4th of July eclipse to kick off busy month for astronomy
Mother Nature will be providing the fireworks in July as the new month brings the chance to see three unique astronomical events, capped off by dueling meteor showers at the end of the month.
This will be the perfect month for people with a new telescope to learn how to use it with the moon, Jupiter and Saturn all serving as easy and interesting objects to find and observe through the eyepiece of a scope. However, no telescope is required for any of the events.
Here are the top three astronomy events to look for in July:
1. Lunar Eclipse When: July 4-5
The first weekend of the month will feature a lunar eclipse that will be visible in areas of the world that missed out on the lunar eclipse that happened in early June.
On the night of Saturday, July 4, into the early hours of Sunday, July 5, the moon will graze Earth’s shadow to create a penumbral lunar eclipse.
This will be the perfect astronomical event for people of all ages across the United States following Independence Day firework displays.
The eclipse will begin on July 4, at 11:07 p.m. EDT and last until 1:52 a.m. EDT. The best time to look will be around 12:30 a.m. EDT during the middle of the event.
The moon will once again be the center of attention on the night after the eclipse as it passes extremely close to Jupiter and Saturn. The trio will be packed together so tightly that they may appear in the same field of view of some telescopes or binoculars.
2. Jupiter and Saturn reach peak brightness When: The middle of July
The two biggest planets in the solar system will be the highlight of the night sky in July as the planets shine brighter than they will throughout the rest of the year.
Around the middle of the month, both Jupiter and Saturn will reach opposition, or the point in their orbits when they are closest to the Earth. As a result, it is the best opportunity to observe the planets both with and without a telescope.
Jupiter will reach opposition first on July 14, followed by Saturn a few nights later on July 20.
This is a great opportunity for people to learn the ins and outs of a new telescope as the planets will be easy to spot in the southern sky all night long. The mild summer nights will also make it comfortable for many onlookers outside under the heavens.
The end of July will present skywatchers with something that has not been seen in months: A meteor shower.
The night of July 28 into July 29 will feature a pair meteor showers with the Alpha Capricornids and the southern Delta Aquarids both peaking on the same night. The last time that a moderate meteor shower took place was in early May.
Meteor showers can be thought of as nature’s fireworks as they put on dazzling, sometimes multi-colored, displays in the night sky. The colors are caused by the different elements that make up the meteor.
As many as 20 meteors per hour will be visible during peak night, with the Alpha Capricornids bringing an added bonus for some lucky onlookers. “What is notable about this shower is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period,” the American Meteor Society said.
The best time to watch the dueling meteor showers will be after 1 a.m. local time after the moon has set. The lack of moonlight will make the sky appear even darker, making it easier to spot the fainter meteors.
The June solstice marked the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday, June 20, at 5:43 p.m. EDT, while those south of the equator transitioned from autumn to winter. Just hours later, a “ring of fire” solar eclipse darkened the sky over Africa and Asia, the first of two solar eclipses this year.
The solstice also brought the perfect conditions for noctilucent clouds to be visible for the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. This type of cloud can only be seen around the summer solstice and is created by meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Families are filling fireworks stores as COVID-19 brings new restrictions & cancellations on shows across the region. Author: Jamie Bittner (FOX43) Published: 11:00 PM EDT June 22, 2020
Call it the new toilet paper, fireworks are now emptying store shelves across the region.
Phantom Fireworks in Hopewell Township told FOX43 business is normally up this time of the year. But in 2020, manager Bill Hunt told FOX43 the store has seen a nearly 20-30% increase in sales.
“It seemed like it was our 4th of July weekend when we’re extremely busy, cars out the door,” said Hunt about this past weekend as he also told FOX43 a buy one, get one sale also helped draw customers into the store. null
Hunt said the store is operating under new safety protocols by limiting the number of customers inside to around 160 people at a time. Normally, the store would hold around 235 customers. Store workers are also wearing face shields and all customers are also asked to wear a mask while shopping inside.
“When we get to our capacity we’re actually going to limit the amount of people who come in to groups of two and children under 18 won’t be allowed in just for flow to go through the store a lot better,” said Hunt.
Hunt hopes the early rush on fireworks will actually help ease the crowds July 4th weekend and promote social distancing by spreading out sales.
“All the fireworks are canceled, so the kids still want to see some sort of fireworks,” said Erik Sheppard, who drove from Baltimore after his local fireworks events were canceled.
Sheppard, along with other customers, left with the store with shopping carts filled to the brim with fireworks.
“During this time period this actually means everything because we’ve been in so long, especially the kids, that’s another reason why I wanted to do this because I know they’re probably more bored than we are,” he said.
Hunt reminds everyone who plans to buy and set off fireworks to prioritize safety.
“We want everybody to be safe. We want to make sure everybody knows fireworks are very safe if used the correct way,” he said.
York County, Hanover, Wrightsville, and Red Lion plan to hold fireworks displays over the holiday weekend.
July 4th celebrations in Springettsbury Township have been postponed to September 26. York City, Jacobus, and Shrewsbury have canceled fireworks displays. Fireworks at Long’s Park in Lancaster are also canceled.
DERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Hershey’s has announced that it will be halting all U.S. advertising for Facebook platforms for the month of July.
This move is part of the #StopHate4Profit boycott, which entails not posting on Facebook for the entire month.
The company released the following statement:
We do not believe that Facebook is effectively managing violent and divisive speech on their platform. Despite repeated assertions by Facebook to take action, we have not seen meaningful change. Earlier this month we communicated to Facebook that we were unhappy with their stance on hate speech. We have now cut our spending on Facebook and their platforms, including Instagram, by a third for the remainder of the year. In addition, we will now join the #stophateforprofit boycott. We are hopeful that Facebook will take action and make it a safe space for our consumers to communicate and gather. As a company, we stand for the values of togetherness and inclusion and we are resolute in our commitment to make a difference and be part of positive change.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously refused to take action against President Trump’s posts suggesting mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud. Author: BARBARA ORTUTAY (AP Technology Writer) Published: 6:24 PM EDT June 26, 2020
OAKLAND, Calif. — Facebook said Friday that it will flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from President Donald Trump.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump posts suggesting that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Twitter, by contrast, slapped a “get the facts” label on them. null
Until Friday, Trump’s posts with identical wording to those labeled on Twitter remained untouched on Facebook, sparking criticism from Trump’s opponents as well as current and former Facebook employees. Now, Facebook is all but certain to face off with the president the next time he posts something the company deems to be violating its rules.
“The policies we’re implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they’re showing up across our community,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page announcing the changes.
Zuckerberg said the social network is taking additional steps to counter election-related misinformation. In particular, the social network will begin adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.
Facebook is also banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places. The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the U.S. election.
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media, said the changes are a “reminder of how powerful Facebook may be in terms of spreading disinformation during the upcoming election.”
He said the voting labels will depend on how good Facebook’s artificial intelligence is at identifying posts to label.
“If every post that mentions voting links, people will start ignoring those links. If they’re targeted to posts that say things like ‘Police will be checking warrants and unpaid traffic tickets at polls’ — a classic voter suppression disinfo tactic — and clearly mark posts as disinfo, they might be useful,” he said. null
But Zuckerman noted that Facebook “has a history of trying hard not to alienate right-leaning users, and given how tightly President Trump has aligned himself with voter-suppressing misinfo, it seems likely that Facebook will err on the side of non-intrusive and ignorable labels, which would minimize impact of the campaign.”
Earlier in the day, shares of Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply after the the giant company behind brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap said it will halt U.S. advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through at least the end of the year.
That European consumer-product maker, Unilever, said it took the move to protest the amount of hate speech online. Unilever said the polarized atmosphere in the United States ahead of November’s presidential election placed responsibility on brands to act.
Facebook’s shares lost more than 8% on Friday, while Twitter ended the day more than 7% lower.
The company, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms. Facebook in particular has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.
“We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever said. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, Verizon joined others in the Facebook boycott. April 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) AP
Unilever “has enough influence to persuade other brand advertisers to follow its lead,” said eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin. She noted that Unilever pulled back spending “for longer, on more platforms (including Twitter) and for more expansive reasons” — in particular, by citing problems with “divisiveness” as well as hate speech. null
Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said the company’s “mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”
She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”
Verizon is the latest corporate business to bow to the mob and boycott advertising on Facebook and Instagram—-an apparent attempt to be extra woke.
The wireless carrier joins Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, The North Face, REI and others in the “#StopHateForProfit” campaign, a movement aimed at pressuring social media companies to restrict certain speech.
“We have strict content policies in place and have zero tolerance when they are breached, we take action,” Verizon’s John Nitti said. “We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners.”
The “#StopHateForProfit” campaign was started by far-left groups claiming Facebook “turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression on their platform.”
The group, led by the Anti-Defamation League, the Color of Change and the NAACP are outraged that, among other things, Facebook labeled Breitbart News a “trusted news source” and made The Daily Caller a “fact checker.”
The Color of Change website states: “From the monetization of hate speech to discrimination in their algorithms to the proliferation of voter suppression to the silencing of Black voices, Facebook has refused to take responsibility for hate, bias, and discrimination growing on their platforms. And what has allowed Facebook to continue racist practices is the $70B of revenue from corporations every year. Companies have a choice to make about whether they want their businesses featured on Facebook’s platforms side-by-side with racist attacks on Black people.”
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Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, June 25, 2020
A Houston pharmacist and his wife were sentenced today for their roles in an approximately $21.8 million Department of Labor (DOL) – Office of Workers Compensation Programs and Federal Employees Compensation Act fraud scheme.
George Philip Tompkins, 75, of Houston, Texas, the self-proclaimed “Compound King” and former owner of Piney Point Pharmacy, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Marene Kathryn Tompkins, 68, also of Houston, the former vice president of Piney Point Pharmacy, was sentenced to 30 days of home confinement and three years of supervised release. Both were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of the Southern District of Texas, who presided over the trial of George Thompkins and the guilty plea of Marene Tompkins. Judge Lake also ordered George Tompkins to pay $12,300,381.36 in restitution (and forfeiture) and Marene Tompkins to pay $950,745.10 in restitution (and forfeiture).
On March 10, 2020, after a six-day trial, George Tompkins was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, 11 counts of health care fraud, and three counts of wire fraud. Kathryn Tompkins pleaded guilty on Jan. 3, 2020, to one count of conspiracy to pay kickbacks.
According to the evidence at trial, George Tompkins and others billed the DOL approximately $21.8 million for medically unnecessary compound gels and creams that were predicated on illegal kickback payments. George Tompkins and Anoop Chaturvedi, 48, a legal permanent resident from India who remains a fugitive on related charges, created the scheme to generate compounded pain cream prescriptions and bill health care programs for injured state and federal employees. George Tompkins and Chaturvedi used separate entities—including George Tompkins’s company, Wellington Advisors—to receive and launder the proceeds of their crimes. Further evidence presented at trial showed that George Tompkins sought to disguise illicit kickback payments as legitimate “marketing” expenses and continued to ship patients compound gels and creams even after patients repeatedly complained they did not want them.
Marene Tompkins pleaded guilty before trial. As part of her guilty plea, she admitted that she conspired with her husband and others to pay illegal kickbacks as part of the scheme.
George and Marene Tompkins were charged in a superseding indictment in November 2018 along with Chaturvedi. Chaturvedi is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest in connection with the charges. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG) at 1-888-877-7644.
A federal criminal indictment is merely an accusation. Chaturvedi is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
USPS-OIG, DOL-OIG, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security-OIG, and Department of Veterans Affairs-OIG, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger charged the case and, with Trial Attorneys Leslie Garthwaite and Devon Helfmeyer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, provided substantial assistance in its prosecution. Trial Attorneys Drew Pennebaker and Sara Clingan of the Fraud Section tried the case and continue to prosecute it.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Of all the things that should not be affected by the cultural and political differences, is ordering food from fast-food restaurants. Anyone should be able to go order some food, at a McDonald’s, etc., and expect it will have meat, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions in a fresh bun.
This is not necessarily the case, as there have multiple stories of food and drink tampering by restaurant employees who, after identifying the order was placed by a police officer, inserts a tampon is their frappuccino, bleach in their coffee or spits in their hamburger.
Here is a story out of Bakersfield, CA which shows there are consequences for breaking the law and messing with people’s food.
Lord, thank you that we are aware of these plans in advance so that we can counter the counterfeit with truth–Your truth, Jesus. His work on the cross is complete!
A Luciferian March for a One World Government will be held in at least 22 U.S. cities on June 21 during a solar eclipse. More cities are being added as they attempt to make this a nationwide and worldwide movement of appealing to Satan for empowering the One World Government. A worldwide livestream of the Stonehenge satanic ceremonies is also planned for the first time ever.
Summer solstice is a high holiday for Luciferians, as many of their rituals are related to the lunar and solar cycles. This year’s summer solstice also coincides with a “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse event where the moon will cover the sun and create the appearance of a ring of fire.
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The marches are intended to create chaos and it has been speculated by some that demonstrators may even try to erect satanic monuments at existing sites where Confederate and other allegedly racist statues have been torn down. How shocking that we are in a state that Luciferians would be so open and bold to march in public. Prayer is needed to put a covering on the parts of our nation where boots will be on the ground.
Let us act in the opposite spirit of the chaos, darkness, and oppression that this march seeks to bring. We bind those powers that come in order to carry out this assignment. Intercessors, rise up in worship, prayer, fasting and even marching in the streets to proclaim the good news of Christ.
These are the listed sites hosting Luciferian marches at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 21st. Others will be named as we hear. Reportedly there are 22 cities in all.
Raleigh, North Carolina North Carolina State Capitol
Jacksonville, Florida Jacksonville City Hall
Cincinnati, Ohio Platt Park
New York City Zuccotti Park
Niagra Falls, Buffalo, New York Niagra Falls International Rainbow Bridge
Jerusalem, Israel The Wailing Wall
Salem, Oregon Oregon State Capitol
Los Angeles, California Los Angeles City Hall
Madison, Wisconsin Wisconsin State Capitol
Buffalo, New York Buffalo City Hall
Albany, NY New York State Capitol
Phoenix, Arizona Arizona State Capitol
Toronto, Ontario Toronto City Hall
Washington, DC The White House
Syracuse, NY James M. Hanley Federal Building
Anchorage, Alaska Anchorage Towne Square
Las Vegas, Nevada Las Vegas City Hall
Reno, Nevada Reno City Hall
Goodale Park Columbus, Ohio
Rochester, New York Rochester City Hall
Lincoln, Nebraska Nebraska State Capitol
Boston, Massachusetts Massachusetts State House
As lawlessness and chaos continue to manifest throughout the US and now in multiple places worldwide, believers need to rise up and pray and take stand against this onslaught of the enemy. We are reminded by the LORD that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12.) The enemy is lashing out in rage and anger; reacting to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The waves of evil have been widespread and very violent bringing the appearance that the enemy is in control as he attempts to take control of the world. But we know Jesus has won the victory. We know that He has conquered death and hell. We also know that He will return and establish His throne here on earth. Could it be that we are being invited into a great move of God? As in a massive tsunami of the work of the Holy Spirit? At times it feels as if we are in the midst of a storm of evil, but let us not forget that we are in the boat with Jesus in whom our faith rests.
WORSHIP AND PRAISE CONFOUNDS THE ENEMY. We recommend a huge increase in praise and worship on that day! Join in!
Prayer point suggestions:
Praise and thank the LORD that He has been exposing the enemy’s schemes by showing us this in advance so that we can pray for our nation.
Ask the LORD to shed His light of truth exposing what the enemy is attempting to do through this march. Open our eyes to see the counterfeits around us!
Ask the LORD to awaken the Church to stand up against this flagrant act of the enemy.
Stand firm in the LORD against the wiles of the enemy; standing firm on the LORDSHIP of Jesus as the King.
Ask Jesus to pierce the cloaking of the satanic rituals surrounding these marches and curses of witches exposing those through whom the enemy is using to stir up the demonic spirit realm.
Ask Jesus to confuse the enemy’s schemes bringing confusion in the camp of the enemy.
In Jesus’ name cut off and cancel the assignments of the enemy against our nation and the President.
Ask the LORD to anoint our leaders with Godly wisdom and discernment and to surround our President with those who are surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Declare the whole and complete work of redemption that Christ had on the cross, and that all other plans are counterfeit.
SHARE YOUR STRATEGIES FOR COUNTERING THE SATANIC MARCHES. Let’s share with one another as the body of Christ!
The dust cloud may also pose a possible health hazard to those living along the Gulf coast. Author: Adriana Navarro (AccuWeather) Published: 2:20 PM EDT June 19, 2020
Crimson sunrises and sunsets will paint the eastern Texas sky next week, most likely not as any ill omen for the remaining months of 2020, but from dust.
An “abnormally large dust cloud” from the Sahara is making about a 5,000-mile trek across the Atlantic, heralding the chance of red sunrises and sunsets across the Gulf Coast and suppressing tropical development in the Atlantic Basin. However, it may also pose a possible health hazard to those living along the Gulf coast. null
Although it isn’t uncommon for the Trade Winds to carry dust from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast, this plume has caught the attention of a few meteorologists.
“According to scientists that I have gotten some information from, they’re saying this is an abnormally large dust cloud,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and lead hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski told AccuWeather’s Jonathan Petramala. “One of the things I noticed from this is the dust started coming off the coast of Africa several days ago, in fact maybe over a week ago. And it’s still coming. It’s almost like a prolonged area of dust.” Satellite imagery of the dust plume from the Sahara trekking across the Atlantic toward the Americas on June 18, 2020. NOAA/GOES16
Dust making this journey from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast is common during June, July and sometimes into early August. Picked up by the Trade Winds and lofted higher up into the atmosphere, the dust gets trapped as the wind spirits it away across the Atlantic.
“This is the dusty time of the year,” Kottlowski said. This year, he believes a stronger-than-normal, or at least a very active, African easterly jet might be at play in spurring the abnormal dust plume.
As the dust is carried across the Atlantic, it tends to suppress tropical development.
“It keeps a lid on the atmosphere and brings dry air into anything that may try to develop, which is very detrimental for tropical development which relies on warm, moist air,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.
“Dust tends to be much less of a problem during the heart of the hurricane season,” Kottlowski said.
However, while the dust can suppress development, it doesn’t kill any development entirely, Kottlowski warned. It’s still possible for a tropical wave to clear out a large area of the dust, allowing a second tropical wave following in its wake to take advantage of the break in the dust pattern.
There doesn’t seem to be a break in this dust pattern just yet though.
“I was amazed that the dust is still coming off the coast,” Kottlowski said. “You don’t see a break in it, so it’s just a sort of long-lasting area of dust. We’re going to see hazy skies across the Caribbean, probably into Florida into parts of the Gulf of Mexico area, probably for a week or two.”
The dust is expected to reach the Gulf Coast between Tuesday and Thursday of next week, Kottlowski estimated. With the hazy skies, the sun’s rays will have to bend around the dust particles as sunlight filters through the sky, creating vivid red sunrises and sunsets.
“It all depends on the concentration of the air particles or of the dust that will be there,” Kottlowski said. “But from what I’ve seen thus far, a fair amount of dust is going to get forced into the Texas coast into those areas, so they will see that.”
Volcanic ash and smoke from wildfires have had similar effects on how sunlight filters through the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset. The dust from the Sahara will spread out over a large area, from Florida to Louisiana and Texas, where Kottlowski expects the most dust to be seen.
While the dust will hang higher in the air, it can still pose a health concern. Should any of the fine dust combine with other particles in the air such as ozone or other dust particles or smoke, it could impact people who are more prone to respiratory issues, Kottlowski said. He expects there will be a few poor air quality reports out of eastern Texas next week.
A Black Lives Matter activist suggested the packaging of American food manufacturing company Kellogg’s was racist, prompting a response from the company.
Black Lives Matter activist and former U.K. member of Parliament Fiona Onasanya criticized Kellogg’s earlier this week, asking why “three white boys” serve as the mascots of one the company’s signature cereals, Rice Krispies, and a monkey is displayed on boxes of Coco Pops in the United Kingdom, according to the Federalist.
“@KelloggsUK, as you are yet to reply to my email – Coco Pops and Rice Krispies have the same compòsition (except for the fact CP’s are brown and chocolate flavoured)… so I was wondering why Rice Krispies have three white boys representing the brand and Coco Pops have a monkey?” Onasanya, who was expelled from the U.K. Labour Party after a three-month prison stint for lying to police in 2018, tweeted earlier this week.
Onasanya also took a shot at the founder of Kellogg’s, saying, “Well, given John Harvey Kellogg co-founded the Race Betterment Foundation (the Foundation’s main purpose was to study the cause of and cure for “race degeneracy”), it would be remiss of me not to ask…”
Kellogg’s responded in a statement, arguing that it supports the black community.
“We do not tolerate discrimination and believe that people of all races, genders, backgrounds, sexual orientation, religions, capabilities and beliefs should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect,” the company said, adding that the Coco Pops monkey is also the same character representing the white chocolate cereal. “The monkey mascot that appears on both white and milk chocolate Coco Pops, was created in the 1980s to highlight the playful personality of the brand.”
The accusation against Kellogg’s comes as racial tensions across the globe were heightened following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed while in police custody on May 25.
A mechanical engineer teams up with an unlikely band of students who use middle school math and science to create artificial glaciers that irrigate Ladakh, a region in India hit hard by climate change. For more information on this episode, visit nationalgeographic.com/podcasts/overheard.June 15, 202019 MINS
The wind whipped icy rain in every direction and gave a gray cast to the steep hilly landscape surrounding us. We were all pretty well soaked through, but we were on an important errand; investigating a former mine site for evidence of toxic pollutants and other environmental harm.
Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife
The Straight Creek mine site is owned by the KopperGlo Mining Company, a company with a history of permit violations and environmental harm on the coal-rich Cumberland Plateau of northeast Tennessee. Just a few years ago, Defenders took legal action that resulted in a major mitigation settlement against one of the company’s other mines in the region. This day’s damp and chilly visit had been requested by a coalition of groups that often works together to watch-dog mining activities in TN. Our goal for the day was to assess the quality of KopperGlo’s post-mining site cleanup activities, known as “reclamation,” and ensure that the site would support basic ecological functions and do no further environmental damage to this once biologically rich watershed after the Straight Creek mine was formally closed.
Straight Creek is what is known as a re-mining site. It had been mined in the past, prior to Congress passing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). This means there was no law in place to require reclamation and the land was left barren and scarred. Vertical cliffs stripped of vegetation existed higher up the mountainside along the entire mine site where the previous mine had sliced away a side of the mountain like a piece of birthday cake. These “high walls,” as they are called, are unstable and dangerous, prone to erosion and landslides, and likely to allow any toxins that reside within the remaining coal seam to leach into the surrounding hillside.
Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife
SMCRA is the primary legal tool that we use to conduct citizen oversight of mines in Tennessee. Under SMCRA, mining companies are required to post a bond sufficient to cover the cost of reclaiming a site before they can get a permit to operate. This is to ensure that should the mine be abandoned before it can be fully reclaimed, the responsible government agency has sufficient funds to complete the reclamation. Once a site is adequately reclaimed by the mining company, as determined by Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), the company may request that the bond be released to them. SMCRA provides mechanisms for public engagement in the mine permitting and reclamation process. Any time a company requests a permit for a new operation or the release of bond for a reclaimed operation, OSMRE must provide notice to the public. Stakeholders can request hearings and even site visits to review, discuss or challenge these requests.
For over five hours we walked nearly the entire length of the old mine site, which was long and narrow as it had been carved into the side of a long ridge line. Along the way we stopped to take water samples at several ponds and other places where water emerged from the hillside. The ponds were former runoff catchment ponds that had been restored to become small wetland structures. Pollutants we sampled for included iron, manganese, selenium and aluminum—all well-documented, common pollutants that result from strip mining. When stakeholders had visited the site several years ago at the beginning of reclamation, several samples came back highly positive for these metals. This day’s samples later revealed that pollutant rates came down considerably, but most of our partners thought the samples were diluted because we were sampling during a time of extremely high water flow due to ongoing winter rain, while previous samples had been taken during a hot, dry summer.
Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife
At one spot at the base of a small cliff, there was a fissure with gushing water where a former catchment pond had been lost during a landslide. This pool had been the one where the most concerning water samples had been taken in previous years. Now there was a large piece of pvc-like plastic, running from the outflow at the small cliff base, across the adjacent field and right off the side of the mountain. The KopperGlo representative explained that this was to ensure the water would run across the field and not sink back into the ground, further destabilizing the loose soil below and causing another land slide. Unfortunately, this probably means that any heavy metals still coming out of the ground are being dumped off the site and onto the hillside below.
Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife
The intended post-mining use of this site in KopperGlo’s permit was commercial forestry and wildlife habitat, and we did see evidence of efforts on that front. The land had been sloped and graded to approximate the pre-mining topography of the site and there appeared to be a decent diversity of planted native grass, shrub and tree species on the newly-shaped mountainside. At several of the old containment ponds-cum-wetlands, I noted wetland plant species such as cattails, and in one I even spotted several eastern newts. I also saw scat from elk, deer, coyote, and a couple of other mammals, indicating that at least less sensitive wildlife is beginning to re-inhabit the area.
After the test results from our water samples came back, we concluded that overall there was not much to challenge on this site. Site restoration efforts and water quality were imperfect but within legal limits. We prepared a comment letter for OSMRE, in which we asked that KopperGlo be required to continue monitoring water quality at the site for another year and come up with a solution to the one major outflow that didn’t involve using a plastic liner to transport potentially contaminated water off of the site, and reaffirmed our commitment to continued participation as stakeholders on other mining actions throughout the region.
Kat Diersen/Defenders of Wildlife
Straight Creek is just one of hundreds of mines that have scarred and polluted this landscape and degraded its waterways over the last century. The rivers of the Cumberland Plateau are historically among the most biodiverse in the country and are currently home to a number of imperiled species, including the federally threatened blackside dace, which has designated critical habitat in the same watershed as Straight Creek. Today these systems are so degraded that the impacts of a single mine can seem like a drop in the bucket. But if we are to have any hope of repairing and restoring them, then we must keep pushing to minimize as much new mining activity as we can and ensure that existing mines reduce their harm as much as possible.
It’s a little frustrating that this site, with its visible high walls and polluted water, constitutes a “good” reclamation. There is no such thing as a good strip mine, and even the best reclamation effort is a poor option compared leaving these beautiful mountains whole and healthy. Nevertheless, I believe that our past efforts to hold KopperGlo and other mining operations in the region accountable have resulted in these companies taking more stringent efforts to comply with the letter of the law, and the Straight Creek reclamation site is evidence of that. Defenders and our allies will continue to keep an eye out in Tennessee coal country, challenging each and every new mine operation and pushing for better clean-up of this ravaged, but still rich and beautiful landscape.
Even the most optimistic lovers of unmolested wildlife, unpolluted oceans, un-degraded habitats, unextinguished species and understanding humans will be beginning to lose heart. Even as reports increase of resurgent wildlife during these Covid months, so it is gradually becoming clear that once humans are unlocked again, the only way will be down.
Here are just a few magnificent marine mammals to admire. All were photographed from the BMMRO research vessel in Abaco or adjacent waters. They are protected, recorded, researched, and watched over in their natural element.
Pantropical spotted dolphins
Today we contemplate our oceans at a time when the humans species is having to confront a sudden and indiscriminate destructive force. Maybe the impact will lead to a recalibration of the ways we treat other species and their environment. We have contaminated the world’s oceans, perhaps irreparably, in a…
A top official at the Environmental Protection Agency informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska late Thursday that the EPA would not formally object at this point to the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive gold and copper deposit where mining could damage the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.
Christopher Hladick, the EPA’s regional administrator for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, wrote to the Alaska district engineer, Col. David Hibner, that the agency still has serious concerns about the plan, including that dredging for the open-pit mine “may well contribute to the permanent loss of 2,292 acres of wetlands and … 105.4 miles of streams.”
But Hladick said the EPA would not elevate the matter to the leadership of the two agencies, which could delay necessary approvals for the project to advance. The EPA “appreciates the Corps’ recent commitment to continue this coordination into the future,” he wrote.
The move marks the latest chapter in a years-long battle that has pitted a Canadian-owned mining company against commercial fishing operators, native Alaskans and conservationists determined to protect the unique and economically critical sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.
The Corps is set to decide this summer whether to grant a federal permit to the Pebble Partnership to move forward with the project. The EPA could still veto such a permit. Last year, it sent the Corps a letter saying the project slated for southwestern Alaska “may” harm “aquatic resources of national importance.”
But the EPA had to determine by Thursday whether the mine “will” cause such harm, and it opted not to do so — an indication that the environmental agency does not appear likely to block the mine.
Pebble Partnership chief executive Tom Collier, whose company has proposed a 20-year plan to extract copper, gold and molybdenum from a deposit worth hundreds of billions of dollars, hailed the decision in a statement as “another indication of positive progress for the project.”
Rich Nolan, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, also welcomed the EPA’s determination. “It is encouraging to see the permitting process proceeding as intended on this important project, especially after so many years of delay and inappropriate overreach,” he said in an email.
But opponents of the proposed mining operation — located in a watershed that supports a long-standing Alaska Native subsistence tradition, as well as a lucrative commercial and recreational fishery — noted that the EPA and other key agencies have raised concerns the Corps has yet to address.
“There are still many substantive issues with the project proposal that have yet to be resolved,” said the vice president of Bristol Bay Native Corp., Daniel Cheyette, whose Alasksa Native corporation opposes the mine, which would be the largest in North America.
Mark Ryan, a lawyer in private practice who served as regional counsel in EPA Region 10 between 1990 and 2014, said in a phone interview that the EPA’s letter appears contradictory.
“It’s a very odd letter,” Ryan said. “It points out the mine’s very serious environmental damage but then does not invoke EPA’s powers to elevate the issue for further discussion.”
A horned screamer (Anhima cornuta) at the National Aviary of Colombia.Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark
Common Name: Horned screamers
Scientific Name: Anhima cornuta
Size: About the size of a turkey
Weight: Up to seven pounds
Current Population Trend:
What is a horned screamer?
Horned screamers are the unicorns of the bird world.
Over the course of their lives, these birds grow long, white spines of cartilage in the middle of their foreheads. Some birds possess horns approaching six inches in length. No other birds on earth have anything like it.
Unlike with rams and rhinos, the screamer’s horn doesn’t seem to be a weapon, because it is only loosely attached to the skull and known to snap offonce it grows too long. In time, broken horns even grow back. This leads scientists to believe the horns serve an ornamental purpose rather than a functional one.
While the horns are harmless, the screamers are not. Each bird sports a pair of sharpened bone spurs on its wings. These are used to defend territory and battle with each other for mates. After particularly nasty encounters, scientists have even found pieces of spur broken off and lodged in other birds’ chest like shrapnel.
Aside from their strange horns, these birds also possess some interesting anatomy below the surface. Inside their bones and skin are tons of tiny air sacs that reduce the weight of these large birds, which is thought to help them soar long distances without using muscle energy. These air sacs sometimes collapse simultaneously when the horned screamer takes off, creating a loud crackling noise.
As its name suggests, this bird is also known for the loud calls it creates. The main one is described as sounding like, “mo-coo-ca,” leading some indigenous peoples to call the birds “mahooka.” This call sounds a bit like a goose, a close relative of horned screamers.
While it can take some fighting to win a mate, a horned screamer partnership can last a lifetime. The male and female spend all year together, constantly preening each other to maintain the pair bond. They also take turns incubating the eggs they create, with females tending to sit on the brood during the day and males taking the night shift. Once the chicks hatch, both parents also provide food for their young.
Relatives and conservation
Horned screamers (Anhima cornuta) are one of three species of screamers, all of which reside in the wetlands of South America. Horned screamers and southern screamers (Chauna torquata) are not considered to be in danger of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, the northern screamer (C. chavaria) is listed as near threatened, which is thought to be due to loss of habitat in its geographic range at the northwestern tip of the continent.
Hersheypark, Hershey Gardens & The Hershey Story do not have a planned opening date Author: Jamie Bittner (FOX43) Published: 6:05 PM EDT May 28, 2020
Dauphin County business owners are preparing to move to the yellow phase Friday as popular tourist destinations like Hersheypark and Hershey Gardens stay closed as leaders wait for the county to move to green.
Hersheypark spokesperson, Quinn Bryner, told FOX by email that the park continues to plan and implement a variety of new safety initiatives as recommended by government agencies and industry organizations that address coronavirus prevention in public places. However, Bryner added it is premature to discuss an opening date as “we understand it would require Dauphin County going green to reopen.”
The yellow phase will allow multiple businesses to reopen in the county. Meantime, Derry Township leaders have been tracking the impact of not only the business closures, but also the area’s major tourist destinations being shut down.
“Real Estate Taxes and Act 511 Taxes comprise 85% of the Township’s total revenues. COVID-19 mitigation efforts will have a significant impact on our Act 511 Taxes, but how widespread? The months of June, July and August will be very telling for the Township,” said Christopher Christman, Derry Township manager to FOX43 by email. “EIT, LST, Amusement tax and Parking tax will all be impacted by the shutdown. The FY2020 budget includes a total of $2.3 million of Amusement and Parking Tax revenue, which has been impacted by Hersheypark’s inability to open during the pandemic.”
Christman said revenues in Derry Township are beginning to show weakness due to the mitigation efforts to control COVID-19, adding, “through the end of April, Act 511 taxes are down approximately 32% from where they were one year ago – all of this is attributable to the COVID-19 virus. I cannot speculate as to when the park might open, but I can say with certainty, the revenue loss thus far this year will not be made up before the end of the fiscal year requiring the Township to find ways to close the revenue gap.” null
A tale of 2 places in the same county: One, preparing to reopen tomorrow in yellow. Another that can’t until the county goes green. How business owners are gearing up to bring in customers tomorrow, even as popular tourist destinations in Hershey stay shut down. WPMT FOX43 at 4 and 5! Knock Knock Boutique Hershey GardensPosted by Jamie Bittner on Thursday, May 28, 2020
Hershey Gardens is also closed until Dauphin County goes green.
“Botanical Gardens are specifically listed as being able to open in the green phase,” sad Amy Zeigler, senior director of Hershey Gardens. Zeigler added museums as well open under the green phase so ‘The Hershey Story’ will also not open Friday. Both the Gardens and the museum are managed by The M.S. Hershey Foundation.
When both Hershey Gardens and ‘The Hershey Story’ open, Zeigler said both locations will have additional safety measures that include a requirement for masks and a touch-less ticket scanning system.
“We will have timed tickets so everyone will have to purchase a ticket online,” said Zeigler. Inside Hershey Gardens, new signs are also on the floor to promote social distancing and plexiglass has been added to the cash registers.
“We’ll have people specifically designated to go around and clean high touch surfaces throughout the day,” said Zeigler. The butterfly atrium will also not be open.
“The only part of the gardens that we open is the outside, but it’s 23 acres as you can see of really fantastic beautiful space,” said Zeigler.
Normally, Zeigler said the Hershey Gardens would see close to 1,000 people per day on the weekends.
“Municipalities across the Commonwealth are all dealing with similar revenue issues in varying degrees, but one thing is for certain that we will all have to make tough choices to close our budget shortfalls,” said Christman.
Meantime Friday, many business owners were busy inside their shops preparing to open their doors once again as Dauphin moves to the ‘yellow phase’ Friday.
“I’m so excited to see people in person and having them shop almost like normal again,” said Emily Drobnock, of Knock Knock Boutique, who also owns Bella Sera on Chocolate Avenue.
Drobonock said both shops are planning extra safety precautions under ‘yellow’ by allowing only 3 customers in at a time.
When asked if she worries about the decrease in foot traffic due to the shutdown of tourist destinations, Drobonock said “obviously tourists are great and we love seeing them. But, the people who we are really craving to see are our local supporters.” Loading … null
A tale of 2 places in the same county: One, preparing to reopen tomorrow in yellow. Another that can't until the county goes green. How business owners are gearing up to bring in customers, even as popular tourist destinations in Hershey stay shut down. @fox43 at 4 and 5! pic.twitter.com/aUnHDNG1Tf
Tens of thousands of users reported they weren’t able to access Amazon on Thursday afternoon, according to Downdetector. Author: TEGNA, Associated Press Published: 4:25 PM EDT May 28, 2020
People across the United States reported having trouble accessing Amazon’s website on Thursday afternoon.
According to Downdetector, a website that monitors website outages, people first started reporting that they were having trouble accessing the website at around 3 p.m. EST. The outage topped out at more than 76,000 reports and seemed to be effecting both desktop and mobile users. null
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that some customers “may have temporarily experienced issues while shopping, however it has now been resolved.”
Amazon has yet to say what caused the brief outage.
The Amazon outage came as many are stuck at home and using the online retail website to order and deliver items during the coronavirus pandemic.
TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods plan to reopen most stores worldwide by end of June
The stores will have new measures in place to protect employees and customers, including requiring workers wear masks. Author: TEGNA Published: 2:18 PM EDT May 28, 2020
As states begin to slowly reopen their economies, businesses are itching to get customers back inside stores.
For TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods shoppers worldwide, that opportunity will arrive quickly.
TJX Companies — the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods — announced it expected most company stores to be reopened by the end of June. null
“As various states and countries reopen for business, health and safety remain at the forefront of our decision making,” CEO and President of the TJX Companies Ernie Herrman said in a press release. “Although it’s still early and the retail environment remains uncertain, we have been encouraged with the very strong sales we have seen with our initial reopenings.”
According to the company’s most recent fiscal report, as of May 2, more than 1,600 stores had already reopened worldwide.
In addition to U.S. locations, stores located in some Canadian provinces will also reopen. TJX stores in Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and Australia are already fully open.
In total, the company reported having 4,545 stores as of early May.
Stores are taking precautions with requiring all employees to wear masks while working and posting signs indicating customers are also expected to wear masks while shopping. The company also said all associates must do daily health screenings and temperature checks.
The fitting rooms at U.S. stores have also been temporarily closed, and protective shields have been installed at the cash registers.
Governor Wolf says, he will disapprove the resolution. The General Assembly would need a 2/3 majority to override the governor’s disapproval Author: Chelsea Koerbler (FOX43) Published: 5:15 PM EDT May 28, 2020
HARRISBURG, Pa. — There are two resolutions moving through the state house in their respective senate and house chambers. Both resolutions would do the same thing, terminate the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration issued by Governor Wolf on March 6th.
Republicans, State Rep. Russ Diamond, and State Sen. Doug Mastriano, are sponsors of the resolutions. Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Services Code defines the Governor’s authority to declare a disaster emergency but, the general assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. Governor Wolf says, he has the power to disapprove the resolution and intends to exercise that power if it does pass with a majority vote. null
“I don’t see by a constitutional democratic perspective why this would make any sense,” said Gov. Wolf. “I do have the power to disapprove and I intend to.”
Sen. Mastriano says, the resolutions would need a two-thirds majority to override Governor Wolf’s disapproval and get the resolution to take effect. Assuming all republicans vote in favor of the resolution, 26 democrats in the house, and six democrats in the senate would need to support it.
“It takes the unilateral power out of the governor’s hand and places it back in the hands of the general assembly,” said Sen. Mastriano. By terminating the declaration, it would get rid of the red, yellow and green phases, and allow Pennsylvanians to make their own decisions on what they feel comfortable doing. “The goal is we take the power out of the governor’s hands and put it back in the people’s hand so they can decide if they want to open up and how to open up and if they do it safely or just go back to normal operations.”
Governor Wolf says, by ending the emergency disaster declaration, the state would lose $1.5 billion dollars in FEMA funding. However, Sen. Mastriano says, the Trump Administration has assured him, the state would not lose that money if these resolutions took effect.
The emergency disaster declaration is set to expire June 4th. Within his powers as Governor, Wolf can either let it expire or extend it. The governor does intend to renew the emergency disaster declaration. His office tells FOX43: null
“The governor’s COVID-19 proclamation not only allows the commonwealth to more quickly procure much-needed resources to assist county emergency management and support our medical professionals and first responders, it makes us eligible for federal reimbursement for associated costs under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. We are still very much in need of federal funding in order to respond to and recover from this pandemic.”https://d-979871345335546688.ampproject.net/2005151844001/frame.html
Though common loons may look harmless, the territorial birds will fiercely attack any interlopers to their freshwater habitat.Photograph by Charlie Hamilton James, Nat Geo Image Collection
In July 2019 a game warden in Bridgton, Maine, got an unusual call: A bald eagle was floating lifeless in a lake. At the time, biologists suspected the animal might have been shot or poisoned by lead fishing tackle—all too common causes of death for wild birds.
According to D’Auria, a dead loon chick was found nearby, suggesting a defensive loon parent gored the eagle as it attacked the loon’s nest. This phenomenon is on the rise in New England, as bald eagles continue to bounce back from near extinction in the 1970s, she says. (Learn how a national symbol bounced back.)
Loons and eagles are also top predators in Highland Lake, competing for valuable territory.
While loons appear serene and peaceful, the waterbirds can be savage, attacking everything from Canada geese to redhead ducks to, most often, other loons.
The catch is that until very recently there probably just weren’t enough bald eagles left for scientists to witness such battles. Since being removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007, the U.S. symbol now numbers in the hundreds of thousandsnationwide; there are more than 700 nesting pairs in Maine.
The incident shows how much we have to learn about the natural behaviors of formerly endangered species, experts say.
Thanks to conservation efforts, hundreds of thousands of bald eagles now soar through U.S. skies.Photograph by George Grall, Nat Geo Image Collection
Violence of the loons
Rather than duke it out at the surface, D’Auria says a loon will dive underwater and then rocket out “like a torpedo” to stab its opponent, which is usually a rival loon.
“It’s a common part of their contesting territories with each other,” she says. ”Sometimes the injured loon can recover from it, and occasionally they don’t.”
“There’s a balance,” he says, by email. “Eagles need to eat, and loons will defend their chicks as best they can.”
Bald Eagles’ Food Fight Captured In Slow-Motion
The good news is Vermont’s loon populations have been increasing or remained steady for the last 20 years. Loons are also doing well in Maine, home to about 70 percent of the population in the U.S. Northeast, says D’Auria.
However, the species is listed as threatened in New Hampshire and of special concern in Massachusetts,due to threats such as shoreline development, fishing tackle, and climate change.
So while neither loon nor bald eagles seem to be in danger of driving the other to extinction, it does seem as if the two species are recalibrating back to how things used to be, Cooley says.
More than 600 of the nation’s physicians sent a letter to President Trump this week calling the coronavirus shutdowns a “mass casualty incident” with “exponentially growing negative health consequences” to millions of non COVID patients.
“The downstream health effects…are being massively under-estimated and under-reported. This is an order of magnitude error,” according to the letter initiated by Simone Gold, M.D., an emergency medicine specialist in Los Angeles.
“Suicide hotline phone calls have increased 600%,” the letter said. Other silent casualties: “150,000 Americans per month who would have had new cancer detected through routine screening.”
From missed cancer diagnoses to untreated heart attacks and strokes to increased risks of suicides, “We are alarmed at what appears to be a lack of consideration for the future health of our patients.”
Patients fearful of visiting hospitals and doctors’ offices are dying because COVID-phobia is keeping them from seeking care. One patient died at home of a heart attack rather than go to an emergency room. The number of severe heart attacks being treated in nine U.S hospitals surveyed dropped by nearly 40% since March. Cardiologists are worried “a second wave of deaths” indirectly caused by the virus is likely.
The physicians’ letter focuses on the impact on Americans’ physical and mental health. “The millions of casualties of a continued shutdown will be hiding in plain sight, but they will be called alcoholism, homelessness, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. In youths it will be called financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse.
“It is impossible to overstate the short, medium, and long-term harm to people’s health with a continued shutdown,” the letter says. “Losing a job is one of life’s most stressful events, and the effect on a person’s health is not lessened because it also has happened to 30 million [now 38 million] other people. Keeping schools and universities closed is incalculably detrimental for children, teenagers, and young adults for decades to come.”
While all 50 states are relaxing lockdowns to some extent, some local officials are threatening to keep stay-at-home orders in place until August. Many schools and universities say they may remain closed for the remainder of 2020.
“Ending the lockdowns are not about Wall Street or disregard for people’s lives; it about saving lives,” said Dr. Marilyn Singleton, a California anesthesiologist and one of the signers of the letter. “We cannot let this disease change the U.S. from a free, energetic society to a society of broken souls dependent on government handouts.” She blogs about the huge damage the virus reaction is doing to the fabric of society.
Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, also warns that restrictions are having a huge negative impact on non-COVID patients.
“Even patients who do get admitted to hospital, say for a heart problem, are prisoners. No one can be with them. Visitation at a rare single-story hospital was through closed outside window, talking via telephone,” she wrote us. “To get permission to go to the window you have to make an appointment (only one group of two per day!), put on a mask, get your temperature taken, and get a visitor’s badge of the proper color of the day.”
How many cases of COVID-19 are prevented by these practices? “Zero,” Dr. Orient says. But the “ loss of patient morale, loss of oversight of care, especially at night are incalculable.”
Virtually all hospitals halted “elective” procedures to make beds available for what was expected to be a flood of COVID-19 patients. Beds stayed empty, causing harm to patients and resulting in enormous financial distress to hospitals, especially those with limited reserves.
Even states like New York that have had tough lockdowns are starting to allow elective hospital procedures in some regions. But it’s more like turning up a dimmer switch. In Pennsylvania, the chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute, Dr. Alfred Casale, said the opening will be slow while the facility is reconfigured for COVID-19 social distancing and enhanced hygiene.
Will patients come back? COVID-phobia is deathly real.
Patients still are fearful about going to hospitals for heart attacks and even for broken bones and deep lacerations. Despite heroic efforts by physicians to deeply sanitize their offices, millions have cancelled appointments and are missing infusion therapies and even chemotherapy treatments. This deferred care is expected to lead to patients who are sicker when they do come in for care and more deaths from patients not receiving care for stroke, heart attacks, etc.
NPR reported about a Washington state resident who had what she described as the “worst headache of her life.”
She waited almost a week before going to the hospital where doctors discovered she had a brain bleed that had gone untreated. She had multiple strokes and died. “This is something that most of the time we’re able to prevent,” said her neurosurgeon, Dr. Abhineet Chowdhary, director of the Overlake Neuroscience Institute in Bellevue, Wash.
As the number of deaths from the virus begin to decline, we are likely to awaken to this new wave of casualties the 600 physicians are warning about. We should be listening to the doctors, and heed their advice immediately.
Superspreading events involving SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been reported.
What is added by this report?
Following a 2.5-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, including a symptomatic index patient, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred (attack rate = 53.3% to 86.7%); three patients were hospitalized, and two died. Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing.
What are the implications for public health practice?
The potential for superspreader events underscores the importance of physical distancing, including avoiding gathering in large groups, to control spread of COVID-19. Enhancing community awareness can encourage symptomatic persons and contacts of ill persons to isolate or self-quarantine to prevent ongoing transmission.
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On March 17, 2020, a member of a Skagit County, Washington, choir informed Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) that several members of the 122-member choir had become ill. Three persons, two from Skagit County and one from another area, had test results positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Another 25 persons had compatible symptoms. SCPH obtained the choir’s member list and began an investigation on March 18. Among 61 persons who attended a March 10 choir practice at which one person was known to be symptomatic, 53 cases were identified, including 33 confirmed and 20 probable cases (secondary attack rates of 53.3% among confirmed cases and 86.7% among all cases). Three of the 53 persons who became ill were hospitalized (5.7%), and two died (3.7%). The 2.5-hour singing practice provided several opportunities for droplet and fomite transmission, including members sitting close to one another, sharing snacks, and stacking chairs at the end of the practice. The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization (1). Certain persons, known as superemitters, who release more aerosol particles during speech than do their peers, might have contributed to this and previously reported COVID-19 superspreading events (2–5). These data demonstrate the high transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 and the possibility of superemitters contributing to broad transmission in certain unique activities and circumstances. It is recommended that persons avoid face-to-face contact with others, not gather in groups, avoid crowded places, maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet to reduce transmission, and wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Investigation and Findings
The choir, which included 122 members, met for a 2.5-hour practice every Tuesday evening through March 10. On March 15, the choir director e-mailed the group members to inform them that on March 11 or 12 at least six members had developed fever and that two members had been tested for SARS-CoV-2 and were awaiting results. On March 16, test results for three members were positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were reported to two respective local health jurisdictions, without indication of a common source of exposure. On March 17, the choir director sent a second e-mail stating that 24 members reported that they had developed influenza-like symptoms since March 11, and at least one had received test results positive for SARS-CoV-2. The email emphasized the importance of social distancing and awareness of symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. These two emails led many members to self-isolate or quarantine before a delegated member of the choir notified SCPH on March 17.
All 122 members were interviewed by telephone either during initial investigation of the cluster (March 18–20; 115 members) or a follow-up interview (April 7–10; 117); most persons participated in both interviews. Interviews focused on attendance at practices on March 3 and March 10, as well as attendance at any other events with members during March, other potential exposures, and symptoms of COVID-19. SCPH used Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists case definitions to classify confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 (6). Persons who did not have symptoms at the initial interview were instructed to quarantine for 14 days from the last practice they had attended. The odds of becoming ill after attending each practice were computed to ascertain the likelihood of a point-source exposure event.
No choir member reported having had symptoms at the March 3 practice. One person at the March 10 practice had cold-like symptoms beginning March 7. This person, who had also attended the March 3 practice, had a positive laboratory result for SARS-CoV-2 by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
In total, 78 members attended the March 3 practice, and 61 attended the March 10 practice (Table 1). Overall, 51 (65.4%) of the March 3 practice attendees became ill; all but one of these persons also attended the March 10 practice. Among 60 attendees at the March 10 practice (excluding the patient who became ill March 7, who also attended), 52 (86.7%) choir members subsequently became ill. Some members exclusively attended one practice; among 21 members who only attended March 3, one became ill and was not tested (4.8%), and among three members who only attended March 10, two became ill (66.7%), with one COVID-19 case being laboratory-confirmed.
Because illness onset for 49 (92.5%) patients began during March 11–15 (Figure), a point-source exposure event seemed likely. The median interval from the March 3 practice to symptom onset was 10 days (range = 4–19 days), and from the March 10 practice to symptom onset was 3 days (range = 1–12 days). The odds of becoming ill after the March 3 practice were 17.0 times higher for practice attendees than for those who did not attend (95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.5–52.8), and after the March 10 practice, the odds were 125.7 times greater (95% CI = 31.7–498.9). The clustering of symptom onsets, odds of becoming ill according to practice attendance, and known presence of a symptomatic contagious case at the March 10 practice strongly suggest that date as the more likely point-source exposure event. Therefore, that practice was the focus of the rest of the investigation. Probable cases were defined as persons who attended the March 10 practice and developed clinically compatible COVID-19 symptoms, as defined by Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (6). The choir member who was ill beginning March 7 was considered the index patient.
The March 10 choir rehearsal lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Several members arrived early to set up chairs in a large multipurpose room. Chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6–10 inches apart with a center aisle dividing left and right stages. Most choir members sat in their usual rehearsal seats. Sixty-one of the 122 members attended that evening, leaving some members sitting next to empty seats. Attendees practiced together for 40 minutes, then split into two smaller groups for an additional 50-minute practice, with one of the groups moving to a smaller room. At that time, members in the larger room moved to seats next to one another, and members in the smaller room sat next to one another on benches. Attendees then had a 15-minute break, during which cookies and oranges were available at the back of the large room, although many members reported not eating the snacks. The group then reconvened for a final 45-minute session in their original seats. At the end of practice, each member returned their own chair, and in the process congregated around the chair racks. Most attendees left the practice immediately after it concluded. No one reported physical contact between attendees. SCPH assembled a seating chart of the all-choir portion of the March 10 practice (not reported here because of concerns about patient privacy).
Among the 61 choir members who attended the March 10 practice, the median age was 69 years (range = 31–83 years); 84% were women. Median age of those who became ill was 69 years, and 85% of cases occurred in women. Excluding the laboratory-confirmed index patient, 52 (86.7%) of 60 attendees became ill; 32 (61.5%) of these cases were confirmed by RT-PCR testing and 20 (38.5%) persons were considered to have probable infections. These figures correspond to secondary attack rates of 53.3% and 86.7% among confirmed and all cases, respectively. Attendees developed symptoms 1 to 12 days after the practice (median = 3 days). The first SARS-CoV-2 test was performed on March 13. The last person was tested on March 26.
Three of the 53 patients were hospitalized (5.7%), including two who died (3.8%). The mean interval from illness onset to hospitalization was 12 days. The intervals from onset to death were 14 and 15 days for the two patients who died.
SCPH collected information about patient signs and symptoms from patient interviews and hospital records (Table 2). Among persons with confirmed infections, the most common signs and symptoms reported at illness onset and at any time during the course of illness were cough (54.5% and 90.9%, respectively), fever (45.5%, 75.8%), myalgia (27.3%, 75.0%), and headache (21.2%, 60.6%). Several patients later developed gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea (18.8%), nausea (9.4%), and abdominal cramps or pain (6.3%). One person experienced only loss of smell and taste. The most severe complications reported were viral pneumonia (18.2%) and severe hypoxemic respiratory failure (9.1%).
Among the recognized risk factors for severe illness, the most common was age, with 75.5% of patients aged ≥65 years. Most patients (67.9%) did not report any underlying medical conditions, 9.4% had one underlying medical condition, and 22.6% had two or more underlying medical conditions. All three hospitalized patients had two or more underlying medical conditions.
Public Health Response
SCPH provided March 10 practice attendees with isolation and quarantine instructions by telephone, email, and postal mail. Contacts of patients were traced and notified of isolation and quarantine guidelines. At initial contact, 15 attendees were quarantined, five of whom developed symptoms during quarantine and notified SCPH.
Before detection of this cluster on March 17, Skagit County had reported seven confirmed COVID-19 cases (5.4 cases per 100,000 population). At the time, SCPH informed residents that likely more community transmission had occurred than indicated by the low case counts.* On March 21, SCPH issued a press release to describe the outbreak and raise awareness about community transmission.† The press release emphasized the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 and the importance of following social distancing guidelines to control the spread of the virus.
Multiple reports have documented events involving superspreading of COVID-19 (2–5); however, few have documented a community-based point-source exposure (5). This cluster of 52 secondary cases of COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity for understanding SARS-CoV-2 transmission following a likely point-source exposure event. Persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 are most infectious from 2 days before through 7 days after symptom onset (7). The index patient developed symptoms on March 7, which could have placed the patient within this infectious period during the March 10 practice. Choir members who developed symptoms on March 11 (three) and March 12 (seven) attended both the March 3 and March 10 practices and thus could have been infected earlier and might have been infectious in the 2 days preceding symptom onset (i.e., as early as March 9). The attack rate in this group (53.3% and 86.7% among confirmed cases and all cases, respectively) was higher than that seen in other clusters, and the March 10 practice could be considered a superspreading event (3,4). The median incubation period of COVID-19 is estimated to be 5.1 days (8). The median interval from exposure during the March 10 practice to onset of illness was 3 days, indicating a more rapid onset.
Choir practice attendees had multiple opportunities for droplet transmission from close contact or fomite transmission (9), and the act of singing itself might have contributed to SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Aerosol emission during speech has been correlated with loudness of vocalization, and certain persons, who release an order of magnitude more particles than their peers, have been referred to as superemitters and have been hypothesized to contribute to superspeading events (1). Members had an intense and prolonged exposure, singing while sitting 6–10 inches from one another, possibly emitting aerosols.
The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, the seating chart was not reported because of concerns about patient privacy. However, with attack rates of 53.3% and 86.7% among confirmed and all cases, respectively, and one hour of the practice occurring outside of the seating arrangement, the seating chart does not add substantive additional information. Second, the 19 choir members classified as having probable cases did not seek testing to confirm their illness. One person classified as having probable COVID-19 did seek testing 10 days after symptom onset and received a negative test result. It is possible that persons designated as having probable cases had another illness.
This outbreak of COVID-19 with a high secondary attack rate indicates that SARS-CoV-2 might be highly transmissible in certain settings, including group singing events. This underscores the importance of physical distancing, including maintaining at least 6 feet between persons, avoiding group gatherings and crowded places, and wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain during this pandemic. The choir mitigated further spread by quickly communicating to its members and notifying SCPH of a cluster of cases on March 18. When first contacted by SCPH during March 18–20, nearly all persons who attended the practice reported they were already self-isolating or quarantining. Current CDC recommendations, including maintaining physical distancing of at least 6 feet and wearing cloth face coverings if this is not feasible, washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when ill, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces remain critical to reducing transmission. Additional information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.
Patients described in this report; health care personnel who cared for them; Skagit County Public Health staff members and leaders, particularly the Communicable Disease investigators; Washington State Department of Health.
1Skagit County Public Health, Mount Vernon, Washington.
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TABLE 1. Number of choir members with and without COVID-19–compatible symptoms (N = 122)* and members’ choir practice attendance† — Skagit County, Washington, March 3 and 10, 2020
Attendance No. (row %) March 3 practice March 10 practice Total Symptomatic Asymptomatic Total Symptomatic Asymptomatic Attended 78 51 (65.4) 27 (34.6) 61 53§ (86.9) 8 (13.1) Did not attend 40 4 (10.0) 36 (90.0) 61 3 (4.9) 58 (95.1) Attendance information missing 4 1 (25.0) 3 (75.0) 0 0 (—) 0 (—) Attended only one practice 21 1 (4.8) 20 (95.2) 3 2 (66.7) 1 (33.3)
Abbreviation: COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 2019. * No choir members were symptomatic at the March 3 practice. † Thirty-seven choir members attended neither practice; two developed symptoms, and 35 remained asymptomatic. § Includes index patient; if the index patient excluded, 52 secondary cases occurred among the other 60 attendees (attack rate = 86.7%).
FIGURE. Confirmed* and probable† cases of COVID-19 associated with two choir practices, by date of symptom onset (N = 53) — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020
Abbreviation: COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 19. * Including the index patient.
Suggested citation for this article: Hamner L, Dubbel P, Capron I, et al. High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:606–610. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6919e6.
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A priest from Michigan is garnering widespread attention online this week for a unique way he incorporated social distancing guidelines into his services at his parish during Holy Week last month.
In the photos, which were first shared by the St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park last month and have gone viral on Twitter in recent days, the priest, Father Tim Pelc, could be seen donning gloves, a mask and a squirt gun containing holy water.
The church wrote in the April 12 post: “Adapting to the need for social distancing, St. Ambrose continued it’s tradition of Blessing of Easter Food Baskets, drive-thru style. Yes, that’s Fr. Tim using a squirt gun full of Holy Water!”
In an interview with Today published on Sunday, Pelc said he came up with the idea and decided to go through with it after checking first with a doctor to make sure it was in line with social guidelines advised by health experts and government officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You can’t double dip into the holy water container,” he told the outlet. “I thought, what could I do that would keep the quarantine restrictions going and give kids the experience of Easter?”
“We didn’t have a lot of notice on it. At noon, the Saturday before Easter, I went out there and there was a line of cars waiting,” Pelc added.
The church’s initial post detailing the effort by Pelc has racked up several hundred shares and likes over the past few weeks. However, a tweet talking about Pelc’s “social distance blessings” has garnered over half a million likes and more than 125,000 retweets in just two days. The photos also picked up traction in a viral photoshop battle on Reddit not long after.https://d-6252475892314059361.ampproject.net/2005151837000/frame.html
Larry A. Peplin, the photographer who captured the photos, told The Hill on Sunday that he has been working as commercial photographer in the Detroit-area for decades and said he has “never seen anything like this happen to any of my photos.”
“Having covered many thousands of imaging assignments including six presidents and now nearing retirement, this is stunning,” he continued. “I’m quite aware that these things happen, and memes get created then passed around the world, but why did it take five weeks for it to take off?”
“I understand now why it’s called ‘going viral,’ and yes, I’m taking that verbal cue from COVID-19,” he added.
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard