Posts tagged with "USA Today"

Senate Democrats warn of G.O.P. effort to restrict abortion nationwide

May 10, 2022

Democrats rang alarm bells on Sunday, May 8, about the likelihood that Republicans would try to restrict abortion nationwide, two days after an interview was published in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said a ban was “possible” if his party gained control in Washington, D.C., reports The New York Times.

On the Sunday talk shows and in other public statements, Democratic senators said Republicans would not stop at letting the states decide the issue, but would most likely push for federal restrictions. That made it paramount, they said, that the Democratic Party maintain control of the Senate as it tries to codify abortion rights into federal law.

“We need to make sure that every single voter understands that the Republican Party and Mitch McConnell does not believe that their daughters, that their mothers, that their sisters have rights to make fundamental life and death decisions,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We are half-citizens under this ruling. And if this is put into law, it changes the foundation of America.”

After a leaked draft decision indicated that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion, McConnell said in an interview with USA Today that a national abortion ban was “possible” if that draft document became an official opinion of the court.

“If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies—not only at the state level but at the federal level—certainly could legislate in that area,” McConnell said when asked if a national abortion ban was “worthy of debate.”

McConnell argued that the discussion about a federal ban was premature, but that it was clear that the Republican Party has long been opposed to abortion.

Discussions already are underway among some Republican senators about pushing to ban abortion after a certain number of weeks, ranging from six to 20, depending on the proposal.

“If and when the court makes a final decision, I expect everybody will be more definitive,” McConnell said. “But I don’t think it’s much secret where Senate Republicans stand on that issue.”

Indeed, the Times reports, a document circulated by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and obtained by Axios urged candidates to be low key about abortion, casting themselves as “compassionate consensus builders” with a post-Roe America looming as early as next month.

“States should have the flexibility to implement reasonable restrictions,” the document states.

Research contact: @nytimes

What lies beneath: Long nails may not be as hygienic as you hope

May 4, 2022

Long nails are a major trend these days—seen on the hands of superstars like Cardi B and Billie Eilish. But a biologist warns this new trend may come with health hazards, considering what may be growing underneath.

Jeffrey Kaplan, a biology professor at American University, recently told USA Today that the area under the fingernail in the crevice is where most of the bacteria live.

“The longer the nail, the more surface area there is for microorganisms to adhere,” he said. “Studies have found 32 different bacteria and 28 different fungi underneath fingernails.”

Kaplan said it doesn’t matter if you have long artificial nails, long natural nails, gel nails, acrylic nails, or nail polish, because there is an increased probability of carrying microorganisms which makes it more difficult to decontaminate with handwashing or scrubbing.

One study found MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes serious infections in hospitalized patients, underneath half of the fingernail samples collected, according to Kaplan.

Also, some of the bacteria under nails can be found on the skin, like staphylococcus, which can lead to an infection.

“You can transmit fingernail bacteria to your system by scratching, nail-biting, nose-picking, and finger-sucking,” Kaplan said. 

He said the worst thing that could happen from the bacteria and fungi is a nail infection, which would not be life-threatening, but could leave your fingernails disfigured.

That is why most, if not all healthcare workers, are required to wear short nails due to being at risk for transmitting disease, according to Kaplan.

Two nurses at an Oklahoma City hospital may have contributed to the deaths of 16 babies in 1997 and 1998 because of bacteria found underneath their long nails, The New York Times reported.

Epidemiologists found a link between the deaths of the infants in the neonatal unit and the bacteria under the nails but did not prove it was the definite cause.

“When surgeons scrub for surgery and then they test their hands, there’s always bacteria under the fingernail and you can’t get rid of it,” Kaplan said. 

Kayla Newman, a nail tech based in North Carolina, told USA Today that none of her clientele has had infections or “nasty nails” in her eight years of service. “Generally people who have long nails know how to maneuver with them and keep them clean,” she said. “If you’re spending upwards of $60 to get your nails done and you don’t keep them clean, that doesn’t make sense.”

Newman has seen the trend for long nails grow over the last couple of years and social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, showcase artistic designs on nails that can be over two inches long.

Research contact: @USATODAY

‘Glimmers’ are the opposite of triggers. Here’s how to embrace them.

March 25, 2022

“Trigger” has become a commonplace term in our cultural lexicon, but few people know about the opposite of triggers: glimmers.

Coined by  Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in complex trauma, in her 2018 book,  The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, the term refers to  small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm, reports USA Today.

“We’re not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection. These are micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways,” she explains.

And the concept has taken hold. On TikTok, for example, one video about glimmers has gained more than 78,000 likes and hundreds of comments expressing appreciation for the idea of embracing glimmers.

“I love this … and (I’m going to) hold on tight to it,” one user commented. “Ohhhh this is my new favorite thing ever,” another wrote.

So, what exactly is a glimmer? Glimmers aren’t just tiny moments that bring joy or happiness, they can also spark ease, relaxation, safety, connection—or a feeling that the world is OK, even for a fleeting moment.

Glimmers can be found in different places and senses—among them:

  • In nature, admiring your garden or seeing the stars in the sky,
  • In a stranger’s smile or the warmth of a loved one’s voice,
  • In the company of furry friends, and
  • In music, such as with unexpected church bells or your favorite song playing on the radio.

“You feel something happen inside. There’s an energy that happens around a glimmer, and then your brain then marks it as well,” Dana adds.

Who can benefit from glimmers? Noticing glimmers can be beneficial for everyone—but is especially helpful for people who have experienced trauma.

“The thing I love about glimmers is that, working with trauma survivors, it’s so respectful of their suffering,” Dana says. “It allows them to understand that their biology is wired in a way that, we don’t discount the trauma or the crisis or the ongoing suffering, but we recognize that their biology is exquisitely set up to be able to also notice the micro moments of goodness.”

Our brains have a natural tendency to look for the bad, says Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind.

“Being on the lookout for danger can help us stay physically safe. But since we are no longer lurking in the forest hiding from hungry animals, we don’t need to focus on the negative quite so much to stay physically safe,” she says.

“It’s really good for us to have a break from our uncomfortable emotions sometimes,” Morin explains. “A little joy and some relaxation can reduce your emotional distress.”

And when you are less emotional, you are more logical, she adds. “That means you might be able to tackle a problem from a different angle because you see things a little differently. Or you might be able to talk yourself into doing something difficult, once your anxiety subsides a little,” she says. “Less emotional distress can also help you take more positive action. And that positive action can help make your life better.”

Morin suggests allowing yourself to fully embrace feel-good emotions. “Sometimes people don’t want to feel them because they know those emotions won’t last, or they might feel guilty for feeling good during a hard time in their lives,” she says. “But trust that it’s OK to allow yourself to experience them. Enjoy them while they last. And know that you’ll have more moments of joy in the future as well.”

Research contact: @USATODAY

Biden Administration to launch website for free 500 million COVID-19 testing kits on Wednesday

January 19, 2022

The Biden Administration o is set to launch a website where Americans can order up to four free COVID-19 testing kits per person on Wednesday, January 19, according to a senior administration official, reports USA Today.

The tests—which represent part of the Biden Administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections—will be delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the announcement.

President Joe Biden announced earlier this week that his administration would double its order to 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests amid a shortage of tests nationwide as U.S. cases spike. The second batch of testing kits will also be distributed for free through the website, officials said. 

The White House is ramping up efforts to make testing more accessible and affordable after facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the lack of inventory of COVID-19 tests as the highly transmissible omicron variant ripped across the country—shuttering schools, overwhelming hospitals, and frustrating Americans exhausted by two years of an ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this month, a group of Biden’s former health advisers released a series of articles calling for the administration to change its approach to combatting COVID-19 and urging Americans to learn to live with the virus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came under fire for issuing confusing guidance on isolation. 

The administration so far has procured more than 420 million of the first order of tests and is working to finalize contracts for the remaining 80 million, according to an official.

The White House also plans to launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders and will work with national and local community organizations to meet requests from the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities, according to officials.

Aside from the free tests available through the website, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month for people through their insurance plans beginning Saturday, January 22. Americans will be able to either purchase tests for free through their insurance or submit receipts for reimbursement.

The president is also expected to announce next week the steps he’s taking to make high-quality masks available for free, but details of how those would be distributed are still unclear.

The latest White House effort comes as hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting new records—with some hospitals delaying elective surgeries while states are deploying National Guard members to health care facilities.

The White House is also sending military medical teams to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Mexico to help confront a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Roughly one in five hospitals has reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA Today analysis found. One in four anticipated critical shortages within the next week.

Research contact: @USATODAY

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

October 4, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research contact: @USATODAY

The ‘dark side’ of bodybuilding

September 28, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research contact: @USATODAY

Twitter acquires Scroll, an ad-free news reader

May 5, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research contact: @adage

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

April 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research contact: USATODAY

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

March 30, 2021

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

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

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

The name change was supposed to happen in May.

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

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

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

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

Research contact: USATODAY

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

March 30, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research contact: @USATODAY