COVID-19 Updates

Hometown Hall United States COVID-19 Update March 31

Troy Warren #covid-all


Health And Wellness

Meet your fine feathered friends: How bird-watching may help you de-stress

By Rose Kennedy, For the AJC

Troy Warren 


Ann Stinely is a standout bird-watcher who also happens to be a veteran nurse in small-town North Carolina.

She’s had the hobby for decades, and says it’s a source of stress relief, exercise — and wonder. She’s developed an enviable “life list” of bird sightings, bonded with scores of fellow birders and taken weeklong vacations centered on bird-watching in nature hot spots like the Outer Banks.

At home, she takes a camera, binoculars and sometimes a birding buddy and sets off for a nearby lake or park. She watches birds whenever she’s got time off work and the weather cooperates — and sometimes if it’s raining or snowing.

She says the hobby helped her resist ill effects from the “blah month of February,” when she set an arbitrary goal of spotting 50 species each day. “That kept me off the couch and walking 10,000 steps a day.”

Stinely recommends this pursuit for fellow nurses, or pretty much anybody who likes wildlife and wants to actually look forward to getting outdoors and staying active, instead of feeling like it’s a chore. But note, you don’t have to be as dedicated or far-ranging as Stinely.

Bird-watching is an accessible, inexpensive hobby that rookies can enjoy from the very first outing.

“You can bird anywhere, anytime. It’s a hobby you can do in your back yard or take with you around the world,” National Park Servicesaid. “It’s very rewarding to see something new, to be able to name what you see, and to make discoveries. It’s also only as much work as you want it to be.”

In the Peach State, you’ll have loads of opportunity to observe our fine feathered friends. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website: “Georgia’s location along a migratory route ensures seasonal wildlife that never fails to fascinate and entertain. This is most evident when it comes to the number of different birds you may spot in our parks. There are over 300 species, including colorful examples such as painted buntings, ruby throated hummingbirds, bald eagles, wood storks and great egrets.”

This kind of engagement can be particularly helpful for anyone who’s been feeling frenzied or housebound since March 2020 (that’s everybody, right?).

In coverage for the American Birding Association, Birding magazine editor Ted Floyd explained how “the pandemic has highlighted what was until recently a consistently undervalued virtue of birding. It’s good. Good for all of us, individually and corporately. Birding has gotten me out of the house, every single day of the pandemic. Exercise is good. Birding has introduced me to new friends. Friends are very good. And birding continues to challenge me to notice and marvel about the world around me. Thinking and wondering are very, very good.”

It does take some planning and prep work, though. Follow these tips, and you’ll soon realize feathered friends are pretty much everywhere, available for you to see, hear and enjoy.

Tune in

One of the National Park Services top tips for beginning bird-watchers is to “be present while you are in nature. Take note of your surroundings. What’s around you right now? Feel the air, hear the sounds, and the natural world will reveal itself to you in surprising ways.”

Borrow or buy binoculars

Bird-watching can quickly become an expensive hobby if you rush right out to buy binoculars. But they will help you identify more birds at a distance.

It’s a good idea to make sure you like this hobby before making that investment. To start, you can usually borrow a pair of binoculars from a birding group leader or a friend — or even rent a pair from an outdoors outfit.

Remember, lots of sports fans have binoculars for games, so consider asking them, too. Later, if you like, you may want to buy your own pair, or even invest in a spotting scope or digital camera with scoping capabilities.

Bone up with a bird guide

The Park Service recommends a waterproof bird ID card that folds up and lists common species, but only for beginners.

As you progress, you may want to invest in guides arranged by colors or shapes of birds, or that present bird families, like “woodpeckers,” “small owls” or “warblers.”

The local public library also will have some of these books on loan. Used bookstores will have some affordable options, too.

Checklists can be handy, too. The Georgia Audubon Society provides a free compilation of the birds of the Atlanta metro area, for example, and the Park Service lists bird species by park.

Pick a likely place

Drive through a wildlife area, sit in a parking lot, check out a lakeshore or beach. “One key is to find a place where two habitats meet, such as the edge of a forest and a meadow, or where muddy shorelines meet the water,” the Park Service advised. “Finding a spot where birds can find food and water can increase your chances of finding interesting species.”

Start casually

To make sure this will interest you, start keeping a lookout for neighborhood birds, noting what times of year they’re around and any distinguishing marks or traits.

“By learning to identify these birds by sight and sound, and by recognizing their habits (How do they move? What do they eat? What do they sound like?) you will better be able to notice when something unusual comes along,” the Park Service noted.

Try to blend in

“By wearing inconspicuous colors and being quiet, you’ll avoid scaring birds away,” the Park Service added. “Staying still helps, too. If you’re you’re in a good birding spot, the birds will come to you!”

Make a list

It’s more fun if you list the birds you see, and when and where that happened. “If you keep a logbook, over time, you’ll be able to anticipate the movements of birds during migrations,” the Park Service advised. “Some birders like to keep a life list, recording every species they have seen in the wild.”

Try the trails

Old-timers will tell you birds are everywhere, once you’re attuned to hearing their cries and noting the habits of various species. But there’s also something to be said for striking out on one of Georgia’s birding trails, where the hike is already mapped out for you and you’ll know which birds to expect ahead of time.

The recently redesigned Georgia Birding and Wildlife Trails website has a checklist of Colonial Coast birding sites that includes Tybee and Jekyll islands.

“More than 300 species of birds (75% of the total species of birds seen in Georgia) have been spotted at the 17 sites along the birding trail,” the website explained, cautioning: “Don’t expect to see most of these birds on a single visit. The birds you see will depend greatly on when and where you visit. Some birds can be seen throughout the year. Others are migratory and travel long distances from their breeding grounds to wintering areas.”

The organization said it plans to add a second collection of Georgia bird trails in the Southern Rivers category.

Consider joining a group

The best known and most respected organization for bird-watchers nationwide is the Audubon Society. Georgia has numerous chapters and has resumed scheduling field trips that are ideal for newbies.

Note, though, the Georgia society is quite strict with mask requirements and other pandemic requirements. And you must register ahead of time at the organization’s website to participate in field trips.

In one of those rare benefits of the pandemic, some chapters are holding online meetings that anyone can sign up for. At 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month , for example, the Athens-based Oconee Rivers Audubon Society holds a virtual presentation on topics like “Birds and Butterflies of Honduras.”

The chapters also serve as clearinghouses for bird-oriented volunteer opportunities, like sprucing up local pollinator gardens or helping with annual bird counts.

A one-year National Audubon Society membership will cost $20, and confers benefits that include the magazine and email invites to guided bird walks.

Get the apps

If smartphones are your thing, there are also apps that aid the bird-watching hobby.

The free Go Outdoors GA app has a Georgia birding trails component that lets you keep a checklist of the birds you’ve spotted on each trail and check out other people’s sightings, for example. It also provides driving directions to birding points of interest in the state.

And the Merlin Bird ID App, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, provides on-the-spot identification for more than 5,500 birds of North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Learn to wait

Birding requires patience, too, “both with yourself and with the birds,” the Park Service added. “The birds don’t always cooperate, even for experienced birders. For you, there are a lot of birds to get to know. You will get better with practice. Just keep going!”


This can be casual, the Park Service explained. “Take note of the birds you see and hear on your walk to work or school, while you’re looking out your kitchen window, or while you’re doing other activities outdoors. You might notice other interesting things, too!”

And as you get better at bird-watching, don’t forget to observe your own growth and increased perception. That’s part of the benefit of this popular hobby. As the Park Service reminded, “Birding can be a gateway into recognizing and appreciating a wider world that was there all along.”



Technology News

Will an Investigation Into Twitter’s Moderation Decisions Backfire Because the Texas AG Tweets?

by Eriq Gardner | HollywoodReporter.Com

Troy Warren 


Twitter is demanding an end to alleged harassment by Ken Paxton after the social media giant suspended Donald Trump’s account. What’s happening matters. But don’t overlook WHERE the social media company is now seeking relief.

When Twitter decided earlier this year to kick Donald Trump off its platform, the decision got under the skin of many of the ex-president’s followers. To some right wing critics of the social media company, it represented more evidence that Big Tech should lose its legal shield. Nowhere was the furor stronger than the great state of Texas, whose lawmakers began consideringwhether to prohibit social media companies from banning users based on certain viewpoints. The constitutionality of that potential action aside, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton went even further by opening up an investigation into Twitter’s policies and procedures related to content moderation. “Twitter/Facebook closing conservative accts,” tweeted Paxton. “As AG, I will fight them with all I’ve got.”

What followed has the potential to be a very big deal, although perhaps not for the reason most would immediately assume. A lawsuit now playing out may impact other government investigations.

On March 8, Twitter sued Paxton in federal court. The social media giant claims that Paxton is abusing his authority by seeking to harass and intimidate Twitter in retaliation for its exercise of First Amendment rights. Twitter seeks an injunction on the Texas AG from initiating any action to enforce its investigatory document demands. And Twitter’s suit is picking up support from others. For example, in a case that’s not even a month old, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other advocacy organizations have already filed an amicus brief that warns that government efforts to enforce viewpoint neutrality will carry the temptation to compel platforms to carry speech.

That’s a real concern, and a reason why Hollywood should be weary of efforts to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. But the subject isn’t the only thing that’s notable about Twitter’s suit; The present whereabouts of this case is just as interesting and meaningful.

Twitter is suing in a federal court in San Francisco. In other words, home turf for the tech company rather than the conservative heartland.

And what’s the stated basis for jurisdiction for a court in the Northern District of California?

Twitter gives two big reasons in its complaint. First, it argues that Paxton directed efforts towards this venue by “transmitting” investigatory demands towards the Northern District of California, where the company’s headquarters are located. Second, Paxton allegedly consented to the Northern District of California by agreeing to the Twitter User Agreement, which spells out where disputes are to be adjudicated.

“The Texas Attorney General’s Office has had authorization and use over a Twitter account since 2009, which has been used to post Tweets as recently as March 6, 2021,” states Twitter’s complaint. “AG Paxton has separately held a Twitter account since 2009, currently operated under the display name ‘Attorney General Ken Paxton,’ which he regularly uses to comment on political issues. He used that account to announce that he would ‘fight’ Twitter with ‘all I’ve got’ after Twitter permanently suspended President Trump’s account, and the account has been used to post Tweets as recently as March 8, 2021. The CID and retaliatory investigation relate to Twitter’s Terms and Services.”

Twitter’s strategy is pretty clever, but also potentially significant given a number of legal trends this century. This includes ideological-based forum-shopping, nationwide injunctions, and judges upholding the enforceability of clickwrap agreements (i.e. the dense legalese few every read). Also, just this past week, the Supreme Court extended personal jurisdiction in civil suits. In short, if Twitter’s gambit works, other digital companies may attempt something similar when government agencies come hounding.

The issue of jurisdiction will be the very first one for U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney in San Francisco. That’s because late Monday, Paxton brought a dismissal motion on the very topic. “Twitter is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” argues the Texas AG. “This potential document dispute does not belong in court at all. But if it does, it belongs in a Texas court, not here.”

Paxton defends the probe by characterizing his office as investigating whether Twitter has “unlawfully misled Texas consumers” while also disputing the notion that communicating with a company across state lines subjects a sovereign state to the jurisdiction of another state’s courts.

As for the fact that Paxton is tweeting, the motion (read here) contends that the terms of service do not apply because this dispute is a constitutional one and isn’t about “access to and use of [Twitter’s] services.”

If that argument doesn’t work, and it very well might not, Paxton also attempts to point out that Twitter’s terms of service acknowledge that “[i]f you are a federal, state, or local government entity in the United States using the Services in your official capacity and legally unable to accept the controlling law, jurisdiction or venue clauses above, then those clauses do not apply to you.”

Twitter will soon make counterarguments to the judge.



Travel News

US Airlines, TSA Reporting Spike in Passenger Numbers

DONALD WOOD | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all


Pent-up travel demand caused by the restrictions put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 has resulted in a spike in 2021 bookings for airlines.

According to The Associated Press, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than one million people at airports across the United States on Sunday, marking the 18th straight day of reaching the milestone.

While Sunday’s total number of screened passengers was still down 37 compared to 2019, TSA officials told The AP the milestone is “easily the most prolonged travel rebound during the pandemic.”

On Monday, Bank of America said the recovery of leisure travel is in full swing despite new restrictions in parts of Europe and continued warnings against non-essential travelfrom the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

American Airlines also announced Monday bookings were beginning to approach pre-pandemic levels due to the rising number of vaccinated Americans, reaching 90 percent of bookings during the same period in 2019.

The carrier said travel demand is strongest for domestic and short-haul international trips.

Other airlines such as Delta and Southwest have also reported a spike in bookings that started around mid-February.



HT Movie TV

Why ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Director Adam Wingard Treated Kong Like an ’80s Action Hero

by Brian Davids | HollywoodReporter.Com

Troy Warren #reviews-all


The filmmaker also looks forward to his ‘Face/Off’ sequel and floats the possibility of a limited series sequel to his film ‘The Guest.’

Adam Wingard’s journey to Godzilla vs. Kong began in 2013 when his breakout film, You’re Next, entered the orbit of one Peter Jackson. Shortly thereafter, Jackson handpicked Wingard to helm Skull Island, which was initially treated as a direct sequel to Universal and Jackson’s King Kong (2005). In 2014, the film was retitled as Kong: Skull Island, but in order to facilitate a showdown with Godzilla, Legendary Pictures eventually worked out a deal that would send Kongto Warner Bros. As a result, Jackson — and Wingard by extension — had to leave the project.

In 2017, Wingard had a general meeting at Legendary Pictures with Mary Parent, who just so happened to be a producer on Universal’s Skull Island before she became Legendary’s production chief a few years later.



HT Foodie

Cosmic Wings Is the Latest Virtual Delivery ‘Restaurant’ That’s Actually Just Applebee’s

By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

Applebee’s tested multiple virtual chicken wing concepts before landing on Cosmic Wings.

Already a burgeoning phenomenon before the COVID-19 pandemic, “ghost kitchens”—delivery-only restaurants that operate out of existing facilities—have exploded over the past year as lockdowns dramatically increased the delivery business. Part of that shift has also seen big-name chains launching delivery-only “virtual” brands to grab more business on the side—whether it’s Chuck E. Cheese creating the more adult Pasqually’s, Nathan’s moving away from hot dogs with Wings of New York, or Applebee’s spinning off its chicken wing business into Neighborhood Wings.

But another wrinkle with ghost kitchens is that, since they are “virtual” to begin with, not only can they pop up quickly, they can also shut down… or rebrand… very quickly. And interestingly enough, a Wall Street Journal report this week revealed that, when business wasn’t as good as it could be, Applebee’s simply started sending out chicken under a different name: Cosmic Wings.

Dine Brands—the company that owns Applebee’s (as well as IHOP)—told the WSJthat Applebee’s tested different online-only wing brands, and Cosmic Wings did the best, earning it the long-term go-ahead. These tests were apparently worth the effort: Cosmic Wings is reportedly pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales every week. “To make an impression, you have to be original and fresh,” Dine Brand’s CEO John Peyton was quoted as saying—a statement that, with all things considered, is as accurate as it is ironic.

Regardless, the move opens up a larger possibility for diners to consider: Though many savvy online orderers have caught onto the fact that some “new” restaurants are actually virtual brands or ghost kitchens from major chains, what some may not have thought about is that a “new” restaurant could actually just be a rebranded virtual restaurant they’ve essentially ordered from before. In fairness, we’ve seen these kinds of swaps in the restaurant industry forever: The ubiquitous “Under New Management” sign at that one location that can never get it right. But with virtual restaurants, you won’t see any proverbial signage hanging outside.



HT Celebrations


Troy Warren #celebrations-all



Each year, on March 31st children and adults alike, pick up their favorite colors for National Crayon Day. Opening up a box of crayons opens up a world of imagination and hours of fun. 

Wax and chalk-based crayons have been used by artists around the world for centuries. Edwin Binney created the brightly colored crayons we are familiar with today.  He was part owner of Binney & Smith, a company that produced products such as paint, pigments and slate pencils for schools.

In 1903, Binney & Smith created the Crayola Division and produced colored wax crayons for children for the first time. Then in 1904, they presented their An-Du-Septic chalk at the Colombian Exposition in St. Louis winning a gold medal. The chalk was designed to be dustless at many teachers’ requests and was an immediate success.

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalCrayonDay

Get out your crayons and color away! We’ve provided three color pages for all age levels for you to download and print. We would love to see your final creations! Post them to our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages and we’ll definitely respond. 

Celebrate Every Day (Easy)

National Crayon Day (Medium)

Yin and Yang (Hard)

Use #NationalCrayonDay to share on social media.


Hometown Hall continues to research the founder of this colorful and fun holiday. In the meantime, we’ll keep finding more ways to #CelebrateEveryDay!



HT Woof Post

Hometown Hall Woof Post Photo of the Day March 31

Troy Warren #woofpost-all


Health And Wellness

Hometown Hall Health Tip of the Day March 31

Troy Warren 


This Day In History

Hometown Hall This Day in History March 31

Troy Warren #thisday-all