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Olympics

Sydney McLaughlin Wins Gold In World Record Time For 400m Hurdles 

Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad of the United States and Femke Bol of the Netherlands delivered an amazing 400m hurdles race at the Olympic finals for the sport. In the final strides of the race McLaughlin overtook both her competitors to win in 51.46 seconds, breaking the world record for the best 400m flat time set in 1970, as well as beating her own personal record. 

“You need somebody who’s going to push you to be your best, and I think that’s what we do so well. It’s iron sharpening iron. Every time we step on the track it’s always something fast,” McLaughlin explained. 

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“I saw Dalilah ahead of me with one to go. I just thought: ‘Run your race.’ The race doesn’t really start till hurdle seven. I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had. I’m absolutely delighted.”

Muhammad finished just .12 seconds before McLaughlin: “I was coming at it fast and I could have gone right or left leg and I chose to go on my right leg. I had to shorten my strides but that is just how it goes.”

Bol took bronze with a time of 52.03, meaning for the second day in a row the top two finishers in the Olympic 400m hurdles final had destroyed the world record, and the recipients of the bronze medal have broken the records set just six weeks ago. 

The designers of the trach claim that it contains small pockets of air which help absorb shock while the athletes are running, and it can also create a trampoline effect which gives a 1-2% performance advantage.

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“It definitely feels fast. I can feel that energy return. A lot of people talk about the shoes, but I think it’s one of those tracks that gives you that energy right back and pushes you and propels you forward. Especially when you go into hurdle eight and feel that death. Today I didn’t feel like I was going into death,” Muhhammad explained. 

McLaughlin agreed: “It’s one of those tracks that gives you that energy right back and pushes you forward. Every time you step on the track there seems to be some sort of record broken and it’s really cool to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, responded to critics who were curious about if the track helped give the athletes an unfair advantage. 

“Of course there is a balance. We do need to make sure we’re not allowing designs or materials that really transform the sport into something we don’t recognize. But I also don’t want to strangle the innovation that the shoe companies or track manufacturers are bringing to the table.”

McLaughlin credits her coach Bobby Kersee and training alongside Allyson Felix as two of the main factors that helped her win. 

“It’s just about trusting your training, trusting your coach, and that will get you all the way round the track. We’ve practised the last 40m so many times, so it was nothing unfamiliar for me. I just knew I had to go and give it everything I had and dip at the line.”

CDC Claims Covid-19 Delta Variant Is As Transmissible As Chickenpox

The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an internal document this week that claims the Delta variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox and could cause severe illness. 

The variant was already more likely to impact vaccinated Americans as well, which is why the report went on to explain that the CDC will be reversing their current mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans and will likely enforce all citizens to wear masks in public again. 

Previously the CDC said it was okay for vaccinated individuals to be unmasked indoors. Data has proven that the vaccines are still highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death in vaccinated people against the variants. 

The report claimed that the Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses caused by MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, flu, and smallpox. 

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CDC director Rochelle Walensky told the New York Times that new research was showing vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant carried a majority of the virus in their nose and throats. 

Officials in general have been warning Americans about major increases in new Covid-19 infections all throughout the nation; particularly among unvaccinated individuals.

Vaccine hesitancy is prominent throughout the entire country, fueled largely by a slew of misinformation that has been spreading about Covid-19 since the Trump administration. Federal employees in Washington are either to get vaccinated or be subject to multiple Covid tests a week, these types of requirements will likely appear throughout multiple industries as the pandemic continues. 

The Biden Administration recently called on state and local government leaders to offer $100 stimulus payments for newly vaccinated Americans; which would be funded by the $350 billion federal aid grant approved of under the American Rescue Plan Act. 

US Mexico Border

Texas Governor Orders National Guard To Assist With Arrests At US-Mexico Border

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state’s national guard members to help assist the Department of Public Safety in arresting undocumented immigrants at the US-Mexico border. 

Abbott’s order was a part of a letter sent to Major General Tracy R. Norris of the Texas Military Department. The order itself expands upon Abbott’s June declaration which directed the DPS to enforce all federal and state criminal laws. These laws include anything involving criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking. 

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“That declaration had allowed the use of all available state resources to assist state and local law enforcement in protecting Texans from criminal activity and property damage,” according to news reports. 

“To respond to this disaster and secure the rule of law at our Southern border, more manpower is needed,” Abbott wrote in the letter

“DPS needs help in arresting those who are violating state law. … I hereby order that the Texas National Guard assist DPS in enforcing Texas law by arresting lawbreakers at the border.”

The order comes after the Biden Administration announced its plans to tackle the surge of migration and illegal contraband coming into the country through the border. 

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“President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said in a statement.

In June, border authorities stopped around 188,800 crossings, which was the highest for the entire year. The previous high of about 180,000 was set in May of this year. 

“People think that this is a border-related issue and it is, but this is also an issue that affects counties across the entire state of Texas.”

Abbott held a security briefing at the Texas state house in Austin this month, where sheriffs from local communities have expressed concern over a lack of manpower, jail space, and judges on the local level. So while the governor is focusing on combating illegal activity at the border, local authorities are struggling to protect their own communities.

International Buyers Looking At US Housing More Than One Year After Pandemic Began 

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US saw a major increase in domestic real estate transactions. International buyers took the opposite approach and avoided investing in any US properties while the pandemic continued due to the uncertainty of the world’s economy.

Sales of US homes to foreign buyers fell by about 31% from April 2020 to March 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

International buyers purchased around 107,000 properties during that time, which marks the lowest unit volume and lowest dollar volume since 2011, according to NAR. 

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“The big decline in foreign purchases of homes in the U.S. in the past year is no surprise, given the pandemic-induced lockdowns and international travel restrictions.”

“Yet, even with the absence of foreign buyers, the U.S. housing market strengthened solidly,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

China, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are typically the top five countries continuously investing in US property. The amount of money brought in this past year, however, was down by at least 50% for buyers from China, Canada, and Mexico. The UK was the only nation that actually saw an increase in investment this year. 

Normally, China takes the lead in terms of the most amount of US property purchased throughout a given year, however, those transactions decreased significantly during the Trump administration. Now, China buyers have been inquiring more and more. 

“There has been quite a positive impact on the demand from the Biden boost, as the U.S. is being perceived as much more predictable now, and visas are also much easier to be obtained.”

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Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai IQI, a home listing site in China claimed that “on the other side, and now that we are over a year dealing with the Covid pandemic, it has lessened the impact on the buying decisions because flights to the U.S. are possible.”

Home prices are now 15% higher than they were pre-pandemic in the US; which makes sense considering the economic impact the nation has been enduring. Chimel stated that these rising prices, however, create a new demand for international buyers who may be afraid that they’re missing out on prime investment opportunities.”

Additionally, homes in the US are much less expensive than homes in places like London or Hong Kong, where a lot of buyers inquire about US property. The number of virtual tours on almost all major real estate sites in the US have increased exponentially. 

“So if that’s an indication of the comfort, then certainly this has increased, because people are now used to do far more things online shopping, education, also working from home online, and that also had an impact on the property market,” said Chmiel.

“As travel restrictions loosen and foreign students return to U.S. colleges in the upcoming year, there is likely to be some growth in foreign buying of U.S. real estate. High home prices and the ongoing lack of inventory could, however, pose a challenge for buyers,” Yun said.

Former Surgeon General Says Unvaccinated Americans Are Causing Pandemic To ‘Spiral Out Of Control’ 

Former surgeon general Vice Admiral Dr. Jerome Adams recently spoke to the media about how unvaccinated Americans are causing the coronavirus pandemic to “spiral out of control.”

In an interview with CBS, Adams urged all unvaccinated Americans to go get their inoculations as the highly contagious Delta variant is a growing problem in the nation.

“There’s also real harm to you because, guess what? More mitigation is coming, whether it’s masking or whether it’s closures or whether it’s your kids having to return to virtual learning, that is coming.”

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Adams then explained how more legal mitigation would be “coming because this pandemic is spiraling out of control yet again, and it’s spiraling out of control because we don’t have enough people vaccinated. So get vaccinated because it helps your neighbors, but get vaccinated because it’s going to help every single American enjoy the freedoms that we want to return to.”

All 50 states have seen a ride in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and the Delta variant is responsible for around 83% of those new cases. The variant has also proven to be a significant rest among the unvaccinated; currently unvaccinated individuals account for nearly all Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already updated their national guidance and has recommended that all Americans should continue to wear their masks when in public. 

“If you’re out in public, if you’re around people who you don’t know whether they’re vaccinated or not, and especially if you’re in a community where prevalence is going up … it is probably going to be safest for you to mask it whether or not you’re vaccinated or not.”

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“Your public health officials who don’t have a good way of knowing, or your businesses who don’t have a good way of knowing who’s vaccinated or not, they’re going to find that they have no other choice but to call on more people to mask it. And the CDC needs to give those businesses, those health officials, a little bit of cover by clarifying the guidance that they have out there,” Adams explained. 

According to the CDC just under 50% of Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 57.3% of every American over the age of 12 has received their shots. 

Adams said there are many people “who have legitimate questions and who have legitimate barriers that have kept them from getting their vaccines, but also said the lack of full approval of the vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration is also a hurdle.”

“We still have no clear timetable on when we can expect FDA licensure of these vaccines for adults. And a lot of people say that that is still causing their hesitancy, number one,” he said. 

“But number two, I can tell you the quickest way to get people vaccinated is through mandates. And we can’t have mask mandates. We won’t — you’re hearing this from the military and from other businesses until you have full licensure of these vaccines. So if you want to get a bunch of people vaccinated, really quickly, get the vaccines licensed and then you’ll see the military make it mandatory. You’ll see businesses make it mandatory.”

US Will Not Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Amid Spreading Of Delta-Variant

The United States has no plans to lift any of the existing travel restrictions put in place to protect from the spreading of Covid-19 and its much more contagious Delta variant. 

White House Officials told the media this week that this means the long-running travel restrictions that have barred a lot of the world’s populations from coming into the US will not be lifted anytime soon. 

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“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here, particularly among unvaccinated citizens.”

US airlines and the tourism industry in general has been hoping that this summer could help rebuild what was lost last year when everyone was forced to stay home. Airlines have been lobbying with the White House for the past few months in order to find new and safe ways to get Americans to travel more this summer. 

Currently the US bars any non-US citizen from coming into the country if they have been to the United Kingdom, 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran or Brazil within the past 14 days. 

Last week, the US Homeland Security Department claimed that US land borders with Canada and Mexico will also remain closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21st. Canada has said that it would begin allowing fully vaccinated Americans into the country after August 9th. 

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday the “seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53% over the previous week. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.”

“The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday said international travel is “something we would all like to see — not just for tourism, but for families to be reunited. However, we rely on public health and medical advice on when we’re going to determine changes to be made.”

The Biden Administration has been in talks with US airlines in recent weeks about how to establish an international contact tracing program for passengers before they lift any restrictions. As of right now the CDC has imposed a mandatory Covid-19 testing rule for nearly all international air travelers.

New Pickleball Lifestyle Magazine Launches In US 

The pickleball craze sweeping across America has become so popular that a new lifestyle magazine is being launched specifically regarding the sport. 

Dick Porter and magazine designer J. Armus are launching the magazine “In Pickleball,” which is described as a “new sports-lifestyle magazine aimed at fans of the fast-growing game.” 

“In Pickleball will be the Vogue of Pickleball, printed on heavy stock and appealing to the mostly older and well-off Americans who live for the game.”

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The first issue features Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” and articles will include fun quizzes and lifestyle tips for living your best active lifestyle on the pickleball court.

“Coming out of this pandemic, people crave a sense of community and escape,” said In Pickleball creative director Armus.

“Pickleball is an inclusive community that welcomes anyone who wants to experience the joy of playing. The minute you step onto a court, you can have a good time. It’s something we need in our culture.”

Sportscaster Taylor McGregor recently did a segment on how the Chicago Cubs baseball team has become “addicted to the game.”

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Porter thinks the magazine’s main demographic will be among those who are 50 years or older, however, he also believes that the game is becoming much more popular among younger people, so he has hope that they can market the magazine and game to take on a more youthful look. 

The first issue of the magazine will be distributed for free to about 30,000 various resorts, hotels, and other venues that offer sports accommodations specifically for pickleball. 

“While we will welcome all advertisers, we think like many magazines today, it has to be reader support. This is just the first step in what will ultimately become a multi-platformed, involving social media, a Web presence and e-commerce.”

Pickleball, for those who don’t know, is a cross between badminton and wiffleball. In 2019 it was reported that the US had around 30,000 pickleball courts throughout it, a 133% increase in the amount of courts present in the country for the past 5 years. 

“My first job in publishing was with the magazine Fly Fisherman with Ziff Davis Publications, which had specialized sports magazines like Backpacker and Sports Diver as well as some small tech magazines covering the nascent computer industry. In a lot of ways, I am going back to my roots,” said Porter.

Facebook Remains Under Fire For Continuously Spreading Covid-19 Vaccine Misinformation 

President Joe Biden called out tech giants and social media platforms like Facebook for failing to tackle the problem of misinformation being spread regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. The White House released a statement in which they claimed to have zeroed in on the “disinformation dozen,” which is in reference to 12 major social media accounts that have shown to be responsible for spreading a majority of the anti-vaccine misinformation online. 

“Facebook has repeatedly said it is going to take action, but in reality we have seen a piecemeal enforcement of its own community standards where some accounts are taken off Instagram but not Facebook and vice versa. There has been a systemic failure to address this,” said Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the organization behind the “disinformation dozen” study.

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The report identified 12 “superspreader accounts,” and a Facebook spokesperson claims the company has permanently banned all pages groups and accounts that “repeatedly break the rules on Covid misinformation including more than a dozen pages groups and accounts from these individuals.”

The CCDH confirmed that they have removed 35 accounts across multiple social media platforms so far. There are currently about 8.4 million followers spread across 62 active accounts that are still spreading anti-vaccine misinformation.

The main issue with these accounts is the amount of followers who believe that the information is real. Many of these accounts post false facts about the vaccine that claim its unsafe, ineffective, and not worth getting despite the overwhelming amount of evidence from a multitude of studies on these vaccines before they were distributed to the public. 

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Jessica Gonzalez is the co-CEO at Free Pass, a media equity group, who recently spoke out about how a lot of these posts are prevalent on Spanish-language Facebook.

“Facebook needs a much better mechanism to stop the spread of false information about the vaccine, and they need to make sure they’re doing that across languages. It’s difficult to gauge the scope of the issue when Facebook doesn’t share figures.”

According to the social media watchdog Accountable Tech, “11 out of the top 15 vaccine related-posts on Facebook last week contained disinformation or were anti-vaccine.”

Vaccination rates in the US are currently plateauing as new cases continue to rise among unvaccinated individuals almost exclusively. 67% of Americans have received at least one vaccination and 58% are fully vaccinated. 

“Action needs to be taken regarding vaccine misinformation. Social media has greatly contributed to this misinformation – there’s no doubt. When we have a public health crisis and people are dying every day, enough is enough,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.

How To Avoid Cyber Criminals In Real Estate 

Now that we’re heading towards the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, the real estate industry has been able to thrive thanks to an influx in prospective buyers who are ready for a change of scenery. Real estate wire transfer scams and crimes also tend to rise when the market is doing well due to the amount of transactions occurring, so how can we avoid them? 

Wire fraud typically occurs in the real estate industry when a scammer poses as a trusted source, like a vendor, company, or family member. These individuals always request an immediate wire transfer of funds, and often make up some sort of emergency as a way to emotionally manipulate the victims out of the money. 

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According to the American Land Title Association, more than 11,600 individuals were victims of real estate wire transfer fraud in 2019. Experts claim that number has increased exponentially throughout the pandemic, and it likely will continue to get worse. 

These hackers aren’t your typical trolls who try to get you to click a link so they can access all your personal information. They follow the entire real estate process from start to finish, posing as fake real estate agents and figure heads to get their victims to feel safe in their transactions. 

These hackers are able to acquire the money once they deceitfully reroute the closing instructions for the wire transfer. At the end of the transfer, where a certified check would typically appear to make sure the transaction is legitimate, these hackers instead just complete the exchange and take the money. 

These sort of crimes have been on the rise in the past year due to the amount of real estate transactions that have now been occurring online. It’s becoming harder and harder for buyers to determine who’s a trusted agent and who could potentially scam them. 

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According to ABC News, some of the best things you can do as a prospective buyer, when it comes to determining the legitimacy of your transaction, is “read and double-check everything carefully. Always forward emails, never reply. Remember, a title company will never create urgency or urge you to move quickly.”

“Verbally verify everything through a phone number you recognize. Change your passwords regularly, never email financial information, and always report suspicious activity.”

Michael McKenna, the president and co-founder of Weichert McKenna & Vane, spoke to the media recently about what he tells his clients to look out for in order to protect themselves and their money: 

“You really want to focus on validating the wire instructions with a phone call and verifying the phone numbers and verifying the wiring information, the account numbers that you are sending and receiving monies to and from. That verification on the phone, understanding that you are talking to a voice that you’ve probably spoken to before and you trust in that voice, is very critical.”

US and Iran Conflict

Facebook Claims Hackers In Iran Used Platform To Target US Military Personnel 

Facebook announced last week that it had removed 200 accounts that they discovered were run by a group of hackers based in Iran as a part of a larger cyber-spying operation mainly targeting US military personnel and people working at defense and aerospace companies. 

The group is known as “Tortoiseshell” to security experts, and they all used fake online profiles to connect with individuals in the military, build personal connections and drive them to other sites where they would be tricked into clicking links that would infect their systems with spying malware. Some of the conversations between the hackers and personnel would go on for months to really establish that trust.

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“This activity had the hallmarks of a well-resourced and persistent operation, while relying on relatively strong operational security measures to hide who’s behind it,” Facebook’s investigations team said in a blogpost.

“The group made fictitious profiles across multiple social media platforms to appear more credible, often posing as recruiters or employees of aerospace and defense companies”

Facebook’s team claimed that the group used email, messaging, and collaboration services to distribute the malware. A spokesperson for Microsoft, which was also involved in the cyberattack, claimed that they have been made aware of the hacking and would be taking extra measures to prevent something like this from happening in the future. 

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“The hackers also used tailored domains to attract its targets, including fake recruiting websites for defense companies, and it set up online infrastructure that spoofed a legitimate job search website for the US Department of Labor.”

Facebook claimed the hackers mainly were targeting individuals in the US, and a few others in the UK and Europe in general. The campaign has been running since 2020, and has supposedly impacted around 200 individuals.

“The campaign appeared to show an expansion of the group’s activity, which had previously been reported to concentrate mostly on the IT and other industries in the Middle East. Our investigation found that a portion of the malware used by the group was developed by Mahak Rayan Afraz, an IT company based in Tehran with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Facebook said. 

Facebook claimed that it has now blocked the malicious domains that it knows of from being shared, and Google is also taking steps to make sure all domains are blocked.