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Alibaba's Jack Ma is on his first overseas trip a year after Beijing's started cracking down on his empire, according to reports

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 1:07am
  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma has traveled out of China for the first time in a year, according to Hong Kong media.
  • Ma is reportedly in Spain where he will embark on a study tour on agriculture and technology related to environmental issues.
  • Ma's tech empire has come under intense scrutiny since he criticized the Chinese regulatory system last October.

Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma has made his first trip out of China in over a year, according to several Hong Kong media sources, including South China Morning Post and East Week.

The Chinese billionaire was last seen in Hong Kong, where he met with business associates last week, Reuters reported.

Ma is now in Spain to learn about agriculture and technology related to environmental issues, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with Ma's schedule. The SCMP is owned by Alibaba.

Hong Kong magazine East Week reported Ma flew to Spain on his private jet on Saturday.

Ma's recent whereabouts have been the subject of intense speculation. The outspoken teacher-turned-tech titan was once a high-profile jetsetter, who spent around a third of his time traveling abroad in 2018, according to SCMP.

But Ma has been laying low since last October when he gave a speech criticizing China's financial regulatory system. Ma's words angered the Chinese authorities, prompting intense regulatory scrutiny on his businesses.

Alibaba's fintech spin-off Ant Group, for example, has had its mega IPO - most recently valued at $35 billion -suspended since last November. And in December, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba that resulted in a $2.8 billion fine.

Ma also disappeared from public view for two months before reappearing in a video conference in late January.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to Insider's query about Ma's reported trip to Europe, but told the SCMP that Ma is no longer involved in the company's operations. He retired as Alibaba's chairman in 2019.

Alibaba shares in Hong Kong are popping on Wednesday, gaining as much as 9% by midday.

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Netflix CEO says his stance on Dave Chappelle's special hasn't changed but says he 'screwed up' in message to staff, ahead of a planned walk-out

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:45am
Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO & Chief Content Officer
  • Netflix's co-CEO previously said content does not cause real-world harm.
  • Ted Sarandos told outlets on Tuesday that he "screwed up" with those comments.
  • However, Sarandos said Netflix won't remove Dave Chappelle's special.

Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said he "screwed up" with his response to employees' criticism that Dave Chappelle's "Closer" special was transphobic, several outlets reported.

"I screwed up the internal communication - and I don't mean just mechanically. I feel I should've made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made," Sarandos told Deadline on Tuesday.

Sarandos was referencing a company-wide email he sent defending the special. In the email, he said content "doesn't directly translate to real-world harm."

In his special, Chappelle says "gender is a fact" and aligned himself with TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists, Insider previously reported.

"I should have led with a lot more humanity," Sarandos told Variety on Tuesday.

He added: "Of course storytelling has real impact in the real world. I reiterate that because it's why I work here, it's why we do what we do. That impact can be hugely positive, and it can be quite negative."

However, Sarandos told Variety he doesn't think Chappelle's comments amount to hate speech and does not plan to remove the special from the streaming platform's docket.

"It's impossible to please everybody, but we are trying to please a world that is made of people of different tastes, sensibilities, and beliefs, and it becomes very difficult to do that for everybody," he told Deadline.

He told Variety that he wanted to be "really clear" that he supports "artistic freedom and the creators that work at Netflix."

The statement came a day before a scheduled walkout organized by trans Netflix employees.

Netflix had previously suspended three employees who publicly protested the special - including one trans employee whose Twitter thread about the special went viral- but they were later reinstated. The company also fired the leader of a trans resource group organizing Wednesday's walkout for leaking financial data "outside the company."

The company accused the former employee of sending information to Bloomberg detailing the cost of producing Chappelle's special, which revealed that the special's budget was higher than average.

Neither Netflix nor Sarandos responded to Insider's request for comment.

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Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry indicted on charges of lying to the FBI

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 12:15am
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry announced that he expects to be indicted in a YouTube video.
  • GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI.
  • Fortenberry said in a YouTube video that he expects to be charged with lying to the FBI.
  • Fortenberry's office sent out a fundraising message for a legal defense fund earlier this month.

A federal grand jury has indicted Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska on charges of lying to the FBI, the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles announced Tuesday.

The grand jury indictment charges Fortenberry with one count of "scheming to falsify and conceal material facts" and two counts of making false statements to investigators in connection with an FBI investigation into potential campaign finance violations.

Fortenberry announced in a YouTube video Tuesday morning that he expected to be indicted on a charge of lying to the FBI.

He said investigators "accused me of lying and are charging me with this." Fortenberry added that he will "fight" the charges and said he did not lie to authorities.

Axios first reported the news.

Fortenberry is one of several lawmakers who investigators said received illegal campaign contributions from the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, in violation of federal laws banning foreign nationals from donating to political candidates.

Fortenberry addressed the matter on October 5, one day after he sent out the fundraising email about the FBI investigation.

"A number of years ago, some very bad people illegally transferred money into my campaign, along with several other members of Congress," Fortenberry said at an event for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska. "They were caught, they were punished and they've been held accountable, thankfully."

According to an FBI affidavit filed earlier this year, the donations went to Fortenberry's campaign in March 2016.

In Tuesday's YouTube video, Fortenberry said that FBI agents from California showed up at his house about two and a half years ago and questioned him about the matter.

"I answered their questions. Later, we went back and answered further questions," Fortenberry said. "I told them what I knew and what I understood. They've accused me of lying to them and are charging me with this. We're shocked. We're stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help and so now we will have to fight."

The lawmaker's announcement comes after his office blasted out a fundraising message earlier this month accusing the FBI of using its "unlimited power to prosecute me on a bogus charge!"

When Insider reached out to Fortenberry's office about the email, a spokesperson offered the following comment: "It's been previously reported that the FBI investigated an effort by a foreign national to illegally funnel money to U.S. political campaigns, including Rep. Fortenberry's. The people involved in that scheme were prosecuted and no charges were filed against him. This legal expense trust was established in part to address costs associated with that investigation."

When asked why the fundraising email was written in the present tense if no charges were filed or were expected to be filed against the congressman, the spokesperson responded: "Rep. Fortenberry never saw or approved that language."

"To be accused of this is extremely painful," Fortenberry said in his YouTube video. "We will fight these charges. I did not lie to them. I told them what I knew."

Watch Fortenberry's video below:

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San Francisco's only In-N-Out location was temporarily closed for refusing to check patrons for proof of vaccination

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 10:50pm
American regional chain of fast food restaurants In-N-Out Burger sign seen at the San Francisco site.
  • San Francisco's only In-N-Out was shut down earlier this month for not checking proof of vaccination.
  • A city public health order requires proof of vaccination at sites offering indoor dining.
  • A spokesperson for In-N-Out said the restaurant is opposed to enforcing vaccine policies.

San Francisco's only In-N-Out location ceased burger-making operations earlier this month after the city's Department of Public Health closed the restaurant for failing to check patrons' proof of vaccination.

The Fisherman's Wharf location received a notice of closure on October 14, after being reminded "multiple" times about the city's vaccine mandate for institutions offering indoor dining as required by the city's Safer Return Together health order, the San Francisco Department of Public Health told Insider in a statement.

Arnie Wensinger, the company's chief legal and business officer, said in a statement obtained by Insider that the restaurant is opposed to enforcing vaccine policies.

"As a Company, In-N-Out Burger strongly believes in the highest form of customer service and to us that means serving all Customers who visit us and making all Customers feel welcome," Wensinger said.

"We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government," he added.

Wensinger said the store had clearly posted signage to communicate the local vaccination requirements.

"After closing our restaurant, local regulators informed us that our restaurant Associates must actively intervene by demanding proof of vaccination and photo identification from every Customer, then act as enforcement personnel by barring entry for any Customers without the proper documentation," he said.

The dispute, first reported by SFGate, began when health officials first visited the site on September 24, following a complaint to the city's service line, according to the city's Department of Public Health.

The outreach team provided the restaurant with compliance information, but when officials returned for a follow-up visit on October 6, they discovered the company was still violating the health order, the department said. Inspectors issued a first notice of violation and provided information again on how to correct the problem.

"Since then, public health inspectors had attempted multiple times to bring the business into compliance with the health order," the department said. "In-N-Out Burger had not complied by the time the final Notice of Violation and a Notice of Closure was issued."

The restaurant's property owner, Anchorage Holdings LP of Addison, Texas, was also issued a notice of violation, the department said.

The burger joint has since reopened but is no longer offering indoor dining, an In-N-Out spokesperson told Insider.

Wensinger called the orders "unreasonable and invasive," saying it is unsafe to "force" employees to "segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not."

"We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business," he said. "This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive."

The San Francisco Department of Public Health stressed the importance of vaccination in public indoor settings where groups of people have gathered and are not wearing masks.

"Vaccines remain our best tool to fight this disease and come out of the pandemic," the department said in the statement. "That is why San Francisco requires proof of vaccination for indoor dining."

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Facebook is reportedly changing its name because it wants to be known for its 'metaverse' focus

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 10:47pm
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on stage at an Oculus developers conference in 2016.
  • Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name, The Verge reported Tuesday.
  • The name change aims to recast Facebook as focused on building a "metaverse."
  • Facebook could unveil the new name within the week, according to The Verge.

Facebook is planning to change the name of the company next week, The Verge reported Tuesday evening.

The new name will aim to recast Facebook's focus on becoming a "metaverse company" rather than a social media company by rebranding its main app as one of many under a singular parent company, according to The Verge.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg will discuss the name change at Facebook's annual Connect conference on October 28, but the company could announce the name before then, The Verge reported.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The metaverse typically refers to the loosely defined concept of a virtual space where people can operate virtual and augmented reality-powered avatars. The term metaverse was coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book, "Snow Crash," but the idea has appeared in popular culture through movies like "The Matrix" and "Ready Player One."

Facebook said Monday that it wants to hire 10,000 people across Europe to help build the company's own version of a metaverse, which has increasingly captured Zuckerberg's attention.

In July, Zuckerberg told The Verge that he views the metaverse as "an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content - you are in it."

Facebook's proposed name change also comes at a time when it is facing another round of scrutiny over a range of scandals related to its social media platforms, including a series of documents leaked by a whistleblower to Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and media outlets.

Katie Canales contributed reporting to this story.

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Adam Schiff says he 'vehemently disagrees' with AG Merrick Garland's reticence to investigate Trump

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 10:34pm
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., pauses as he speaks during the House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 27, 2021
  • Rep. Adam Schiff sounded off on AG Merrick Garland's approach to former president Donald Trump.
  • "There's a real desire on the part of the attorney general not to look backward," Schiff told Yahoo News.
  • Schiff said that in regards to the 2018 Mueller report and the Jan. 6 riot, Trump is liable.

Rep. Adam Schiff told Yahoo News' "Skullduggery" podcast on Tuesday that he vehemently disagrees with Attorney Garland Merrick Garland's hesitation to investigate former President Donald Trump.

"I think there's a real desire on the part of the attorney general, for the most part, not to look backward," Schiff said on the podcast. "Do I disagree with that? I do disagree with that, and I disagree with it most vehemently when it comes to what I consider even more serious offenses."

Schiff was asked about Garland's reticence to revive or pursue new investigations that focused on the former president, including the 2018 report by former special counsel Robert Mueller which concluded that, "if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state."

In 2018, Mueller's team did not charge President Donald Trump or anyone on his campaign with coordinating with the Russian government, although prosecutors said the campaign "expected it would benefit" from Kremlin interference.

In the second part of Mueller's investigation, his team investigated whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe, and Mueller declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, citing a 1973 Justice Department memo saying that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.

"In my view, you don't ignore the crimes that have been committed by a president of the United States. They need to be investigated. You may reach the judgment once you've investigated something that the public interest in not prosecuting a former president outweighs the interests of justice. But I don't think you could ignore the crimes." he added, calling the 2018 report, "a factual basis to charge the president with multiple crimes of obstruction."'

Schiff also turned to Garland's response to the failed, Trump-led nationwide efforts to overturn election results, and touched on the challenges facing the January 6 committee.

"For example, a taped conversation of Donald J. Trump on the phone with Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state from Georgia, trying to coerce him into fraudulently finding 11,780 votes. Because I think if you or I did that, we'd be under indictment by now," Schiff said.

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Biden is reportedly cutting free community college from Democrats' social-spending bill

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 9:18pm
President Joe Biden.
  • Biden told progressives he is cutting free community college from the social-spending bill, per CNN.
  • This comes as Democrats are working to cut down some measures from their initial $3.5 trillion proposal.
  • Education Sec. Miguel Cardona previously said he was "worried" about the measure being cut.

As Democrats plan to reach a framework on their social-spending bill this week, multiple sources familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that tuition-free community college will not be making the cut.

Early last month, the House education committee unveiled its portion of the reconciliation bill, which included $450 billion to secure universal pre-K for three- and four-year olds and $111 billion to provide two free years of community college, among other things. Per their proposal, states would receive money based on average tuition and fees at community colleges, and in exchange, states would eliminate in-state tuition for students at those colleges.

President Joe Biden met with a range of lawmakers on Tuesday, including moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, to hash out what will realistically end up in the expansive reconciliation bill Democrats are seeking to pass, and as CNN reported, Biden informed House progressives that free community college will not end up in the final bill.

California Rep. Ro Khanna said in a CNN interview that Biden still planned to provide "community college scholarships" in the bill, and added that the president plans to keep the universal pre-K proposal.

House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that "it looks like that's probably going to be out," referring to free community college.

Insider previously reported that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was "worried" providing tuition-free education would not make it into the final package.

"I'm worried that's one of the things that is being looked at to be cut from the Build Back Better agenda," Cardona told Politico in an interview. "That would be a shame because we're so close to leveling the playing field for so many students."

The final framework for the social-spending bill has yet to be released, but it's clear progressives are having to cut many elements of their initial $3.5 trillion proposal to appease moderate lawmakers, including Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin, who have pushed for a lower price tag on the bill.

Rep. Andy Levin, of Michigan, a member of the House education committee who helped draft the free community college proposal, previously told Politico he is "super concerned" about the measure being cut from the bill, and wrote on Twitter on Tuesday the benefits of the proposal.

"Providing two years of free community college through the Build Back Better Act will reduce students' total costs to attend college and the burden of student loan debt dramatically," he wrote. "How can anyone say no to this?"

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Boeing was supposed to start flying astronauts for NASA 2 years ago. Now its glitching spaceship may not do so until 2023.

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 8:58pm
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft is stacked atop an Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021.

Boeing may not fly astronauts for NASA until 2023 - more than three years after it was originally scheduled to do so.

Technical issues and delays have beset Boeing's spaceship development for years. Now, new hardware issues have grounded the company's Starliner spaceship for the rest of this year. It still has to complete an uncrewed test flight to and from the International Space Station (ISS) to show NASA that it can safely carry people.

Starliner won't be ready to make that uncrewed flight until the first half of 2022, Boeing and NASA officials said in a press conference on Tuesday. Only after that can the spaceship fly its first astronauts.

John Vollmer, Boeing's vice president and program manager for Starliner, said that Boeing could "maybe" launch a test flight with an astronaut crew by the end of 2022.

"We like to see six months between flights," he said in a press conference on Tuesday. "Something on that order."

That could easily push the crewed launch into 2023.

An illustration of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spaceship orbiting Earth.

Even after fixing the hardware issues and flying the uncrewed test flight, Boeing will still have to analyze data from that mission and complete a series of certification reports and tests. It also has to plan around other missions to the ISS, which don't leave much room open on the station until winter 2022.

Preparations between one flight and the next could take much longer than six months. SpaceX didn't fly its first astronauts for NASA until more than a year after its uncrewed test flight. Now SpaceX is preparing to launch its fourth crew to the ISS, while Starliner sits grounded and nearly three years behind schedule.

Moisture interacted with the spaceship's propellant to corrode its valves

Boeing has tried and failed to reach the ISS twice.

The Starliner spaceship actually launched into orbit in 2019, but it was forced to land without docking to the space station after software issues caused it to burn through its fuel. It took 18 months to investigate that error, fix it, and prepare for another attempt.

Starliner was finally set to lift off for a re-do test flight on August 3, but Boeing had to scrub the launch when it discovered that 13 valves on the propulsion system weren't opening as they were supposed to.

Boeing engineers work on the Starliner propulsion system valves at vertical integration facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

After rolling the spaceship back to the factory and spending two months troubleshooting, Boeing engineers think they've identified the cause of the new hardware issue. Moisture in the air seems to have collected inside the valves, then reacted with the spaceship's dinitrogen tetroxide propellant to form nitric acid, which corroded the valves and made them stick when they were supposed to open.

Now Boeing engineers have to confirm their suspicions by running a few of the valves through a CT scan and disassembling them. Then they have make a few minor changes to prevent moisture from building up inside the valves again.

"This is obviously a disappointing day," Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA's human-spaceflight directorate, said in an August press conference, once it became clear that Boeing would not fly anytime soon. "But I want to emphasize that this is another example of why these demo missions are so very important to us. We use these demo missions to make sure we have the system wrung out, before we put our crews on these vehicles."

Boeing's 3-year delay pushed two astronauts over to SpaceX Boeing carries out launch preparations with the Starliner spacecraft at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, November 2, 2019.

This is one of many issues that have hampered both Boeing and SpaceX on the road to flying astronauts. Both companies developed their spaceships through NASA's Commercial Crew Program. NASA originally asked them to provide all the evidence needed to certify their flight systems by 2017, according to a 2018 report by the Government Accountability Office.

Both launch systems were running behind schedule, though. An uncrewed SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launchpad in 2016. Boeing discovered a fuel leak on its spaceship in 2018.

That year, NASA selected astronauts for the spaceships' first crewed flights, announcing that Boeing would fly its first astronauts in 2019.

But software and hardware issues have delayed Boeing's spaceship so much that NASA recently reassigned two astronauts from future Starliner missions to SpaceX's sixth crewed mission. They're now scheduled to launch next fall.

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Biden leans toward a scaled down social-spending package that could cut Democrats' original proposal in half

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 8:53pm
President Joe Biden.
  • President Joe Biden is now pushing for a smaller spending package, The Washington Post reported.
  • Moderate Democrats have stalled the passage of a $3.5 trillion spending package.
  • Biden on Tuesday said a $1.75-1.9 trillion package could accomplish many priorities.

President Joe Biden leaned toward scaling down the $3.5 trillion spending package to between $1.75-$1.9 trillion in a meeting with progressive Democrats on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.

The Post reported Biden told progressives they could still accomplish a majority of their economic agenda with the slimmed-down spending bill. The outline is meant to be a way to mediate between progressives and more moderate Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin who said he wouldn't support the $3.5 trillion proposal.

Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema have sought to significantly reduce the price tag of the bill and have sparred with progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders over it. In June, for example, Manchin said he wouldn't support a bill that cost more than $2 trillion.

Sources told The Post the Biden administration believes a $1.9 trillion price tag would allow them to accomplish several priorities include some expansions to medicare, universal prekindergarten, and billions towards addressing climate change.

However, the details have yet to be worked out, the Post reported.

A number of Democrats told reporters on Tuesday they are working to develop a framework for the social-spending bill by the end of this week, but progressives acknowledged the package is not going to meet the scale of their initial $3.5 trillion proposal.

For example, CNN reported that free community college - a key proposal from progressives and the White House - will be cut from the bill, along with a scaled-back child tax credit that will extend one additional year, much lower than the five-year extension Democrats wanted.

The Post's report follows Biden's remarks last week, when he conceded Democrats were "not going to get $3.5 trillion" - the first time he publicly acknowledged the price tag needed to be cut in the face of resistance from the group of centrists in his party.

"I'm convinced we're going to get it done. We're not going to get $3.5 trillion," he said at a speech at a childcare center in Hartford, Connecticut. "We'll get less than that, but we're going to get it, and we're going to come back and get the rest."

While details have yet to be released on what exactly made the cut in the bill, though, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, who has been adamant on preserving as much as she could from Democrats' original proposal, told reporters that many of progressives' policies are remaining intact.

"All our priorities are there in some way, shape or form," Jayapal said.

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Steve Bannon not cooperating suggests Trump may have been 'personally involved in the planning and execution' of the January 6 insurrection, Liz Cheney says

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 8:36pm
  • The Select Committee investigating January 6 met Tuesday night to discuss Steve Bannon.
  • The former White House advisor has refused to comply with a subpoena to testify.
  • By a unanimous vote, the bipartisan committee voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress.

Former White House advisor Steve Bannon's refusal to cooperate with the investigation into the January 6 insurrection suggests that he and former President Donald Trump worked together to plan the day's actions, Rep. Liz Cheney charged Tuesday.

The comments came during a meeting of the House Select Committee looking into the January 6 attack, which sought to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

"Based on the committee's investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advanced knowledge of the plans for January 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans," Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, said at the meeting.

A day before the unrest, Bannon promised viewers of his online show that "all hell is going to break loose," as detailed in a report released this month by the committee. "It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen," he continued, adding that "it's going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is, 'strap in.'"

Bannon has refused to comply with the committee's subpoena to testify, citing the argument from former President Donald Trump's legal team that the matters under consideration were subject to "executive privilege," the principle that frank conversations between the president and his aides are not typically subject to congressional review.

President Richard Nixon invoked the same "privilege" during the Watergate scandal, an argument that was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court. In its ruling, the high court said the privilege was not "absolute" and not necessarily applicable to criminal proceedings.

Cheney argued that Bannon and Trump's invocation of executive privilege "appear to reveal one thing: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6, and this committee will get to the bottom of that."

By a unanimous vote, the bipartisan committee voted Tuesday to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress.

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The January 6 panel unanimously voted to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 8:26pm
  • The January 6 House select committee voted to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt.
  • Bannon repeated refused to comply with congressional subpoenas related to the panel's probe into the Capitol riot.
  • "Despite what he and Trump may believe, no one is above the law," Rep. Adam Schiff said in response to the vote.

Members of the House select committee investigating the events of January 6 unanimously approved on Tuesday to hold Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to the probe.

The vote could compel Bannon, who served as former White House chief strategist, to comply with congressional subpoenas related to the Capitol riot investigation to avoid potential jail time if he continues not to cooperate.

"It's a shame that Mr. Bannon has put us in this position, but we won't take 'no' for an answer," Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said ahead of the vote. "We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe, and we'll use the tools at our disposal to get that information."

Seven Democrats and two Republicans - all selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - make up the committee that unanimously voted to refer Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal contempt charges.

Rep. Adam Schiff first indicated the commission's intent to hold Bannon in criminal contempt earlier this week, and on Monday, the committee released its contempt report on Bannon, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

In late September, the committee issued subpoenas on several key confidants close to former President Donald Trump "who were working in or had communications with the White House on or in the days leading up to the January 6th, insurrection," Thompson said in a press release.

Alongside Bannon, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, and ex-official for the Defense Department Kash Patel were also asked to attend depositions.

On Tuesday evening, Schiff tweeted in response to the vote that Bannon was "given every opportunity to comply with a lawful subpoena," but "he chose instead to make specious claims of executive privilege."

"Tonight, we voted to hold him in criminal contempt," Schiff continued. "Despite what he and Trump may believe, no one is above the law."

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Gas leaks, rodents, asbestos: 10 military families in Texas sued their landlord over unsafe living conditions in base housing

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 8:26pm
Vacant homes dot the landscape in the Medina Annex at the Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, where some families say they still wait for repairs.
  • Attorneys for the military families said the living conditions were "contaminated and appalling."
  • One family alleged their housing conditions led to a member of the household developing a lung mass.
  • Several families alleged they had to dispose of their property due to mold and asbestos exposure.

Air Force and Army families stationed at three military bases in Texas - Fort Bliss, Lackland Air Force Base, and Sheppard Air Force Base - are suing their privatized housing landlord over alleged "contaminated and appalling" living conditions, including insect and rodent infestations, toxic mold, asbestos, and lead-based paint, the Military Times reported.

Attorneys representing the families filed a complaint on June 8 against their landlord, Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, and its associated companies. The complaint alleged that Balfour Beatty "concealed harmful housing conditions" before the families signed their lease and performed inadequate repairs to "cover up the extent of the dilapidation" when complaints were made.

Several families named in the lawsuit said the alleged unsafe living conditions negatively affected their health.

The Clarkes, a family stationed at Fort Bliss, alleged that the contamination of their home led them to experience repeated respiratory and pneumonia infections and strep throat. They said one member of their family developed a mass in her lung and began receiving regular iron and immunoglobulin infusions.

Another family, the Roellchens, were stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, where they said their kitchen had a severe cockroach infestation and black mold. Roxanne Roellchen told Reuters she noticed a cockroach crawling on a feeding tube that belongs to her son who has special needs.

Many families also claimed they lost some or all of their personal property that was damaged or unusable due to problems within the home, such as asbestos, toxic mold, and water damage. The complaint does not specify the amount of damages that the families are seeking.

"Mold pervades and grows in the houses. The moisture content of walls contributes to the ever-present moldy conditions, and without repair will only continue to get worse. HVAC systems leak as well and flood the houses. Rodents and insects pervade the walls and, in many cases, the living spaces," the complaint said.

Insider has reached out to Balfour Beatty for comment.

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Fox News host Neil Cavuto tests positive for COVID-19 and credits vaccine with saving his life

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 7:58pm
Host Neil Cavuto.
  • Neil Cavuto has been with Fox News since its launch in 1996.
  • He has battled multiple sclerosis, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Fox News requires employees to be vaccinated or undergo daily testing for COVID-19.

Fox News host Neil Cavuto said Tuesday being vaccinated had saved his life, a statement that came alongside the announcement he had tested positive for COVID-19.

"While I'm somewhat stunned by this news, doctors tell me I'm lucky as well," Cavuto, who has been with the network for 25 years, said in a statement released by his employer. "Had I not been vaccinated, and with all my medical issues, this would be a far more dire situation."

Fox News requires all employees who work on-site to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo daily testing.

Cavuto is a cancer survivor who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He said his example should inspire others to get vaccinated.

"I'm surviving this because I did," he said. "I hope anyone and everyone gets that message loud and clear. Get vaccinated, for yourself and everyone around you."

Despite regularly airing attacks on vaccine mandates, with prime-time hosts pushing false claims about the vaccines themselves, more than 90% of Fox employees were vaccinated by mid-September, according to a company memo. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott has defended the anti-vaccination rhetoric of hosts such as Tucker Carlson others, saying that she celebrates "diverse thought."

The Biden administration has praised the company's own policy on preventing the spread of COVID-19, however, and expressed hope that others will follow its example.

"We are glad they have stepped up to protect their workforce and strengthen the economy," a White House spokesperson told CNN last month, "and we encourage them convey to their audience that these types of practices will protect their employees, their communities, and the economy."

Have a news tip? Email this reporter:

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best mattress toppers we tested in 2021

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 7:22pm
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • A good mattress topper balances comfort and support, stays put on your mattress, and keeps you cool.
  • We slept on 18 mattress toppers for several nights and consulted with two experts to find the best.
  • The Parachute Down Mattress Pad is our top pick because it's comfortable and dissipates heat well.
  • Find out more about how Insider Reviews tests and reviews home products.

Buying a new mattress is an expensive undertaking. If your mattress is less supportive than it once was or you inherited a bed that isn't right for your sleeping style, a topper can improve your comfort until you are ready to replace your mattress. They're also a great option for college dorm rooms. Though most toppers are designed to make your bed softer, we found some models can potentially add firmness.

These thin slabs of padding can also help with body-temperature regulation.

To test mattress toppers, I slept on 18 different models for at least two nights each and several for many more. I also spoke with Rebecca Robbins, PhD, associate scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Randall Laurich, DC, a chiropractor practicing in South Florida for 22 years.

I have four years of experience testing sleep products professionally. I've developed several objective tests to evaluate which toppers are best for specific needs. You can find details about how I test mattress toppers in our methodology section.

Here are the best mattress toppers you can buy in 2021 Best mattress topper overall

The Parachute Down Mattress Pad was one of the best in every category we tested, including heat dissipation, motion isolation, comfort and support, and fit.

  • Best for: All sleeping styles
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Primary material: Down
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 4
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 10
  • Trial period/warranty: 60 nights; 3 years
  • Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Thickness: 1.5 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping and returns

Pros: Excellent heat dissipation, comfortable and supportive, made in the US, attaches to your mattress like a fitted sheet, machine washable, best motion isolation

Cons: Warranty void if tag removed, the deep pockets cause the skirt to hang down on thinner beds, not a good solution for people with down allergies

The Parachute Down Mattress Pad did well in every category we tested. The only category it was just "good" in was the surface temperature immediately after getting up. Yet two minutes after getting up, it registered cooler temps than before I laid down. It was one of only two toppers to dissipate heat this well.

Parachute recommends machine washing your Down Mattress Pad before you sleep on it. Once it's ready, the topper goes on your mattress like a fitted sheet and has deep pockets to fit mattresses up to 18 inches thick. I liked that it stayed in place well and didn't shift. However, the deep pockets cause the skirt to hang down the sides of thinner mattresses, creating an unattractive appearance.

The topper is made in the US of European white down and features a sateen cotton shell. The down of the topper kept me cool while offering plush comfort. I fell asleep quickly each night and woke up feeling refreshed. I preferred to sleep on my side, but it wasn't overly soft, so I felt good on my back and stomach as well.

The Parachute Down Mattress Pad is also a smart choice for couples because it performed the best in our motion transfer tests.

The biggest negative has to do with the warranty. The tag on the pad states that the warranty is void if removed.

I recommend the down alternative pad for allergy sufferers. It didn't cool as well and felt a little too soft for stomach and back sleepers, but the pad was similar in other areas and costs $80 less.

Best budget mattress topper

If you're looking for a cheap way to make your mattress cooler and softer, consider the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper.

  • Best for: Hot sleepers, side and back sleepers
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Primary material: Memory foam
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 2
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 7
  • Trial period/warranty: 30 days; 3 years
  • Weight: 17.2 pounds
  • Thickness: 3 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping and returns

Pros: Excellent cooling properties, great motion isolation, made of CertiPUR-US certified foam, stays in place, easy to set up

Cons: May be too soft for some sleeping styles and body types, plush design hinders movement

When you lie down on the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper, the first thing you notice is how much you sink in. The topper comes in 2-, 3-, and 4-inch thicknesses. I tested the 3-inch-thick model, which was a little too soft for me, and I like soft. Unless you require the softest of the soft, I'd recommend trying the 2-inch style instead to ensure you are keeping your spine properly aligned.

Despite the overbearing plushness, which made sleeping on my stomach uncomfortable, I woke up feeling refreshed after each night I slept on the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal topper. 

The topper is nothing more than a slab of CertiPUR-US certified, bamboo charcoal-infused memory foam. Several holes help with heat dissipation, which apparently works since the Lucid topper never got very hot in my tests. When I got up from it, the heat dissipated quickly.

The thick foam also helped with motion transfer, causing this model to register one of the lowest scores on the vibration meter I used for this test. Despite not attaching to the bed, it stayed in place as I slept on it.

There weren't any instructions for setup, and I was confused by the low-grade fabric covering that came on the topper. (I assumed it was for shipping purposes and tossed it.) The topper had a strong initial odor and was compressed, but it expanded and was odor-free by bedtime. 

Best cooling mattress topper

The Bear Pro Mattress Topper is your best bet if you're looking for a plush topper that will offer you support; pressure relief; and a cool, comfortable night's sleep.

  • Best for: All sleeping styles, hot sleepers
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Primary material: Memory foam
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 4
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 7
  • Trial period/warranty: 100 nights; 3 years
  • Weight: 20 pounds
  • Thickness: 2 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping and returns

Pros: Excellent cooling, plush comfort, good pressure relief, made in the US of CertiPUR-US certified copper-infused foam, great motion isolation, stays in place

Cons: Had a strong initial odor that took several days to dissipate, doesn't attach to the mattress

The Bear Pro Mattress Topper was both the best cooling and best memory foam topper we tested. It's made in the US of CertiPUR-US certified copper-infused memory foam. I found it provided a plush feel that will appeal to all sleeping styles thanks to its ideal balance of support and pressure relief. I experienced comfy, restful sleep each night I tested it. 

The Bear Pro was one of the best at cooling in our tests. It was one of two toppers to register a lower final temperature reading than the initial reading before lying down. I was surprised by this, so I reran the test and verified my findings.

This topper dissipates heat well. It accomplishes this with a copper and Celliant construction, which Bear claims helps with heat regulation. We couldn't find any scientific studies to back this up, but based on our experience, it seems to be working.

The Bear Pro was also one of the best at motion isolation. Despite not attaching to the mattress, the topper stayed in place just fine. 

The biggest negative with the Bear Pro Mattress Topper was the powerful "new bed smell" that lasted for several days. Other than that, the setup took less than five minutes, and the topper expanded to full size by bedtime.

Best mattress topper for back pain

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, you'll appreciate the body-contouring foam of the Tempur-Pedic Topper Supreme Mattress Topper.

  • Best for: All sleeping styles
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Primary material: Memory foam
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 5
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 5
  • Trial period/warranty: None; 10 years
  • Weight: 31 pounds
  • Thickness: 3 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping, no returns

Pros: Made of supportive and pressure-relieving memory foam, good heat dissipation, removable and machine-washable cover, 10-year warranty, easy to set up

Cons: No trial period, shifted significantly in the night, hard to put the cover back on after washing it

While testing the Tempur-Pedic Topper Supreme Mattress Topper, I got back into running and weightlifting after an injury sidelined me. Both of these activities aggravate my chronic lower back pain. I went to bed with my body exhausted and awoke feeling refreshed and ready to run and lift again, and I think the Tempur-Topper Supreme had a lot to do with it.

I've long appreciated the supportive feel of Tempur-Pedic's proprietary memory foam. It slowly adjusts to the contours of your body and keeps your spine aligned no matter what position you're sleeping in. 

The pad features a cover primarily made of polyester that zips off so you can throw it in the washing machine. Removing the cover and washing it was easy, but putting it back on was a different story. It took me about 10 minutes to slide the cover on the floppy pad. I recommend just putting a mattress protector over it (and your mattress) to save the hassle.

Setting up the Tempur-Topper Supreme was intuitive, and there was minimal initial odor, which completely dissipated by bedtime. The topper also did a good job of staying cool, and when I got up from it, the heat dissipated quickly.

There are a few negatives with this model, though. First, you can't return the topper once you receive it. Fortunately, there is an impressive 10-year warranty so if there are manufacturing defects, you can get a replacement. 

Another negative is the pad shifted by several inches throughout the night as I slept on it, and there are no straps to keep it in place. Lastly, the motion isolation was just average.

Best latex mattress topper

The Avocado Organic Latex Mattress Topper is designed for all sleeping styles and body types, and it's made of eco-friendly materials and comes with a one-year trial period.

  • Best for: All sleeping styles
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Primary material: Latex 
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 4
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 6
  • Trial period/warranty: 1 year; 10 years
  • Weight: 38 pounds
  • Thickness: 2.75 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping and returns

Pros: Made in the US with organic materials and natural latex, comfortable and supportive, great motion isolation, one-year risk-free trial period, 10-year warranty

Cons: Sleeps hot, shifts a bit, expensive

I'm a big fan of natural latex as a sustainable, responsive material. The soft rubber-like foam offers cushioning around the hips and shoulders while supporting your lower back and neck. You don't sink in like with memory foam; instead, there's more bounce.

The Avocado Organic Latex Mattress Topper is great because it's made of high-quality materials, including GOLS organic certified latex rubber foam. The topper as a whole is Made Safe and Greenguard Gold certified and handmade in California.

The quality translates to a hefty price ($449 for a Queen), but Avocado also offers a one-year risk-free trial period and 10-year warranty; both are the best of any of the toppers we tested. 

The Avocado Organic Latex was one of the most supportive and pressure-relieving toppers I slept on. Whether on my stomach, side, or back, I felt great, and I woke up feeling refreshed in the morning. I tested the plush topper, which was slightly softer than average, but it's also available in firm. 

Unfortunately, it slept pretty hot. It did an okay job of dissipating the heat once I got up, but it reached surface temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit when I was on the topper. Another negative is it doesn't attach to the mattress, which might have prevented it from shifting at night. On the plus side, the motion-dampening properties were great.

I was able to set up the topper in under five minutes. While there was an initial odor, by bedtime, it dissipated.

Best firm mattress topper

The Airweave Mattress Topper is ideal for back and stomach sleepers looking to add firm support to their mattress.

  • Best for: Back and stomach sleepers, cold sleepers
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Material: Polyethylene
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 9
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 1
  • Trial period/warranty: 100 nights; 3 years
  • Weight: 17.4 pounds
  • Thickness: 2 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping and returns

Pros: Firm support that may appeal to back and stomach sleepers, completely washable, easy setup, good bounce, easy to move around on

Cons: Poor heat dissipation, poor motion isolation, shifts on the mattress, not recommended for side sleepers

For the most part, mattress toppers are designed to help give a softer feel to a mattress that is maybe too firm for your sleeping style. The Airweave Mattress Topper, on the other hand, does the opposite.

It's made of firm interwoven strands of polyethylene that the brand claims allow for better airflow and heat dissipation (though in my tests, the topper was among the hottest and didn't dissipate the heat well once I got up). 

I primarily sleep on my side, but the Airweave topper felt a little too firm for that position. Instead, I gravitated to my stomach and back, and the supportive feel left my body pain-free in the morning. 

The Airweave Mattress Topper came tri-folded in a large box and was easy to set up. It didn't have an initial odor, and I liked how easy the topper was to clean. It's the only model I tested that is entirely washable. The polyester/cotton blend cover is machine washable, and you can wash the core with mild soap and cool water. 

The topper doesn't attach to your mattress, which might have been helpful since it shifted as I slept on it. Another negative was the poor motion isolation. It was the worst at dampening motion transfer. But the Airweave topper has a lot of bounce, making it easy to move around and helping facilitate intimate activities.

What else we tested

We tested 18 mattress toppers for this guide. These are the ones that missed the cut. 

What else we recommend and why:

$150 and under

Allswell 4-Inch Memory Foam: This CertiPUR-US certified copper gel-infused memory foam topper was in the middle of the pack in every test, which makes it a solid product, but nothing sets it apart. It was easy to install, affordable, and stayed in place on the bed. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with a warranty.

SensorPedic Bamboo Charcoal Infused Memory Foam: If our budget pick isn't available, we strongly recommend picking this topper up, especially if you suffer from back pain. When I started testing, my back pain was flaring up, but after two nights on this, I was feeling great. It didn't make our guide because it wasn't particularly good at cooling, and there's no trial period.

Helix Ultra-Cool Pad: If you're looking for just a subtle addition of plushness to your mattress, this is a good option. The pad is only about an inch thick and goes on your bed like a fitted sheet. (It's also machine washable.) Yet, it didn't do as good of a job cooling as its name would suggest, and it didn't add much support or pressure relief compared to just sleeping on the mattress alone.

Under $500

Nest Bedding Cooling: This topper didn't live up to its name, as it held onto heat once I got up. It also had poor motion isolation. However, it was comfortable to sleep on, is made in the US with CertiPUR-US certified foam, and didn't move on the bed. It's on the softer side, so it may be a good option for side sleepers who prefer a more pillow top feel.

Slumber Cloud Core: This pad did at least okay in every test we put it through. It goes on your mattress like a fitted sheet, which keeps it in place, and it's easy to clean. It was comfortable and supportive and offered impressive motion isolation. The biggest negative is the relatively short 180-day warranty. Plus, it was just in the middle of the pack at cooling and heat dissipation.

Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt + Cooling (temporarily out of stock): This is supposed to be a high-end, better-cooling version of our best topper for back pain, but it didn't perform as well in our tests. Despite its name, it was also inferior at cooling and costs $100 more than the other Tempur-Pedic topper. However, it was comfortable to sleep on, has a removable, machine-washable cover, and is backed by a 10-year warranty. 

Saatva Graphite: We almost included this topper in our guide, but it just wasn't the best in any of our categories. Its average firmness was comfortable and supportive to sleep on no matter what position I was in. It did a good job of dissipating heat and features straps to secure it to your bed. However, it still shifted, and the topper has poor motion isolation.

Birch by Helix Plush Organic: The Birch topper is similar to our best overall pick. Both are handmade in the US using organic latex, cotton, and wool with all sorts of eco-friendly certifications. However, though the Birch was comfortable, I enjoyed the Avocado more. If the Avocado isn't available, this is a worthy substitute.

What we don't recommend and why:

Eight Sleep Pod Pro Cover with PerfectFit: The cool thing about the Eight Sleep topper is it makes your bed as hot or as cold as you want. It pumps water between 55 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit through the topper to keep you cool or warm you up. The app (available for iOS and Android) tracks your sleep, and you can adjust the temp to help you stay asleep through the night and wake up in the morning. We initially recommended the Pod Pro Cover, but after less than a month of use, it sprung a leak, which destroyed the mattress it covered.

Lucid Gel Memory Foam: Similar to the topper above, the Lucid Gel Memory Foam Topper is way too soft. Since it's made of memory foam, you sink in, making it hard to change positions in the night or get up in the morning. Go with our budget pick instead.

PlushBeds Natural Wool: The PlushBeds topper was the only model we tested that had wool fill. It's handmade in the US and is chemical-free. However, it smelled awful, and the odor didn't go away. It also trapped heat and was way too soft for comfort. 

Sleep Number DualTemp Individual Layer: The Sleep Number mattress and AirFit pillow are among my favorites, and I had high hopes for the topper but was disappointed. It pumps air through the topper to warm or cool based on your preferences. I found it didn't do very well at cooling and wasn't comfortable. I expected more at this price point.

Our testing methodology

I tested all of the mattress toppers in this guide. In addition to sleeping on them, there are several objective tests I put each one through. The most important factors to consider when picking a topper are comfort, bed fit, and heat dissipation. I used the same queen-size mattress with each topper for consistency.

Here are the main attributes we looked for and how we tested them:

Setup: I timed how long it took me to unbox each mattress topper and if there were any unusual or unintuitive steps. Aside from the Sleep Number and Eight Sleep toppers, each model took less than five minutes to set up. I noted if the topper came vacuum-sealed, had an initial odor, and if any smell dissipated by bedtime.

Fit: Once fully expanded, I measured each topper to see if it covered an 80-inch-by-60-inch queen mattress. After sleeping on the topper, I noted whether it stayed in place or shifted and if a fitted sheet with 13-inch-deep pockets could cover the topper and our 10-inch-thick test mattress. The fitted sheet stayed on through the night with all models we tested.

Heat dissipation: I used an infrared thermometer to measure the surface temperature of the part of the bed where my torso would be before laying on it for at least an hour, right after getting up, and two minutes after getting up. I compared the temperatures to determine which models were best at heat dissipation. I performed these tests several times until I felt confident in the measurements.

Support: This is a subjective test based on my four years of testing sleep products. Each morning, I would record any soreness I felt, how comfortable the topper felt the previous night, and I'd look at my sleep stats collected using the Garmin Forerunner 945 Smart Watch. I'd also note which positions felt most comfortable.

Motion isolation: I placed my phone with the Vibration Meter app open on the bed, approximately 12 inches from the right side. Next, I lifted a 15-pound bowling ball above my head and dropped it onto the topper so that it landed about 12 inches from the left side of the bed (and 36 inches from the phone). I performed this test five times and kept the median score.

Trial and warranty: You must be able to return a topper if it's not suitable for your body type and sleeping style. I looked at each topper's return policy/trial period and looked for any loopholes, like shipping costs. The median trial period for the models we tested was 30 nights, and I docked points if a topper didn't have a trial period. Also, since you want your topper to last, we looked at the warranties. The median warranty length is three years.

What we're testing next

We're constantly testing new mattress toppers and retesting our top picks to determine the best models. Here's what we're looking forward to testing for potential inclusion in this guide:

GhostBed Memory Foam Topper: Made of 3-inch-thick cooling gel memory foam, this topper has zoned support to provide pressure relief and support where you need it. It comes with a waterproof cover and has an elastic band that holds it in place.

Casper Mattress TopperThis 3-inch-thick buoyant latex foam topper is designed to offer a soft, plush feel while also allowing for airflow to help with heat dissipation. I'm curious to see how it compares to other latex toppers.

Wavy: I've had this memory foam topper for a few months and am waiting for it to be available to the public before testing. Wavy still hasn't announced a release date, but once it's available, I'll put it through its paces and let you know what I think.


Mattress topper FAQs Why should I buy a mattress topper?

There are several reasons why you might want a mattress topper. Many people like to have one around to use as a pad under their sleeping bag when camping, or in a pinch, it can serve as a guest bed.

The most common reason people turn to mattress toppers is to make their otherwise uncomfortable mattress more comfortable. Rebecca Robbins, PhD, associate scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, recommends a topper when you want to extend the life of your mattress by a year or two or if you got a second-hand mattress that doesn't match your sleep style.

Randall Laurich, DC, a chiropractor in South Florida, agreed. "I would say the main benefit of a topper is if a mattress is too firm, a mattress topper will make it softer and more contouring to the spine," he said.

However, Laurich said to consider that some mattress toppers can be too soft and unsupportive. "Not having enough firmness can cause the spine to reduce its curvature," Laurich said. "So a softer, thicker topper can sometimes have adverse effects, while a smaller, thinner topper could have more positive benefits overall."

Should you buy a new mattress or a mattress topper?

A mattress topper can provide all of the benefits listed above, but if your mattress is starting to exhibit sagging and providing less support, it might be time for a new one. First, check your mattress's warranty. Most warranties cover your bed for at least 10 years, and some last for a lifetime. If your mattress is still covered under warranty, you may be able to get a replacement or repair for free or for a nominal fee.

If your mattress has reached the end of its life and you can't afford to replace it yet, a mattress topper is a good stopgap that can help you squeeze an extra year or two out of your mattress while you scrape together the funds for a replacement.

Sometimes, our bodies or sleeping styles change, and this can cause our mattress to become less comfortable. A change in your preferences isn't covered by warranty, and you probably don't want to throw out a perfectly good mattress that still has plenty of years left in it. In this situation, a topper can help.

Lastly, mattress toppers can help couples with different sleep preferences. "If you want to sleep together though, you might put a topper under the fitted sheet on one side of the bed for somebody who prefers a plusher experience," Robbins said.

If you go this route, a Twin XL is your best bet. It's the same length as King and Queen size mattresses and half the width of a King.

How do you clean a mattress topper?

How you clean a topper will vary depending on the mattress topper. Consult the topper's user manual or tags or the manufacturer's website for the most accurate directions. Most mattress toppers are not machine washable. For instance, you should avoid getting latex and memory foam wet since they're hard to dry. In most cases, you will want to spot clean any messes with a mild detergent and a damp towel. Then, allow it to dry completely before covering or sleeping on it.

Whether you have a mattress topper or not, we strongly recommend using a mattress protector on your bed. The best ones are waterproof and machine-washable and cost as little as $20. Check out our guide to the best mattress protectors for more info.

Which mattress topper is right for your sleeping style?

There are three main sleeping styles: back, stomach, and side. Laurich recommends starting your mattress topper search with a firmness that is best for your style. "A stomach sleeper should have something a little less firm because if you have a belly or abdominal dissension, it's uncomfortable to be on something that's extremely firm," Laurich said.

He recommended something firmer for back sleepers to ensure the spine remains supported.

Side sleepers benefit from softer mattress toppers. However, Laurich warned these generalizations are meant as a starting point for finding the right topper. Preferences can vary significantly within each sleeping style.

If you're unsure about your comfort preferences, we strongly recommend choosing a mattress topper that comes with an extended trial period so you can return it if it's not right for you.

Is down ethical?

Down does not come from the feathers of birds. Instead, it comes from the soft underbelly of a goose or duck that was raised for food. Because of this, down is a sustainable byproduct. 

To ensure humane practices, many factories, processing plants, and farms undergo independent auditing. The Global Traceable Down Standard (GTDS) is the strictest certification. However, it mostly certifies clothing.

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is a common certification in the bedding industry. It evaluates the process from the farm to the final product, prohibits force-feeding and live-plucking, and makes sure the Five Freedoms of animal welfare are followed. These include freedom of movement, comfortable shelter, and access to fresh water and food.

Our top pick, the Parachute Down Mattress Pad, is made with RDS-certified down.

Check out our other mattress and bedding guides Read the original article on Business Insider

49 best gifts for new dads and expectant fathers this holiday season

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 7:07pm

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Becoming a parent is a complicated process and yet it can literally happen over night. From sleep schedules being thrown off to shifting priorities, new dads can feel out of sorts very quickly. But you can help a new dad. Thoughtful gifts that help them on a daily basis are some of the best ways to support them.

  • Dad's new normal may be rocking his world, but these thoughtful gifts will help ease the change.
  • From an on-the-go snack to comfortable sheets, we rounded up the best gifts for new dads this holiday.
  • Still looking for a gift? Check out our list of the All-Time Best products we've ever tested.

From a tea subscription to nonalcoholic wine, these are the gifts dads would ask for if they weren't too busy with diapers and figuring out how the stroller folds up to get into the car.

Here are 49 of the best gifts for new dads: Non-alcoholic wine

Jukes 6 Wine, available at Jukes Cordialities, $48.50

As tough as being a new dad can be, waking up at 2 a.m. for the bottle-feeding after a couple glasses of wine at dinner can be even harder. Thankfully, Jukes offers delicious wine without the brain fog. Available in white, red, or rose, each Jukes bottle makes delicious non-alcoholic wine when mixed with chilled water. 

A quick snack

Chomps Mild Variety Pack, available at Chomps, $22.50

A relaxed sit-down meal is all but a distant memory for many new dads, so snacking between feedings, bottle cleanings, diaper changes, and errands is key. Chomps makes a variety of meat sticks from beef, turkey, and venison, all of which are sustainably farmed and grass fed. Each stick includes 9 grams of protein, zero sugars, and no nitrates — healthy, quick, and easy.

Candles to freshen up the house

Elder & Co. Parks and Trails Sample Set, available at Elder & Co., $36

From stinky diapers to special lotions and shampoos, new fatherhood can be an olfactory assault. Thankfully, this eight-candle sampler from Elder & Co. includes scents like Appalachian Trail, Joshua Tree, and Grand Canyon to bring some much needed calm and control over the not-so-pleasant new baby smells.  

A travel trivia game

Gentleman's Hardware Road Trip Trivia, available at Paper Source, $14.95

Just because kids enter the picture doesn't mean traveling stops. In fact, trips to grandma and grandpa's house will have a new dad on the road more than before, so give them a gift that they can use. This road-trip trivia pack from Gentlemen's Hardware includes 100 cards and a convenient travel tin. 

A diaper backpack

Bag Nation Backpack Diaper Bag, available at Amazon, $59.95

Resembling a commuter bag, this 14-pocket backpack is durable and holds all the essentials, from diapers to bottles and everything in between. There's even a foldout changing pad.

A tea subscription

Atlas Tea Club 3-Month Subscription, available at Atlas Club, $60

Coffee can be a new parent's greatest weapon against restless nights and early mornings, but sometimes it can be too much. Gift the new dad in your life a monthly tea subscription from Atlas. The subscription includes two new single-origin teas from around the world delivered every month. 

A portable speaker

JBL Clip 3 Portable Speaker, available at Amazon, $49.95

The JBL Clip 3 is the ultimate bluetooth speaker for new dads. It comes in a variety of colors; has an integrated carabiner to attach to a stroller, car seat, or backpack; and, most importantly, is waterproof. Paired with a smartphone, dad can sit back and relax while blasting "Baby Shark" for the hundredth time.

A portable white noise machine

Marpac Portable White Noise Machine, available at Buy Buy Baby and Amazon, $26.99

The compact Marpac has impressive sound, a variety of white noise options, and a small nightlight. Dad can use the included clip to connect it to a stroller, car seat, or carrier for walks and car rides.

A convenient sling bag

Moment Fanny Sling, available at Moment and B&H Photo, from $59.99

Moment is known for making smartphone-oriented products, but within the past few years, the brand has moved into mobile lifestyle, and if anyone is living that, it's a new dad. This waterproof, easy-to-clean sling can hold a wallet, keys, phone, camera, snack bar, and other necessities.  It's perfect for running errands or a day traipsing around a theme park. 

*This product is currently backordered

A smart coffee warmer

Ember Mug², available at Target, Best Buy, Overstock, and Bloomingdale's, from $99.95

Every new parent knows the taste of lukewarm coffee — it's inevitable. Dad deserves (needs!) to have delicious, warm coffee. The Ember Mug² will keep their beverage warm for more than an hour, pairs with an app to ensure the right temperature, and recharges on a coaster. .

Hot sauce

Bushwick Kitchen Bees Knees Spicy Honey, available at Amazon, $14.99

Dad will be taking breakfast to the next level in no time at all with Bushwick Kitchen's sauces. Choose from sweet and spicy sauces like wildflower honey mixed with habanero peppers or mild, sweet options like Meyer lemon honey. 

A waterproof tote bag

Gift the Veer Tote, available at Adventureon, $99

This tote is a great gift for new dads — not only does it have padded handles and an interior water-resistant zip compartment, but the entire bag is made of coated waterproof fabric. That means dads can get it as dirty as they want and simply rinse it off to make it good as new.

A funny book about fatherhood

Man vs. Baby: The Chaos and Comedy of Real-Life Parenting, available at Amazon, $16.29

Nothing will fully prepare him for the chaos and confusion of being a new dad. However, Matt Coyne's sleep-deprived take on parenting provides hilarious and honest reassurance that he's doing alright, no matter how stressful it seems.

Polarized sunglasses

Gift the Sunski Puerto polarized sunglasses, available Sunski, $48

Some dads worry that their style will cease when they welcome a child into the world. A new pair of shades is a quick way to shake up the routine. These sunglasses are made of lightweight recycled material and feature polarized lenses that eliminate glare. Bonus, if the glasses break from normal use, Sunski will replace or fix them.

Comfortable slide sandals

Gift the Hunter Original Lightweight Moulded Slides, available at Hunter Boot and Nordstrom,  $45.00

Hunter's EVA slides fit the bill for easy, lightweight, and durable footwear. The perforated uppers and contoured footbed keep dad's feet cool and comfortable, and you can't beat the ease of simply sliding them on for errands or just to wear around the house.

A compact flashlight

Gift the HX-4 LED Flashlight, available at Amazon and Coast, from $15

Fumbling for diapers in the middle of the night or searching for that tiny clip from baby's teething toy that fell between the seats in the car — these are good reasons for dad to have a great flashlight. This one is small, has a clip and a magnet to attach it nearly anywhere, features a powerful LED in white and red light, and can be rotated 180 degrees to make sure it's exactly where dad needs it.

A new set of sheets for parents and baby

Gift the Brooklinen Classic Core Sheet Set, from $109

Brooklittles Crib Sheet Set, available at Brooklinen, from $32

Sleep, when it does happen for both dad and baby, is so much better on a set of soft sheets that make them feel like they're sleeping on a cloud. Brooklinen sheets are great for delicate skin and hot sleepers, and they come in a variety of colors and prints.

A basketball jersey for baby

NBA Baby Jersey, available at NBA Store, from $39.99

It's going to be a while before baby gets into it, but it's still a lot of fun for a new dad to watch the game with baby decked out in their favorite jersey.

A travel mug for coffee time

Gift the Stanley Classic Trigger-Action Travel Mug, available at Stanley and Bed Bath & Beyond, from $20

New dads rarely have both hands free, so eliminating the need to twist, pop, flip, or open their coffee mug makes life so much easier. Dad can simply add their coffee, screw on the top, and pull the trigger to open up the world of caffeine goodness.

A fitness app with extras

Centr Fitness App Subscription, available at Centr, from $10/month or $120/year

Built by Thor and his legion of trainers, Centr is a one-stop-shop for workouts ranging from yoga to full gym routines. The app includes short, effective workouts that are perfect for that new dad schedule and the guided mediation will slow dad's anxiety.

A shaving kit

Harry's Truman Shave Set, available at Harry's, $15

This essential shave set includes a razor with a comfortable handle and textured rubber grip, three German-engineered blade cartridges, foaming shave gel for a rich lather, and a travel cover to protect the blades.

Stroller phone mount

Skip Hop Stroll and Connect Universal Phone Holder, available at Buy Buy Baby, $14.99

Made with tough plastic and rubber grips, the Stroll and Connect mounts to a stroller or shopping cart. It stays put and won't fall off on bumpy terrain or in crowded aisles.

A wireless charging station

Nomad Base Station, available Nomad, $99.95

If the secret to success as a new dad is organization, Nomad's wireless charger fits the bill. It can power two devices simultaneously while also allowing for a USB-C and USB-A cord to be plugged in for a total of four devices at once. Mom and dad's phones, AirPods, and the portable white noise machine will all be ready to go at a moment's notice.

One tool for almost every job

Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool, available at REI, $59.95

The Leatherman Wingman is loaded with 14 tools, including a knife, screwdrivers, bottle openers, and even a 1-inch ruler, so dad can fix just about anything and pop open a cold one when they're done.

A device to keep track of everything

Tile Essentials 4-Pack, available at Amazon, $69.99

This grab bag of Tile options lets new parents rely on technology instead of their overtaxed brains. New dads can attach Tiles to their keys, diaper bag, and wallet to ensure those items never stay lost for too long. And if dad has their keys but not their phone, they can double tap the Tile to make it ring. 

Comfortable underwear

Saxx Quest Boxer Briefs, available at Quest, $32

The right pair of underwear makes everything go so much smoother. The lightweight material is soft and breathable, and the patented BallPark Pouch keeps everything in place.

A play kit of curated toys

Play Kit Subscription, available at Lovevery, from $36/month

Make those long hours playing on the floor count with a subscription to Lovevery curated age-appropriate toy kits. Delivered every two months, each kit comes with a guide that explains how the included toys support a child's development. 

Comfortable running socks

Gift the Darn Tough Stride Micro Crew Ultra-Light Running Sock, available at Amazon and Darn Tough, from $18.95

For many new dads, exercise is crucial to maintaining mental health, but they can't afford to get sore feet. These running socks are made from merino wool for moisture wicking, provide arch support to reduce fatigue, and have seamless stitching to to prevent blisters and chaffing. Another plus is Darn Tough's no-questions-asked lifetime guarantee.

A comfortable pillow

Coop Home Goods Original Pillow, available at Amazon, $61.99

A comfy pillow might be the most important ingredient for a restful night. The Coop pillow has adjustable fill that can be added or removed to their liking, and a 100-night trial means dad isn't stuck with it if they don't like it.

Instant pour-over coffee

Kahawa 1893 Coffee Lovers Gift Box, available at Kahawa 1893, $49

Restless nights and uncertain mornings may have dad missing their morning pour-over coffee ritual. They can still have that rich flavor thanks to third-generation Kenyan coffee farmer Margaret Kemunto Nyamumbo. This single serve is packaged like a tea bag, ready in five minutes, and 100% compostable. Bonus: You can send a tip directly to the women who picked the coffee.

A quick hang

Metolius Project Board, available at Backcountry, $64.95

With a variety of holds, from jugs to crimps to pockets, the Metolius Project Board is great for releasing tension with a quick upper body workout. Dad can use it just about anywhere indoors or outside, and the fine texture is easy on the skin.

An adjustable baby carrier

Ergobaby Omni 360 All-in-One Carrier, available at Buy Buy Baby, Amazon, and Ergobaby, from $161

Whether dad is running errands or spending a day in the park, a good baby carrier makes everything so much easier. The Ergobaby Omni 360 is made from super soft cotton and easily adjusts to fit waists and shoulders of all sizes. It works in multiple positions, too — front or back, face-in or face-out. 

An Instant Pot

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 (6-Ot.), available at Amazon, $89

With the Instant Pot, cooking dinner for the whole family is a breeze. The multicooker is great for preparing soups, meats, yogurt, and even baby food. Easy cleanup means more time to spend with the little one, too.

A meat or seafood box

Crowd Cow Gift Box, available at Crowd Cow, from $44

Give a new dad something delicious to cook. Crowd Cow's meats and seafood are sourced from independent producers that practice sustainable farming and ethical treatment of animals.

Super soft lounge pants

Tommy John Second Skin Lounge Pants, available at Tommy John, $68

New dads will love a pair of comfortable house pants that won't embarrass them when the in-laws show up unannounced. These soft, light micromodal pants from Tommy John are perfect, and they hold up nicely in the wash.

An interactive photo journal

"The Story of You" Baby Book, available at Artifact Uprising, $99

A phone full of pictures and videos is great, but dad will want something to hold onto the most special moments. In this photo book, featuring a fabric cover and foil stamped title, they can write down their memories of each milestone.

Comfortable shoes that slip on

Vasque Satoru Moc, available at Backcountry, $99.95

As any parent will tell you, getting your shoes on can be downright tough when you're holding the baby, diaper bag, and much, much more. Footwear brand Vasque has new dads covered. With a sock-like upper and memory foam footbed, dad will probably wear them all day, and the easy on and off makes them infinitely versatile.

A lightweight button-up for a put-together look

Tie Bar Short-Sleeve Shirt, available at Tie Bar, from $27.50

It's nice for dad to feel put-together sometimes. The 100% cotton button-ups from Tie Bar are perfect for a rare night out or day at the office.

A cold brew maker

Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker, available at Amazon, $24.99

Dad will love a cup of cold brew coffee when they need a pick-me-up after sneaking in an afternoon nap. The easy-to-use Takeya Deluxe makes up to 1 quart of concentrate. 

A durable water bottle

Hydro Flask Wide Mount Water Bottle, available at Hydro Flask, $32.95

When life gets as hectic as it does for new fathers, it's easy to forget to drink water. This durable insulated metal bottle keeps water cold and within arm's reach.

A delicious baby blanket

Tortilla Baby Blanket, available at Uncommon Goods, $48

The flour tortilla print on this blanket is perfect for wrapping your baby up like a bundle of burrito joy. The blanket is made of breathable cotton/polyester blend fabric that will keep baby comfortable and cool. 

A foam roller

TriggerPoint GRID foam roller, available at Amazon, $34.95

Knots and tight muscles go hand in hand with parenting. Dad will appreciate having this foam roller to roll away the aches and pains of being a new parent.

A tool kit

Cartman General Household 39-piece toolkit, available at Amazon, $19.99

There's just something about being a dad that turns everyone into an overnight handy person. This tool kit includes all the basics they'll need for assembling or repairing all that new gear in the nursery and beyond.

A soft cooler

CleverMade SnapBasket Soft-Sided Cooler Tote, available at Amazon, $33.95

Dad is going to need a good cooler for bringing groceries home from the store or packing up milk and baby food for a road trip to see the grandparents. This one has a 50-can capacity, but it still folds up small enough to stash under the seat when they don't need it.

A custom print of baby's footprints

Baby Footprint Art Print, available at Etsy, from $18

It's always hard to believe how little they used to be. This is an attractive, thoughtful personalized that fits nicely anywhere in the home.

A pair of chinos

Bonobos Chinos, available Bonobos, from $99

Unfortunately, a new dad can't wear lounge pants all the time. But that doesn't mean they've got to sacrifice comfort. Bonobos chinos come in multiple fits and sizes, and the signature curved waistband offers an unobtrusive fit that makes them great for the office, a trip to the store, or a playdate in the park. 

Single-origin coffee beans

Colectivo Coffee—Sumatra, available at Colectivo, from $15.95

If dad is a coffee fanatic, they'll love a bag of single-origin beans. Grown in the volcanic soil in the rugged mountains of the Indonesian island Sumatra, this rich, complex blend has notes of molasses and pineapple. And for those mornings where there's no time to hassle with a French press, don't overlook instant coffees, which have caught up in quality to the whole bean variety.

A smart speaker for baby's room

Echo Dot, available at Amazon, $34.99

A smart speaker is a nice addition to baby's room. It can play lullabies or classical music at bedtime, or dad can use it to listen to the game while they're playing with toys. 

An REI membership

REI Co-op Membership, available at REI, $20

Getting active and outdoors is great for kids, and something a new dad can do right from the start. With an REI membership, they'll get annual dividends, exclusive offers, and more to get the gear they and their family will want. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Activision Blizzard fired 20 employees for 'patterns' of harassment and discrimination

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 7:01pm
  • Activision Blizzard has fired 20 employees over harassment and discrimination issues.
  • Activision disciplined another 20 employees and announced a variety of internal changes.
  • The changes follow a lawsuit, SEC investigation, and employee walkout over widespread cultural issues.

Video game giant Activision Blizzard has fired 20 employees and disciplined another 20 workers over harassment and gender discrimination issues, the Financial Times first reported Tuesday.

Frances Townsend, Activision's chief compliance officer, told the FT that a months-long investigation had determined certain employees had exhibited "patterns" of misconduct that justified termination, while others were reprimanded for behavior the company believed could be addressed through additional training.

Townsend also told the FT that most of the misconduct happened off-site at events involving alcohol, and that several game developers and managers were let go, but that no one from Activision's board was fired.

In a memo sent to staff and published on its website Tuesday, Townsend announced a variety of internal changes, including that Activision will triple its spending on training resources, hire 19 full-time roles for its ethics and compliance team, and restructure its investigations team to be separate from its human resources and employee relations teams.

The announcement comes as Activision has faced widespread allegations of gender-based harassment and discrimination that have sparked employee backlash in recent months.

In July, the state of California sued Activision, following a two-year investigation into the company, accusing it of fostering a "pervasive frat boy" culture where women are paid less for the same jobs that men perform, regularly face sexual harassment, and are targeted for reporting issues.

The suit also said that female employees at Activision face "constant sexual harassment," from "having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments" to "being groped," and that no action was taken on issues reported to human resources and management.

Townsend and other Activision executives, including CEO Bobby Kotick, initially downplayed the claims in the lawsuit, leading more than 2,000 employees to co-sign a letter calling the company's response "abhorrent and insulting."

Kotick later issued a statement calling the initial responses "tone deaf," but hundreds of employees still walked out the following day to demand more systemic changes.

In September, the Securities and Exchange Commission opened its own investigation into Activision over how the company handled employees' allegations, issuing subpoenas to multiple employees. Activision has said it is cooperating with the SEC's investigation.

Some of the changes employees called for over the summer, such as dropping mandatory arbitration clauses from employee contracts, were not addressed in Townsend's memo on Tuesday.

Townsend told the FT that more changes are coming and that "Kotick and the Board basically gave me a blank check."

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US Air Force's biggest planes are getting a rest after scrambling to get 124,000 people out of Afghanistan

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 7:01pm
Evacuees wait to board a C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 23, 2021.
  • The US military and its partners evacuated 124,000 people from Afghanistan in a few weeks this summer.
  • US Transportation Command surged aircraft and personnel to support that operation.
  • Since then, US aircrews and aircraft have undergone training and maintenance to recover from that surge.

More than a month after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US Air Force crews and aircraft that were vital to evacuating 124,000 people are still recovering, according to Maj. Gen. Corey Martin, the director of operations for US Transportation Command.

The evacuation, called Operation Allies Refuge, wrapped up at the end of August with the departure of the final US military personnel. Civilian groups and commercial aircraft were also involved, and efforts to resettle Afghan evacuees have continued.

US Air Force mobility aircraft and crews were surged to Afghanistan in August - the number of C-17s at the airport in Kabul jumped from six on August 14 to 46 two days later - and are now catching up on maintenance and training.

"Just give you an idea of scale, today, for instance, probably 60 plus or minus a few C-17s are doing global missions around the world today [and] 10 plus or minus a few C-5s," but in August, "we had 60 C-17s that were just focused on the Central Command area of responsibility," Martin said during a Defense Writers Group event on October 7.

US airmen board a C-17 at Travis Air Force Base in California, August 25, 2021.

"There was a surge of aircraft and obviously a surge of crews, so anytime we surge like that both the aircraft and aircrew need a time to kind of regain that readiness," Martin said.

With roughly 60 C-17s now doing daily missions around the world, the force hasn't "taken a knee," Martin added, "but the aircraft have to look at some maintenance that would be deferred during a surge operation."

The evacuation involved than 500 crews operating more than 250 Air Force mobility aircraft. At its peak, nearly 100 C-17s were operating globally, Martin said, close to half of the Air Force's total C-17 fleet.

In addition to aircrews and maintainers and other supporting airmen, Contingency Response Force airmen were some of the first sent to the Kabul airport to establish and expand aircraft operations there, and Transportation Command's Global Operations Center grew from a few 24/7 workers to "dozens if not a hundred," Martin said.

"Some of the enabling forces that are under Transportation Command were very necessary," Martin added.

C-17s and KC-135s on the flight line at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, August 19, 2021.

For aircrews, regaining readiness means preparing for the range of missions they may be tasked with, including evacuations, humanitarian missions, and combat operations.

"Part of that reconstitution period for the crew, as well as just kind of recovering from the pace they were at, is also having training opportunities to focus on some of those different mission sets that Transportation Command is responsible for," Martin added.

Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, who was head of the Air Force component of Transportation Command during the evacuation, said at the Air Force Association conference in September that there was "a natural period" after a surge where the service needs to "tidy up" aircraft and allow crews to rest. (Van Ovost took command of Transportation Command this month.)

Brig. Gen. Daniel DeVoe, commander of the 618th Air Operations Center, said at the same event that 23 C-17 teams were in the air at any given time during the peak of the evacuation, with an average of 113 in the air over Europe and the Middle East each day.

DeVoe also said C-17s had fewer problems during the evacuation than he expected but that the Air Force had increased its use of C-5s, the service's largest aircraft, in recent weeks to allow for extended maintenance on the C-17 fleet.

Afghan passengers board a US Air Force C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, August 22, 2021.

Martin told reporters this month that work on "a larger after-action report" on the evacuation is underway but that a few lessons are already apparent.

Flights out of Afghanistan were paused at one point due to processing backlogs elsewhere, underscoring the need for "nodes" from which to operate.

"One of the lessons that started to emerge early is that it's more than just aircraft. You need places to put the aircraft," Martin said. "We know the nodes are as important as the capability of the mobility assets, but that I think is a lesson that the greater community realized in the early days of this operation."

That also underlined the importance of aerial refueling, which "allowed for a C-17 that had sometimes 400, 415 Afghan refugees to stay aloft long enough to sequence in to land and not have to go to a location that was not ready to accept refugees," Martin said.

But Martin did express dissatisfaction with how the command ramped up operations as the evacuation intensified.

"What I would like to do is just be able to have what we call our normal battle rhythm, our normal processes, be able to be scaled to any operation, and I did not see that that was the case right away with that."

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to use Wi-Fi calling and make phone calls even without a cell signal

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 6:43pm
Wi-Fi calling can come in handy when you're traveling.
  • Wi-Fi calling allows you to make calls using a Wi-Fi connection instead of a cellular connection.
  • Wi-Fi calling is available on nearly every popular phone, and nearly every major cell carrier lets you use it for free.
  • If you have spotty cell service, Wi-Fi calling is a great way to make sure your calls don't drop.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

If you've had a cellphone for a long time, you've probably heard of Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling is a great feature that helps you make quality phone calls even when your cell reception is weak.

Here's what you should know about Wi-Fi calling, including how to set it up on your phone.

Wi-Fi calling, explained

Although Wi-Fi calling has been around for years, most people have never used it, since it's usually hidden in a corner of your phone's Settings menu. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about it.

What is Wi-Fi calling?

Wi-Fi calling allows you to make phone calls and send texts over a Wi-Fi connection rather than through your phone carrier's cellular network.

Why would I use Wi-Fi calling?

There are several advantages to Wi-Fi calls over standard calls:

  • Wi-Fi calls use something called a High-Definition (HD) Voice service, which typically makes the call's audio quality clearer.
  • If you're in an area where cellular service is spotty, Wi-Fi calls can sometimes keep calls from getting disconnected.
  • Your Wi-Fi connection doesn't need to be extremely fast to support a Wi-Fi call. Most internet speeds are capable - 1Mbps should be enough.

Wi-Fi calling can save you from dropped calls in rural areas.

How do I know if I can use Wi-Fi calling?

Nearly all major cellular carriers in the United States - this includes AT&T, Verizon, Mint, and T-Mobile - support Wi-Fi calling on all modern iPhone and Android smartphones.

Is Wi-Fi calling free?

Wi-Fi calling is free, as long as the calls are being made to US numbers. In some rare cases, you may need an unlimited plan for free Wi-Fi calling.

For more information, check your specific carrier's Wi-Fi calling policies:

Are there any downsides to Wi-Fi calling?

When you make Wi-Fi calls internationally, you'll be charged as if you were making a regular international call. Be sure to double-check your carrier's international calling plan before racking up extra fees.

If you're traveling abroad and want to make calls, it's safest to use a third-party app like WhatsApp rather than worry about incurring any international calling fees from your carrier.

How to turn on Wi-Fi calling

The exact way to turn on Wi-Fi calls on your phone will depend on what phone you have. Here's how to enable Wi-Fi calling on your iPhone or Android.

On an iPhone

1. Open your phone's Settings app and tap the Cellular option to open your cellular network menu.

2. Find the Wi-Fi Calling option and tap it.

Open the "Wi-Fi Calling" menu.

3. Toggle the Wi-Fi Calling switch to the left, so it turns green.

Tap the switch so it toggles to the right.

4. A pop-up will appear, giving you more details about the sort of information that gets sent to your cell phone carrier when you enable Wi-Fi calling. Read to make sure you're okay with the terms, then tap Enable.

Tap "Enable" in the pop-up menu.

5. Another pop-up will appear, asking you to confirm your address - this is so if you call 911 with Wi-Fi, emergency services will know your location. The appearance of this pop-up may change slightly based on your cellular carrier. Confirm your address, then tap Next.

Confirm your address using the form given.

6. Follow the on-screen instructions from your carrier to finish setting up Wi-Fi calling on your device.

On Android

1. Open your phone's dialer - the screen where you type in phone numbers - and tap the three dots in the top-right corner.

2. Select Settings.

Open your dialer app's settings.

3. In the menu that appears, tap Wi-Fi calling and then tap the switch next to it so it flips to the right.

4. You'll be asked to confirm that you want to enable Wi-Fi calls, and then you'll have to enter your address - this is so if you call 911 with Wi-Fi, emergency services will know your location.

Once you've done both, Wi-Fi calling will be enabled.

How to change your Wi-Fi password and secure your internet connection'What is a good internet speed?': The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internetHow to make a call on WhatsApp and start individual or group calls in the appHow to connect to a Wi-Fi network on your Android phone or tablet, and disconnect when you're doneRead the original article on Business Insider

Democratic senators say they don't trust Facebook with digital currency and urge the company to stop Novi launch

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 6:06pm

Democratic senators on Tuesday called on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to stop the launch of its new cryptocurrency wallet Novi, which the social media giant unveiled earlier in the day.

"Facebook cannot be trusted to manage a payment system or digital currency when its existing ability to manage risks and keep consumers safe has proven wholly insufficient," the senators said in a letter dated October 19. "We urge you to immediately discontinue your Novi pilot and to commit that you will not bring Diem to market."

The two-page letter came from the office of Senator Brian Schatz and was signed by Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith, Richard Blumenthal, and Sherrod Brown.

On Tuesday, Facebook announced that users in the US and Guatemala can now sign up for the pilot program.

Through Novi, a standalone app like Instagram and WhatsApp, users will be able to transfer money abroad instantly and with no fees. Novi users will be able to transact paxos dollar or USDP, a stablecoin created in 2018 whose value is pegged to the US dollar.

"On multiple occasions, Facebook has committed not to launch a digital currency absent federal financial regulators' approval," the senators said, citing a remark Zuckerberg made in 2019 before the House Financial Services Committee in which he said Facebook will not launch a payments system unless US regulators sign off.

At that time, Zuckerberg was referring to Diem, a Facebook blockchain-based payment system formerly known as libra. The project was ultimately shelved after a series of congressional hearings in 2019.

"Facebook's decision to pursue a digital currency and payments network is just one more example of the company 'moving fast and breaking things' (and in too many cases, misleading Congress in order to do so)," the senators added.

The senators also highlighted the comment of David Marcus during the unveiling of the product. Marcus, the head of Novi, said his team will "not launch without the proper regulatory framework." But stablecoins, the senators countered, and the risks that come with it, are still being discussed in the senate.

"In addition to the risks products like Diem pose to financial stability, you have not offered a satisfactory explanation for how Diem will prevent illicit financial flows and other criminal activity," the senators said.

At the beginning of the letter, the senators also underscored what they see as harmful effects on society due to its "relentless pursuit of profits at the expense of its users."

As for Novi, a spokesperson said: "We look forward to responding to the Committee's letter."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Supreme Court refuses to stop vaccine mandates for health workers in Maine - the first time it weighed in on a statewide mandate

Tue, 10/19/2021 - 5:43pm
  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear an emergency appeal of vaccine requirements for Maine health care workers.
  • The high court has previously rejected a challenge to a vaccine mandate for New York City teachers.
  • Vaccine mandates have been challenged across the country over the pandemic.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stop a state-imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in Maine that's expected to take effect next week.

The high court declined to hear an emergency appeal of the Maine vaccine requirement. The order was handed down by Justice Stephen Breyer, a Democratic appointee assigned to the First Circuit, which covers Maine.

It's not the first time the court has rejected challenges to vaccine mandates. Earlier this month, Democratic-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor refused to hear an emergency appeal from public school teachers opposed to a vaccine requirement in New York City.

Likewise, former President Donald Trump's latest appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, chose not to block a vaccine requirement for students and staff at Indiana University in August.

The Maine case is the first time the Supreme Court considered a statewide vaccine mandate. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills announced on September 2 that she will begin enforcing the requirement to health care workers on October 29, allowing them more time to get their shots against coronavirus. The decision was backed by major health care organizations in the state.

"Anyone who is placed in the care of a health care worker has the right to expect - as do their families - that they will receive high-quality, safe care from fully vaccinated staff," Mills said at the time.

A national religious organization, Liberty Counsel, sued Mills and other Maine officials in an effort to block the mandate. The group said it represented over 2,000 health care workers in the state who don't want to be obliged to get vaccinated.

A federal judge rejected the lawsuit and later, a federal appeals court affirmed the ruling. Liberty Counsel then filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, which denied to hear it on Tuesday.

Most health care workers in Maine have complied with getting vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.

There is longstanding Supreme Court precedent that allows state governments to impose vaccine requirements. The right was upheld in 1905, when the court decided Massachusetts can require vaccines against smallpox.

Still, opponents of vaccine mandates have sought to challenge requirements being imposed in states across the country to combat the coronavirus pandemic. National and state lawmakers, mainly Republican, have heavily criticized mandates as an infringement of personal liberties.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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