Tag Archives: slow

As Americans think about booking a vacation

With Covid-19 cases falling, the vaccine rollout continuing apace, and restrictions gradually being lifted, millions of Americans are looking forward to traveling again.

According to the US Travel Association, 72% of Americans are planning a summer trip this year, compared to 37% last year. However, despite the increase in demand, the airline industry is still expected to lose $ 48 billion in 2021. RT’s Boom Bust talked to travel writer Gary Leff to find out if the travel industry is seeing any new shoots of recovery.

“The airline industry is basically ready, because the frontline employees that fly planes and work in the cabins were not laid off,” the founder of View from the Wing, a project of Miles and Points Consulting, said.

He added that, although those employees might not have been working, massive government subsidies helped those who didn’t opt for early retirement to remain on the payroll.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

White button mushrooms may slow progression of prostate cancer – research results

Author
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed

They also found that mice treated with white mushroom extract – for only six days – had a prostate tumour growth that was “significantly suppressed”. In addition, levels of PSA in the blood had also decreased.

Wang commented on the findings: “We found that white button mushrooms contain chemicals that can block the activity of the androgen receptor in mouse models, indicating this fungus can reduce PSA levels.”

He added: “While more research is needed, it’s possible that white button mushrooms could one day contribute to the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.”

The animal model will be more reliable once the research is implemented in human clinical trials.

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Amazon has a fix for slow broadband speeds and lost Wi-Fi signal in your home

Author
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed

Are you struggling with sluggish Wi-Fi speeds or – worse still – no signal at all? As millions of us continue to work and study from home, a strong Wi-Fi connection is essential in every room of the home. If you’re having to dash between rooms to make sure you have enough bars of signal to join a video call …Amazon might have the answer. The online retail firm has launched a new version of its popular eero mesh Wi-Fi system.
First up, if you’re unsure what a mesh Wi-Fi network is – it’s basically the solution found in offices, airports, and stations across the world. Rather than a single Wi-Fi router in your hallway, like you’ll get through the post from most broadband companies when you sign-up, there are lots of smaller nodes dotted around the place. Rather than having to stretch to reach Wi-Fi signal from a single box, your smartphone, laptop, streaming set-top boxes and more will find the connection closest to them, almost guaranteeing full-bars of signal.

And if you’re walking around your home (just like an airport or open-place office) your device will bounce between these nodes so that it always has full signal. Of course, you won’t even be aware this is happening. Your device will always show that it’s connected to your home Wi-Fi network, but the clever mesh system will be intelligently shifting your gadget to the best available signal (either the closest, or the one with the least number of devices already connected to it) to boost your internet speeds. It’s exactly like how you join one Wi-Fi network in a sprawling train station, but your iPhone keeps a strong signal as you move between platforms, walk around the shops, and more.

And you don’t need to be living in a Beverly Hills-esque mansion to take advantage of a mesh network. It can also be handy if you’ve got a lot of devices – from smart thermostats, Sonos speakers and Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs – or live in an older property with thick brick-built internal walls that scupper most wireless signals.

The latest iteration of Amazon’s eero supports Wi-Fi 6 – a first for the range that brings faster speeds, more reliable performance, and better coverage across the home. According to Amazon, you’ll still be able to enjoy these performance boosts even when you’ve got dozens of smart lightbulbs, connected speakers in every room, tablets, laptops, and streaming dongles dotted around the house. That’s because the latest version of the eero mesh kit, dubbed eero 6, can bring next-generation Wi-Fi 6 speeds to 75 devices simultaneously.

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If you already have eero in your home, eero 6 is completely backwards-compatible, so you can add one or two new modes to your existing set-up to expand the reach of your Wi-Fi signal. If you’ve only got a few Wi-Fi 6-enabled gadgets in your home, this could be a good way of getting the best possible performance from those devices …without ripping up and replacing your entire Wi-Fi network in one fell swoop.

And if you haven’t added any smart lightbulbs to your home yet, eero 6 will be a handy addition whenever you do. The latest mesh system from Amazon comes with a Zigbee smart home hub built-in. This means you won’t need to connect a separate box to your router to rig your Philips Hue bulbs, IKEA and Bosch-branded smart kit, and HIVE connected thermostats amongst others. Amazon already fits some of its Echo smart speakers with the same Zigbee hub technology, so there’s really no need to have a spaghetti of wires running from your router for the different branded smart home kit in your house.

Each eero 6 hub comes fitted with two Ethernet ports. So, if you have one of these in your living room to boos signal, you’ll also be able to wire a connection to your Smart TV or games console.

“Customers need reliable home wifi now more than ever. Many of us are working from home, helping kids with online learning, keeping in touch with friends and family, and streaming 4K content and gaming —often at the same time,” said Eric Saarnio, Vice President, Amazon Devices EU. “eero 6 gives customers the speed and reliability of Wi-Fi 6 at an affordable price.”

For the latest kit, you’ll need to pay £139 for a single eero 6 node – perfect if you’ve already got a few eero from a previous generation and want to bring Wi-Fi 6 performance to your home. For those starting from scratch, the three-pack of eero 6 will cost you £279. Naturally, both of these options are available from Amazon as well as a few other high street stores.

According to Amazon, a single eero 6 is able to cover a space around 140 m². Meanwhile, an eero 6 three-pack, which provides up to 460 m² of coverage.

Like most mesh Wi-Fi kit, eero is constantly working in the background to keep your network safe and secure. While your run-of-the-mill router from your broadband company will need you to proactively search for, download, and install security updates. eero software updates provide the latest security patches, bug fixes, and feature upgrades.

There’s also the optional eero Secure subscription service, which provides an added layer of security to home Wi-Fi with tough parental controls for safe search to block inappropriate search results, and content filters for social media, gaming, streaming, and adult, violent, illegal or criminal content. Advanced security features help prevent access to sites flagged as malicious, including malware, spyware, botnets and phishing sites. Ad blocking speeds up your browsing experience and prevents a variety of trackers across the web.

Anyone with an eero can use the companion smartphone and tablet app to keep tabs on their internet speeds over time – handy if your provider offers a speed guarantee – and usage on each device. You can also place limits on devices from some family members, like younger children, or cut-off their internet entirely overnight to avoid any midnight Fortnite games from their room.

Eero 6 is available right now. Express.co.uk tested the previous generation of this mesh Wi-Fi system, stay tuned for our verdict on whether an upgrade to the latest kit is worth some of your hard-earned cash.

Costa del Sol panic: Spanish holiday hotspot fears losing Brits amid EU’s slow vaccination

The FCDO is currently advising “against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.”

Britons will need to meet specific criteria to enter Spain.

“Entry restrictions and testing requirements continue to apply for travel to Spain,” states the FCDO.

“Only citizens and legal residents of the European Union, Schengen states, Andorra, Monaco, The Vatican (Holy See); and San Marino, and those who can demonstrate through documentary evidence an essential need to enter Spain, will be granted passage under current travel restrictions.”

This article originally appeared on Daily Express :: Travel Feed

The C.D.C. director says Michigan needs to shut down, not get extra vaccine, to slow its virus outbreak.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that Michigan needed to enact shutdown measures in response to its worst-in-the-nation surge of coronavirus infections, rebuffing efforts by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to secure an extra supply of vaccine doses.

“The answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said at a White House news conference. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available to contact trace.”

The comments put the Biden administration in direct contradiction with the governor[1], a strong ally of the president, who has recently resisted ordering more restrictive measures in her state after facing intense political blowback over previous moves to shut down businesses and schools. Last week, Ms. Whitmer asked residents of the state to take more “personal responsibility”[2] to slow the outbreak, a position that satisfied Republicans in the state who had been fierce critics of her handling of the pandemic.

“Policy change alone won’t change the tide,” Ms. Whitmer said[3] on Friday, as she asked — but did not order — that the public take a two-week break from indoor dining, in-person high school and youth sports. “We need everyone to step up.”

During previous surges in Michigan, Ms. Whitmer shut down businesses and schools as she saw fit, drawing intense protest from Republicans in the state, who viewed her as an avatar of government overreach. The state still has a mask mandate in place and strict capacity limits on a number of activities.

Dr. Walensky said on Monday that because it takes weeks for full protection for vaccines to kick in, the effects of sending extra vaccines to the state would take time and not be the most practical approach to containing spread. Someone is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose of the vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or the single-dose shot made by Johnson & Johnson.

“I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work, to actually have the impact,” she said. “Similarly, we need that vaccine in other places. If we vaccinate today, we will have, you know, impact in six weeks, and we don’t know where the next place is going to be that is going to surge.”

Ms. Whitmer has pleaded with the White House to send extra doses, even as her state has used just 78 percent of those delivered so far, according data reported by the C.D.C.[4] She said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the White House should reconsider its refusal to alter its distribution plan[5] — currently based on population — so that localities that face flare-ups could get extra doses.

“I made the case for a surge strategy. At this point that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up,” Ms. Whitmer said last week[6], describing a Thursday evening call with the president. “Today it’s Michigan and the Midwest. Tomorrow it could be another section of our country.”

Ms. Whitmer has emphasized demand for Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, which will be extremely limited until federal regulators[7] approve production at a Baltimore manufacturing plant that recently contaminated up to 15 million doses in a factory mixup.

Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, said on Monday that instead of playing “whack-a-mole” with vaccines, the federal government was working to help Michigan more efficiently administer the doses it has now and “rebalance” its supply.

“We know there are appointments available in various parts of the state, and so that means that we have excess vaccine in some parts of the state,” he said.

Mr. Slavitt said that the federal administration had also offered to send Michigan extra supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and testing, and that there was a team from the C.D.C. in the state, in addition to 140 new vaccinators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Elizabeth Hertel, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said last week that she was optimistic that the continued rollout of vaccines and the governor’s new recommendations would help bring case numbers down. But if that did not happen, she said, more restrictions were possible.

Noah Weiland

Why YOU could be to blame for your frustratingly slow broadband, according to BT

As millions of us continue to work, study and socialise from home …a speedy home broadband connection has gone from a nice bonus to an absolute necessity. If you’ve got a busy household, broadband speeds can soon grind to a halt. If you need to make video calls, collaborate on documents, upload a backup, or stream a new boxset on Netflix – that can be incredibly frustrating.
It’s not always obvious what is causing your Wi-Fi to slow down, but thankfully BT has revealed some insight to help you work out what to shut off to get your internet back up to full pelt. As well as insight into what might be causing any sluggish speeds at home, BT Home Tech Expert Tayyab Farid has some helpful tips to make sure you can work, stream, and study on your home internet as planned.

Online Gaming

Since the start of the global pandemic, BT’s home broadband network has seen a 60 percent increase in web traffic. BT, Virgin Media, Sky and other broadband suppliers have all clocked up new records for the most data downloaded by customers nationwide in a single day. And when it comes to sapping download speeds – and slowing down the Wi-Fi for everyone else at home, nothing is as good as online gaming.

Yes, more time sheltered inside has led to a surge increase in video games – with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles sold out everywhere, Nintendo Switch bundles hard to come by at the start of the pandemic, and fitness-focused Ring Fit Adventure still tough to find on store shelves… it’s clear that millions at rediscovered a love of gaming. Games with huge online components, such as Fortnite, FIFA and Call of Duty: Warzone, have also enjoyed huge success over the last 12 months.

However, playing online with your friends can only be truly enjoyed if you have wi-fi that can keep up.

Insights from BT have revealed that to play online games at an “optimum” level, players will require speeds of between 15-25Mbps– which has a significant impact on the broadband connection in the rest of the home. After all, the average broadband speed nationwide for an entire home is only a shade over 60Mbps.

To reduce the impact of online gaming, players can reduce their graphical settings to a lower quality. Sure, things might not look quite as sharp on-screen, but it could mean that everyone else at home can continue to make video calls, stream, and shop online. A hard-wired connection for the computer or console could also give the Wi-Fi some much-needed respite too.

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Video Calls

While online gaming might be a (sizeable) niche, video calls are something we’re all guilty of doing this year. Whether it’s Zoom, Teams or Apple FaceTime, we’ve all become far more accustomed to video calls over the course of the last year. Each video call needs a minimum of 2Mbps download speed to keep the picture clear and the audio in-sync (nobody wants to deal with any of those Eurovision style delays where you end up talking over each other), and as video calls ideally need some privacy, it’s crucial to have a strong connection in different rooms of the house.

If you’re struggling to make calls, it’s well worth checking the speed you’re getting from your router. SpeedTest.net and Fast.com are two excellent services that quickly reveal exactly how fast your broadband is. A number of providers, including BT, offer speed guarantees with some of their packages. So, if you’re consistently under the magic number, you could get a refund.

Streaming Movies

It’s fair to say that one of the most common activities at home over the past year has been streaming TV and movies and with some content providers advising 25Mbps to guarantee a flawless experience it’s vital that you have a strong connection to stream your favourite content effortlessly. Like online gaming, that’s a healthy amount of bandwidth.

If you’re struggling to stream when other family members are gaming, making calls, shopping online and more… it might be time to upgrade to a faster speed from your provider. Full-fibre connections are now available up to an eye-watering 1,000Mbps in some areas of the country – more than enough for your entire street to stream in your living room without slowing connections. However, if that’s not an option – maybe download that movie overnight, instead of streaming? Or, have a family movie night together – so nobody is using the Wi-Fi for anything else when you’re watching?

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Tayyab Farid, a member of BT’s Home Tech Expert, has also shared some tips on how to get the most out of your Wi-Fi set up.

1/ Location, Location, Location

Position your hub in the middle of your home to reduce the number of walls slowing down your signal.

Once you’re more than two walls away from your hub, it has to work harder and your speeds may drop.

Mesh systems, like BT’s Complete Wi-Fi, Amazon’s Eero, or Google Nest Wifi, can help extend Wi-Fi coverage throughout every room in the house to increase overall speed and capacity. To do this, they add multiple nodes throughout the home – so your devices are never more than a single wall away from a source of super-speedy Wi-Fi.

2/ Device Speed and Connection

If your Wi-Fi feels sluggish, it could be due to the device you are using. Typically, the newer your equipment, the faster the wireless speed it will support.

The more devices you’re using, the more you’re using the total capacity of your home broadband especially if you have multiple Netflix streams and kids online gaming.

BT customers can test their speed using the My BT app, where you can check your ‘Speed to your Hub’ and ‘Speed to your Device.’

3/ Increase bandwidth and future-proof your home with Full Fibre

Recent research discovered that the average home now has 28 devices connected to Wi-Fi, including four Smart TVs, three tablets, two laptops and two games consoles. With homes becoming smarter that number is only going to rise so the need for a decent in-home connection has ever been greater.

If you haven’t changed your broadband contract for a few years… you might be languishing with some pretty outdated speeds. New deals crop-up all the time. And if you’re moving from one Openreach supplier to another (this includes brands like BT, EE, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Sky), they have to handle all the faff of switching between connections for you! So, you don’t need to worry about being left without access to internet for days on end.

Gwen Stefani Invites Saweetie To Throw It Back To Her Y2K Era In ‘Slow Clap (Remix)’ Video

Give it up for Gwen Stefani! She teamed up with Saweetie for a remix of ‘Slow Clap,’ and the video felt like it could’ve been aired on MTV in the early 2000’s.

It’s time for another round of applause. Nearly a month after dropping the original “Slow Clap,” Gwen Stefani[1] returned for the remix – and she’s brought Saweetie[2] with her! While this may be a new version of Gwen’s song, which dropped out on Apr. 9, the music video is a homage to Gwen’s Y2K roots in the early days of her solo career. Think the aesthetic of “Luxurious” visuals, but reinvented.

Gwen Stefani, Saweetie
[Courtesy of Youtube]

The setting of the video itself is very Y2K: a gym, much like the one in the 2000 film Bring It On[3]. Throughout the video, Gwen rocks spunky gym outfits that could’ve fit right in among the costumes in the early aughts cheerleader movie: varsity number tops, tiny gym shorts, tube socks and fish net tights. She also wears big gold hoop earrings, which were her signature in her “Luxurious” era — that song came out in 2004, FYI. Gwen’s backup dancers even sport cropped tees that say “Anaheim,” another way the video winks at Gwen’s roots (Gwen grew up in the Orange County city).

Gwen Stefani
[Courtesy of Youtube]

Saweetie joins the gym wear theme, stunning in outfits like a cropped pink tee and hot shorts covered in glittery neon pink stars. But the video isn’t entirely just one nostalgic throwback[4], which Saweetie makes clear by singing, “I ain’t no Hollaback Girl.” They later change out of their gym clothes to leap into the air in couture gowns as they sing about going from “underdog” status to being at “the top of the world.”

Saweetie
[Courtesy of Youtube]

Slow Clap[5]” was released on March 11, roughly four months after Gwen kicked off her return to music with “Let Me Reintroduce Myself[6].” The latter was her first non-Holiday, solo original music since 2016. The song was accompanied by a video featuring a gaggle of Gwens, each dressed from a different era in her expansive career. There was a No Doubt “Just A Girl” video Gwen, a “Hollaback Girl” Gwen, a “Don’t Speak” Gwen, and a fashionista (aka 1998 MTV VMAs red carpet) version of her, all vying for the spotlight. Both “Let Me Reintroduce Myself” and “Slow Clap” received generally positive reviews, with Sam Damshenas of Gay Times[7] calling the latter Gwen “at her absolute best.”
Gwen told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe[8] that the song was inspired by “all those movies from the eighties where you get clapped back to life. Like yes, ‘you’re not the underdog. You’re an awesome person.’ And I feel like it’s that thing that happens to us through our life. It starts in high school where you feel like you don’t fit in, and then sometimes your weirdness actually is what makes you so special, and so the song is kind of about that.” Gwen also spoke about her upcoming album, saying she does have an idea of what the title is going to be, and the she “did actually shoot he artwork for it.”

Gwen Stefani and Saweetie gonna make you (slow) clap. (Shutterstock)

“It feels like we’re at the edge of maybe, a little bit of a relief of what we were in before,” she said when discussing creating in the time of COVID. “It feels like we’re kind of in a new place, so basically all I have to do is just try to write new music every day. That’s kind of the zone I’m in right now, but what’s so great about now is you can put music out and write at the same time, that’s just like, that’s the new school, and we didn’t have that before so it’s kind of exciting. It’s not such a big deal anymore. It’s a big deal, but it’s like you can share it faster and not worry about it as much. It’s fun.”

For Saweetie, this “Slow Clap” remix heralds what might be her year. After breaking through in 2018 with “Icy Girl,” which landed her a deal with Warner Records, she’s been building buzz with hits like “My Type,” “Tap In,” and her collab with Doja Cat, “Best Friend.” 2021 will see Saweetie drop her debut studio album, Pretty Bitch Music. It was initially set for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. The album focuses on “exponential growth and producing artistry,” she told Gal-dem, adding that she “wants people to have fun, to feel sexy [and] confident,” but also thinks it’s important to show an example of women “being about your business.” This teaming with Gwen will likely introduce Saweetie to a new audience, right in time for Pretty Bitch Music’s release.

References

  1. ^ Gwen Stefani (hollywoodlife.com)
  2. ^ Saweetie (hollywoodlife.com)
  3. ^ Bring It On (hollywoodlife.com)
  4. ^ nostalgic throwback (hollywoodlife.com)
  5. ^ Slow Clap (hollywoodlife.com)
  6. ^ Let Me Reintroduce Myself (hollywoodlife.com)
  7. ^ Gay Times (www.gaytimes.co.uk)
  8. ^ Apple Music’s Zane Lowe (music.apple.com)
  9. ^ #slowclap (twitter.com)
  10. ^ @saweetie (twitter.com)
  11. ^ https://t.co/B6yG7RDug2 (t.co)
  12. ^ pic.twitter.com/jrICnNzerr (t.co)
  13. ^ April 8, 2021 (twitter.com)

Jason Brow

Brenda Blethyn can't imagine ever facing final curtain 'being 75 won't slow me down'

The 75-year-old Vera star said: “My parents worked until their dying days, and I fully expect to be doing the same. “Mum had about six jobs to put food on the table and Dad spent the latter part of his life working as a handyman. They instilled that work ethic in me. “I enjoy being busy, too, so I’ll always find something to do – even if it’s painting a wall!”
Brenda, who celebrated her 75th birthday earlier this year, added: “If I’m honest, I don’t feel the slightest bit different. You’re only as old as you feel, and I certainly don’t feel 75.”

Brenda said the landscape is gradually changing for older performers: “I do think it’s becoming more inclusive, not before time.”

During lockdown she has been filming the 11th series of award-winning ITV drama Vera, in which she plays the eccentric detective.

It is set to return to screens with six feature-length episodes – the first two due to be broadcast before summer.

The remaining four episodes are still being filmed and are scheduled to appear next year.

Filming has kept her away from her husband, former art director Michael Mayhew, but Brenda told Good Housekeeping: “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder – well, it’s true!

“Being apart seems to keep us together.”

Read the full interview with Brenda Blethyn in the May issue of Good Housekeeping on sale the 7th of April. It is available in all supermarkets and online at MagsDirect.

If your BT broadband speeds are slow these could be the simple reasons why

Even though the UK’s lockdown is slowly coming to an end we’ve still never been so reliant on the web connection beamed into our properties. Endless Zoom calls, watching hours of Netflix in pin-sharp 4K and attempting to download the next blockbuster PlayStation 5 title will all place a huge strain on our broadband and can see things slow to a maddening halt.
There are lots of factors that can affect your broadband and BT has a swathe of advice aimed at helping its customers get the very best out of their internet. Things such as where you place your router and the time of day you attempt the biggest downloads can all affect the speeds you’re getting.

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes many of us make is popping the ugly black plastic flashing router out of sight. That’s a bad idea with BT saying that it’s vital you place this box out in the open and away from obstacles like walls, doors and even wardrobes as these can all slow down your connection. Even things such as fish tanks and baby monitors can disrupt the signal so make sure you keep the router away from other gadgets.

Another problem with the web is when you use it with BT admitting that busy times of the day can mean reduced speeds.

“We’ve invested heavily in the network, so everyone gets a fast connection even at the busiest times,” BT says on its help page. “But similar to rush-hour traffic, the speed you’ll get depends partly on how many people are using the network. During peak periods, usually 8pm to 10pm, you may sometimes notice slightly slower speeds.” 

That means if you want to download the next Call of Duty game update you’re probably best attempting it early in the morning or very late at night.

READ MORE: Warning for EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three customers – check your bill now

Another thing to remember is that the more devices that are connected to the web in your home the slower things will get.

As BT explains, broadband speed is shared with every device connected to your Hub. So if four devices are using the internet at the same time, they’ll each get roughly a quarter of the available speed.

Streaming (for example watching live TV, YouTube or Netflix) and online gaming use more of your bandwidth, so if anyone in your household is doing this it could make your broadband slower for everyone else. It’s always worth checking your usage as the more people that use the web in your home the faster the speeds you may need to pay out for. BT offers numerous packages but the cheaper and slower options may leave you feeling pretty frustrated if you have a household of people streaming content all day.

BT says that any devices that aren’t being used should be disconnected to help improve your downloads.

Another top tip is to always leave your router switched on especially when heading to bed.

BT often pushes out vital updates to its routers at night and turning it off will mean you may not get the best and most stable connection during the day.

One final thing that can impact the broadband on your PC are any viruses you may have picked up. Some bugs can actually slow things down to a snail’s pace so it’s important to make sure your laptop or desktop PC is free of issues and running smoothly.

After slow start, Texas lawmakers pick up the pace on GOP priorities as legislative session passes halfway mark

After a slower-than-usual start thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and last month’s winter storm, lawmakers in the Texas Capitol this week marked the passage of the halfway point of this year’s legislative session by ramping up their work on a host of their Republican leaders’ priorities.

Work has progressed in earnest in the House and Senate on legislation related to imposing new restrictions on voting[1], expanding broadband access[2], protecting funding for local police departments[3] and updating the state government’s ability[4] to prevent and respond to emergencies like those that have recently plagued Texas. Committees have started to meet more frequently and bills are advancing, with both chambers now passing legislation with some regularity.

“This is when things get really fun at the Capitol,” new House Speaker Dade Phelan[5], R-Beaumont, said Tuesday at a Texas Young Republicans event. “This is when the rubber meets the road, right?”

Lawmakers still have a lot to do with less than 70 days left on the clock, though leaders in both chambers say they are on the same page with the business that remains.

The optimism comes after a two-week stretch dominated by a tense standoff[6] among the House, Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott[7] over a bill seeking to retroactively reduce wholesale energy prices during the winter storm. The bill was championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick[8]. While he ultimately did not get his way — at least for now — he appears to be looking past the rocky chapter.

“We’re all in this together with our priorities,” Patrick said at the Young Republicans dinner, which Abbott also attended. “We’ve pretty much matched up our bills, and we’re gonna have a very successful session.”

Abbott has spent recent weeks traveling the state to promote his agenda, and he was in the Dallas area on Monday to talk about legislation to protect businesses that opened during the coronavirus pandemic from related lawsuits. It is one of five emergency items that Abbott designated during his State of the State speech[9] in early February, along with expanding broadband internet access, punishing local governments that “defund the police” as he defines it, changing the bail system and ensuring what he described as “election integrity.”

Abbott’s agenda got a shakeup, though, following the winter storm that battered the state weeks after his State of the State speech, killing at least 111[10] people and leaving millions of Texans in the cold and dark. He responded by adding three more emergency items: reforming the state’s power grid operator, “winterizing” power plants and correcting any whole electricity billing errors.

Abbott’s office said it’s optimistic that his priorities are on the right track, including those that came before the winter storm scrambled the Capitol agenda.

“With the legislative session passing the halfway mark, we have seen meaningful progress on these emergency items as they make their way through the legislative process,” Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement for this story.

In the Senate, Patrick has designated 31 priority bills[11]. As of Thursday, more than half — 16 — had at least gotten a committee hearing. Seven of those bills had been voted out of committees. And two of them had been approved by the full Senate.

Both of the priority bills that have already gone through the upper chamber deal with the pandemic. Senate Bill 25[12] would give nursing-home residents the right to have a designated caretaker visit them regularly during a public health emergency. SB 26[13] prohibits the state government from mandating the closure of places of worship, even in cases like public health crises.

Still, responding to last month’s power crisis has been at the top of the Legislature’s radar, and both chambers in recent days have moved quickly to usher through legislation to the entire chamber for debate. On Thursday, a Senate committee approved legislation — SB 3[14] — that would overhaul the state’s energy industry. And early next week, the full House will consider a slate of the speaker’s priorities[15] on the issue.

Most of the drama at the Capitol this week though centered on two election bills that have been prioritized by GOP state leaders[16] and criticized by Democrats and voting rights groups.

On Monday, Democrats on the Senate State Affairs Committee temporarily derailed discussion on SB 7[17] — the chamber’s priority election bill that would constrain local initiatives widening voter access in urban areas, made up largely by people of color, that favor Democrats. The Democrats used a procedural rule to delay consideration of the bill, though it was taken up again on Friday, along with 10 other election-related bills that would largely further tighten the state’s already restrictive voting laws.

The House’s version of the legislation faced a different derailment Thursday during a House Elections Committee hearing on House Bill 6[18] by Rep. Briscoe Cain[19], a Deer Park Republican who chairs the committee.

After a tense exchange with state Rep. Jessica González[20], a Dallas Democrat who serves as vice chair of the committee, Cain ended the hearing abruptly without specifying a time for members to reconvene later that day. That error meant the committee could not meet again Thursday, according to House rules, postponing the consideration of Cain’s election bill and meaning that more than 100 members of the public who had signed up to testify on the bill would not be able to speak at the hearing. That group included one of the state’s best-known Democrats, Beto O’Rourke, who had driven from his far-away El Paso hometown to testify.

By Friday afternoon[21], Cain’s bill was rescheduled for an April 1 hearing, according to a committee hearing posting notice.

Before the Thursday hearing ended, González had pushed to recognize state Rep. Nicole Collier[22], a Fort Worth Democrat who chairs the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. Cain said he would not recognize a non-committee member to speak from the dais.

In a statement later Thursday[23], Collier said Cain had refused “to allow a duly elected, Black woman from fully participating in the legislative process.”

“Our voices matter,” she said. “Without a single Black voice on the elections committee, I owe it to my constituency and to every Texas voter who will potentially be deterred or intimidated from voting to fight back.”

Two other House committees — State Affairs and Homeland Security & Public Safety — on Thursday held marathon hearings into Friday morning. The state affairs committee signed off on HB 5[24], a bill that would expand broadband access across the state, before it heard testimony on a number of bills, such as one that would ban the use of taxpayer dollars on lobbying and several related to anti-“defund the police” efforts.

The Legislature couldn’t vote on legislation within the first 60 days of the session, which began Jan. 12, unless the proposals had been declared an “emergency item” by the governor.

The entire House also began passing its first bills of the session this week, signing off on several pieces of legislation, including one that would permanently allow[25] beer, wine and mixed drinks to be included in pickup and delivery food orders. While not an emergency item, Abbott had repeatedly voiced support for the proposal.

On Tuesday, the lower chamber is scheduled to consider a number of proposals related to last month’s winter storm, such as one that would mandate the weatherization of power plants and another that would reform the board of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s electric grid.

The Senate, meanwhile, has fast-tracked legislation that would shake up the board of the Public Utility Commission, which regulates the state’s electric, water and telecommunication industries. That legislation, SB 2154[26] by state Sen. Charles Schwertner[27], R-Georgetown, was filed Monday, flew through a Senate committee and was approved unanimously Thursday by the Senate. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The House has also considered legislation aimed at addressing the governor’s powers, with perhaps the most notable proposal[28]HB 3[29] by state Rep. Dustin Burrows[30], R-Lubbock — still pending in a committee after a hearing on the legislation earlier this month. That legislation would, among other things, create a legislative oversight committee that in some cases would have the authority to terminate a pandemic disaster declaration issued by the governor.

The Senate has taken a more piecemeal approach to the governor’s powers, as shown by its passage of the legislation shielding nursing homes and churches from total shutdowns.

Shawn Mulcahy contributed to this story.

References

  1. ^ restrictions on voting (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ expanding broadband access (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ protecting funding for local police departments (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ updating the state government’s ability (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ Dade Phelan (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ tense standoff (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ Greg Abbott (www.texastribune.org)
  8. ^ Dan Patrick (www.texastribune.org)
  9. ^ State of the State speech (www.texastribune.org)
  10. ^ killing at least 111 (www.texastribune.org)
  11. ^ designated 31 priority bills (www.texastribune.org)
  12. ^ Senate Bill 25 (capitol.texas.gov)
  13. ^ SB 26 (capitol.texas.gov)
  14. ^ SB 3 (www.texastribune.org)
  15. ^ a slate of the speaker’s priorities (www.texastribune.org)
  16. ^ prioritized by GOP state leaders (www.texastribune.org)
  17. ^ SB 7 (capitol.texas.gov)
  18. ^ House Bill 6 (capitol.texas.gov)
  19. ^ Briscoe Cain (www.texastribune.org)
  20. ^ Jessica González (www.texastribune.org)
  21. ^ By Friday afternoon (capitol.texas.gov)
  22. ^ Nicole Collier (www.texastribune.org)
  23. ^ In a statement later Thursday (twitter.com)
  24. ^ HB 5 (capitol.texas.gov)
  25. ^ one that would permanently allow (www.texastribune.org)
  26. ^ SB 2154 (capitol.texas.gov)
  27. ^ Charles Schwertner (www.texastribune.org)
  28. ^ the most notable proposal (www.texastribune.org)
  29. ^ HB 3 (capitol.texas.gov)
  30. ^ Dustin Burrows (www.texastribune.org)

Patrick Svitek and Cassandra Pollock