By Walt Hickey
France may offer the owners of old, high-pollution cars the chance to give the vehicles over for scrap in exchange for €2,500 ($2,975) towards an electric bicycle. The amendment to a draft climate bill working its way through parliament was approved in a preliminary vote, and were it to pass with the larger package would make France the first country to offer citizens a chance to turn in their junk cars for a solid bike. The overall bill aims to reduce emissions by 40 percent in 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
The Atlantic League, a minor baseball league with eight franchises, will roll out an experimental change in the second half of its upcoming 120-game season, with plans to move the pitcher’s mound back 12 inches. The rule change is the first change to mound regulations in the professional game since 1969 when the mound was lowered. Baseball officials are increasingly worried that events that are not strikeouts, homers or fly-outs are more and more rare, and an all-or-nothing at-bat is somewhat boring when there are no other kinds of at-bat to compare it to. Long dismissed as too radical, straight-up moving the mound back will now be experimented in the minors.
Farmworkers have been excluded from overtime pay in most of the United States, the result of a Depression-era deal between FDR and moneyed Southern farm interests over the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Last Friday, Washington’s state house voted to pass Senate Bill 5172, which will require employers to pay time and a half for all labor over 40 hours per week by 2024. It would make Washington the first state to fully bring farmworkers into the fold, if it ends up being signed into law. SB 5172 happened mainly because last November the state supreme court ruled dairy workers being excluded from overtime was actually against the constitution of the state, which led to a flood of overtime suits for all the other agriculture in the state. Desperate to stop the litigation, employers started getting real game for a law to clear the air really quick.
Rental car fleets slimmed down considerably during the pandemic, making it now harder than you might imagine to get your hands on the wheel at an airport. Hertz cut its new vehicle purchase commitments by $4 billion and immediately began offloading cars: they had over half a million cars in the fourth quarter of 2019, but a year later they had less than 300,000. Avis said it profitably disposed of 250,000 vehicles globally last year. This has sent prices popping: where once you could reliably rent a car for about $39 per day, some daily prices at popular airports are well over $100 per day now.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission opened an inquiry into reports that the personal information of 533 million Facebook users was made available online in April including phone numbers and emails. Facebook claims the data is old and was reported in 2019, but, hey, you know that’s a funny way of pronouncing “sorry.” Here’s where things get interesting: Ireland is a relatively small country, so the fact that the Irish Data Protection Commission can levy a fine of up to 4 percent of annual sales wouldn’t be such a big deal. Unless, of course, you were a tech giant that specifically routes your European business through an EU hub in Ireland due to the amenable taxation environment, in which case, oh boy, that could be a problem.
A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the pandemic has taken a serious toll on mental health, and that toll has affected some more than others. Overall, 55 percent of women said their mental health had worsened due to the pandemic compared to 38 percent of men. The effect was seen similarly among parents: 58 percent of mothers said the pandemic had harmed their mental health compared to just 32 percent of fathers. Fully 69 percent of women under 30 said the pandemic harmed their mental health.
A new study with 59 participants with major depressive disorder put psilocybin — the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms — up against a typical antidepressant, and found that the dose of psilocybin reduced symptoms as well as or better than escitalopram, which is sold as Lexapro. It’s the first randomized study with a drug comparison group to judge psilocybin’s pharmaceutical utility. The participants were split into two treatment groups, one of which got daily antidepressants and two very small doses of psilocybin, and the other of which got placebo pills and two heavy doses of psilocybin. While the experiment wasn’t designed to find which was better, that the mushrooms held their own is a tentatively positive sign for more research into their clinical uses.
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