Happy Friday. Have you ever wondered what your own funeral would be like? Now, you don’t even have to wait – a South Korean company is offering “living funeral” services in which customers can take funeral portraits, write a last testament, and lay in a closed coffin.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Update on the Vaping Situation
More than 2,000 Americans have been diagnosed with a vaping-related illness, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released yesterday. Forty people across 24 states have died.
How did we get here again? Cases of a mysterious lung disease related to electronic cigarettes were reported over the spring and summer, and the CDC launched an investigation on August 17. The first vaping-related death was reported on August 23. So far, there has been no single ingredient or device linking the illnesses, but most who got sick reported having used vape products with THC, the high-inducing chemical found in marijuana.
The industry response Juul Labs announced yesterday that it was halting U.S. sales of its mint-flavored vaping pods following a government-funded study, released Tuesday, that indicated mint was the most popular among teens. This comes after Juul stopped U.S. sales of its non-tobacco, non-menthol-based flavors (mango, creme, fruit, and cucumber) in mid-October in the face of criticism and a federal criminal probe related to its marketing tactics.
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The deadline to file for candidacy in Alabama’s 2020 primary election is today. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his bid for the U.S. Senate seat that he held for 20 years, and Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to file to be on Alabama’s presidential primary ballot.
A severe drought in southern Africa is threatening 45 million people with hunger across several countries – also, more than 100 elephants in Zimbabwe have died from lack of water and vegetation. International aid organizations are planning emergency food deliveries to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and other countries hit hard by low rainfall and high temperatures.
China announced yesterday that it had come to an agreement with the U.S. to lift some tariffs as part of a phase-by-phase process. The announcement comes amid an ongoing, 20-month-long trade war between the two countries.
Amazon has agreed to carry the Disney+ streaming service on Fire TV devices after more than a month of negotiations. Disney also released its quarterly earnings report yesterday, showing both increased revenue and expenses as the entertainment giant prepares to launch its streaming service this upcoming Tuesday.
Sears Holdings announced plans to close 96 stores in February – the 51 Sears and 45 Kmart outlets represent over a third of the company’s remaining locations. The company said Thursday that it had secured a lifeline of $250 million in fresh financing to work towards a sustainable business.
The Dow and S&P 500 both closed at record highs yesterday, surpassing their previous records set earlier this week. Analysts attribute these gains largely to progress in U.S.-China trade relations – yesterday China said it had reached an agreement with the U.S. to remove existing tariffs in phases (see the Politics & Current Events section above).
Coca-Cola will launch a new seltzer brand named “Aha” in March 2020, the beverage giant’s first new brand in over a decade. The seltzer replaces Coca-Cola’s previous attempt – Dasani Sparkling – and features eight different flavors, three of which are caffeinated.
SWAT Sgt. Mike Nowacki, a 19-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, had a big day planned last weekend. To honor his family’s tradition of public service, he was going to run 15 kilometers in a hot chocolate-themed race downtown – fully decked out in 50 pounds of SWAT gear. And then, the real test: upon finishing, he was going to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Erin Gubala, a fellow Chicago police officer.
But as Mike was nearing the end of the race, he heard a commotion coming from off the course – someone was shouting for a medic. He rushed over to find a woman lying on the ground. With the help of a firefighter who also happened to be nearby, Mike performed CPR on the woman until an ambulance arrived. They later learned that she’d gone into cardiac arrest, and without their help at that moment, she may not have lived.
But there was still another important job to do. Mike completed the race, wracking his brain for the right thing to say to Erin when he crossed the finish line. As he approached her and lowered himself down to one knee, Erin said that at first, she thought he was hurt. But as he struggled for words, Erin realized what was happening, and found the only word she needed: yes!
Albert Brigas, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran, had worked as an auto mechanic at Renown Auto Restoration for 13 years. It’s always been Albert’s dream to pay off his mortgage and then retire, but he’d been more focused on it this past year – he and his wife were getting older, and they wanted to spend more time with their grandkids.
Albert’s boss, Rudy Quinones, had heard Albert talking about his retirement plans and knew it was something he was really looking forward to. Rudy also knew that it wasn’t really in reach for Albert anytime soon. Reflecting back on the kind of employee Albert has always been, he came up with an idea – and asked Albert to come see him in his office.
Albert walked into his boss’s office with a little apprehension, not sure what to expect. But Rudy told him that he wanted to help him pay off his house. Rudy told KENS5 that Albert never missed work, and showed a kind of loyalty and determination that “you just don’t find anymore.” And now, thanks to Rudy, Albert and his wife are enjoying a peaceful retirement, focused on what matters most: family.