Monday, June 21, 2021

Wake-Up Call: Claudette Becomes Tropical Storm Again

 Claudette regained tropical storm status Monday morning as it neared the coast of the Carolinas less than two days after 13 people died — including eight children in a multi-vehicle crash — due to the effects of the storm in Alabama. The storm  is on a track to move into the Atlantic Ocean after dropping one to three inches of rain in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, with tornadoes also possible. Eight of those killed in Alabama were children who were in a van for a youth home for abused and neglected children that was involved in a multi-vehicle highway crash, with the Butler County coroner saying the vehicles likely hydroplaned in the wet conditions. Two other people, a man and his nine-month-old daughter, also died in the same crash in another vehicle, and multiple people were injured. 

Also Saturday, a man and a three-year-old boy were killed Saturday when a tree fell on their house, and a 23-year-old woman died when her can ran off the road into a swollen creek.

➤IRAN'S ONLY NUCLEAR POWER PLANT HAS UNEXPLAINED EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN: Iranian state TV reported Sunday that the country's only nuclear power plant, which went online in 2011, has had an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown. An official from Iran's state electric company, Tavanir, said on a talk show that the shutdown of the Bushehr plan began Saturday and would last for three or four days, with power outages possible because of it. The electric company released a statement earlier in the day saying the power plant was being repaired, with the work to last until Friday.

➤CRASH AT SOUTH FLORIDA PRIDE PARADE THAT KILLED ONE WAS UNINTENTIONAL: Officials said Sunday that a car crash at a Pride parade in South Florida a day earlier was unintentional, dispelling initial speculation that it might have been a hate crime against the LGBTQ community. The director of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus said a member of the group accidentally drove into other members, killing one of them and seriously injuring another. 

The 77-year-old driver was taken into custody, but no charges have been filed, with police saying the investigation is ongoing. The crash took place at a staging area where the floats were being readied for the parade in Wilton Manor, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said a pickup truck driver suddenly sped up when told he was next in the parade, crashing into the victims.

➤U.S. TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS FOR CANADA, MEXICO EXTENDED FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER MONTH: The pandemic restrictions that have kept U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico closed except for essential travel since March 2020 will remain in place until at least July 21st, the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday (June 20th). The 30-day extension of the requirements that were supposed to end today came after Canada announced its own extension of them on Friday. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that the Canadian border would stay largely closed until 75 percent of Canadians had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine and 20 percent had gotten both shots.

The Daily Mail screenshot 6/20/21

A Disney vacation will not set a family back more then $6,000 for just five days, while the average annual income in U-S now stands at $5,725 per month. This means a visit to the 'happiest place on earth' is out of the reach for a growing numbers of American families. The hefty price tag also comes despite pandemic-related restrictions which is squeezing some of the magic out of the experience.

➤CDC LOWERS COVID-19 RISK ALERT FOR CRUISE TRAVELERS:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has slightly eased risk level guidance for cruise ship passengers. The CDC lowered cruise travel risk from level 4 “Very High,” or not safe to travel, to level 3 “High” for unvaccinated passengers after more than a year as upcoming sailings resume. The CDC warning reads, “Since the virus spreads more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships, the chance of getting COVID-19 on a cruise ship is high. [Among those who are not fully vaccinated there’s an] increased risk of severe illness.” The agency says those who decide to go on a cruise should get tested for COVID-19 one to three days before the scheduled trip and three to five days after their trip. Passengers who are not fully vaccinated are also advised to self-quarantine for a week after the cruise, even if they test negative. The organization also says cruise operators can resume cruises this summer from U.S. ports if 98 percent of crew members and 95 percent of travelers onboard ships are fully vaccinated.

VA SECRETARY SAYS MOVING TO COVER GENDER AFFIRMING SURGERY FOR VETS: Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said Saturday that the VA is moving to cover gender affirmation surgery for transgender veterans. Speaking at a Pride Month event in Florida, McDonough said, "We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives," referring to higher rates of mental illness and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ veterans and the fear of discrimination that prevents them from seeking care. 

This expansion of VA benefits to pay for the surgeries will likely involve a years-long rulemaking process. President Biden signed an executive order days after taking office overturning former President Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military.

➤YUMMY..PLANT-BASED ‘FAKE MEATS’ ARE A NUTRITIOUS CHOICE FOR MOST PEOPLE:  Plant-based meats are pretty trendy, but are they nutritious? The U.S. National Institutes of Health says the answer is yes. In a new study, they found the imitation meats to be a good source of fiber, folate, and iron while containing less saturated fat than ground beef. But they also found the meat alternatives have less protein, zinc, and vitamin B12, as well as lots of salt. Lead researcher Lisa Harnack, with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, says, “Food companies should work to optimize the nutritional quality of their products especially will respect to the amount of salt and other sodium-containing ingredients used in formulating veggie burgers and other plant-based ground beef alternative products.”

➤STUDY..28% OF INJURIES SUSTAINED ON E-SCOOTERS ARE TO THE HEAD AND NECK:  Nearly anyone can rent an e-scooter, but they’re not harmless fun. U.S. researchers analyzed data on e-scooter injuries that came into emergency departments and found there were over 100,000 incidents between 2009 and 2019. The experts say up to 28 percent of these were injuries to the head and neck, and most commonly they were brain injuries, lacerations, concussions, and fractures. One study author says, “As a physician, I would recommend that people who use this mode of transportation wear a helmet and apply the same approach as when driving a car.”

➤NEW ENGLAND HOSPITALS DELAYING SURGERIES BECAUSE OF BLOOD SHORTAGES: Some hospitals in New England are delaying or rescheduling surgeries because of a shortage of blood donations during the pandemic, with Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the American Association of Blood Banks, calling the shortage "unprecedented in its scope." Other factors include that there is usually a drop in blood donations during the summer, and that the number of surgeries is increasing due to procedures that were postponed during the pandemic.

➤SOME PEOPLE IN TEXAS HAVING THERMOSTATS REMOTELY ADJUSTED DURING HEAT WAVE: Some people in Texas, which is going through a punishing heat wave baking the Southwest, are finding that their thermostats are being remotely turned up by their power company, USA Today reported. Electric companies are allowed to do this if the customers signed up for energy-saving programs meant to reduce the strain on the state's power grid during periods of very high use. Under the rules for the programs, the changes can only be in effect for one to four hours at a time, on any weekday that's not a holiday, from June 1st through September 30th. Customers can adjusting the thermostat back lower or exit the program, but they lose potential rewards, including credits on their bill.

🐶OLDER OF BIDEN'S TWO DOGS, CHAMP, HAS DIED: President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said Saturday that the older of their two German shepherds, Champ, had died at age 13. The said in a statement, "He was our constant, cherished companion during the last 13 years and was adored by the entire Biden family. . . . In our most joyful moments and in our most grief-stricken days, he was there with us, sensitive to our every unspoken feeling and emotion." 

The first couple got Champ when Biden was elected vice president in 2008. The Bidens now only have Major, who they adopted in 2018, but are expected to be getting a cat soon.  

➤NEW STRAW WITH ‘FORCEFUL SUCTION’ PROMISES TO CURE HICCUPS INSTANTLY: Getting the hiccups can be really uncomfortable, but there’s a new product that promises to help get rid of them fast. It’s a 3D-printed straw that creates “forceful suction” and is available for purchase in the US and UK for about $14. It’s called HiccAway and promises to stop hiccups instantly after one or two sips of water from the reusable straw. The developers of the straw claim it works by creating pressure when you sip, which in turn lowers your diaphragm and opens and closes your epiglottis (a flap of tissue that sits beneath the tongue at the back of the throat.) Two nerves are then stimulated, telling your brain to reset and stopping the hiccups.

⚾YANKEES MAKE THIRD TRIPLE PLAY THIS SEASON, TYING MLB RECORD: The New York Yankees made their third triple play this season on Sunday, turning it against the Oakland A's in the ninth inning to get the 2-1 win. With men on first and second base, Sean Murphy grounded to Gio Urshela, who stepped on third base, threw to second baseman DJ LaMahieu, who then threw to first base to just get Murphy. The Yankees also had a triple play last Thursday and another on May 21st, trying the MLB record of three for a season, and making them all within one month.

🏀BOOKER HAS TRIPLE-DOUBLE AS SUNS WIN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 1: Phoenix's Devin Booker had his first career triple-double last night as the Suns beat the L.A. Clippers 120-114 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, helping Phoenix get the win as Chris Paul was out due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols. L.A. star Kawhi Leonard was out for a third straight game with a sprained knee.

🏀HAWKS BEAT 76ERS IN GAME 7 TO MAKE CONFERENCE FINALS: The Atlanta Hawks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 103-96 last night to win their second-round playoff series 4 games to 3 and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Hawks will play the Milwaukee Bucks, with Game 1 on Wednesday.

🏀NBA PLAYOFFS: Results from yesterday's games:
  • Second Round: Atlanta Hawks 103, Philadelphia 76ers 96 - Atlanta wins 4 games to 3
  • Conference Finals: Phoenix Suns 120, L.A. Clippers 114 - Phoenix leads 1 game to 0

🏒NHL PLAYOFFS: Results from Conference Finals yesterday:
  • Vegas Golden Knights 2, Montreal Canadiens 1 (OT) - Series tied at 2-2

Spain's Jon Rahm won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego on Sunday, getting his first major by making birdies on the last two holes to get a one-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen, finishing at 6-under 278. No one had ever before birdied the last two holes to win the U.S. Open by one shot in its history. Rahm won the tournament just two weeks after he was knocked out at the Memorial when he had a six-shot lead because of a positive Covid-19 test.

➤NEW ZEALAND WEIGHTLIFTER TO BE FIRST TRANSGENDER COMPETITOR IN OLYMPICS: New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard qualified on Monday for the country's team in next month's Tokyo Olympics in the women's super-heavyweight division, which will make her the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. At 43, she will also be the oldest weightlifter at the Games. Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at age 35. She's met the International Olympic Committee's regulations for female trans athletes, including that her testosterone level has been below a certain level for at least 12 months. However, some critics in the weightlifting community say the criteria don't guarantee fair competition.

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