a senior spokesperson for the George W. Bush administration and a spokesperson for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Last March, former President Donald Trump’s final Press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, joined Fox News as a commentator. More recently, CBS News signed ex-Trump official Mick Mulvaney as a paid contributor.

Research contact: @CNBC

‘An unparalleled action’: Switzerland forgoes neutrality to freeze Russian financial assets

March 1, 2022

Russians face a global financial backlash following Vladimir Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine that is so extensive that even the Swiss are taking sides, reports Raw Story.

Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deeply rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for the invasion of Ukraine,” The New York Times reported.

The Times continued, “After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland’s president, Ignazio Cassis, said that the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin; Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin; and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov; as well as all 367 individuals sanctioned last week by the European Union.”

“The Swiss Federal Council has decided today to fully adopt EU sanctions,” Swiss Federal President Ignazio Cassis said Monday, according to CNN. “It is an unparalleled action of Switzerland, who has always stayed neutral before.”

The sanctions will prevent Lavrov from flying to Geneva on Tuesday to address the UN Human Rights Council, Russia announced.

“Swiss national bank data showed that Russian companies and individuals held assets worth more than $11 billion in Swiss banks in 2020,” the Times reported. “Switzerland cherishes a reputation for neutrality that has established Geneva as a home to the United Nations and a host to peace talks in numerous conflicts, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Recently, Geneva was the venue for last year’s summit between President Biden and Mr. Putin.”

Research contact: @RawStory

House committee seeks to revoke Trump D.C. hotel lease before former president can sell it for $370M

February 18, 2022

The House Oversight Committee is asking he General Services Administration to consider terminating the lease for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., before the former president’s business can sell it, in light of allegations that the Trump Organization submitted false financial statements to the federal government, reports CNN.

The Democratic-led committee said false statements or certifications may constitute a breach of the lease of the Old Post Office, the historic, government-owned building that the Trump Hotel occupies.

The committee request comes as the Trump Organization stands to make a profit of $100 million from the sale of the hotel lease to a Miami-based investment group for $370 million, according to a letter from the panel to the GSA. The agency is reviewing that pending deal.

“No one should be rewarded for providing false or misleading information to the federal government or for seeking to profit off the presidency,” the committee wrote.

Former President Donald Trump obtained the lease for the hotel years before he came into office.

The committee’s letter comes days after Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars advised that nearly a decade’s worth of the Trump Organization’s financial statements should no longer be relied on and after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed allegations that the business inflated values of certain assets on various financial statements.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says the investigation is politically motivated.

The committee’s letter makes clear that Trump’s submission of information to the GSA was in 2010, a year earlier than the ten-year set of financial statements Mazars has lost confidence in. But the committee says it has similar concerns to state investigators in New York, who revealed the split between Mazars and the Trump Organization this week. Mazars served as the auditor for the Trump hotel, according to the letter.

“In light of these new revelations, including further evidence that the former President submitted at least one financial statement with possible material misrepresentations to GSA, we request that you consider terminating the Old Post Office Building lease to former President Trump … and end, once-and-for-all, the grave damage this inappropriate lease has done to presidential ethics and integrity in government contracting,” the committee’s letter said.

The GSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: @CNN