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Bitcoin's nearing a breakout moment — prices topped $30,000 for the first time since June 2022

Tue, 04/11/2023 - 2:18am
Bitcoin has rallied over $30,000.
  • Bitcoin has rallied above the $30,000 level for the first time since June 2022.
  • The gains are driven by expectations the Fed could scale back its rate hikes, an analyst said.
  • Bitcoin is up about 80% this year so far while Ether is up about 60% in the same period.

Bitcoin rallied above the $30,000 level for the first time since June 2022 — nearing a breakout moment for the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.

Veteran trader Peter Brandt flagged the possible "breakout" on Twitter as Bitcoin was heading toward a key resistance level of $30,000.

—Peter Brandt (@PeterLBrandt) April 10, 2023


Bitcoin rallied 6.7% in 24 hours to trade above $30,100 at 1.14 a.m. ET on Tuesday, according to CoinMarketCap. Ether, the second largest crypto by market cap, also rose over 3% in 24 hours to trade over $1,900.

"The reason behind the rally is probably because the odds for the Fed to further scale back its rate hikes have been dramatically strengthened after the bank turmoil in early March," Tina Teng, an analyst at CMC Markets, a financial services firm, said in a video posted on Twitter Tuesday.

Teng's technical analysis of Bitcoin's chart shows prices nearing $35,000 if the upside price momentum continues.

—CMC Markets ANZ (@CMCMarketsAusNZ) April 11, 2023

The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates for the ninth straight time in March — even after the implosion of Silicon Valley Bank — in its continued drive to cool inflation. But this is intensifying worries that the economy could cool so much that it could tip into a recession. This is raising hopes that the rate hike cycle could taper off soon.

Bitcoin is up about 80% this year so far, while Ether is up about 60% in the same period.

Bitcoin and Ether hit all-time highs when they surged past $69,000 and $4,800, respectively, in November 2021.

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Corporate America is facing its bleakest first-quarter since the pandemic — S&P 500 companies' earnings could drop as much as 7%, new data says

Tue, 04/11/2023 - 12:38am
Wall Street may be heading into a tough earnings season.
  • Earnings season kicks off this week with financial sector giants set to report their results. 
  • S&P 500 companies are expected to post a 7% decline in first-quarter earnings, per FactSet.
  • This will be the largest earnings decline since a 32% slump in the second quarter of 2020.

Corporate America may be heading into a tough earnings season, which kicks off this week.

Companies on the S&P 500 — an index that tracks a broad range of sectors such as banks, manufacturing, tech, and retail — are expected to post a 6.8% decline in first-quarter earnings from a year ago, John Butters, a senior earnings analyst at FactSet wrote in a report last Thursday.

The projected decline will be the largest since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies reported a 32% slump in earnings in the second quarter of 2020, according to the financial data company.

The estimated 6.8% decline in first-quarter earnings is not just the lowest in two years, but also below the five-year earnings growth rate of 13.4% and the 10-year earnings growth rate of 8.7%, per FactSet.

"Analysts and companies have been more pessimistic in their earnings outlooks for the first quarter compared to historical average," Butters added in his note. 

FactSet's analysis was based on 106 S&P companies that issued guidance on their first-quarter earnings per share.

Out of the 11 sectors on the S&P, six are expecting to report an on-year decline in earnings. Leading losses are companies in the materials, healthcare, IT, and communication sectors services. Consumer discretionary and industrials are expected to lead those reporting on-year earnings growth.

Despite the banking crisis last month, the financials sector expects the highest on-year revenue growth rate of 9% among all 11 sectors, FactSet's analysis show. However, few companies in the sector issue quarterly earnings guidance, Butters noted.

Somber tidings ahead, analysts warn.

This earnings season comes amid ongoing concerns over the economy after the Federal Reserve issued its ninth straight interest rate hike last month in its continued drive to cool inflation — intensifying worries that the economy could cool so much that it could tip into a recession, particularly amid the bank crisis.

FactSet isn't the only one warnings of somber tidings ahead of earnings releases.

Goldman Sachs strategists are also forecasting a dismal earnings season as they too expect corporate profits to see their sharpest decline since 2020, according to a note last week seen by Insider. Goldman analysts expect earnings per share in the first quarter of 2023 to decline 7% from a year ago.

"Earnings growth peaked in most regions in early 2022 and has trended lower since," wrote Andrew Pease, global head of investment strategy at Russell Investments, an investment firm, in a March 20 report about the global outlook. "This has in part been due to moderating sales growth as economic growth cools, but falling margins have also played a role."

Profit margins are getting squeezed because the growth of labor costs, such as wages, is declining more gradually as compared to overall inflation, he added.

The S&P 500 index closed 0.1% higher at 4,109.11 on Monday. It's up 7% so far this year.

Financial sector giants Citigroup and JPMorgan will report their results on April 14. Tech giant Apple is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on May 4, while Microsoft will report on April 25.

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A Texas judge tried to school the FDA on the abortion pill. Only problem? He used debunked research and a study based on an anonymous blog to do it.

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 11:33pm
Abortion rights advocates gather in front of the J Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, on March 15, 2023.
  • A Texas judge on Friday issued a ruling overturning FDA approval of an abortion medication.
  • Not only did it contain inaccurate language, but it cited many faulty studies, experts say.
  • One study was written by an author whose work has been retracted by reputable journals.

In an unprecedented late Friday night ruling, a Texas federal judge sided with conservative, anti-abortion activists and sought to strip key abortion drug mifepristone of its FDA approval. 

The 67-page document, written by right-wing Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, cited Wikipedia and is full of inaccuracies and falsehoods about the health effects of medical abortion, experts told Insider on Friday.

Kacsmaryk in the ruling cited multiple studies to back up claims that have been widely scrutinized or do not hold up to scientific consensus.  

"When you're issuing a ruling that's going to impact people nationally, one would hope that that ruling would be evidence-based and that it would look at the body of evidence instead of cherry-picking studies that are really not in line with the scientific consensus on the topic," M. Antonia Biggs, Ph.D. and social psychologist at ANSIRH previously told Insider. 

For example, one study, with ties to anti-abortion nonprofit the Charlotte Lozier Institute, relies on the anonymous experiences of users on one particular website. The study uses 98 blog posts made over the course of 10 years. The authors note that the small sample group is one of the study's limitations.

In comparison to the study, in 2020, 620,327 legally induced abortions were reported to CDC.

However, despite the limited scope of the study, the conservative Christian judge writes that "eighty-three percent of women report that chemical abortion 'changed' them — and seventy-seven percent of those women reported a negative change" — citing the study of 98 anonymous blog posts.

In another example, the judge cites an analysis that suggests a link between negative mental health outcomes and abortion written by abortion researcher Priscilla Coleman whose study has been denounced for years by abortion researchers and whose other work has previously been retracted by leading journals.

Julia Steinberg, an expert on mental health and abortion, told Reuters in 2012 that most women in the study who experienced mental health issues after having an abortion had also experienced them before the abortion. The Guttmacher Institute also debunked the study in a letter.

Another 2002 study, based on insurance records from Medi-Cal — California's Medicaid program — claims low-income women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide or die following an abortion.

A 2008 American Psychological Association task force noted that one of the 2002 insurance study's multiple limitations was that it did not factor in that lower-income women, likely to face poor health outcomes already, may be more likely to choose abortion. The study also did not note whether or not the abortions had been done for health reasons or were elective abortions.

"What we do know is that abortion does not increase people's risk of having depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, suicidal ideation, or substance use disorders, which is completely against many of his claims," Biggs previously told Insider. "We also know that people do not come to regret their abortions."

Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, an advocacy group for public health professionals, told Insider that the ruling was "troubling" because it intended to undermine 20 years of clinical data on the safety of mifepristone and the FDA's expertise in approving drugs.

"I think that this opens the door up for other people who are unhappy with a properly, scientifically-based determination to basically judge shop and find a judge who has a view, and in my view is not really following the law as they should," Benjamin told Insider. 

Benjamin said that the legal community has taken an "activist approach" when making determinations about judgments that will affect people's health by "cherry-picking the science" and "utilizing very unique theories around the authority of agencies."

"If the judge thought there was something administratively not done correctly, he could have identified that and the administration could have certainly corrected that. But that's not what he did. He actually put patients at risk. He's created a lot of confusion. And we know there's a reason that the plaintiff sought that judge. Because of his views."

Benjamin stressed to Insider that mifepristone is safe and wanted people to take Kacsmaryk's background into consideration when reading the Friday ruling. 

"The judge went to law school. The judge did not go to medical school. He has not got a medical license. He has not been vetted by anybody for his medical opinion. So he is really outside of his lane making, in essence, a medical judgment that was informed by really, really bad information."

On Monday, lawyers for the Department of Justice filed an emergency motion asking the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to put Kacsmaryk's ruling on hold during the appeals process, arguing that the case should have never moved forward. 

The DOJ argued that plaintiffs in the lawsuit — a group of anti-abortion doctors — did not have standing because they neither use nor prescribe mifepristone.

Their argument, instead, relies on speculation — and absurdity: "that other doctors will prescribe mifepristone; that those doctors' patients will experience exceedingly rare serious adverse events; that those patients will then seek out plaintiffs — doctors who oppose mifepristone and abortion — for care; and that they will do so in sufficient numbers to burden plaintiffs' medical practice."

Kacsmaryk's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Coleman and the other researchers did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

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Trump's camp is trying to force Ron DeSantis to resign and formally declare a 2024 run, accusing the governor of 'taxpayer-funded globetrotting'

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 11:22pm
  • Trump's team is accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis of running an unofficial 2024 campaign.
  • In an email, the Trump campaign said DeSantis is engaging in "taxpayer-funded globetrotting."
  • The accusation comes after MAGA Inc., a Trump super PAC, filed an ethics complaint against DeSantis.

Former President Donald Trump's team has launched a fresh attack on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, accusing him of "taxpayer-funded globetrotting."

An email from the Trump campaign on Monday accused DeSantis of not formally declaring a 2024 run, and using his salary as governor to fund unofficial campaign travels. 

"Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is currently on a month-long, taxpayer-funded presidential campaign schedule paid for by Florida taxpayers, and new questions are emerging as to whether this will force DeSantis to resign from office," read the campaign's email.

Under Florida's "resign to run" law, candidates running for other offices must resign from their current post at least 10 days before running for the position they desire.

The Trump campaign email accused DeSantis of planning a countrywide tour this month, including stops in Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Utah, Texas, and South Carolina.

The Trump campaign also said DeSantis is trying to go on international trips to "score some last-minute foreign policy credentials for his 2024 presidential campaign," further accusing the governor of "taxpayer-funded globetrotting." 

The governor has plans to visit Japan in April, per the Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese news outlet. There are also plans for him to visit Israel, per the Associated Press.

"Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to campaign full-time for president, during the Florida legislative session, while collecting a salary and having the taxpayers pick up the costs for his travel and security. It's a massive flip-flop from his position in 2018," Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in the email.

In the email, Cheung did not provide further evidence or substantiation to support his claim that tax dollars fund DeSantis' overseas and domestic travels. 

The Trump campaign's fresh accusations come weeks after Florida Democrat Nikki Fried filed an ethics complaint against DeSantis. The March 27 complaint accused DeSantis of attending a $235,000 donor-funded retreat at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. 

Separately, MAGA Inc. — a Trump-linked super PAC — filed an ethics complaint against DeSantis on March 14. This complaint accused DeSantis of soliciting and receiving "millions of dollars worth of illegal gifts in violation of Florida State ethics laws and the Florida Constitution," per a copy of the document obtained by NBC News.

If DeSantis officially announces his 2024 bid, he will be Trump's biggest rival for the GOP presidential ticket. 

And while DeSantis has not officially announced a 2024 presidential run, he has been visiting cities around the US as part of a tour for his new book, "The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival." His book tour is widely regarded as a precursor to his presidential run

Representatives for Trump and DeSantis did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment sent outside of regular business hours. 

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Hawkish tech critics have labeled San Francisco 'lawless' following the stabbing death of Cash App creator Bob Lee. The city's crime rate tells a different tale.

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 11:20pm
San Francisco police officers and F.B.I. agents gather in front of the home of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on October 28, 2022 in San Francisco, California.
  • The stabbing death of Cash App creator Bob Lee spurred fresh criticism of San Francisco crime.
  • While critics call the progressive city "lawless" with "horrific" crime, violent offenses are down.
  • Compared with cities of similar size, San Francisco has far fewer homicides per year.

Following the tragic stabbing death of Cash App creator Bob Lee on Tuesday, critics of the city's progressive policies were quick to label San Francisco a "lawless" place to live, with "horrific" crime — but rates of violent offenses in the city tell a different story.

Lee was fatally stabbed in San Francisco early Tuesday, according to an NBC Bay Area report, with security footage revealing his frantic search for help after the attack, spurring condemnation toward city leadership from critics.

Matt Ocko, a venture capitalist from Palo Alto and friend of Lee's, criticized the city's former District Attorney on Twitter: "Chesa Boudin, & the criminal-loving city council that enabled him & a lawless SF for years," saying the city's leadership "have Bob's literal blood on their hands."

Boudin was recalled from office last year following similar critiques of his reform-minded approach to crime and agenda aimed at reducing incarceration rates.

In an email to Insider Ocko declined to comment on his remarks regarding crime in San Francisco but said Lee "was loved, respected, admired, and will be deeply missed."

But Ocko was far from the only one to weigh in — San Francisco-based writer Michelle Tandler posted in a Twitter thread that violence in the city is caused by a "complacent" society and mused that people 100 years ago were deterred from committing crimes by vigilante groups that committed public hangings.

"The hangings worked," she wrote, "Crime would plummet after a few of them. Often for many months at a time."

Tandler later clarified that she didn't think public hanging was an appropriate solution to San Francisco crime, but that jail and prison should be used as a deterrent. 

"Violent crime in SF is horrific," Elon Musk, chief executive of Twitter and Tesla, said on Twitter, adding that "even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately."

Under Boudin, San Francisco ended its cash bail policy, allowing pre-trial detention only if a defendant poses an "unreasonable risk" to the victim or public safety — or if they have "repeated failures" to appear in court or adhere to alternative punishments.

A California Policy Lab report found the San Francisco jail population remained relatively stable through 2021 following an earlier 2018 change in bail policy that mandated that judges consider a person's ability to pay when setting bail amounts and that detention only be used when no other less restrictive option will ensure follow-up appearance at court and guarantee the public's safety.

Michael Arrington, the founder of the industry blog TechCrunch, agreed, posting "I hate what San Francisco has become."

While comprehensive statistics for 2023 are not yet available to see any recent surge in violent crime — defined as rape, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault — the city's crime rate has remained relatively steady or decreased over the last decade, except for a brief uptick in 2019, according to California Department of Justice data.

In both 2021 and 2022, San Francisco recorded 56 homicides, well below that of other cities of a similar size (under 1,000,000 people), data from the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association shows. In comparison, there were 271 homicides in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2021 and 226 in 2022. In Columbus, Ohio, 204 homicides took place in 2021 and 140 in 2022. 

However, property crimes, such as retail theft and car break-ins, are notably up in the city, CNN reported, as San Francisco saw a 23% increase in crimes like burglary and larceny between 2020 and 2022.

A Public Policy Institute of California study from 2018 found "some evidence" that California's Proposition 47, which reclassified felony theft offenses as misdemeanors if the value of stolen goods is less than $950, may have been linked to the increase in larceny theft across the state after it passed in 2014.

"I know that it's natural when there's an act of violence in the community to feel fear and anxiety," Kevin Benedicto, a San Francisco police commissioner and lawyer, told Insider. "But I just hope that that fear of anxiety can be tempered by the data and be used for something productive instead of being, I think, exploited by some for political gain."

He added: "San Francisco, like any big city in the US and around the world, has had issues including public safety, and any level of violence in our community is unacceptable, but I think it is important to look at the data that shows that violent crime in San Francisco is historic lows, especially when you look at the last 10 years or even longer than that — it's a very historic low."

Commissioner Benedicto did not comment on the investigation into Lee's death.

Representatives for Musk and Arrington did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

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An Asian elephant learned to peel her own bananas with her trunk — and may have figured it out after watching her caretaker do it for her

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 10:42pm
An elephant at the Berlin Zoo really likes peeling her bananas.
  • An elephant named at the Berlin Zoo really likes peeling her bananas.
  • Unlike other elephants, Pang Pha peels the spotty yellow ones, but eats green and yellow ones whole.
  • Researchers said they think she may have developed a taste for peeled bananas thanks to a doting caretaker.

An Asian elephant at a zoo in Germany eats her bananas in an unusual way: peeling them with her trunk, rather than eating them whole. 

Pang Pha, an elephant at the Berlin Zoo, has been captured using her trunk to peel open ripe bananas before eating them, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

Video featured in the study shows Pha being handed a spotty banana. After taking it with her trunk, the elephant breaks the banana in half. She then peels each half by picking it up again and shaking it until the soft fleshy interior falls out. She then uses her trunk again to grab it and pop it in her mouth, discarding the peel.

The study said Pha would only engage in peeling if handed a yellow banana with brown spots.

Researchers were initially stumped by when Pha would choose to peel or not, with weeks going by without her peeling a single banana. They eventually realized it was the ripeness of the banana that determined whether or not she would peel or eat it.

When given a green or yellow banana, she will eat the entire thing, peel and all, similar to other elephants. When a banana is totally brown, she won't bother with it. Video from the study showed that Pha rejected the mostly brown bananas she was given, even throwing one of them back at the experimenter who handed it to her.

But when a banana is just ripe, or yellow with brown spots? She peels it before eating.

Pha will also skip peeling in a social setting, when she is competing for the bananas with other elephants that are present, according to the study. In that setting, she will typically eat spotty yellow bananas whole, just like everyone else — except for one. She saves the last banana to peel and eat later, just how she likes it.

Though elephants have been documented using their trunks in many interesting ways, researchers said peeling bananas appeared to be a rare behavior. But they think Pha may have learned from a species that are pros at it: humans.

The study said Pha's main caretaker used to take the extra step of peeling her bananas before feeding them to her, and that she may have "acquired peeling by observational learning from her human caretakers."

Michael Brecht, a co-author of the study and a neuroscientist at Humboldt University of Berlin, told The New York Times that allowed Pha not to just observe a banana being peeled, but also to develop a taste preference for the peeled version.

Learning through observation is common in animals. A zoo in Virginia last month said an orangutan named Zoe who struggled to nurse learned to do it after observing a human zookeeper breastfeeding her own baby.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at

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Leaked intelligence document shows that Egypt, a longtime US ally, secretly planned to provide Russia with 40,000 rockets and gunpowder: report

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 9:25pm
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (front R) talks to Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front L) during a welcoming ceremony upon Putin's arrival at Cairo International Airport February 9, 2015.
  • Egypt negotiated a massive weapons and gunpowder sale to Russia covertly, per The Washington Post.
  • The revelation was made public through a leaked top-secret document, which surfaced on Discord.
  • The US has said there is no proof that Egypt sold the 40,000 rockets to Russia, per the Post.

A leaked US intelligence document blew the lid on secret arms negotiations between Egypt and Russia, where Egyptian President Abel Fattah El-Sisi planned to provide the Kremlin with tens of thousands of rockets.

The Washington Post obtained a series of classified files posted in February and March to the gaming platform Discord. One of the files detailed conversations between high-level Egyptian officials over the sale of weapons to Russia.

In one document, Sisi instructs officials to keep the shipment and mass weapon production secret, "to avoid problems with the West."

The top secret document, dated February 17, features discussion from Egyptian officials about how to supply their Russian counterparts with gunpowder and artillery from Egyptian factories, per the Post. 

Egypt has been a longtime US ally, receiving over $1 billion in military aid annually, while also deepening relations with Moscow under El-Sisi's rule, per the Post.

The revelation first reported by the Post could have a chilling effect on US-Egypt relations, and potentially lead to sanctions if Egypt did indeed covertly supply the weapons to Russia.

Last week, a trove of classified US documents leaked online, revealing new wrinkles about Russia's campaign in Ukraine and key details about Ukraine's military.

It's still unclear who leaked the documents, which could pose grave concerns for the US as some documents include classified analyses about China, detailed breakdowns of Russia and Ukraine's strategies in the war, and information about confidential sources.

The Pentagon has formally referred the leak to the US Department of Justice to investigate.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, Egypt's ambassador to the US and the spokesman for the country's Foreign Ministry told the Post that "Egypt's position from the beginning is based on non involvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides, while affirming Egypt's support to the U.N. charter and international law in the U.N. General Assembly resolutions. We continue to urge both parties to cease hostilities and reach a political solution through negotiations."

US security officials told the Post that the large weapons deal never appeared to materialize in the past months.

The Pentagon did not immediately return Insider's request for comment. 

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Ukrainian civilians are attending military trainings and workout sessions to prepare for an expected influx of draft notices ahead of a spring offensive

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 9:16pm
A group of Ukrainian recruits are pictured, being trained by British and international partner forces at a site in Wiltshire, south-west England on February 20, 2023.
  • The Ukrainian Army needs more soldiers ahead of an anticipated spring offensive.
  • Some civilians are participating in military trainings to prepare for possibly being drafted.
  • "If the war lasts another year, we're all going to be in the army," one man told The Washington Post.

Ukraine is seeking an influx of new soldiers ahead of a much-anticipated spring counteroffensive, prompting anxiety and preparations among the country's not-yet-mobilized men. 

The Ukrainian Army is in need of more manpower following heavy casualties sustained during the months-long, ongoing battle of Bakhmut in the east, where both Russia and Ukraine continue to rack up mounting losses.

The country does not disclose its casualties, but Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated earlier this year that Ukraine had suffered more than 100,000 losses since the war began in February 2022. 

More manpower is needed — and soon — to boost Ukraine's expected counteroffensive, which is likely to be built around experienced troops utilizing promised Western equipment expected to arrive in the coming months.

Ukrainian civilians, as a result, are starting to realize that they may soon be drafted, according to a Washington Post report.

"We need to understand if the war lasts another year, we're all going to be in the army," Sasha, 35, a casting director who is taking private military training courses to prepare for the possibility that he is conscripted, told the outlet. 

At the onset of the war, Ukraine initiated martial law, barring nearly all men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country. Under the country's current mobilization rules, almost any man within that range can be called up to fight. Exceptions are made for students, some parents, caretakers, and the medically unfit. 

The Ukrainian army thus far has relied heavily on volunteers who are eager to defend their home following Russia's unprompted invasion. But as the volunteer pool starts to run dry, the country appears to be more aggressively pursuing those who have yet to throw their hat in the ring, according to the Post. 

Recent changes to draft notice laws in the country now allow officials more power in stopping and questioning men about their draft status, instead of only being allowed to deliver summons notices to civilians' residences. 

The Post spoke to one man, Oleksii Kruchukov, 46, a washing machine repairman, who said he was ordered to report to a recruitment office in Kyiv after he was involved in a street fight. He told the outlet that he anticipates being sent to the frontlines following his military training.

Another man, Oleksandr Kostiuk, 52, told the newspaper that he was willing to fight if necessary, but he fears for his life: "Now we understand what's going on, so I'm more nervous," he said.

Some civilians are taking matters into their own hands and undergoing preparations ahead of what they believe will be an inevitable call-up. The Post observed several men engaging in military trainings and workout sessions in an abandoned warehouse in Kyiv with the hopes of getting a head-start on training that may one day save their lives.

"I'm 100% sure I'll be drafted sooner or later," Sasha, the casting director, told the Post, citing the spring counteroffensive. "I'm literally forcing myself because I understand it might happen."

Still, Sasha expressed a fear that no amount of training will make him ready for combat.

One enlisted leader in the field told the outlet that recently arrived troops do seem to be lacking the necessary level of training for the frontlines, lamenting the soldiers' inability to even properly dig a trench. 

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A Texas judge's abortion pill ruling was 'extraordinary' because it let doctors ban a drug they neither use nor prescribe, the DOJ said in a bid to reverse the decision

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:52pm
Mifepristone and Misoprostol are the two drugs used in a medication abortion. Mifepristone is taken first to stop the pregnancy, followed by Misoprostol to induce bleeding.
  • The Justice Department filed an emergency motion seeking a stay on last week's abortion pill ruling.
  • The department says the order banning mifepristone is "extraordinary" and legally flawed.
  • Anti-abortion activists lacked standing to challenge FDA approval of the drug, the department says.

An "extraordinary and unprecedented" ruling last week that would allow a single judge to take an FDA-approved abortion drug off the market should be placed on hold while the Biden administration appeals the decision, lawyers for the Department of Justice argued in an emergency motion Monday.

Last Friday, a federal judge in Texas sided with anti-abortion activists and ruled that the Food & Drug Administration erred when it approved mifepristone more than two decades ago. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, cited adverse side effects, including death, to argue that the drug is simply too dangerous to remain on the market — a conclusion opposed by all leading medical organizations, which have noted that mifepristone is safer than ibuprofen, Viagra, and pregnancy itself.

Kacsmaryk gave federal authorities a week to comply with his decision. The ruling came the same day as a separate decision from a Washington federal court that barred the FDA from taking "any action" that would limit access to mifepristone. The dueling rulings provoked uncertainty about the legal status of the drug.

In their 49-page response on Monday, DOJ lawyers asked the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to put Kacsmaryk's ruling on hold indefinitely during the appeals process, arguing that the case should never have been allowed to move forward in the first place.

"The district court erred in holding that plaintiffs have standing," the DOJ motion states. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a group of anti-abortion activists, including medical professionals, called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. In order to bring their case forward, they needed to show they have been or could be personally harmed by the FDA's approval of mifepristone.  

But anti-abortion doctors are neither in a position to use nor prescribe mifepristone, the DOJ said. Their argument, instead, relies on speculation — and absurdity: "that other doctors will prescribe mifepristone; that those doctors' patients will experience exceedingly rare serious adverse events; that those patients will then seek out plaintiffs — doctors who oppose mifepristone and abortion — for care; and that they will do so in sufficient numbers to burden plaintiffs' medical practice."

DOJ lawyers also said the case should be tossed because the activists waited far too long to bring their suit, since the FDA approved mifepristone in 2000.

Feds criticize anti-abortion study

In their filing, Justice Department lawyers also took aim at the sources Judge Kacsmaryk cited to justify his decision. In last Friday's ruling, Kacsmaryk disregarded the statements of the American Medical Association and other medical organizations — that mifepristone is generally safe when taken as directed. He instead cited what he described as "one study" that purportedly found 14% of those who took the drug reported they had "received insufficient information" about its side effects, including "potential negative emotional reactions like fear, uncertainty, sadness, regret, and pain."

But as Insider noted the day of the ruling, that study was in fact a textual analysis of online posts that purported to use "relational dialectics theory" to interpret the language choices of women writing about their experiences with medical abortions. The Justice Department, in turn, described the source as "an article" that was "based entirely on fewer than 100 anonymous blog posts submitted to a website titled 'Abortion Changes You.'"

The study was also a product of the anti-abortion movement. Its coauthor was listed as a staff researcher at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a group based in Arlington, Virginia, that "advises and leads the pro-life movement," according to its website. The study's acknowledgments section begins by thanking the institute's president, among others, for providing "support and assistance throughout the entire research process."

In calling for a stay on the Texas decision, Justice Department lawyers argued there is no reason for the ruling to take immediate effect and "upend a decades-long status quo and inflict grave harm on women, the medical system, and the public."

Responding to the government's filing, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Erin Hawley, issued a statement saying the Texas court correctly decided the case. "The FDA put women in harm's way, and the agency should be held accountable for its reckless actions," she wrote.

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Nashville officials vote to reinstate Justin Jones to the Tennessee House after he was expelled by Republicans over a gun control protest

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:43pm
Former state Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville raises his fist on the floor of the Tennessee House chamber as he walks to his desk to collect his belongings after his expulsion from the legislature on April 6, 2023.
  • The Metropolitan Council voted to reinstate Justin Jones back to his seat in the Tennessee House.
  • Jones was ousted from the body over gun control protests alongside then-state Rep. Justin Pearson.
  • The Shelby County Commission will meet on Wednesday to potentially reinstate Pearson to his seat.

One of the two Black Democratic lawmakers who was expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives last week after leading a protest for gun reform has been reinstated to his position.

The Metropolitan Council, which is the legislative body of Nashville and Davidson County, voted to appoint former state Rep. Justin Jones — the 27-year-old Nashville legislator who was part of a trio of Democrats who pushed for gun control on the House floor — back to his old seat until a special election can be held later this year.

In a unanimous vote, the council decided to send Jones back to the statehouse in Nashville, only weeks after a mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville prompted a wave of protests in the capital city for gun control in a state where firearms regulations are lax.

Before the vote, at least 29 members of the 40-member council had indicated that they would vote to send Jones back to the statehouse, which would afford him well over the simple majority necessary to receive the appointment. A special election will then be held later this year.

Last Thursday, the Republican-controlled House voted to remove Jones from his position, alongside then-state Rep. Justin Pearson of Memphis, over what GOP leaders said was an attempt by the lawmakers to break the decorum of the institution by taking over the floor and rallying the many protestors who had assembled at the state Capitol.

Pearson could be reinstated on Wednesday by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, which will assemble for a special meeting to address the legislative vacancy.

While Republicans voted to oust Jones and Pearson, they spared state Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who had also joined her Democratic colleagues on the floor over the gun reform push.

Johnson, who is white, told CNN last week that it was "pretty clear" why she was able to remain in the House, while her two colleagues were removed.

"I'm a 60-year-old white woman and they are two, young Black men," she told the network. "In listening to the questions and the way they were questioned and the way they were talked to, I was talked down to as a woman, mansplained to, but it was completely different from the questioning that they got."

The removals of Jones and Pearson prompted an outcry across the country, including the White House.

"Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting," President Joe Biden tweeted last Thursday. "And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action."

"It's shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent," he added.

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Nashville last Friday and spoke at the historically-Black Fisk University, where she railed against the votes and pressed for more firearms regulations, including background checks, red flag laws, and an assault weapons ban.

"Let's not fall for the false choice: either you're in favor of the Second Amendment or you want reasonable gun safety laws," she said. "We can and should do both."

The vice president also met privately with the three lawmakers.

Oscar Brock, a Republican national committeeman from Tennessee, told The New York Times that the GOP-led votes to remove the two lawmakers from the House were unhelpful to the party.

"If my job, along with other members of the RNC, is to protect the brand of the Republican Party, this didn't help," he told the newspaper. "You've energized young voters against us. Worse than squandering support, you've made enemies where we didn't need them."

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Russian jets, some flown by Wagner mercenaries, are making risky attacks to test Ukraine's defenses around Bakhmut

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:37pm
A Ukrainian jet launches flares over Bakhmut in October.
  • Ukraine and Russia are fighting a grinding battle on the ground around Bakhmut.
  • Russian aircraft, some operated by mercenaries, are also being used in fighting around the city.
  • Those jets are used sparingly and often at night, likely to test Ukraine's defenses, an expert said.

After months of struggling to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Russian ground troops still haven't been able to wrest all of the city away from tenacious Ukrainian defenders.

One reason is lack of air support. Despite large numbers of advanced aircraft and munitions, Russian airpower has proven marginal in Ukraine, where the battles have mostly been between infantry, tanks, and artillery.

Yet the Russian Air Force is still conducting airstrikes with limited success, including around Bakhmut.

"I don't think the Russian Air Force is that effective," Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses think tank, said during a March 9 episode of the Geopolitics Decanted podcast.

Russian pilots are flying at night to avoid Ukrainian man-portable air-defense systems — or MANPADS, a term for shoulder-fired missiles like the US-made Stinger — that have had some success in downing Russian aircraft and helicopters, Kofman said.

Ukrainian soldier at an anti-aircraft battery near Bakhmut on March 30.

Unlike longer-range surface-to-air missile systems that have radar to detect targets, MANPADS are usually heat-seeking missiles operated by ground troops who have to spot aircraft with the naked eye before firing. While this makes the system light enough to be carried by a foot soldier, it also makes detecting and identifying aircraft at night harder.

Russian aircraft "are bombing in Bakhmut, particularly at night so that they can avoid most types of MANPADS. It's only one particular MANPAD system, I think, that Ukraine has that's effective at night," said Kofman, who returned from a trip to Ukraine, which included a visit to the Bakhmut combat zone, in early March.

"So the Russian Air Force has been making bombing runs, and even while I was there, I could hear sort of the distant echo of Russian jets," Kofman added during the podcast, noting that Ukrainian jets are also still active but in a limited role.

In addition to supporting ground forces, Russia may be probing to see if Ukraine still has enough radar-guided anti-aircraft missiles, such as those fired by the S-300, a Soviet-era system still used by both Russia and Ukraine.

"It's clear that they are pushing more airpower into the fight for Bakhmut, and they're also testing to what extent Ukraine has radar-guided air-defense still up and available," Kofman said. "Because they know that availability of ammunition, basically missiles, for radar-guided air-defense is a problem for Ukraine and has been since October."

"You can see that the Russian airpower is kind of playing in the margins but looking for ways to push itself into the fight," Kofman added.

A Ukrainian helicopter over a field in Bakhmut in January.

Some of those Russian pilots may actually be working for Wagner Group, a private military contractor that has earned a reputation for brutality in Ukraine. The mercenary group has become notorious for using criminals freed from Russian prisons in return for agreeing to fight in Ukraine.

While those criminals are barely trained and frequently used as cannon fodder in attacks on Ukrainian forces, Wagner also fields professional contract soldiers whose lives are risked more sparingly and who receive more battlefield support, including from Russia's military.

Former military pilots working for Wagner would fall under the latter category. A retired Russian air force general named Kanamat Botashev may have been one of them.

Botashev was shot down and killed after he volunteered to fly an Su-25 attack jet in Ukraine. In June 2022, a downed Russian Su-25 attack jet pilot told his Ukrainian captors that he was employed by Wagner.

Ukraine would not be the first conflict for Wagner's aerial mercenaries. The company reportedly sent pilots and mechanics to support one factions in the Libyan civil war. US Africa Command said in May 2020 that Russia had sent at least 14 MiG-29 and several Su-24 fighters to Libya to support Wagner Group mercenaries.

Russian jets being used to support private military companies in Libya in a photo released in June 2020.

The top US Air Force commander in Africa at the time described the pilots of those jets as "guys that may be retired" and "guys that they're finding out there who have flown these types of aircraft" and said there was concern about their proficiency, including "their ability to put weapons on the appropriate targets."

Recruiting experienced former military pilots would not be a surprising move for Russian forces in Ukraine. In addition to its other struggles, Russia's air force has been plagued by a shortage of fully trained pilots.

The shortfall is so dire that the air force has committed instructor pilots to battle, which will only deprive its flight-training schools of skilled teachers for rookie pilots.

"With a military culture that assigns the most dangerous missions to the most experienced crews, attrition in the VKS has fallen disproportionately on this cadre, reducing the overall effectiveness of the force and its ability to train new pilots," researchers at Britain's Royal United Services Institute said a 2022 report on the first five months of the war.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine, and other publications. He holds a master's in political science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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China shows how it would attack Taiwan as tensions rise

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:36pm
  • China's military conducted three days of military drills near Taiwan.
  • The drills blocked off the island with fighter jets and war ships.
  • It was a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In a show of military might, China sent warships and dozens of fighter jets toward Taiwan for three days of drills.

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Alvin Bragg's staff urges Jim Jordan to stay at home in Ohio if he wants a look at high murder rates rather than trekking to NYC

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:33pm
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg; House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan
  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with falsifying business records. 
  • House Judiciary chair Jim Jordan is holding a field hearing in New York to try and shame Bragg.
  • A Bragg aide said Jordan could more effectively crack down on crime by looking at murders in Ohio.

An aide to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan would better serve the public by investigating homicides in his own backyard than road tripping to New York City for a field hearing on violent crime. 

Jordan, one of the many House Republicans outraged by Bragg's indictment of embattled former President Donald Trump, has decided to take the brewing fight to Bragg's home turf by interviewing unspecified witnesses at a just-announced hearing in Manhattan on April 17. 

A Bragg spokesman called the pending congressional visit a political stunt, telling Bloomberg News that murders in New York City were three times lower than the murder rate in Columbus, Ohio. 

—Billy House (@HouseInSession) April 10, 2023

"If Chairman Jordan truly cared about public safety, he could take a short drive to Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron, or Toledo, in his home state, instead of using taxpayer dollars to travel hundreds of miles of his way," the Bragg aide said. 

Columbus, which has a population of approximately 907,000 people, closed out 2022 with 140 murders, according to The Columbus Dispatch, or 15.4 murders per 100,000 citizens.

New York City, which has a population of roughly 8.4 million, closed out 2022 with 433 murders, the Wall Street Journal reported, for a murder rate of 5.2 murders per 100,000 citizens.

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Housing is so unaffordable that banks are losing money for each mortgage they finance for the first time ever

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:13pm
  • Housing is so unaffordable banks lost money for each mortgage they financed last year, according to a new report.
  • Independent mortgage banks and mortgage subsidiaries of chartered banks lost an average $301 per loan, the first negative profit recorded by the Mortgage Bankers Assocation in data going back to 2008.
  • They attribute that largely to the increased cost of financing a loan and decreased housing demand.

The housing environment is so unaffordable that certain banks lost money for each mortgage they financed last year — the first time that's ever happened, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

In 2022, independent mortgage banks and mortgage subsidiaries of chartered banks banks lost an average $301 for every mortgage they financed, the MBA said in a recent report. That represents a 113% decrease from last year's average income of $2,339 per mortgage, and is the first time that banks posted negative profits for financing home loans since the MBA began recording profits in 2008.

That's largely due to the decrease in housing activity, MBA's vice president of industry analysis Marina Walsh said in a statement. Prospective buyers are holding back from the market as mortgage rates hover near a 20-year high and limited housing supply keeps home prices elevated.

Banks and other mortgage companies each financed an average $2.6 billion in loans in 2022, roughly half of the $5 billion figure for 2021.

Meanwhile, the cost of financing a loan has gone up, as the decline in workers isn't fast enough to make up for the decline in business. Banks and mortgage companies spent an average $10,624 to finance each home loan in 2022, representing a 23% cost increase from 2021.

"The rapid rise in mortgage rates over a relatively short period of time, combined with extremely low housing inventory and affordability challenges, meant that both purchase and refinance volume plummeted," Walsh said. "The stellar profits of the previous two years dissipated because of the confluence of declining volume, lower revenues, and higher costs per loan."

Some experts warned last year that the US housing market could see a huge correction as the shrinking demand leads to a drop in home prices. Home prices could fall by 9% this year, one MBA board member previously said. Other experts have predicted a more mild correction, with one National Association of Realtors economist predicting that prices had already bottomed out, and the housing market could see a rebound.

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10 ways Tasers and stun guns can damage your body and brain, from twisted testicles to temporary memory loss

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 5:06pm
Stun guns induce neuromuscular incapacitation, making it difficult to make any voluntary movement.
  • Tasers, AKA stun guns, cause your muscles to seize up, which can make them sore for days after.
  • Puncture wounds, cuts, and bruises are common injuries following a shock from a Taser or stun gun.
  • In rare cases, Tasers can damage kidney function or cause testicular torsion.

Earlier this year, Louisville, Kentucky, police officers shocked a man with a stun gun so many times that his children asked whether he was dead, a Justice Department investigation found.

Police and law enforcement have been using Tasers, known generally as stun guns, since 1974 as a safer alternative to guns. But risk of death is still a concern. There have been more than 1,000 reports of deaths involving a Taser or another conducted electrical weapon (CEW).

"A Taser, while intended to be nonlethal, can still incur serious effects, which in some cases, can be life-threatening," especially for those with a heart condition or who are on drugs that affect the cardiovascular system like cocaine and methamphetamine, said James Giordano, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center and an expert on military medical ethics.

About 90% of law enforcement in the US issues Tasers, and given that there are roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies, that corresponds to more than 140,000 Tasers nationwide. 

Police have been known to shock people as young as 11 years old and as old as 75, so it's important to know how these devices affect the brain and body.

A quick note before we get into it: Taser is a brand name for a specific type of CEW. Put another way, all Tasers are stun guns, but not all stun guns are Tasers. Some of the research cited below involved stun guns, and not Tasers specifically.

1. Stun guns make your muscles seize up like a Charley horseA police officer's painful reaction to being tasered during a training course on stun guns.

Stun guns are meant to safely stop people in their tracks.

Taser's common X26 model administers a shock of about 1.9 milliamperes, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers — well below the 10 milliamps needed to cause a severe electric shock but still enough to have an effect.

"Basically, Taser energy weapons send a signal to your muscles telling them to flex," or seize up, Amy Nguyen, the chief safety officer at Axon, which manufactures Tasers, said.

This induces a state called neuromuscular incapacitation, which hijacks the communication link between your body and brain, making it difficult to make any voluntary movements.

2. People who have been shocked say it hurts a lot

Strikes from stun guns "cause severe, uncontrollable contractions of your muscles, which are very painful," Dr. Jonathan J. Rasouli, a neurosurgeon with Staten Island University Hospital, said, adding: "This is what gives Tasers their incapacitating power and can stun an individual quickly and reversibly."

One person described the pain as the sensation of his brain shaking "like a peanut in a jar."

"If you were to shake that jar a hundred times as fast as you can and multiply that by a thousand," the person told Reuters.

3. An electrical shock may severely affect the heartNotice the sharp barbs that stick into the flesh to administer electricity.

Being exposed to electricity can cause ventricular fibrillation, the most serious type of irregular heartbeat.

A study attributed at least some of the deaths following a Taser X26 shock to cardiac arrest, which can be a consequence of VF.

An electrical strike from a stun gun could "lead to disruptions in heart function that can range from moderate to severe and possibly fatal," Giordano said.

For most people hit by stun guns, there are no cardiovascular effects, Rasouli said.

"Most studies have shown that 50,000 volts, the voltage seen on most commercial Tasers, is safe to the heart," he said.

Still, with the reports of cardiac arrest after strikes from CEWs, Rasouli said, "scientists are not exactly sure yet" about the likelihood of a stun gun affecting your heart.

4. Strikes can temporarily affect memory and cognitionAfter being hit with a stun gun, you might not be able to recall short-term memories. And you may have trouble processing new information, which could last for up to one hour, one study found.

"Since a Taser shock is an incredibly stressful and painful experience, there can certainly be neurocognitive side effects," like trouble finding words or processing information, Rasouli said.

This temporary effect on memory has led to a push for police to delay questioning or the reading of the Miranda rights to people who have recently been shocked, until they have the chance to recover cognitively.

5. Getting shocked may also be emotionally or psychologically jarring

While there's limited research on the psychological effects of CEW jolts, being shocked may contribute to trauma. The physical and emotional pain of a strike is an "objectively traumatic event," Giordano said. 

This is an important area of research, since many people who're hit with stun guns are already in a high-stress situation and experiencing emotional distress. Rasouli said more research was needed on how a strike might contribute to mental illness long term.

6. Sharp probes can lead to puncture wounds, scrapes, and bruisesA rancher shows taser marks two days after being tasered by law enforcement officials.

In one study involving 1,201 cases of shocks from stun guns against criminal suspects, about 83% of people reported a mild injury of superficial puncture wounds, making these wounds the most common injury associated with Tasers.

Many Tasers and some other CEWs have two probes with pointed metal barbs that shoot out and puncture the skin. While the wounds are typically minor, at least one person reported he needed surgery to remove a barb.

Scrapes and bruises are also possible since many people fall over after being hit by a CEW. A study from 1987 found that 38% of people who were shocked reported lacerations or scrapes.

8. Rarely, stun guns can severely harm kidney function

Very rarely, stun guns can cause a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis, AKA rhabdo, which can be fatal.

"Rhabdomyolysis occurs when muscle tissue is overstimulated, becomes overcontracted, and components of muscle protein are released into the bloodstream," Giordano said.

Those proteins can damage kidney function and even induce kidney failure. Rhabdomyolysis is treatable, but without medical attention, it can be fatal, Giordano said.

The same study that found puncture wounds to be a common injury also found evidence for rhabdomyolysis in one out of 1,201 people hit with stun guns.

9. In a few cases, electrical shocks have caused the testicles to twist up

Another study from the '80s on CEW injuries found that 0.5% of people studied experienced testicular torsion, or twisted testicles. That can happen to men when their muscles contract severely, Giordano said, even if a Taser doesn't hit the pelvis directly.

During testicular torsion, one or both testes twist on their spermatic cords, tissue that sends blood to the scrotum. That can cut off blood flow to the testicles and cause the testicular tissue to die if blood flow isn't restored within six hours.

So testicular torsion isn't just very painful but also a medical emergency, though it's rare for people who are shocked by a stun gun.

"While possible, such injuries are not common when an individual is Tased," Giordano said.

10. You usually regain muscle control quickly

The electrical pulses from a Taser strike last only five seconds. After that, most people return to their normal muscle function right away.

"Recovery from the incapacitation is instantaneous," Nguyen said.

Of course, you'd still need to cope with secondary injuries like bruises, cuts, memory impairment, or, sometimes, long-term emotional or psychological trauma.

11. But you'll probably be sore afterward

Some people who are hit with CEWs experience muscle soreness for a few days after the fact. This happens for two reasons, Giordano said.

First, your pain receptors and nerve endings are overstimulated by the electrical shock, making them more sensitive. Second, the strong muscle contractions can induce the same sort of muscle fatigue you might experience after hitting the gym.

You can usually treat it with heat, a cold pack, or over-the-counter painkillers.

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Taylor Swift fans are flocking to Cornelia Street after her reported breakup from Joe Alwyn. Here's a look inside her old apartment.

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 4:53pm
Taylor Swift mentions the West Village apartment in a song from her album "Lover."Taylor Swift may never walk Cornelia Street again, but that's not stopping fans from visiting her old apartment after reports that she and Joe Alywn have called it quits.Taylor Swift (left), the exterior of 23 Cornelia Street (right).

"Cornelia Street," the ninth song off Taylor Swift's seventh studio album, "Lover," alludes to an apartment the star once lived in in New York City's West Village, as well as the early days of her relationship with whom many believe to be actor Joe Alwyn.

"'I rent a place on Cornelia Street,' I say casually in the car," Swift sings in the first verse, and it's pretty literal. The pop superstar did rent 23 Cornelia Street for a few months between 2016 and 2017, according to People.

In "Cornelia Street," Swift sings about the early days of a relationship — which many fans believe to be about Joe Alwyn — and being unable to walk the titular street ever again if the romance were to end.

The two dated for six years since "at least fall of 2016," Insider previously reported, but recent reports say the couple may have called it quits.

According to news first reported by Entertainment Tonight and later confirmed by People, the split "was not dramatic."

"The relationship had just run its course. It's why [Alwyn] hasn't been spotted at any shows," the source told ET.

Swift explained the song's meaning during an August 23 appearance on Elvis Duran's radio show, according to People.

"It's about the things that took place and the memories that took place on that street […] all the nostalgia," she said. "Sometimes we bond our memories to the places that they happen. I wrote it alone and it ended up being one of my favorite songs."

Despite the fact that Swift hasn't lived in the apartment for quite some time, some Taylor Swift fans have filmed TikTok videos of themselves visiting the apartment and leaving flowers in what appears to be a makeshift "memorial" to Swift and Alwyn's relationship.

Keep reading for a closer look at Swift's iconic Cornelia Street apartment.

The 23 Cornelia Street townhouse is located in the West Village area of Manhattan in New York City.23 Cornelia Street is less than a five-minute walk from Washington Square Park.

The apartment is located in one of the most desirable and expensive parts of the city, about 15 minutes away from Midtown by subway and just a quarter-mile west of Washington Square Park.

The apartment was recently rented for $50,000 a month.The exterior of 23 Cornelia Street.

Curbed previously reported that Swift rented the three-story property for about $39,500 a month while one of her three Tribeca apartments was undergoing renovations. About one year later, it was sold for $11.5 million.

Though it's advertised as a three-story property, the home also features a basement with an indoor pool and a gym, plus a spacious rooftop terrace. The home became available for rent in January 2023, at which point it was priced at $45,000 per month. As of April 2023, the home is being rented for $50,000 per month.

While Swift might "say casually" that she "rents a place on Cornelia Street," the home is anything but understated.The garage.

Built in 1870 as a carriage house, the home was later transformed into a luxurious 5,500-square-foot, single-family home with a drive-in garage perfect for celebrities looking to enter and exit while avoiding the prying eyes of the paparazzi. 

"Drive right in, open a side door, and walk right into the guest suite on the first floor," the listing reads.

The massive former carriage house has four bedrooms.The primary bedroom.

According to People, most of the windows in the property face the backyard, allowing Swift privacy when she lived in the apartment. 

The home also features five luxurious bathrooms and an additional two half-baths.The primary bathroom.

The primary bathroom features a marble bath with a glass-enclosed shower and skylight.

The extravagant home is fitted with double-height ceilings and three gas fireplaces.The second-floor living room.

The second-floor living room also features a wood-burning fireplace with a marble hearth perfect for the chilly New York autumn days that Swift reportedly spent in the apartment.

Per the property's listing, the renovated kitchen features a Wolf range stove, a Sub-Zero fridge, a wine fridge, a double-drawer dishwasher, and granite countertops.The kitchen.

The kitchen was recently renovated to feature an open-concept flow into the dining room, which overlooks the West Village. 

Large windows, including those in the dining room, look out onto prime Village views.The dining room.

The home also features hardwood floors throughout.

There's also an indoor pool, which measures 30 feet by 15 feet and is surrounded by a Basalt stone tile floor.The indoor pool.

The pool is 5.5 feet deep. Behind the indoor pool, you'll find a lounge area with another fireplace and an outdoor patio. Also located on the bottom floor is a gallery space, gym, and garden. 

The terrace off the primary bedroom has an outdoor lounge with a gas fireplace.One of the private terraces.

It's easy to see why the dreamy property would have inspired one of Swift's love ballads. 

The rooftop terrace, where Swift sings she "sat on the roof," features sweeping views of Manhattan's West Village.The rooftop terrace.

The nearly 700-square-foot wrap-around terrace also has a barbecue and multiple seating areas.

Swift's former landlord, who sold the home for $11.5 million in early 2019 after owning it for 15 years, apparently had no idea who the songstress was when her people reached out about renting his property.Taylor Swift is seen on the streets of Manhattan on September 7, 2016.

According to People, at the time Swift was renting it, 23 Cornelia Street was owned by David Aldea, a former executive at Soho House, a hotel chain and group of private members' clubs.

"I'm just not a pop-culture guy, and I even said to someone, 'I'm meeting a person named Taylor Swift who wants to rent my home,'" Aldea told Vulture in 2019.

"Now, mind you, I knew her songs because I had them on my running playlist. I just didn't match the name to the song. I know, it's silly," he added.

And for the record, Aldea also said Swift was "an absolute delight to deal with" during the rental process and he was "so honored" she wrote a song about his former home.

"I put my heart and soul into building, designing, and decorating this house, and for somebody like Taylor to come along and see what I saw and love what I loved, love what I created, it was a total compliment and I will always be grateful to her for that," he told Vulture. "And when I heard the song came out, I just thought to myself, 'Wow, that is the most incredible sort of thank-you and nod that anyone could ever get.'"

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The FBI says you may want to think twice before plugging into a free phone-charging station

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 4:33pm
Free phone charging services found at airports, bus stops, and shopping malls may be compromised by hackers, the FBI has warned.
  • The FBI warned people to avoid using free phone-charging stations found in hotels, airports, and other public places. 
  • Hackers can insert malware or monitoring software into phones through charging ports, the agency said. 
  • A Los Angeles deputy district attorney once warned that "a free charge could end up draining your bank account."

The FBI is warning people to steer clear of free cell phone-charging stations. 

According to the agency, hackers have figured out how to gain access to cell phones plugged into the charging ports and can introduce malware or monitoring software onto cell phones and other devices. 

Free phone-charging stations are often found in shopping centers, airports, and hotels. Some cities also offer free charging at public bus stops. 

However, the FBI's Denver office tweeted that it's best to "carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet" rather than relying on the free chargers.  

The FBI's Denver office confirmed to Insider that its tweet was a public service announcement for consumers. The agency did not confirm whether it has seen an uptick in these cases.  

The FBI is not the only agency to raise alarm bells about this scheme: in 2021, the Federal Communications Commission issued a warning about "juice jacking."

"Malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors," an FCC release from the time said. 

Charging stations that have USB cords already plugged in could signal a hack, according to a report in the New York Times. 

"A free charge could end up draining your bank account," Luke Sisak, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, said in a warning first reported by the Times. 

Bad actors are constantly innovating to find new ways to trick unsuspecting consumers into handing over money: last summer, Insider's Avery Hartmans was a victim of a complicated "sim-swapping" scheme that resulted in scammers charging $10,000 to her Chase credit card. Read her investigation into the plot here

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Demand for Apple computers has dropped 40% since last year

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 4:33pm
Apple has seen dropping PC sales this year.
  • A recent International Data Corporation report outlined global PC shipment data from Q1 of this year.
  • Demand has dropped across the industry, with a 29% decrease compared to last year.
  • Apple, in particular, has suffered from a 40.5% drop off in demand for its computers.

People are buying up fewer Apple computers as demand for PCs has moved away from COVID-era highs.

According to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), the global shipments of PC devices dropped 29% in the first quarter of 2023, when compared to the same period last year.

Among the five biggest manufacturers, Apple was impacted the most: The number of Apple PCs shipped dropped 40.5% from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023.

Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Asus experienced similar levels of decline, ranging from 24.2% to 30.3%. 

The data compiled by the IDC draws from more than 90 countries around the world. Global shipments include shipments to end users and distribution channels, like BestBuy and other electronics retailers.

This report speaks to a reversal from 2021, when demand for personal computing surged amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The supply chain issues that plagued electronic manufacturers two years ago did not play a role in waning demand. In fact, there has been excess inventory.

Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at IDC, noted in the report that despite "heavy discounting" and sale pricing, PC-makers could expect this excess supply to "persist into the middle of the year and potentially into the the third quarter." 

Global shipment volume is now bearing more resemblance to pre-COVID levels. During the first quarter of 2023, 56.9 million units were moved, compared to the 59.2 million and 60.6 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2019 and 2018, respectively. 

Linn Huang, a research vice president at IDC, made a prediction that demand in 2024 would be tied to the general wellbeing of the economy, stating that if it's trending upward then we can "expect significant market upside as consumers look to refresh, schools seek to replace worn down Chromebooks, and businesses move to Windows 11."

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Starbucks' new CEO wants senior leaders to work in stores, and it's a brilliant idea

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 4:31pm
A Starbucks barista prepares a drink at a Starbucks coffee shop location in New York.
  • Starbucks' new CEO plans to work a monthly store shift.
  • Former retail executives say it's the only way to truly learn the pain points of your business.
  • Plus, fewer current CEOs have worked in stores and may lack connection to workers and customers. 

When Laxman Narasimhan came on board as Starbucks' next CEO seven months ago, he immersed himself in the brand, spending time at the chain's manufacturing plants and getting barista training at its stores.

It's a practice he plans to continue now that he's officially been installed at the helm of Starbucks

"To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month," he wrote in a letter to Starbucks staff last month, "and I expect each member of the leadership team to also ensure our support centers stay connected and engaged in the realities of our stores for discussion and improvement." 

Narasimhan's approach — not just visiting the stores he oversees, but working at them — is one that experts say is crucial to running a brick-and-mortar business. But it's fallen by the wayside in recent decades as department store chains curtail the leadership training programs that installed future executives at the store level, and fewer merchants sit at the helm of big-name retailers.

Which means leaders aren't as connected to the employees that sell their products and the customers that consume them, said Lee Peterson, a longtime merchant and now executive vice president of thought leadership at retail consulting firm WD Partners. 

"People in the office, they're clueless. They're looking at papers of what's sold ... they know where it's sold. But what really matters is what people say, what people think, and what people feel," he said. 

Working at the store level can lead to 'aha moments'Greg Foran, Walmart's former CEO.

Anyone who's worked a retail job has probably had this experience: your manager, perhaps with a look of fear in their eye, will get a few days' heads up that the corporate brass is coming to visit your store. You and your coworkers then spend the ensuing 48 or 72 hours swiping dust off the top shelves, polishing the scuff marks off the floor, and compulsively straightening the displays. 

But there's a big difference between your CEO and their entourage sweeping through to see if things are up to snuff and that leader working a shift in your shoes, and it's the latter that makes the real difference, Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University and the former CEO of Sears Canada, told Insider earlier this year.

"Many people that I've observed either don't have that view, or aren't willing to do that, or they pay lip service to it," Cohen said. "They visit a few stores, they talk to some people. But they don't really get in touch with what is actually going on." 

Some CEOs make store shifts a hallmark of their management style. Former Walmart CEO Greg Foran used to visit stores every week to observe factors like customer service, inventory levels, in-stock levels, and assortment. Years later, as the top executive at Air New Zealand, he hasn't changed his ways — he's been spotted working as a member of the cabin crew on his company's flights. 

Peterson, from WD Partners, said that when he began working as a merchant for The Limited and Victoria's Secret parent L Brands, he spent six months working at the retailer's stores across the country — after that, he was required to visit stores every Thursday, don a store associate badge, and get on the sales floor. 

That store-level experience meant that he could not only observe for himself what customers were buying, but could quiz workers at stores nationwide on their own pain points, he said. 

Peterson said one of his aha moments from spending time in stores was that customers hated waiting in a long line to check out, so corporate added a second register to break the line in two, a practice that's commonplace in stores today. But that's not something he could have observed sitting in his office in Columbus, Ohio, he said. 

Fewer retail CEOs got their start working in stores Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison started his retail career as a Target security guard.

Of course, times have changed — in the past, many retail CEOs got their start at the store level. 

There are a few current CEOs who have: Marvin Ellison, the CEO of Lowe's, got his start making $4.35 an hour as a Target security guard. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon started unloading trucks at the retail giant while he was still a teenager. Costco chief exec W. Craig Jelinek's first job was as a food stocker at a discount department store, and he worked his way up the ranks at Costco over three decades. 

Others went through management-training programs operated by department stores. Brooklyn-based department store Abraham & Straus — which was later absorbed into Macy's — ran a program that trained up future CEOs like Gap and J.Crew's Mickey Drexler and Abercrombie & Fitch's Mike Jeffries. 

But those programs have largely fallen by the wayside, Catherine Lepard, the global managing partner of the executive-recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles' retail and direct-to-consumer practice, previously told Insider. 

As department stores started facing stiff competition from specialty stores, they scrambled to cut costs. "That's where we started to see less of the longer-term investment in training," she said. 

These days, finding a qualified retail CEO seems like one of the hardest jobs to fill, with many companies looking outside the retail industry. Narasimhan joins Starbucks after a stint at PepsiCo and two years leading Lysol-maker Reckitt, experience that readies him for the world's largest coffee chain. But he's also a coffee-industry outsider who's inheriting a contentious relationship with Starbucks union leaders, one that's drawn the attention of lawmakers

Plus, not all of Narasimhan's new employees are thrilled with the idea of him working alongside them. "I'd really prefer it if he stayed out of our way," Starbucks union organizer Michelle Eisen tweeted in March, adding that she'd rather he spent those hours "learning about worker's rights." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

More than twice as many Russian troops as Ukrainians have been killed in Putin's war, leaked estimates show

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 4:14pm
A Ukrainian service member fires a mortar towards Russian troops in frontline near the Vuhledar town, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine February 7, 2023
  • Leaked estimates show more than twice as many Russians and Ukrainians have been killed in the war. 
  • Up to 43,000 Russians and 17,500 Ukrainians may have died on the battlefield, US intel reveals.
  • The figures were included in a leak of highly sensitive Pentagon documents now being investigated. 

Leaked US intelligence documents reveal that more than twice as many Russian soldiers as Ukrainian soldiers have been killed while fighting in Ukraine.  

The documents, which were recently leaked on social media and are currently the focus of a federal investigation, offer estimates for Russian and Ukrainian casualties. US officials have described the information included in the leak — which appear to provide detailed assessments on the Ukraine war — as highly sensitive and classified.  

One document in particular suggests that Russia has suffered between 189,500 and 223,000 casualties, including between 35,500 and 43,000 soldiers killed in action and between 154,000 and 180,000 troops wounded.

Ukraine, by contrast, has suffered between 124,500 and 131,000 casualties, including between 15,500 and 17,500 soldiers killed in action and between 109,000 and 113,500 troops wounded. 

Both the lower and upper estimates of each military's war dead pegs Russian deaths at more than two times that of Ukraine. Insider was not able to independently verify these figures, and it is unclear when, exactly, the leaked data was compiled, though many of the documents are from late February and early March.

Graves of Russian Wagner mercenary group fighters are seen in a cemetery near the village of Bakinskaya in Krasnodar region, Russia, January 22, 2023.

The upper boundary of Russia's death toll — 43,000 — is a slightly lower figure than what other officials and experts have estimated in recent weeks.

Britain's defense ministry said in a February intelligence update that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russian-linked forces — which includes Moscow's regular military and mercenaries from the Wagner Group paramilitary organization — have likely been killed. The Center for Strategic & International Studies, meanwhile, assessed that same month that between 60,000 and 70,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine. 

As for total casualties, Britain's defense ministry said in February that Russia likely suffered up to 200,000. And Victoria Nuland, a top US diplomat and the under secretary of state for political affairs, said at the time that over 200,000 Russians have been killed or wounded during the war.   

Neither the Russian nor the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, DC immediately responded to Insider's request for comment on the casualty findings contained in the leaked documents. 

Ukrainian soldiers of the Aidar battalion training at an undetermined location in Donetsk oblast on April 4, 2023.

The trove of leaked documents, which became public last week as they began circulating on various social media platforms, has raised alarm bells in Washington and allied capitals about the sensitive military and intelligence information that's now been published. The documents appear to feature details about a wide range of topics and countries — including US partners like Israel, South Korea, and Ukraine and adversarial nations such as Russia, China, and Iran. 

A handful of the documents, like the one that reviews both Russian and Ukrainian casualties, contain information about Ukraine's combat readiness and battlefield preparations. They include detailed maps, battle damage assessments, force attrition rates, weapons and other equipment, and more classified information. 

Experts have cautioned that malign actors may already be altering these documents for propaganda reasons. For example, in some cases, information about Russian casualties appears to have been altered to show a much lower killed in action figure for the Russian forces. 

Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffin of the fallen soldier Evgeny Gulevich as they arrive at the Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv, Ukraine on April 10, 2023.

US officials, meanwhile, are urgently investigating the leak. 

"The Department of Defense continues to review and assess the validity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites and that appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material," Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said in a statement shared with Insider in response to queries about the Russian and Ukrainian casualties. 

"An interagency effort has been stood up, focused on assessing the impact these photographed documents could have on US national security and on our Allies and partners," she continued. "Over the weekend, US officials have engaged with Allies and partners and have informed relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction about the disclosure."

"The Department of Defense's highest priority is the defense of our nation and our national security. We have referred this matter to the Department of Justice, which has opened a criminal investigation," Singh added. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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