🐤 A fungus among us

Tennesseans are up in arms about an issue they say Jack Daniel's whiskey is causing.

Thursday | March 2nd, 2023
Early Chirp
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Happy Thursday, chirpers! I always like to kick things off with an inspiring story whenever possible — and one of rock music’s “good guys” has provided that opportunity today.

Dave Grohl (who’s counted me as a fan since he was the drummer for Nirvana) showed up in L.A. this week to cook up a meal for hundreds of local homeless people.

Not only is he a one-man band, but he’s apparently also an expert barbecuer. He showed up with his own smoker and spent 24 hours preparing everything.

My advice? Whenever possible, be like Dave Grohl.

-Chris Agee

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*Market data for this issue is from March 1st, 2023 at 5:18pm EST

🏦 Markets: We’re in a new month, but apparently nobody told Wall Street. Volatility remains the name of the game as investors brace for the likelihood of more interest rate hikes.

Early manufacturing data showed that activity in the sector fell for a fourth straight month in February, prompting new concerns about the economy. It wasn’t all bad news, though, since orders saw a boost last month compared to January’s totals.

The stock market ended with a down day. While the Dow Jones bucked the trend, both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were off by a fraction of a percent.


The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

The Breakdown Giphy

💉 Slashing prices: The Biden administration has placed a priority on reducing the cost of insulin medication, including a $35 per month price cap for Medicare recipients in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law last year. Now, one major pharmaceutical company is extending that reduction to everyone with private insurance who uses its most widely prescribed product. Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks announced a 70% price drop for Humalog in a statement on Wednesday, explaining: “While the current healthcare system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone and that needs to change.”

📲 Introducing features: Aside from concerns about TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government, critics have argued that heavy use of the social media app can be detrimental to the well-being of kids and teens. This week, the company responded to that backlash by rolling out a slate of new parental control and time-limiting features aimed at reducing the likelihood that young people will spend hours on the platform each day without any supervision. As TikTok announced on Wednesday, the app will provide minors with an automatic 60-minute daily limit or prompt heavy users to set their own limit. Parents can also gain more control over their kids’ activities by filtering certain topics, silencing notifications, and reducing screen time.

❌ Losing support: Although she sailed into office in 2019 with nearly three-fourths of the vote, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot came up short in her bid for re-election. The Democrat’s tenure in office was historic, making her the Windy City’s first openly gay mayor and the first Black woman to hold the position. Over the course of subsequent years, however, rampant crime across the city has chipped away at her support and she became the first incumbent mayor in 40 years to lose an election. In a ranked-choice vote this week, she came in third — behind moderate candidate Paul Vallas and far-left rival Brandon Johnson. Vallas and Johnson will face off in April’s runoff election.

🔋 Sharing power: Tesla has recently been touting its efforts to provide more fast-charging charging stations for electric vehicle owners — even those who don’t drive the company’s cars. This week, a number of “Supercharger” locations have begun allowing non-Tesla vehicles to get a power boost. Of course, the fact that Tesla uses a different charging port than most other EVs presents a hurdle for those who drive vehicles made by other companies. The charging stations allow for a “Magic Dock” to convert non-Tesla ports. There’s also an added cost for EVs from other automakers to use the Tesla docks.

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Here’s Why Tennessee Residents Are Worried About ‘Whiskey Fungus’

The invasive mold is covering just about everything in the area.

Here’s Why Tennessee Residents Are Worried About ‘Whiskey Fungus’ Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for New York Magazine

Jack Daniel’s whiskey is an American institution with deep roots in the area of Tennessee where its spirits have always been distilled.

In recent years, however, some of the locals have started to wonder if the company is making them sick. After six barrel houses were built in Lincoln County about five years ago, nearby residents started to notice black mold growing on surfaces of all kinds and they think a variety of newly acquired health problems could be related to what has become known as “whiskey fungus.”

What causes it?

According to some experts, the ethanol that is vaporized during the aging process can accelerate the growth of the fungus, which is scientifically known as Baudoinia compniacensis.

Although it was first discovered in 2007, it wasn’t until the new barrel houses were built more than a decade later that officials and residents alike started paying close attention to the issue.

The company currently plans to build another 14 such facilities in the area. Despite the added revenue this would bring to the county, concerned locals aren’t happy.

Residents push back

Whether they have developed any health problems or not, many people in the area are outraged that the company has caused an infestation of whiskey mold that covers porches, cars, traffic signs, and almost anything else it can find.

A group of concerned citizens filed a lawsuit seeking, among other things, an improved air filtration system that will limit the ethanol vapor allowed to escape the barrels and a study of the local environment aimed at finding out the extent of the problem.

One of those locals says he spends $10,000 annually to powerwash his home with bleach water to remove the mold.

For its part, the company claims it’s in compliance with all environmental regulations.

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Digging Into The Effort To Create A Lunar Time Zone

Moon-bound astronauts might soon be able to synchronize their watches.

Digging Into The Effort To Create A Lunar Time Zone Giphy

Do you know what time it is on the moon right now? As it turns out, that’s a trick question.

There’s no standardized lunar time zone and, until recently, that hasn’t really been a big deal. As space exploration becomes more common and less expensive, however, there’s a growing need to establish a recognized system by which to tell time on the moon.

Identifying the current problem

Up to now, any missions to the moon simply use the same time as the nation that leads it. That’s been an imperfect system that relies on the terrestrial system known as coordinated universal time — but it’s been good enough so far.

The European Space Agency, however, now says the time is right (no pun intended) to create a new standard. Doing so, proponents say, would have a few major benefits.

  • It would allow multiple spacecraft to precisely synchronize their positions
  • Crews would be able to more easily communicate with each other
  • Navigation controls would provide more exact location data

But there are a few wrinkles to iron out before the lunar time zone can be officially rolled out.

Addressing the main concerns

The primary problem standing in the way of establishing such a standard is the impact of Earth’s gravity on the moon. This added force causes clocks to move slightly faster there than they do on our own planet. Specifically, a clock on the moon is roughly 56 microseconds ahead of an Earth-based clock at the end of each day.

International agencies also need to determine whether the moon, like this planet, should be divided up into different time zones. The future of lunar colonies remains uncertain, so this aspect of the process is still up in the air.

It’s a challenge that experts say we need to start addressing now.

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Doctors Say Walking For 11 Minutes Per Day Can Help You Live Longer

A simple change can reduce your risk of stroke, cancer, and heart disease.

Doctors Say Walking For 11 Minutes Per Day Can Help You Live Longer Giphy

Now that we’re getting into the third month of the year, it’s probably safe to say that many of you have let your fitness-related New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside … I know I have.

But if spending hours at the gym isn’t your thing, studies show that just 11 minutes of activity each day can really help improve your overall health.

Here’s what to do

According to researchers at Cambridge University, spending a total of 75 minutes per week engaging in a brisk walk can help reduce the risk of dying early by a significant 23%.

Specifically, this type of cardiovascular exercise is linked to reducing the risks of stroke, heart failure, and even certain cancers.

And this wasn’t just some study based on a small sample of participants. The researchers looked at nearly 200 peer-reviewed papers that included results from a total of more than 30 million individuals.

Here’s a closer look at the potential benefits:

  • The risk of heart disease decreases by 17%.
  • Cancer risks overall drop by 7%.
  • Certain types of cancers saw a risk reduction of up to 26%.

No need to overdo it

While an 11-minute daily walk was shown to reduce the risk of early death, the study didn’t show that the benefit continued to increase if participants got more than that. While more intense workouts can help reduce body fat and build muscle, if you’re looking for the benefits outlined above, 75 minutes per week is the sweet spot.

As study author Dr. Leandro Garcia explained, people shouldn’t feel pressure to do a specific type of exercise.

“Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed,” he said, advising: “Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”

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Written by Chris Agee

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