Can sound be used as a weapon? 4 questions answered

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) Kevin Fu, University of Michigan and Wenyuan Xu, Zhejiang University (THE CONVERSATION) Editor’s note: Government and academic investigators continue to probe reports from Cuba that, starting in 2016 and continuing through 2017, U.S. and Canadian diplomats and tourists may have been subjected to a “sonic weapon,” damaging their hearing, causing nausea, speech problems and potentially evenmild brain injuries. Electrical engineering and computer science professors Wenyuan Xu from Zhejiang University and Kevin Fu from the University of Michigan explain their research, which suggests a more likely scenario of sloppy engineering, and what ultrasound frequencies (which can be used to transmit information gathered by listening devices) traveling through the air can – and can’t – do. 1. What is ultrasound useful for? The most commonly known use for ultrasound – high-frequency sound waves human ears can’t hear – is a medical device used for examining a fetus during pregnancy. But there are plenty of other uses. Many offices have occupancy sensors that use ultrasound to detect movement and keep the lights on when someone is in a space, and off when nobody is around. These sensors operate at frequencies such as 32 kilohertz, far above what the human ear can hear – which is a range from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. Other products use ultrasound to deliver targeted sound, for instance allowing a museum to play a recording for visitors in one area of an exhibit without disturbing others nearby. Electronic pest repellents use ultrasound to keep rodents or insects at bay. A similar product can even be used to disperse teenagers; aging tends to reduce people’s ability to hear higher frequency sounds, so a noisemaker can annoy young people without adults even noticing. (This has also let teens Continue Reading

Why is there a norovirus outbreak at the Winter Olympics? 4 questions answered

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) Kartikeya Cherabuddi, University of Florida (THE CONVERSATION) Editor’s note: At the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, there have been more than 200 confirmed cases – mostly security and games personnel, but also two athletes. We asked Kartikeya Cherabuddi, an infectious disease expert at the University of Florida, to explain what this virus is and how it spreads. 1. What is norovirus? What do the Olympics, cruise ships and nursing homes have in common? They all involve humans congregating in a small area – creating a comfortable environment for norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is a very contagious virus. It’s a common cause of gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the intestine, worldwide. The symptoms start as abdominal cramps and nausea. Vomiting – more common in children – and diarrhea – more common in adults – can also occur. About half of cases involve a low-grade fever around 100.5°F. Some people have no symptoms. In fact, as many as one-third of infected people show no symptoms but still pass the viruses in the stool. Norovirus spreads from an infected person mainly by direct contact (such as shaking hands), by touching an infected surface or though contaminated water and food. Seven in 10 of all contaminated food related norovirus outbreaks are caused by infected food workers. Norovirus can cause serious illness and even death in children under the age of five, as well as the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. In otherwise healthy people, including athletes, it could cause dehydration and significant discomfort. There’s no specific treatment. Doctors typically support patients by providing oral and intravenous fluids. The good news is that there are no long-term complications. Recovery is quick, usually in 72 hours. Outbreaks tend to terminate Continue Reading

Black lung disease on the rise: 5 questions answered

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) Anna Allen, West Virginia University and Carl Werntz, West Virginia University (THE CONVERSATION) Editor’s note: An article published Feb. 6, 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health had identified 416 cases of advanced black lung disease among coal miners in central Appalachia. New cases of black lung had been rare until recently, but this study suggests that the incidence is rising. Anna Allen and Carl Werntz, professors of occupational medicine at West Virginia University who treat miners with black lung, explain what causes this disabling disease. What is black lung disease, and what causes it? Underground mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Risks include inhaling toxic gases, such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide; being crushed by roof falls or mining equipment; drowning when tunnels fill with water; and injury in fires and explosions. Even if miners survive the workplace, they may suffocate to death years later. Surface and underground mining is associated with two pneumoconioses, or dust diseases of the lung. Black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, comes from inhaling coal mine dust. The other disease, silicosis, is caused by inhaling silica dust from crushed rocks. Black lung and silicosis often appear together because coal seams are found between rock layers that contain silica. When miners inhale dust, it deposits along their airways. Their bodies try to remove the dust by sending in special white blood cells called macrophages to engulf and chemically digest it. But the cells are unable to break down the dust, so they die and release enzymes that damage lung tissue. This causes problems that include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and fibrosis Continue Reading

Charity and taxes: 4 questions answered

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) Patrick Rooney, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (THE CONVERSATION) Editor’s note: Patrick Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, weighs in on why Americans who have lost incentives to give to charity through the new tax law may donate less from now on. The answers are based partly on questions he fielded from fundraising consultant and blogger Michael Rosen. 1. What will affect giving the most? The biggest change is indirect: By roughly doubling the standard deduction, the tax code changes make giving to charity less of a bargain. Only Americans who itemize their tax returns are eligible for the charitable deduction, a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their taxable income that lowers what they owe the IRS. Researchers like me believe that the share of taxpayers who can take advantage of this tax break will plummet to about 5 percent from roughly 30 percent. That will make a big difference because most people who can take advantage of this tax break do. More than 55 percent of U.S. households said they made charitable gifts in 2014. But for those who itemize, my colleagues and I found that 82.4 reported having taken advantage of the charitable deduction. This hypothetical example shows how this could play out: Pharmacist “Josephine Doe” paid a 25 percent marginal tax rate on her US$100,000 income as a joint filer (under the old tax law). Because her family itemized, her $100 annual donation to a local animal shelter only cost $75, while Uncle Sam basically paid the rest through a tax break. Under the new law, her family will take the standard deduction, making her charitable contribution no longer tax deductible. Giving $100 will cost $100. We anticipate that the tax code changes will lead Americans and U.S. companies to Continue Reading

The state of the US solar industry: 5 questions answered

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) Joshua D. Rhodes, University of Texas at Austin (THE CONVERSATION) Editor’s note: On Jan. 22, 2018, the Trump administration announced plans to impose punitive duties on solar panels imported from abroad. This decision came in response to a complaint filed by two solar companies, but much of the industry opposes the action, which trade groups say will increase the cost of solar projects and depress demand. To illustrate what’s at stake, energy scholar Joshua Rhodes provides some context on the U.S. solar industry and its opportunities and challenges. How big is the U.S. solar industry, and what is its growth trajectory? The U.S. solar industry generated US$154 billion in economic activity in 2016, including direct sales, wages, salaries, benefits, taxes and fees. Its revenues have grown from $42 million in 2007 to $210 million in 2017. About 25 percent of total new power plant capacity installed in 2017 came from solar. Total installed U.S. solar capacity is over 50 gigawatts – the equivalent generating capacity of 50 commercial nuclear reactors. Solar is projected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future. However, recent events such as the solar trade tariff and tax code changes could dampen that trend. According to one estimate, the tariff alone will reduce solar installations by 11 percent from 2018 through 2022. The industry employs about 370,000 people in the United States, of which 260,000 are full-time. Solar photovoltaic installers make up about half of this workforce. In fact, solar PV installer is currently the fastest-growing job in the nation, with a median annual salary of nearly $40,000. For comparison, the coal industry only supports about 160,000 jobs. Electric power generation from solar and wind energy combined contributes about three times as many jobs as electricity production from fossil fuels. Continue Reading

San Francisco homelessness Q&A: Frequently asked questions, answers

By Amy Graff, SFGATE Updated 11:38 am, Tuesday, June 28, 2016 We see homeless people every day pushing carts piled high with garbage bags filled with everything they own. Now, we get to look inside and see what's inside some of those bags. The last item Markael Raybon shows us may surprise you. Media: Kev How can I help people experiencing homelessness? Should I give them money? What should I do if a homeless person is sleeping on my doorstep every night? The questions that arise around homelessness in San Francisco aren't always easy ones and the answers can be quite complex. The most pressing question of where to find a bed—whether you're looking for shelter yourself or helping someone secure it—brings up a complicated system of shelter shortages, long lines and waitlists. Below we aim to provide responses to some of the most common questions.  How many people are homeless in San Francisco? According to the 2015 homeless count, 6,686. But really the number is elusive. "Multiple government agencies have attempted to calculate the scope of homelessness, but accurately measuring it or its social and economic impacts is difficult, if not impossible," Joaquin Palomino writes in a story for the San Francisco Chronicle. "Homelessness can take many forms and is often a temporary status, making it hard to reliably track." Many people think the number is between 10,000 and 12,000. window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-10', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 10', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: Continue Reading

‘Can I get a tax credit?’: Season for Sharing questions answered

We've collected a few readers' questions since this year's Season for Sharing campaign kicked off in November, so let's try to answer them.As you know, Season for Sharing has been around since 1993. In that time, we've distributed 100 percent of the more than $60 million raised to non-profits in Arizona. Last year, we raised $2.4 million and gave grants to 159 charities.This year, we hope to do better. Click here to donate.Meanwhile, here are some of your questions answered. We'll update this article as others come in. The most frequent question is about the state tax-credit situation.QUESTION: Does my Season for Sharing donation qualify for a state tax credit?ANSWER: Unfortunately, no. The way the state law is written, "umbrella" funds such as Season for Sharing that give to numerous charities do not qualify. The only way we would qualify is to to limit our grants to the charities on the state-approved list. Last we checked, only about 50 percent of our partner agencies were on that list. Contact your legislator here. MORE ON SEASON FOR SHARING: How to donate 5 reasons to donate Your support makes campaign a success Full coverage Q: Can I claim the donation on my federal taxes?A: Yes. Season for Sharing partners with the non-profit 501(c)3 Arizona Community Foundation to collect and distribute donations, so your gift qualifies for a federal tax deduction.Q: In the packet that was mailed to me, the matching amount is different in the glossy pamphlet than in the cover letter. Why?A: At the time the glossy pamphlet had to get to the printer, the amount was lower. We were able to include the updated amount in the cover letter but should've explained the discrepancy. We are matching donations 50 cents on the dollar up to $600,000. Apologies for any confusion.Q: Can I donate monthly through the year?A: Yes. Just click the monthly installment option under "Payment Plan" on the online form that can be found at or at Continue Reading

Immigration questions answered on first day of Citizenship Now! 2017

Already more than a thousand callers have had their questions answered at the 15th Annual CUNY/Daily News Citizenship NOW! Call-in. Read about the people answering your calls at the Daily News. The Call-in continues through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Spanish speakers call (212) 444-5964. English speakers and speakers of other languages call (212) 444-5968. The Deaf/HoH number is 711. Here are some questions answered on the call-in’s first day. Q. I read that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will continue, but that President Trump may end the program. Should I apply to renew my DACA status? A. Yes. While it’s true that President Trump could end the DACA program at any time, I doubt that he will. Those who qualify but haven’t applied should do so. Those with DACA should renew. Despite the White House statement that “No final determination has been made” on DACA, I’m optimistic that the program will continue. Using the “what would I tell my sister or brother” test, I say, apply if you qualify. Just speak to an immigration law expert before submitting your application. Q. I read the naturalization oath and it requires me to renounce my home-country citizenship. I’ve heard about dual citizenship. How does that work? A. When you naturalize, you renounce all foreign citizenships. Whether you actually lose your home-country citizenship depends on the rules of that country. The United States will not penalize you for exercising your home-country citizenship rights. If you qualify for dual citizenship, U.S. citizenship and citizenship of a foreign country, use a U.S. passport to enter the United States. You can use either your U.S. or home-country passport to enter a country abroad. For more on dual citizenship, including a discussion of which countries allow for it, go to Q. I want to become a U.S. citizen, but I can’t afford to pay a lawyer. Continue Reading

Citizenship NOW! hotline ends after helping 12,571 people get immigration questions answered

The record-breaking Citizenship NOW! hotline ended Friday evening after helping 12,571 people get their immigration questions answered. Volunteers who manned the phones all week at the 10th annual Daily News and CUNY call-in celebrated another huge success as the lines went quiet at 7 p.m. “When people see volunteers from the community spending time talking to callers about their immigration issues, it makes such a tremendous difference,” New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales said during a visit to the call center Friday. “It says, ‘Here in New York we welcome immigrants, and we want them to become part of the family in New York.’ ” New York State Sens. Gustavo Rivera and Malcolm Smith, Assemblyman Rafael Espinal and City Councilman Mathieu Eugene also swung by Citizenship NOW!, which surpassed a milestone this week of answering more than 100,000 calls since its inception. Dedicated Spanish- and English-language phone lines rang off the hook from Monday through Friday, and volunteers were able to answer questions about green cards, citizenship, visa-related travel restrictions and more for free and in confidence. Volunteers also spoke as many as 50 different languages, including Greek, Haitian Creole and Albanian to name just a few. “People are afraid to reach out to anonymous places but they feel comfortable having CUNY and the Daily News coming together,” said Espinal, who took time to answer several calls himself. “I said relax, we’re here to help you, not here to take your money.” Smith also put on a headset and picked up the phone, offering help to a number of callers who wanted to know how they could become U.S. citizens. Friday was Rivera’s first visit to Citizenship NOW! since his election. He hailed the call-in for assisting immigrants hoping to achieve their own American Dream. “This diversity is what makes us great,” Rivera said. Continue Reading

5 recruiting questions answered

Where will the top uncommitted DE’s end up?The 2017 class featured top talent at the defensive end position, three of whom are still uncommitted: Callaway’s James Williams, Oak Grove’s Jaden Crumedy and Olive Branch’s Fabien Lovett. For Williams he has it narrowed down to five: Louisville, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Alabama. He plans to make his decision before Callaway’s first game August 18. Crumedy has been tight-lipped about where he’s leaning, saying he’s going to make his decision after the 2017 season. He holds offers from seven Division I programs including Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Finally, Fabien Lovett’s been open about his top three schools saying Mississippi State is at No. 1 followed by Alabama and Ole Miss. Teammate Jaylon Reed committed to Mississippi State following Big Dawg camp in July and has not been shy about trying to get his friend to join the #stateteam18. It would not be surprising if Lovett was the next Bulldog to be. What is the future for Ole Miss and its 2018 recruiting class?The resignation of Hugh Freeze brought a lot of uncertainty to Ole Miss’ 2018 class. The Rebels lost three 2018 commits so far in three-star guard Blaine Scott, three-star defensive tackle Israel Antwine and three-star corner back Jaylin Williams. In the 2019 class they lost three-star corner back Bobby Wolfe. The larger impact it’s had though has been on in-state players deciding between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Two of those being running back Fabian Franklin and cornerback Jaylon Reed, who both said Freeze’s resignation changed things for them. Both Reed and Franklin committed to Mississippi State just days following the resignation. Until Ole Miss names a permanent head coach it is going to have a difficult time getting commitments. On top of the unknown at head coach, recruits won’t know about the NCAA fall-out until much later in the year. The early signing day Continue Reading