collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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With Brittney Griner In Jail, WNBA Players Skip Russia In Offseason

By Associated Press
September 20, 2022

WNBA players often compete in Russia because of the high salaries, but they are skipping out due to Brittney Griner’s imprisonment.

Brittney Griner’s highly publicized legal woes in Russia and the country’s invasion of Ukraine have the top WNBA players opting to take their talents elsewhere this offseason.

For the past few decades, Russia has been the preferred offseason destination for WNBA players to compete because of the high salaries that can exceed $1 million and the resources and amenities teams offered them.

That all has come to an abrupt end.

“Honestly my time in Russia has been wonderful, but especially with BG still wrongfully detained there, nobody’s going to go there until she’s home,” said Breanna Stewart, a Griner teammate on the Russian team that paid the duo millions. “I think that, you know, now, people want to go overseas and if the money is not much different, they want to be in a better place.”

Griner was arrested in February, then detained and later convicted on drug possession charges amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Griner was sentenced last month to nine years in prison.

Now, Stewart and other WNBA All-Stars, including Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot — who also have made millions of dollars playing in Russia — are going elsewhere this winter. All three played for Ekaterinburg, the same Russian team as Griner. That club won five EuroLeague titles in the past eight seasons and has been dominant for nearly two decades with former greats DeLisha Milton Jones and Diana Taurasi playing there.

Nearly a dozen WNBA players competed in Russia last winter and none of them are heading back this year.

After the World Cup tournament, Stewart is going to Turkey to play for Fenerbahçe. Top players can make a few hundred thousand dollars playing in Turkey, much less than their Russian salaries. Playing in Turkey also allows Stewart to be closer to her wife’s family in Spain.

“You want to have a better lifestyle, a better off-the-court experience, and just continue to appreciate other countries,” Stewart said.

Like Stewart, Vandersloot also isn’t headed back to Russia, choosing to play in Hungary where she obtained citizenship in 2016.

“I am Hungarian. I thought it would be special since I haven’t played there since I got the citizenship,” Vandersloot said.

The 33-year-old guard said a lot would have to change before she’d ever consider going back to Russia to play even though she has many fond memories of the Russian people.

“The thing about it is, we were treated so well by our club and made such strong relationships with those people, I would never close the door on that,” she said. “The whole situation with BG makes it really hard to think that it’s safe for anyone to go back there right now.”

Jones will be joining Stewart in Turkey, playing for Mersin. The 6-foot-6 Jones said she would consider going back to Russia if things change politically and Griner was back in the U.S.

The Griner situation also is weighing heavily on the minds of young WNBA players.

Rhyne Howard, the 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year, is playing in Italy this winter — her first overseas experience. She said was careful when deciding where she wanted to play.

“Everyone’s going to be a bit cautious seeing as this situation is happening,” she said.

It’s not just the American players who are no longer going to Russia. Chicago Sky forward Emma Meesseman, who stars for the Belgium national team, had played in Russia with Stewart, Jones and Vandersloot. She also is headed to Turkey this offseason.

The WNBA has also been trying to make staying home in the offseason a better option for players. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said at the WNBA Finals that top players could make up to $700,000 this year between base salary, marketing agreements and award bonuses. While only a select few players could reach that amount, roughly a dozen have decided to take league marketing agreements this offseason.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Why Do Some People Live So Long?

The CDC predicts life expectancy to grow for Americans in the next few years from 76 years old to about 85 years old.

The U.S. life expectancy is 76 years according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Others are living beyond that benchmark. Government numbers show there are more than 72,000 centenarians in the U.S., or those who’ve reached the age of 100.  

The CDC predicts life expectancy for all Americans grow to 85.6 years by 2060.  They credit current patterns in mortality caused by an more vaccinations, fewer infectious diseases, and alcohol and smoking prevention programs.   

Jan Gantz is already past that. She celebrated her 90th birthday in April surrounded by friends and family at her home in Sarasota, Florida.  

“I’m almost 5-6 months from my 91st year and I still don’t know how I got to be 90. And as I told somebody, it happens one day at a time. And then all of a sudden, it’s like what?” said Gantz. “The party was beautiful, they put so much planning into it.”

You’re probably wondering what her secret is to staying happy and healthy. 

“I play mahjong several times a week, I go to the gym twice a week — that doesn’t mean it’s fun necessarily, I try and do water aerobics, entertain at least once a week and I go out socially,” said Gantz. 

The number of Americans 90-and-older has nearly tripled since the 1980s. 

But Jan still has some ways to go to reach the bar set by these two: Jeanne Louise Calment of France and Jiroemon Kimura of Japan. 

The oldest female and male ever lived to 122 years and 116 years, respectively, according to Guinness World Records. 

Family members say Calment had a good diet, but had a sweet tooth and ate about two pounds of chocolate a week. 

Kimura’s life motto was reportedly “eat light to live long.” 

There might be some truth to the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” 

A study out this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed obesity and diabetes can deter how long we live. Researchers recommended a Mediterranean diet focused on seafood and veggies and went light on meat and sugar. 

Regular exercise can slow down father time and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. 

German researchers analyzed a handful of studies and determined regular exercise can add almost four years to some people’s life span. Good genes also factor in. It’s estimated about a quarter of the variation in life span is dictated by genetics. 

Yet the science to all the specific genes and how they help longevity is still in the works. And then there’s lifestyle. 

The more seniors stay mentally active, the more it can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on Aging. 

It’s something Jan Gantz at 90 has been able to do, even through isolation during the pandemic. 

“I spent time reading, interacting on the computer with people playing mahjong and games, and it was just a different time. And I feel very blessed to have gotten through that and not feeling scarred by a lot of it,” said Gantz.  

When asked what advice Gantz has for others looking to live a long and happy life, she gave an answer that’s reflective of how she’s lived hers.  

“Be kind. And smile. You go out with a smile, you’re always going to meet somebody. And kindness I think in today’s world is going to go so far,” she said. 

Source: newsy.com

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Disgraced Prince Andrew, back in the spotlight but still out in the cold

Britain’s Prince Andrew and Prince Edward march during a procession where the coffin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is transported from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament for her lying in state, in London, Britain, September 14, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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  • Presence at funeral events a reminder of his fall
  • Barred from wearing uniform, heckled in Edinburgh
  • Still eighth in the line of succession to throne

LONDON, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Amid the displays of emotion and deference since the death of Queen Elizabeth, the presence of one figure has added a discordant note to the solemn rituals leading up to her funeral – that of her disgraced son Prince Andrew.

Reputedly the queen’s favourite son, Andrew was stripped of most of his titles and removed from royal duties due to a scandal over his friendship with U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and a related sex assault allegation.

He has not been charged with any criminal offence and has denied any wrongdoing.

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After a period where he has been out of the public eye, the sight of Andrew, 62, in the global spotlight following his mother’s death has served as a reminder of his fall from grace.

A Royal Navy veteran of the Falklands War, he has not been allowed to wear a military uniform during two solemn processions, one in Edinburgh and one in London, when he and his three siblings walked behind the queen’s coffin.

King Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Edward wore full dress uniforms while Andrew was in a morning suit, drawing attention to his peculiar status. He will be allowed to wear uniform as a special mark of respect for the queen during a final vigil the siblings will hold as her body lies in state.

In Edinburgh on Monday, one heckler shouted out: “Andrew, you’re a sick old man”.

The man was bundled away and has been charged with a breach of the peace. But if that was a rare instance of loud public protest, the sentiment seems to be more widely shared.

“There’s no place for Andrew in the future of the family or country, but I think the queen did right to sideline him. He’s brought shame, but I think his family knows what the British people think of him,” said Mary Burke, a 47-year-old from the south coast town of Brighton, as she waited in the long line to view the queen’s coffin in London’s Westminster Hall.

Andrew has not taken part in events at which royals have greeted members of the public, other than a brief appearance outside Balmoral Castle two days after the queen’s death.

Eyebrows have been raised over his continued position as a Counsellor of State, a formal position.

“If this isn’t changed, the monarchy is going to lose many who currently might support them,” wrote Sheila Le Mottee in a comment on an article in the pro-independence Scottish newspaper The National.

“The only reason he is tolerated just now is because he is a son who has just lost his mother.”

PLAYBOY PRINCE TO PARIAH

Once upon a time, Andrew was a popular figure.

Tabloids nicknamed him the “Playboy Prince” as they cheerfully reported on his love life, and he won respect for his service as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands.

His marriage in 1986 to Sarah Ferguson was seen at the time as bringing a breath of fresh air to a stuffy institution.

It all went wrong gradually and then suddenly.

As a roving trade ambassador, he gained the nickname “Air Miles Andy” for his frequent travels, which often involved rounds of golf. His marriage ended in divorce in 1996. The media criticised him for what was described as high-handed behaviour and an overly lavish lifestyle.

But it was the Epstein affair that brought true ignominy upon Andrew.

He stayed at Epstein’s various homes and one video from 2010 showed him inside Epstein’s New York townhouse, waving to a woman from the door. Epstein had been jailed in 2008 for child sex offences.

A photograph circulated picturing him with his arm around a young woman named Virginia Roberts – who accused Epstein of grooming her as a “sex slave”. Also in the picture is socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who in June this year was sentenced by a U.S. court to 20 years imprisonment for child sex trafficking.

Roberts, now called Virginia Giuffre, said as a teenager she had been forced to have sex with Andrew in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002.

In an effort to clear the air, Andrew sat down for an interview with the BBC in November 2019.

He said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, denied having sex with Roberts and said he had no recollection of even meeting her.

But his justifications, for example saying that her account of dancing with him in a nightclub where he sweated profusely could not be true because he was unable to sweat following an overdose of adrenalin during the Falklands War, were widely ridiculed.

Giuffre eventually sued Andrew alleging he sexually assaulted her when she was aged 17. In March this year, he settled the suit without admitting any liability. The settlement included an undisclosed payment.

Andrew remains eighth in the order of succession to the throne, and British media have speculated that he may still hold the hope of making a full return to public life.

But royal observers think that is highly unlikely, not least as Charles has already spoken of having a slimmed-down monarchy with fewer working royals.

Andrew has, however, assumed one new role. A spokesperson said he would take over care of his late mother’s two corgi dogs.

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Additional reporting by Humza Jilani; Editing by Estelle Shirbon and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Services Can Actually Lead To More Debt

Companies that allow consumers to complete a purchase after the point of sale are often unregulated and can lead users into deeper debt.

There’s a long history of paying for things in installments: There’s the way old commercials advertise, there are rent-to-own products, or shoppers can put purchases on a payment layaway plan.

But recently, more options have popped up that give consumers the items right away and takes away the threat of repossession.

Companies like Afterpay, Klarna and Affirm have become a more frequent resource for people looking to buy things using a stretched-out payment plan. They have increasingly been showing up as payment options on websites of major retailers, including Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

It’s a huge business. A report from the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation found that 91% of consumer loans taken out in the state in 2020 were from buy now, pay later lenders.

But unlike leasing a car or taking out a new credit card, there isn’t much regulation of this space because of how new it is. Buyers get both the instant gratification of getting their purchase right away, and it doesn’t necessarily affect their credit score.

“A significant portion of people take out multiple buy now, pay later purchases,” said Nadine Chabrier, litigation policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “There’s no consideration of the ability to repay, and there’s no specific date on which a person can count on their final pay later coming out of their account. So, people tend to take on multiple purchases and get overwhelmed.”

Chabrier is concerned that the short-term nature of these loans has helped buy now, pay later providers avoid existing rules.

“Some of the things that we’ve advocated for is to regulate buy now, pay later like a credit card,” Chabrier said. “There are really important protections there for consumers that you have under credit cards that you don’t have when you take out a financial planner.”

These types of services often have a younger, more diverse user base. A Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this year found that Gen Z, as well as Black and Hispanic Americans, were more likely to use a buy now, pay later service than the average American.

Elyse Hicks, from the consumer advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform, says that lines up with other trends in economic inequality. 

“On a basic level, BIPOC communities have less, so they’re more inclined to use products like Buy Now, Pay Later, Klarna, in order to get the things that they need or want because it puts those bite-sized pieces or bite-sized installments, something that they feel like they can handle, in front of them,” Hicks said.

The same Morning Consult poll found that one in five borrowers using buy now, pay later missed a payment in January, the month they took the survey.

It can spiral into some big fees for consumers.

In August, after President Biden announced his intent to forgive $10,000 or more for Americans with student loan debt, one Twitter user’s question about whether President Biden would forgive AfterPay debts too went viral.

For now, consumers like Grace Oppy, who is an Afterpay user currently in debt, and the millions of others who use these services are at the mercy of the companies. Affirm, for example, does pitch consumers on the fact that it has no late fees, but it does note that it would charge up to 36% APR depending on your credit, which is higher than even the highest APR on most credit cards.

But in the moment, the seemingly great deals can be really tempting.

“It started with a lot of strategy,” Oppy said. “I was like, ‘If I just do this, then I will be glam and perfect. I will definitely get my promotion.’ And now… I have $90 earrings. So really, it’s a slippery slope in my mind. My dopamine receptors are just, boom, firing away when I use it.”

The advocates Newsy talked to said that dopamine hit Oppy feels — a rush of satisfaction — is exactly what makes it so tempting to use these services when shopping.

“It just feeds on millennials and Gen Z, of how we like to get things very instantly,” Hicks said. “We all know we want something, that we can get it at a discounted price and get it to our doorsteps very quickly. It hits that dopamine, and we’re onto something else. So, it kind of it puts you in a cycle, and kind of like a debt trap, as well.”

Influencers on social media are pitching buy now, pay later as a life hack for those who want something and don’t want to worry about the cost today.

“You have people who you admire, who look like they have great lives, who then have this clothing item or this product, and it’s just aspirational,” Chabrier said. “It’s understandable for people to aspire to a particular lifestyle or feeling, and that’s what I think this type of marketing plays on.”

It’s not lost on consumers either. 

“They make it seem so frivolous… like a fun app,” Oppy said. “They’re partnering with influencers. It’s really nefarious, and it’s subtle. But, making these people that we all try to base our lives on advertise this pretty predatory lending practice that’s so unregulated: sneaky. And they got me. They got me there.”

But regulation and standards could be on the way soon. Many buy now, pay later loans aren’t reported, meaning that while there’s no guarantee your credit score takes a hit if you miss payments, you also might not be building credit that can help you get other loans or credit cards in the future.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — the three largest credit bureaus —announced plans this year to incorporate buy now, pay later loans into their files, but implementation of that is still to be determined.

Meanwhile, state and federal regulatory authorities are looking at how to account for buy now, pay later services.

A group of 21 state attorneys general wrote a letter calling for federal officials to set standards on this. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced during last year’s holiday season that they had started a review of the buy now, pay later industry, with an eye toward federal regulations protecting consumers from debt and ensuring companies tell consumers what fees they could incur.

Advocates are hoping rules will lift the burden from consumers and make the companies themselves have to give more information up front. But until then, they say to make sure to read the fine print. 

“Please look at all of your products or your apps,” Hicks said. “See how much you currently owe these buy now, pay later companies, and just be aware of your spending habits. It’s so easy to get out of control with this, but just be aware until regulation comes.”

Source: newsy.com

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How Social Media Has Fueled The ‘Clean Eating’ Movement

Clean eating can mean different things for different people, but the influence of social media on diet trends is ever-changing, from gluten to dairy.

Social media has a big influence on food trends and what humans eat. 

A study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that social media actually helps young adults choose healthier foods. One survey of over 1,200 young people ages 14 to 24 found that more than half were familiar with the term “clean eating” from social media, other online sources or their peers.

The hashtag #EatClean has more than 61 million posts on Instagram. But, how exactly did this trend become so popular, and what does it mean to “eat clean?”

The meaning of the term “eat clean” can vary by person. Generally, it means eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible by avoiding processed foods and added preservatives.

Diets have been a trend for several decades. Counting calories dates back to the 1910s and Weight Watchers emerged in the 60s. The Atkins diet and other low-carb diets became popular in the 90s and early 2000s.

Our modern idea of clean eating can be traced back to popular books like “The Eat-Clean Diet” in 2007 and “Clean,” which came out in 2009. These books promoted more than a diet but a lifestyle — the idea that eating these foods was a more holistic way of living. Over the last decade, more people started cutting a lot of things out of their diets.

Sondra Kronberg is a licensed clinical nutritionist, certified eating disorder specialist and founder of Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative. She’s seen a lot of diet trends evolve over the years, and she’s seen the impact social media has on diet trends today.

“There’s enormous pressure to eat right, to look right, to fit in to this culture — never used to be like that,” Kronberg said. “I mean, there was a cluster of people who thought eating was so important and what you eat. But now everything — the chemicals, where it comes from, the pollution — I mean, there’s a lot of value on what food you eat.”

Between 2009 and 2014, the number of Americans who stopped eating gluten, even though they didn’t have celiac disease, more than tripled. The lead researcher on that study thinks one reason for this is because being gluten-free became trendy for health-conscious people. There were also more people stepping away from dairy and substituting regular milk for almond or oat milk. Sales for those other regular milk alternatives grew by more than 60% between 2012 and 2018.

During the pandemic, there was a surge in plant-based diets. In 2021, the plant-based food market value rose to an all-time high of more than $7 billion, growing by more than 50% in three years.

Experts say part of this could have been because of COVID-19. Some people may have wanted to eat healthier to improve their immune response. Harvard researchers found that plant-based diets could decrease the risk of getting a severe case of the virus. 

On social media, more influencers promoting their plant-based lifestyles have emerged. People like Tabitha Brown blew up on TikTok during the pandemic with her tasty-looking, vegan-inspired foods. She now has more than 4 million followers on Instagram and Tik Tok and has a cookbook coming out.

There are also celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, actor and founder of wellness brand “Goop,” who are known for talking about and promoting clean and vegan eating. Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving claims his plant-based diet has made him a better player.

It’s an easy option for celebrities and influencers, and it’s likely these trends will show up on the plates of higher-income people. That’s because healthy foods are expensive. Consumer Reports says organic foods cost about 40% more than non-organic foods.

In the past several years, natural and organic foods have made the jump from special health food stores to more traditional grocery stores, but that only does so much for “food deserts” — neighborhoods that lack access to grocery stores to begin with.

Some nutritionists warn that the idea of clean eating can create or worsen stigmas attached to certain foods that aren’t especially bad for you, like anything that’s not clean eating can become “dirty.” But, some nutritionists say that’s not necessarily true because healthy eating is subjective, and you should figure out what works for you with the help of a licensed professional, rather than turning to social media for advice. “Trainers working out in the gym are giving out nutritional advice, and the guy who makes the smoothie is giving out nutritional advice,” Kronberg said. “Everybody thinks they know something from their own experience, and I will give them credit for having their own experience. But that is your own experience.”

Although 71% of young adults surveyed defined clean eating as healthy, it has the potential to become dangerous. When people are on strict diets, they can develop an eating disorder called orthorexia. It can cause people start avoiding certain events and eating with friends out of fear that they won’t be able to find the right food.

“So if somebody is older, they’re eating, they’re dieting, and they’re trying to manipulate their body and size, the weight, in a stillman’s way, let’s say,” Kronberg said. “They and the younger generation are eating all clean and pure and healthy and the salmon from Alaska, so based on what’s going on in the culture that becomes part of the eating disorder. You can eat as whole and as fresh and as raw as possible, but sometimes you have to be able to eat something that’s not.”

One study found that among young adults, the higher use of Instagram is associated with developing Orthorexia, so while social media has the power to introduce people to healthier eating options, it can also do the exact opposite.

As more people continue to change their diets because of social media’s influence, the question is how to move beyond the current trends.

“I think it’s going to take a while,” Kronberg said. “But I do think — just like other movements that are occurring now where people are saying we don’t all have to be the same, and in fact we’re not all the same — we all need to come to our own inner way of taking care of ourselves.”

Source: newsy.com

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Interior Department Restricts Water Supply To Multiple Western States

The Colorado River supplies water to tens of million of people, but restrictions will reduce many western states’ supply.

In the West, drying lakebeds and shrinking rivers are reaching a breaking point. Now the Department of the Interior is slashing water supplies to several western states, as the Colorado River shrinks and the vital Lakes Powell and Mead which it feeds get lower and lower.

“I wish I had a crystal ball for what will happen in the Colorado River basin,” said Simone Kjolsrud, water resource adviser to Chandler, Arizona. “When you live in the desert you have to have that conservation ethic of embracing that desert lifestyle.”

In Arizona, cities are now planning around a coming cut of 21% of the state’s original water allocation. 

Part of a package of cuts was announced Tuesday. That also includes slashes to supply for Nevada and parts of Mexico. 

“We have known for decades that there’s a real possibility that our water supplies would be cut, and so for the most part the cities have planned very proactively,” said Kathryn Sorensen, researcher at ASU Kyl Center for Water Policy.

Cities near Phoenix are now contending with some of the steepest cuts in the West, amid some of the most dire water conservation efforts ever.

The Interior Department is now looking to save some 2 to 4 million acre feet of water over the next four years under the right conservation conditions. One acre foot can supply three houses for a year.

“We have invested in infrastructure,” Kjolsrud said. “We’ve been storing water underground that we can access during times of surface water shortages. We’re not anticipating that in the next few years.”

Still, the cuts aren’t good news for the millions who rely on the Colorado River and the $15 billion agricultural industry.

“If we got some good rains in here that would go ahead and green up,” said Nancy Caywood, an Arizona farmer.

Lately, Caywood hasn’t been doing much farming, though it’s her job.

She’s giving tours of her land instead to make up for the money she’s losing – without any crops to sell.

“I drive around, and I look at empty canals,” Caywood said. “Literally I burst into tears over it a couple of times because I’m thinking it’s just such a hopeless situation.”

At a nearby farm, her son is leasing land to supplement income.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be enough water to keep going, if he’s gonna run out, with his allocation,” Caywood said.

Arizona is the hardest hit of the southwestern states that rely on the emptying Colorado River. Seven states — Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California — were told to come up with a plan to cut their overall water use by 15% next year.

But the ensuing fight, with upper basin states fighting to keep their allocations amid growing populations and lower basin states fighting to ward off the deepest cuts, left the state governments at an impasse, prompting the federal government to make the cuts for them.

“We will lose 10% of our water supply by 2040,” California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

California has no cuts under the plan, but it’s not lost on Gov. Newsom that the state still faces a dwindling water supply. He just unveiled a plan to invest billions in water recycling, storage and desalination. 

“What we are focusing on is creating more supply… creating more water,” Gov. Newsom said.

The cuts announced Tuesday are just a teaser of what could be ahead, as the Interior Department looks to save far more water coming from the critical Colorado River. 

Source: newsy.com

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Experimental chewing gum reduces Omicron in saliva; sexual dysfunction, hair loss among long COVID symptoms

July 26 (Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Experimental chewing gum reduces Omicron particles in saliva

An experimental chewing gum that “traps” SARS-CoV-2 particles in saliva holds promise for curbing transmission of new variants of the virus, according to new data, as researchers prepare to launch the first human trial.

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The gum contains copies of the ACE2 protein found on cell surfaces, which the coronavirus uses to break into cells and infect them. In test-tube experiments using saliva from individuals infected with the Delta or Omicron variants, the virus particles attached themselves to the ACE2 “receptors” in the chewing gum and the viral load fell to undetectable levels, researchers reported in Biomaterials. In the clinical trial, COVID-19 patients will each chew four ACE2 gum tablets each day for four days. The “viral trap” ACE2 proteins in the gum are carried within engineered lettuce cells. A second experimental chewing gum made with bean powder instead of lettuce cells not only traps SARS-CoV-2 particles in lab experiments but also influenza strains, other coronaviruses that cause common colds, and potentially other oral viruses such as human papillomavirus and herpesvirus, according to the paper.

“Because nasal transmission is negligible when compared to oral transmission… chewing ACE2 gum and swallowing ACE2 protein should minimize infection, protect COVID-19 patients and prevent transmission,” said research leader Dr. Henry Daniell of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Long COVID symptoms include sexual dysfunction, hair loss

Add loss of hair and libido to the symptoms associated with long COVID, UK researchers warn.

They compared nearly half a million people who recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infections before the middle of April 2021, without having been hospitalized, with nearly two million uninfected people of similar age, gender and health status. Overall, 62 persistent symptoms were significantly associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection after 12 weeks, the researchers reported on Monday in Nature Medicine. Among the most common were shortness of breath, smell distortions, chest pain and fever, but the study also identified memory problems, inability to perform familiar movements or commands, bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations, and limb swelling as being more common in people with long COVID. Compared to the uninfected group, those in the infected group were nearly four times more likely to report hair loss and more than twice as likely to report ejaculation difficulty or reduced libido. The odds of developing long COVID were higher in younger people, females, and racial minorities, the researchers found.

“This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policy makers throughout the pandemic, that the symptoms of long COVID are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions,” study leader Dr. Shamil Haroon of the University of Birmingham said in a statement.

Faster PCR equipment being designed for local settings

New technology for performing the gold-standard test for SARS-CoV-2 infection weighs just 2 pounds (0.9 kg) and gives results in 23 minutes rather than the usual 24 hours, according to researchers.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, testing is rarely done at point-of-care settings like doctors’ offices or pharmacies, because the traditional equipment is bulky and expensive and requires trained operators. PCR involves thermal cycling, a process of heating and cooling that creates the conditions necessary for identifying genetic material from the virus in the sample. The new prototype employs smaller optical components and a new way to heat the sample: so-called plasmonic thermocycling, which uses infrared radiation of metallic nanoparticles to generate heat from inside the vial instead of using standard heating methods from the outside. “The method could rapidly detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA from human saliva and nasal specimens with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, as well as two distinct SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the researchers reported on Monday in Nature Nanotechnology.

The smaller, faster devices “should really move the needle on delivering rapid and accurate molecular clinical diagnostics in decentralized settings,” said study coauthor Mark Fasciano of biotech startup Rover Diagnostics, which is developing the technology in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University. “Thermal cycling… can now be sped up and clinicians and patients alike won’t have to wait so long for results.”

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Reporting Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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(Bangkok): A Push for Parentheses Miffs Thais (Who Have Bigger Problems)

BANGKOK — Each morning in her market stall in the Bangkok Noi district of the Thai capital, Jintana Rapsomruay rolls balls of dough into a snack known for its resemblance to the eggs of an oversize lizard. The sweet treat, which looks like a doughnut hole, was supposedly invented by a consort of the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, which continues to reign 240 years later.

The 18th-century monarch liked to nosh on the eggs of water monitor lizards, so the story goes, but the concubine couldn’t get her hands on any, so she substituted dough stuffed with sweet bean paste. The king — among whose accomplishments was moving the Thai capital to its present location — was pleased.

The snack remains popular to this day, but Ms. Jintana can barely get by. Like millions of Thais struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, her income has plummeted by half.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military chief and leader of the 2014 coup — approved the Royal Society’s ruling with its own decree, making a parenthetical Bangkok the law of the land.

The shift from semicolon to parentheses has provoked public dissatisfaction. But it’s not the name itself to which anyone really objects; the capital is universally known to Thai speakers as Krung Thep, or, by the initials “Kor Tor Mor.”

Rather, the way an elite clique did the update is what bothered some in a populace that appears increasingly unwilling to accept diktats from royalist, tradition-bound institutions.

turned up dead. Dozens of young protest leaders have been imprisoned.

Prosecutions of royal defamation have increased sharply, with a former civil servant sentenced last year to more than four decades in prison. Some protest leaders have called for the monarchy to submit to the Constitution and are now facing, collectively, hundreds of years in prison for lèse-majesté, which criminalizes criticism of senior members of the royal family.

“People across Thailand, not just the young, recognize the argument of reforming the monarchy,” said Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who was elected president of the Student Union at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “It’s not marginal, it’s mainstream.”

Mr. Netiwit lost his position in February after the school administration determined that he was connected to an event involving activists who have called for monarchical reform.

Some Thais are more enthusiastic about the government espousing the longer name.

On a recent morning, Vichian Bunthawi, 88, a retired palace guard, sat cross-legged on a bench at the sleepy railway station in Bangkok Noi. The capital should be known around the world as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, he said, remembering how his primary schoolteacher would write the full name on the chalkboard.

“Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the name of the capital,” he said. “It is where the king lives.”

The first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, moved the capital in 1782, from the left bank of the Chao Phraya River, where the Bangkok Noi district is, to the east bank. On marshy ground, he and his successors built gilded, jeweled palaces. The full name of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon includes a paean to “an enormous royal palace resembling the heavenly abode in which the reincarnated god reigns.” In Thai tradition, the king is semi-divine.

In 1932, absolute monarchy was abolished, but the royal family still retains an enormous presence in Thai life. Giant posters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, the current king’s fourth wife, tower over public places.

The king, whose lavish lifestyle contrasts with the austerity forced upon many Thais by the pandemic, spends most of his time in Germany.

Whether as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Bangkok, the character of the capital has changed drastically over the decades. City planners filled in the canals that used to be the city’s transportation arteries. Rice paddies gave way to malls and condominiums.

In a back alley behind a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Noi, Chana Ratsami still plays a Thai xylophone. His wife’s family of palace attendants lived in Bangkok Noi for generations.

Now, he said, the lane’s residents are mostly migrants from upcountry.

“They don’t know the history of this place,” he said, describing how the traffic-choked road at the end of the lane used to be a canal with boats floating past, filled with flowers and fruit. “I miss the old city, no matter what it’s called.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

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Facebook’s Parent Company Will Make Employees Do Their Own Laundry

The salad days of Facebook’s lavish employee perks may be coming to an end.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, told employees on Friday that it was cutting back or eliminating free services like laundry and dry cleaning and was pushing back the dinner bell for a free meal from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., according to seven company employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The new dinner time is an inconvenience because the last of the company’s shuttles that take employees to and from their homes typically leaves the office at 6 p.m. It will also make it more difficult for workers to stock up on hefty to-go boxes of food and bring them to their refrigerators at home.

The moves are a reflection of changing workplace culture in Silicon Valley. Tech companies, which often offer lifestyle perks in return for employees spending long hours in the office, are preparing to adjust to a new hybrid work model.

At Meta, for example, many employees are scheduled to return to the company’s offices on March 28, though some will continue to work from home and others will come into the office less often.

The changes at Meta could be a warning shot for employees at other companies that are preparing to return to the office after two years of the coronavirus pandemic. Google, Amazon, Meta and others have long offered creature comforts like on-site medical attention, sushi buffets, candy stores and beanbag chairs to lure and retain top talent, which remains at a premium in the tech industry.

Meta has had a difficult past few months, though company officials say the changes to perks are not related. For the first time in years, investors have been questioning the long-term prospects of the company’s advertising business model. Its market capitalization has dropped by half, to $515 billion. And some employees are debating whether they should be searching for new jobs as they see the value of their stock-based compensation plummet.

Meta discussed the changes to its perks program for months as it explored how to shift to the new, hybrid workplace model, said two employees. The company has also expanded employees’ wellness stipends from roughly $700 to $3,000 this year in an attempt to accommodate for removing some of the other in-office perks.

“As we return to the office, we’ve adjusted on-site services and amenities to better reflect the needs of our hybrid work force,” a Meta spokesman said in a statement. “We believe people and teams will be increasingly distributed in the future, and we’re committed to building an experience that helps everyone be successful.”

Many workers were quick to gripe in the comment section underneath the post announcing the change, according to several employees who viewed the post. Just minutes after the changes were announced, employees asked whether the company was planning to compensate them in new ways and if Meta had undertaken an employee survey to evaluate how the changes would impact the staff.

Meta executives, who have been trying to thread the needle of cracking down on misinformation tied to the war in Ukraine and facing an outright ban of Facebook and Instagram in Russia, appeared to have little patience for the questions.

In a tone several employees described as combative, Meta’s chief technical officer, Andrew Bosworth, assertively defended some of the changes and chafed at the perceived sense of entitlement on display in the comments, according to the employees who saw the thread. Mike Schroepfer, the outgoing chief technical officer, also wrote in the comments in support of the changes.

Another employee who worked on the company’s food service team pushed back even more strenuously, according to two people who saw the post.

“I can honestly say when our peers are cramming three to 10 to-go boxes full of steak to take them home, nobody cares about our culture,” the employee said, pushing back on assertions from others that the changes would be damaging to Meta’s workplace culture. “A decision was made to try and curb some of the abuse while eliminating six million to-go boxes.”

It appeared that many employees agreed. As of midday Friday, the employee’s post was the most liked comment in the thread, with hundreds of workers expressing support.

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